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Reviewed by:
  • Interpreting Schelling: Critical Essays ed. by Lara Ostaric
  • Jason M. Wirth
Lara Ostaric, editor. Interpreting Schelling: Critical Essays. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014. Pp. xiv + 256. Cloth, $99.00.

As a sign that interest in Schelling is growing beyond its initial reception within more continentally inflected studies, Lara Osteric has collected eleven generally impressive essays that are organized around the chronological development of Schelling’s thinking, and that reassess his place in the history of philosophy.

Eric Watkins enters the debate around the decisive influences on Schelling’s early thinking. Conceding the well-known influences of Hölderlin, Fichte, Jacobi, and the Pantheismusstreit, his reactionary Tübingen teachers (Gottlob Christian Storr, Jacob Friedrich Abel, and Johann Friedrich Flatt), and Reinhold’s attempt to provide a firm foundation for Kantian critical philosophy, Watkins argues for the non-trivial influence of Kant himself. Schelling learned from Kant that reason is an “active faculty that searches for the totality of conditions for whatever is conditioned and can thus find an appropriate resting place only in identifying the unconditioned” (14).

Michael Forster examines Hegel’s infamous charge (lodged indirectly in the Phenomenology) that Schelling’s philosophy was dogmatic and, as such, vulnerable to skepticism. He concedes that this is generally true of Schelling’s identity period. For example, Schelling claims in Fernere Darstellungen (1802) that “intellectual intuition” is “something decided and concerning which no doubt is permitted or explanation found necessary” (33). This was not altogether true, however, of either Schelling’s earlier philosophy or Schelling’s subsequent thought.

The volume’s editor critically examines the concept of “life” in the early Schelling, tracing “matter as an actively emerging order” from Kant’s 1786 work on the foundations of natural science through Schelling’s three seminal Naturphilosophie texts. She emphasizes to great effect Schelling’s conception of the bond or copula (Band) that “couples our mind to Nature, or that hidden organ through which Nature speaks to our mind or our mind to Nature” (49). Mind and nature are unified in a “third”—the principle of life—which holds them together while simultaneously transcending them.

Paul Guyer takes up the relationship between Kant’s third Critique and Schelling’s aesthetics. Starting with the 1800 System, he argues that the positive pleasure we take in the Kantian active “free play” of our cognitive powers is supposedly transmuted into the negative pleasure (i.e. removal of displeasure) and passivity of the “infinite satisfaction” and “tranquility” (83) of Schelling’s aesthetic experience. Although Schelling would slightly modify this position two years later in his Philosophy of Art lectures, he remained fatefully “cognitivist” (90).

Daniel Breazeale provides an admirably lucid analysis of Schelling’s practice of “construction” in the identity philosophy period, arguing that the task of philosophy is “not to prove anything by means of discursive arguments, but rather to display or to exhibit directly the identity it begins by simply asserting, and the proper name for such an exhibition is construction” (95). This is Schelling’s “guideline for seeing with the mind’s eye” (96).

Manfred Frank, one of the most important and pioneering readers of Schelling for the last four decades, offers a seminal analysis of what Schelling meant by identity—“the identity of identity and non-identity” or “identity duplicated within itself” (120). After impressively explicating the issue, Frank locates parallels in Peter Geach’s theory of the relativity of identity (134), argues for its relevance to contemporary mind-body philosophy, and decisively distinguishes Schelling and Hegel on the issue of identity.

The next two essays concern Schelling’s dramatic middle period. Michelle Kosch reads the Freedom essay as a transitional interval between his early compatibilist account of free will and the incompatibilism of his late thinking. Jennifer Dobe demonstrates how the conception of freedom in this essay (as well as the 1807 Münchener Rede) reinvigorates and expands Schelling’s early aesthetic thinking, taking it beyond the identity period and more clearly emphasizing its “dynamic nature” (161). [End Page 684]

The final three chapters are more global reflections on the overall impact of Schelling’s thought. Andrew Bowie, author of one of the first important books on Schelling in English, brings...


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