Schelling and Romanticism

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Mourning Becomes Theory: Schelling and the Absent Body of Philosophy

David L. Clark, McMaster University


1 German references are from the Sämmtliche Werke; parenthetical references for citations in which the German is included list page(s) for the English translation first, and follow this with volume and page number(s) for the corresponding text from the Sämmtliche Werke. Although for the most part I have used Gutmann's translation of Schelling's Philosophical Investigations into the Nature of Human Freedom (entitled Of Human Freedom), I have in some cases adopted elements from two other sources where Gutmann's translation proves inadequate: Priscilla Hayden-Roy's more recent translation for The German Library and selected passages translated by David Farrell Krell in "Crisis."

2 I recall here Foucault's distinction between "language" and "discourse" outlined in The Order of Things (43).

3 Schelling's remarks come from an unpublished essay of 1812, cited by Krell (31 n.6).

4 Krell: "At the outset I shall leave in suspense the curious fact that precisely when the (masculine) modern philosopher ignores (feminine) nature he sacrifices his own (masculine) nature" (18).

5 But aren't most bees "sexless," i.e. infertile workers (that are chromosomally female)? "Geschlecht" here hovers indeterminately between connotations of fecundity, productivity, and sex. On the one hand, Schelling's slur follows logically from his masculinist identification of sexlessness with femininity: the infertile thinkers are for him also "womanly." On the other hand, his figure of the fecund hive of the university is dreamily illogical, since it requires him to masculinize (and "fertilize"?) a communal space that is in fact mostly inhabited by infertile ("geschlechtlose") female workers whose management of the male drones (the fertile bees) is the chief source of its radically cooperative sociality. Schelling can only unsex his colleagues at Jena by sexing the creatures to whom his colleagues are held up and found wanting, sterile. See also note 6.

6 Schelling:

Whatever cannot be incorporated into this active, living whole [i.e., the ideal university] is dead matter to be eliminated sooner or later--such is the law of all living organisms. The fact is, there are too many sexless bees in the hive of the sciences, and since they cannot be productive, they merely keep reproducing their own spiritual barrenness in the form of inorganic excretions. (On University Studies 11; 5: 217)

A certain continuity joins these polemically cutting remarks to the later essay on freedom, notably i) the conspicuously sexualized and corporealized figuration of philosophical labour, and ii) the thought that life means not only reproduction but also excretion. Yet the freedom essay returns to these tropes of fertility and waste with a difference. In the 1809 text sexlessness is not the threatening symptom of thinking that refuses to conform to the totalizing law of the living organism (i.e., the law that treats resistant negativity as death to the university's imagined life) but the very mark of a conforming to ideals of totality and totalization that has deadened the mind of Europe; and, as we shall see, excreted waste and the caput mortuum are not so much terms for what stands over and against life (i.e., "in-organic"), as the irreducible remainder that quickens life from within and that materially remembers--as the by-product of life's interminable work with non-life--the ways in which the organic and the inorganic are folded one into the other.

"Sexless bees" appear again as a figure in Philosophy and Religion (1804): "For above all Germans are prone to enthusiasm, resembling sexless bees, though only therein, since they industriously seek to carry away and rework that which blossoms and is produced independently of them" (cited by Gutmann, Of Human Freedom 100 n335).

7 See, for example, my discussion of Schelling's importance for Marion's critique in "God Without Ground: Schelling, Marion."

8 Schelling calls for a philosophy of nature that includes God's nature (or more precisely the "nature" that is where God is) thus: "Since nothing is prior to or outside of God, he must have the ground of his existence within himself. All philosophies say this, but they speak of this ground as of a mere concept, without making it something real and actual. This ground of his existence which God has within himself is not God viewed absolutely, i.e., in so far as he exists; for it is only the ground of his existence, it is nature--in God, a being which, thought inseparable from him, still is distinguished from him" (PI 32).

9 It may be possible, then, to read the essay on freedom in a way that Krell suggests with respect to the later Ages of the World: "I believe that it would also be possible to show [. . .] that Schelling's Weltalter sketches lead him beyond the merely abstract assertion of God's embodiment (which is something altogether different from orthodox phallic Incarnation) to the question of the essential bisexuality of divinity" (31 n6).

10 For useful discussions of Marx's insight into this problem and into the "philosophy of life" (that I am suggesting he inherits and adapts from Schelling), see Derrida's Specters of Marx (especially 187) and Warminski.

11 The ways in which this die Hemmung anticipates cognate figures of denegation in Freud would take up another paper. But see Krell's extremely suggestive remarks on the subject in Contagion: Sexuality, Disease, and Death in German Idealism and Romanticism [90-99].

12 For a much more developed discussion of the figure of addiction in Schelling, see my "Heidegger's Craving: Being-on-Schelling."


* Technical note: Zizek, proper spelling is the proper spelling here, acheived in this note by use of an image. Hypertext Markup Language does not currently support the "z" character in its character entity set.