The Eclectic System in Cousin and Schelling

Daniel Whistler

Abstract


On 29 June 1832, Victor Cousin announced to F.W.J. Schelling, “In a few days, I will send you a new edition of my Fragments with an introduction that speaks much of you. It is one of the most important things I have written and I recommend it to your attention.” Cousin’s reference is to the new Preface written for the second edition of his Fragments philosophiques, which Schelling did indeed receive a year later. On 23 August 1833, Schelling responds: "I received with great pleasure and read with great interest the second edition of your Fragments philosophiques, evident proof of the fact that your political career has not taken you from science. Your friendship for me cannot be doubted from the Preface; I am thinking of giving an extract of it and a critique of the scientific part in a literary journal published here."

This promise of “a critique” was fulfilled in a notice Schelling published initially in the Bayer’schen Annalen in 1833 and subsequently, in revised form, as the Preface to the 1834 German translation of Cousin’s second-edition Prefac —“your preface to my preface,” as Cousin dubbed it. In 1835, it was translated into French, twice: initially by Félix Ravaisson and then by Joseph Willm. It was to become Schelling’s most significant publication during the final four decades of his life and, indeed, Schelling himself writes to Cousin of his apprehension and “repugnance at having to explain myself on so many very significant philosophical issues after having kept silent so long.”


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