Letter 388d

388d. Carl Joseph Windischmann to Schelling in Würzburg: Aschaffenburg, 12 December 1804 [*]

Aschaffenburg, 12 December 1804

I would have answered your letter of the 7th yesterday had I not already had so much work that had piled up because of my eye ailment. Hence I will do what I can today, since my eyes are not yet capable of very much.

As early as my translation of Timaeus, [1] I have sensed the magnanimous reserve you have exercised with regard to my weaknesses, and yet, beneath this outer covering, your ever increasing disinclination toward me as well. My modest reproach of the injustice you committed over against Fichte and Jacobi may have been reason enough for you, [2] just as my manner of comprehension and presentation similarly earlier prompted your displeasure when, as you put it at the time, I was not “sufficiently metaphysical.”

But this metaphysically obscure and heartless way of going about things was and never will be my goal, hence neither can I be judged according to that measure. If, however, you consider and have always considered this particular deficiency to be the essential point, why then did you tell me in one of your letters from Jena [30 August 1801], “You are in the midst of the eternal, where time and place disappear. In essentials we are of one mind, the other things more of less concern trifles.”

Surely you should not have said such a thing to an unworthy person such as me, or is that, too, one of the compliments one pays out of pity? At the very least, one cannot discern from these considerations that that particular seriousness inheres within you yourself that you seem to find lacking in me. I am sorry you are inclined to grant me your further friendship only to the extent I myself “treat the good cause with more seriousness.”

For I have never been in the position of a pupil toward you, hence I do not really know what I am to make of such statements. [3] I found and still find you to be one of those intellects to whom one must indeed grant precedence over many others, but at the same time I have never viewed this precedence to be a divine one that alone might manifest itself without overbearing arrogance the way you did in the words, “I now consider the cause to be far too good to let just anyone, as has hitherto been the case, simply use it however he chooses.” The “cause” about which you are able to speak as your own has never been one I seek to appropriate in that sense, since I never want to be part of any school, least of all one that views all others as not whole or indeed as naught, and that does not concern itself with life.

I am in the meantime quite happy to be living under a divine Lord who allows anyone to use a far better cause just as they please. I will leave it to that Lord to decide whether I am truly serious. You, as you intend, may then do whatever you like with my statements, something toward which I can be quite indifferent even if in your own opinion you leave not a single speck untouched in me, since I can always counter the allegedly “better” form of a loyal follower with my personal, inner disposition.

That notwithstanding, it pains me to see you, whom I have previously so admired and whom, as you might easily enough discern, ardently loved, — to see you now flaming up with the most vehement passion over mere trifling points; or is perhaps your judgment on my work, especially on statements I made that concern merely individual points against you, not the most unjust and undignified thing that could possibly be engaged toward me? Indeed! If you are able to forget the philosopher so completely, then it is no wonder if people do not respect you.

The passage on p. 263 was not prompted by anyone, nor even distantly suggested. [4] And the “barren praise” is not nor is it meant to be “praise” at all, but rather conviction — albeit possibly “barren” enough compared with your own conviction etc. [5] After these and all the other unjust remarks, I certainly cannot expect anything different publicly; indeed, I even entreat you, as soon as my work has appeared in its entirety, immediately to engage an enragé to assault it. [6] I will know how to respond to him, and thereby also to you yourself, for I must, after all, defend myself.

Many thanks for Jean Paul. [7] We send our kind regards to your spouse.



[*] Sources: Plitt 2:41–43; Fuhrmans 3:147–48.

This letter is Windischmann’s response to Schelling’s letter to him on 7 December 1804 (letter 388b). Although another response from Windischmann (from 10 December 1804) was found in Schelling’s literary estate, it was apparently not sent, since Schelling responds — with arrogance similar to that on 7 December 1804 — on 26 February 1805 (Fuhrmans 3:187–89) specifically only to this present letter, a copy of which, oddly, was not found in the literary estate but was published in Plitt.

In the letter of 10 December, however, Windischmann begins, after remarks about his eyes, by saying: “Well, it seems it now is my turn to be destroyed by you,” an empty statement had Schelling not indeed become known for arrogantly “destroying” people in such feuds.

In any event, additional correspondence and backstory for this encounter with Windischmann can be found in Fuhrmans, including Windischmann’s equally restrained response on 2 March 1805 to Schelling’s letter to him of 26 February 1805 mentioned above (Fuhrmans 3:190–92). Back.

[1] Platon’s Timaeos: Eine ächte Urkunde wahrer Physik, trans. Karl Josef Windischmann (Hadamar 1804), Windischmann’s translation of one of Plato’s later works containing a cosmology and philosophy of nature. Back.

[2] Unclear reference. Fuhrmans was unable to determine where Windischmann had presented such a “reproach” against Schelling. Back.

[3] Windischmann had never attended Schelling’s lectures in Jena. Back.

[4] In his letter of 7 December 1804 (letter 388b), Schelling had explicitly suggested that H. E. G. Paulus was somehow behind that criticism. Concerning this passage, see note 5 there. Back.

[5] Concerning this alleged “barren praise,” see Schelling’s letter to Windischmann on 7 December 1804 (letter 388b), note 6. Back.

[6] Enragé, Fr., “rabid person, madman,” here: “rabid follower.” Volume 2 of Windischmann’s Ideen zur Physik, vol. 1 (Würzburg, Bamberg 1805), never appeared, nor did the attendant review Schelling threatened in his letter to Windischmann on 7 December 1804 (letter 388b); see, however, note 7 there. Back.

[7] See Caroline’s letter to Anna Maria Windischmann on 2 December 1804 (letter 388a), note 4. Back.

Translation © 2017 Doug Stott