Schelling and Nietzsche: On Setting Free the God of Love


  • Joseph P. Lawrence College of the Holy Cross


If prudence is the best advice for those who seek to establish their identity by pursuing a career, it is courage that remains the indispensable virtue for anyone committed to philosophy. If academics in general, career-oriented as they are, can be forgiven for acquiescing to a culture of political correctness, philosophers cannot. A philosopher's duty is to question authority, regardless of which party happens to be in power. It is for this reason that I have chosen to highlight that dimension of Schelling's and Nietzsche's thinking that is most explicitly opposed to the secular religion of progress that forms the core of capitalist modernity. Whether the religion of progress manifests itself in the economic liberalism of the Right or in the cultural liberalism of the Left, the result is always the same: contempt and hostility for whatever nature herself has put forth. While it is true that, in Schelling's view, divinity steps into existence by subduing its own dark ground, it does not follow that he believes that divinity then casts aside what it has subdued. For, as is particularly clear in its pagan manifestation, the ground of divinity is nature, the shared ground of life as such. Because divinity completes itself only in being shared, it must allow the dark ground to continue to operate, finding suitable company only in what, like it, has the courage to stand up to darkness. Whereas the merely human, governed by fear, would control nature, the divinely human would much rather set it free.

Author Biography

Joseph P. Lawrence, College of the Holy Cross

Born the seventh of fifteen children on a hill-side farm in Cox's Creek, Kentucky, Joseph Lawrence was raised a Catholic, but displayed Gnostic inclinations from an early age. He was educated at Washington UniversityColumbia University, and Tübingen University in Germany. He has advanced degrees in both history and philosophy.

Lawrence's happiest and most productive years have been spent as an expatriate in Europe and Asia. At home in the hills of Kentucky, he is emphatically an outsider (and a highly critical one) to the world of middle-class suburbia. Accustomed to philosophize with a hammer, his teaching has been likened to a cerebral form of shock therapy. Most of his publications have been on the philosopher Schelling (he is the author of Schellings Philosophie des ewigen Anfangs), though he has also made frequent forays into ancient philosophy and the wisdom traditions of the East. Lawrence has forthcoming books on Socrates and on Religion and Evil, and his next book-length project will be a work on philosophical religion.