Schelling and the Bamberg Theses 1802
Schelling had already become aware of what quickly became known as “Bamberg theses” during the autumn of 1801, theses defended and accepted at the university in Bamberg in fulfillment of requirmenets for the degree of Doctor of Medicin.
They had appeared on 14 September 1801 and were quickly published and derided in many newspapers, including the Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung in April 1802, and Schelling himself had passed them along to Goethe on 22 October 1801 with the remark (Goethe und die Romantik 1:218; Fuhrmans 2:358): “I am enclosing as curiosa several Bamberg theses from the philosophical rubric that yield but very little to the medical theses.
The anonymous review of these theses in the Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung (1802) 101 (Saturday, 3 April 1802) 31–32, read as follows:
(1) Bamberg: Propositions presented for the attainment of the degree of Doctor of Medicine overseen by Herr Prof. J. Döllinger on 14 September 1801, defended by F. Stransky, Knight von Greifenfels, the Bohemian; 15 propositions.
(2) Bamberg: Propositions presented etc. defended by F. Borggreve, the Westfalian; 12 Propositions.
(3) Bamberg: Propositions presented etc. on 15 September, defended by N. Sauer, the Westfalian; 15 propositions.
(4) Bamberg: Propositions presented etc., defended by F. E. Niethammer from Beilstein in the Duchy of Württemberg; 15 propositions.
In Bamberg they seem to be turning out Doctors of Medicine without requiring the publication of inaugural dissertations and their defense in the Latin language. To our knowledge, the public has not been informed just what has replaced these examinations, an explanation of which the medical faculty or administration there certainly owed to the world insofar as they do expect their physicians to be recognized not only by the Bamberg district, but also by the world at large.
One is dumbfounded to see from these publications what scientific and moral nonsense is being publicly perpetrated by the Bamberg medical faculty under the leadership of Herr Prof. Ignatz Dollinger, and which is being rewarded by the bestowal of the medical doctorate and all accompanying rights and privileges. The most sublime elements from Athenaeum, from Lucinde, and from Schelling’s and Röschlaub’s writings are adduced here. Let us mention only the most striking examples of such.
“The human organism is the highest metamorphosis of the less coherent metallic stimuli. The theory of the less coherent metallic stimuli is the propaedeutic of physiology.
Negative stimuli directly posit the emergence of irritability in the living organism, in which they themselves then become such irritability. Human organisms in general constitute a magnet, and the various distinctions in the constitution of genera as well as of species derive simply from the positional differences occupied by both the genus and the species in this magnet.
In asthenic illnesses, the chilling process is represented by heat. In a woman, the commencement of a higher process of cohesion (animal formation) is posited directly with conception, this great electric shock.
The antagonistic method of healing possesses reality only in the self-sufficient daydreams of Geheimrath Hufeland. The so-called medical system of Geheimrath Hufeland provides the poles along with that of Hofrath Reich; the point of non-difference is President von Kotzebue’s high poesy.”
Thus the author of no. 1, namely, the Knight from Bohemia. The authors of nos. 2 and 4 are adherents of the theory of irritability and the Schellingian philosophy of nature, but as reasonable, moral men, and we feel sorry for them that they have received their doctorates in Bamberg in such company.
The author of no. 3, however, N. Sauer, the Wesphfalian, reveals himself as a worthy pupil of Röschlaub. Just listen to what he has to say:
“The task of physiology is to demonstrate the continuity of the three fundamental organic functions and their mutual relationship among one another. The expression of these three organic functions is the specific organism; the task of anatomy is to demonstrate for empirical perception their differences in the products.
The organism stands under the schema of the crooked line. Sensibility is the culmination of animalistic organization. The innermost essence of the earth unfolds within the human brain. All activity of organization going beyond the product and race is mediated through the senses.
Sensibility is directly called forth through the act of fructification of animals. The human fetus passes through its entire metamorphosis in the uterus. Man is tied to the earth through woman. Blood is a fluctuating magnet that at every moment rekindles duplicity even as the latter is extinguished.
Organic chemistry is a French platitude into which Herr Reil has become irretrievably stuck.”
Verily, all this is indeed a magnum dei beneficium [est], sensu communi valere [it is a grand benefaction of God to possess healthy human understanding]!
Schelling addressed this review in his essay “The Comportment of Obscurantism contra the Philosophy of Nature” in his Neue Zeitschrift für spekulative Physik 1 (1802) 161–88, a vehement article accompanied by a reprint of this anonymous review, but also an essay whose immoderate language demonstrated the same irritability of which Schelling later accused Andreas Röschlaub in a letter to the latter on 28 September 1805 (letter 397b), in which Schelling mentions Röschlaub’s pupil Franz Otto von Stransky von Greiffenfels in connection with the notorious medical and natural-philosophical theses of Röschlaub’s student Joseph Reubel on 25/26 September 1801.
See Rudolf Haym, Die romantische Schule, 735–36; the Jena Romantic circle long had strained relations with the Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung:
The worst damage to the journal [in its quarrels with the Romantics] was self-inflicted. Its increasing alliances with the opponents of the Romantics to a certain extent brought it into the very worst company, nor did Ludwig Ferdinand Huber’s reviews [which the Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung began publishing] provide even modest compensation for the loss of those by Wilhelm Schlegel.
Unfortunately, the Romantics themselves were similarly able neither to maintain a dignified silence nor to secure victory with Schleiermacherian cold-bloodedness.
In 1802, in his article “Benehmen des Obscurantismus gegen die Naturphilosophie,” Neue Zeitschrift für spekulative Physik (“The Comportment of Obscurantism contra the Philosophy of Nature”), Schelling once more vented his bitterness toward the mathematician Luft, who had recently reviewed him in the Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung, and simultaneously toward a recent article in the same journal that with good reason had made various extreme theses look ridiculous that had recently been defended in Bamberg in connection with the awarding of the degree of Doctor of Medicine, theses fairly brimming with undigested material from the philosophy of nature [the “Bamberg Theses”].
Schelling used this poorly chosen opportunity to vent endlessly and with utter lack of moderation against the “innate bestiality of this mob,” these “dead dogs,” this “pack of gossips,” and their “riffraff trashiness.” Even Wilhelm Schlegel found this sort of polemic to be of little use.
Unfortunately, the article gave Christian Gottfried Schütz the opportunity to perpetrate what can only be called an abomination against Schelling, or at least to tolerate such, which then poured new oil on the fire of this antagonism.
To wit, the Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung now provided the forum for rekindling a rumor that had arisen when young Auguste Böhmer died during a stay in the mineral-springs spa Bocklet. Schelling was alleged to have brought about the disastrous conclusion of her illness by treating her according to the Brunonian method of healing.
If the purpose of this malicious allusion — one concealed in the review of a tasteless book directed against the philosophy of nature [Franz Berg, Lob der allerneuesten Philosophie (N.p. [Nürnberg] 1802)] — was to wound Schelling in the most hurtful fashion possible, then it attained its goal. His own relationship to the deceased merely enhanced both the distress and the indignation to which it provoked him. He prompted A. W. Schlegel to proceed in his stead.
That is, it was Schelling’s excessive reaction to
- (1) this review of the Bamberg theses in the Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung, in his article
- (2) “The Comportment of Obscurantism contra the Philosophy of Nature” that would prompt Christian Gottfried Schütz, editor of the Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung, to counter — viz. retaliate — in his own turn by using
- (3) a review of Franz Berg’s Encomium for the Most Recent Philosophy as the occasion to wound Schelling by repeating a reference in Berg’s work to Schelling’s alleged role in contributing to Auguste’s death.
Schelling’s correspondence with Wilhelm Schlegel, beginning approximately on 19 August 1802 (letter 369a), concerning this “abomination” on Schütz’s part, which by implication also targeted Wilhelm himself, ultimately led to Wilhelm’s publication of his
- (4) To the Public. Rebuke of a Defamation of Honor Perpetrated in the Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung (letter/document 371b), in which he steps forward publicly to defend Schelling. Wilhelm’s publication in its own turn eventually prompted Schütz’s lengthy and tedious self-defense in his
- (5) Species facti nebst Actenstuecken zum Beweise daß Hr. Rath August Wilh. Schlegel mit seiner Rüge, worinnen er der Allgem. Lit. Zeitung eine begangne Ehrenschändung fälschlich aufbürdet, niemanden als sich selbst beschimpft habe (Jena, Leipzig 1803) (“Species facti [the particular character or peculiar circumstances of the thing done; the particular criminal act charged against a person] along with documents proving that Herr Rath Schlegel, currently residing in Berlin, has rebuked no one but himself with his Rebuke, in which he falsely accuses the Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung of having committed a defamation of honor / by C. G. Schuetz. With an addendum concerning the comportment of Schellingian obscurantism”).
(Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki, “Die Philosophen,” Illustrationen zu Erasmus’ Lob der Narrheit in sechs Abteilungen ; Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum; Museums./Signatur DChodowiecki WB 3.31):