Schelling and Levinas on Theodicy and the “Life” of Evil


  • Bettina Bergo Université de Montréal


To begin, let us recall the two paths that Schelling identifies in 1809 as alone able to give us a non-reductive elucidation of evil: dualism and kabbalism. He writes:

To demonstrate that there are but two means for explaining evil—the dualistic, according to which an evil ground-being with modifications supposed as much beneath as beside the good; and the Kabbalistic, according to which evil is explained through emanation or contraction, and that thereby every other system must sublimate evil—[to demonstrate this] would require nothing less than the entire power of a … fundamentally expanded philosophy.

The dualist path, setting good and evil either in a vertical (unter) or a lateral relation to each other, and the kabbalistic or ecstatic-instatic path, to which Schelling adds surreptitiously the neo-Platonic terms “emanation” and “distance”—these are the sole approaches liable to do justice to the reality of evil.