Schelling: Heretic of Modernity
An Intellectual Biography of Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph von Schelling (1770-1854)
The complex and dynamic nature of Schelling’s thought over the course of his 57 years of writing and lecturing poses a challenge to any careful student of his work. First published in 1793, he offered his final lecture in 1850, 4 years before his death in 1854. A symphonic thinker who remained true to Kant’s ideal of systematic completeness, his work revolutionized German Idealism, Romanticism, as well as introduced Existentialism to an eager Berlin audience that included Feuerbach as well as Kierkegaard. He pioneered a phenomenological approach to the study of myth and the history of religions, as well as introducing the unconscious as motive agent for development of self and consciousness. Integrating the worlds of spirit and nature, Schelling proposed nature as unconscious spirit, and spirit as nature become conscious of itself. Refusing to see evil as simply the privation of the good, he advanced a process theology that sought to harness the reality of evil as a driving force in the evolution of the divine economy. The rich power of his ideas decisively shaped the work of his contemporaries Hegel, Schopenhauer, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, and even C.S. Pierce, while in the 20th century he inspired Bergson, Heidegger, Jaspers and Tillich, as well as Habermas and, most recently, Žižek.
It is astounding that there has yet to be a scholarly work devoted to introducing Schelling to the English speaking audience. Unlike the other major figures of German Idealism, most notably Kant, Fichte and Hegel, Schelling remains to the Anglophone world a mysterious figure whose occasional treatment all too often reflects a fragmented understanding of his work. Given the expanse of Schelling’s writings and the length of his career, an intellectual biography offers the best way to do justice to the demands of his work. Integrating Schelling’s philosophical development into the biographical narrative of each chapter will render the final text accessible and of interest to both the specialist and the general reader.
Schelling: Heretic of Modernity
Table of Contents
1. Difference as Identity: The Education of a Prodigy (1775-1790)
2. Between Heresy and Orthodoxy: The Seminary in Tübingen (1790-1795)
3. In Search of the en kai pan: The Ambitions of Youth (1795-1798)
4. Nature’s Unconscious Art: Jena and the Romantic Circle (1798-1803)
5. Defining Identities: Würzburg and Schelling’s System (1803-1806)
6. Freedom’s Price: Munich, the Reality of Evil and the Becoming of God (1806-1820)
7. Sisyphus Awakes: Erlangen and Beyond the Limits of Pure Reason (1820-1826)
8. Munich: The Necessity of Myth and Freedom of Revelation (1826-1840)
9. Berlin: The Duty to Existence (1841-1854)
January 2012 :: Now available in paperback, at $29
Schelling’s Organic Form of
Life as the Schema of Freedom
SUNY Series in Contemporary Continental Philosophy
Locates in Schelling a new understanding of our relation to nature in philosophy.
F. W. J. Schelling’s prescient warning that the subjectivism of modernity threatens the “annihilation of nature” frames this provocative new reading of this most enigmatic and challenging thinker. In claiming that “life is the schema of freedom,” Schelling announces an organic form of philosophy to combat this threat of destruction. Pursuing what William James called the “live option” offered by Schelling’s thinking, Matthews argues forcefully for a shift from an egological to an ecological way of doing philosophy. He shows how an organic form of philosophy supports a “decentered Self” whose “disjunctive logic of identity” resolves the tension between nature and human history by delivering a powerful conception of human freedom situated within a dynamically conceived nature, thereby overcoming the interminable “freedom-versus-determinism” debate. In his careful treatment of how Plato and Kant influenced his earliest writings, Matthews not only disproves the standard reading of the young Schelling as Fichte’s novice, but also delivers an understanding of Kant that is a good deal more interesting than the Kant typically presented by contemporary scholars in that field.
Bruce Matthews is a Bard Fellow and Professor of Philosophy at Bard College.