Frederick Engels

Schelling On Hegel [120]

Source: MECW Volume 2, p. 181
Written: in the second half of November 1841
First published: in Telegraph für Deutschland Nos. 207/208, December 1841
Signed: Friedrich Oswa1d

Telegraph für Deutschland No. 207, December 1841

Ask anybody in Berlin today on what field the battle for dominion over German public opinion in politics and religion, that is, over Germany itself, is being fought, and if he has any idea of the power of the mind over the world he will reply that this battlefield is the University, in particular Lecture-hall No. 6, where Schelling is giving his lectures on the philosophy of revelation. For at the moment all the separate oppositions which contend with Hegel’s philosophy for this dominion are obscured, blurred and pushed into the background by the one opposition of Schelling; all the attackers who stand outside philosophy, Stahl, Hengstenberg, Neander, are making way for a fighter who is expected to give battle to the unconquered on his own ground. And the battle is indeed peculiar enough. Two old friends of younger days, room mates at the Tilbingen theological seminary, are after forty years meeting each other again face to face as opponents; one of them ten years dead but more alive than ever in his pupils; the other, as the latter say, intellectually dead for three decades, but now suddenly claiming for himself the full power and authority of life. Anybody who is sufficiently “impartial” to profess himself equally alien to both, that is, to be no Hegelian, for surely nobody can as yet declare himself on the side of Schelling after the few words he has said — anybody, then, who possesses this vaunted advantage of “impartiality” will see in the declaration of Hegel’s death pronounced by Schelling’s appearance in Berlin the vengeance of the gods for the declaration of Schelling’s death which Hegel pronounced in his time.

An imposing, colourful audience has assembled to witness the battle. At the front the notables of the University, the leading lights of science, men everyone of whom has created a trend of his own; for them the seats nearest to the rostrum have been reserved, and behind them, jumbled together as chance brought them to the hall, representatives of all walks of life, nations, and religious beliefs. In the midst of high-spirited youths there sits here and there a grey-bearded staff officer and next to him perhaps, quite unembarrassed, a volunteer who in any other society would not know what to do for reverence towards such a high-ranking superior. Old doctors and ecclesiastics the jubilee of whose matriculation can soon be celebrated feel the long-forgotten student haunting their minds again and are back in college. Judaism and Islam want to see what Christian revelation is all about; German, French, English, Hungarian, Polish, Russian, modern Greek and Turkish, one can hear all spoken together — then the signal for silence sounds and Schelling mounts the rostrum.

A man of middle stature, with white hair and light-blue, bright eyes, whose expression is gay rather than imposing and, combined with a certain fullness of figure, indicates more the jovial family man than the thinker of genius, a harsh but strong voice, Swabian-Bavarian dialect with a recurring “eppes” for etwas, that is Schelling’s outward appearance.

I pass over the contents of his first lectures so as to come immediately to his utterances on Hegel, with the reservation that I shall add later whatever is necessary to explain them. I reproduce them as I took them down myself during the lecture.

“The philosophy of identity, as I have set it out, was only one aspect of the whole philosophy, namely, the negative aspect. This ‘negative’ had either to be satisfied by the presentation of the ‘positive’, or, absorbing the positive content of previous philosophies, to posit itself as the ‘positive’ and hence to set itself up as absolute philosophy. Over the fate of man also presides a reason which makes him persist in one-sidedness until he has exhausted all its possibilities. Thus it was Hegel who established the negative philosophy as the absolute philosophy. — I mention Herr Hegel’s name for the first time. just as I have expressed myself freely on Kant and Fichte, who were my teachers, so will I also on Hegel, although it gives me no pleasure to do so. But I will do it for the sake of the frankness which I have promised you, gentlemen. It must not appear as if I had anything to be afraid of, as if there were points on which I could not speak freely. I recall the time when Hegel was my listener, my comrade in fife, and I must say that while in general the understanding of the philosophy of identity was shallow and superficial, he it was who saved its fundamental thought for the time to come and acknowledged it constantly to the last, as his Vorlesungen über die Geschichte der Philosophie above all proved to me. Having found the great material already mastered, he concerned himself chiefly With the method, while the rest of us preferred to Concentrate on the material. I myself, not satisfied with the negative results achieved, would readily have accepted any satisfactory conclusion, even from a stranger’s hand.

“Incidentally, the question here is whether Hegel’s position in the history of philosophy, the position which is to be accorded to him among the great thinkers, is precisely that he attempted to raise the philosophy of identity to the absolute, the final philosophy, a thing which could be done, of course, only with significant changes; and this I intend to prove from his own writings, which are open to all the world. If one were to say that this is precisely what Hegel is to be reproached with, I would reply that Hegel did that which lay closest to him. The philosophy of identity had to wrestle with itself, to transcend itself, so long as the science of the positive’, which covers existence as well, was not yet there. Hence in this endeavour Hegel had to raise the philosophy of identity above its limitation, the power of being, the pure ability to be, and to make existence subject to it.

“Hegel, who with Schelling rose to the recognition of the absolute, diverged from him in that he wished the absolute to be conceived, not as presupposed in intellectual perception, but rather as discovered by scientific method.’ These words form the text on which I shall now speak to you. — At the basis of the above passage lies the view that the philosophy of identity has as its result the absolute not only in substance but in existence; since the starting point of the philosophy of identity is the indifference of subject and object, their existence is also assumed because validated by intellectual perception. In this way Hegel assumes quite artlessly that I wished to prove the existence, the being, of that indifference by intellectual perception, and reproaches me for the inadequate proof. That I did not wish to do so is shown by the protest I have so often voiced that the philosophy of identity is not a system of existence, and, as concerns intellectual perception, the term in question does not occur at all in the presentation of the philosophy of identity which is the sole and only one of the earlier period that I recognise as scientific. This presentation is to be found where no one looks for it, namely, in the Zeitschrift für spekulative Physik, Vol. II, Part 2. Elsewhere it does indeed occur and is part of Fichte’s legacy. Fichte, with whom I did not wish to break outright, arrives through it at his immediate consciousness, the ‘I'; from this, I went further and thus arrived at the indifference. Since in intellectual perception the ‘I’ is no longer regarded as being subjective, it enters the sphere of thought and thus its existence is no longer immediately certain. Accordingly, intellectual perception would not even prove the existence of the ‘I’, and though Fichte uses it for this purpose, I cannot base myself on it to prove from it the existence of the absolute. Hence Hegel could not reproach me for the inadequacy of a proof which I never wished to provide, but only for not having stated explicitly enough that I was not at all concerned with existence. For if Hegel demands proof of the being of the infinite power he goes beyond reason; should the infinite power exist, philosophy would not be free of being, and we must here ask whether something prior to existence can be thought. Hegel denies it, for he begins his logic with being and proceeds directly to an existential system. But we affirm it, by beginning with the pure power of being as existing only in thinking. Hegel, who so often speaks of immanence, nevertheless is only immanent in that which is not immanent in thinking, for being is this non-immanent. To retreat into pure thinking means in particular to retreat from all being outside thought. Hegel’s contention that the existence of the absolute is proved by logic has the further disadvantage that in this way one has the infinite twice, at the end of the logic and again at the end of the whole process. In general one cannot conceive why the logic is put first in the Enzyklopädie, instead of pervading and animating the entire cycle.”

Telegraph für Deutschland No. 208, December 1841

Thus far Schelling. In large part and so far as I could I have quoted his very words and can boldly claim that he could not refuse to put his signature to these excerpts. To complete this presentation I add from the preceding lectures that he considers things from two aspects separating the quid from the quod, the essence and the concept from existence. The first he apportions to the pure science of reason or negative philosophy, the second to a science to be newly founded and containing empirical elements, positive philosophy. Of the latter we have not yet heard anything; the former appeared forty years ago in an inadequate form abandoned by Schelling himself, and is now being developed by him in its true, adequate expression. Its basis is reason, the pure power of cognition, which has as its immediate content the pure power of being, the infinite ability to be. The necessary third element to be added here is the power over being, which can no longer alienate itself, and this is the absolute, the spirit, that which is released from the necessity of transition into being and persists in eternal freedom in relation to being. The absolute can also be called the “orphic” unity of these powers, as that outside of which there is nothing. When these powers come into contradiction with each other this mutual exclusiveness is finiteness.

These few sentences suffice, I think, for the understanding of the preceding passages and as an outline of neo-Schellingianism as far as this can be given here and up to now. It only remains for me to draw from this the conclusions probably intentionally concealed by Schelling, and to enter the lists for the great dead man.

If Schelling’s death sentence on Hegel’s system is divested of its bureaucratic language, it comes down to this: Hegel actually had no system whatever of his own, but eked out a miserable existence with the leavings of my thoughts; while I occupied myself with the partie brillante, the positive philosophy, he revelled in the partie honteuse, the negative, and since I had no time for it he took upon himself its completion and elaboration, infinitely happy that I had entrusted this to him. Will you reproach him for this? “He did that which lay closest to him.” He has nevertheless a “position among the great thinkers”, for “he was the only one who recognised the fundamental thought of the philosophy of identity, while all the others had a shallow and superficial understanding of it”. All the same, prospects seemed bad for him, for he wanted to make half of philosophy into the whole.

A well-known saying is quoted, allegedly from Hegel’s mouth, but which, after the above utterances, doubtless stems from Schelling: “Only one of my pupils understood me, and even he unfortunately understood me wrongly.”

But to be serious, can such libels be engraved upon Hegel’s tombstone and we, who owe him more than he owed Schelling, not dare to issue a challenge to protect the honour of the dead, however terrible the opponent? And they are libels, let Schelling say what he will, and the form be ever so scientific in appearance. Oh, “in a purely scientific manner” I could show up Herr von Schelling, or anybody else, if that were required, in such a thoroughly bad light that he would certainly recognise the advantages of the “scientific manner”, but what help would that be to me? It would in any case be frivolous of me, the youth, to teach an old man, and particularly Schelling, who, however decisively he may have deserted freedom, nevertheless always remains the discoverer of the absolute and in his part as Hegel’s forerunner is mentioned by all of us only with the deepest reverence. But Schelling as Hegel’s successor can only lay claim to a certain piety and will demand calm and coolness least of all from me, for I am standing up for a dead man, and it is fit for a fighter to have a certain amount of passion: he who draws the sword in cold blood rarely has much enthusiasm for the cause for which he is fighting.

I must say that Schelling’s speech here and especially these invectives against Hegel leave little doubt that the portrait painted in the preface to Riedel’s well-known latest pamphlets is a likeness, something one was hitherto reluctant to believe. Schelling presents the entire development of philosophy in this century, Hegel, Gans, Feuerbach, Strauss, Ruge and the Deutsche Jahrbücher as dependent on himself to begin with, and then not only negates it, but, with a flourish merely intended to bring him more into the limelight, presents it as a luxury in which the spirit indulges with itself, a curio collection of misunderstandings, a gallery of useless aberrations.. If this does not exceed all that Schelling is reproached with in that pamphlet, then I have no idea what is customary in mutual intercourse. It might, of course, be difficult for Schelling to find a middle way which compromised neither him nor Hegel, and the egoism which caused him to sacrifice his friend so as to preserve himself, might be pardonable; but it is a little too much when Schelling asks the century to take back forty years of effort and work, forty years of thinking, of sacrifice of the dearest interests and the most sacred traditions, as a waste of time, an erroneous trend, only so that he shall not have lived these forty years too long; it sounds like more than irony when he allocates to Hegel a position among the great thinkers precisely by deleting him in reality from their number and by treating him as his creature, his servant; and finally it appears somewhat like intellectual meanness, like petty — what does one call that well-known, pale-yellow passion? — when Schelling claims each and every thing he acknowledges in Hegel as his own property, nay, as flesh of his own flesh. It would indeed be strange if Schelling’s old truth had only been able to maintain itself in Hegel’s bad form, and in that case the reproach of obscurity of expression, which the day before yesterday Schelling levelled against the man he was attacking, would of necessity recoil upon himself, as in the common judgment it already does, in spite of the promised clarity. Anyone who indulges in such periods as Schelling constantly does, who uses expressions like quidditativ and quodditativ, orphic unity, etc., and even with them is so often at a loss that every moment Latin and Greek phrases and words have to help out, clearly forfeits the right to criticise Hegel’s style.

Incidentally, Schelling is most of all to be pitied because of the unfortunate misunderstanding concerning existence. The good, naive Hegel with his belief in the existence of philosophical results in the right of reason to enter into existence, to dominate being; But it would be really strange if he, who after all studied Schelling thoroughly and for a long time maintained personal intercourse with him, if all the others who tried to penetrate the philosophy of identity, had noticed nothing of the real joke, namely, that all this was just bits of nonsense which existed only in Schelling’s head and laid no claims whatever to any influence on the external world. Somewhere that must have been in black and white and somebody would certainly have found it. But one is in fact tempted to doubt whether this was Schelling’s view from the beginning or whether it is a later addition.

And the new version of the philosophy of identity? Kant freed rational thinking from space and time, Schelling takes existence away as well. What then are we left with? This is not the place to prove against him that existence belongs indeed to thought, that, being is immanent in the mind and that the foundation of all modern philosophy, the cogito, ergo sum, cannot thus be stormed and overrun; but I may be permitted to ask whether a power which itself has no being can produce a being, whether a power which can no longer alienate itself is still power, and whether the trichotomy of the powers does not correspond in a remarkable manner with the trinity of idea, nature and mind which emerges from Hegel’s Enzyklopädie?

And what will result from all this for the philosophy of revelation? It belongs, of course, to the positive philosophy, to the empirical side. Schelling will have no other course open to him than to assume the fact of a revelation, which he will perhaps substantiate in one way or another, only not by reason, for he has locked the door on himself in that respect. Hegel made things a little harder for himself — or can it be that Schelling has other sources of information up his sleeve? This philosophy can thus quite correctly be called empirical, and its theology positive, while its jurisprudence will probably be historical. That would indeed be. not unlike a defeat, for we already knew all that before Schelling came to Berlin.

It will be our business to follow the course of his thinking and to shield the great man’s grave from abuse. We are not afraid to fight. Nothing more desirable could have happened to us than for a time to be ecclesia pressa. There the minds part. What is genuine is proved in the fire, what is false we shall not miss in our ranks. The opponents must grant us that youth has never before flocked to our colours in such numbers, that the thought which dominates us has never before unfolded itself so richly, that courage, conviction, talent have never been so much on our side as now. Hence we shall rise confidently against the new enemy; in the end, one will be found among us who will prove that the sword of enthusiasm is just as good as the sword of genius.

Let Schelling see whether he can muster a school. Many only join him now because like him they are opposed to Hegel and accept with gratitude anybody who attacks him, be it Leo or Schubarth. But for these, I think, Schelling is far too good. Whether he will find any other adherents remains to be seen. I do not yet believe so, although some of his hearers are making progress and have already got as far as indifference.