Letter 397b

397b. Schelling to Andreas Röschlaub in Landshut: Würzburg, late September 1805 [*]

[Würzburg late September 1805]

Whether a letter like the one that arrived from Bamberg written in your usual hand and signed with your name deserves a response from my side, you yourself may decide when you are in a calmer disposition and have reread that letter. It is only because of the consequences that I find it necessary to rebuke several misrepresentations of actual circumstances of which this letter is culpable, since I do not even want the appearance to obtain that I myself am in any way responsible for such.

Whoever told you that I am speaking out against you in my lectures told you a falsehood. I can recall such statements as little as I can any public ones against you, albeit neither from any need to spare you, as you presume, but from a quite natural reason I will let you yourself surmise.

You speak about tension toward you that some third party has generated on my side. Everyone knows, however, that the only reason for such tension was to be found on your side in the notion that I presumed to publish my Jahrbücher der Medizin. [1] Was it unpleasant for you that I was getting increasingly close to my long-envisioned goal of developing my views to include a construction of organic nature, or did you expect I should share all your odia [2] and refuse to enter into a relationship with men who have never insulted me simply because you were inclined not to tolerate them? I recently made clear to you that I will never allow myself to be turned into an instrument of your passions, and that I find such outbursts of selfishness and uncultivated, thoroughly personal disinclination incompatible with a calm, contemplative disposition.

You ask whether Herr Stransky’s opinions please me? I am unaware that Herr Stransky even has an opinion, and even less that I myself have an opinion concerning his opinion. Until now I have known him in an academic context solely through his Bamberg theses, and in that respect I can hardly have come to any particular opinion concerning him. How, however, can you so misconstrue a jesting mention of Herr Stransky (whom on the basis of other traits I am certainly able and indeed do genuinely respect), since you have found it permissible to make insolent remarks about my friends in letters ever since the announcement of the publication of the Jahrbücher?

In the latter regard you have even stooped to the most coarse expressions by wishing me a better journey with my new clan — than with the old, to which you doubtless reckon yourself? We shall see. In the meantime, I have in any case never traveled with any clan, old or new. I am not a man who has ever found it necessary to lean on others, and so also will you find me to be in the future.

Your threats, by the way, if I may speak plainly, I find ridiculous. In my entire life I would never have felt the urge to become your knight. Since, however, you intend to say what you! think of my philosophy, then we must indeed probably try our hand against each other.

I am not aware of having done anything to cause this irritable disposition that has made you so foolishly susceptible to every pathetic bit of gossip and harassment and prompted you to insult a man who has always acted toward you with the utmost honesty.

If you still intend to write me letters, I must ask you to do so in a different tone of voice. I would be sorry if the handwriting whose presence otherwise prompted pleasant anticipation should become the harbinger of bitter and repugnant outpourings.

Stay well and content.


p.s. The Jahrbücher are probably just now ready. [3] Two weeks ago, I charged the publisher with sending you the first issue immediately, and such has probably already been done. But now I am sorry, for I fear it will make an unpleasant impression on you. [4]


[*] Sources: Plitt 2:70–72; Fuhrmans 3:260–61.

This letter is Schelling’s response from late September 1805 (an undated draft; see below concerning dating) to Röschlaub’s letter to him on 24 August 1805 (letter 395c) and is apparently the last letter exchanged between the two former friends; the friendship was not renewed. Back.

[1] Concerning the periodical, see Caroline’s letter to Anna Maria Windischmann on 2 December 1804 (letter 388a), note 2; see also below. Schelling seems to be alluding to Röschlaub’s alleged objection to Schelling publishing a medical journal in the first place, or having “meddled in the discipline of medicine” as Adalbert Friedrich Marcus describes Röschlaub’s objection in his letter to Schelling on 17, 24 August 1805 (letter 395a). Back.

[2] Latin plural, from odium, “hatred, disgust, loathing.” Back.

[3] See Caroline’s letter to Carl Joseph Windischmann on 28 September 1805 (letter 397), note 1; this present letter seems to date prior to that letter. Back.

[4] Presumably a reference to Schelling’s “Vorläufige Bezeichnung des Standpunktes der Medicin nach Grundsätzen der Naturphilosophie,” Jahrbücher der Medicin als Wissenschaft, ed. Adalbert Friedrich Marcus [although Marcus’s name was mysteriously omitted from the first issue, it did appear in the second] and Schelling, 1 (1805), 1:165–206 (Sämmtliche Werke 7:260–88), in which Schelling presents a preliminary overview of the relationship between the philosophy of nature and its application to the medical sciences, pointing out concerning the Brunonian method that (Jahrbücher der Medicin als Wissenschaft, [1805] 1, 185 [section xxix]; Sämmtliche Werke 7:273):

one must acknowledge that a relatively significant step toward understanding nature and the origin of illnesses, especially the variety of their forms, was provided through this view, with which the premier founder of the theory of excitation among the Germans also concurred. That said, however, given our current, increasingly resolute conviction, this matter must now be comprehended at an even deeper level and from what has become a new and avoidable perspective.

In the preface (dated 5 November 1805) to his translation of John Brown’s work, John Brown’s sämmtliche Werke, ed. Andreas Röschlaub, vol. 1, Anfangsgründe der Medizin (Frankfurt 1806), iv–vi, Röschlaub definitively breaks with the philosophy of nature and Schelling’s own distancing from the Brunonian method:

To wit, I am of the opinion that, in order to become familiar with the course and internal structure of the Brunonian doctrine, it is necessary to become acquainted with everything the author presented in the way of explanatory material.

And I myself would like to contribute something to that end, particularly at a time when a whole new number of opponents of precisely this doctrine seem to be emerging regarding points they themselves more of less formerly extolled.

There can no longer be any doubt that these new opponents are in no better position than most of those who already appeared elsewhere, and perhaps some are in an even worse position. For it could easily be demonstrated that most of them (I would not say all) have to this day not become acquainted with this doctrine throughout its entire scope and essential content, and they generally take individual passages — often out of context and not infrequently distorted — to be the essentials, and indeed often enough even present their own imagined phantoms as those essentials, then wage war against those alleged essentials; — which is admittedly a rather comical way to wage war!

Nor do I find the weaponry engaged in that war to be much more serious. For it is merely a system of formulae that they call their philosophy or even the philosophy [i.e., the philosophy of nature].

Hence, unless I am quite mistaken in thinking that things stand as just described, I consider the Brunonian system of doctrines itself to be as little under attack as when the astute and noble knight of la Mancha (who later wished to be known as the Knight of the Rueful Countenance) thought he was fighting real giants in the windmills.

[Cervantes, The Ingenious Hidalgo Don Quixote of La Mancha (El ingenioso hidalgo don Quijote de la Mancha(1605, 1615); illustration: Antoine Coypel, Don Quichotte conduit par la Folie et Embrasé de l’Amour extravaguant de Dulcinée sort de chez luy pour estre Chevalier Errant, Histoire de Don Quichotte de La Manche, Blatt 1 (1723–24); Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum; Museums./Signatur CCoypel nach AB 2.3:]


It is instead merely being subjected to new mistakes and misunderstandings.

Moreover, that particular manner of waging war is incomparably less to be feared than that of the noble knight, who promised governorships and indeed infinitely more to his equerry riding on the most patient of animals. Nor will it likely be much longer before that alleged philosophy, just as it changes its nature annually, i.e., exchanges its old wordplay for a new one, also exchanges its tottering life for a quiet demise.

Hence one can for now go ahead and allow these adversaries to express themselves and to gloat in their certainty of victory either until all have completely ex-pressed themselves, or until the most intellectually gifted among them come know the joy of a better way of thinking and partake of the blissful enjoyment of the kind of genuine perception that has hitherto been beyond their reach.

Carl Joseph Windischmann wrote Schelling on 15 March 1806 after receiving his own copy of Röschlaub’s piece and reading the preface (Plitt 2:80–81; Fuhrmans 3:319–20):

Just today I received, at Röschlaub’s behest, a copy of his edition of Brown’s works from the publisher. I believe you have probably received the same copy. There can hardly be any more revealing demonstration of the baseness of this person than his preface. . . .

The devil of disquiet and discontent is tormenting and harassing him, and he simply does not know what he is doing. In the meantime, I consider it most unworthy henceforth to take any notice of him, or certainly to consider his actions in any way in developing medicine as a science, as if those actions were true and real. . . .

It pains me to find such baseness in Röschlaub. . . . But now his filthy gauntlet lies there before us, but I will not pick it up, nor need I ask the same negative response from you.

Schelling replied on 18–25 March 1806 (Plitt 2:82–83; Fuhrmans 3:321–22):

You know that I was still taking Röschlaub’s side to a certain extent, and that I did not think him capable of such vile baseness. . . . On the one hand, I do indeed have contempt for this feeble desire to harm me. . . . Just imagine how this man otherwise behaved toward me.

Once he heard that Bavaria was to cede Würzburg [in the Treaty of Pressburg] and that I was not intending to stay here, and that they were considering giving me a position in the [Bavarian] Academy [of Sciences and Humanities], he went to Munich personally, sought out all the ministers he could in order to portray me as a dangerous enemy of Bavarian principles and of the Bavarian Enlightenment.

Fortunately, he was universally viewed as a fool, and his rage against me may well have been to my advantage. He even went to Jacobi [who had been in Munich since mid-1805 and was to become president of the Academy], whom he had only recently rebuked from his lectern, but in whom he now sought to rekindle his old hatred and animosity toward me; here, too, he failed. But enough of this man. Back.

Translation © 2017 Doug Stott