Letter 395b

395b. Schelling to Carl Joseph Windischmann in Aschaffenburg: Würzburg, 23 August 1805 [*]

Würzburg, 23 August 1805

I did not receive a copy of the disgraceful review of your Ideen in the Leipziger Literatur-Zeitung until a few days ago, and was not a little indignant at it. [1] Its author is a proper falsarius, [2] as I discovered by comparing several of the passages he adduces with their originals. I suspect that Berg is the author, assuming he does indeed have at least as paltry a knowledge of mathematics as the reviewer seems to. In any case, by all signs it is a self-conceited cleric who is bent on slandering you or harming you politically. [3] I fervently hope you will expose this person publicly and completely as the disgraceful and brazen person he is. . . .


[*] Sources: Plitt 2:68–69; Fuhrmans 3:232–33. Back.

[1] The review of Windischmann’s Ideen zur Physik, vol. 1 (Würzburg, Bamberg 1805) in the Neue Leipziger Literaturzeitung (1805) 87 (5 July 1805), 1377–92; 88 (8 July 1805), 1393–1408; 89 (10 July 1805), 1410–14 (the journal did not normally publish reviews extending over several issues). This book, of course, was the one concerning which Schelling had earlier made such hurtful comments to Windischmann; see Schelling’s letter to Windischmann on 7 December 1804 (letter 388b), and the ensuing, at times bitter exchange of letters between the two men.

This particular review, however, was from the outset derisive and contemptuous not only of Windischmann’s work, but also, by extension and even explicitly, of Schelling’s philosophy of nature, which it accused of atheism, capricious use of the faculty of understanding, and of seeking to introduce Brahmanism. It similarly reproached Windischmann’s book as a mere mouthpiece for Schelling’s doctrines, which, of course, doubtless got Schelling’s attention when he read the review. The review’s final remarks in any case read as follows (1413–14):

Precisely this [eastern] religion, according to which manure turning to gas in a puddle cannot but be more closely related to the deity than a thinking human being, is what Herr Windischmann intends to introduce among us; hence does he so emphatically recommend on pp. 369f. that we read the writings of the Indians, and remark on p. 442 that true and divine universalism has already come to us from the East. Ought we not instead be quite fearful indeed here?? — —

No! May Herr Windischmann instead simply leave us our purified religion of Christ, rather than offering us “stones instead of bread” [the qualification Windischmann himself adds to his own solicitation for suggestions in his preface, Ideen zur Physik, xvi].

In conclusion, the author expresses the wish that he might meet us once again in the earth’s ultimate workshop. Let us in the meantime assure him, however, that his understanding of geology does not make us particularly eager for such a meeting, since his theory of the solar system has already given us a rather strong foretaste of how he will be preparing such a meal. It would be best instead if Herr Windischmann would simply spare us wholly and completely such miserable food to begin with [allusion to Num. 21:5, NRSV: “The people spoke against God and against Moses, ‘Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we detest this miserable food.'”]. Sapienti sat! [Latin, Plautus, “Word enough for the wise!”].

See the excerpt from Windischmann’s response in his letter to Schelling on 25 August 1805 (letter 395d), note 5. Back.

[2] Latin, “forger.” Back.

[3] N.B. and of slandering or harming Schelling politically as well. Back.

Translation © 2017 Doug Stott