Schelling, Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph von

Schelling, Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph von, b 27 January 1775 in Leonberg, Württemberg, d 20 August 1854 in Bad Ragaz, Switzerland. German idealist philosopher. His thought contains many different, sometimes contradictory, tendencies and can be divided into at least four distinct stages. In Ukraine, as elsewhere, the most influential stage was that of Naturphilosophie, which conceived the natural world as a self-sufficient organism of infinite variety unified by the law of identity of opposites and evolving continuously under the compulsion of internal contradiction. Emphasizing the speculative rather than the empirical method as the key to a deeper understanding of nature, Schelling pointed out various analogies between different forces, genera, and levels of evolution. In spite of their fantastic quality, these analogies had a stimulating effect on later naturalists and led to important scientific discoveries. Other parts of Schelling’s thought, such as his philosophies of religion and freedom, had little influence in Ukraine.

Schelling’s ideas about nature were introduced in Ukraine by Johann Baptist Schad, the first holder of the chair of philosophy at Kharkiv University (1805–16). His books and lectures acquainted students, faculty members, and the educated public with Schelling. Schad’s students produced some 10 philosophical dissertations (1812–18) that borrowed freely from him and Schelling. Schad’s colleagues, the medicine professors G. Koritari and Ya. Gromov, adopted Schelling’s ideas in their lectures; the physics professor Atanasije Stojković and mathematics professor Timofei Osipovsky criticized them as fantastic and unscientific. Schad’s student and successor in the chair, A. Dudrovych (1818–30), emphasized the mystical rather than the rationalist aspects of Schelling’s thought, but the interest in philosophy kindled by Schad died out gradually. Another student of Schad (or Dudrovych), Mykola Bilous, taught philosophy at the Nizhyn Lyceum (1825–30), relying heavily on Schad’s writings.

A number of Schellingians taught at the Richelieu Lyceum in Odesa in the first half of the 19th century. N. Kurliandtsev, who taught mathematics and physics (1826–35), produced the first Russian translation of Schelling—that of Erster Entwurf eines Systems der Naturphilosophie (1834)—and wrote a paper on the development and current state of experimental physics in which he expounded and defended Schelling’s basic ideas on nature. K. Zelenetsky, who taught Russian literature (1837–58), under I. Davidov’s influence combined the ideas of Schelling with those of Immanuel Kant without having a clear idea of the differences between them. His collection of studies on some theoretical questions (4 vols, 1835–6) contained several philosophical papers on logic, the foundations of knowledge, and history. The lyceum’s professor of philosophy in 1839–59, Osyp Mykhnevych, was influenced mainly by Schelling’s philosophy of revelation and wrote, in Russian, an exposition of Schelling’s philosophy for the layman (1850).

In Kyiv a Christian outlook with a Schellingian hue was propagated by P. Avsenev, who taught at the Kyiv Theological Academy (1836–50) and Kyiv University (1838–44). Interested in psychic phenomena, he expounded the ideas of the Schellingian school of psychology (G. von Schubert and C. Carus). Through his personal acquaintance with Mykola Hulak, Vasyl Bilozersky, and Opanas Markovych he may have exercised a formative influence on the Romantic Christian ideology of the Cyril and Methodius Brotherhood. The first rector of Kyiv University, Mykhailo Maksymovych, came under the influence of Schelling’s Naturphilosophie during his study of botany at Moscow University (1821–3). In his scientific works on the chief foundations of zoology (1824) and nature (1833; 2nd edn 1847) he emphasized the unity of the natural world and its evolution. Although as a scientist he became increasingly critical of the speculative method, he rejected crude empiricism as an adequate scientific method. Schellingian ideas can be detected also in his later ethnographic works (eg, in his symbolic understanding of folk songs).

Although Danylo Vellansky, the first Schellingian of Ukrainian origin, worked in Saint Petersburg, his writings had an influence in Ukraine as well as in Russia. His Swedish-Finnish student C. Ekeblad, the author of a biopsychological study of the capacities of the human soul (1872), served as principal of the Nizhyn Lyceum for 25 years (1835–60).

Schelling’s influence in Ukraine was diverse and often contradictory. His ideas aroused interest in the natural sciences, but also encouraged a contemptuous attitude toward the scientific method. Schelling glorified the creative and cognitive power of reason but diverted its energy to Romantic musings and mystical wandering. His ideas stimulated interest in folklore and language. They were popular among members of the Kharkiv Romantic School and may have influenced Oleksander Potebnia’s theory of language.

Shpet, G. Ocherk razvitiia russkoi filosofii (Petrograd 1922)
Čiževsky, D. ‘The Influence of the Philosophy of Schelling (1775–1854) in the Ukraine,’ AUA, 5, nos 2–3 (1956)
Ostrianyn, D.; et al (eds). Narys istoriï filosofiï na Ukraïni (Kyiv 1966)
Kamenskii, Z. Russkaia filosofiia nachala XIX veka i Shelling (Moscow 1980)

Taras Zakydalsky

[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 4 (1993).]

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