Supplementary Appendix 258t.1

Schelling, “Some Remarks on the Occasion of a Review of Brunonian Writings in the A.L.Z.[*]

There can be little doubt that since the Brunonian method has been subject to assessment in Germany, no one has written anything more accurate or powerful than has the reviewer of Brunonian publications in one of the most recent issues of the A.L.Z. [1]

Although one is sorely tempted to follow the entertaining train of thought of this distinguished mind and to explicate the entire conceptual development into which he places the reader, I must restrict myself to but a single point here, albeit one that in fact constitutes the main point itself.

I am acquainted with no publication either for or against this system in which the real point of the dispute between it and the previously familiar systems is more clearly articulated than in the passage: “Brown’s §15 [2] applies only to the exciting [excitatory] powers, and it is fraudulent to say that all influence on us derives solely from those powers etc.”

Here I must immediately interrupt our author and ask just what he understands by us. He must be referring here to something originally independent of the exciting powers, and that something must indeed exist insofar as there is excitation in the first place (such is itself merely an identical proposition): Hence Brown himself must presuppose something independent of this sort, and with it also natural forces that are themselves different from the exciting forces through which it is sustained. What, then, is the quarrel between him and his reviewer? —

The following: That independent something is to be understood as nothing other than cause of excitability [incitabilitas] as opposed to the causes of excitation [incitatio], which are Brown’s inciting powers. If, thus the reviewer’s argument, there is a cause of excitability, that excitability must be immediately or directly changeable by way of the changeableness of its cause. What would have to be demonstrated is thus that this cause itself indeed be changeable.

Since, however, it can be strictly proven that in and through itself that cause is unchangeable, then if it be directly changeable by way of external influence, it is so only insofar as it be affected at its source, something previous theoreticians, in contrast to practitioners, the humoral-pathologists, did consider possible insofar as they sought the cause of excitability in a substance or material whose conduit, container, or organ of secretion would be the nerves, to which opinion, as our author notes, the concept of sthenic and asthenic substances was associated.

Brown, by contrast, displaces that independent something presupposed by exciting powers and thus independent of them, completely outside the sphere of any immediate affectability, as it were as something grounded in a higher sphere, and, by seemingly suspending that independent something, — (since in his opinion excitability is merely that which the exciting powers make of it), — he in fact maintains it.

Precisely thereby, he presupposes a cause of excitability grounded in something higher than external exciting agents, as something grounded outside the circle of our own medical powers and subject to no kinship whatever with this sphere, whereas those who believe excitability can be immediately restored or exhausted, e.g., through agents of foods and medicines, etc., are actually making such completely and absolutely dependent on what Brown is calling excitng powers, which for them, of course, are not exciting powers, and thus should also not be for the reviewer who defends them, so that the objection falls back on its initiator (who really ought not admit of such exciting powers at all), and the entire view is then reversed. —

What cogent sense, however, is one now to make of a cause that cannot be affected at its source, i.e., immediately, but that can be affected mediately or indirectly, of the sort such excitability allegedly is and indeed must be if one does admit of exciting powers? —

If now all the facts associated with medicine and with ordinary life do not suffice to demonstrate that excitability (this dynamic source of motion) is changeable only by way of the mediate agent of excitation — and if the opposing opinion is not already sufficiently refuted insofar as it understands a completely unknown substrate of excitability = x to be immediately affected by causes whose own affective mode is similarly = x — (for even if such be of a chemical nature, who can know the relational characteristics of that substrate, or will ever know them?), one can nonetheless likely find a resolution concerning this point from a different perspective.

I am referring to the reasoning of higher physics, which does not observe the phenomenon of life as isolated as has hitherto physiology or even ordinary medicine. If one could demonstrate that the phenomenon of organic excitability, like electrical and similar forms of excitability, were ultimately grounded in the dynamic organization of the universe, it would follow quite of itself that the cause of that particular phenomenon is as unchangeable as is the natural order itself, and at its ultimate source is as inaccessible as the cause of light, electricity, etc., all of which with respect to their degree of activity are changeable only insofar as their negative conditions be changed, which alone (like those of life) stand in our power, and which alone (like them) can be investigated through experimentation and manipulated according to specific laws.

What imminent prospects stand before us, if not for the actual practice, then at least for the theory of the healing arts, especially if medicine, as has long been the hope, enters into an alliance with physics, which in its own turn, through the hitherto most important discovery of the century, has learned of the mode of activity of bodies within a higher power than the merely chemical and is now in a position to undertake the specific experimental investigation of the affectability of excitability itself through a change of the conditions of its manifestation (i.e., of the cause of excitation) and to offer to the Brunonian system, which has hitherto been void of all investigation of chemical and physical knowledge, the means of being transformed into a system based on the principles of physics!

Otherwise I would remark only that the familiar objection concerning the impossibility of any degree of excitation deviating from the medium degree (it allegedly being impossible to add or take anything away from the excitants without thereby also adding or taking away from excitability) derives from a superficial understanding of Brown’s own neglected construction of this concept, with respect to which, as well as with respect to other ideas expressed here, I must refer readers desiring a more precise acquaintance with that construction to the imminent publication of my Entwurf eines Systems der Naturphilosophie. [3]

Jena, 3 April 1799



[*] “Einige Bemerkungen aus Gelegenheit einer Rezension Brownscher Schriften in der A.L.Z.,” Magazin zur Vervollkommnung der theoretischen und praktischen Heilkunde, ed. Andreas Röschlaub, 2 (1799) no. 2, 255–61. — Concerning the Brunonian system, see also Thomas Beddoes’s “Of the Brunonian Doctrine”. Back.

[1] “Anzeige verschiedener Schriften das Brownsche System betreffend,” Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung (1799) 48–59 (Monday, 11 February–Wednesday, 20 February 1799). The anonymous reviewer was Johann Stieglitz in Hannover. Back.

[2] The Elements of Medicine of John Brown, M.D., 2 vols., trans. from the Latin by the author, ed., rev., and corrected by Thomas Beddoes, 2 vol. (London 1795), vol. 1, §xv, pp. 4–5 + fn B:

XV. The effects, common to all the exciting powers, are sense, motion, mental exertion, and passion. Now their effects being the same, it must be granted, that the operation of all the powers is the same. [foonote: That is, since sense, motion, mental functions, and the passions are the only, and constant, effects of the exciting powers, acting upon the excitability; and since these happen, whether one, or more, or all the powers, or whichever of them, act, the irresistible conclusion, that arises in the mind, is, that, the effect of the powers being the same, the mode of operation of them all must be the same. This mode of reasoning, which is certainly as just as it is new in medicine, will often occur, and, we trust, will stand the test of the most scrupulous scrutiny.]

These points are part of Brown’s initial two “explanatory” chapters in The Elements of Medicine; for these chapters, see the second part of the supplementary appendix “Of the Brunonian Doctrine.”

Schelling cites the translation of Melchior Adam Weikard, John Brown, Grundsätze der Arzeneylehre (Frankfurt am Main 1795; rev. 1798), 1:3, 4. Back.

[3] Erster Entwurf eines Systems der Naturphilosophie: zum Behuf seiner Vorlesungen (Jena, Leipzig 1799); Einleitung zu einem Entwurf eines Systems der Naturphilosophie: Oder Ueber den Begriff der speculativen Physik und die innere Organisation eines Systems dieser Wissenschaft (Jena, Leipzig 1799). Back.

Translation © 2013 Doug Stott