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Friedrich Wilhelm von Schelling


Friedrich Schelling was born in 1775 at Leonberg, a small town of Wurttemberg. At the age of sixteen he entered the theological seminary atTubingen, where he studied theology, philosophy and philology.
A schoolmate, disciple and friend ofHegel, he later broke with him and became one of his most severe opponents. Called to lecture at Jena in 1798, Schelling had Fichte and Hegel as colleagues there, and came into close contact with the Romanticists. From 1803 to 1806 Schelling lectured at Wurzburg. Between 1806 and 1820 he was a member of theAcademy ofSciences, with residence in Munich.
Next he went toErlangen and lectured there for about six years before returning toMunich to teach philosophy. Finally he accepted an invitation to lecture in Berlin, where he succeeded to the chair Hegel had held. Schelling died in 1854.
Schelling's most systematic philosophical works are: System des Transcendentalen Idealismus (System of Transcendental Idealism, and Darstellung meines Systems (Exposition of My System).


Fichte, differing fromKant, had given to the thinking ego a metaphysical reality, making it the unique creative principle of the world of nature. According to Fichte, the ego produces nature by means of unconscious activity, and the reality of nature is nothing other than a conscious "representation" of the empirical ego.
Schelling accepts Fichte's concept of Pure Ego as the unique metaphysical principle, but he differs from Fichte in his concept of nature. Nature, according to Schelling, has its own metaphysical reality, independent of the rising consciousness of the empirical ego. The Absolute (the Pure Ego of Fichte) must be conceived of as the complete identity of the Universal Spirit and nature.
Making use of new concepts in the field of electricity and transferring them to philosophy, Schelling maintains that the Spirit and nature must be conceived as two poles, positive and negative, of the reality of the Absolute, completely identical and inseparable from one another. The production of nature is due to the fact that the pole of nature prevails over the pole of the spirit through the unconscious action of the Absolute. This prevalence, however, can never reach the point of nullifying the presence of the Universal Spirit, for both the Spirit and nature are insuppressible.

Hence nature is internally spiritualized, endowed with life, organic functions and finality. Mechanical causality is a secondary means for the actuation of finality. The finalistic and organic tendency of nature becomes visible in the living being, in which the various parts act for the good of the whole.
The Universal Spirit, always present in nature, makes it possible for empirical consciousness (individual egos) to arise; that is to say, the Spirit, after long wandering unconsciously in nature, becomes conscious in empirical egos -- or rather, the presence of the Spirit in nature is an essential condition for the emergence of empirical egos.
The consciousness of the Universal Spirit first appears in sensation. The odyssey of the Spirit has ended, and an inverse process has begun. The Spirit, by reflection, reconquers that which it had produced in the shadows of the unconscious. This process is the work of philosophy, which goes back and considers the stages or moments through which the Absolute became nature and consciousness.
For Schelling, neither practical nor theoretical activity gives us the model of the primitive identity of the Absolute as Spirit-nature. The creative activity of art alone is capable of giving us such a model. Indeed, a work of artistic genius is the result of two distinct activities, that is, the unconscious activity of inspiration and the conscious activity of the artist. Art, therefore, is the organ of philosophy, because art alone brings to philosophy a concrete representation of the unconscious process by which action is identified with consciousness. Thus art is the representation of the unbroken unity of the Absolute Principle.

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