Volume 83, 2009
Reason in Context
Mark J. Thomas
In Search of Ground
Schelling on God, Freedom, and the Existence of Evil
This paper is a reading of Schelling’s 1809 treatise Of Human Freedom in light of its relationship to the question why? and the principle of sufficient reason.
This “principle of ground” defines the limits of rational inquiry and poses substantial difficulties for the three central themes of Schelling’s text: God, freedom,
and the reality of evil. God and freedom go beyond the principle by requiring an absolute beginning—a ground that is not itself grounded. Evil defies rational
explanation, deriving its existence from a specifically human freedom to do evil. Schelling’s text traces God, freedom, and evil back to their origin at the moment
when God’s existence and its ground “sprung forth” from the non-ground. Here at the origins of ground the principle of reason no longer applies.