Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Von Schelling, a German philosopher, born at Leonberg, near Stuttgart, Jan. 27, 1775, died at Ragatz, Switzerland, Aug. 20, 1854. His father was pastor at Leonberg, and subsequently prelate at Maul-bronn. Friedrich entered the university of Tubingen in 1790, and studied philosophy under Adler, a disciple of Wolf, and divinity with Storr. His essay for the doctorate of philosophy was on the origin of evil, as narrated in Gen. iii. His next treatise, in Paulus's Memorabilia (1793), was on myths and sagas. In 1795 appeared his first metaphysical essay, "On the Possibility of a Form of Philosophy," and a few months later his dissertation, Vom Ich ah Princip der Philosophie, über uber das Unbedingte im menschlichen Wissen. In his Philosophische Briefe über Dogmatismus und Kriticismus, in Niethammer's Journal (1795), he grapples with Kant's sundering of the respective spheres of the theoretical and practical reason, denouncing this dualism, and contending that there must be something unconditional, which is the common source of both the objective and the subjective. There is "an intellectual intuition" of the unconditioned. Allowing the equal validity of both the subjective and objective, he already demands for both a higher unity.
Thus at the age of 20, before he left the university, he had found the principle of his peculiar system, which was to supersede the critical philosophy of Kant and the subjective idealism of Fichte. After leaving Tübingen, he taught for two years at Leipsic, and wrote "Illustrations of the Idealism of the Theory of Science" (Fichte's). A severe nervous fever brought him to the borders of the grave. At the age of 24 he went to Jena, parted company with the idealism of Fichte, and began his more independent career in a series of brilliant lectures, which aroused the highest enthusiasm. At Jena he taught with Fichte and Hegel. The latter was older in years, but younger as a student. They edited the Kritisches Journal der Philosophic together, and were not yet sensible of their divergence. Here was developed the second . stage of Schelling's speculations, in his philosophy of nature and transcendental idealism. In rapid succession he published Ideen zu einer Philosophie der Natur (vol. i., 1797, the only one published); Von der Weltseele, eine Hypothese der höheren Physik zur Erklä-rung des allgemeinen Organismus (1798; later editions contain also an essay Ueber das Verhältniss des Realen und Idealen in der Natur); Erster Entwurf eines Systems der Naturphi-losophie (1799); an "Introduction" to the last named; and System des transscendentalen Idealismus (1800). Most of these works were originally read as lectures, and some of them more carefully digested in the Neue Zeit-schrift für speculative Physik (1802-'3). His choice of nature as the subject of his speculations indicated his revolt from the subjective tendency.
He said: Nature is life, a living organism, replete with formative powers; there is an ideal in the real, a subject in the object, reason in matter. Nature is autonomic; there is a soul of the world, its immanent principle. Grasping this soul, we re-create nature. It is all one living organism, a perpetual process of production, through the whole series of inorganic and organic forms. All is pervaded by one law, the law of evolution; and that law is a law of polarity, of polar forces. These act and react perpetually, as is seen in the phenomena of magnetism, electricity, and chemical agency. The mechanical theory of nature was superseded by the idea of living forces. Experiment has verified some of Schelling's prognostications; but the progress of research has left to his system as a whole only the value of a bold attempt at the reconstruction of nature. He applied the same principle of polarity in a more universal sense in his "Transcendental Idealism," which gives the outlines of the philosophy of spirit. The attempt is here made to derive all parts of philosophy from the intellectual intuition, considered as an act of the subject bringing the objective before it, an act in which the highest freedom and the highest necessity concur.
Here the theoretical and practical parts of philosophy are unfolded, including an outline of the course of history, as a drama, which one mind has poetized; but that one mind is not yet with Schelling a personal deity. The third division of this treatise is on the "Philosophy of Art," following out the hints contained in Kant's "Criticism of the Judgment." Art is well nigh deified; it is viewed as the highest product of man, the perfected union of the ideal and the real, of the subject and the object. The infinite embodied in the finite is in every work of art; the artist grasps the eternal idea and realizes it in a perfected form; he is a creative genius, and yet works under the law of necessity. These views are further unfolded in his elaborate essay Ueber das Verhältniss der bildenden Künste zur Natur (1807). By an inward and logical necessity Schelling was led on to another, the third stage of his system, known as the philosophy of identity. He had already considered nature by itself, and spirit by itself; but the two, in a complete system, cannot remain sundered. The ideal and the real, the subjective and the objective, he next says, are identical.
This he attempts to show in his exposition of his system in the Zeitschrift für speculative Physik (1801), in relation to nature - a fragment of his project; and in a more popular way, in his Vorlesungen über die Methode des akade-mischen Studiums (1803). In this doctrine of absolute identity we have the most enigmatical and obscure, not to say paradoxical stage of his philosophy, which at that time, as Hegel said, "he made before the public," not yet waiting, as Kant always did, for his ripened statements. If taken as his whole and final system, it is a pantheistic mysticism; but Schelling, in his later account of it, says that it represents only the negative, abstract side of his philosophy, to be supplemented by its positive and historical portions. This system of absolute identity is constructed in the geometric method, following the example of Spinoza; and the ideal and real poles are in fact parallel with the two "modes" of thought and extension in the ethics of Spinoza. It is around this point that the subsequent speculations of Schelling revolve, though for many years he struggled in the vain attempt to reconcile the pantheistic tendencies of these earlier essays with the theistic and Christian positions which he gradually adopted and defended.
In this transition period he was called from Jena to Würzburg (1803), where he taught for two years, in fellowship and sometimes in rivalry with Paulus and J. J. Wagner. In 1808 he became secretary of the academy of the arts of design in Munich; in 1820 he withdrew to Erlangen to write his Philosophie der Mythologie and Philosophie der Offenbarung, which form vols. ii., iii., and iv. of his collected works published after his death by his sons. In 1826, when the university of Lands-hut was removed to Munich, he accepted a chair, and attracted enthusiastic auditors from all parts of Germany, from France, England, and Greece. Several works which he had in the mean while published indicate the struggles and developments of his system. In his Bruno, oder über das göttliche und natürliche Prin-cip der Dinge (1802), he discoursed, in the manner of the Platonic dialogue, upon the unity of the infinite and finite, the possible and the real, as these must be found in the eternal being; expressly denying that the knowledge of the absolute can be attained in "a merely logical way." His work Philosophie und Religion (1804) develops the idea of divine freedom in relation to creation.
Still maintaining (what he subsequently denied in his essay on "Freedom") that the finite as such implies the fall, he here denies that there can be any emanation of the world from God, and says that the transition can only be made by a leap, by an act, and an act of free will. In his Dar-legung des wahren Verhältnisses der Natur-philosophie zur verbesserten Fichte'schen Lehre (1806), the theosophic element becomes more prominent; the Christian mystics and Boehm affect his theories and statements. He was feeling his way to the position decisively taken in the introduction to the first volume of his collected works (Philosophische Schriften, 1809), and in the Untersuchungen über das Wesen der menschlichen Freiheit, which forms the concluding treatise of that volume. In the preface he says the real antagonism of philosophy is found in the two ideas of necessity and freedom. The question of sin and its origin is the capital and decisive inquiry. God is viewed as a person and a will. There still remains a "dark ground" in deity, by which to explain creation and sin, but the personal deity (he alleges in his later expositions) is the prim and lord of this "nature in God." Freedom in the creature is essentially the possibility of good and evil.
Out of the nexus of cause and effect, beyond even the sphere of consciousness, each individual determines his nature by an act which, though "out of all time," is still recognized as free by the sense of responsibility and guilt. In his Denkmal against Jacobi (1812) he denies that there can be two kinds of philosophy, and insists on the necessity of a scientific theism, which should recognize God as the absolute personality, and yet find in him the basis of all real existence. A "Reply to Eschenmayer" (in the Allge-meine Zeitschrifi) refutes the objection that he, like Boehm, puts "Satan in God." Ueber die Gottheiten von Samothrake (1816) is a classical fragment of his mythology, somewhat arbitrary in its hypotheses. Sixteen sheets of his Vorlesungen über die Philosophie der Mythologie were printed in 1830, but withdrawn from circulation. Nearly 20 years had now passed since he had published any marked work. Meanwhile Hegel had elaborated his system, with a more logical and constructive talent; introducing a principle of movement, which was not a personal will, into the absolute being, and identifying the logical process of the idea with the development of real being.
Cousin wrote a slight sketch of German philosophy; Beckers put it into German; and Schelling broke his long silence by writing a preface, in which he accused Hegel of constructing his whole scheme upon a misunderstanding of the true sense and import of the system of identity. About ten years after Hegel's decease his instructor became his successor at the university of Berlin (1841). The capital of Prussia greeted him with open arms. Frederick William IV., Neander, and Müller hailed him with encouragement. He was lauded as the spiritus rector of the century, who through philosophy was to lead philosophy back to Christ. The Hegelians accused him of recreancy to the "idea," of theosophy, of mysticism. His lectures were published, without his consent, by both Frauenstädt and Paulus. But he lectured only a few semesters, and then withdrew from public life to perfect the details of his system. His physical constitution was vigorous, and his mental clearness was unimpaired to the last. Two of his sons, Karl Friedrich August and Hermann, have published an edition of his collected works (14 vols., Stuttgart and Augsburg, 1856-'61). The first ten volumes give all his writings in chronological order, including several treatises previously unpublished.
The remaining volumes give the later system. - Fundamental in his system, in its latest exposition, is the distinction between the negative and the positive philosophy; between the abstract and the historical; between the philosophy of the idea and the philosophy of what is real. The negative philosophy gives the logical and metaphysical basis of the whole; it is the prima philosophia, the first, but not the highest, philosophy; the quid sit, but not the quod sit. He reviews the old metaphysics from Plato and Aristotle to Kant and Hume; and the result is the system of pure ideas, of being as such, but yet of being, not in its reality, but in its abstract and necessary possibilities. Logically antecedent to being, as one of its potences or powers, is the possibility of being (das Seyn-Kön-nen); then comes pure being itself (purus actus - das reine Seyn); and then the union of the two, as the subject-object, or spirit. These three potences are at the basis of all, in idea; they are the potences of absolute being, which as a principle of development can only be grasped as absolute spirit, absolute personality, absolute will.
In other words, the transition from the absolute to the relative, from the infinite to the finite, cannot be deduced from being and its predicates, but can only be achieved by personal will. Yet in making this transition, these three potences of being are also the means or factors of the developing process. The three potences become distinct personalities in the process of creation, and work for a time separately and even in collision. Thus the Trinity is not a God in three Gods, but God in three personalities, and at the consummation of the process takes on a still higher form. Man was created with the possibility of good and evil; against God's will he chose the evil, and became subject to temporal and eternal death; and yet the ground for this evil is also found, says Schelling, in the first of the three principles of the Divine Being, passing through the "theogonic process," in conflict with the other principles. Satan is not eternal, and is not a creature; it is a principle, a spirit, which became personal, especially in the height of the conflict with Christ. The fall is before and beyond history; the narrative in Genesis is true on the mythological standpoint.
After the fall came the mythological process, through which the second divine personality passes; the whole history of mythology is not an accidental but a necessary process. In the Old Testament he recognizes type and symbol as everywhere pointing to Christ, the Logos; mythology and Judaism unite in him. But in Christianity Christ is the centre, the very substance. The incarnation is not a parting with the divine glory and attributes, but a resuming of them. Christ as incarnate is not from, but in, two natures; there is not a human personality, the only personality is divine. His sacrificial death was necessary to make expiation for sin; and through this death man again obtains freedom and justification Justification precedes good works. So, too, the resurrection comes through Christ alone; without the resurrection, the soul, separate from the body, would be in an unnatural state, a state of comparative torpor. Through and by this process of redemption, the Trinity too is completed. God is no longer merely in three personalities (as in the creation), but there are now three persons, each of whom is God. Schelling also unfolds the philosophy of church history, making three stages, corresponding respectively to the apostles Peter, Paul, and John. We are now in the Pauline stadium; that of John will follow, and complete the whole.
Paul is the apostle of the Son, and John of the Spirit. Schelling found many disciples and followers, and the development given by them to the principal doctrines has caused their philosophy to be designated as "New Schellingism." Schleiermacher and Hegel were in a measure pupils of Schelling, though they established philosophical schools of their own. - See Rosenkranz, Schelling (1843); Miche-let, Die neueste Deutsche Philosophic (1843); Noack, Die Philosophic der Romantik (I860); and the histories of philosophy by Chalybäus, Hitter, Erdmann, Ueberweg, and Thilo. Erd-mann has also published a valuable sketch of his negative philosophy. In Coleridge's "Bio-graphia Literaria" will be found some account of Schelling's system in its absolute identity phase. Of special interest, particularly in regard to the history of the growth of Schelling's views, is Fichte's und Schelling's philo-sophischer Briefwechsel (1856). The "Introduction" to Schelling's Erster Entwurf eines Systems der Naturphilosophie has been translated by Davidson in the "Journal of Speculative Philosophy" (St. Louis, 1867). His life has been written by Plitt, Aus Schelling's Leben (3 vols., 1869-'71). See also Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph von Schelling, eine Jubiläums-Gedächtnissrede, by O. Pfleiderer (Stuttgart, 1875), and Schelling's Geistesentwickelung, by Hubert Becker (Munich, 1875).