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Abstract In this essay I present the themes central to Schellings philosophy in the so-called Weltalter-period (the period from Über das Wesen der menschlichen Freiheit to the three Weltalter-fragments). I argue that Schelling at this stage in his philosophical development presents a philosophical program which makes a crucial break with philosophy as it was conducted in both pre- and post-kantian philosophy. As such this program is still of vital philosophical importance today. My essay takes of by presenting Schellings arguments against Spinozism, a pantheistic ontology of things which covers more of the philosophical landscape than one would normally be inclined to think. Basically the ontology of things applies to any philosophical theory that, knowingly or unknowingly, stems from an understanding of the relation between the ground and (grounded) existence which takes the ground to be a fundamentally expansive principle and existence to be contractive. Schellings argument shows that such an ontology results in contradiction with regards to the question of human freedom. The consequences of such ontology is namely both fatalism and a radical notion of freedom (freedom as coincidence). From there the essay follows Schelling in his turning around of the relation between the ground and existence, so that the ground is viewed as a fundamental contractive force, whereas existence is viewed as expansive. This results in the position that an ontological edifice is something which can never be complete; an adequate ontology is on that suffers from a fundamental lack. We can never achieve closure in the ontological realm. As a result no ontology can pose a threat to human freedom. On the contrary human freedom means the ability to redefine ontology.
Introduction Famously Kant formulated the problem of human freedom as the question of the “Möglichkeit der Kausalität durch Freiheit in Vereinigung mit dem allgemeinen Gesetze der Naturnotwendigkeit” (KrV A 538/B 566). The obstacle which threatens the notion of human freedom has classically been some notion of natural necessity or natural causality. We will see that there is reason to praise Kant’s choosing of the term necessity 1
over causality in his formulation of the problem. Still, Kant’s way of formulating the third Antinomy of Pure Reason indicates that he (at this point) attempts no differentiation of natural necessity and natural causality - in the third Antinomy it is natural causality (in the form of the laws of nature) which opposes freedom (KrV A 445/B 473).1 And so the question of human freedom remains the question of whether there, besides the causality of nature, can be some causality belonging to the human spiritual faculties; the problem of human freedom is the problem of the opposition between ‘Natur’ and ‘Geist’2. Again, as we will later see in detail, there is reason to praise Kant for not opposing the causality of nature with the causality of spirit, but instead with that of freedom itself. Still, as much as there is reason to praise Kant, this paper is mainly on Schelling and not on Kant, which is a result of the fact that it was Schelling and not Kant himself who fully explicated the point expressed in Kant’s ingeniously cautious formulations. In the preface to Über das Wesen der Menschlichen Freiheit3 Schelling writes:
Es ist Zeit, daß der höhere oder vielmehr der eigentliche Gegensatz hervortrete, der von Notwendigkeit und Freiheit, mit welchem erst der innerste Mittelpunkt der Philosophie zur Betrachtung kommt. (Schelling, VII, 333)
The distinction between necessity and freedom should be understood in opposition to the more classical distinction between nature and spirit. If we are to understand human freedom at all, it must be the conflict between freedom and necessity that has our attention - not the one between nature and spirit. We can remind ourselves of the Kantian point from Grundlegung zur Metaphysik der Sitten that it is only humans who can be said to be free. Neither animals nor angels or gods can be free, since all of these are following their own metaphysical principle with necessity; animals act in accordance with their nature, angels and gods necessarily follows their divine principle. The problem with the distinction between nature and spirit is then that when freedom is sought within the limits defined by this distinction, it is almost always sought in spirit, which in a Schellingian perspective can only amount to a replacing of one type of necessity (natural necessity) with another (spiritual or intellectual necessity).
The exact Kantian relationship between the categories of causality and necessity and the laws of nature is very complex indeed, which for instance can be seen in Michael Friedman’s studies (Friedman, 1992). 2 For lack of a better English term I translate ’Geist’ into Spirit. 3 The essay is often referred to in German as the “Freiheitsschrift” or the “Freiheitsabhandlung”. Accordingly I will here simply call it the Essay on freedom.
(Zupancic. and insists that for Kant freedom transcends the opposition between the phenomenal and the noumenal. 4 In her excellent book on Kant’s moral philosophy Das Reale einer Illusion Alenka Zupancic shows that Kant in truth was much closer to Schelling in this matter than it would seem here. This is of course the basic project of Kantian philosophy: That reason puts itself into critical light in order to discipline itself. but through reason. BA 99). it must be understood through a living notion of freedom. since for Kant it is not through spirit that man opposes nature. instead it stems from reason. which in Schelling’s perspective can just as well cause the opposite of freedom. Being free would then basically amount to being able to act solely out of reason. Or to be exact: it stems from the clarity which reason can have of itself. as would here seem. Therefore Kant writes: “Also ist ein freier Wille und ein Wille unter sittlichen Gesetzen einerlei” (Kant. She undermines the usual reading of Kant’s notion of freedom as that of noumenal freedom which is opposed to phenomenological necessity (the reading of Kant which unfortunately has to be defended here). A living notion of freedom is the freedom to do evil as well as good (Schelling.352). Radical evil is what occurs when an agent has sufficient insight into the Moral Law as to know what the good deed would be in a given case. p.4 According to Schelling this cannot be. would be an agent that can also do evil. This of course amounts to a very devastating critique of reason. as it could be the guardian of true freedom. In the end reason can never satisfyingly cause its own critical illumination. The Moral Law rests not in some metaphysical principle called spirit. so that it can keep itself within its own limits. The Kantian notion of radical evil does in fact point in the direction that Kant wasn’t quite as hardheaded in this matter. a person is free when the Moral Law is the sole principle in his action. VII. However. Thus reason is never fully aware of its own turning into Hegelian objective spirit. and then still chooses to follow his inclination. If freedom is to be understood at all. This could be taken as an indication that a Kantian free agent. 2001. at this point Kant would insist that an agent which accomplishes a radically evil act cannot understood as be free. As long as reason in this way is critically self-sufficient. p.Following Kant a person is free when he acts in accordance with and out of duty. The free will is thus the will which can only do good.46) 3 . GzMS. it seems plausible that an action which is acted out of reason can be considered free. since he would be a slave to his inclination. It is this understanding of reason which is put into doubt by Schelling.
Kant’s practical reason is on par with what Schelling means by spirit in this matter. because it is then restricted to the motion which characterizes natural causality. The direction of natural causality goes from cause to effect. However. As we shall see. they present two versions of necessity which are exactly the same. The argumentative tool Schelling utilizes to get at the kernel of this problem is the distinction between essence in so far as it exists and essence in so far as it is ground for existence. What is needed is first of all an analysis of the notion of necessity. This of cause does not mean that he wants to eradicate necessity all together. This can be seen the following way: The necessity of practical reason is a necessity of ends. We shall see that the freedom of the will thereby becomes identified with freedom of choice.Schelling wishes to oppose freedom and necessity instead of nature and spirit. Whereas the necessity of nature is a necessity of effecting beginnings. The movement within both of them (their direction of fit so to say) goes strictly in one direction. these types of necessity are on par with regards to the following issue which for Schelling becomes essential. One is free when one is able to move in different forwards directions. Only this opposition is taken in the wrong direction as it is said that this freedom has to function as a version of causality from freedom. That he opposes freedom itself to (natural) necessity brings us on the right track. And crucially. this is the causal form of necessity. in order to get at how necessity and freedom opposes each other and how they do not. The first point would then be that in fact nature and spirit do not just present two different versions of necessity. because he in nature and in spirit finds only two different versions of necessity and thus in the end determinism. which would only amount to indeterminism. but not deliver any satisfying notion of freedom. whereas the necessity in practical reason goes from means to ends. whereas for Schelling it is the necessary forwardedness of the motion that is a threat to freedom. This would perhaps lead to the point where it is discovered how necessity and freedom each act as the condition of the possibility of the other. which he introduces as follows: 4 . it is a teleological form of necessity. Thus we can turn back to the point where we in the beginning applauded Kant.
6 This does not mean that Schelling would deny the truth of Newtonian physics. That Schelling gives the honor of producing this insight to philosophy of nature basically means that he refers to an earlier period in his own authorship. by the contractive principle: existence (thus repeating the scenario of mechanistic causality). sofern es existiert. The problem here is as mentioned that the movement in such a conception only has one direction. 5 5 . und dem Wesen. This is the mechanistic conception of causality. This distinction between ground and existence present a vital break in the development of German Idealism. or given form. thereby giving the fully fledged existence. which is then contradicted by the expanding force. In the first scenario. This would be the period 1797-1801 where Schellings philosophy was the outstanding dynamical system of German Idealism. We will see that this correlation is indeed much more complicated. 1963). which rely on the concepts of expansion and contraction. as we will see. The first idea one must give up when trying to understand Schelling’s distinction between ground and existence. In the intervening period (especially 1801-1806) Schellings philosophy had more of a static form. is the misconception that ground should be on par with cause and existence with effect. In the second scenario. E.Die Naturphilosophie unsrer Zeit hat zuerst in der Wissenschaft die Unterscheidung aufgestellt zwischen dem Wesen. Ground and Existence At first glance the distinction seems to be a rather uncomplicated matter .: For every existing thing. which Schelling wants to leave behind6.almost tautologious. (Schelling VII 356). there is a correlating existing thing. sofern es bloß Grund 5 von Existenz ist . 1971). he introduces a thoroughly dynamic theory. something which again changes with the Essay on Freedom. Instead. the cause is solely active and the effect is passive. the ground is the original contracting force. He would however insist that a proper philosophical worldview would have to rely on principles transcending Newtonian physics. (Heidegger. Here the central dynamic thought is back with a vengeance. at the heart of which we find the distinction between ground and existence.g. and for every ground for existence. the raw power which is then put into place. there is a ground for its existence. Perhaps it is even the central breaking point of the movement (Habermas. the ground is the expansive force. Schelling operates with two different patterns. In a relation between a cause and its effect. thus the movement in this relation goes from cause to effect alone.
1964. glaubte ich hinlänglich dadurch angedeutet. the case is clear. Thus. or base” then count as a cause in exactly this sense? Schelling’s answer would of course be no. support. this other must possess some sort of surface or some sort of tissue with which the existing thing can collide and thus be influenced (affected in its motion). and he would add that the kernel of our misconception lies in the identification of existence with “some existing thing”. daß ich den Grund auch Fundament.142). An obvious question would be: How can something which only contracts into itself act as a ground for the existence of something else? Wouldn’t it at least need some kind of outwardedness in order to function in such a way? Here there are couple of things to consider. Taking “existence” to be “some existing thing” will inevitably. support or base. support. the ground must necessarily act primarily as an expansive force. First and foremost Schelling makes great effort to point out that it is not the “thing” which is at issue here. As long as we can only conceive of existence as “some existing thing”. wouldn’t “foundation. Unterlage. where existence acts as the 6 . as we will see. The point being that the reason why one would tend to insist on some basic outwardedness of the ground is that existence is understood as “some existing thing”. This may be a somewhat surprising thought to many people.In the Essay on freedom it is this second scenario which Schelling is aiming at. some expansive force. Basis nannte“ (Fuhrmans. In this way the relationship between ground and existence can only be understood in such a way that the ground acts as the primary expanding force. A letter Schelling wrote Eschenmayer concerning the Essay on freedom contains an intriguing comment at this point: “Daß ich nicht Ursache unter Grund verstehe. Such tissue or surface would in this line of thought be what Schelling calls expansive force. of which Schelling was often accused (and still is today). lead to a certain kind of Pantheism. because the ground is to be understood as foundation. when existence as such is taken to be “that which is thinglike”. Here Schelling seems to be insisting upon the thought that. it should not be understood as cause. In order for some existing thing to be influenced by something else (in this case grounded in something else). But doesn’t “foundation. or base” entail some sort of surface? And if cause is to be understood as that which in relation to its effect possess some defining outwardedness. p.
a philosophical idea is often validated though the grounding in some kind of foundation. Philosophical thinking is in this way presented as a search for safe ground. the ground can never be a safe ground for existence. this ideal shape is the existing thing. p. This ontology of things has a tendency to colonize thinking as such. und jene schrecklichen Gedanken hervorkommen. was im Menschen der Möglichkeit nach liegt.“ (Schelling. The lesson to be taken from Schellings letter is thus that the ground is not that which effectively grounds existence. we have to realize that what we find in the end may not be a very pretty sight. die auf ewig in Nacht und Finsterniß begraben seyn sollten: dann erst wissen wir. the truth of which is taken to be. ist die Naivität der Leere an Erkenntnis. Even philosophical thought is rarely free of this colonization. and the giving of arguments for the robustness of the ground. Central to this critique is the notion of Pantheism. the ground is just ground. The ground is exactly the opposite. alle Kühe schwarz sind. Thus we find a crucial critical potential in these Schellingian considerations. If we are to seek out the fundamentals of human freedom. 22). On the contrary: The fundamental ground turns out to be an abyss. 1971. Just as if a philosophical idea was some kind of trophy that could be placed upon a shelf. VIII. it is not that which causes the security of this existence. It is the ontology of things that is bewitching our minds. wie man zu sagen pflegt. It is this colonization of thinking by the ontology of things. Famously Hegel ridiculed him in the preface to Phänomenologie des Geistes with the following remark: “Absolutes für die Nacht auszugeben. As such. self-evident. p.“ (Hegel. 269). This should be seen in light of the fact that Pantheism had a very particular 7 . Schelling tries to deconstruct in the early passages of Über das Wesen der Menschlichen Freiheit. but for now I will continue to follow Schelling’s critical considerations. worin. when we feel the need of some surface through which ground and existence can touch each other. Thus. In 1809 Schelling was very keen on getting rid of the accusation that he promoted a kind of Spinozist Pantheism.contracting force which forms the expansion into an ideal shape. I will later unfold the meaning and consequences of the fundamental grounds abyssal character. or is presented as. it is entirely passive with respect to the existence that it is ground for. as described in the following passage: “Wenn die Abgründe des menschlichen Herzens im Bösen sich aufthun.
Pantheism means the immanence of God in all things. which to Mendelssohn was nothing short of slander. In the end. then it seems impossible that there could be such a thing as human freedom. In a way this is the tendency of any kind of (systematic) philosophy. The same goes for the relationship between epistemological and ontological principles (or ontological and political or any other combination for that matter). Pantheism can never be polytheism. A point Andrew Bowie also makes in his book on Schelling. So why was Pantheism considered such a diabolic idea? Basically. All things have a godlike nature.ring to it in the intellectual milieu at the time. If it is possible to establish one fundamental metaphysical principle. In philosophy. even though it was clearly the very opposite. since it is the struggle to subsume everything to as few governing principles as possible: Ultimately the ideal will be that there can only be one governing principle. and this ruling principle governs everything. Originating in the so called Pantheismdebate between Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi and Moses Mendelssohn. most philosophy has the form and purpose of bringing conflicting ideas into balance with each other. since it would then be impossible for one God or ruling principle to be everywhere. no matter how analytically styled it may be. Jacobi’s book present the at the time prominent intellectual Gotthold Ephraim Lessing as a Spinozist. My actions would then be necessitated through this fundamental principle. one is rarely satisfied if. thus fulfilling some synthetic function. and thus any idea of such a thing In effect the most clear cut version of Pantheism today is Physicalism. A book which many considered a defense of Pantheism.7 But at the same time Pantheism as a fully fledged doctrine has some very radical consequences. This is the meaning of the Spinozistic formulation εν και παν (one and everything): There can be only one ruling principle. This can rightly be understood as the strive for Pantheism. In other words: All things belong to one single divine principle. one’s fundamental ethical principles are in conflict with one’s fundamental political principles. Pantheism was virtually understood as another word for fatalism. This debate was opened to the public by Jacobi’s publishing of Über die Lehre des Spinoza in Briefen an den Herrn Moses Mendelssohn (Jacobi. 1998). say. 1993) 7 8 . and it is accepted that this metaphysical principle is the governing principle of everything. (Bowie.
daß es D i n g e sind . (Schelling. p. In other words. It was Pantheism in this sense that led to the controversy between Jacobi and Mendessohn. sondern darin. Pantheism leads to fatalism. p. die ihm eben auch ein Ding ist. In the end this colonization necessitates that Schelling also refuses the first sense of Pantheism I mention above. Schelling writes on Spinoza: “Der Fehler seines Systems liegt keineswegs darin. Pantheism was taken to rule out any kind of human greatness. Ideas.as freedom would be an illusion. His point would be that “things” are indeed apt for being brought into balance with each other. Here we have the dialectic moment where the ontology of things colonizes philosophical thought as such.in dem abstrakten Begriff der Weltwesen. and this will be our first consideration. From there all thinking is enslaved in a discourse. In short. 1974. but conflict and dynamicity. The nature of an idea is not static fixation. notion of freedom. we shall see that Spinozism also results in an overly radical. From the idea that everything has to be understood through one and only one principle. In fact. it is not as much the Pantheism in Spinoza as it is the fact that it is a Pantheism of things that constitutes the problem. because in the light of such Pantheism it seemed impossible that anyone should be able to transcend one’s predetermined destiny. are not. the sole purpose of which is to make things of thoughts. Furthermore. daß er die Dinge i n G o t t setzt.349)” The failure of fatalistic Pantheism is not Pantheism as such. but he points out that these tendencies do not cover the whole truth of Spinozism. Therefore Pantheism also counted as the very opposite of the ideals central to the enlightenment. It points out that the ultimate problem in Spinozism is found in the consequence that God himself becomes a thing. VII. The last clause of the quote is of crucial importance. but sadly misconceived. but the fact that it is a Pantheism of things.9) seemed absurd in the light of Pantheism. The whole idea of humans moving out of their own self-inflicted immaturity (Kant. ja der unendlichen Substanz selber. however. The very idea that a philosophical system can put the whole world into balance is basically just a way of making one big thing out of 9 . Schelling finds that Spinoza can rightly be accused of such fatalistic tendencies. effectively turning the fundamental principle itself into a thing. we get the idea that it is every thing that is to be understood through this principle. This thought then reflects back onto the original idea.
it is a sign of an inherent lack in every existence. Schelling is instead insisting upon conflict as that which is encountered at the center of things. there is also always an essential feature which is distinct form it. See for instance the introduction to System der transzendentalen Idealismus. First of all it is that which puts the existence into place. The proper function of the ground is thus the removal of the ground beneath our feet. p. However clear and distinct. 10 . An existence that is able to fully incorporate its own ground into itself is rightly called causa sui. it lacks ontological consistency” (Zizek. every occurrence. however ideal the existence with which we are confronted seems to be. The never fully illuminable “Grund” which always contracts into itself. however understandable and controllable. and essence in so far as it is ground of existence. This is the real ground of the ideal existence. As Zizek puts it: “the Ground is less than Existence. it is that which lacks ontological fixation. Still the point of the dialectic remains. the real ground is an abyss. The ideal existence is that which is ontologically ordered. For every existence. There is no existence which can fully incorporate its own ground into itself. gives it its proper founding. It is this feature that grounds existence. The relation between the real ground and the ideal existence is exactly asymmetrical.the would. whereas the real ground is the very opposite. This is the Spinozistic 8 That I introduce the term real and idea at this point does not serve to show that Schelling is still working within the bipolarity of symmetrical principles which is very characteristic in his earlier philosophy. That which puts existence into place and gives it its proper founding is also that which exhibits the fundamental lack of every existence: The result is the fundamental finality of every existence. 1997. but secondly and more important. But because that which grounds every existence is something distinct from it.7) 9 Unfortunately the German affinity between the terms “Grund” and “Abgrund” does not figure in English. every thing. It is in this way that we are to understand the principal distinction between essence in so far as it exist. because the ground is thoroughly distinct from the existence which it grounds. this ground serves two purposes. but this singular principle is also immediately dualistic as it is a consequent distinction.9 Combining these two features is essential. turns into an “Abgrund” when driven to its conclusive extreme. the empty space at the center of every existence which only contracts into itself8. It is the fundamental principle of Schellings philosophy. it always possesses some essential feature which fundamentally resist categorization at the level of existence.
würde aber auch nicht dieses andere beständig von dem ersten überwunden. In the light of an example given by Hogrebe. Therefore. but no meaningful chronology. hemmenden. It is especially the second fragment which is of interest here. Time as something in which human beings can operate in such a meaningful manner is history. which Schelling rejects in order to get at finitude proper. wie sie sich darstellt. Tod. he drives this notion of finitude further. Only if the filmrolle is spun at a certain speed it is possible to follow the storyline of the movie. 1946). In other words: Finitude necessitates historicity. Thus it is in In the three fragments of the great project The Ages of the World (Die Weltalter) Schelling further explicates the issues. This is the fragment found in Schellings sämmtliche Werke published by Schellings son in the years 1856-1861. they only get the static singular images. we need two basic principles in order to understand time. Leistete dieses andere nicht Widerstand. ohne Absatz und Folge geschähe. (Schelling. fühlt in ihr einen Widerstreit zweier Prinzipien. eines das vorwärts strebt. p. for instance in physical theories. Hogrebe illustrates the point by referring to filmrolles in cinema. Schelling gives the following analysis of time in the second fragment of the work: Wer die Zeit auch nur nimmt. The two earlier fragments was published by Manfred Schröter in 1946 (Schelling. What we have is three fragments. Finitude implicates time as opposed to eternity.. weil die Entwicklung im Nu. As such. all attempts at the first part of the project. If time did not entail this central protraction. To be exact: We need one split principle. This notion of finitude will be our next topic of consideration. so wäre keine Zeit. the project was never carried out. present and future.absolute substance. it is in the light of the general historicity of the world that we need two basic principles to understand it. zur Entwicklung treibt und eines anhaltenden. Finitude and finality In the fragments of The Ages of the World10 which Schelling conceived shortly after publishing the Essay on Freedom. it would still be possible to think of time as a logical operator. Stillstand und darum wieder keine Zeit. der Entwicklung widerstrebenden. But it would not be possible to think of time as something in which events occur that human beings can make sense of. if it is spun to slow. 1946. so wäre absolute Ruhe. The first one known to the public is in fact the last of Schelling’s attempts. 10 11 . he evolved in the Essay on Freedom. 122) Time thus implicates a certain protraction. 100). It is thus the basic historicity of the world which is expounded in The Ages of the World. If time moves either too fast or too slow it ceases to be time. Nevertheless. If it is spun to fast the viewers can only perceive a blurred mix of colors. we can see the necessity of the split principle (Hogrebe. It was to consist of three parts (the three ages of the world): past. p.
making it impossible for it to fully incorporate its own ground in itself. such an existence could not be protracted in the above sense. a force which secondarily is held into place by a contracting one. Since every existence is subjugated to time. But here the expanding force is that which presses time forward. and thus it can never achieve infinity or absoluteness. Because of this split principle it seems as if we have achieved a notion of finitude proper through this basic understanding of time. Thus time is determined by a primary expanding force. then every existence is determined through a fundamental split principle. This is because we have not yet connected this second notion of finitude with the kind of finitude expressed in Schelling’s idea of a fundamental split between ground and existence. And we have the basic notion of finitude as historicity. So historical being is finite. In this constellation we have the basic outwardedness of everything giving tissue or surface. we find the very same principles of expansion and contraction we found in his description of the split between ground and existence.virtue of the basic protraction that it is possible for time to emerge as time impregnated with meaning or history. We have Schelling’s idea of a ground that contracts into itself. In the notion of finitude expressed in Schelling’s analysis of time. Here we encounter the crucial point. due to which a thing can stand in causal relations to other things. in thinking this way we are deluding ourselves. which is logically prior to existence. which is inferred from the split principle engaged in time itself. Thereby we have the finitude of timely being. This leaves us with two different notions of finitude. It wouldn’t be possible to make sense of a historical existence which persisted through all of history. and the contracting force that which holds time at a pace in which a space of meaning opens up. which means that it can never achieve absoluteness or infinity. Because it is the idea of the primacy of expansion over contraction that leads to the ontology of things. meaning that it cannot incorporate its own ground into itself. Nevertheless. In doing so. In other words we have made the ground. and we have the secondary inwards motion which gives this tissue a certain 12 . the fundamental expanding force. thereby constituting an inherent lack at the center of every existence. thereby effectively turning existence into the contracting force that forms the raw expansive potential into an ideal shape. we effectively reinstalled the ontology of things.
d. The two of these combined give the robustness of things. This however does The very same ontology is at stake in the realm of thought. dieselbe in ihren folgen betrachtet =A/a: so ist das Positive in A/a allerdings A. aber es folgt nicht. (Schelling. the original substance is everything else. The thing is that which necessarily incorporates its own ground into itself. daß deswegen A/a=A. it is not only possible for existence (as the existing thing) to incorporate its own ground into itself. it ceases to be the inherent lack at the essence of things which is expressed in the ground perceived as the primary contractive force. VII. meaning that the derivatives of the original substance is =A/a. when thinking becomes the establishing of a hierarchy between well-defined concepts or ideas. As such they are absolute.form. This element of infinity is once again what lies at the heart of Spinozistic Pantheism (see quote on p. 8). h.11 But with the aid of the above considerations. 344) Basically. Through the robustness of the thing which we have just seen expressed. making sure that the causal relations between things are repeatable and thus measurable. As Pantheism goes. we arrive at a kind of finality in which things are final. In other words. we are able to see why this ontology is radically mistaken. This absoluteness stems from the fact that when the ground is perceived as the fundamentally expansive force. daß die unendliche Substanz in ihrer Folge betrachtet mit der unendlichen Substanz schlechthin betrachtet e i n e r l e i sei. p. there is no logical necessity which forces us to infer from the fundamental selfcreating ability of the Spinozistic substance to the idea that this original causa sui is also the cause of everything else. but this means that everything is derived from the original substance. In Pantheism the fundamental thing (God) is thought to be everything. Thus the essence as grounds for existence becomes the warrant that there is no inherent lack at the center of things. which basically goes to say that the thing is the fundamental causa sui. 11 13 . As a causa sui the fundamental thing is expressed through an A=A. Of this Schelling says: Setzen wir nun die unendliche Substanz =A. Most importantly this ontology is failing because it installs a fake version of finitude (a finality) which possesses a hidden element of infinity. Fatalism and Coincidence The consequences which such finality has for the question of freedom will become apparent when we consider Schelling’s comments on predicative being (being as the copula of predication.
completely insufficient. sondern ganz leicht und sogar bestimmter. it is the freedom to act by chance. in that it is derived where original substance is self-defined (Schelling. as we can now see. die sich noch dazu des lebendigsten Gefühls derselben rühmen. by subsuming human action to coincidence. im Leibnizischen so gut wie im Spinozistischen. wie sie viele unter uns gedacht haben. (Schelling.not go to say the original substance is completely the same as everything else. 14 . VII. In the end this is the freedom to act completely without reason. it is the freedom to raise your arm at will or to refrain from doing that. the ontology of things is at bottom the idea that every thing is capable of incorporating its own ground into itself. As such. und eine Freiheit. This notion of freedom basically goes to say that one is free if one is able to freely choose between A or -A without being predetermined. As we have seen. nicht zur Not. Schelling rightly comments that the attempt to save the human ability to act. As such it is possible that there may be some other effective cause than the original one. auch aus dem Spinoza noch herleiten. When everything acts as its own beginning. In fact every existing thing is in this view of the matter itself a causa sui. VII. 340). Schelling puts it in this way: Denn bis zur Entdeckung des Idealismus fehlt der eigentliche Begriff der Freiheit in allen neuern Systemen. 383). a little copy of the original one. VII. we have the paradoxical result that Pantheism as the immanence of the things in God leads to fatalism because everything is derived from one single principle and to a radical concept of freedom where everything acts as its own beginning because every existence is capable of incorporating its own ground into itself. since the ground of existence is always a safe ground. Thus it is in fact fully possible to merge Spinozistic Pantheism with the idea of freedom as the capability to transcend natural causality in virtue of some spiritual/intellectual principle. The simple ability to thwart natural causality suddenly seems to be a poor idea of freedom. 345) In Kantian terms: It is fully possible that there may be a causality from freedom besides the causality of nature. p. wonach sie nämlich in der bloßen Herrschaft des intelligenten Prinzips über das sinnliche und die Begierden besteht. Schelling can thus conclude on the evaluation of Spinozism in the following way. eine solche Freiheit ließe sich. Yet this way of perceiving freedom is. Derived being is exactly completely different from the original substance. we are completely ruling out predictability and necessity. p. can only amount to admitting that there is no saving the idea of action (Schelling.
freedom as the possibility of both good and evil is a concept which can only be comprehended through the assistance of the now well known distinction between ground and existence. die in einer vergangenen Zeit liegen. das letzte unleugbar den Vorzug verdiente. We have seen how any system which sets out from the idea that the metaphysical ground is a primary expansive force ultimately ends up in radical contradiction. one must ultimately find that the consequences are both fatalism and a radical notion of freedom.” (Schelling. und zwar mit vollem Fug. Es setzt sich diesem System des Gleichgewichts der Willkür. nämlich dem Fatum zu entgehen. weil jede derselben durch Vorstellungen oder andere Ursachen bestimmt sei. Beide Systeme gehören dem nämlichen Standpunkt an. according to Schelling. are in need of a new definition of freedom. Good and Evil According to Schelling. die Epikurus in der Physik in gleicher Absicht ersann. The outcome of these considerations is that we. Such a concept of freedom is defined by Schelling in the following way: “Der reale und lebendige Begriff aber ist. VII. my emphasis) When indulging oneself in Spinozism. VII. nur daß. Something which we will look deeper into in the following chapter. und wenn Freiheit nicht anders als mit der gänzlichen Zufälligkeit der Handlungen zu retten ist.Die Hauptsache ist. Because he never went behind the back of this problem . freedom remained the freedom of spirit/intellect over nature . Zufall aber ist unmöglich. 15 .because in his way of viewing things.Kant was never able to establish what Schelling refers to as a living concept of freedom. widerstreitet der Vernunft wie der notwendigen Einheit des Ganzen.383. wenn es einmal keinen höheren gäbe. daß sie ein Vermögen des Guten und des Bösen sei. p. p. Something which is clearly absurd. which completely rules out any kind of predictability. This is the dilemma which Kant could never solve.352) This concludes our evaluation of the critical project in Schelling’s Essay on freedom. indem er die empirische Notwendigkeit aller Handlungen aus dem Grunde behauptet. so ist sie überhaupt nicht zu retten. This involves the intimate connection of freedom to both good and evil. und die bei der Handlung selbst nicht mehr in unsrer Gewalt stehen. der Determinismus (oder nach Kant Prädeterminismus) entgegen. (Schelling. daß dieser Begriff eine gänzliche Zufälligkeit der einzelnen Handlung einführt und in diesem Betracht sehr richtig mit der zufälligen Abweichung der Atomen vergleichen worden ist.
God has to be viewed as that which contains the essential features of the world. since we are talking of that which is logically prior to the creative act. Indifference in this sense means that the differing elements are simply not actively differing. We are therefore forced to indulge the full dialectical force involved in the reversal of these principles. As long as a human being is inactively both moral and immoral. Still. He thus keeps some of the tendencies in the old philosophical ideals of Pantheism alive. as the fundamental principle of the world. Still. which fails in giving an answer to the question of freedom.We have now learned that the attempt to conceive of this distinction as the distinction between the fundamentally expansive ground and the forming contractive existence must inevitably result in the installation of a pantheistic ontology of things. 236). In conceiving of original ground as contraction Schelling thus wants to unfold a radically new mythology of creation. morally we don’t really have to care how she acts if she is inactively both moral and immoral. God is here simply understood as that which contains the force of everything that is active in the world. It is the relation between the creator and the created. Only. Schelling is a systematic thinker. Schelling defines this pre-creational God as the Will that “nothing wants” (Schelling.12 Creation does not stem from the original expansive will of God. 13 It is worth noticing that this term contains both a logical and a psychological point. This also indicates the psychological meaning of indifference. To say that the latter is possible. is to say that morality and immorality are identical. since this would lead us on the way to the now wellknown ontology of things. To say that the former is possible. Therefore God must contain both expansion and contraction prior to creation. Logically indifference is that which is not different -(A≠-A). such a relation cannot be allowed to establish any kind of balanced ontological hierarchy. between God and the World. meaning that we have to conceive of the original ground as contraction. To explain creation thus means to explain how this principality is active in the world. This will. The principles are at ease in an original absolute unity which Schelling calls indifference. and this is the crucial point. He does not abandon the ideal of trying to establish a systematic relation between the ultimate ground and existence as such. VIII. none of these principles are active.13 God is in a state of bliss. as it at the same time results in fatalism and radical (coincidental) freedom. In the same way that it is possible for the same human being to be both moral and immoral. but instead from an original contractive will of God. However this does not imply identity A=A. Her actions are morally indifferent to us. necessarily turns into the will This can be viewed wholly secularized (and is). however. as long as she is not actively both at the same time. In other words. is to say that morality and immorality are indifferent. which is to be evaluated. But. 12 16 . it doesn’t really make a difference that she is so. He is the ultimate principality of the world.
without some ultimate goal. 17 . the move was necessitated by the thirst for self-knowledge. Not that God was free to create just any world he would have liked . it is the egoistic tendency which violently forces the implosion of the original equilibrium. The will that is without an object. namely self-fulfillment.that “wants nothing”. 15 From this time on Schelling begins his lectures on Philosophy of Mythology and philosophy of revelation. After 182715. God needed the world as his own mirror image. This is the line of thought which Hegel gives a thorough exposition of in his Phänomenologie des Geistes. has a tendency to turn into the desire for the destruction of any possible object. 1996. a line of thought which has turned out to be very problematic indeed. As a result the primary ground inherited expansion as its primary function. in order to be able to fully know and recognize his own being. which means that God was completely free to chose whether or not he would want to indulge himself in creation. The first being the 14 Years later Nietzsche would repeat the same nihilistic point. before the moment of creation. Thereby the project of Schelling’s late philosophy was split in two. this picture is completely turned around. This mythology is dissected by the question as to what it means that the original blissful will that “nothing wants” necessarily turns into the will that “wants nothing”. p. The creating motion was thus set forward by God’s longing to be something which he was not yet. meaning that the original direction in creation was in fact not the ultimate contraction in “wanting nothing”. From then on Schelling abandoned the idea of the necessity of creation. This is the original spontaneous act. but rather the wanting of something specific. but he was free to accomplish the gesture of creation. Thus the creating motion had an implicit external goal from the very beginning.387). The central idea to grasp here is that for Schelling spontaneity goes inwards.14 This is the original contraction. (Hutter. and therefore also free not to do so.he would still have to create the world in accordance with his own inherent principles. its principle is contraction. and this thirst for knowledge thus showed the path to be followed. See also the next note. In other words. In the line of thought which Schelling advocated prior to the Essay on Freedom this necessity would be explained though the idea that God needed to set the stage of creation in order to fully accomplish his own being. This gave the original necessitating force that initiated the gesture of creation a central element of teleology. where Schelling installs the distinction between positive and negative philosophy at the center of philosophy.
and especially in the second fragment of the latter. One such reading is very elegantly put forward in Axel Hutter’s Geschichtliche Vernunft (Hutter. this view to freedom seems a bit ill-conceived. and thus Schelling did not in his late philosophy present as clean a break with his ideas from the period of the Weltalter. 1963) and Slavoj Zizek (Zizek.the investigation into that which is necessary in God. Indeed Schelling here seems to repeat that which we have just seen his extensive critique of: the idea that freedom should be the simple ability to choose freely between A and -A. Schelling insists that creation is set in motion through freedom.that the world is . 1997). 1940). 1996). God’s primary contractive motion is 16 In the literature on Schellings late philosophy we find a very intriguing discussion of the relationship between these (separated) projects of philosophy. 13-14). This latter investigation would then be positive philosophy16.the investigation into the empirical fact which can be subsumed to no logical necessity . we find a third way between these two lines of thought. But at this time Schelling did not yet perceive the creating act as free. Jürgen Habermas (Habermas. Still. This is contingency. At this time in Schelling’s philosophy. It is an open question whether this division of labour is as strict as it would seem here.what the world is . In a sense this would namely lead back into the very same problematic that we have just seen unfolded.the moment in God that can never be sublated by reason. And the second being the investigation into the brute fact of the world . in the sense that God could just as well have chosen not to create. since the German word is unvordenklich. as the notion of freedom expressed in the possible supremacy of intellect over nature did? (see p. The original act of God is thus not a necessary expansion. It would be the freedom to choose between A and -A. In favour of the clean break we find the works of Horst Fuhrmanns (Fuhrmans. This would be negative philosophy. As such there is still an element of necessity in Schelling’s notion of creation at this time. a freedom which in the end is the freedom to act completely by chance. then the elements of freedom and necessity in God would also have to be closer connected. Schelling himself insist that the positive project of philosophy is to be understood as the logical consequence of the negative project. God’s creation of the world is no longer necessitated in the sense that he had to go through the process of creation in order to fully become himself in some sort of dialectics of recognition. and rather forcefully. In the light of the present discussion however. 18 . If these projects are closer connected than the obvious idea of divided labour would indicate. the unforethinkable being).investigation into the necessity of the world . it is the unforeseeable being (or. At the time of the Essay on Freedom and The Ages of the World. which would lead back into a pantheistic ontology of things. Wouldn’t such a notion of freedom fail in the same way.
This is a story of how something becomes something radically new. Thus. VII. this chaos of raw uncontrolled forces. contains a central element of necessity. Something which was not contained in the original constellation. But because there is only the will itself to relate this action to.361. The antecedent is the will that “nothing wants” and the consequence is the will that “wants nothing”. because it acts solely out of itself.negation is pure substantial negation. (establish some dialectical counterpart)” . It is freedom as the expression of own necessity. wie wir in der Sehnsucht nach unbekanntem namenlosem Gut verlangen. Where the first contraction was that which disturbed the original equilibrium. wie sie zwar zu dem Verstande sich richtet. nach dunklem ungewissem Gesetz. It is substance turned upside down.. als ein Wogend wallend Meer. This freedom however. It is that which can never be fully reversed in a positive sublation. a second contraction is effectuated... again because the will is acting solely out of itself. because it is an act of pure will. in which something negates itself in order to establish some mirror image of itself. though not as some sort of active soul-searching (investigation into the primordial indifference). As such it constitutes a reflexive center in this chaos: “Aber entsprechend der Sehnsucht [. That would be some sort of story of how something could realize or implement its own implicit being. The will expressed in the original contraction is free. negation is not “negation in order to. this acting out is better understood as an acting into itself. (Schelling. den sie noch nicht erkennt. implosion or collapse. in Schellingian dialectics. that which always collapses into itself. der Materie des Platon gleich. This violent disruption of the primordial equilibrium is neither necessitated through the need for an expression of the forces contained (at ease) in the original indifference. This original collapse results in a complete disorder of drives and directions described by Schelling in the following central passage: So also müssen wir die ursprüngliche Sehnsucht uns vorstellen. unvermögend etwas Dauerndes für sich zu bilden.destruction. through which it can achieve itself in a more complete and explicit manner. the second is a contraction in the resulting chaos. This is not the kind of negation known from Hegelian dialectics.] erzeugt 19 . nor is it the result of a will reflected enough in its own stance to freely choose between leaving things as they are or effectuating creation. but as pure negativity . und sich ahndend bewegt. p..perceived as the ultimate free action. my emphasis) In this waving and sizzling sea.
sich in Gott selbst eine innere reflexive Vorstellung. I can still be understood as one and the same person due to this central sameness. it is still a central point that God can only be existing as his ideal self (implement himself). Thus God never fully becomes himself.“ (Schelling. 362) With this first regular formation we get the first expansive motion: The expression of the word.361) This second contraction. it is a dialectic that can never be completed. which would be linked to my intellect. This counts both for the personal God and for human persons. the dialectics of recognition are still valid. (Schelling. p. This is what Schelling calls the personality of God. p. p. VII. However.395-6). da sie keinen andern Gegenstand haben kann als Gott. the true beginning is not at the beginning” (Zizek. and because it is from this inverse motion that creation springs.14) 17 20 . A person is that which is never fully himself. In other words.“ (Schelling. Schelling completely turns this picture around. VII. as that which can never achieve complete selfhood. p. Normally a person is viewed as an individual. in which God a second time moves inwards into himself. 17 So how does this mythology help us to an understanding of a living concept of freedom? This will become clear when we look at the consequences all of this has for the ontological edifice: Because negation is viewed as inverted substance. from this point on we can talk of ontology.das Wort jener Sehnsucht. creation itself is never complete. VII. Zizek is thus completely correct when he states: ”Schelling’s fundamental thesis is that. 17) out of the equation. Gott sich selbst in einem Ebenbilde erblickt. my personality. “Diese Vorstellung ist zugleich der Verstand . durch welche. Although Schelling abandons his earlier idea that God necessarily had to create the world in order to achieve himself. to put it bluntly. In the expression of the word we have the beginning as creation. as something which can be individuated. 1997. It sets the stage for categorization. It is thus the central point of the human world. is not pure disruptive negativity but that which gives form and reestablishes some sort of regularity. from the point of the original free act and on. my habits or some other factor. The prime criteria for a person is thus sameness. if he goes through the process of creation. Although my bodily matter is completely exchanged over a certain period of time. meaning that he takes the mentioned necessity (see p.
she is also that which is in need of constant redefinition. The second motion is the motion from the will that “wants nothing” to the will that “wants itself in nothing”. The first motion is the motion from the will that “nothing wants” to the will that “wants nothing”. But at the same time a person is also that which can redefine the ontological edifice. Something which we have found ultimately to be absurd. Something which is mimed by the change of perspective within the Frankfurter School from Adorno and Horkheimer to Habermas. A negativity which worked in a double motion. Therefore ontology is fundamentally instable. This means that the free act is as much an act which occurs within the will itself. but elevation is that which bears its own inherent flaw. 21 . 1964. At this point the term indifference acquires its full psychological meaning. it always contains some abyssal center. the second being the formative. The free act is therefore an act which mines the original creative act of God. Habermas defends the idea that the problems of modernity are due to the fact that modernity is still an unfinished project. This wanting of self in nothing is that which makes possible a redefinition of the self. The ability to accomplish such an act is what counts as freedom. therefore freedom is always negative. Indifference is the acceptance of a 18 Defining idealism through the classic credo of “being as elevation” (Fuhrmans. Indifference is in this sense not to be understood as the original equilibrium. Such a thorough redefinition of the ontological edifice is that which counts as a genuine act. Where Adorno and Horkheimer insisted upon the inherent negative dialectic of modernity.163) Schelling is thus placed at the breaking point between idealism and post-idealism. As a result any ontological edifice can only ever be the current ontological edifice. since a final ontology can only be an ontology of things. p. Being is still thought of in terms of elevation.The personality of God means that any ontological edifice must bear some residue of the original contraction. Such redefinition is then the first expansive motion of the will. In this discussion Schelling is thus strictly on the side of Adorno and Horkheimer. centering contraction which makes genuine expansion possible. meaning that modernity contains its own inherent barbarism. the abyssal center of being itself. this act was defined through pure negativity. Elevation is only possible through a consistent element of that which can never be elevated.18 Because a person is that which is never fully herself. but as the indifference towards the current ontological balance. As we remember. There is no final ontology. Therefore expansion is always secondary to contraction. The first being the original implosion which destroys the prior indifference.
And as such it is impossible to give fundamental guidelines for “how to do good” and “how to do evil”. Where the central philosophical opposition is the one between nature and spirit. there can be no fundamental moral law. the tendency will be that freedom will always need to be explained in the light of some natural necessity which is basically taken to be a fact. he effectively inverts the relation between freedom and necessity. such as that between nature and spirit. In Schelling. There is no guarantee that an action which springs out of nature is evil nor that the one that springs from spirit is good. 22 . which has as its central feature that the center is absent. Therefore. Freedom is therefore the ability to thwart any ontological order. evil is a spiritual unity just as well as good is. We have also seen that he effectively inverts the relation of these principles in order to unfold a fundamentally different ontology: a non-ontology. As such any current ontology can be replaced be a genuine free act. Therefore a living notion of freedom is the freedom to do both good and evil. Since there can be no fundamental ontology. Conclusion We are now in position to see the consequences of Schelling’s renewed focus in philosophy.current ontology as the only possible ontology. In Schelling the central question is formulated the other way around: How can there be necessity when there is freedom? We have seen how Schelling argues that taking the opposition between nature and spirit to be central means the acceptance of an ontology of things which ultimately leads to unsolvable contradictions. the answer to Schellings fundamental question (How can there be necessity when there is freedom?) is: because freedom is the ability to define necessity. By moving the center of philosophical discourse from the opposition between nature and spirit to the one between freedom and necessity. There is no security in any fundamental ontological distinction. This is why freedom as a living concept means the freedom to do both good and evil. The installation of this non-ontology means that any final (finished/complete) ontology can only be a current one. This was accomplished through an analysis of the relation of the principles of expansion and contraction in the ontology of things.