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5 - The State and Nature of Unity and Freedom: German Romantic Biology and Ethics

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  06 July 2010

Jane Maienschein
Affiliation:
Arizona State University
Michael Ruse
Affiliation:
University of Guelph, Ontario
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Summary

Two of the most fundamental issues grappled with by German romantics, Naturphilosophen, and investigators of nature during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries were the nature of freedom and the freedom of nature. Fichte, Schelling, Goethe, Schiller, the Schlegel brothers, Schleiermacher, and Novalis all sought to restructure civic order based upon natural order and freedom. Each of those scholars turned to the philosophy of Kant in order to reformulate the relationship between nature and culture. Fichte and Schelling, in particular, set out to establish systematic studies of human freedom, transcending the boundaries set by their intellectual hero from Konigsberg. Filled with the Jacobin spirit kindled by the French Revolution, Fichte's Wissenschaftslehre, as he acknowledged, owed much to the ideology of the French Republic. It was “the first system of freedom,” and “as that nation [revolutionary France] tore man loose from his outer chains, Fichte's system of knowledge removed the Kantian fetters of the things-in-themselves and declared man to be ontologically free as well” (Fichte 1970, p. 298; Morgan 1991, p. 27).

Schelling echoed Fichte's emphasis on political freedom and support for the French Revolution. Indeed, Schelling implicitly linked the two revolutions, Kantian and French. In his obituary for Kant in 1804, Schelling wrote that “it was one and the same spirit, which was long in forming, that created – according to the differences of nation and circumstance – the atmosphere there [in France] for a real revolution and here [in the German territories] for an ideal revolution” (Schelling 1992, vol. 3, pp. 585–94).

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 1999

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