The Philosophical Significance of Schelling’s Plato Notebooks (1792–1794)

Naomi Fisher


Prior to getting swept up into the new philosophy, Schelling was immersed in the old. Until the final year of his formal education at Tübingen, Schelling was engaged in classical philosophical and theological studies. He wrote commentaries on several biblical texts, wrote and published a treatise on myth, and spent time engaging with Plato’s dialogues and Platonism, especially insofar as Platonism affected the Biblical texts and the development of Christian doctrine. The importance of these aspects of Schelling’s intellectual heritage is beginning to be recognized, especially for Schelling’s late philosophy, when he returns to themes of mythology and revelation. Accordingly, we can take as a working hypothesis that this early formation in the classical philosophical and theological traditions with an emphasis on the divine is important to Schelling’s overarching philosophical orientation and development. While many of the authors and themes that Schelling engaged with at this time are no longer well-known to contemporary scholars, his engagement with Plato can offer a useful window into his philosophical orientation at that time. His notes and texts on Plato resonate in striking ways with his subsequent philosophical work, particularly in his commitment to a higher capacity in the human being which enables access to something which cannot be rendered in conceptual or discursive form.

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