Letter 399c

399c. Anonymous, “From Würzburg,” Der Freimüthige oder Ernst und Scherz (1805) 245 (9 December 1805) [*]

Among the various rather astonishing elements in the renewal of the Schellingian dispute, [1] perhaps the foremost are (a) that he denies the immorality of his system, to which, it seems to me, one might respond by citing p. 53 of his Bruno; [2] — (b) that he is so loftily extolling the progress of the government ever since the latter expressed itself so unequivocally against his own progress. [3]

To my considerable astonishment, two crucial pieces of information in this matter have not yet come to expression, pieces that really ought — had he but remained calm — to remain unspoken. Since, however, he has chosen to step between the government and his adversaries with such peculiarly complaisant flattery in order to cast new light on himself while casting poisonous shadows on his adversaries, then I myself must briefly describe them for you.

Count von Thürheim did not really become genuinely well acquainted with him until the anatomist Fuchs received an appointment here from Jena. Schelling wished to see his own brother receive this lucrative position, or at the very least a philosopher of nature who might then dispatch medical students to be instructed in his wisdom.

Though he knew that the government had already offered an appointment to Professor Fuchs as a fine lecturer and an adroitly erudite medicus, he nonetheless still tried to goad the academic senate into a demonstration against the appointment, even adducing in support a calumny of immorality that had shortly beforehand been spread (by whom?) against Fuchs, and, when the senate refused to allow itself to be misused as such an instrument, writing personally to Count von Thürheim contra Fuchs.

This trustee, however, convinced that medical students at our university, amid such a plethora of aprioristic confusion and misguidance, desperately needed a pure presentation of anatomical subjects, wrote a billet to Schelling stating that he was forthwith to content himself solely with matters attendant on his professorship and otherwise not to concern himself with the appointment of faculty members elsewhere at the university! [4]

That was the first unequivocal and official gesture of admonishment. Nonetheless, while Count von Thürheim was in Munich during September and October 1804, Schelling wrote to him from Bamberg [5] to the effect that although he, Schelling, had promised the government not to engage in polemic here, insofar as others were indeed allowed to polemicize against him (in Sextus etc.), [6] and insofar as the arrival of the count from Bamberg in Würzburg signaled, as it were, that anyone might attack him, — that he would henceforth come out hale and hearty again contra all his enemies, which is why he had already sent to the academic bookseller in Jena a piece on the Enlightenment in Bavaria (!). [7] — —

Count von Thürheim appended this letter to his normal report concerning the university. The resulting rescript [8] stipulated that Professor Schelling be informed of the considerable displeasure with which His Highness discerned from that letter how little his philosophy influenced good morals and prudent behavior in even Schelling himself, and that for the rest, as long as he adhered to the Bavarian edict of censorship, he could publish whatever he wished.

After this thunderbolt, Schelling crawled out of sight for a while, thereby also eliciting a modest measure of sympathy for himself. Now, however, I am hearing considerable new indignation at his new attacks. But feel free to inquire concerning the two bits of information I mention above. You will find them wholly confirmed, and yet precisely thereby, however, you will also see that Schelling’s current remarks on behalf of the government are nothing but anxiety-driven toadying. For after the October rescript, the only possible additional corrective measure would be — retirement. And if such indeed were ever to happen, certainly no one could accuse the government of not having proceeded by degrees.

And as much as I do indeed support complete freedom of publication and public teaching for Herr Schelling and every professor, I am equally convinced that the government, by finally withdrawing his freedom to lecture here, would be performing a tremendously beneficent act on behalf of the youth, whom through empty fantasizing he has lured away from all practical learning of the sort that is necessary to the state. And in any event, I believe that Schelling himself has long ceased to believe in his own so-called system, and doubtless knows that etc. . . . [9]


[*] Sources: Der Freimüthige oder Ernst und Scherz (1805) 245 (Monday, 9 December 1805), 564; Fuhrmans 3:274–75n1.

Given the unrelenting opposition that Schelling had encountered in Würzburg from various quarters essentially since his arrival despite his popularity among students (see also Kuno Fischer’s discussion of Catholic opposition to Schelling in Bavaria), this present, anonymous attempt in the Berlin periodical Der Freimüthige oder Ernst und Scherz to criticize Schelling soundly one final time in a kind of enumeration of his Würzburg problems, and to goad the Bavarian administration, as it were by power of suggestion, to consider more seriously his dismissal, seems an appropriate conclusion to the letters and documents from Schelling and Caroline’s final full year in Würzburg.

Fuhrmans is probably correct in suspecting that the anonymous author, who was intimately familiar with the academic situation in Würzburg and with the circle around Karl von Thürheim, was either H. E. G. Paulus or Franz Berg (Friedrich Wilhelm von Hoven, whom Fuhrmans also mentions, seems less likely despite Henriette von Hoven’s intense dislike of Caroline). See esp. Paulus’s letter to Jakob Friedrich Fries on 9 August 1804 (letter 385b).

See as a pendant to this piece also the supplementary appendix on August von Kotzebue’s caricature of “The Most Recent Aesthetics” from Der Freimüthige back in July of 1803. Back.

[1] In the first issue of the Jahrbücher der Medicin als Wissenschaft, Schelling, in a “General note concerning the understanding of the relationship between the finite and the infinite,” 75–88, here 81–82, had with his familiar condescending and spiteful turns of phrase, criticized both Friedrich Bouterwek (e.g., “the boredom of his own essays”) and Kajetan Weiller (e.g., “monkish polemic . . . not against my teachings, but rather against what he considers them to be or calls them”).

Concerning the periodical, see Caroline’s letter to Anna Maria Windischmann on 2 December 1804 (letter 388a), note 2. Back.

[2] Bruno; oder, Über das göttliche und natürliche Princip der Dinge: Ein Gespräch (Berlin 1802), 53:

Since we were already taught earlier that philosophy is to concern itself solely with the eternal concepts of things, the idea of all ideas is thus the only true object of philosophy; but that idea is none other than the one containing the expression of the indivisibility of the other from the One, perception from thinking. The nature of this unity is that of beauty and truth itself. For what is beautiful is that in which the universal and the particular, the genre and the individual are absolutely one, as in the figures of the gods.

The same, however, is also alone true, and since we view this idea as the highest standard of truth, we must also consider absolutely true that which is true with respect to this idea, and merely relative and deceptive truths those to which no truth can be ascribed with respect to this idea. All the more will we have to focus our investigation on the manner of unification of the finite with the infinite in that highest idea. Back.

[3] Schelling had done this not least toward the end of his letter to the Intelligenzblatt of the Jenaische Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung in Jena, “To the Public,” on 6 May 1805 (letter/document 393b). Back.

[4] Karl von Thürheim’s letter to Schelling of 22 April 1804 (letter 383c). Back.

[5] Schelling’s letter to Karl von Thürheim on 26 September 1804 (letter 387e). Back.

[6] Franz Berg, Sextus oder über die absolute Erkenntniss von Schelling (Würzburg 1804). Back.

[7] This piece was originally conceived as “Darstellung der Secte, welche in Bayern der Philosophie entgegen arbeitet” (“Description of the sect currently opposing philosophy in Bavaria,”); see Schelling’s letter to Carl Joseph Windischmann on 24 October 1804 (letter 387g), esp. with note 1. It was never published, though Schelling had apparently corresponded with the potential publisher in Jena as late as 26 December 1804. Back.

[8] Karl von Thürheim’s missive to Schelling on 7 November 1804 (letter 387k). Back.

[9] Ellipsis in original. Back.

Translation © 2017 Doug Stott