What is the relation of Spinoza to Schelling?

To identify these correlations we will conduct a contrast of Spinoza’s and Schelling’s philosophies and investigate their pantheistic systems. In order to convey the differences between the two philosophers, we will start by inquiring into the meaning of pantheism as it is a topic that Schelling sets out to unravel near to the beginning of his freedom essay. To begin we will introduce what pantheism is and the way it may be misinterpreted namely by reviewing Schopenhauer’s view. Further an overview of Spinoza’s pantheistic approach will be provided using passages from his Ethics, after which we will refer to Schelling and follow on to discuss the system that Schelling adopts in the freedom essay. We will then contrast the two and it will be argued that Spinoza’s mechanical system suggests everything that is, is determined as God or Nature which is in all things since God or Nature is primal cause which differs from Schelling’s system as substances themselves do not make up the system but it is rather acts, forces and motions that determine things into existence. We will also inquire into the differences of freedom, as the best system is the one that can explain the universe adequately i.e. the necessary relations between components and unite it with freedom, without excluding either. We will present the way in which Schelling’s theory grounds freedom in his pantheistic system which in contrast seems to be limited in Spinoza’s to the first cause. The discussion will determine Schelling’s striving to prove that freedom exists throughout the system where we will argue Spinoza fails. In addition, we will seek to utilize Schelling’s references to Spinoza to highlight that they serve to argue and clarify the misunderstandings that have been ascribed to Spinoza and produce an opening for Schelling’s freedom that he claims to exist in the universe which produces God-Nature.
The word Pantheism originates from the Greek “Pan” translated as all and “theos” (theism) indicating to God, so all is God. What does it mean to say God is all? Schopenhauer’s essay “A few words on Pantheism” (Schopenhauer, 2007; 40) maintains that “calling God the world (…) says nothing” as it does not explain anything and he denotes that the concept uses theism as its basis, which Levine argues to be “inaccurate” as the concept refuses theism and “pantheism never has been a simple identification of the world with God” (Levine, 1994, 28). Though Levine does not provide an example, if we took Spinoza’s so-called pantheistic doctrine in contrast to the Christian teachings it becomes apparent that the Christian God is a “personal God who by act of will created the universe” (Hampshire, 42) and is outside of the system which he created where Spinoza’s Nature or God is the system, it does not separate itself from that which it has self-created, but instead unifies all what is. Levine implies that Spinoza’s natura naturans and natura naturata is the defence against that which Schopenhauer identifies pantheism to be “god is the world”, although Levine does not explain why, we discover in Kashap’s literature entitled “Spinoza & Moral Freedom”. He claims some understand Spinoza’s God to be “identical with Nature, in the sense of the universe as a whole (i.e. the physical world)” which is similar if not identical to Schopenhauer’s view that was pointed out by Levine.
Kashap disagrees with such understandings because the “interpretation appears to be a consequence of a failure to take into account the distinction between the kind of existence ascribed” to natura naturans and natura naturata which he sustains not to be identical (27). Kashap reasons that Spinoza’s God “is an independent reality which needs nothing other than nature to exist in the sense of being eternal”, he assures that natura naturata is an aftermath of “this nature of God”, which is natura naturans and therefore not the same. In other words, God is Nature but there are two parts to it Natura Naturans, the antecedent which is nature naturing (self-creating or producing) identifying the cause of the system that is God or Nature and the passive (Natura Naturata)(nature created or product) which is the consequent and are therefore modes of the system. As Hampshire explains “God or Nature as the unique creator (Natura naturans) and as the unique creation (Natura Naturata)” both of these are identities of “the Creator and his creation” which are logical necessities in the explanation of the universe as one causal system (Hamphsire,37). So calling “God is all” does not mean “nothing” as Schopenhauer suggests due to his misunderstanding but a means to provide a logical explanation of the forces in the universe as a unity of cause and effect, ‘God is all’ is a concept uniting all that is; explaining everything within a single rational theory.
Furthermore, in Spinoza’s Ethics, in particular proposition XIV he determines that “God is one, that is (by Def. vi.), only one substance can be granted in the universe” so in other words it suggests that nothing exists other than God including his attributes and therefore God is nature as it is necessarily part of the one substance which is evident in proposition XX; “The existence of God and his essence are one and the same”. God is (Prop. VI) substance meaning it is the essence of God to exist and following proposition XV from the Ethics he denotes that “whatsoever is, is in God, and without God nothing can be, or be conceived” suggesting that God determines all things to be, this also is important contribution to the body and soul argument which puts forward that both are attributes of God as a consequence of everything existing in him.
Consequently, if everything exists is God it begs to question where did God come from? Referring to proposition XVI “God is absolutely the first cause” meaning that Spinoza’s system doesn’t necessarily have a beginning i.e. a theory of God’s existence nor end; as the proposition XIX declares that “eternity appertains to the nature of substance (…) therefore eternity appertains to each of the attributes, and thus are all eternal”, in other words God just so appears to exist. We discover from these passages and that of proposition XX that since God and his attributes are eternal “it follows that God, and all attributes of God, are unchangeable”. This must be the most concerning part relating to the Ethics as if things do not change then they are consequently fixed with no freedom as everything is determined which is posited in XXVI “a thing which is conditioned to act (…) has necessarily been conditioned by God”. Although Spinoza does not assert his system to be mechanical it is evident that since everything is related and works as part of one system just like the mechanism of a clock, we can argue that God-Nature has no freedom. Nevertheless, it will be argued that freedom exists in Spinoza’s system as the natura naturans, in relation to the clock its watchmaker, that is God-Nature creating at the beginning after which everything is eternal and unchanging, therefore the system itself eradicates the possibility of the modes of the system to have freedom. Turning to Wirth who has written extensively on Spinoza and Schelling, he mentions that Schelling aimed to release the “absolute sovereignty” of God that exists in Spinoza’s system avoiding Spinoza’s “mechanistic physics” and replace it with freedom as absolute sovereignty of nature (Wirth:2003; 68).
Suggesting that of a similar system posited by Spinoza as Schelling adopts a pantheistic system stating “(…)individual freedom is surely connected with the world as a whole (…) some kind of system must be present, at least in the divine understanding, with which freedom coexists” (SW 7:337), however it is freedom(the sovereign) that rules. In Schelling’s system there necessarily exists freedom within it and alongside it. In the introduction of the freedom essay, Schelling resurrects the meaning of Pantheism identifying some misunderstandings which he claims to have obscured its real identity. The misunderstanding he argues is of the term pantheism (Spinozism) treated as a label believed “the only possible system of reason is pantheism, but this is inevitably fatalism” (SW 7:339) and the reason it is fatalism is because the system is thought to be already predetermined by God as he is omnipotent. Schelling’s interpretation of the concept as fatalistic is not directly associated to pantheism as it “emerges from those with the liveliest sense of freedom, pantheism must itself be recognized as a product of freedom” (Freydberg:19). Schelling does not oppose pantheism he thinks Spinoza was right to suggest a unity, however the misunderstanding that flows from Spinoza’s work which has given the term pantheism a deterministic quality needs to be clarified so that Schelling’s work is not misread. He provides three arguments against Spinoza’s understanding so that he can show pantheism is a plausible system that does not entail determinism or fatalism.
Schelling’s first of the three arguments is that pantheism is associated with “a complete identification of God with things” (SW 7:339), which he finds problematic taking into account the quantity of things that exist as God-Nature which is of a qualitative property. In addition, when Schelling measures Spinoza’s account on God; “things are obviously not different from God” he immediately argues against by stating “they are absolutely separate from God (…) all things together cannot amount to God” (SW 7:341) because things that derive from God in any manner are not God in the “genuine and eminent sense”. He secondly identifies “in Spinoza the individual thing is equivalent to God” (SW 7:340) suggesting that the individual thing “a modified god” is a product of God and is God itself which can be interpreted as meaning that God is the same as the thing(s) he created, a blending of creator and created into a single unity in which the created is creator of itself. This cannot be, as it is not possible for created (dependent) thing to be the creator (independent) of what created it that is independent. Schelling argues it is a misunderstanding law of identity, which we will return to but it can also be argued that “the idea of the absolute contradicts the idea of things and vice versa”(Wirth, 2003:69) breaking the law of non-contradiction as Aristotle states “it is impossible for the same thing at the same time both to be-in and not to be-in the same thing in the same respect” 2005b, God-Nature cannot be the creator and the created thing it created at the same time. In other words, God cannot be God and not God. At best the created can be creators but of their creations and not of themselves i.e. organic reproduction – the child is dependent on the mother for being born but independent as it has freedom to act on with its own nature.
The two arguments are reasoned by Schelling using the law of identity, the subject-predicate form, which accordingly denies the predicate to be the subject. Using the law of identity, the tautology “The body is body” reflects the first body as subject is different to the second as predicate, therefore “in no possible proposition which in the explanation expresses the identity of subject and predicate as sameness”. Using the tautology example of the six that Schelling produces in his freedom essay (White Alan), Wirth notes that “the claim is never made that in pantheism there is a tautology between God and things (God = things)” as they are not the same (Wirth, 2003: 69). It is through the law of identity we understand that God and things are not the same as God is the antecedent (subject) and things are the consequents (predicate).
Thirdly, since Schelling has shown that Spinoza’s identicalness of things as God is misunderstood he argues for those “defenders of the foregoing claim will now say that pantheism does not speak at all about the fact that God is everything, but rather about the fact that things are nothing (SW 7:343)”. The argument claiming things are nothing follows that there is nothing but God therefore it is a paradox to God-Nature being all things, this destroys freedom by declaring God-Nature as nothing which is non-productive and misleading as there must be an antecedent and consequent, as we cannot identify nature producing no-thing, rendering it eternal and without a function.
Schelling argues that freedom has been missed due to misunderstanding the form of dependency of beings to God. Our existence maybe dependent on God but this does not abolish freedom, just like our organic existence is dependent through another but we ourselves are independent to act with freedom. It becomes evident that pantheism is not determined, it is not fixed but rather has independencies with freedom from that which created it. Freydberg interprets the pantheism of Spinoza suggesting “the absence of eros leaves the system of reason bereft of life and therefore abstract (…) (which) dooms the system to incompleteness even in the formal sense”(Freydberg 20). The system of reason indicates to pantheism and the eros that Freydberg is concerned with is the liveliness of motion, forces (freedom) which lack in Spinozism which Cottingham demonstrates by asserting “the motion and rest of a body must arise from another body, which in turn has been determined to motion and rest by another body….mind and body are the same thing” (Cottingham: 2011:228). The underlying basis of spinozism determines everything that exists is connected to everything as part of a whole and that whole is a divine entity that is responsible for those parts just as those parts are responsible for the divine entity, however the dynamic element introduced by Spinoza is contradictory as natura naturata cancels the natura naturans. If God-Nature is eternal, then it must be continuously productive and if it finalizes its product then it becomes finite and not eternal.
We have attempted to show through Schelling that dependency is not determination, therefore pantheism is not determined as the dependent cannot be responsible for the independent’s existence and we have reasoned Spinoza’s Naturans and naturata failure along with the other misunderstandings. Furthermore, Schelling offers that “through freedom a fundamentally unlimited power is asserted next to and outside of divine power” (SW 7:339) meaning real freedom is an unconditioned power and not determined by Nature like in Spinoza, but has its own place throughout the system that is the driving force that enables things to exist. Schelling’s system is that of essence, the unity of everything hence all is one (pantheism), yet it is divided into two forms similar to antecedent (subject) and consequent (predicate). The logic of subject and predicate are ground of existence. From that which we have incurred we recognize things come into existence through the will (freedom), in Schelling’s terms the ground, the primal being. The ground in which there is no existence, but the willing of forces that strive to existence and to be consequent, that is existence. The consequent cannot be the ground just as in the organic form the child cannot be the mother therefore God-nature is all in Spinoza’s understanding is misleading.
In conclusion to the relation of Spinoza to Schelling we identify the link to be pantheism, a system that is unified; all is one, however the underlining question we have tried to evaluate is whether freedom is dependent on God-Nature or not. For Spinoza God-Nature is eternal, which we have argued to be invalid by naturans naturata, secondly since God-Nature is the first cause it has been asserted that freedom is dependent and determined, but we realize by using the law of identity introduced by Schelling should freedom be dependent on nature then freedom would be a consequence of it, which would necessarily not mean to be determined by Nature but a product which could still continue to be free. Furthermore, if Schelling is right to suggest that freedom must be an unconditioned power and if we argue this to be the “first cause” of the system, then it is reasonable to state that as willing (primal being) exists throughout the system it may be its very first stage from which everything derives from. Freedom must be necessary because it is the action of willing that gives the necessary force, the liveliness of existence and the power that drives the system. The freedom value gives Schelling’s system a constant change supported by reason, unlike Spinoza’s unchanged system that we have argued to be determined and seems to be dogmatic. For if freedom did not exist throughout the system, the system would be determined, and consequently a “dead dog” as Spinoza/Spinozism has been described to be by the militant establishment (Wirth:2003; 67). However, it appears that since there are so many possibilities available, free acts at least to us humans, freedom does exist. Surely if everything had been predetermined then freedom of choice would not be possible. After analyzing the relations between Spinoza and Schelling, it is evident that Schelling enforced a corrected ontological theory deduced from Spinoza’s misunderstandings to produce a system that allowed freedom (the primal will) to be the ground of existence.

Kirk G., 1954, Heraclitus the cosmic Fragments, Cambridge University Press: New York
Levine M., 1994, Pantheism a non theistic concept of deity, Routledge, London
Schopenhauer A and Saunders T, 2007, Religion: A dialogue and other essays, New York: Cosimo
Wirth J., 2003, The Conspiracy of Life Mediations on Schelling and His Time, State University of New York Press: New York


Posted on July 1, 2014, in philosophical and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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