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Schelling's Treatise on the Essence of Human Freedom

the more reason for us to stick to grasping what the matter itself requires. This is to be shown with the help of Schelling's treatise. Since its origin belongs to a past age, we may use older terms like ontology and theology for purposes of abbreviated agreement.

Thus we stated that the inner movement of questioning already starting with the introduction is a continuous playing back and forth between the theological question of the ground of beings as a whole and the ontological question of the essence of beings as such, an onto-theo-logy revolving within itself. Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit is such an onto-theo-logy, only of a different kind; Nietzsche's plan for his main work, The Will to Power, is such an ontotheology, again of a different kind.

Only when we bring the text of the treatise together with the movement of this questioning of an ontotheology is there a justification and a necessity to deal with ontotheology. Now we know what the interpretation of the introduction must aim for.

The introduction begins at first in a quite external fashion. Like idealism, realism, criticalism, dogmatism (and), atheism, " pantheism" is a term which almost seems invented for the purpose of hiding the matter and making the position corresponding to the matter look suspicious. Schelling, speaking unmistakably about this, has already had difficulties in this respect and he is to meet up with them again soon after the treatise on freedom is published, in spite of it.


It cannot be denied that it is a splendid invention to be able to designate entire points of view at once with such general epithets. If one has once discovered the right label for a system, everything else follows of its own accord and one is spared the trouble of investigating its essential characteristics in greater detail. Even an ignorant person can render judgment upon the most carefully thought out ideas as soon as they are presented to him with the help of such labels. But, after all, in an extraordinary assertion of this kind, everything depends upon the closer definition of the concept. (P. 10)


The "extraordinary assertion" is that pantheism as the sole possible form of the system is fatalism. This assertion was stated in a quite definite historical form in Schelling's time by F. H. Jacobi in his piece "On Spinoza's Doctrine in Letters to Mr. Moses Mendelssohn" (1785).13 Jacobi wants to show here that pantheism is really Spinozism, Spinozism is fatal ism, and fatalism is atheism. In this piece, Jacobi wants at the same time to make Lessing into a consistent atheist in this way, and to show in opposition to Mendelssohn, Herder, and Goethe that something like a " purified Spinozism, " which they were striving for, was not possible. However, by equating pantheism and Spinozism, Jacobi was indirectly instrumental in newly asking and more sharply defining and answering the question of what pantheism is, and also in bringing the historical interpretation of


Schelling's Treatise on the Essence of Human Freedom (GA 42) by Martin Heidegger