Academic journal article Journal of the History of Ideas

Quiet War in Germany: Friedrich Schelling and Friedrich Schleiermacher

Academic journal article Journal of the History of Ideas

Quiet War in Germany: Friedrich Schelling and Friedrich Schleiermacher

Article excerpt

History is really the science of that which is, for everything before now is revealed as the basis for the present.

-Friedrich Schleiermacher (1793)1

I have learned to see that religion, public faith, and life in the state form the point around which everything else revolves.

-F. W. J. Schelling (1806)2

As the nineteenth century dawned, the philosopher F. W. J. Schelling (1775-1854) announced that the present epoch was ''surely bound to give birth to a new world,'' with universities strategically occupying the vanguard.3 Schelling's Vorlesungen über die Methode des akademischen Studiums (1803), addresses he delivered in Jena in 1802, profoundly shaped the future of German higher education in general, and the founding of the new Prussian University of Berlin in 1810-a replacement for Prussia's humiliating loss of the University of Halle in 1806-in particular.4 After the Peace of Tilsit in 1807, Friedrich Wilhelm III pronounced, ''the state must replace intellectually what it has lost physically,'' and Schelling's Vorlesungen constructed much of the intellectual framework for that task.5 Furthermore, the Vorlesungen wielded a ''determining influence,'' Arnaldo Momigliano suggested, upon the ''first phase of the so-called 'Historismus,' '' promoting ''empirical history against the theory of a history a priori.''6

In an intriguing outcome, however, Schelling's lectures also elicited a lengthy critical review by the theologian Friedrich Schleiermacher (1768- 1834), who was himself an honorary member of the Jena circle and a major intellectual architect of the University of Berlin.7 In the embellished words of Karl Barth, Schleiermacher was ''the great Niagara Falls'' to which the theology of two centuries was inexorably drawn.8 As the ''Church Father'' of the nineteenth century, Schleiermacher's relation to Schelling had considerable ramifications for the orientation of academic, scientific (wissenschaftliche) theology in modern Europe.9 Formidable Protestants from Ferdinand Christian Baur (1792-1860) to Albrecht Ritschl (1822-89) found in both a deep well from which to draw for their own accounts of the Christian religion.10 Members of the ''Catholic Tübingen School'' evidenced perhaps to an even greater extent the influence of Schelling's and Schleiermacher's ideas arising from their interaction-a line of influence that reached even to the Second Vatican Council.11 Despite this, historians have generally neglected Schleiermacher's review.12 The contours of Schleiermacher's engagement with Schelling thus warrant investigation.

In this article, I contend that the acrimonious exchange between Schleiermacher and Schelling left a lasting impression on the development of the modern German university and the nature of Schleiermacher's pivotal and formative ideas on academic theology; specifically, that is, their disagreements masked deeper commonalities, which together contributed to the historicization of theology in the nineteenth century. The affair turned on the organization and methodological coherence of academic disciplines, the status of philosophical speculation and historical criticism in theology, and how both fit together in contested models of German higher education. Without reducing disagreements solely to matters of biography, the particular personality of each figure factored into the altercation.13 In his contentious review, Schleiermacher critiqued Schelling at numerous points, but proceeded in his own work to repeat many of the same concerns he found so distasteful. With suggestive imagery given the tumult of the French Revolution and commencing Napoleonic Wars, Schleiermacher observed that he was engaged in a ''quiet war'' with Schelling.

Part I of this article explores Schelling's Vorlesungen in the context of the European reform movements targeting universities from the late eighteenth century to the founding of the University of Berlin. Part II considers Schleiermacher's review and the import for his own statements on the structure of the German university and the academic study of theology. …

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