. 10
( 12)


it is the pure manifestation of Geist is the movement to the point where religion realizes that it
cannot achieve what it wants to achieve, and that what is normatively in play in its development
turns out to be philosophy, not theology.
 For Hegel™s change of mind about Judaism and the effect his friend, Eduard Gans, had on this
change of heart, see my discussion in Pinkard, Hegel: A Biography.
° Part III The revolution completed? Hegel
is no longer an abstract moment of itself but rather manifests itself.”·
This is because “the principle, through which substance is spirit, is, as
the in¬nite form existing for itself, that which is self-determining, is purely
and simply manifestation.”
In Hegel™s rather radical reinterpretation of Christianity as the ¬nal,
“absolute” religion, God, the divine, has completely revealed himself to
us through Jesus. Jesus functions as an individual person who resolves
the “Kantian paradox” in his own individuality as instituting “ in the
German sense of “urheben” “ the “law” to which we are then subject;
and that law, of course, just is the law of freedom itself, the command
from the divine Jesus that we assume the destiny to be free.µ° Once we
have, however, internalized the law of freedom imposed on us by that
divine “master,” we are then “called on” to be free, to assume responsi-
bility for our thoughts and actions, to become the authors of the law to
which we are subjected. On Hegel™s view, this original institution of the
law of freedom is exactly what the divine nature really is “ from which
it follows that there is no “beyond,” nothing ineffable or unconceptu-
alizable in God™s presence. As Hegel says over and over again, because
of Christianity, we have been put in the position of legitimately claim-
ing to be able to know God fully and completely.µ± However, that leads
to a transformation in Christian religion itself from being a “cult” to
·  Ibid.
Hegel, Enzyklop¨ die, §µ.
 Kant™s original version of the paradox invokes the notion of our being the Urheber of the law,
that is, the “author” or the “instituter” of the law. Kant says that the agent is “¬rst of all subject
to the law (of which it can regard itself as instituter),” where the last phrase translates “davon
er sich selbst als Urheber betrachten kann.” In German philosophy, God is also said to be the
“creator” of the world, where the term “Urheber” is the term used. Hegel is no doubt playing on
both these senses in his discussion of Christianity.
µ° This is hard to make out in Hegel™s philosophy. Sometimes he talks as if the appearance of
Christianity is just a fact in history that is not nor could have been developed out of what
preceded it, and the appearance of a real person, Jesus, who embodies the law of freedom in
himself in an “exemplary” fashion (analogous to the way in which Kant thought works of art
were “exemplary”), is the determining element in the modern conception of freedom. On the
whole, though, Hegel sticks with his original conceptions of there being a type of conceptual
necessity behind the appearance of just that type of revelation provided by Jesus. Given the
development of religion in Greek and Roman life (and also in Jewish life, as Hegel conceded
late in his career), the appearance of a divine person commanding us to be free and thereby
revealing to us for the ¬rst time the true nature of Geist was not just a fact but something more
like a conceptual necessity. On Hegel™s view, the religious solution to the “Kantian paradox” had
to come in the form of a human being divinely commanding us to be subject only to those laws of
which we could regard ourselves as the authors.
µ± Hegel reiterates this point over and over again in his philosophy, intending it as an antidote to
both Kantian inspired and Romantic conceptions of the unknowability of God; he especially
takes umbrage with the notion that we must simply af¬rm as unfathomable what God is and
does and what therefore is in play in the historical development of the human world, that all of
this is and must remain a total mystery to us and must be accepted as such.
Nature and spirit: Hegel™s system
a system of theological conceptions; the notion that we can fully know
God in religious practice demands of itself that it thereby make good
on the various inconsistencies in assertions about God™s nature, that it
become more re¬‚ective, that it become, in short, philosophical. Thus,
“we” (as Christian Europeans) pass from the religion of “manifestation”
to philosophical re¬‚ection “ which, if Hegel is correct, means passing to
a point where we no longer entertain the notion that behind the world is
something else ineffable, mysterious, unknowable but all powerful. The
divine is free, self-determining Geist.
Leaving it at that, of course, begs the questions that automatically
and necessarily arise. Did Hegel mean that God is no more than human
Geist? Or did he mean that human “mindedness” is a participation in
some other divine life that was above and beyond the human? Was
Hegel, as many of his post-Kantian predecessors had done, committing
himself to some form of Kantianized Spinozism, claiming to grasp
freedom and nature as modes or emanations from some common,
although indeterminate, substrate? Besides those interpretive issues,
there also were questions about Hegel™s self-proclaimed Christianity
that were raised in his own lifetime (and still are). In particular, did Hegel
mean that the Christian God really is, on the terms Christianity set for
itself, fully knowable? Traditionally, the Christian God is seen as both
transcendent and immanent, yet Hegel seemed to be denying any kind
of transcendence (at least in any non-trivial sense) to God. (Certainly
the Christian God was not, for Hegel, an unknowable mystery; he
asserted the exact opposite, that God had been fully revealed.) Hegel
emphatically and unambiguously declared himself over and over to be
a Christian philosopher and to assert that the content of his philosophy
was identical with the teachings of Christian religion. Yet, almost as if
secretly to tip his hand, he concluded his Encyclopedia with a quotation
(in Greek) from Aristotle™s Metaphysics on the relation between thought
and divinity, hardly an orthodox Christian notion. In closing with
Aristotle™s views on the relation between philosophical contemplation
and divinity, Hegel was certainly inviting his readers to see that as an
approval of Aristotle™s view. It almost seems as if Hegel was ending his
system with a deliberately ambiguous statement.
However one answers those questions, it is nonetheless clear that
on Hegel™s view religion is not the most adequate mode for presenting
or grasping what is divine: philosophy is. But what did that mean vis-
a-vis traditional Christianity and its claim to preeminence in the life
of the nation? That Hegel™s Christianity might not be fully Christian
° Part III The revolution completed? Hegel
( just as Kant™s moral religion was suspected in its time of not really
being Christian) occurred to more than one authority at the time, and
Hegel always sought to defend himself against such attacks during his
lifetime. (Being labeled an atheist would in effect have cost him his job
not only in Berlin but throughout Germany.) Yet the implications of his
thought drove many of his students to the conclusion that the truth of
religion really was philosophy, that what religion tries to bring about is
only genuinely accomplished in philosophy; shortly after his death, many
of his students and latecomers to his thought concluded that he had im-
plicitly argued for overcoming religion through philosophical criticism.
After all, even on Hegel™s view, there was still a need for art; having real-
ized the philosophical, critical truth that art could not fully give us what
we needed (what it meant to be a self-determining being), we could still
appreciate music and painting.µ However, if we realized that religion,
too, could not fully give us what we needed, why then did we still need
to go to devotional service? Hegel™s own answer to that was not entirely
reassuring: “But religion is the truth for all people, faith rests on the wit-
ness of spirit, which as witnessing is the spirit in people,”µ and “Religion
is for everyone. It is not philosophy, which is not for everyone. Religion
is the manner or mode by which all human beings become conscious
of truth for themselves.”µ Thus, on Hegel™s stated view, religion was
not simply second-best, nor was it restricted to being only a “religion of
morality,” as Kant had insisted. However, for many people the question
remained: why not?
Not everyone took Hegel™s religious thought in that direction. Some
of his other students, including the legendarily boring G. A. Gabler,
Hegel™s successor in Berlin, argued that he had really shown that philos-
ophy replicates the truths of orthodox German Protestantism in a more
academic format. Not everyone was convinced; even his own wife was
shocked by what she read when his lectures on the philosophy of religion
were published after his death, and the ensuing ¬restorm in Prussia over
his religious views put post-Kantianism on edge and sent people off in
new directions.
µ In some ways, Hegel™s thoughts on art ended up unwittingly to presage a later nineteenth-century
development in the appropriation of art, namely, the view that art (or “culture”) could in fact be
a substitute religion, the manner in which “all people” could appropriate the truths that would
otherwise be restricted to the philosophical elite.
µ Enzyklop¨ die, §µ·.
µ G. W. F. Hegel, Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion (ed. Peter Hodgson; trans. R. F. Brown, P. C.
Hodgson, and J. M. Stewart) (Berkeley: University of California Press, ±), ©, p. ±°; Vorlesungen
uber die Philosophie der Religion (ed. Walter Jaeschke) (Hamburg: Felix Meiner, ±), ©, p. .
° ©

The revolution in question
Introduction: exhaustion and resignation, ±°“±µµ

Hegel died suddenly and unexpectedly on November ±, ±± in the
midst of an outbreak of cholera in Berlin. (Although Hegel™s death was
attributed to cholera at the time, it was almost certainly from other
causes.± ) The intellectual community in Berlin was stunned; even his de-
tractors admitted that one of the leading intellectual lights had vanished.
His friends and students had, within the month, formed an associa-
tion dedicated to bringing out his complete works, including his famous
lecture series on philosophy of religion, philosophy of art, philosophy
of history, and the history of philosophy, along with annotations of his
Encyclopedia of the Philosophical Sciences gathered from Hegel™s own lecture
manuscripts and notes taken by students. Hegel left behind a dedicated
cadre of students not only in Germany but also in England, France,
Russia, Italy, and elsewhere. Four months later, March , ±, Goethe
died. Symbolically, at least, an era of German thought ended.
Although neither Hegel™s nor Goethe™s deaths were any way decisive
for what came later, the timing of their deaths in fact coincided with a
shift taking place in Germany that was crucial for the development of
post-Kantian philosophy through the ±°s until the end of the ±µ°s.
After Napoleon™s defeat at Leipzig in ±± and his abdication in ±±,
the reigning powers in Germany attempted to reestablish much of the
pre-Napoleonic order. However, the ±±µ Congress of Vienna, which
met to work out the details of the post-Napoleonic order (but which had
to contend with Napoleon™s escape and astonishing comeback, only to
be reassured by his defeat at Waterloo the same year) refused to allow
the map of Germany to be redrawn in its pre-Napoleonic status. Too
many kingdoms had pro¬ted too much for the ruling princes to allow
themselves to be deprived of all the land and riches that Napoleonically
redrawn Germany had given them. For example, Prussia, which early in

± See Pinkard, Hegel: A Biography.

the Napoleonic adventures had looked like it might actually vanish from
the scene, emerged stronger and larger than ever; W¨ rttemberg and
Bavaria became kingdoms, also greatly expanded in their size. This, of
course, emboldened the most reactionary forces in Germany to attempt
to bring back a world that the Revolution and Napoleon had forever
destroyed; and, to counter them, the forces of reform that had been set
loose during the Napoleonic upheaval in Germany did not suddenly
cease and desist. However, some very clever maneuvering by some of
the more reactionary forces in the German confederation (the cleverest
of all being Metternich of Austria) led many of the German princes to
fear the growth of “demagogues” (subversives) in Germany who were
supposedly plotting to restage the French Revolution in Germany (and
who were also rumored to be planning various regicides, a charge always
calculated to bring fear into the heart of any monarch). The fear of a
secret alliance of German Jacobins, poised to bring the Revolution back
to life and home to Germany, led to the infamous “Karlsbad decrees”
of ±± that mandated various forms of repression (censorship, ¬ring
of university professors who were “demagogues,” and requirements for
states in the confederation to apply force to other states that refused to
comply with the repressive measures) in an effort to stop the “Jacobins”
in their tracks. The result was a period of apparent calm in the ±°s
that simply covered over the immense turmoil that was actually at work
in German society.
In ±°, everything boiled over. There was a new revolution in France
that deposed the restoration regime of Charles X in favor of a constitu-
tional monarchy, and the Duc D™Orl´ ans, the son of a Bourbon who had
in fact voted in favor of the beheading of Louis XVI, stepped in to as-
sume the role of a “bourgeois king” as his cousin, Charles X, was forced
to ¬‚ee into permanent exile in England. Shortly after the news of the
events in France reached Germany, there were outbreaks of violence in
Germany. Likewise, there was violence in Italy, the Belgians proclaimed
their independence from the Dutch, and the Diet of Poland proclaimed
Poland™s independence from Russia. For many young Germans during
this period, it seemed ¬nally as if their time had come; the generation
before their own had lived through the French Revolution, only to see
(from a reformist point of view) its disappointing results, and now it
seemed as if a new and possibly more fruitful revolutionary epoch was
dawning again (and, again, being led by the French). There was even a
wide current of thought that held that the ±° events were following a
“law” of history which the English had ¬rst displayed. In England, the
° Part IV The revolution in question
“glorious revolution” of ± had required forty years from the end of the
monarchy to the limited monarchy represented by William of Orange;
likewise, the French Revolution of ±· seemed (forty years later) to be
following the same historical line of development. A “law” seemed to be
at work: a modern country begins with violence leading to the execution
of the king, which is then followed by anarchy and civil war, which in
turn leads to a dictatorship, but which, after a change of monarchical
dynasties is brought about, is ¬nally brought to its logical end in a regime
of constitutional monarchy and representative government.
Of course, things are never that simple, and those who were look-
ing for something similar to happen in Germany were quickly disap-
pointed. The reigning powers proved themselves perfectly capable of
putting down the small-scale insurrections they faced, and, within just a
few years, whatever threat of revolution there had seemed to be seemed
to have faded. The discontent did not, however, fade away, and the ±°s
became even more of a cauldron in Germany than the ±°s (with all its
surface sleepiness) had been.
Several things helped to make the situation in Germany even more
volatile during this period. The industrialization that had begun in the
±°s in Germany began to rapidly build momentum in the ±°s and
then took off in the ±°s. Railroads began arriving in Germany in the
±°s, and steam engines, already in use by ±± in Prussia, became much
more common. In ±, the Zollverein, a kind of free-trade agreement
among German states was established, which helped to further the cause
of capital formation and industrialization. Along with this came the social
problems associated with industrialization, particularly the new problems
of industrial labor and what came to be known simply as the “social ques-
tion.” Germany, which missed the ¬rst of the great modern revolutions
(the political revolutions of the late eighteenth century spearheaded by
the United States and France), found itself caught up in the second of
the great modern revolutions (the Industrial Revolution) while its gov-
ernments were still trying to hold onto large chunks of its political past.
The battle over Hegel™s legacy, indeed over the whole post-Kantian
inheritance, took place against this backdrop. Within the small world
of the university where it had the most impact, it occurred against the
background of the university™s own “social question”: there were simply
not enough jobs for all the educated young men who were emerging from
it. This had been the case for the revolutionary generation (Hegel™s own),
but the recognition on the part of the German princes (and particularly
those in Prussia) that they needed the expertise that the modern university
created in order to run their states had led to an expansion in academic
positions. By the time of Hegel™s and Goethe™s deaths, that had effectively
ceased to be the case, and the younger generation, looking at the incipient
revolutions of ±°, only began to feel their resentments building as they
faced a future with no employment opportunities commensurate with
their educational attainments.
The Prussian government and court had never been entirely com-
fortable with Hegel, always suspecting him of perhaps harboring a bit
too much sympathy for the Revolution. (Their suspicions were, in fact,
warranted even more than they possibly suspected.) However, even dur-
ing Hegel™s lifetime and his rather unprecedented academic celebrity,
Hegelianism was by no means the only show in town; there were plenty
of anti-Hegelians lecturing in the philosophical faculty at the same time,
even if Hegel himself did completely dominate the scene. Hegel™s death
¬nally gave the authorities the chance they needed: as his successor they
picked Georg Andreas Gabler, one of Hegel™s oldest students (having
studied with him in Jena), and of whom it could be charitably said that
his philosophical imagination was not quite up to that of Hegel™s own.
One of the very last people to speak with Hegel before his death was a
young, talented seminarian from T¨ bingen, David Friedrich Strauss. He
had introduced himself to Hegel, and the two exchanged gossip about
personalities back in Hegel™s homeland. In ±µ, Strauss himself pub-
lished what turned out to be one of the great post-Hegelian bombshells:
The Life of Jesus. In it, Strauss attempted to deal with Jesus as a histor-
ical personage, attempting to show how much of what was said about
Jesus was only mythology. Although Strauss did not attack supernatural
teachings about Jesus in his book, his deft synthesis of biblical philol-
ogy, his keen historical sense, and his Hegelian framework shook the
German intellectual establishment, and Strauss became one of the most
controversial ¬gures of the period. What many conservatives had always
suspected “ that post-Kantian philosophy in general and Hegel™s in par-
ticular were at odds with Christian teaching and with the authority of
the Christian Church in Germany (and maybe in Europe as a whole) “
seemed to have been dangerously con¬rmed by Strauss™s book.
On the religious issue, Hegel™s own school split into different fac-
tions having to do with how one drew the implications for religion from
Hegel™s works. Making a joke that later turned out to be deadly serious,

 See Volker Gerhardt, Reinhard Mehring, and Jana Rindert, Berliner Geist: Eine Geschichte der Berliner
Universit¨ tsphilosophie (Berlin: Akademie, ±).
 One of the better and more revealing accounts of the relation between religion and politics in
this period is Warren Breckman, Marx, the Young Hegelians, and the Origins of Radical Social Theory:
Dethroning the Self (Cambridge University Press, ±).
±° Part IV The revolution in question
Strauss quipped that Hegel™s school had split into the “right” and the
“left” Hegelians. (The analogy was, as is well known, drawn on the seat-
ing arrangement of the assembly in the French Revolution.) The right
Hegelians insisted on the orthodoxy of Hegel™s Christianity, whereas the
left Hegelians challenged it. Actually, as John Toews has shown, this is
misleading, and, to the extent that one wants to keep Strauss™s joke alive,
one should instead speak of “old left,” “new left,” “centrist,” and “right”
Hegelianism. From an “old left” that focused on the critical nature of
Hegel™s thought vis-` -vis the emerging reaction in the ±°s “ led by
the very talented jurist“philosopher, Eduard Gans, whose interpretation
of Hegel stressed the elements of recognition and work in the historical
formation of our norms and the more republican, modernist elements
of Hegel™s political thought “ it grew into a “new left” that drew some
decidedly non-religious consequences from Hegel™s philosophy. In turn,
both the old and new left were challenged by the “old right” which
continued to interpret Hegel™s views in terms of the categories of or-
thodox Protestant Christianity and to see the “world spirit” as having
basically accomplished all it needed to do. The differences between all
the schools, however, gradually became politically charged as the “new
left” Hegelian school took up positions altogether outside of the univer-
sity environment; many simply never acquired any academic position at
all, and others were hounded out.
In the hothouse atmosphere of the ±°s and ±°s, these “new left”
elements progressively became more radical “ most famously, in the case
of Karl Marx. Marx™s own path to radical thought was ¬rst cleared by
Ludwig Feuerbach, a former student of Hegel™s, who in ±± published
The Essence of Christianity, the ¬rst clearly non-theistic post-Hegelian work
to become widely known. On its publication, the book was immediately
a sensation. While no short summary does it justice, its central thesis
was that Hegel™s own philosophy is best understood if it is transformed
from the “idealistic” form in which Hegel worked it out into a more
“empirical” form. (Feuerbach famously called this the inversion of subject
and object.) In many ways, Feuerbach took the ¬rst steps in converting
Hegel™s social conception of rationality into a more sociological concep-
tion. Feuerbach marks the shift from Gans™s “old-left” idealist position
to the characteristic “new-left” materialist position in post-Hegelianism.
What in Hegel had been an issue of legislation of and subjection to
 See John Edward Toews, “Transformations of Hegelianism: ±°µ“±,” in Frederick C. Beiser,
The Cambridge Companion to Hegel (Cambridge University Press, ±), pp. ·“±; and Hegelianism:
The Path Toward Dialectical Humanism, ±°µ“±± (Cambridge University Press, ±°).
norms, became reconceived as a matter of social fact and social forces.
Hegel™s conception of Geist was thus transformed into something more
like empirical social theory with a supposedly “emancipatory potential”
to itself, a way of demystifying ourselves about what we were really trying
to achieve. Even more contentiously, Feuerbach interpreted God to be
only a human projection, a ¬ction “we” inserted into reality to make up
for the de¬ciencies in the existing world; it took no great powers of deduc-
tion to conclude that, if those de¬ciencies were abolished, there would
therefore be no need to project God into the world. The energies that
had been put into sustaining religion could thus be redirected to their
real source (humanity itself ), and the result would be a reappropriation of
human powers and freedom, a form of self-determination replacing the
determination by a merely projected “other” (God). Feuerbach™s in¬‚u-
ence was wide: for example, Richard Wagner dedicated his ± piece,
The Art-Work of the Future, to Feuerbach; Feuerbach™s book was translated
into English in ±µ by the novelist Mary Ann Evans “ better known by
her pen-name, George Eliot “ who only a few years before (±) had
already translated Strauss™s Life of Jesus.
Feuerbach™s decisive move was taken up and furthered by Karl Marx
only a few years later. In a piece published in ±, Marx critiqued
Hegel™s political philosophy as failing to recognize the practical realities
it claimed to have comprehended. In particular, Hegel™s conception of
there being a “universal class” of civil servants, who would be trained to
put the interests of the “state” (the “universal,” the political whole) ahead
of their own interests, only showed how Hegel™s “idealist” social theory
ignored the social realities of human action. Taking Gans™s emphasis on
work and recognition and Feuerbach™s transformation of Hegelianism
into emancipatory empirical social theory one step further, the young
Marx in ± worked out the outlines of a new, materialist post-Hegelian
theory. What actually drives people to action and thought is not primar-
ily the need to come to a full self-consciousness about themselves, but
the material conditions of their productive capacities, in particular, who
owns what and who sets the terms under which others can exercise the
necessary tools for productive activity. By the material conditions of life,
Marx meant both the organic demands for the continuation of life and
the factual social norms organizing labor and distributing which set the
terms in which people interact with each other. (“Material conditions”
was in some ways for Marx a stand-in for “factual conditions.”) As Marx
elaborated his new view, he stressed in particular the facts about who
owns what in the organization of the productive forces in society and
± Part IV The revolution in question
eventually came to the view that the class that owns the basic means of
production (the factual means by which any “production,” whether it be
strictly economic or even intellectual) sets the terms by which all other
elements of society can participate in society™s productive activities. In
making that move, Marx thereby transformed Hegel™s theory of recogni-
tion and history into what he deemed to be an empirical, developmental
theory of the gradual actualization of natural human powers that were
nonetheless also the achievements of labor and struggle. As he worked
out these ideas in the context of trying to establish a revolutionary social-
ist movement not only in Europe but in the whole world, Marx came to
argue that human consciousness itself is completely socially mediated by
these material facts having to do with the “forces of production” (what
productive potential is available in a particular economic and social or-
der) and the “relations of production” (who owns what). Picking up on
the widely shared notion in the ±°s that there is a “law” of history
that showed how one goes from revolution to war to dictatorship to con-
stitutional monarchy, Marx argued that there was indeed such a “law”
but that it was not what the “liberals” had thought; instead, revolutions
themselves happen when the forces of production and the relations of
production come into irreparable con¬‚ict with each other, and the in-
terests of the new class that has been produced by this con¬‚ict leads it
to revolt against the prevailing order and establish a new social order
in its own interest. Famously, Marx argued that, in the modern capital-
ist world, this class was the proletariat (a term coming into use in the
±°s to designate the often impoverished industrial workers who make
up the “social question”), whose own personal interests in abolishing
the exploitation inherent in capitalism make them into the true “uni-
versal class,” one destined to emancipate humanity from the degrading
and alienating systems of exploitation that Marx argued constituted the
modern world.
While the “left” Hegelians were stewing outside the university, with
many of them, such as the great poet, Heinrich Heine, emigrating
to France and living forever the life of the exile, there was consider-
able movement from the non-Hegelian conservative wings of German
thought. In Hegel™s own time, K. L. Haller had outlined a manifesto
for the most reactionary elements in German life with his ±± book,
The Restoration of Political Science. (Hegel mercilessly attacked it in his ±°
Philosophy of Right.) On Haller™s account, nature shows us not equality (as
modern state-of-nature contractarian philosophy said it did) but the in-
equality of the strong over the weak, particularly in the family where the
father™s natural superiority translates into patriarchal authority. Princes
are, in turn, like fathers in a family: they are destined to rule over
those beneath them and to strike up compacts with other princes (who
rule over those beneath them). The result was a justi¬cation (if it can be
digni¬ed with that word) of the old society of orders, of there being a
balance of inherited privileges between nobles and prince (but with the
other elements of the old society of orders, such as the inherited privi-
leges of guilds and the like, vanishing or being downgraded). On Haller™s
account, the prince™s word is authoritative, and he can be bound by noth-
ing but his own word; and the prince need only deal with his peers. It
would be hard to imagine a more direct attack on the conception of the
rule of law.
Haller™s own mode of stupefyingly reactionary political thought, pop-
ular as it initially was in the Prussian court, was nonetheless not the right
trope for the times. In the ±°s, with the growing importance of eco-
nomic development and the necessity to have a well-trained set of civil
servants to manage the state™s increasing encroachment in daily life in
Germany, a more modern version of reactionary thought was called for,
and, as if the times summoned him up, Friedrich Julius Stahl rose to the
occasion. A convert at age seventeen from Judaism to Protestantism (his
grandfather had been the elder of the Jewish community of Munich),
Stahl (born Julius Joelson) was a fervent anti-Hegelian even as he drew
on Hegel™s theories. After his conversion, he taught law in Munich where
he came under the in¬‚uence of Schelling, who had grown increasingly
religious and conservative. The new king of Prussia called him to Berlin
in ±° (Schelling came a year later) as one of his academic bulwarks
against what was seen as the left Hegelians™ growing radicalism and hos-
tility to religion. Stahl™s work formed a kind of Protestant variation on
traditional Catholic conservative thought, which held religion and poli-
tics to be inseparable and therefore to be based on a form of Christian
orthodoxy. However, Stahl incorporated many modernist notions into
his theory of princely, Christian power, and he displayed a keen sense
of the historicity of all political institutions while at the same time de-
fending a conservative, monarchical, Christian conception of statehood.
Unlike the earlier generations of conservative Christian thinkers, Stahl
argued for a constitutional ordering of (monarchical, Christian) society.
(Stahl also turned out to be a successful conservative politician in various
governments.) If nothing else, Stahl helped to establish the conservative
position that the basic debate in the ±°s was between the friends and
foes of religion in the political order.
± Part IV The revolution in question
Stahl™s voice was joined by other elements of the historical profession
who were both conservative and ¬ercely anti-Hegelian. Chief among
these was the great historian, Leopold von Ranke, who had started
teaching at Berlin during the ±°s while Hegel was still alive. Ranke
is best remembered nowadays for his pioneering work in the practice
of history, particularly in the way he transformed what had been philo-
logical practice into a painstaking historical methodology of consulting
the archives. His statement in the preface to his ¬rst book of the goals
of writing history “ to show things as they really were, wie sie eigentlich
gewesen “ has become a standard for historians ever since, even a bit of a
clich´ , the injunction to let the facts speak for themselves and to eschew
all theorizing in history (especially Hegelian theorizing about the “mean-
ing” of events). However, he was far from being a positivist historian; he
thought that there was a divine presence in history, but, unlike any of the
Hegelians, he did not think that the way to deciphering that presence
was re¬‚ection on the universal meaning of the events. In Ranke™s eyes, all
Hegelians imposed a pattern on history instead of letting the facts speak
for themselves. Like many of that generation, he seems to have taken
comparative anatomy as his paradigm; the primary objects of history
were states, and each state was as unique as Cuvier thought species of
organisms were unique. It was simply the way it was, and one could only
understand it by attending to its sheer particularity and speci¬city. Each
state, he would say, is immediate to God. Ranke™s insistence that he was
only responding to the “facts” instead of imposing any kind of theory on
them, and his equally unyielding conservatism in political and cultural
matters, were music to the conservative establishment™s ears, since they
also wanted to believe that it was just the root facts of life that gave them
the authority they claimed, not any kind of higher scale “theory” that
the Hegelians or Kantians might dispute. Ranke™s greatness as a histo-
rian is hardly disputable; that greatness also helped to cement a kind of
academic counterweight to the in¬‚uence of the philosophical Hegelians
and helped to lift history up into a more prestigious realm of cultural
authority than had previously been occupied in Germany by philosophy
since Kant™s time.
This all came to a head in ±, when once again, a revolution in
France seemed to signal the beginning of revolution in Europe. Facing in-
creasingly bleak economic prospects and growing corruption on the part
of the royal court, the French revolted against King Louis Philippe (who
only a few years before had eclipsed and sent into exile Charles X) and
established the second French republic. Prior to the French insurrection,
there had already been violence in January, ± in Italy; by February, it
had spread to France, where it was successful; and, by end of February
and beginning of March, there were insurrections and demonstrations
across Germany. Things heated up quickly in Germany, and after the
army had opened ¬re on demonstrators in Prussia, there was widespread
revolt; the king backed down, and, by March, ±, agreement had been
reached on the establishment of a German parliament in Frankfurt, for
which elections were held in May. At this point, both revolutionaries
and reformers were beginning to think (or had already come to the con-
clusion) that the revolution in Germany was unstoppable. However, in
an astonishing turn of events, the parliament proved ineffective, and by
±, the forces of reaction in both Prussia and Austria had managed to
reinstate themselves. Almost as if he was aiming to provide Marx with
the material necessary for one of his most famous aphorisms “ “Hegel
remarks somewhere that all great world-historic facts and personages
appear, so to speak, twice. He forgot to add: the ¬rst time as tragedy, the
second time as farce.”µ “ Louis Napoleon in ±µ± managed to convert a
staggering victory at the polls in ± for the presidency of the Second
Republic into a coup d™´tat that made him at ¬rst simply dictator of France
and then shortly thereafter Emperor. The king of Prussia took this as a
sign, just as the ± revolutionaries had taken the French revolt as a
sign, and, a few weeks after Louis Napoleon™s coup, he abolished all the
liberal gains that had been made in ±.
There are many (and contested) accounts of the failure of the ±
revolution in Germany that we need not go into here. However, one of the
elements in the failure was the disconnection between politics and life;
besides disagreeing among themselves about fundamental issues, many
of the Frankfurt parliamentarians apparently thought that establishing
the right political institutions (voting procedures, freedom of the press,
and so on) would be enough on its own to guarantee the success of their
program. They seemed to have forgotten Hegel™s (and also Kant™s) insis-
tence on the practice of politics, on the way in which that practice has to be
anchored in a form of Sittlichkeit, ethical life, that is not itself “political” all
the way down. There were also other problems, such as the fact that the
Frankfurt parliament did not represent a state, and its executive therefore
had to rely for all practical purposes on the goodwill of the member
states for enforcement of its edicts; and the fact that the diversity of
interests represented in the parliament “ something that might otherwise
have been a good thing “ in that case only managed to weaken the revo-
lutionaries when the reaction set in, as the parliamentarians discovered
µ Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon, in Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Selected
Works in Two Volumes (Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House, ±), p. ·.
± Part IV The revolution in question
that their unity in the face of resisting the tyranny of the royal courts
had only covered up the real differences and tensions among them that
had always been there and which now emerged in full force under the
pressure of the conservative counter-attack. Exacerbating matters was
the fact that the forces of reaction had managed to keep their armies
intact, which gave them all the force needed when they realized a year
later they could again seize full power; and, compounding all of this was
the fact that nobody had any clear idea of what a “united” Germany
at that time would be “ whether, for example, it would include Austria
(the Grossdeutschland model) or some Prussian dominated German state
excluding Austria (the Kleindeutschland model).
The restoration of the ±µ°s itself almost seemed determined not to
repeat its mistakes of the past; economic development became the watch-
word, and the rhetoric of property and wealth began rapidly to replace
the Kantian/post-Kantian rhetoric of freedom and self-determination.
The bureaucracy was strengthened, technical and (natural) scienti¬c ed-
ucation was stressed, more positivist and philological methods in what
we now call the humanities began their rise, and even the feelings of
incipient nationalism were incorporated into the mixture.
Whatever the cause of the failure of ± (where “failure” is taken
in terms of the aspirations of the parliamentarians and revolutionaries,
not in terms of the aspirations of the reactionaries), it culminated in a
feeling that perhaps post-Kantian philosophy had exhausted itself and
that its potential had fully played itself out. Although in the ±°s the
watchword was “Young Germany” (just as there was “Young Italy,” and
so on) such that “youth,” with all its associations of dynamism, energy,
and change, was the leading metaphor, by ±µ° the feeling had set in
that “Germany” was a form of life grown old. If anything, not “youth”
but disillusionment and resignation became the emotional background
against which much of philosophy and intellectual life in general began to
be cast. “Materialism,” not “idealism” was the new motto. The Russian
author, Ivan Turgenev “ who was a student in Berlin in the ±°s “ has
one of the characters in his story, “Fathers and Sons,” exclaim: “Yes,
there used to be Hegelians and now there are nihilists. We shall see how
you will manage to exist in the empty airless void; and now ring, please,
brother Nikolai, it™s time for me to drink my cocoa.”
 The counterbalance to this sense of exhaustion was embodied by Marx and other activists for
various causes, who put their faith in “history” as a progressive force that could not be stopped
and who thus read all the expressions of exhaustion as being only the prelude to a better day “ in
Marx™s case, as the harbinger of the end of “bourgeois” society and the beginning of socialism.
° ±

Schelling™s attempt at restoration: idealism under review

In one of the most celebrated comebacks in philosophical history,
Schelling was called to Berlin in ±± to assume a distinguished chair
in the university and in effect to replace Hegel. Although Hegel had
been dead for ten years, nobody of similar stature had emerged to take
his place, and the breakup of the Hegelian school, along with the increas-
ingly radical direction in which parts of it were headed, had alarmed the
crown prince of Prussia during the ±°s (who discovered that, even
though he was the king-to-be, his efforts to turn the tide were con-
tinually thwarted). However, after he ¬nally ascended to the throne in
±±, the new king (Friedrich Wilhelm IV) wasted no time in recruit-
ing Schelling. Alarmed by what he saw as anti-Christian, republican,
and revolutionary movements growing in Berlin, and being himself a
great partisan of Romantic philosophy (which since the Congress of
Vienna had departed from its origins and assumed an increasingly apolo-
getic role for the conservative reaction in Germany), the king wished to
summon to Berlin someone with both the intellectual pro¬le and the
political sensibility to be able to mount a successful counter-offensive
against the Hegelian school. Famously, the minister encharged with
recruiting Schelling quoted the king as hoping that Schelling™s appoint-
ment would stamp out the “dragon-seed of Hegelian pantheism” in
In ±±, when he ¬nally came to Berlin to deliver his inaugural lecture,
Schelling was the most famous philosopher in Germany, perhaps in
all Europe, even though he had not published a philosophical work
± See “Aus Bunsens Berufungsschreiben an Schelling,” in Schelling, Philosophie der Offenbarung:
±± / (ed. Manfred Frank) (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, ±··), p. . Schelling did not
formally take over Hegel™s old chair (which was being occupied by the stupefyingly mediocre
Hegelian, Georg Andreas Gabler), but he was given a wholly new position, earning quite a bit
more than other professors (µ,°°° thalers per year against the professorial average of ±,°), and
given an amount of academic freedom that other professors at the time could only dream about.

± Part IV The revolution in question
since ±°. However, word had been getting out over the years “ partly
through the circulation of student lecture notes “ that Schelling had
changed his mind about some of his earlier positions, and the belief in
the importance of Schelling™s early work had never faded.
Almost ten years to the day after Hegel™s death, Schelling delivered
his inaugural address in Berlin to an anxious and full audience. Among
the people coming to hear him were the young Friedrich Engels, Søren
Kierkegaard, and Mikhail Bakunin; other attendees at the full set of lec-
tures included Friedrich von Savigny, Jakob Burckhardt, Henrik Steffens,
Friedrich Trendelenburg, Leopold von Ranke, and scores of highly
placed governmental, court, and military personages. The hopes pinned
on Schelling were absurdly high “ Schelling was, in effect, expected to set
all things aright, to effect a change of course in events all through a series
of philosophy lectures. (For example, besides expressing the desire that
he stamp out “the dragon-seed of Hegelian pantheism,” Schelling™s ap-
pointment letter also expressed the king™s hope that his teachings would
also put an end to the “dissolution of domestic discipline” which the
king apparently thought was disturbingly rampant in Germany. ) It was
a measure of just how heated things had become in Berlin that anybody
at all could have expected a mere professor of philosophy to accomplish,
simply through a series of lectures, anything approaching that. Indeed,
given those kinds of expectations, Schelling was bound to fail. Still, the
king and his advisors were both surprised and disturbed when they saw
that the initial heated enthusiasm and interest attending Schelling™s ap-
pearance in Berlin not only waned, but started decreasing to the point
where it became clear that he would soon be lecturing to empty halls
if he continued to lecture at all. Schelling, who by the terms of
his appointment was under no duty to give lectures at all, simply ceased
lecturing in order, as he put it, to have more time to pursue his scholarly
projects and writing.
 Schelling did publish a short pamphlet in ±± in which he severely criticized Jacobi, but that
hardly counts as a major philosophical work.
 The only other parallel with Schelling™s career was Ludwig Wittgenstein™s in the twentieth century:
like Wittgenstein, Schelling had become famous quite young for some path-breaking philosoph-
ical works, which, in turn, had inspired a whole generation to work out the program sketched
out in his youth, and had then gradually changed his mind but refused to publish the results,
contenting himself instead with working out his thoughts in lecture format and unpublished
manuscripts, only to have those manuscripts published after his death. However, that parallelism
of careers fully exhausts the range of similarities between Wittgenstein and Schelling.
 See “Aus Bunsens Berufungsschreiben an Schelling,” in Schelling, Philosophie der Offenbarung,
p. .
Schelling™s attempt at restoration

¬¬©®§ ™  ¤¬°® ¦ ±°:  ©¤¤¬ °©¤
Certainly, by the time Schelling reached Berlin in ±±, he had long since
abandoned the “identity-philosophy” that had made him famous in his
youth. He had already begun to move away from the identity-philosophy
by the early ±°°s as his Naturphilosophie more and more took on the role
of the foundational part of his system. In his essay on human freedom
in ±°, he decisively turned against his youthful system, intimating
that the Kantian“Fichtean language of “subjective” and “objective” was
itself too limiting to capture what was actually at stake in any discussion
of the nature of human freedom. After ±°, he worked intently on
an alternative system of philosophy that would unite philosophy and
a kind of narrative mythology into an account that would make good
on the kinds of metaphorical claims Schelling had made in the ±°
essay. By ±, however, he had ceased to see that approach as fruitful,
and he began working out a new approach that repudiated entirely the
“mythological” and “narrative” elements of his interim “system.”µ
That middle period of development is generally known by the title
that Schelling bestowed on some (but not all) of a series of lectures given
during that period, “The Ages of the World” (Die Weltalter). As a work
in progress, it de¬es any de¬nitive summary of itself, since the various
versions of it change, and Schelling himself never gave that form of his sys-
tem any de¬nitive statement. It was also during this period that Schelling
more clearly came to the conclusion that the whole development of post-
Kantian thought (including his own) in crucial ways had been a mistake.
To Schelling, that did not imply that philosophy should therefore stage
some kind of simple return to orthodox Kantianism, but rather that a
thorough rethinking of Kantianism was demanded, which would both
circumvent the post-Kantian movement altogether and return again to
the original issue that had motivated the post-Kantian movement in the
¬rst place: given the problems in Kant™s own views, what would it take
to “complete” the Kantian philosophy in spirit, if not in letter?
Three related issues seemed to be driving Schelling to attempt a new
beginning for his philosophy. First, there was the problem of the “Third
Antinomy,” the apparent contradiction between the radical freedom
we practically had to presuppose and the determinism in nature we
µ For an excellent treatment of Schelling™s writings during this period and their relation to the other
streams of German idealism, see Christian Iber, Subjektivit¨ t, Vernunft und ihre Kritik: Prager Vorlesungen
uber den Deutschen Idealismus (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, ±).
° Part IV The revolution in question
were required to adopt. Second, there was the “Kantian paradox” of
self-legislation. Finally, there was Schelling™s own growing suspicion that
the stress on the “system” itself had blinded the post-Kantians (including
Schelling himself) to the incommensurable difference between thought
and existence, a mistake Kant himself had never made. By dropping
Kant™s doctrine of intuitions or seeking to derive all of Kant™s system out
of one principle (so Schelling thought), all the post-Kantians had in effect
confused logic with existence; they had labored under the illusion that
a coherent, consistent system of thought was necessarily identical with
the way the world had to be. (Later philosophers would label something
like this a form of “veri¬cationism,” the doctrine that nothing could
be said to be unless it could be humanly veri¬ed to be “ unless, for
example, propositions asserting its existence could be shown to be in
accordance with accepted standards of evidence “ a doctrine that seemed
to make what existed dependent on human capacities for veri¬cation.)
That we had to think of the world in a certain way could not imply that
the world had to be that way. This, in turn, led Schelling to be suspicious
of “reason™s” claims to know all that there was. Yet Schelling continued to
reject Kant™s distinction between unknowable things-in-themselves and
the way things necessarily had to be experienced and thought by us, and
he was dubious about sliding into any kind of irrationalism: suspicion
about the extent of reason™s domain did not seem to him grounds for
dismissing reason altogether.
Schelling seemed to see his own earlier “identity-philosophy” as be-
ing a textbook example of the confusion of the realm of thought with
the realm of existence. However, he also increasingly came to see the
system of his former friend and colleague, Hegel, as equally, if not more,
at fault in this regard. As Schelling came to see things, Hegel™s “system”
amounted to no more than an extended development of “what we had to
think” if “we also thought such-and-such.” That is, on Schelling™s view, al-
though Hegel™s system only really laid out the ways in which the senses of
various concepts depended on each other, it claimed to be a system about
the world itself. Schelling simply came to doubt that any kind of unitary
system in that sense was possible, that all such systems presupposed a
“¬nal dichotomy” between thought (or reason) and being that could not
be overcome and which therefore could only be stated in paradoxical
sounding ways, such that “thought” (or “reason”) has to acknowledge its
dependence on its “other.” The mistake of post-Kantian idealism had
been to ignore the sheer heterogeneity of thought and reality (or to think
that thought alone could somehow overcome that heterogeneity.)
Schelling™s attempt at restoration
In some ways, Schelling was arguing that Fichte™s way of putting
matters “ that the “I” had to posit the “Not-I” was partially correct
(although not in the way Fichte had thought) and thus formed the base-
line position of all thought. In Schelling™s view, however, the “I” (to use
Fichte™s language), in having to posit that it was dependent on something
that it did not posit, also should have avoided any temptation to claim
that this “posit” (the “Not-I”) was in a sense explicable as being “only” a
posit. Yet, at the same time, in saying that, Schelling was also not willing
to give up on the “absolute.” Even putting the matter in Fichtean terms
(of the “I™s” positing the “Not-I”) already made things sound too subjec-
tivistic. Ultimately, it had to be that the subjective point of view was itself
indebted to something that was not itself and on which it simply had to
acknowledge its dependency. Given his increasing interest in religious
life, Schelling, of course, claimed that this had to be (ultimately) God,
and, as he worked his ideas on the matter out, he came to believe in a
philosophical demonstration of the necessity of the Christian revelation.
He did not, however, come to that view immediately. Instead, he was
enveloped in the problem of stating just what the Kantian legacy of our
being subject to reasons that we can regard as self-legislated might mean.
After his ±° essay, Schelling came to believe that, when one followed
that line of thought out, one had to reach a point where one simply
had to acknowledge that there were reasons for proceeding that were
not themselves self-legislated and for whose authority we had to look
elsewhere “ which meant that the issue then became how one reconciled
radical freedom with such acceptance of non-self-legislated principles.
In many ways, all of his later work was an attempt to come to grips with
how to understand that problem.
The period in which he worked on “The Ages of the World” (and which
he kept promising to publish until he gave up on the idea) amounts to
some of the most obscure writing that Schelling, never the most lucid of
authors, ever produced. His early work had been based on the notion
that what ultimately mattered in philosophy were ways of shifting our
“pictures” of the world; the true basis of philosophical positions thus
rested on “intellectual intuitions,” on ways of redescribing our mode of
being-in-the-world such that problems dissolved rather than were dis-
proved. Inspired in his middle period by Dante™s Divine Comedy, Schelling
began looking for a way to come to grips with the Kantian “paradox” of
self-legislation that might open up some more literary way of “intuiting”
what was at stake, and he thus set out to create a new “philosophical
mythology,” which, he believed, would usher in the new sensibility
 Part IV The revolution in question
appropriate for the modern world. Unlike many of the Romantics in-
spired in part by his own youthful work, Schelling had not given up on
the idea of Kantian freedom and in the belief that the Kantian system
had been both the catalyst and the harbinger of the modern way of life.
Although he ¬nally abandoned the experiment with trying to pro-
duce a new, intuitive, mythological“narrative mode of philosophizing,
he nonetheless constructed several drafts of “The Ages of the World”
over an almost twenty-year period. A dominant theme runs through all
the drafts: just as various oppositions (such as “either sweet or not-sweet”)
do not exhaust all the ways of characterizing things (numbers, for exam-
ple, are not properly characterized this way), Schelling thought that the
idea that “either things are or are not” might itself not be exhaustive of
the ways in which the “absolute” “ that is, God “ can be characterized,
and, since our own human ways of thinking require that opposition as
normatively basic, any apprehension of God must therefore be intuitive,
that is, metaphorical and indirect, which, in turn, requires a way of telling
a kind of “myth” (similar to the myths Plato relates in his dialogues) which
serves to refocus our way of “seeing” things in general.
This way of thinking about God is, of course, one way of trying to think
through the old Christian problematic of the relation between God as
eternal (and therefore timeless) and the temporality, even historicity of
the world (and thus of thinking of God as “creator” of the world). As
eternal, the “absolute” is “that which in itself neither has being nor does
not have being” but is instead the “eternal freedom to be.” As a unity,
the “one,” this absolute must “decide” to enter into existence if the world
is to be. This “absolute” is not yet God; it is the “primordial essence”
(Urwesen) that is prior to all temporality and the world. Making a play
on a set of German words, Schelling tried to work out a kind of Platonic
myth about the creation of the world being a “decision” (Entscheidung) that
is itself a cutting-away (Scheidung), a kind of partition of the primordial
essence as a “one and all” from itself. As this eternal “primordial essence”
divides itself into the eternal and the temporal, an act which, of course,
itself does not take place in time, God actually comes to be.
One of the many problems, as Schelling saw, and which the various
fragments of “The Ages of the World” attest, is that some kind of story
has to be told as to why this “One” ever divides itself into God and the
 F. W. J. Schelling, The Ages of the World (Fragment) from the Handwritten Remains: Third Version (c. ±±µ)
(trans. Jason M. Wirth) (Albany: State University of New York Press, °°°), p. . The same
language appears in the ±±± fragments as “the eternal freedom . . . to be all,” which is “above all
time,” F. W. J. Schelling, Die Weltalter: Fragmente. In den Urfassungen von ±±± und ±± (ed. Manfred
Schr¨ ter) (Munich: C. H. Beck, ±), pp. ±“±µ.
Schelling™s attempt at restoration
world (and whether it must do so). In some fragments, Schelling seems
to think that we have to conceive of the “primordial essence” as in itself
contradictory (or at least having some kind of basic, dualistic tension
within itself), such that we can think of the creation of the world as coming
about as a result of this tension; on that telling of the story, there has to
be a kind of basic polarity between an “af¬rmative” and a “negative”
aspect that is internal to the “primordial essence” itself, which ¬nally
splits that essence in two (into eternal God and the temporal world). On
other tellings of the story, however, Schelling thinks it is better to think
of there being two willings at work in the “primordial essence,” a willing
that wills nothing but could be everything, and a willing that strives
for existence, which is the “beginning of existence” and is “that which
is the positing of the possibility of time.”· (Schelling describes the latter
tale as the “most delicate, most pure dualism” of eternity and time. ) The
division that the “primordial essence” thus institutes within itself can be
thought of as being overcome through a kind of “divine history,” in which
the “primordial essence” divides itself into God and the world and which
ends with the reconciliation (restoration of unity) of God and the world.
We can then see the various “ages of the world” as the stages of this divine
history, which Schelling then interprets in terms of Christian notions of
the father (as the past), the son (as the present), and the holy spirit (as the
future in which man and God will be reconciled). The creation of the
temporal world turns out to be necessary for the “primordial essence”
to free itself of its loneliness in an eternal cycle of birth and rebirth,
of contraction and expansion, as it struggles to maintain its unity with
itself (such that it needs nothing) while also struggling to bring itself to
existence (which can only come about by virtue of this original rupture).
Schelling™s purpose in trying to create this new philosophical mythol-
ogy was to put into place a more philosophically informed mythology
appropriate to modern times. He eventually abandoned this attempt
as resting on a crucial mistake, but it is important to see the continuity
of motive in it and his earlier works. In all his works, Schelling is trying
to work out the principle of freedom. In his middle period, he comes to

·  Ibid., p. .
Ibid., pp. ±·, ±.
 Not all of Schelling™s readers see this as a mistake; a certain stream of thinkers in¬‚uenced by post-
modern Heideggerian thought, who have turned away from philosophy to some more poetic mode
of “thinking” and who therefore distrust reason as the ¬nal court of appeal, still ¬nd Schelling™s
“Ages of the World” an inspiring piece. For example, the translator of the ±±µ manuscript, Jason
Wirth, both praises and gives a spirited defense of Schelling™s attempt in terms of its being a
“cosmic poem” and a celebration of “unruly” thought, an attempt to say the unsayable. See his
introduction to his version of F. W. J. Schelling, The Ages of the World (Fragment) from the Handwritten
 Part IV The revolution in question
think that the apparent paradox of self-legislation must simply be pre-
served as the paradox it seems to be. We cannot rationally comprehend
freedom, although, so Schelling tried (and failed) to argue, we can tell
ourselves a kind of myth about it that makes it intelligible to us. Like
some existentialists who were to follow in his wake, Schelling thought
the notion of “that incomprehensible primordial act in which the free-
dom of a person is decided for the ¬rst time” is as close as we can get
to understanding freedom, and that we can also imagine a myth that
would give us a narrative view of our own freedom as part of the divine
history of absolute beginnings, which are nonetheless constrained by ten-
sions within ourselves.±° (On Schelling™s account, the Kantian paradox
is equally to be found in the conception of a person™s having character:
character is determinative of what we do, even of the kinds of reasons to
which we are open, and “yet it is recognized that nobody has chosen his
character following reason or re¬‚ection . . . Likewise, everyone assesses
this character as a work of freedom . . . Consequently, the universal eth-
ical judgment discerns a freedom in each person that is in itself ground,
in itself destiny and necessity . . . Absolute freedom . . . is the faculty to
be utterly one or the other of contradictories.”±± ) Our own capacity for
freedom can only be grasped, therefore, as part of the mythical divine
history of the ages of the world. Schelling™s resolution of the paradox was
to push the resolution back into mythology.

 ¬ °©¬°: ¬¬©®§ ™  ¬©® °©¤
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During the ±°s and ±°s, Schelling™s ideas on the “ages of the world”
had, to Schelling™s own irritation, already achieved some currency in
Germany; students took notes (sometimes in shorthand that they later
transcribed into more readable notebooks), and any number of these
notebooks were copied and circulated. However, by the time he reached
Berlin, he had discarded the very project of creating a new mythol-
ogy as a mistake about the limits and function of reason itself. More-
over, Schelling also came to think that the whole idea of creating a new
“philosophical mythology” was itself misconceived as a replacement for
an adequate philosophical account of freedom (particularly, God™s free-
dom). Nonetheless, he held fast to the idea that the earlier systems of
post-Kantian idealism had gone too far in their attempt to create a form
±° ±±
Ibid., p. ·. Ibid.
Schelling™s attempt at restoration
of idealism that was fully self-contained. Schelling™s own deeply felt re-
ligious (and, after his youthful ¬‚irtation with pantheism, very Christian)
attitude was simply at odds with anything that he, Fichte, or (especially)
Hegel had worked out as a satisfactory post-Kantian conception.
Through all of Schelling™s development, however, was a conviction that
post-Kantian idealism required a thoroughgoing metaphysics of agency
and the world, a doctrine of how we could actually be the free agents that
modernity seemed to demand. Throughout his development, Schelling
held fast to his youthful conviction that any such metaphysics had to be
an explication of the “absolute” as something that went beyond both
subjective and objective points of view. In his youth, that seemed to call
for a Naturphilosophie; in his middle period, it seemed to call for a kind
of Platonic myth about the self-creation of the absolute; in his mature
period, it called for a division between what he called “negative” and
“positive” philosophy. Nonetheless, since European philosophy and cul-
ture had gradually freed itself from metaphysics since Bacon (and in
Germany after Kant), the new metaphysics of “positive” and “nega-
tive” philosophy had to be constructed in light of Bacon™s and Kant™s
It was the attempt to work out this new form of metaphysics that
animated Schelling™s Berlin lectures. Although those lectures failed to live
up to the expectations that were set for them, they turned out to be enor-
mously in¬‚uential in the reception of idealism afterwards, and, as was
the case with all of his other attempts, Schelling never published them.
His mature work has usually been called the “Philosophy of Revelation”
because that was the title given to a book of his lectures published in ±,
although not by Schelling himself. (The very old rationalist theologian,
Heinrich Paulus, who much earlier had been involved with both Hegel
and Schelling at the beginnings of their careers, and who for almost
forty years had nurtured a dislike of Schelling, published a transcription
of Schelling™s ±±“± lectures because he thought it would expose
Schelling™s thought as humbug; Schelling tried to stop publication, and
he sued Paulus, but he failed to win.± )
The goal of the lectures was hardly modest. Schelling tried to con-
vince his audience that he was going to demonstrate to them that a
new philosophical religion was required for “us moderns,” and that
he was going to deliver the rudiments of what that new philosophical
± See Schelling, Philosophie der Offenbarung, p. ±.
± An excellent account of the history of the text and the Paulus/Schelling enmity is given by
Manfred Frank in his introduction to Schelling, Philosophie der Offenbarung.
 Part IV The revolution in question
religion would look like. His introductory lecture is full of lament for the
“fragmented” modern world, so much at odds with itself “ exactly the
situation that the post-Kantian philosophies of the ±·°s and the early
±°°s had pledged to resolve. Now, Schelling told his audience, he had
come ¬nally to redeem that early promise by idealism.
The Berlin lectures are notable for their praise of Kant and criticism
of Hegel. They are also notable for the self-con¬dence bordering on
hubris that Schelling displays in them. In them, Schelling praises Kant
and puts himself in the same line as the sage of K¨ nigsberg: “Nothing
of that which since Kant has been won for authentic Wissenschaft is to
be lost through me,” Schelling told the crowd, “how should I especially
abandon the philosophy that I myself had earlier founded, the invention
of my youth?”± He promised his audience that he was not going “to put
another philosophy in its place but a new one,” one that “until now had
been held to be impossible.”±µ
The tone against Hegel, on the other hand, is double-edged; it is
both deeply respectful and still dismissive. The proper completion of
the Kantian philosophy, Schelling claimed, was really his own identity-
philosophy; but, in his own way, Hegel could be said to have completed
the identity-philosophy in that he brought it to its logical conclusion
and, in so doing, displayed its limits and what was unsatisfactory about
it. Schelling then alludes to Hegel™s own claims about Schelling in his
lectures on the history of philosophy “ the lectures were published in ±
after Hegel™s death, and Schelling had read them “ that Schelling™s appeal
to “intellectual intuition” amounted only to a conjecture, not a proof, and
was more like an appeal to an “oracle.”± As Hegel explained things in
those lectures, the key insight of the Schellingian system “ that the differ-
ence between the subjective and the objective was itself neither subjective
nor objective “ could itself only be implemented “in a logical manner . . .
but the logical point of view is that to which Schelling in his presentation
[of his system] and development did not reach.”±· Schelling™s response
to Hegel™s criticism was to admit that Hegel indeed “alone saved the
basic thoughts of his [Schelling™s] philosophy” and even “completed”
it (even if, as he pointed out, Hegel got what he meant by “intellectual
intuition” wrong).± However, Hegel™s criticism, while in one sense

± ±µ Ibid.
Philosophie der Offenbarung, p. µ.
± ±· Ibid.
Hegel, Vorlesungen uber die Geschichte der Philosophie, HeW, , p. µ.
± Philosophie der Offenbarung, p. ±. See also p. ±: “If one understands [by intellectual intuition] an
intuition that corresponds to the content of the subject“object, one can speak of an intellectual
intuition, not of the subject, but of reason itself . . . Reason is there the intuiting and the intuited.”
Schelling™s attempt at restoration
substantially correct, actually missed the point entirely about what was
wrong with early post-Kantian idealism. Hegel™s system as a completion
of Schelling™s philosophy was only a system of thought, not a system about
reality. Hegel™s system, in Schelling™s terms, was one of “reason” and
“logic,” that is, a system of “if“then” propositions, a way of showing how
concepts materially depend on each other, not a system of telling us how
the world really is. Hegel simply confused the way we must “logically”
think of things with the system of the existing world, and that confusion
lay at the basis of what was wrong with all post-Kantian idealism.
All the modes of post-Kantian philosophy are only different versions
of what Schelling dubbed “negative” philosophy: they offer a critique
of thought by presupposing the authority of reason to perform such a
“negative” task, but it is in fact only a matter of the arrogance of phi-
losophy to think that by “reason alone” it can critique all other ways of
thinking and living and can offer a ¬nal account of the way the world
“really” is. Contrary to such “negative” philosophy would be a “positive”
philosophy that started from some kind of metaphysical “fact” that it
freely admitted could not be demonstrated by reason itself and which
then elucidated developments out of that “fact,” using reason to make
its case but conceding that the development out of that “positive” be-
ginning is always guided by something beyond human reasoning that is
to guide reason itself; indeed, the “absolute” authority of reason is not
itself something that reason can establish without begging the question
about its own authority.
In his lectures, Schelling alluded again to Kant, although without
mentioning what was surely on his mind: Kant™s appeal to the “fact of
reason.” Kant had tried to resolve the paradox of self-legislation in his
second Critique by appeal to such a positive “fact,” while Hegel had taken
that paradox as a basic point about normative authority in general and
had then developed his system as an explication of how to handle the
paradox “dialectically.” “Negative” philosophy falls apart, Schelling was
arguing, on the necessity of appealing to that “fact of reason,” since that
“fact” of reason is like any other fact, something “positive,” just to be
accepted. Kant™s “fact of reason” actually shows that reason itself cannot,
without begging all the questions, give any account of why it is to be
preferred over some other “metaphysical fact,” and the “paradox” only
shows the impotence of reason to explicate itself. At best, Hegel showed
that one could construct a self-enclosed system of “logical” thought, but
Hegel could not show “ and this was Schelling™s point “ that this system
of logical thought entailed anything about the actual world.
 Part IV The revolution in question
Contrary to Hegel, Schelling held to the notion that there had to be
a “¬nal dichotomy” to our thinking, namely, the opposition between
our system of thought (for which reason and logic are authoritative)
and that which is beyond thought, which is the metaphysical “fact”
that provides the normative basis of any appeal to reason itself. Not the
“fact of reason” but “Being” (and, ultimately, God) forms the normative
basis of our freedom, that is, provides the “reason” that we have for
choosing to elect other reasons as our guiding principles. (As Schelling
liked to put it, the “negative” philosophy can draw out the conclusions
inherent in an appeal to reason but not the fact that there is anything
like reason to appeal to in the ¬rst place.) In a way that was to pre¬gure
all so-called post-modern thought, Schelling claimed that: “What is the
beginning of all thinking is not yet thinking,” and “what comes before
all ˜power™ (Potenz) also comes before all thought! And certainly, Being,
which anticipates all ˜power,™ we must also call the being that is un-
thinkable-in-advance as preceding all thinking.”±
Authentic “positive” philosophy starts from the failure of negative
philosophy, not from any set of principles within “negative” philosophy
itself. (Or, to put it in Schelling™s terms, there is no “dialectical transition”
from negative to positive philosophy; the latter begins with the failure
of the former, but it takes none of its principles from it.) Indeed, the
most striking thing about any “positive” philosophy is that “its begin-
ning is of the kind that is incapable of any grounding”; it is not what the
proponents of “negative” philosophy think it is required to be, namely,
some further construction within (what Schelling called) the “science of
reason.”° (In a bit of ex post facto self-congratulation, Schelling notes that
in his own development he had “only sought what was possible after
Kant and was quite far from holding it to be the whole of philosophy in
the sense that Hegel did.”± ) Unlike Hegel, Schelling refused to attribute
any kind of “absoluteness” to our thought, or to claim, as Hegel did, an
± Philosophie der Offenbarung, p. ±±. Schelling™s term which is rendered here as “un-thinkable-in-
advance” Being is unvordenkliche Sein. There is no good way to render “unvordenkliche.” Quite
literally it means “that which cannot be thought in advance.” The translator of Schelling™s
“Ages of the World,” Jason Wirth, elects to render it as “unprethinkable.” Others have suggested
“preconceptual.” What I think that Schelling is trying to get at in his neologism is the notion
that we cannot have a “thought” (in particular, a concept) of Being prior to any of the particular
ways in which we might talk about it. Or, to put it another way, any way of talking about beings
(entities, Seienden) already draws our understanding of Being (Sein) into an inferential network
that pins it down. Schelling wants to say that there is a non-conceptual, non-propositional grasp
of Being (Sein) that always transcends any particular inferential articulation we can give of it.
Schelling quite obviously pre¬gures Heidegger in this respect, although Heidegger nonetheless
accuses Schelling of con¬‚ating entities and Being with his insistence on striving for a philosophical
° ± Ibid.
Philosophie der Offenbarung, p. ±.
Schelling™s attempt at restoration
unboundedness, an Unendlichkeit, for the conceptual. As human thinkers,
we were always bounded, ¬nite, contingent, caught within our own his-
tories and ways of life. Our appeal to reason as the ¬nal court of appeal,
without something to underwrite that claim, could therefore only be
paradoxical or even self-defeating. The only way out of the paradox is to
admit our dependence, both in life and in thought, on something higher
than ourselves, some “positive” metaphysical fact. The appeal to this
“positive” metaphysical “fact” thus provided Schelling, so he thought,
with the kind of argument he had tried to develop in his ±° Freedom
essay that would explain human freedom and autonomy in terms of a
dependence on a “higher power” that at the same time avoided religious
language in its formulation (although, in Schelling™s case, it quite ob-
viously went back rather quickly into the language of his idiosyncratic
mixture of philosophical and religious metaphysics).
An adequate “positive” philosophy would understand the Christian
God, not reason, to be the “fact” that would explain human freedom and
thought. God exists in his “un-thinkable-in-advance being” and freely
creates a world over and against himself. Prior to creation, God is simply
an ability-to-be. God™s will, moreover, is to make everything “open,
clear, and decided,” since “God in the unconceptualizability of his being
is not the true God. The true God exists in his conceptualizability.”
God, that is, as a series of open possibilities sets some into motion and
not others. Why God puts some possibilities into play and not others
is not something about which we can have any a priori insight, just as
“in general we have a priori insight into no free deed.” Pantheism™s
crucial mistake (that is, Schelling™s youthful view™s crucial error) was to
think that the world emanates from God in some kind of quasi-logical
way; pantheism quite simply misunderstands God™s radical freedom,
since it fails to understand God as “personality” (seeing God instead as
something more like a “concept” or a “nature”).µ Why then does God
create the world? Schelling™s answer: “The chief purpose that God wills
to this a priori delineated process is that He be known.” God, that is,
wishes to be “recognized,” “known” (Erkanntwerden) by others. Thus, he
creates an intelligible world in which humans will come to know him by
the aid of their reason (which he has also created).
Schelling went on in his lectures to offer a theory of mythology as
the historical pre-cursor to “revelation,” interpreting mythology as the
way in which humans ¬rst come to have an understanding of what
 Schelling™s term for this is Seink¨nnen, another term Heidegger also uses.
  Ibid., p. ±.
Philosophie der Offenbarung, pp. ±, ±±.
µ  Ibid., p. ±.
Ibid., p. ±·µ.
° Part IV The revolution in question
is at stake in their relation to “un-thinkable-in-advance being,” and
which, after the revelation of God through Jesus, becomes unneces-
sary. There are, according to Schelling, only three possible mythologies:
Egyptian (“the most violent struggle against the blind principle”), Indian
(“the eccentric”), and the Greek (“the end of the mythological pro-
cess . . . the Euthanasia of the real principle, which in its differentiating
in its abode leaves behind a beautiful world.”)· By interpreting the three
possible mythologies as necessary ways of conceiving what he also argued
to be the three “powers” of God™s ability-to-be, Schelling concluded that
the historical existence of Jesus showed the way in which mythology is
to be ¬nally overcome. Mythology tells stories about things that did not
exist; Jesus, however, was a real person, who lived and died, and hence
his existence was not mythological. To the extent that he had shown
that the preceding mythologies were to be understood in terms of the
metaphysics of the realizations of the divine “powers,” Schelling took
himself to have shown that Christianity should be taken not itself as a
mythologizing retelling of the story of Jesus™ life, but as the explication
of the divine revelation that showed him to be the reconciling messiah.
(Schelling also thought he had “shown” how the powers of matter were
not enough to explain away many of the claims made for Jesus; Schelling™s
modi¬ed metaphysics of matter thus was supposed to show how things
like the resurrection and so forth were possible within the theory of the
different Potenzen. In his lectures, Schelling went on to give his own ren-
ditions and even his new versions of various parts of the history of the
Christian Church and of various Christian teachings, and, in doing so,
he took himself to be giving not a series of Christian “dogmatics,” but
a new, philosophical version of Christianity that ¬nally grasped its truth
and would provide the basis for a new reconciliation of Catholicism and
Protestantism in Europe.)

It is probably not dif¬cult to understand why Schelling™s audience, who
had hoped to hear the new Hegel, found themselves more and more
incredulous as the lectures progressed. By the end of the lecture series,
those who had stayed came to believe that they were hearing little more
than a kind of oddly patched together apologia for contemporary state-
sanctioned Christianity and for the authority of the monarchy. Adding
to this, Schelling™s obvious links to the court and to the higher of¬cials
of Prussian life (along with his own personal friendliness to the Bavarian

· Ibid., pp. ±, , .
Schelling™s attempt at restoration
court) only made him all the more suspicious in the minds of many of
the young people attending the lectures. Schelling had come to Berlin to
escape the growing reaction in Bavaria, which, after the July Revolution
in ±° in Paris, had gathered force. When the uprisings of ± began
to gather force, Schelling™s own alarm and disgust with the “proletariat”
that he took to be gathering strength from them became rather obvious.
In his old age, Schelling had become a true conservative; he was not
a reactionary, and he did not want to turn the clock back. He simply
did not want things to change at all, and that meant that he sided com-
pletely with the ruling powers. He was particularly disgusted with the
emerging theories of communism (and tended to equate the republican
movement of ± with communism), and he even angrily suggested that
the Prussian troops should just shoot all the rioters. Whereas the earlier
Schelling had spoken of the “great task of our time” as “limiting the state
itself and the state in general, i.e., in all of its forms,” he now simply railed
against all challenges to the existing social order. He certainly believed
that communism (then just emerging as an intellectual conception and
social force) was only a utopian scheme, bound to fail; but he saw nothing
out of place in the monarchical authoritarian order desperately hanging
on for its life in Prussia.
Nonetheless, despite the misgivings of many of the attendees at his
lectures, Schelling™s in¬‚uence spread, even if only negatively. His attempt
to supplant Hegel and all the post-Kantians with his own idiosyncratic
post-idealist, Christian metaphysics only served to convince many on
the Hegelian left that critique of religion was not an ancillary task, but,
as Marx famously put it in the opening to his ±, “Contribution to a
Critique of Hegel™s Philosophy of Right”: “The criticism of religion is
the prerequisite of all criticism.” He might as well have said: the criticism
of Schelling is the prerequisite of everything else. Nonetheless, even for
those less disposed to the rumblings on the Hegelian left, Schelling, as one
of the founders of the post-Kantian idealist movement, had introduced a
crucial doubt about idealism: he had accused the idealists, even his earlier
self, of failing to understand the difference between what we must think
and the way things actually were “ that is, failing to grasp the necessity
for maintaining a “¬nal dichotomy” between thought and things. After
 See F. W. J. Schelling, Das Tagebuch ± (ed. J¨ rg Sandk¨ hler) (Hamburg: Felix Meiner, ±°),
o u
p. ·±.
 F. W. J. Schelling, Grundlegung der positiven Philosophie: M¨ nchner Vorlesung WS ±/ und SS ±
(ed. Horst Fuhrmans) (Turin: Bottega d™Erasmo, ±·), p. µ. Cited in J¨ rg Sandk¨ hler,
o u
“Einleitung: Positive Philosophie und demokratische Revolution,” in F. W. J. Schelling, Das
Tagebuch ±, p. xxxix.
 Part IV The revolution in question
Schelling, some of those who followed were to take that to heart and
construe it as a call to some form of materialism (or what we would now
call naturalism), that is, a program that says that only natural scienti¬c
explanations of man and nature count as explanations, and therefore
those explanations must be causal in their structure; some of those were to
take it to heart as a call to post-modern philosophy, an attempt to say the
unsayable, to get beyond the realm of the “merely conceptual” in order
to get at the deeper and more important truths of things (whose echoes
remain in much so-called post-modern thought); and some others were
to take it as a call to develop an existential understanding of the human
situation, as showing that the real issues of life were not formulable in the
language and terms of the objective point of view but required something
else, a view of “truth as subjectivity.”
° ±

Kantian paradoxes and modern despair:
Schopenhauer and Kierkegaard

°®µ™ °-«®©®© ©¤¬©
 ®© °©©
In almost all respects, Schopenhauer ought to be taken as a post-Hegelian
philosopher, even though chronologically speaking, his major work, The
World as Will and Representation, was published around the same time as
Hegel™s own Encyclopedia (±± for the former, ±±· for the latter). How-
ever, only after the ±µ°s, almost twenty years after Hegel™s death, was
Schopenhauer™s work recognized as possibly offering an alternative post-
Kantian philosophy both to the kind that Fichte and Schelling had begun
and that Hegel had seemingly completed, and to the kind of empirically
oriented but nonetheless religiously sentimentalist post-Kantianism of
Fries and his school.
Schopenhauer™s own life overlapped that of the post-Napoleonic gen-
eration: he was born in ±·, and he died in ±°. Because his father
was a wealthy businessman, Schopenhauer never wanted for money in
his life, which, in turn, gave him the independence from academic life
that allowed him to pursue his own, more idiosyncratic course despite
the fact that German academia remained more or less totally unrecep-
tive to Schopenhauer™s work over the course of his career. In fact, it was
not until late in his career that those outside of academia paid much
attention to him; Heine, for example, does not even mention him in his
books to the French on the state of philosophy in Germany. However,
Schopenhauer™s ¬nancial independence insulated him from all that; for
example, he personally subsidized the second, expanded printing of The
World as Will and Representation in ± “ the ¬rst printing had been largely
ignored, and for most of his life there was no demand for a second one,
neither of which deterred him.
In his early life, Schopenhauer was also given a wide swath of ed-
ucational opportunities, including a stint in England as a schoolboy

 Part IV The revolution in question
(which gave him perfect command of English for the rest of his life),
and a stint as a teenager in Weimar (where his mother moved after his
father™s death apparently from suicide). In Weimar, he was introduced
to and kept some company with Goethe and other luminaries (with
whom his mother was also well connected); in ±±±, he went to Berlin
to study philosophy, but he sat out the so-called “wars of liberation”
against Napoleon, preferring instead to work privately on his doctoral
thesis (On the Fourfold Root of the Principle of Suf¬cient Reason), ¬nishing it in
±±. (Schopenhauer was simply uninterested in all the nationalist fervor
surrounding the wars, and, as far as he was concerned, the closing of
the university during the war only gave him more free time to devote to
his studies.) After ¬nishing his dissertation, he then turned to working
on his major book, The World as Will and Representation, which formed the
basis of all his subsequent thought. Although he added things to it over
the years in subsequent editions, and he expanded it greatly, he never
changed the essential content of the work. Although he studied with
Fichte and knew Hegel, he deeply despised both of them. In a well-
known incident, he even arranged to have his lectures as a Privatdozent
at Berlin scheduled at the same time as Hegel™s; this move outraged the
other faculty at Berlin, since part of a professor™s income came from
those attending his class paying for “tickets” to the class, and it was felt
to be inappropriate that a younger Dozent would challenge a full profes-
sor™s livelihood in that way. As things turned out, Hegel did not have
to worry; ¬rst, few students came to Schopenhauer™s sessions and when,
later, none showed up, Schopenhauer had to leave Berlin in a state of
moderate disgrace.
This certainly did nothing to soften Schopenhauer™s aversion to
Hegel, and without much dispute he could lay claim to being one of the
founding members of the Hegel-haters club (which Schopenhauer gra-
ciously extended to despising all forms of “university philosophy,” per-
haps because “university philosophers” in turn by and large ignored
him). Schopenhauer energetically helped to foster the image of Hegel
as a charlatan, a philosophical pretender clothing vacuous stupidity in a
dense, impenetrable vocabulary to give his work a specious appearance of
profundity to an unsuspecting, intellectually corrupted public. Although
Schopenhauer™s personal aversion to Hegel (and also to Fichte and even
to Schelling) was quite real, it was also based on the competition among
the post-Kantian generation to see who would be the successor to Kant,
who would act in the “spirit” of Kant if not in his “letter,” a competition
which for most of his career Schopenhauer seemed to be losing. However,
Schopenhauer and Kierkegaard
despite his lack of public success (until late in his career), Schopenhauer
consistently maintained that it was necessary to discard the elements of
post-Kantian philosophy as they had appeared in the works of Reinhold,
Fichte, Schelling, and Hegel (and Fries and all the other post-Kantians);
they were, in his view, not so much an advance on Kant as a distortion
of the “spirit” of Kant, and thus one would be better off returning to
Kant for inspiration rather than reading any of the corpus of the other
Nonetheless, just as many of the ¬rst generation of post-Kantians
had done, Schopenhauer took the key elements in Kantian thought to
lie in Kant™s doctrines of the unknowable thing-in-itself and the spon-
taneity of the human mind in the construction of the appearing world.
Indeed, for Schopenhauer, the great error of post-Kantianism had been,
starting with Fichte, the denial of the thing-in-itself. Nonetheless, like so
many of the post-Kantians he claimed to despise, Schopenhauer also
wanted to provide a more suitable formulation of Kant™s own notion
of the “supersensible substrate of appearances,” of what, in Kant™s own
words, is “neither nature nor freedom and yet is linked with the basis of
freedom.”± To do this, so Schopenhauer argued, one had to stay true to
Kant™s own destruction of the faith traditional metaphysics had put in
reason™s ability to discern the structure of things-in-themselves, and thus
one had to keep faith with Kant™s own restriction of knowledge to ap-
pearances, not to things-in-themselves (even if one held, as Schopenhauer
did, that Kant™s own “deduction” of the notion of the thing-in-itself was
faulty). To that end, Schopenhauer took the lessons of Kant™s three
Critiques to be that all we can discursively, conceptually know of the world
is what we get through our representations (Vorstellungen) of it. Yet, so Kant
had himself claimed, we also know as a practical matter that we (or our
wills) are unconditionally free (even though we cannot theoretically prove
that we are free). We thus have some knowledge of what we are as acting
agents in-ourselves (as noumena, not phenomena) that goes beyond our
capacities for theoretical knowledge.
The world as we must represent it is to be taken more or less exactly as
Kant had described it: a world of substances interacting with each other
according to strict, deterministic causal laws. The world as it is in-itself,
however, need not be that way. Schopenhauer™s striking suggestion was
to assert that this knowledge of the will as a free, unencumbered striving
was the knowledge of things-in-themselves, and that this capacity of the

± See Critique of Judgment, §µ·, §µ.
 Part IV The revolution in question
will was not simply a characterization of what “we” were in-ourselves but
what the world was in-itself. Schopenhauer™s own understanding of how
to get at the “supersensible substrate” that was the basis of both nature
and freedom differed from Schelling™s own strategy in his Naturphilosophie.
Whereas Schelling had tried to ¬nd some way to reconcile the Newtonian
conception of nature and the practical requirements of freedom in an
“Idea” of nature that was prior to both of them, Schopenhauer ac-
cepted (what he took to be Kant™s strictures on) the incompatibility of
our knowledge of nature (the “world as representation”) and the noume-
nal reality of the world. There simply was no “unity” of subject and


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