To Break All Finite Spheres: Bliss, the Absolute I, and the End of the World in Schelling’s 1795 Metaphysics
"The ultimate end goal of the finite I and the not-I, i.e., the end goal of the world," writes Schelling in Of the I as the Principle of Philosophy (1795), "is its annihilation as a world, i.e., as the exemplification of finitude." In this paper, I explicate this statement and its theoretical stakes through a comprehensive re-reading of Schelling's 1795 writings: Of the I and Philosophical Letters on Dogmatism and Criticism, written later in the same year, in relation to what Schelling proclaims to be the central problem of all philosophy: the existence of the world (Dasein der Welt). To that end, I analyze Schelling's 1795 conceptions of synthesis and morality, and the structure of the I's striving in the world that they serve to create and uphold – a structure in which the I is torn between a paradisal past and a striven-for future that it constitutively cannot reach as long as the world is there. Schelling's 1795 metaphysics is ultimately caught, I argue, in the tension between two poles: justifying the world, this world of negativity, division, and endless striving – and annihilating or dissolving it in the bliss of absolute identity and freedom, in which there is no world, and no possibility of or need for a world.