I'm reading Schelling's System of Transcendental Idealism, and in the end of the 3rd part (the end of the theoretical philosophy) schelling disproves the idea that a priori ideas are inherent in us from birth, and the idea that they come from an "original" flow (not sure or the correct term). After that he dismisses Malebranche and Berkeley's thoughts that the ideas originated in God.

Schelling then later on continues to state that all those mistaken conclusions can be resolved by the statement that the consciousness is neither a priori nor a postriori, when we see that the core of that seperation lies in the fact that the object of philosophy, the "I", is neither of those, which eliminates any objectiveness of a priori consciousness.

Now, I don't see Schelling disproves the concept of a priori ideas at all, in fact he relies deeply on that concept in his transcendental research. So I would like to ask, where DOES the a priori ideas lay?

  • "Without a doubt," Kant asserted, "the ground of the world order and its connection according to universal laws" (A696/B724) is different from the world. He went on to say, "For the greatest systematic and purposive unity, which your reason demands as a regulative principle to ground all investigation of nature, was precisely what justified you in making the idea of a highest intelligence [...]; and however much purposiveness you encounter in the world in accordance with that principle, so much confirmation do you have for the rightness of your idea." (A699/B727)
    – user3017
    Jan 2, 2018 at 10:07
  • Don't even a priori ideas rely on an even prior adoption of some system of logic? For example, you might assume that if A==>B then it's "a priori" that A==>B&B. But in (a substructural logic like) linear logic, that's just wrong.
    – user19423
    Jan 2, 2018 at 10:49
  • @JohnForkosh. Logic is not something we "adopt"; rather, it consists of the rules of our thinking, as Kant correctly pointed out: "[General logic] contains the absolutely necessary rules of thinking, without which no use of the understanding takes place, and it therefore concerns these rules without regard to the difference of the objects to which it may be directed." (A52/B76)
    – user3017
    Jan 2, 2018 at 12:26
  • @Pé de Leo if I understand your comment correctly, you're saying Schelling thought we simply can't find the exact origin of the ideas? Jan 2, 2018 at 13:02
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    schelling disproves the idea that a priori ideas are inherent in us from birth It's the contrary. There are a priori ideas at birth. Without them the baby would be helpless. The baby got them though in the womb already. The baby mind is brought in some shape there by sensory stimulation.
    – Pathfinder
    Apr 13, 2022 at 7:45

2 Answers 2


After going through the text again, I think (I'm highly uncertain of it) that I found the answer-

Schelling says that the ideas, as "mere" forms, are the only a priori ideas that exists in the "intelligence". These, are originated in the purely idealistic, unconscious, unwilling creation, thus are in a way both inaccessible and unawareable to the realistic, conscious, willing creation, while still being the base for the realistic ideas and actions.

Furthermore, Schelling states that the seperation, or even the acknowledgement of "a priori" and "a postriori" ideas is only accessible to the philosopher, that can, by the absolute abstraction and the transcendental philosophy research method, reach that seperation. For the conscious creation, only empirical/experimental ideas are accessible through the realistic perception.

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    Are these unconscious, unwilling creations created randomly or according to some criteria? If the latter, what is the origin of the criteria by which they're created?
    – user3017
    Jan 3, 2018 at 14:53
  • @Pé de Leão if you're referring to some thought similar to Schopenhauer, then in a very bold way, Schopenhauer's thought (at least the beginning of his theoretical research) is similar to Schelling (and Hegel). But, Schelling (at least as far as I've seen) doesn't think those creations are being created randomly, but rather in a very specific way - through Kant's categories, and they're all being created by the synthesis logical method. Saying unconscious, unwilling, creation, is exactly what caused Schopenhauer to come to his conclusions, but I think it's certainly not what Schelling meant. Jan 3, 2018 at 15:00

A priori does not mean "previous". That is, we don't get logical/metaphysical rules before physical/empirical knowledge. The Kantian a priori essentially means "necessary for".

Instead, both types of knowledge, a priori and a posteriori, are developed simultaneously. That was Kant's essential contribution to empiricism and rationalism.

The confusion with "previous" probably comes from this fact which is effectively related with time: at some point in time, a priori knowledge can be enough, and stop developing, while a posteriori keep developing (e.g. you already know the rules of arithmetics, you don't need to learn more arithmetics, but you continue adding numbers every day). So, in relationship to the amount of knowledge, a priori is developed relatively before a posteriori. But such is a loose interpretation.

Consider the following example, to gather the notion of their simultaneity.

It is necessary to experience the interaction to spherical objects, as an apple, in order to develop the a priori concept of sphere, and so, being able to know the actual apple. Without the notion of sphere, it is impossible to know the form of an apple, because there wouldn't be no reference form to compare to that of the apple. How can you know what is a line, if you don't know what IS NOT a line? Without such knowledge, an apple might take the form of a line, and that's not an apple: you still don't get a posteriori knowledge. A posteriori knowledge (an apple) is possible only if the a priori = necessary knowledge for knowing an apple exists.

That simple exercise shows that, while touching and experiencing physical bodies in the world, knowledge of geometric forms is developed in parallel. The same happens to all types of knowledge in the Transcendental Aesthetic and the Transcendental Analytic.

A personal speculation: I would consider instinctive newborn reflex as a form of a priori knowledge, but, again, not because it occurs before acquiring aesthetic or analytic a prioris: the mechanics of living (and non-living) entities have been developed simultaneously to all nature. Such mechanisms express a tendency for existence (an analog to a priori knowledge), simultaneously to the systemic and interactive behavior of nature (an analog to a posteriori knowledge).

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    Please note that the question, quite explicity, refers to the Schellingian thought (and more particularly the System era), not Kantian thought (however similar) :) Apr 8 at 9:03

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