F.W.J. Schelling - On the Relationship of the Plastic Arts to Nature

Jason M. Wirth


This is Schelling’s most notable public address. Its length and difficulty prompt one to wonder how many of his audience were able to follow it, but it remains a seminal text to read and study, one that brings together in dynamic co-illumination two of the great strands of Schelling’s early thought: his Naturphilosophie and Kunstphilosophie. Along with the turn to art in the 1800 System of Transcendental Idealism and the Würzburg lectures on the Philosophy of Art, it is Schelling’s most important and memorable philosophical reflections on art. It is his most concise and unabashed defense of the genetic dynamism of art and its indispensability for human life. Although Schelling’s call for a “revival” of a “thoroughly” and “peculiarly German art” went largely unheeded in Munich until perhaps Der Blaue Reiter collective in the early Twentieth Century, this address’s provocative analysis of the “spiritual in art,” was not only taken up, however indirectly, by Kandinsky in his book (Über das Geistige in der Kunst), but it remains current and worthy of engagement.

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