I read the following quote somewhere:

Inspired by the romantic spirit of a 'global spirit' and the understanding that all forces are the manifestation of a unified force; Schelling, Faraday & Oersted attempt to understand electricity & magnetism on a common basis: Nature philosophy actively influences science.

I take it that Schelling was going from Hegel, or was there some common inspiration? Hegel, in his Philosophy of Right wrote:

When it is said that matter is heavy, it might be meant that the predicate is an accident; but such is not the case, for in matter there is nothing that has not weight. In fact, matter is weight (S. 4 Zu.)

Thereby saying matter is force; that is everything physical is reducible to force - which is one notion of 'unification'; and interestingly different from Spinoza, for whom the physical is extension. It appears here, that Spinoza is inspired by the mathematical sciences - Euclid; and Hegel here, by Physics, at least here.

Did Schelling have a theory of force (I mean in a philosophical sense), and how did he justify it?

  • 2
    Hegel is more likely to have been following Schelling on this than the opposite. Jul 4, 2016 at 1:25
  • Schelling and Hegel were intimite friends with Hölderlin, who in the late 1790s was some kind of their conceptual avantgarde, as he already studied in Jena, center of post-kantian philosophy, first hand at that time. But Schelling wrote his System of Chemistry around 1800, Hegel being the youngest and "latest" of the three - the Philosophy of Right being from 1820 (!)
    – Philip Klöcking
    Jul 4, 2016 at 2:13
  • @McLarty: I think I read somewhere that Schelling made his name first as a philosopher, and that Hegel was playing catchup for a while. Jul 4, 2016 at 2:17
  • @klocking: thanks for your comment; is this a philosophical system of chemistry, or one in the usual sense? its the term 'philosophy of nature' that intrigues me - and Holderlin might have been an apposite influence as he, at least from what I've read, is inspired by Empedocles; and thus the theory of elements or roots (rhizomata). Jul 4, 2016 at 2:24
  • It is explicitely philosophical, but includes inductive (1797 Ideas for a Philosophy of Nature: as Introduction to the Study of this Science and 1798 Von der Weltseele (Of the World Soul, no translation available)) expressions, starting from empirical scientific findings, as well as a deductive, 'metaphysical' one (Presentation of My System of Philosophy, 1801).
    – Philip Klöcking
    Jul 4, 2016 at 2:51

1 Answer 1


I doubt that Schelling is getting his inspiration on this point from Hegel. More likely, they are both depending on the conception of science at the time.

A few pieces of background on what's going on in the Hegel passage that makes this unlikely:

  1. Most of Hegel's texts are divided between a terse version and Zusatze ("Additions"). The quote is from an addition which means it's meant (at least in part) to interpret the terser bit rather than to make a novel point.

  2. The original part is section (basically like a paragraph) 4 of the Philosophy of Right which states

The basis [Boden] of right is the realm of spirit in general and its precise location and point of departure is the will. The will is free, so that freedom constitutes its substance and destiny [Bestimmung] and the system of right is the realm of actualized freedom, the world of spirit produced from within itself as a second nature.

  1. Within the addition, the part you're quoting appears as the analogy to argue from -- not the claim to argue to. The Hegel quote is not trying to make a point about matter but about freedom and the will. The quote continues:

... Heaviness constitutes the body and is the body. It is just the same with freedom and the will, for that which is free is the will. Will without freedom is an empty word, just as freedom is actual only as will or as subject. But as for the connection between the will and thought ...

  1. Hegel and Schelling were not on good terms at the time the book was written, so if it was a novel development by Hegel, then Schelling would have wanted to distinguish his position from it. None other than Charles Taylor notes the following about Hegel's failure to predict evolution:

This is another example of how Hegel's philosophy of nature was dependent on (his understanding of) the science of his time as well; other writers in the same field like Schelling; while his philosophies of man and history struck out beyond all contemporaries (Charles Taylor, Hegel, Cambridge University Press: 1975, 91).

  • I gathered that Hegel wasn't making a point about matter or force, particularly on a book on Right; nonetheless it caught my attention. Jul 4, 2016 at 1:50

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