Schelling’s Philosophy of Art

Philosophy of Art CoverMy translation of Schelling’s Philosophy of Art is available in a second printing as volume 58 in the series Theory and History of Literature from the University of Minnesota Press. Also available as an e-book.

Schelling seems to have delivered some version of these lectures in Jena during the winter semester 1800–1801, summer semester 1801, winter semester 1802–3, then apparently also in Würzburg during the summer semesters 1804 and 1805 and the winter semester 1805–6. They were not published until 1859 in his Sämmtliche Werke, 5:353–736.

Current interest in theories of literature and art has led to a reexamination of classic texts on aesthetics. The Philosophy of Art, a central work in its time, has a place in that discussion, as it does in the contemporary reassessment of Romanticism.

In The Philosophy of Art, Schelling presents an ordered system of the arts based on his philosophy at the time, including key elements of his transcendental idealism and philosophy of nature. He systematically treats various forms of art, including music, painting, sculpture, narrative, and poetry, and ends with a theory of tragedy. Schelling bases this system on the structure of the Absolute, discusses classical and Christian mythology, and presents a philosophical disclosure of the idea or essence of art itself, an essence that transcends the actual work in history.

Oxford Guide to Literature in English Translation (2001): “Almost a critical edition, Douglas W. Stott’s version of Die Philosophie der Kunst (The Philosophy of Art, lectures given in 1804/5 but published first in 1859) is a magisterial, flowing translation of a systematic work which unites philosophy with art and religion.”

Joseph P. Lawrence, Canadian Philosophical Reviews (1990): “Douglas Stott has provided us with a splendid translation of Schelling’s lectures on the philosophy of art. Schelling, who in the English-speaking world generally has a reputation for being the most obscure or, indeed, confused of the idealists, is revealed through this translation as the literary master that German readers have long known him to be. The language is characterized by both conceptual lucidity and an impelling musicality that serves to set Schelling apart as a thinker who, like Plato, accomplished the most sublime fusion of poetry and philosophy.”