Letter 387c

387c. Schelling to Carl Joseph Windischmann in Aschaffenburg: Bamberg, 16 September 1804 [*]

Bamberg, 16 September 1804

Dearest friend,

Forgive my lengthy silence. The many pieces of work with which I concluded the summer in Würzburg along with the journey I made here for relaxation — where I will likely remain until the end of next month — continually kept me from writing. [1] . . .

Have you seen Wagner’s piece on ideal philosophy? [2] The adversarial role he has assumed is the cry of distress for students in his lectures and for bread. [3] I will at most say something about him in the Jahrbücher. [4] — Might you be interested in reviewing his so-called Natur der Dinge for the first issue? [5] . . .

All my affairs and relationships and circumstances with the Bavarian administration are in a salutary crisis.

I have now declared open war on the entire Illuminati business and all the “world education” plans currently being hatched in that state, and shall spend the entire coming winter amid constant exploits of this genre. [6]

We shall see what effect this has and whether a bold attack from all quarters cannot subjugate this mob of imbeciles.

Could you confirm as reliable what you once confided to me about a remark Count von Thürheim made to an ecclesiastical Rath from Aschaffenburg on the subject of Vogt? [7] Was it perhaps Colborn who received the directive? Be assured that I will not make any imprudent use of this information. [8]

Röschlaub is here now as well.

Stay well, my dear friend, and write me soon to my address here.



[*] Sources: Plitt 2:28–30; Fuhrmans 3:117–18. — Aschaffenburg, where Windischmann was residing, is located ca. 60 km northwest of Würzburg (Neueste Post. Karte von Deutschland und den angrenzenden Laendern, ed. T. Molls [Vienna 1805]):


This letter is significant insofar as although Caroline and Schelling had not yet really been in Würzburg a full year, Schelling could already speak, as he does in this letter, of a “crisis” with the very entity that had hired him in the first place, namely, the Bavarian administration, and of “declaring open war” on Enlightenment representatives in Bavaria who exemplified the direction the Bavarian administration had hoped to implement in Würzburg by hiring Schelling.

In her own turn, Caroline had just informed Beate Gross, née Schelling on 2 September 1804 (letter 387) that they would be maintaining their present apartment rather than moving into the new, apparently even more spacious one in the Borgias Building because of deteriorating relationships with the other faculty families living there, notwithstanding that she could “arrange things far more comfortably” in the Borgias apartment (to Beate Gross on 17–18 July 1804 [letter 384]). That the Schellings decided to spend the semester break in Bamberg rather than Würzburg is thus not surprising, nor that they remained until the end of October. Back.

[1] Caroline and Schelling had departed for Bamberg on 4 September but would not return to Würzburg until late October. Bamberg is located ca. 90 km east of Würzburg (Neueste Post. Karte von Deutschland und den angrenzenden Laendern [Vienna 1805]):



[2] Johann Jakob Wagner, System der Idealphilosophie (Leipzig 1804). Back.

[3] Concerning Schelling’s allusion to Wagner’s “adversarial role,” see the introduction to Wagner’s System der Idealiphilosophie (vi–ix; he is addressing the dedicatee, Franz Ludwig von Schallhammer):

Science and scholarship, moreover, now also seem to me to greatly resemble friendship, since, as we understand it, it keeps the one-sidedness of speculation beneath itself, becoming instead a free place of the soul, in which the perception of the world then develops for it. You no doubt still recall how earlier we already recognized Schelling’s scientific striving as a purely speculative one, and though we did applaud its strength, we also doubted whether it would ever come fully to rest within itself and within a state of clear self-sufficiency, whereby alone a soul is wholly satisfied.

Now, finally, Schelling, provoked by Eschenmayer, has provided a strict exposition of his idealism and rounded it off Platonically [in Philosophie und Religion (Tübingen 1804)], and has done so such that even the world at large can no longer doubt that the spirit of this system, though often enough quite sublime, is in fact internally soulless, and has completed the previous relativities of speculation as the final, most extreme form.

This development now forces me to separate my own view of philosophy, which has hitherto appeared to the public as being one with that of Schelling, and to oppose it to that Schellingian view; my view, however, is that the spirit is juxtaposed, not as divine principle, but rather as the one element of human nature over against the physical principle, and that it is the soul that stands above them both.

Commensurate with this view, philosophy must, to be sure, complete itself as a work of the spirit through speculation, and I do indeed acknowledge the necessity that Schelling, as an instrument of time, had to develop philosophy into the arrogance of viewing itself as absolute knowing; but I recognize just as clearly that this arrogance immediately precedes a fall, and that philosophy, having once been brought to this boundary, must either destroy itself or be rescued solely by subordinating itself to the soul as the element of pure vivacity both in the world and in us.

Philosophy can thereby once again encompass all that is human in an ennobling rather than destructive fashion, and you can well understand how important a piece of work time itself performed through Schelling by provoking him to advance philosophy to the illusion of absoluteness; and though such a beginning in and of itself lacks veracity, and though the initiator of that beginning himself, after its completion, is generally cast away by fate as a used-up tool, one must nonetheless admire within such a transient, audacious phenomenon the necessity of the moment that gave birth to it.

Schelling’s response [Philosophie und Religion] to Eschenmayer’s piece [Die Philosophie in ihrem Uebergang zur Nichtphilosophie (Erlangen 1803)] guided me to the clear insight that one nowhere really finds in Schelling’s system what I myself had previously read into it, namely, soul and life and that particular balance of elements without which there can be no life or vivacity.

I had already long been disquieted by Schelling’s idealistic views wherever they emerged in isolated instances (e.g., his view of the stars in Bruno [Bruno; oder, Über das göttliche und natürliche Princip der Dinge: Ein Gespräch (Berlin 1802)], and you may recall how ridiculous both of us found the violence Schelling perpetrated on the absolute in the first issue of his Neue Zeitschrift für spekulative Physik, and how we called that issue the “Passion Week”; — but I always viewed these individual self-exposures of speculation merely as isolated instances, and always hoped that Schelling would yet destroy these one-sided views through realistic counterviews, thereby establishing precisely that balance in the system that I had read into it. —

You will, after all, find individual idealistic views on my part in this present piece as well, views which must be resolved within the highest view and which I will indeed resolve within a more exhaustive explication. Schelling’s most recent piece, however, shattered this hope, and instead presented the system itself as an accursed phantom to whom is granted neither heaven nor earth.

See Friedrich Schlegel’s remarks to Schleiermacher on 12 April 1802 (letter 356d):

I recently read Schelling’s new system and was quite shocked to find it thus [“Darstellung meines Systems der Philosophie,” Zeitschrift für spekulative Physik 2 (1801), no. 2, 1–127]. 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. Back.

[4] Concerning the Jahrbücher der Medicin als Wissenschaft, see Henrik Steffens’s letter to Schelling during the autumn of 1804 (letter 387a), note 1. Back.

[5] Wagner’s Von der Natur der Dinge (Leipzig 1803). Back.

[6] Exploits in French in original.

Catholic and Illuminati-influenced Enlightenment thinking had opposed Schelling in Würzburg specifically and Bavaria in general virtually since his arrival. This opposition came to expression especially in the Oberdeutsche allgemeine Litteraturzeitung. It was sufficiently virulent and well-connected with the Bavarian government and boosted by various other factors, e.g., Adalbert Friedrich Marcus’s involvement with the Kilian-affair in the Zeitung für die elegante Welt, in which Schelling was implicated, that it was indeed able to weaken Schelling’s position.

One particularly troublesome development was the educational plan for schools implemented in Bavaria at the behest of Schelling’s adversaries, and the “open war” of which Schelling speaks was a response to what amounted to a declaration of war in the aforementioned Kurpfalz-bayrischer Studienplan für Mittelschulen. His discomfiture quickly came to expression in his letter to Count von Thürheim on 26 September 1804 (letter 387e.). See esp. also Kuno Fischer’s discussion of this plan in the supplementary appendix on Bavarian Catholic opposition to Schelling. Back.

[7] Windischmann’s uncle had related to him (letter 383l) that

someone has apparently passed along to Count von Thürheim a devastating powder keg contra philosophy; Thürheim requested in Würzburg that “he press Vogt all the more to come there insofar as one was in need of a practical man to counterbalance the eccentric nature of philosophy and replace such unfruitful speculation among the young people there, speculation that was being excessively nurtured in Würzburg, with a more practical direction.” Back.

[8] Windischmann responded to Schelling on 3 October 1804 (Fuhrmans 3:124–25):

What you say about a declaration of war against the Illuminati-inspired and otherwise shallow, repugnant plans for improving the world is all the more welcome to me insofar as I am convinced it is precisely this still regnant gang that is promoting all the foolishness against philosophy. You will admittedly be sticking your hand into a wasps’ nest. But have courage; if philosophy but protects its hands and face, these useless beasts will be unable to sting. . . .

I related to you some time ago as reliable information what Count von Thürheim said and can confirm it once again here. I myself learned of it from my uncle, Geheimrath Kolborn, to whom the count himself related it, which is also why I simultaneously urgently and emphatically request that you not make any personal use of this information. Back.

Translation © 2017 Doug Stott