Schelling’s Pauline Anthropology
What is usually known as Schelling’s late thought, the system of negative and positive philosophy, is marked by a deep engagement with the question of the religious—and with Christianity in particular. Yet ironically, this does not mean that Schelling is in any immediate sense a resource for the project of developing a religious ethics, if what is meant by such an ethics is the articulation, evaluation, and prescription of moral norms such as might be provided by Christian scripture. Schelling instead mounts a fundamental critique of the possibility of such an ethical project, and does so, one might say, precisely in the name of Christianity. For ethics for Schelling is necessarily a question of universal moral norms imposed by reason upon itself; but the universality of this moral law is such that it cannot account for what in us touches most closely, and stands most in need, of the divine: our non-universalizable personhood. In a philosophical recasting of Paul’s critique of the Law, Schelling attempts to show how only as free persons searching for a free God can we hope to establish a religious bond as an actual and historical force. Schelling’s Pauline anthropology thus allows him to show how negative philosophy, as the project of knowing God as the sum total of reality by a priori reason, ends in the need for a God outside of the mere concept, a God as the history of religious consciousness may give us hope there is.
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