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Friedrich Schelling (1775 – 1852) was a German Idealist philosopher. All rules for study are summed up in this one: learn only in order to create.

Friedrich Schelling

Friedrich Schelling about  the time he was a student roommate with Hegel.

Schelling in 1835 painting by Stieler, cleaned and squared by Charles Scamahorn

Friedrich Schelling in 1835; painting by Joseph Stieler

Sources for Friedrich Schelling quotes, WikiQuotes, GoodReads, BrainyQuote, EGS,


Quotations from Schelling

All rules for study are summed up in this one: learn only in order to create.

The fear of speculation, the ostensible rush from the theoretical to the practical, brings about the same shallowness in action that it does in knowledge. It is by studying a strictly theoretical philosophy that we become most acquainted with Ideas, and only Ideas provide action with energy and ethical significance.

What Hegel primarily sought to avoid was precisely that God, as, of course, it could not be otherwise within a logical philosophy, should only be posited in the concept. For him God was not both just a concept and the concept God; for him the concept had the meaning that it was God. His opinion is: God is nothing but the concept which step by step becomes the self-conscious Idea (Idee), as self-conscious Idea releases itself into nature, and, returning from nature into itself, becomes absolute spirit.

That the absolutely first thought is pure being is proven, though, by the fact that nothing could exclude itself from this concept if it is thought in its purity and complete abstraction – it is supposed to be the purest and most immediate certainty, or pure certainty itself without further content, that which is presupposed along with all certainty; it is not supposed to be an arbitrary action, but rather the most complete necessity, first that being in general, then that all being in being (in dem Seyn alles Seyn) should be thought.

The identity philosophy was with its first steps in nature, thus in the sphere of the empirical and thereby also of intuition (Anschauung). Hegel wanted to erect his abstract Logic above the Naturphilosophie. But he took the method of the Naturphilosophie there with him; it is easy to see how forced the result had to be of wishing to elevate into the merely logical the method which definitely had nature as its content and the intuition of nature as its companion; it was forced because he had to deny these forms of intuition and yet continually tacitly assumed them, whence it is also quite correct to remark, and not difficult to discover that Hegel already presupposed intuition with the first steps of his Logic and could not take a single step without assuming it.

Concepts as such do in fact exist nowhere but in consciousness; they are, therefore, taken objectively, after nature, not before it.

Although the concept cannot be the sole content of thought, what Hegel asserts might at least remain true: that the Logic in the metaphysical sense which he gives it must be the real basis of all philosophy. What Hegel so often emphasises might for this reason be true after all: that everything that is is in the Idea or in the logical concept, and that as a consequence the Idea is the truth of everything, into which at the same time everything goes as into its beginning and into its end.

Everyone recognizes that God would not be able to create beings outside of itself from a blind necessity in God’s nature, but rather with the highest voluntarism. To speak even more exactly, if it were left to the mere capacity of God’s necessity, then there would be no creatures because necessity refers only to God’s existence as God’s own existence. Therefore, in creation, God overcomes the necessity of its nature through freedom and it is freedom that comes above necessity not necessity that comes above freedom.

Everyone unanimously agrees that God, in accordance with its highest self, is pure spirit. But whether everyone has thought the full purity and ferocity of this thought can be doubted.

God, in accordance with its highest self, is not a necessarily actual essence, but the eternal freedom to be.

There would be no real history of the world without a free beginning. Those who could not understand the free beginning also could not find the access to real history.

How charitable it is to know a principle amid the motility and slackness of thinking that is neither to be dissolved by the “menstruum” of the sharpest concept nor to go up in smoke in the fire of spiritual thinking! Without this principle which resists thinking, the world would actually already be dissolved into nothing. Only this insuperable center preserves the world against the storms of the never-resting spirit. In fact, this principle is the eternal force of God.

It would be entirely in accordance with the objective of maintaining an empty space outside of philosophy — one that the soul can fill up through faith and devotion — to place God above the Absolute and eternal as the infinitely higher potency of the latter

The first form of positing absoluteness is the categorical; it can be expressed through reflective cognition negatively by a neither-nor; it is clear that no positive cognition by any means lies herein and that only the eventual productive intuition will fill this void and grant positivity in said neither-nor.

In a word, there is no continuous transition from the Absolute to the actual; the origin of the phenomenal world is conceivable only as a complete falling-away from absoluteness by means of a leap.

The visible universe is not dependent because it has a beginning in time but rather by virtue of its nature or concept. It genuinely has neither begun nor not begun, for it is a mere nonbeing, and a nonbeing can no more come into being as not come into being.

The reality of God is not just a postulation made by morality; rather, only he who recognizes God — in whatever way — is a truly moral person. Moral laws ought to be obeyed not because they are related to God as the lawmaker (or whatever other relationship the finite mind is able to conceive) but because the essence of God and that of morality are one and the same and because by acting morally we are revealing the essence of God. A moral world exists only if God exists, and to postulate His existence in order for a moral world to exist is a complete reversal of the true and necessary relations.

Nature is the image of God’s beatitude, and the ideal world that of God’s holiness, albeit an incomplete image disrupted by difference.

The soul is not eternal because its duration is without beginning or end but rather because it has no relationship to time at all. Therefore, it cannot be called immortal in a sense that would include an individual continuity. Since this could not be conceived of independent of finitude and the body, immortality would only be a continued mortality and an ongoing imprisonment of the soul rather than a liberation.

The concept of the subjective is not contained in that of the objective; on the contrary, they exclude one another. The subjective must therefore be annexed to the objective. – The concept of nature does not entail that there should also be an intelligence that is aware of it. Nature, it seems, would exist, even if there were nothing that was aware of it. Hence the problem can also be formulated thus: how does intelligence come to be added to nature, or how does nature come to be presented?

But now even for the common use of reason, nothing is immediately certain save the proposition I exist; which, since it actually loses its meaning outside immediate consciousness, is the most individual of all truths, and the absolute preconception, which must first be accepted, if anything else is to be certain.

From ordinary reality there are only two ways out – poetry, which transports us into an ideal world, and philosophy, which makes the real world vanish before our eyes.

Architecture in general is frozen music.

There is no greatness without a continual solicitation to madness which, while it must be overcome, must never be completely lacking. One might profit by classifying men in this respect. The one kind are those in whom there is no madness at all … and are so-called men of intellect whose works and deeds are nothing but cold works and deeds of the intellect…. But where there is no madness, there is, to be sure, also no real, active, living intellect. For wherein is intellect to prove itself but in the conquest, mastery, and ordering of madness?

Nothing upsets the philosophical mind more than when he hears that from now on all philosophy is supposed to lie caught in the shackles of one system. Never has he felt greater than when he sees before him the infinitude of knowledge. The entire dignity of his science consists in the fact that it will never be completed. In that moment in which he would believe to have completed his system, he would become unbearable to himself. He would, in that moment, cease to be a creator, and would instead descend to being an instrument of his creation.

Man’s being is essentially his own deed.

That which Dante saw written on the door of the inferno must be written in a different sense also at the entrance to philosophy: “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.” Those who look for true philosophy must be bereft of all hope, all desire, all longing. They must not wish for anything, not know anything, must feel completely bare and impoverished.

Far from it being true that man and his activity makes the world comprehensible, he is himself the most incomprehensible of all, and drives me relentlessly to the view of the accursedness of all being, a view manifested in so many painful signs in ancient and modern times. It is precisely man who drives me to the final despairing question: Why is there something? Why not nothing?

COMMENTS on Friedrich Schelling

Many philosophers make a very similar statement, as noted in their quotes, to this one by Schelling: All rules for study are summed up in this one: learn only in order to create. The statement is about direct physical public action as being the meaning for all reading, study and practice. The end for all human actions must be to produce something, and the more new and more useful the better. Art and philosophy, which might seem useless to a working laborer, are intended by their creators to influence society at large, and thus when they are successful, affect many people, perhaps billions.

 It is by studying a strictly theoretical philosophy that we become most acquainted with Ideas, and only Ideas provide action with energy and ethical significance. This is carrying on the same idea, of studying the big picture with the goal of finding the significant ideas, finding those with the most meaningful impact, and then exploiting them to the fullest.

In winnowing down Schelling’s quotes to a manageable batch I felt I was being inundated with words strung together by an almost first-rate mind who had some contact with some genuine first-rate ones. It seemed he had imbibed the patina of concepts without quite understanding their root meaning. However, all is forgiven, because if he was the first to write for public consumption, Why is there something? Why not nothing? he has asked a truly profound question; And asking a good question is the greatest of attainments.

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