DOI link for Friedrich Schelling
Friedrich Schelling book
What makes Schelling a thinker di cult to access when one stands within the global culture of the twenty- rst century is the one thing that he repeatedly stresses as he moves between such di erent conceptual approaches as philosophy of science, metaphysics, anthropology, history, and cross-cultural investigations into mythologies and religions: that human cognition forms a system, a single conceptual construct that elaborates the very architecture of being. at reality is in some sense one and univocal, that human concepts can gure it in a way that captures and mirrors exactly what it is, and that all the exploding domains of human endeavour and knowledge can nd a ground in a single conceptual/
linguistic construct is an audacious claim. Strictly speaking, it is now an unbelievable claim. It was a di cult (perhaps hubristic) claim in its historical context; that the Kantian story of the e cacy of human reason in constructing the domains of scienti c and moral discourse could be stretched by Fichte, Schelling and Hegel to include all human reality – social, psychological, cultural and historical – is literally ‘fabulous’, the stu of fables. And the arch-fable, the prōton pseudos, is painful even to contemplate today: the belief that there is one universal culture, one universal history, one religion with universal validity, one logic, one epistemology, and one account of everything: modern, Archimedean and (of course!) European. When Schelling claims, then, at various stages of his long career, that nature, or the primacy of biology over physics, or history, or empirical studies of mythologies and religions will provide the royal road to Wissenscha or systematic philosophy, he is committing himself to the old philosophical faith in universals, in univocal readings of texts, in literal meanings: to a unity believed to be found in the nature of things rather than in the activity of a cognitive interpreter. As skilled and clever a student of Kant as he was in his many detailed philosophical moves, Schelling was insu ciently sceptical or Kantian to see that any cognition or domain of human endeavour is an interpretation, that interpretations depend on a privileged selection of ‘evidence’ or ‘data’, and that a ‘universal history’ – of human science, social reality, cultures, and moral and religious ideas – is a conceptual impossibility, a social construct based on a particular social situation and a very speci c historical con guration of human activities and resources. What makes Schelling more than an innocent victim of sociocultural limitations, however, was the persistent resourcefulness he exhibited in overcoming the ‘idols of his tribe’: early on, that nature is dead and mechanical, with biological phenomena counting as mere anomalies, not the fundamental subject of science; and later, that conceptual completeness is not the test of truth – as post-Kantian idealism had rather wildly assumed – but actual existence. However, it was in his ‘ nal’ approach to system, in the replacement of the merely negative (conceptual) philosophy of earlier idealisms with the method of positive philosophy (or ‘philosophical empiricism’), that he falls into being insu ciently historical, cross-cultural and empirical. e Philosophies of Mythology and Revelation of his later years, elaborated only in the lecture hall and untested by publication, unabashedly commit the fallacy of assuming that social empiricism or cross-cultural study will verify the initial assumption of one universal culture of reason or provide a point of Archimedean support for the hope in a philosophy of history with a single narrative thread. Alas, God (or the gods) does not speak so plainly as once we hoped.