Letter 356d

356d. Friedrich Schlegel to Schleiermacher in Berlin: Dresden, 12 April 1802 [*]

Dresden, 12 April [1802]

. . . So, Karoline is now in Ber[lin]. What is she up to? and what is she scheming? [1]

I recently read Schelling’s new system and was quite shocked to find it thus. [2] Never has absolute non-truth been expressed so purely and clearly; it is really merely Spinozism, but without love, i.e., without the only thing I consider of value in Spinoza.

It is, in short, that about which people have so long spoken and which they have so long sought, namely, a system of pure reason, to wit: of utterly pure reason, where one can no longer speak about imagination, love, God, nature, art, in a word: about anything worth talking about in the first place. Personally, it is Schelling’s final work. There is no way back from such groundless nothingness, from such perfected frigidity, not after having maneuvered oneself into it in such a way. [3]

Fichte is quite right in rejecting it unconditionally. [4] It goes without saying that this applies only to the purely philosophical elements, which is contained in but a few pages.

Afterward, in the ideas about matter, magnets, light, iron, nitrogen, and carbon [Germ. Kohle] — and really, everything in it is nothing more than cabbage [Germ. Kohl] or a salad of ideas from Steffens and Ritter and Goethe — there is naturally an admixture of both good and bad, since here one finds, as hitherto, almost nothing original, whereas the preceding material was all Schelling’s own.

I am writing at such length about it because I suspect you will soon be reading it as well, and in that case let me ask that you write me in detail what you think. On such occasions I invariably get the urge myself to present some proper philosophical ashlar to the world. . . .


[*] Sources: Aus Schleiermacher’s Leben 3:314–15 (frag.); KGA V/5 376; KFSA 25:354–55. Back.

[1] Caroline had been in Berlin since sometime after 18/19 March 1802 and remained until 19 May. Dorothea Veit writes similarly (and pointendly) to Schleiermacher from Dresden in late April or early May 1802 (Briefe von Dorothea Schlegel an Friedrich Schleiermacher 118; KGA V/5 394; KFSA 25:361): “Remember me kindly and do write and tell me what Caroline is up to” (Post Karte Durch ganz Deutschland, ed. J. Walch [Augsburg 1795]):



[2] The reference is to Schelling’s “Darstellung meines Systems der Philosophie,” Zeitschrift für spekulative Physik 2 (1801), no. 2, 1–127. Back.

[3] See Friedrich four years later, writing from Cologne to Wilhelm Schlegel on 27 February 1806 (Krisenjahre 1:294):

I have no news from Germany. Schelling has started a medical journal [Jahrbücher der Medicin als Wissenschaft, ed. Schelling and Adalbert Friedrich Marcus (Tübingen 1806/08); the first issue appeared a the Michaelmas book fair 1805] where something absolute is again nailed to the front door [allusion to Luther’s Wittenberg Theses]; but nothing new, he is still completely on the same tiny speck of land as during the first rhapsody of his new system anno 1802, and is still wholly a Spinozist, and thus really as eternally lost as I maintained even at the time. Back.

[4] Caroline mentions Fichte’s reaction in her letters to Wilhelm from Jena on 18 January and 28 January 1802 (letters 341, 344). At issue is a letter Fichte wrote on 29 December 1801 to Johann Baptist Schad in Jena that Schad himself then freely circulated and discussed; Schelling responded on 25 January 1802 in the last extant letter of their correspondence. For the text of both letters, see Caroline’s letter to Wilhelm on 18 January 1802 (letter 341), note 23 and note 26. Back.

Translation © 2016 Doug Stott