Interpretation of the Introduction to Schelling's Treatise

freedom and thus the nature of man in general is not experienced and understood in a sufficiently essential way. But what still remains to be experienced? Why is the actuality of human freedom not yet confronted with the most intimate and broad feeling? Why, then, is the nature of human freedom still a question again and again? Why is it necessary to go beyond the stage of philosophy attained up to now, beyond Idealism? Schelling says (p. 26): "For Idealism supplies only the most general conception of freedom and a merely formal one. But the real and vital conception of freedom is that it is a possibility of good and evil. This is the point of profoundest difficulty in the whole doctrine of freedom, which has always been felt and which applies not only to this or that system, but, more or less, to all."

Man's Freedom is the capability of good and evil. (Thus, a sixth concept of freedom is added to our list.) Only a brief reminder of the concepts discussed earlier is necessary to see immediately that the experience of being free and the feeling for the fact of freedom now takes another direction and another dimension.

"Libertas est propensio in bonum," said Descartes, and thinkers before him, and again all of modern Idealism after him—freedom is the capability of good. Freedom, says Schelling, is the capability of good and evil. Evil "is added." But it is not simply added as a supplement in order to fill a gap still existing until now in the concept of freedom. Rather, freedom is freedom for good and evil. The "and," the possibility o f this ambiguity and everything hidden in it i s what is decisive. That means that the whole concept of freedom must change.

Evil—that is the key word for the main treatise. The question of the nature of human freedom becomes the question of the possibility and reality of evil. But we must observe here, first, evil makes its appearance just in this essential relation to_ man's freedom and thus in relation to man's nature even more so. Evil is thus not a special topic by itself. Second, evil is not treated in the sphere of mere morality either, but rather in the broadest sphere of the ontological and theological fundamental question, thus a metaphysics of evil. Evil itself determines the new beginning in metaphysics. The question of the possibility and reality of evil brings about a transformation of the question of Being. The introduction was to pave the way for this.

Now we understand why the introduction to this treatise was interpreted with a certain intricacy. As long as Schelling's treatise on freedom is only cited sporadically to document a special view of Schelling's on evil and freedom, nothing about it has been understood. It now also becomes comprehensible how Hegel's judgment, full of recognition as it is, about this treatise is a mistake: it only treats an isolated question! The treatise which shatters Hegel's Logic before it was even published! But if we understand it from the very beginning as always in the light and intention of philosophy's fundamental question of Being, then we understand in looking ahead precisely in terms of it why Schelling had to get stranded with his philosophy in spite of everything; that is, had to get stranded that way in which he

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