The Philosophy of F.W.J. Schelling: History, System, and Freedom

The figure of Schelling, prince of the romantics, has been too long overshadowed by that of Hegel, no doubt for more than one historical or doctrinal reason. If the three fellow students at the Tubingen seminary—Hölderlin, Hegel, and Schelling—swore eternal loyalty to the great ideal of the French revolution, freedom, the remainder of their intellectual and spiritual life was indeed devoted to the development of their individually different visions of its meaning.

For the two philosophers the task became that of grasping the nature and reality of freedom within the context of necessity, a necessity laid down in the structure of life and history previously interpreted by means of the teleological ideas of classic Greco-Roman thought and the Hebraic-Christian religious tradition, that entire onto-theological tradition with which in more recent times Heidegger and those who have followed after him have found themselves at one and the same time pervaded and embattled.

How is the freedom of the human individual, for the sake of which the revolution was fought and won, possible, if it is embedded in a process, natural on the one hand and spiritually historical on the other, that runs with its own immanent necessity? How can man’s moral, aesthetic, and religious motives retain effective credibility when they are seen as phases within stages of development in nature and history regulated by universal power or law?

Marx’s book throws considerable new light on German idealism.

Werner Marx (1910 – 1994) was a German philosopher and expert on Heidegger’s thought. He taught at the University of Freiburg.

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