From the Work of Art to Absolute Reason

Review of Metaphysics 57 (3):551-569 (2004)
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Abstract

ONE OF THE MOST INTRIGUING EPISODES in Schelling’s philosophical development is the transition from the System des transzendentalen Idealismus to the Darstellung meines Systems der Philosophie, the starting point of the identity system. Looking back on that latter text, Schelling in 1805 declares that “then to me the light went on in philosophy.” This sounds as if the preceding years of philosophical investigation, including the System des transzendentalen Idealismus that was written one year earlier, had to be considered merely propaedeutic and that the Darstellung was his real entry into philosophy. Schelling maintained this view of his philosophical development and in the contemporary Schelling-Forschung scholars widely agree that the Darstellung, being the outset of the identity system, marks the birthplace of so-called absolute idealism—to which Hegel’s system of philosophy probably still is the most spectacular and successful heir. But if this common interpretation is true—and I would not deny it in the generality in which it is stated—then the question inevitably arises: what happened in the transition from the System des transzendentalen Idealismus to the Darstellung, and above all, what made this transition possible? What, in other words, caused the constitution of absolute idealism?

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