Part One - From the History of Dialectics
Schelling, too, occupied himself primarily, from the very start, with the problem of a system of knowledge, or rather, with the problem of the antinomies that inevitably arose in attempts to create such a system. The difficulty lay exclusively in representing in a logically systematic way the fact (directly apparent (intuitive) to every thinking being) that the world is one, and that thought, striving for its own systematic presentation, was also one in itself. But the rules of logic and laws of the activity of the intellect were such that the single world, refracted through them, was split into two in the eyes of reason. And each of the halves so formed claimed the role of the sole true absolute and unconditional, logically systematic representation of the whole world.
Like Kant, Schelling saw the way out not on the plane of logically consistent constructing of determinations but in the practical realisation of the system that presented itself to the human mind as most worthy of it, most acceptable to it, most in accord with its innate strivings. It was impossible to demonstrate anything by formal logic, i.e. to work out a system of uncontradictory proofs that could not be counterposed by its opposite. Such a system simply had to be taken on direct trust and followed unconditionally. The system that Schelling himself chose was expressed in the following principle: ‘My vocation in criticism is to strive for unchangeable selfness (Selbstkeit), unconditional freedom, unlimited activity.’ This system could never be completed, it must always be ‘open-ended’ in the future – such was the concept of activity. Activity when completed, embodied! ‘fixed’ in its product, was already not activity.
It is easy to discern Schelling’s proud principle in these arguments. It was activity that was the absolute and unconditional that could never and must never be completed by the creation of a system crystallised once and for all; the absolutely universal in which new differences, differentiations, peculiarities, and particulars would ever be arising and accordingly be merged (identified) with what had previously been established, and on ad infinitum. This form of criticism, according to Schelling, embraced dogmatism as its own moment, because it confirmed the thesis that the whole edifice of man’s spiritual culture must henceforth be built on a clear and categorically established foundation, namely on the understanding that the sole subject of all possible predicates was the Ego, i.e., the infinite creative principle existing in every human being and freely presuming both itself and the whole world of objects that it saw, contemplated (intuited), and thought, and on the understanding that no one result already achieved had the force of an absolute, ‘objective’ authority for the Ego, i. e. the force of dogma.
And if there were an opposing system that looked upon man as the passive point of application of previously given, externally objective forces, as a speck of dust in the vortex of elemental world forces, or a toy in the hands of God and his representatives on earth, that dogmatic system, though it had been rigorously proved formally and was not self-contradictory, would have to be combated by the supporter of true criticism until final victory.
Like Fichte, Schelling stood for a new, critical, ‘enlightened’ dogmatism: ‘Dogmatism – such is the result of our common inquiry – is irrefutable in theory because it itself has quit the theoretical field to complete its system in practice. It is thereby refutable in practice for us to realise a system in ourselves absolutely opposed to it.’
Practical activity was the ‘third’ thing on which all mutually contradictory systems came together as on common soil. It was there, and not in the abstractions of pure reason, that the real battle raged that could and must be won. That was where the proof lay that one party, unswervingly following its principle, defended not only its own, egoistic private interest, but also an interest coinciding with the universal tendencies of the universe, i.e. with absolute and unconditional objectivity.
‘Criticism cannot follow dogmatism into the sphere of the Absolute [understood purely theoretically], nor can the latter follow it, because for both there can be only one assertion as an absolute assertion that takes no notice of the opposing system, and that determines nothing for the opposing system.
‘Only now, after both have encountered one another, one of them can no longer ignore the other, and whereas before [i.e. in the purely theoretically logical sphere] they were without any resistance to the position won, now the position must be won by victory.’
That is the point that divided Fichte and Schelling from Kant; the intellectual culture of humanity cannot lie eternally like Buridan’s ass between two equally logical systems of ideas about the most important things in life. Mankind has, in practice, to act, to live; but it is impossible to act simultaneously in accordance with two opposing systems of recommendations. We are forced to choose one of them and then to act strictly in the spirit of its principles.
Kant himself, it is true, demonstrated in his last works that the arguments of practical reason must all the same tip the scales in favour of one system or the other, although on a purely theoretical plane they are absolutely equal. But with him this theme only broke through as one of the trends of his thinking, while Fichte and Schelling transformed it into the starting point of all their meditations. Hence the slogan about victory, too, in the theoretical sphere. One of the clashing logical conceptions must still prevail over the other, its opposite, and for that it must be reinforced by arguments no longer of a purely logical, rather purely scholastic quality, but armed with practical (moral and aesthetic) advantages as well. Then it was assured of victory, and not simply of the right and the chance of waging an eternal academic dispute.
Like Fichte, Schelling saw the main problem of the theoretical system in synthetic statements and in uniting them: ‘It is these riddles that oppress the critical philosopher. His chief question is not how there can be analytical statements, but how there can be synthetic ones... The most comprehensible thing is how we define everything according to the law of identity, and the most enigmatic how we can define anything still outside this law.’
That is aptly formulated. Any elementary act of synthesising determinations in a judgment – be it that A is B – in fact already requires us to go beyond the law of identity, i.e. to infringe the boundaries established by the principle of contradiction in determinations; for, whatever the adjoined statement B, it is in any case not A, is not-A. It is clearly the logical expression of the fact that any new knowledge infringes the strictly acknowledged limits of the old knowledge, refutes it, and revises it.
Any dogmatism that obstinately insisted on the knowledge already attained and mastered would therefore always reject any new knowledge from the outset on the sole grounds that it contradicted the old. And it did in fact formally contradict it because it was not analytically included in the old and could not be ‘derived’ from it by logical contrivances of any kind. It must be united with the old knowledge in spite of the fact that it formally contradicted it.
That meant, according to Schelling, that a genuine synthesis was not realised by purely theoretical ability that strictly adhered to the rules of logic, but by quite another capacity, which was not bound by the strict limitations of the fundamentals of logic, and even had the right to transgress them when it experienced a powerful need to do so. ‘A system of knowledge is necessarily either a trick, a game of ideas... – or it must embrace reality not through a theoretical ability, but through a practical one, not through a perceptive ability but through a productive, realising one, not through knowledge but through action.’
With Kant this productive ability was called power of imagination (Einbildungskraft). Following him Schelling also plunged into analysis of it, which took him along a rather different road than Fichte’s, onto the rails of an objective idealism that was not only reconciled to the thesis of the real existence of the external world but also built a theory of understanding it, although with Schelling himself this theory proved to be something quite different from logic and tended rather to a kind of aesthetics, to a theory of the artistic, aesthetic comprehension of the mysteries of the universe. For the men of science Schelling retained, as a working tool, the same old logic that he himself, following Fichte, declared to be a completely unsatisfactory instrument for understanding and to be justified solely as a canon of the outward systematisation and classification of material obtained by quite other, illogical and even alogical, means.
Whereas Fichte had provided a classical model of criticism of Kant and his logic from the right, from the standpoint of a consistently constructed subjective idealism, another motif began to be clearly seen in the reformatory strivings of the young Schelling, in tendencies leading him to materialism.
In the circles in which he moved, and where his thinking matured, quite other moods prevailed than those induced by Fichte’s philosophy. All Fichte’s thought had been concentrated on the social and psychic revolution stimulated in minds by the events of 1789-93. The flight of his imagination was also linked with the events and problems of those years; as the revolutionary wave subsided his philosophy folded its wings, and he could not find a new source of inspiration. For Schelling the fervour born of the revolution was only a certain stage that he reached as a sympathiser and even a disciple of Fichte; but, just as the forces of rude reality forced the most zealous Jacobins to reckon with them, so too it became clear to Schelling that to insist on one infinite creative power, the Ego, and on the strength of its moral fervour, in face of the persistent external world meant to bang one’s head against the wall of incomprehension, as had actually happened in the end to Fichte.
Being closely linked with the circle of Goethe and the romantic writers, Schelling was much more interested than Fichte in nature (read: natural science) on the one hand, and in the inherited, traditional (in the parlance of Kant and Fichte, objective) forms of social life on the other hand. From the very beginning natural science and art constituted the medium that shaped his mind and his aspirations as an inquirer.
Schelling, it is true, began in the same way as Fichte; he too treated the opposition between subject and object as an opposition within human consciousness, as an opposition between the images of the external world that a person produced ‘freely’, and the images of the same world that he produced not freely. but unconsciously, in obedience to a compelling force of necessity unknown to him. Like Fichte, Schelling warred with dogmatism (in the idea of which, for him, there were merged both religious orthodoxy, which ascribed necessity to an external God, and philosophical materialism, which ascribed it to external things, to ‘pure objects’). For Schelling criticism was a synonym for the standpoint that the objective (universal and necessary) determinations of the human psyche were initially innate in the psyche itself and discovered in it in the course of its active self-discovery.
In that way Schelling, following Fichte, tried to overcome the dualism of Kant’s conception; but with Fichte the dualism had still been preserved and even reproduced in ever sharper form within his conception. All the Kantian antinomies had in fact been merged by him in a single antinomy, in the contradiction between two halves of one and the same Ego. One of them unconsciously created the objective world of images by the laws of causality, space, and time, while the other reconstructed it in the spirit of the requirements of the transcendental ideal, in accordance with the requirements of ‘morality’.
It was presupposed, as before, that there were two different Egos in every person, but it was not known how and why they were connected together; and although Fichte united them in the concept of activity, the opposition was reproduced again within the Ego in the form of two different principles of activity. And as before it remained an open question what was the inner necessary relation between the two halves of the human Ego. Did they have a common root, a common source, a common ‘substance’, through the splitting of which the two halves of necessity arose?
Fichte did not find the solution, in spite of his concept of activity. The world of necessary ideas was formed within all Egos quite independently of the activity of the ‘better’ I, before it awoke in man. The ‘better’ I already, during its awakening, found the existing world in itself. In turn it (the pure form of practical reason or the ideal) came into the world of necessarily produced ideas, as it were, from outside, like a judge who emerged from somewhere unknown and who brought with him the criteria for evaluating and re-evaluating what existed, i.e. the fruits of the Ego’s past labour.
The human Ego was again converted into a field of endless battle between two originally heterogeneous principles. The absolute Ego must take the world of existing ideas, incomplete and unconnected, even mutually contradictory, in accordance with itself and one another. But that again was only attainable in infinity. ‘Full agreement of man with himself, and – so that he can agree with himself – agreement of all things outside him with his necessary practical concepts of them – concepts that determine how they must be....’ (as Fichte formulated the essence of the problem), proved unattainable in the existing world.
Fichte freed himself from the Kantian form of antinomies but reproduced them all intact in the form of contradictions within the very concept of ‘activity’. The problem was simply transferred to the sphere of the individual psyche and so made completely insoluble. Schelling reached the same conclusion and began to seek a way out along a new path with the young Hegel. Gradually, in the course of criticising Fichte, the main outlines of a new conception began to appear.
Schelling and Hegel were more and more dissatisfied with the following ‘points’ in the position of Kant and Fichte:
1. the posing of all the concrete burning issues of the day in a subjective, psychological form;
2. the feeble appealing to ‘conscience’ and ‘duty’ that stemmed from that, which put the philosopher into the pose of a preacher of fine and noble but impracticable phrases and slogans;
3. the interpretation of the whole sensuous empirical world, if not as hostile, at least as a passive obstacle to the dictates of ‘duty’ and the ‘ideal’;
4. the absolute indifference to everything except pure morality (including the history of humanity and of nature), and to natural science (which underlay Fichteanism);
5. the powerlessness of the categorical imperative (ideal) in the struggle against the ‘egoistic’, ‘immoral’, ‘irrational’ motives of man’s behaviour in society, the indifference of real earthly men to the preachers of the higher morality (how light all the means of paradise developed by the Church and supported by the fullest scholastic explanations were in the scales when the passions and forces of circumstance, upbringing, example, and government were thrown into the other pan; the whole history of religion from the beginning of the Christian era went to prove that Christianity could only make people good when they were already good, the young Hegel said, having in mind by the ‘scholastic explanations’ any philosophy oriented on morality, including that of Kant and Fichte);
6. the difference, insuperable in principle, between the real and the proper, between necessary and free activity, between the world of phenomena and the active essence of man, etc., etc.
All that led to one thing, namely, to comprehending that it was ultimately necessary to find the ‘common root’ itself of the two halves of human being from which they both stemmed and could be understood. Only then would the human personality appear before us not as the passive point of application of external forces (be they nature or God), i.e. not as an object, but as something acting independently (das Selbst), as subject.
From that was born the idea of the philosophy of identity. Like any idea it existed originally only in the form of an hypothesis, in the form of a principle not yet realised in detail, in the spirit of which the whole mass of existing theoretical material, and in particular the conception of Kant and Fichte, had to be critically revised.
Originally the young Schelling only affirmed that the two halves of the human being, which had been depicted by Kant and Fichte as originally heterogeneous in essence and origin (in spite of their efforts to link them), had something in common after all, i.e. that somewhere in the depths, in the initial essence of matter, they had been merged in one image before being torn apart and separated in dispute, discussion, and antinomy. Schelling’s thesis stated that both forms of the Ego’s activity (the unconscious and the consciously free) had really to be understood as two branches growing from one and the same trunk, and that it was necessary to discover that trunk first and then trace its growth before it forked.
Schelling had not yet affirmed anything more concrete and definite besides that such identity must be and was. He had said nothing about where exactly this initial identity was to be seen. His description was, in essence, negative; it was not consciousness, but it was also not matter; it was not spirit, but it was also not substance; it was not ideal, but it was also not real. What then was it?
Here, in Heine’s witty comment ‘philosophy ends with Herr Schelling and poetry – I mean folly – begins.’ ‘But Herr Schelling has now left the philosophical path and is seeking through an act of mystical intuition to achieve contemplation of the absolute itself; he is seeking to intuit it at its centre, in its essence, where there is nothing ideal and nothing real, neither idea nor extension, neither subject nor object, neither mind nor matter, but there was who knows what!’
Why did Schelling nevertheless turn from the path of philosophy here, from the path of thinking in rigorously defined determinations, to the path of poetry, to the path of metaphors and a kind of aesthetic intuition? Only because the logic that he knew and recognised did not permit the uniting of opposing contradictory predicates in concepts of one and the same subject. He, like Kant, held it sacred that the law of identity and the principle of contradiction were absolutely unbreakable laws for conceptual thinking, and that breaking them was tantamount to breaking the laws of thought in general, the forms of scientism. Here, he thought, in agreement with Fichte, that everything that was impossible in a concept (because of contradiction) became possible in contemplation or intuition.
Schelling supposed that all the acts performed consciously by man in accordance with the rules of logic had been quite fully and exactly described in the transcendental philosophy of Kant and Fichte. That part of philosophy seemed to him to have been created once and for all. He did not intend to reform it at all; he only wanted to broaden the scope, the sphere of action, of its principles, wanted them to embrace the fields that had fallen outside Fichte’s field of vision,- in particular natural science.
The turn to natural science here was not fortuitous. The fact was that the attempt to investigate the sphere of unconscious activity in more detail led directly to it, that is to say the attempt to investigate the mode of vital activity that man had followed before and irrespective of how he began a special reflection, converted himself into an object of special investigation, and began to reflect specifically on what originated within himself, and how it did so. In all his activity at this stage (which also followed from Kant’s point of view) being subordinated to the conditions of space, time, and causality, came within the competence of the natural sciences. In other words, the forms and modes of unconscious activity were scientifically described precisely through the concepts of physics, chemistry, physiology, psychology, and so on.
For unconscious activity was nothing else than life, the mode of existence of organic nature, of the organism. But in the life of the organism (of any biological individual) mechanical, chemical, and electrical motions were joined together, and the organism could therefore be studied by mechanics, chemistry, physics, and optics. In the living organism, Nature had concentrated all her secrets and determinations, and had synthesised them. After the organism had been broken down into its constituents, however, the chief thing of all remained uncomprehended, namely, why were they linked together that way and not in some other way? Why in fact was a living organism obtained and not a pile of its components?
With a purely mechanical approach the organism proved to be something quite incomprehensible, because the principle of a mechanism was the uniting (consistent synthesis) of ready-made, previously given parts; the living organism, however, did not originate through the building up of parts into a whole but, on the contrary through the beginning or origin, the generation of parts (organs) from an originally undifferentiated whole. Here the whole preceded its own parts, and functioned in relation to them as the purpose they all served. Here each part could only be understood through its role and function in the whole, outside of which it simply did not exist, or not, in any case, as such.
The problem of understanding organic life was analysed by Kant in his Critique of the Power of Judgment (Kritik der Urteilskraft) as the problem of the purposefulness of the structure and function of the living organism. But the standpoint of transcendental idealism forced him to affirm that, although we and our reason could not cognise the organism other than by means of the concept of a goal, nevertheless it was impossible to attribute any goal to the organism in itself, because a goal presupposed consciousness (and that meant the whole apparatus of transcendental apperception) and the animal and vegetable did not possess such.
The problems of life also proved to be the stumbling block that forced Schelling to stop and critically re-examine certain concepts of the philosophy of transcendental idealism. Like Kant he categorically objected to introducing supernatural causes into the framework of the thinking of the natural science. On those grounds he resolutely rejected vitalism, the idea that, in inorganic nature (i.e. the world of mechanics, physics, and chemistry), a certain ‘higher principle’ descended from somewhere outside and organised the physical, chemical particles in the living body. There was no such principle outside consciousness, Schelling affirmed, following Kant. The naturalist must seek in nature itself the causes of the origin of the organism from inorganic nature. Life must be fully explained by way of natural science, without implicating any kind of extranatural or supernatural force in it. ‘There is an older delusion, which is that organisation and life are inexplicable by the principles of Nature. – With it only so much can be said: the first source of organic nature is physically inscrutable; so this unproved statement serves no purpose other than to sap the courage of the investigator.... It would be at least one step toward that explanation if one could show that the succession of all organic beings had come about through the gradual evolution of one and the same organisation.’
Man and his peculiar organisation stood at the logic apex of the pyramid of living creatures. And in that case we had every grounds and right to ascribe to nature itself, if not purpose in the transcendental sense, at least that objective characteristic which is reproduced in our reason (by virtue of its specifically transcendental structure) as a purpose, ‘in the form of a goal’.
What was that characteristic Schelling did not consider it possible to say. In any case it was a matter of the capacity involved in nature itself to engender a succession of more and more complex and highly organised living creatures, up to and including man, in whom a ‘soul’, consciousness, was awakened and transcendental mechanisms arose, i.e. a capacity consciously (freely) to reproduce everything that occurred in nature unconsciously, without a goal or purpose.
But then it was necessary to think of nature not as naturalists had so far done (the mathematician plus the physicist, plus the chemist, plus the anatomist, each of them occupying himself with only his own private field and not even trying to link the results of his investigations with those of his neighbour). It must be considered as some kind of primordial whole in which the subject matter of the special sciences was differentiated. We must therefore not build up the picture of the whole like a mosaic, from the special sciences, but must endeavour, on the contrary, to understand them as consecutive stages in the development of one and the same whole, initially undivided. The idea of nature as a whole, quite characteristic of the classical Greeks and of Spinoza, Schelling also advanced as the main principle by which alone the antinomy between mechanism and organism could be scientifically resolved (without appeal to supernatural factors). ‘As soon as our investigation ascends to the idea of Nature as an entity the opposition between mechanism and organism disappears immediately, an opposition that has long hampered the progress of natural science and that will long continue to block our enterprise’s success in the eyes of quite a few.’
Schelling sought the way out by developing the concepts of mechanics and organic life from one and the same truly universal principle, which led him to the idea of representing nature as a whole, as a dynamic process in the course of which each successive stage or phase negated the preceding one, i.e. included a new characteristic. The purely formal (analytical) determination of a higher phase of the process could therefore not be deduced from the determination of a lower one, that was done simply by making a synthesis, by adding on a new determination. It was not surprising that, when the higher phase of a dynamic process was put directly alongside a lower phase of the same process, they were thought to be two simultaneously co-existing ‘objects’ (which is precisely how they look in empirical intuition), and proved to be mutually directly contradictory.
The basic task of the philosophy of nature, consequently, consisted just in tracing and showing how, in the course of a dynamic process, determinations arose that were directly opposed to the initial one. In other words, we thought of a dynamic process only as one of the gradual engendering of oppositions, of determinations of one and the same thing, i.e. of nature as a whole, that mutually negated one another.
Schelling saw in that the universal law of the natural whole, operating identically in the field of mechanics, and of chemistry, and of electromagnetism, and of organic life. Such was the truly universal (i.e. identical for all the phenomena of nature) law of bifurcation, of the polarisation of the initial state. The attraction and repulsion of masses in mechanics, the north and south poles in magnetism, positive and negative electricity, acids and alkalis in chemical reactions – such were the examples flooding in on Schelling from all sides, and supplied again and again by the discoveries of Volta and Faraday, Lavoisier and Kielmeyer. The most diverse scientific discoveries were seen as fulfilment of Schelling’s predictions, and his fame grew. His disciples were to be found among doctors, geologists, physicists, and biologists; and that not by chance. Schelling’s philosophy proposed a form of thinking, the need for which was already imminent in the womb of theoretical natural science. Exhilarated by success, Schelling continued to work the lode he had discovered for all it was worth.
But the transition of mutual opposites described appeared most marked and unsullied precisely on the boundary where natural and transcendental philosophy met, which was where the Ego arose from the sphere of the unconscious dynamic process (from the non-Ego), i.e. the transcendental, spiritual organisation of man, or, on the contrary, where objective knowledge of the not-I was born from the conscious activity of the I. This mutual, reciprocal passage of the determination of the Ego into a determination of the non-Ego demonstrated the action of the universal law of the dynamic process in its purest and most general form, i.e. the act of the transformation of A into not-A, of the bifurcation or splitting into two, of the ‘dualisation’ of the initial, originally undifferentiated state.
But how was the initial absolute state, identical in itself, to be thought of, from the polarisation of which there arose the main ‘dualism’ of the natural whole, i.e. the Ego and the non-Ego, the I and the not-I, the freely conscious creativity of the subject and the whole vast sphere of the ‘dead’, congealed, fossilised creative activity, the world of objects?
That was where the specifically Schelling philosophising began. It turned out that it was impossible to think of the initial identity, i.e. to express it in the form of a rigorously delimited concept. On being expressed in a concept it immediately came forward as an antinomic bifurcation. Identity was realised in the concept (in science) precisely through its absence, through contrasts that had nothing formally in common between them.
We have reached a very important point. That Schelling called his system the philosophy of identity was not at all because it represented a system of determinations or definitions common to the I and the not-I. Rather the contrary. Schelling denied the possibility of such a system of concepts in principle. His philosophy was put forward in the form of two formally unjoined systems of concepts, formally opposed in all their determinations yet nevertheless mutually presupposing each other. One was the system of determinations of the Ego as such (transcendental philosophy); the other was the system of assembled universal determinations of the object, of the non-Ego (natural philosophy).
The first disclosed and described in the shape of formally non-contradictory constructions the specifically subjective forms of man’s activity that it was impossible to ascribe to nature existing outside of and before human consciousness. The second, on the contrary, strove to disclose pure objectivity, carefully purged of everything introduced into it by man’s conscious, volitional activity, and to depict the object as it existed ‘before it entered consciousness’.
Within the confines of natural philosophy (theoretical natural science) the theoretical scientist ‘fears nothing more than interference of the subjective in this kind of knowledge’. Within the limits of transcendental philosophy (logic and epistemology), on the contrary, he was ‘most of all afraid that something objective has been implicated in the purely subjective principle of knowledge.’
To sum up: if transcendental philosophy were constructed just as correctly as natural philosophy, there would be nothing of the other in the structure of each and there could not be a single concept or theoretical determination between them; for such a determination would directly infringe the two supreme principles of logic, the law of identity and the principle of contradiction. It would simultaneously express both the objective and the subjective, and would contain directly identified opposites. The two given sciences could not therefore be formally united into one. It was impossible to develop two series of scientific (formally correct) determinations from one and the same concept because it would be formally incorrect and inadmissible from the standpoint of the rules of logic.
Therefore philosophy on the whole was impossible as one science. From that Schelling concluded that the whole system of philosophy would ‘find consummation in two fundamental sciences, which, mutually opposed in principle and direction, seek each other out and complement each other’. There was not, and could not be, some ‘third’ science in which would be discovered whatever there was in common between the world in consciousness and the world outside consciousness, and which would be a system of laws and rules obligatory in the same way for the one world and the other. It was impossible in principle to present such laws and rules in the form of a science because it would then be built from the outset on an infringement of the law of identity.
But there were, all the same, laws common to the world and knowledge, otherwise it would be senseless in general to speak of knowledge, of agreement of the objective and the subjective, and the very concept of truth as the coincidence of knowledge with its object would be nonsense. General laws consequently did operate, but not as rigidly binding rules, but rather as reasons not strictly formulated, related to the aspirations of the poet-artist who directly experienced his blood relationship and unity with the cognised object and with nature. The artist of genius and nature operated by the same laws.
The identity of the laws of the subjective and objective worlds could only be realised in the act of creation. But creativity did not submit to formal schematising, dying and becoming fossilised in it. Thus it came about that ‘an absolute Simple, Identical, cannot be comprehended or communicated through description, and not at all through conception. It can only be intuited.’ Here intuition was all powerful, the inspired intuition of creative insight, intellectual and aesthetic intuition. Thus it was, therefore, that Schelling’s system culminated in and was completed by a philosophy of art.
Thus the primary identity was a fact but was not expressible in a concept, was the initial premise of any concept, but was not determined through a concept. Identity was, as it were, made up of two always diverging trends of investigation, namely demonstration of how the objective was transformed into the subjective (which was the competence of theoretical natural science, spinning its thread from mechanics through chemistry to biology and anthropology, i.e. to man), and demonstration of how the subjective was transformed into the objective (which was the competence of transcendental philosophy, starting from knowledge and its forms as from fact, and demonstrating the objectivity, i.e. the universality and necessity, of knowledge).
The problem consequently began to appear as follows: two diametrically opposite spheres stood facing one another contrasted in all their characteristics. Their identity (the fact of their agreement was truth) was realised precisely through the transition that transformed the one into the other. But the transition, the moment of the transition itself, was irrational and could not be expressed by a non-contradictory concept, because it was at that very moment that the transition from A into not-A took place, i.e. their coincidence, their identity. To express it in a concept meant to smash the form of the concept.
Here Schelling came directly up against the narrowness of the Kantian logic, which attributed to the law of identity and the principle of contradiction the character of the absolute premises of the very possibility of thinking in concepts. For there was no room within these rules for the moment of the transition of opposites into one another, and it broke them. Schelling, while agreeing that there was self-destruction of the form of thinking here, was forced in fact to conclude that real truth could not be caught and expressed through a concept. In his eyes therefore art and not science represented the highest form of mental activity.
If the rules of general logic were absolute, then the passage of consciousness into nature and vice versa, by which the time-honoured identity of the subjective and the objective was realised, remained inexpressible in concepts; and the act of knowing was forced again and again to make a leap, a jump, an act of irrational intuition, of poetic seizing of the absolute idea, of truth.
In other words, Schelling, beginning with a quite justified statement of the fact that logic in its Kantian conception actually put an insurmountable barrier in the way of attempts to understand, that is to express, the fact of the transformation of opposites into one another in concepts, i.e. in rigorously defined determinations, took the step toward rejection of logic in general. It did not even occur to him to reform logic itself in order to make it a means of expressing what appeared in intuition (contemplation) as a self-evident fact. Instead he began to make up for and compensate the limitedness and insufficiency of the existing logic (mistaken by him as the inferiority of thought as such), by the force of intellectual and aesthetic intuition, an absolutely irrational capacity that it was impossible either to study or to teach. This magic force also had to unite everything that reason (thought in general) was not in a position to join together but was only capable of ripping to bits, separating, and choking to death.
In his own constructions, in spite of a mass of bold guesses and ideas, some even of genius, that influenced the development of nineteenth century science, and which in essence had a clearly marked dialectical character, Schelling kept adopting the pose of a God-inspired prophet and genius, uniting without fear or doubt concepts that seemed to contemporary scientists to be fundamentally ununitable. And whereas he himself, in his youth, had had sufficient tact and competence in the field of the natural sciences, and had often hit the nail on the head by intuition, his pupils and successors, who adopted the empty schema from him but did not possess his erudition in science or his talent, reduced his method and manner of philosophising to the caricature that Hegel later jeered at so caustically.
Schelling, however, exposed the rigidity of Kant’s logic. And though he did not set himself the task of reforming it radically, he prepared the ground very thoroughly for Hegel.
Logic as such remained only an episode in Schelling’s system of ideas, an insignificant section of the transcendental philosophy, a scholastic description of rules of a purely formal order in accordance with which it was necessary only to formalise, i.e. to classify and schematise, knowledge obtained in quite another way and by quite other abilities. For Schelling logic, consequently, was by no means a schema for producing knowledge, but served as a means of describing it verbally, terminologically ‘for others’, of expressing it through a system of rigorously defined and non-contradictorily determined terms (Schelling himself called them ‘concepts’). Ultimately its recommendations seemed only external, verbally explicated forms of knowledge, and nothing more.
The process of producing knowledge was itself, in fact, done by the power of imagination, which Schelling analysed very closely and circumstantially in the form of various ‘intuitions’. And here, in the field of intuition and imagination he also discovered dialectics as the true schema of the productive, actively subjective capacity of man to understand and alter the world of the images and concepts of science.
So Schelling confirmed dialectics as the genuine theory of scientific knowledge, but then broke all its links with logic. His position returned logic once more to the pitiable condition in which it had been before the attempts of Kant and Fichte to reform it in accordance with the needs of the times.
After Schelling the problem consisted in uniting dialectics as the true schema of developing knowledge and logic as the system of rules of thinking in general. What was the relation of the rules of logic to the real schemas (laws) of the development of understanding? Were they different, mutually unconnected ‘things’? Or was logic simply the conscious and deliberately applied schema of the real development of science? If it was, it was all the more inadmissible to leave it in its old, so primitive form. At this point the torch was taken up by Hegel.
Contents | Schelling | next chapter