Letter 417b

417b. Schelling to Carl Joseph Windischmann in Aschaffenburg: Munich, 1 August 1806 [*]

Munich, 1 August 1806

You might well be angry with your friend for his stubborn and obdurate silence, my beloved friend, were you not already all too familiar with his ways and did not already understand that such silence can never derive from any lack of remembrance or friendship. So, here are my first words, serving this time merely to reconnect; for there is much about which I cannot write today, and yet I do want to write today.

What do you think about Fichte’s most recent leaps? [1] You have likely already read in the Jenaische Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung at least part of what I myself have to say, even though it is merely a hasty piece written after reading only one of the books. [2]

I have in the meantime also read the others and composed a separate treatise presenting the relationship between him and me. [3] It will be appearing in a few weeks; until then, let this remain between us. — I consider this piece to be one of my best and most competent. [4]

Now, as far as my life here is concerned, it is considerably freer and more cheerful than that in Würzburg. The air is more elastic, I am healthier than at any time during the past four years; much that is splendid in art has been assembled here. [5]

In the meantime, I am enjoying a salary of 1500 fl. and have been designated for a position in the Academy of Sciences and Humanities, though not yet officially appointed, something that has been delayed merely by chance, which is also why nothing has yet been made public. The rest will also be straightened out this summer, however, and after the Würzburg shipwreck I will have found the safe harbor for which I have longingly yearned. . . .

(Please address your letters to vor dem Karlsthor no. 7, on the right.) [6]


[*] Sources: Plitt 2:97–98; Fuhrmans 3:348–50 (South West Germany and North Italy: The War of the Second Coalition 1798–1801, in The Cambridge Modern History Atlas, ed. A. W. Ward, G. W. Prothero, Stanley Leathes, and E. A. Ben [London 1912], map 88 [University of Texas, Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection]):



[1] The reference is to Fichte’s three publications in 1806; see Dorothea and Friedrich Schlegel’s letter to Karoline Paulus on 30 June 1806 (letter 416d), note 11. Back.

[2] The reference is to Schelling’s review of Johann Gottlieb Fichte, Ueber das Wesen des Gelehrten, und seine Erscheinungen im Gebiete der Freiheit. In öffentlichen Vorlesungen, gehalten zu Erlangen, im Sommer-Halbjahre 1805 von Johann Gottlieb Fichte (Berlin 1806), in the Jenaische Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung (1806) 150 (26 June 1806), 585–92; 151 (27 June 1806), 593–98, which begins:

A second review of the present publication in this same Literatur-Zeitung should come as no surprise. For where might such an exception, such as is not entirely unprecedented, be more in order than precisely where an individual part or aspect of a publication allows for or even invites a different angle of examination. And such does seem to be the case here.



[3] “The others” were Fichte’s Die Grundzüge des gegenwärtigen Zeitalters. Dargestellt von Johann Gottlieb Fichte, in Vorlesungen, gehalten zu Berlin, im Jahre 1804–5 (Berlin 1806), and Die Anweisung zum seeligen Leben, oder auch die Religionslehre. Durch Johann Gottlieb Fichte, in Vorlesungen gehalten zu Berlin, im Jahre 1806 (Berlin 1806).

The treatise was Schelling’s Darlegung des wahren Verhältnisses der Naturphilosophie zu der verbesserten Fichte’schen Lehre. Eine Erläuterungsschrift der ersten von F. W. J. Schelling (Tübingen 1806) (Sämmtliche Werke 7:3–126; Statement on the True Relationship of the Philosophy of Nature to the Revised Fichtean Doctrine: An Elucidation of the Former, trans. Dale E. Snow [Albany 2018]). Back.

[4] The review in the Jenaische Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung essentially made public Schelling’s already lengthy break with Fichte, and the Darlegung made it even more definitive. Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi commented on Schelling’s review in a letter to Friedrich Köppen on 16 September 1806 that Jacobi enclosed in a letter to Jakob Friedrich Fries on 26 November 1807 (Ernst Ludwig Theodor Henke, Jakob Friedrich Fries. Aus seinem handschriftlichen Nachlasse dargestellt [Leipzig 1867], 311):

Schelling’s review of Fichte’s Wesen des Gelehrten is, as you point out, good in its own way, but also outrageous because of the wrath it expresses especially in its conclusion, and because of the direction that wrath takes against what previously counted as religion and virtue among human beings. Schelling visits me from time to time, has been quite accommodating toward me, and I believe he sincerely wished to win my friendship. But my daemon warned me unequivocally to remain reserved and not to get too involved.

The conclusion to Schelling’s review of Fichte’s Wesen des Gelehrten reads as follows (Jenaische Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung (1806) 151 [27 June 1806], 596–98):

We must go ahead and say it: the ground of intellectual and spiritual baseness of every sort is precisely the lack of that particular perception through which nature appears to us as something inherently alive; indeed, sooner or later this lack occasions complete spiritual death, a death that no arts can disguise. Something attaches to it that cannot be healed (we gladly acknowledge it), for it is in nature alone that all healing power is found. Nature alone is the true object of abstraction, the eternally fresh source of inspiration and ongoing rejuvenation. —

In personalities without further distinguishing characteristics, this lack occasions that particular dullness and lifelessness of the entire disposition and spirit that is the inheritance of socially depraved people, and if one’s moral sense is also sickly, it also occasions a sense of discomfiture whenever they are to be forced to observe an object of nature as it is. What can it produce in personalities that retreat at least with a measure of strength to their own individuality and turn inward? Indeed, nothing other than a moralizing of the entire world that undermines and erodes life itself, and a true aversion toward all nature and vivacity except in the subject, a crude extolling of morality and of moral teaching as the only real things in life and science.

Crude: for where is it to find measure and cultivation if its ideas, — which are comfortable solely in willfulness — view as an abomination the gentleness, the creation from within, the quiet course and eternally consistent order of nature? —

Anyone who seriously tries to carry through morality within scholarly parameters without any notion of unity with nature will sooner and more easily become aware of how little nature grants him, and even in Fichte this awareness is not entirely absent. It is clear that he himself sees that his moral doctrine leaves an infinite chasm between the idea and life, and that it teaches the person to be formed only not to act, while nature and the world urge him to act, and demand that, like the latter, he always act in concreto, and that in every individual case he also effect the true, the appropriate, and the unique.

But what can be expected of a moral doctrine in which, as in all hitherto, albeit under different names, duty collides with duty? — And certainly, engaging such a moral view as an instrument of polemic against that which is higher has long been recognized in poesy and art for what it is; and now it should apply to science alone? Of course, it pleases the people, who must always have morality directly before them precisely because it is the people, and it performs an excellent service in giving the hated doctrine a bad reputation among precisely the people.

Things stand with morality precisely as it is understood in those accolades, with stylistic correctness, which one demands or even presupposes as the conditio sine qua non [Latin, “an indispensable condition”] of an excellent work; but just as stylistic correctness does not suffice to elicit even the appearance of a work of art, so also does morality not suffice to produce a genuinely beautiful and divine life.

“Who,” Plato asks, “would presume to provide beautiful and good men with laws stipulating that they speak the truth, honor contracts, and not take advantage of others?” — There is infinitely much apart from and above the parameters of this morality, not only everything that constitutes free life in both nature and art, but equally the divinity of disposition itself that redeems us from the law and reconciles us with the divine, to which we were earlier subject. —

Doubtless not all are capable of this view, which may well be part of the eternal mysteries of higher humanity. But science and scholarship do belong precisely to those mysteries, just as do poesy and art. Hence the Malvolios of the world [character in Shakespeares Twelfth Night, a puritanical, wooden embodiment of priggish propriety who likes nothing better than to spoil other people’s fun] are not to intrude here, those who believe that because they are virtuous there should be no more beauty in the world, no more excellence of nature, no vitality outside themselves and those like them; and even if an otherwise scholarly man becomes just like these Malovolios through an ineradicably base fundamental tone within his personality, one cannot but lament it. Back.

[5] See supplementary appendix 408.1. Back.

[6] Königlich Baiersche Haupt und Residenzstadt München am 1. Januar 1809 (Munich 1809); Bayerisches Landesvermessungsamt München, Nr. 558/03:


See the supplementary appendix on the Schellings’ Munich residence at Karlsthor 7. Back.

Translation © 2018 Doug Stott