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Nature and Realism in Schelling’s Philosophy

 | 
Emilio Carlo Corriero
, 
Andrea Dezi

What is an Action?

Ground and Consequent in Schelling’s Philosophy of Nature

Iain Hamilton Grant

Texte intégral

  • 1 Schelling F.W.J., Philosophische Untersuchungen über das Wesen der menschlichen Freiheit und die da (...)

All nature tells us that it is in no wise by virtue of mere geometrical necessity that it exists; there is not simply pure reason in it, but personality and spirit. […] Otherwise, geometric reasoning which has ruled for so long must long since have fully penetrated nature and have achieved its idol of universal and eternal laws of nature more fully than has yet occurred, since every day is has to take increased cognizance of the irrational relationship of nature to itself. Creation is nothing given but an act. There are no consequences of universal laws; instead, God, i.e. God’s person, is the universal law, and everything that happens is by virtue of God’s personality.1

  • 2 Schelling F.W.J., System der gesamten Philosophie und der Naturphilosophie insbesondere (1804), in (...)
  • 3 “The natural philosophy of our time”, says Schelling, “has first advanced in science the distinctio (...)
  • 4 SW I/7, 371; tr. Gutmann, 47
  • 5 SW I/7, 357; tr. Gutmann, 31
  • 6 SW I/7, 396; tr. Gutmann, 76, t.m.
  • 7 SW I/7, 395; tr. Gutmann, 74, t.m. See also SW I/7, 415; tr. Gutmann, 98: “We have an earlier revel (...)
  • 8 That is, the nature ‘outlined’ in the First Outline of a System of the Philosophy of Nature (1799) (...)
  • 9 This is how Schelling, drawing on Aristotle’s De anima 414b29f, presents what he calls the “law of (...)

1A Schelling scholar would immediately note an anachronism in my title. The concepts ‘ground and consequent’, she would point out, stem not from the Naturphilosophie but from the Philosophical Inquiries into the Essence of Human Freedom and the Objects Connected Therewith. The philosophy of nature is over after the 1804 Würzburg System2 at the latest, and the philosophy of freedom, if not of religion, revelation and mythology, succeeds this beginning with the already strange prose of the Freiheitsschrift. Why then, we would reply, does Schelling continue to draw on the Naturphilosophie in that work, not only for the famed distinction between ground and existence,3 but to the extent that these inquiries affirm that “the root of freedom” lies “in the independent ground of nature”,4 such a way that “the task to be undertaken here can only be developed from the fundamental principles of a true nature-philosophy”?5 Even at the far end of the Inquiries when, following the “dynamic mode of explanation”, “nature’s laws” are “reduced to feeling, spirit and willing”,6 the word, the unit of what Schelling calls a “second” or consequent revelation, is “spoken out into nature”,7 a nature that remains despite the “reduction” and upon which its revelation remains consequent. Thus the nature outlined in the earlier philosophy of nature is exhibited in the later.8 The question, then, is how consequence arises and what consequences this entails for the antecedent. Why does reduction not eliminate what is reduced; by what power, that is, does the antecedent remain in the consequent?9

  • 10 Schelling F.W.J., Timaeus. Schellingiana 4, Buchner H. (ed.), Stuttgart-Bad Canstatt: Frommann-Holz (...)
  • 11 Schelling F.W.J., Einleitung in die Philosophie. Schellingiana 1, Ehrhardt W.E. (ed.), Stuttgart-Ba (...)
  • 12 This is too compressed to be helpful here. For more on this claim, see my ‘Remains of the World’, i (...)
  • 13 Andere Deduktion der Prinzipien der positiven Philosophie (1839), SW I/4, 339: “the necessarily exi (...)

2Apart from these historical reasons, which demonstrate at least a continuing attention to the nature-philosophy, there is a demonstrable conceptual continuity throughout Schelling’s career, chiefly concerning the ultimacy of environing powers. Even the question of Schelling’s response to what he calls “Kant’s critique of natural cognition [Kants Kritik des natürlichen Erkennens]” (SW II/1, 526), itself a continuation of the Kant-Plato constellation concerning the “substantiality of the idea”,10 admits of a constant solution throughout: Schelling transforms Kant’s critical restriction of the capacities of the concept into reason’s attempt at self-transcendence in what he later called negative philosophy, the philosophy of essence or of the what there is, of what is in the middle; that there is, however, transcendental philosophy cannot address, since it lacks the means for positing what is outside itself. Such a role is taken by the Naturphilosophie in the earlier work, which opens reason to its source, while the later positive philosophy, the true goal of which is “the concept of creation”,11 forges a naturalism concerning the powers of the concept as the basis for its “intensification” or “potentiation”.12 Thus neither the positive nor naturephilosophy simply accept or reject Kantian restrictions on the capacities of the concept, nor affirm a merely hypothetical nature on the basis of such capacities. Rather, each seeks a one-world solution that does not invoke the relation ‘concept-object’, but rather the positivity, the “natura necessaria13 of concepts. Conceptual relations, then, just are conceptual; but relations between concepts and other natural kinds become questions of dependency. As he puts the point in the Stuttgart Private Lecturesof 1810,

  • 14 “Inwiefern ist überhaupt ein System möglich? Antwort: es hat lange schon ein System gegeben, ehe de (...)

To what extent is a system ever possible? I would answer that long before man decided to create a system, there already existed one, that of the world or cosmos.14 

3The possibility question is not answered directly: no causal account is offered, nor is any relation posited between the world-system and a voluntaristically created one. Rather, the dependency of the consequent upon an antecedent is asserted. The location of something’s being conceived is not the source upon which its being-conceived depends, but distributes grounds and consequents from a state of affairs or ‘field’, as a feature of which there occurs a conceiving. In other words, not only does the being-conceived of X entail the conceiving of X not being, or makes the being of X consequent upon not-X; the conceiving’s occurring similarly entails that its non-occurrence be conceived. To offer a sketch of the hypothesis: the field formed by the conceiving extends beyond an X conceived, it smears the entity into its past, and further into a past that is no longer specifically its past. The conceiving involves “creation”, as Schelling says, not in the sense that it is autochthonous, but rather in the sense that nothing is or, that everything that is, is dependent. Schelling thus offers a field ontology that involves nature when the conditions of emergence cannot be exhaustively recovered in the conceiving, such that the conceiving is regional within a field which, because grounds are distributed within it, is not grounded in itself, and so is itself ungrounded. I hope to unpack the virtues and character of this account in the following.

  • 15 Although I will not concentrate on this here, its first formulation follows from Schelling’s 1794 c (...)

4The question of inexhaustible dependency, or the problem of grounds, is, I assert, a problem Schelling is concerned with throughout his work.15 Thus, I will examine it in the ‘ungrounding’ argument offered by Schelling’s Ideas for a Philosophy of Nature (1797) via the opening pages of the First Outline (1799), where he develops the hypothesis of “simple actants” and the Stufenfolge or “sequencing” connected with it. By moving freely between epochs of Schelling’s philosophizing, I take this therefore as an opportunity to elucidate the specific character of Schelling’s post-Kantian and naturalistic idealism.

1. Two Ungrounding Arguments

5The first matter to be confronted with respect to a philosophy of nature concerns how it is distinguished from the natural sciences that are indisputably a substantive a posteriori route to natural knowledge. For this reason, a philosophy of nature cannot avoid accusations of armchair metaphysics, which is equated with apriorism: what must obtain if nature is conceived in accordance with such and such a thesis?

6The assumption of those who make this accusation is that transcendental philosophy is easily overthrown, that it does not make things insurmountably thoughtish, so to speak (this is as true for experienced things as for things-in-themselves). Yet the First Outline and the Ideas take transcendental philosophy seriously, although where Kant asserts that insurmountability issues from experience and its apperception, Schelling considers that it stems from the nature of the concept. Yet this nature problematizes the character of insurmountability, as we shall see, since being insurmountable, this cannot be proper only to the concept.

7This is one reason why Schelling thinks a philosophy of nature remains prior to transcendental philosophy (the philosophy of the concept, or the critique of natural knowing) and the philosophy of freedom (the theory of autonomous consequents). Other such reasons include precisely those Kantian restrictions on what philosophy – the science of the concept – is capable of. The questions therefore are: in what sense is (a) a philosophy of nature prior to transcendental philosophy; and (b) in what sense can it be argued that nature is prior to the concept. When therefore he writes that

  • 16 SW I/3, 12: “der Begriff des Seyns als eines Ursprünglichen soll aus der Naturphilosophie (eben sow (...)

8The concept of being, as an original concept, should simply be eliminated from the philosophy of nature (as it should equally be from transcendental philosophy),16

  • 17 See Lectures 12 (SW II/1, 282-287) and 13 (SW II/1, 297-299) of the Darstellung des rein rationalen (...)
  • 18 SW I/10, 303. The question Schelling asks is richer. He writes, “the first question of philosophy i (...)

9Schelling is confirming the consequences of the destruction of the ontological proof Kant executed in the first Critique,17 namely, that the concept already qualifies hypothetical entities as being minimally just such entities, so that no valid conclusion may be drawn concerning their existence – beyond what is already in the premise. The positive lesson of this is that philosophy moves in the sphere of the concept, and that existence, far from being a predicate, is always a subject (which follows from the refutation: existence cannot be a predicate because it is presupposed in the subject). Hence how it is that Schelling formulates the question when he asks, at the beginning of the 1844 Exhibition of the Natural Process, “what am I thinking when I think what exists?”18 The negative lesson is that, when we think to escape it, for example, when we imagine our ontological hypotheses to track only those well-established deliverances of the natural sciences, then precisely for that reason we have not exited the domain of the concept, but remain within it.

10But Schelling not only affirms Kantian constraints on ontological propositions when he proposes the elimination of “the concept of being”. He adds, concerning that concept, that it should be eliminated as an original concept. That is, if there is a concept of being, it is not given, but emergent or constructed. Hence the claim that

  • 19Über die Natur philosophiren heißt die Natur schaffen”, SW I/3, 11, tr. Peterson, 14. This is also (...)

“to philosophize about nature means to create nature”.19

11While this may be read as following asserting the strongest of possible idealisms, as Jacobi challenged Kant to produce, i.e. that the only nature there is to philosophize about is the one philosophy itself produces, what follows in the First Outline demonstrates this insufficient.

12First, the proposition leaves the agent of this philosophising unpredicated. If it were the familiar, conceiving subject, the proposition would either mean that to philosophize about nature is to create the concept of nature, or that philosophy is the only creation we know.

  • 20 SW I/3, 17n; tr. Peterson, 17n.

13Second, if it is not this subject (and the proposition itself gives us no reason to think it is), then the agent of nature’s creation can be none other than nature, so that philosophizing itself is nature’s self-creation as concept, thus affirming that “nature is its own product”,20 even when this product is the philosophizing about it. Here the proposition means: the thinking you think you are thinking is in fact nature’s doing.

  • 21 SW I/3, 12; tr. Peterson, 14.
  • 22 The edition of the Weltalter published in Schelling’s Works (SW I/7) dates from 1815 and has been t (...)
  • 23 SW I/8, 200: “Aus der Quelle der Dinge geschöpft und ihr gleich, hat die menschliche Seele eine Mit (...)

14Third, because nature, if it is prior to being in that being is a derivative concept and as such should be “eliminated from naturephilosophy”,21 consists in the becoming of being, or in creation, it cannot adequately be conceived without thinking the emergence of emergence, the beginning of becoming, and thus creation. In this case, the proposition means: philosophizing about nature is to conceive creation and therefore involves creation. This is confirmed by all drafts22 of the Ages of the World: “Created out of the source of things and the same as it, the human soul has a co-science with creation.”23

  • 24 Plato, Philebus 26d, cited Schelling 1994, 63. Hermann Krings notes, in ‘Genesis und Materie - Zur (...)

15According to this last, it is because the concept of nature is consequent upon its creation that being is not prior to nature but consequent upon it or, since “nature” is the medium of the “becoming of being”.24 Yet the discussion from the First Outline focuses on the concept of being, on the hypothesis that every science has its unconditioned, on the problem of how an unconditioned is to be predicated of nature. In consequence, we may only say so far that nature’s antecedence with respect to being holds for, but not reducibly in, the domain of the concept. Yet this is at first sight inconsistent with Schelling’s later claim that

  • 25 SW II/3, 163n. “Denn nicht weil es ein Denken gibt, gibt es ein Seyn, sondern weil ein Seyn ist, gi (...)

It is not because there is thinking that there is being, but rather the converse: it is because there is being that there is thinking.25

  • 26 Unpublished paper, first annual meeting of the North American Schelling Society, Seattle, August 29 (...)
  • 27 SW I/10, 126; History of Modern Philosophy, tr. Andrew Bowie, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (...)
  • 28 Hegel’s Philosophy of Nature. Part Two of the Encyclopaedia of the Philosophical Sciences (1830) § (...)

16It appears inconsistent because the argument here concerns the consequent position of thinking with respect to being. Yet if this were so, how can the concept be held to be antecedent with respect to being? Since it is amongst what Edward Allen Beach has shown to be the five justifiable out of the ‘Twenty-Five Basic Criticisms of Hegel’ in On the History of Modern Philosophy26 in Schelling’s On The History of Modern Philosophy, that “Hegel erred in supposing that logic in principle can include everything”,27 Schelling himself would fall foul of the same criticism if he supposed, with Hegel, that “Nature is the first in point of time, but the absolute prius is the Idea; this absolute prius is the last, the true beginning, Alpha is Omega”.28

17Stated in the form of a dilemma, either nature itself is first and thinking last, or, the concept “nature” is prior to the nature conceived. If anything is prior to the concept, then what it is that so remains – being – remains originary and has not been, as per the First Outline’s instructions, eliminated either from the philosophy of nature or from transcendental philosophy. But it is not being but “the concept of being as an original concept” that is the candidate for elimination. The salient difference then is between being and its concept, where the latter is consequent upon the former, as per Schelling’s remark in the Grounding.

  • 29 Lyotard, J.-F., Leçons sur l’analytique du sublime, Paris: Galilée, 1991, 222.

18But how is such a “sideways on view” of the difference between the concept and its object generated, as though this view were not afforded precisely by the concept of ‘concept, object’? Is it Schelling’s contention that such a view is available? In other words, does the philosophy of nature rest precisely on the claim that, given the elimination of being from transcendental philosophy, the priority of the philosophy of nature over transcendental philosophy is “given”? Yet how would this be thinkable without violating the first principle of transcendental philosophy, that every concept is constructed, that nothing is given, and everything taken (“accepta, non data”, as Lyotard perspicuously notes)?29

19Look again at the statement:

The concept of being, as an original concept, should simply be eliminated from the philosophy of nature (as it should equally be from transcendental philosophy).

  • 30 SW I/3, 13: “Das Seyn selbst = Thätigkeit ist.” Tr. Peterson, 14.

20What is the elimination candidate? It is not Being but the concept of Being. Hence the later hypothesis that “Being itself is = activity”,30 or the earlier one that if, according to the principles of transcendental philosophy,

  • 31 SW I/3, 12: “[A]lles, was ist, Construktion des Geistes ist, so ist das Seyn selbst nichts anderes (...)

everything that is, is a construction of the mind, then Being itself is nothing other than the constructing itself.31

  • 32 ‘Über den wahren Begriff der Naturphilosophie und die richtige Art ihre Probleme aufzulösen’ was fi (...)
  • 33 SW I/4, 84.

21Nor is it the concept of Being per se, but rather the concept of being as an original concept, that is to be eliminated. Schelling objects to the very idea of the priority of the concept, in the first place as regards the philosophy of nature. “There is an idealism of nature, and an idealism of the I”, he writes, responding to a review of his nature-philosophical works up to 1800, enitled ‘On the true concept of Nature-philosophy’:32 “To me, the former is the original, and the latter the derivative”33. Nature, that is, is not to be conceived as parasitic upon an originary concept, which means precisely that the concept is not autochthonous. Therefore, a nature-philosophical inquiry begun from the originary concept of being begins precisely with a false prius since the concept of being, like all concepts, is derived. It is the derivative nature of the concept that is insuperable, and this belongs to a natura necessaria it shares with everything consequent.

  • 34 Fichte writes that “the concept of being [Seyns] is by no means regarded as a primary and original (...)
  • 35 SW I/4, 84 &n; tr. Peterson, 21 &n.

22The question is from what is it derived. Or rather, since by reason of derivation there are no originary concepts, how is derivation itself conceived to arise? If “being simply is activity” (Thätigkeit), there is no being from which activity could issue without violation of the proposition. In order that there is no straightforward opposition between being and activity, as there is for Fichte,34 Schelling identifies the principle of things, existents or beings with “simple actants”. According to this “dynamic atomism” we may now add that being is individuated activities, not merely activity itself. While the entirety of Section Two of the First Division of the First Outline is concerned with these “original actants”, their elaboration per se is hypothetically presented in a long footnote35 – because to acknowledge that there are simples is problematic for the sciences of emergence or the dynamic accounts of nature Schelling championed throughout his Naturphilosophie. Further, the problem of the identification of an X with a Y – a concept with, say, an action, a pulse of energy – is an account of identity he will first offer in § 52 of the 1801 Presentation of my System of Philosophy:

  • 36 I have not altered Vater’s translation choices as they are felicitous for my argument. However, it (...)
  • 37 SW I/4, 145, tr. Vater, 2012, 164.

The essence of absolute identity, insofar as it is the immediate ground of reality [Realität], is power [Kraft]. – [This] follows from the concept of power. For every immanent cause [Grund] 36 of reality is designated a power. But if absolute identity is the immediate ground [Grund] of a reality, it is immanent cause [Grund] as well. This is so because it is really only the immanent cause [Grund] of a Being [Seyns].37

23The simple actant is therefore simultaneously a principle (i.e., a creature of reason) and an entity. What is, is a derivative simple action. What, then, is the source of the hypothesis of “simple actants”?

24We have already laid the groundwork for the hypothesis. This groundwork consists of the following principles. Firstly, the elimination of originary concepts does not entail the elimination of concepts, nor even of concepts of origins, but only the originary nature of the concept as such. That is to say, they emerge and therefore are not the totality of what is. Secondly, if the concept is emergent then the conceiving of things is similarly so, such that emergence may be generalized or, as Schelling puts it, “unconditioned [unbedingt]” with respect to what is often called either a “space of reasons” or a nature occupying a distinct domain (for example, as the product of an equally rational “realm of law”). Thirdly, since if emergence occurs, we can neither assert an originary being nor assert of such and such an entity that it is original without contradicting the hypothesis, it follows that while actions are prior to products, products are not other than actions but inhibited, therefore reiterative, actions. It is these recursions or repetitions that are the simples of nature if nature consists, as Kielmeyer had it, in “proportions of forces” rather than in basic material substances.

  • 38 SW I/3, 17; tr. Peterson 17.
  • 39 SW I/2, 350; tr. Grant, 2010, 93.

25Accordingly, when the First Outline proposes that “Nature has unconditioned reality [unbedingte Realität]”,38 “unconditioning” works, minimally, in two ways. Firstly, the hypothesis entails that there is no original condition under which alone nature occurs, and secondly therefore, the conceiving of nature does not supply these conditions, such that the transcendental loop is never closed in knowing, which is why “our knowledge of first causes” is “incomplete”39 but rather open towards transcendentally and physically unrecoverable antecedence, towards a source never identifiable with any or all of its emergents.

26What Schelling here calls “unconditioned” is therefore a version of the ungrounded argument he provides first in the Introduction to the Ideas for a Philosophy of Nature, which we shall discuss prior to returning to the hypothesis of “simple actants” and their organization. The ‘Introduction’ consists, I will argue, in a realist argument for ungrounded powers and a realist critique of transcendental philosophy as “natural cognition”. Both are preparatory for an idealism that simultaneously outflanks the philosophy of the concept and a naturalism that outflanks that of the mere realist, whose criterion must always be less than the totality of the real.

27The ‘Introduction’ to the Ideas is critically addressed to the problems to which transcendental explanations of nature are subject, an argument that the translation unfortunately disguises by rendering the specifically Kantian term Vorstellung not, as is standard practise, as “representation” but as “idea”, which term is further used to translate Schelling’s Idee. To establish the gist of Schelling’s problematization of transcendental philosophy, it is worth rehearsing some of the Introduction’s key points. Specifically, these problems centre on how it is that concepts or ideas arise. If experience is as the transcendental philosopher says it is – namely, as we saw, ungrounded in anything underlying or originary – then there can be no distinction between object and idea. This is manifestly important if we are concerned either to deny or to affirm egress beyond a space of reasons by means of reason. However, our inability to distinguish object and idea, that is to say, rests on our knowing of “the reality of objects independent of our representations” only through our representations:

  • 40 SW I/2, 15; tr. Harris and Heath, 1988, 12.

In that I represent [vorstelle] the object [Gegenstand], object and representation are one and the same. And only in this inability to distinguish the object from the representation during the representing itself lies the conviction, for the ordinary understanding, of the reality of external things, which become known to it, after all, only through representations.40

  • 41 As Fichte found: “Intellect and thing are thus exact opposites [entgegengesetzt]: they inhabit two (...)
  • 42 SW I/2, 16; tr. Harris and Heath, 13.
  • 43 Schelling introjects the question, therefore, of how the question of the possibility of a world for (...)
  • 44 SW I/2, 17, tr. Harris and Heath, 13.

28Yet the philosopher may conceptually distinguish Gegenstand and Vorstellung in that, if, according to the hypothesis, things are independent of representations, they cannot be the effects of the latter. Yet if we then argue that “things are the causes [Ursachen] of representations”, it follows that the antecedence of thing to representation becomes permanently unbridgeable,41 such that no passage may be assumed from one to the other. It follows that things are what they are, while representations are what they are, and things therefore “are not represented” and that “we have no concept [Begriff] of them whatsoever”.42 This is not however an explanation of how things are in themselves, but rather of how it is that mind and matter separate, and they may do so not on their own, but rather only insofar as this separation issues from me:43 only because I recognize the dependency of each on my conceiving do “both arise only in the necessary succession of my representations, from which I have released myself” insofar as I raise myself above them as their source.44 This “raising myself above” is the apperceptive instance whereby alone I acknowledge my representations as my own. But this now reduplicates the ordinary understanding’s account of the ‘lateral’ separation of representation and object ‘vertically’: both representation and object are mine, resolving the question of their arising for me insofar as such objects are dependent on my representations. What now becomes inconceivable is how objects may affect me at all, how an I might have arisen, since I am alone the source of their representations. This is the top-down version of the ‘hard problem’, so to speak, such that there is no passage between the higher and the lower since the lower is the product of the higher. It is eliminative idealism.

29Now if this follows the “necessary succession of my representations”, then it is impossible that things be otherwise. Accordingly, I posit objects as powerless, yet as being affected by activity superior to them. Yet superior in what sense? How, that is, would my activity affect objects unless these objects were already my activity? And how, were that the case, would the nature of the activity differ from the nature of those objects? If, in other words, no objects are posited that are not posited by me, there can be no question of a causal relation – minimally, one in which effects arise – between things as they are in themselves and my representations, despite the fact that such things in themselves are not representations, because they are empty thought-things posited by me. And yet how would they then differ from objects I represent, since they are effects of the same capacity or power?

30Schelling’s point is absolutely not to argue in favour of a causal route to the arising of representations, but rather to show how there arises, in a nature so conceived, a dualism of object and act, of body and force, in consequence of the spontaneous separation of mind as representer and world as represented. Now, therefore, the transcendentalist must argue that a representation of matter, for instance, is not an object, but the sum total of actions that make it up. Hence the hypothesis that “matter has forces” which entails, according to Schelling, that if such a thing as matter is posited that is the bearer or substance of which forces are the accident, then matter cannot be argued to have arisen from forces at all, regardless of their source – whether a transcendental I or a material world. This is the point at which the initial rehearsal of what I am calling, in advance of Schelling’s own nomenclature for the ground of existence, the ungrounding argument.

31Assuming matter ontologically prior to forces, how would it acquire them? This is impossible, argues Schelling, since it entails an action by which both object and force are affected, that is, it presupposes what is to be explained, namely, that forces affect objects. Yet how could this occur unless the object or matter were not different in kind from forces? If they are not different in kind, then it cannot be argued that matter is in any sense “independent” of forces, nor therefore that it is ontologically prior to its activities. As Schelling puts it,

  • 45 SW I/2, 23; tr. Harris and Heath, 18.

You know only how matter, i.e. force itself, works against force; and how effects can be produced on something which originally is not force, we have no conception at all.45

  • 46 SW I/2, 23; tr. Harris and Heath, 18.

32If there is a concept of matter that has and therefore is not forces, neither is it thinkable how matter could have such forces, nor how forces could affect such matter. Matter serves merely as the “ultimate substratum, beyond which your knowledge cannot go”. Neither therefore can forces be explained from matter. So if activity occurs at all, it cannot be the case that it does so on the basis of some material substratum different in kind from forces. Yet the concept of matter arises precisely as a means of asserting a basis of reality independent of my representations, albeit this time neither as cause nor effect – because it is, ex hypothesi, external to me or, as Kant argues in the Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science, “outside my concept” (AA IV, 295) – but as that which is affected by forces such as, to use Schelling’s example, gravitation [Schwere]. So regardless of whether matter exists in itself or in my representations, it is inconsistent with the possibility either of its being or having effects since, by definition, it can neither have nor be the forces by means of which alone effects would be conceivable. Thus forces “cannot be explained from the matter”46 nor objects from activities, assuming the former different in kind from the latter. The only alternative therefore is to explain objects from forces and to abandon the idea of the substrate or ground in which they inhere or of which they are properties or accidents.

33Schelling’s conclusion is remarkable in that it demonstrates the requirement that, given a powers hypothesis, their ungroundedness is necessary regardless of whether the problem arises transcendentally or otherwise. If there are powers, then powers cannot be conceived as properties of something that essentially is not them on pain of simple dualism, since the latter cannot be explained from the former, nor the former from the latter. Moreover, we note that according to this account, the distribution of antecedent and consequent entails that the latter be consequent upon the former. That is, it follows from Schelling’s argumentation that no ground may be postulated as original if origination is to occur. That consequents arise is therefore the ground of antecedents consequently, not antecedently. If antecedence is operative at all, then it itself is emergent, not merely given.

34Hence the elimination of the “concept of being, as an original concept” rehearses the Ideas ungrounding argument at the outset of the First Outline, and is neither reducibly an argument concerning transcendental philosophy nor does it ignore it in the interests of some naïve realism. Rather, in consequence of Schelling’s pursuit of it, it emerges that antecedence is entailed when consequents, whether concepts or otherwise, arise. Hence the entailment of “simple actants” is that nature has unconditioned reality if there are actions at all. An action, that is, is one just when its emergence and its cessation are not reducible to one another, when, in other words, alpha is not omega, or when something arises. If what thus arises is conceived as ultimately or reducibly a change in some given substrate, then while the action is grounded, that substrate cannot be conceived as itself an action. In consequence, explaining how it is that something alien to action can be affected by one falls foul of the objections raised in the Ideas, to wit, that no such antecedent substrate may be conceived, if there are actions (i.e. if there are distributors of antecedence and consequence), without eliminating the concept of action and thus the emergence or derivation of the concept at the same time as that of nature. The question is whether, as the critical philosopher might think, this is a recommendable state of conceptual affairs, or whether the cost is too high – whether, that is, ontological quietism is secured by a presumed impotence of the concept.

  • 47 SW I/4, 156; tr. Vater 2012, 171.
  • 48 SW I/9, 439-452.

35Why then are “simple actants”, the hypothesis of “dynamic atomism”, advanced so hesitantly, principally in footnotes? As we shall see, Schelling is hesitant about the simplicity which attaches not to atoms or units, but powers, since if there are powers, and these are unbroken by grounds of another substantial kind, then how is it that “inhibition” might arise other than by powers acting on powers? In other words, it is the derivative rather than original character of simple actants that gives Schelling pause, since simplicity of actant is consequent upon a turbulent and ubiquitous acting. Consider, for example, a magnet. Its actions are simple and depend on opposing poles. But the local magnetic field is local not because it is autochthonously emergent, but because it is a localisation of a general magnetism or, as Schelling puts it, “the empirical magnet must be regarded as the indifference-point of the universal magnet [Totalmagnet]”.47 Øersted’s later demonstration that magnetism is derived from electromagnetism demonstrates a further complexification of what is involved in a local magnetic field, as Schelling remarks in his account of ‘Faraday’s most recent discovery’ in 1832.48 The question therefore raised by dynamic atomism is whether the simple is more or less complex than the complex? Accordingly, the structural or systemic account to which it gives rise is the absolute reverse of what was called, in the 1840s, the genetic problem, which may be exemplified by Goethe’s search for the Urpflanze and Urknochen, and in general by the hunt for seed of all nature. Lest the strangeness of this quest be lost: it is a viable search if and only if the assumption is that the particular from which the type actually sprang remains empirically available as the source of what comes later, or as the perdurant antecedent. In what respect, then, antecedent? It is for this reason the First Outline develops the account of nature as a Stufenfolge, in which the simple finds its niche.

2. Nature, the Concept of Nature, and the Stufenfolge

  • 49 SW I/2, 313-314n; tr. Harris and Heath, 249.

36The idea of the Stufenfolge – a “sequence of stages” or, later, the Naturprozess – occurs throughout Schelling’s early Naturphilo-sophischen works, and is augmented by the theories of powers or potencies left undeveloped at the end of the Ideas,49 where it is credited to Eschenmayer. Briefly summarized, it is a forerunner of the later Potenzenlehre in several respects:

1. Like each of the Potenzen, each stage or Stufe in a series (Folge) consists in at least two powers, articulating both ascent and descent (SW I/3, 195), the higher and the lower (SW I/3, 255-6), and individualisation and generalization (SW I/3, 90-91), each according to a law of proportionality (SW I/3, 68)

  • 50 See Schelling’s discussion of dimensionality in organic and inorganic nature in Lecture 19 of the P (...)

37A potency or power, that is, is not one unless it is capable of increase or diminution, and of contrary effects: magnetism attracts and repels; gravity maintains a body’s integrity and crushes it, and so on. These poles articulate a dimensionality of the power, a topology, as when the activities of a body make the spacetimes of which they are by nature capable.50

  • 51 SW I/4, 43.

2. The sequence of stages is also subject, like the Potenzlehre, to acting on itself, or acting at a different power (there are “second order” sequences of stages, or “production-reproducing natures”)51

  • 52 SW II/1, 502: “[T]he ascending consequent is consonant with and natural to reason”.

38Here a central logical feature of both the Stufenfolge and the Potenzenreihe emerges. The capacity Schelling grants them for “self-activity” is not to be confused with autochthony for the following reasons: firstly, were self-activity a homonym for spontaneity, this would be the one instance that undermines the hypothesis of antecedence consequent upon the ungrounding arguments set out above. Secondly, since the self-activity is of a series, no termini can be given for it at either beginning or end. Indeed, what a Stufe consists in is already problematized by its never being given outside a Folge, i.e. a sequence, such that sequencing affects each stage. Not only therefore are no stages on their own, but rather no stage may be settled as one without reference to the sequence in which it acts. A stage in a sequence is therefore a logical and systemic “raising”52 or “potentiation” with regard to any stage in which it is operative. Therefore:

3. Sequences of stages are not confined to one class of entity, e.g. the organic, but, by virtue of (1) above, necessarily conjoin everything from the physics of colour (SW I/2, 173) and the intensity of light (SW I/2, 281) and magnetism (SW I/4, 11), to the construction of matter (SW I/4, 51), oxidation (SW I/2, 579), motion (SW I/2, 185), the functions of organs (SW I/2, 523) or functions in general (SW I/2, 564, SW I/4, 10), the excitation of animal matter (SW I/2, 552), and ultimately constitute the dynamic natural process (SW I/4, 73).

39It is often concluded that the Potenzen can have only a logical nature. Yet if this were so, they must either be exempted from the domains noted in point three above, or merely asserted of them in such a manner that these domains either retain only a rationally insuperable counterfactual potential, or are themselves merely or sheerly conceptual fruits.

  • 53 SW II/3, 102; Schelling 2007, 160, t.m.
  • 54 SW II/1, 375f, my emphasis. See also Aristotle, De anima II 414b29f, on which Schelling draws here: (...)

4. The Potenzlehre is as closely associated with the negative philosophy as is the Stufenfolge with that of nature, such that both are elements of the philosophy of essence or of whatness. Yet this does not mean that potencies cannot exceed what is actual. Indeed, Schelling writes that the potencies are “by their nature… about to spring into being” such that “thought is drawn outside itself”.53 Although as antecedent the potency “has its actuality in the consequent in respect of which it is accordingly mere potency”,54 this does not entail that potency is only consequently, but rather that, qua antecedent it is only potency in respect of or for the consequent, while itself remaining ungrounded in what is actual. Just as the Stufenfolge is ungrounded in the “nature-process”, so too is the Potenzenreihe ungrounded in creation, in actuality’s antecedent.

  • 55 SW I/10, 303.

40This is why it is a mistake to consider the transcendental philosophy isomorphic and contemporaneus with the negative philosophy: both terminate in a thatness of which neither is capable: the powers or series are possibilities of the subject of existence itself, the “what” in “what am I thinking when I think what exists?”55 What this is, is neither stipulated in advance, nor satisfied by any totality of predicates which latter must, by definition, simultaneously exceed this thatness in extension (whatever it is that is might equally, for instance, not be as be) and be less than it in essence (being is more than logic).

  • 56 As Schelling states in the title of his 1800 work Universal Deduction of the Dynamic Process, or, t (...)

41What is sequenced in the sequence of stages is not only the relation of the simple and the complex, of whole and part, or individual and general; it is also the higher and the lower, height, breadth and depth; the forward and the backward; the customary, the natural and the contrary directions; electromagnetism, gravitation and spacetime; matter, finitude and motion. If these are categories, they are the categories not of this or that thing or experience, but of the process itself.56

  • 57 SW I/3, 90-91.
  • 58 SW I/3, 68.

42It is nevertheless noteworthy that Schelling explicates the Stufenfolge at one point in the First Outline as the explanation of “how the individual in nature affirms itself against the general”57, or how particularity emerges and sustains itself. That is, because an individual is affirmed against a universal, sequencing fundamentally affects the propositional structure of particularization rather than, perhaps, the actual emergence of individuals. This is partly confirmed when Schelling writes that, since this was the problem to be resolved, the problem now is “to derive a priori the Stufenfolge in nature itself, and thus to turn natural history into a system of nature”58. Yet surely such a system would be the very antithesis of the ungrounding antecedence account I have offered here, from which particulars arise as consequents?

43Note two things however, concerning what a priori means. Firstly, that the a priori “derivation” is consequent upon the explanation of the individual’s self-affirmation against the general, or is necessitated by the “de-generalization” of the process. Secondly, that if each stage in the series consists of a simple actant, and simple actants are the consequent grounds of subsequent actants, then the system at issue constitutes a continuous process that does not issue from but rather in that process or in its Darstellung or ‘exhibition’: as the highest potency of dissolving particularity or the incapacity of nature for complete self-abstraction. Structure arises in the world because the world is itself the yield of structures, as the Stuttgart Private Lectures remind us.

  • 59 SW I/4, 43.

44Regarding the first, if what I have offered concerning Schelling’s account of the transcendental philosophy has virtue, then the elimination of original concepts is precisely why the a priori derivation is not a transposition of the structure into nature, but rather precisely the consequence of the ungrounding of the concept with respect to the conceived, such that the conceiving has itself an antecedent or a nature that is not a priori or qua “originary concept” available to it as the content of a concept. Indeed, this is why it is only as a “second order” process, the recapitulation of the Stufenfolge in another, that their “production-reproducing nature can be exhibited in actuality”, and that only in the second power “does productive nature run its course before our eyes”59. In other words, Schelling seeks hereby to explain on the basis of a “production-reproducing nature”, why the exhibition of a process minimally entails its second order operation, or consists in the action of that order of sequenced stages on another. When X exhibits the process, that is, X is both = and not = the totality of the process, since X must itself be, by hypothesis, the exhibition of the process and consequent upon that process. A particular exhibition, therefore, both expresses in its matter and in its being consequent upon, the process that it exhibits.

  • 60 As Schelling argues, in the Introduction to the Ideas, bodies or essences cannot be said to have po (...)

45Let us return to the question of the simple actant: the simple is simple not in itself, but relatively to the complexity from which it issues. The exhibition or expression of a process, the hypothesis, in other words, concerning its nature, yields simple actants just when it is (a) the only hypothesis remaining that is capable of accounting for the particularity of natural products within the unconditioned infinity of natural production;60 and (b) when its expression is entailed by that hypothesis as applied to its own production – just when, that is, it is an expression consequent upon the confirmation of its hypothesis. This is not to say that the expression is identical with the hypothesis, not the hypothesis with the nature of which it is itself an hypothetical exhibition or expression; rather, the simple (the exhibition itself) is a rational potency of the process and, by virtue therefore of being consequent upon it, not identical with that process. Let the process be = A; if the expression of A just is its expression, then the latter, by virtue of its consequence upon it, is = A2; thus, in A = A, A1 is not = A2. If A2 were not A2 but only A, then there would have been no consequence at all, regardless of its nature. As Schelling writes,

  • 61 SW I/7, 346; tr. Gutmann, 18-19.

it would indeed be contradictory if that which is dependent or consequent were not autonomous. There would be dependence without something being dependent, a result without a resultant, and therefore no true result; that is, the whole conception would eliminate itself.61

46Thus, as a rational entity, the consequent expression of an antecedent system remains, regardless of its particular nature, a consequent or is not at all. Moreover, as a Darstellung or an Entwurf, the expression is importantly amphibolous, in that it registers both in intellect and sense, not least in virtue of its forcefulness (quantitatively expressed, the number of iterations or confirming instances of which its life has proven capable). Further, insofar as the hypothesis is also a rational entity, in that the expression of X is consequent upon the X it is not by virtue of being consequent upon it – dependent (abhängig) and autonomous (selbständig) and therefore not independent (unabhängig) of it – neither can the confirmation of the hypothesis in its iteration be reducibly of reason, in the sense that it might be said to belong exclusively to a “space of reasons”. To put it differently, although the simple actant is consequent upon the ungrounding of powers in bodies or in a substrate – that is, in an antecedently existent particular or universal – and is therefore a power of the process it exhibits, it is neither rationally reducible to the structure or content of the hypothesis from which it issues, nor closed with respect to those domains from which it might be said to issue. This is the jarring, maximally amphibolous point the opening sentence of the Stuttgart Lectures emphasizes: systemic understanding is possible just if systems are antecedent to rational ones; the cosmos is such a system.

  • 62 SW I/3, 11; tr. Peterson, 13, t.m.
  • 63 SW I/2, 223; tr. Harris and Heath, 179.
  • 64 SW I/3, 68; tr. Peterson, 52, t.m.

47So were the theory of dynamic atomism a theory of natural simples, or of simple givens, then nature as a whole would be grounded in particulars from which development takes place, but which themselves are not developed (the primal germ hypothesis). But it is not this because the theory of simple actants arises on the basis of the hypothesis answering to the problem with which the First Outline opens, namely, “how the unconditioned might be attributed to nature?”62 It can be unconditioned not insofar as this or that natural entity is the absolute, after the manner, for instance, of Schelling’s account of matter as “the seed-corn of the universe” in the Ideas;63 nor insofar as nature itself might be said to enjoy unconditioned existence, since this is already conditioned by its not being inexistent, a power inalienable from nature’s being. Rather, nature might be predicated as unconditioned just if neither its existence nor that of some primal entity is given, i.e., where it is ungrounded, and where accordingly neither concept nor object provide its ground or reducible basis. Thus, when Schelling describes the Stufenfolge as consisting in the “determination of the different organic functions and of their different possible proportions”,64 this is not to ground the Stufenfolge in organic nature, but to unground it by way of the problem of the form of a genetic nature, which form, if itself emergent, must reiterate the genesis from which it and its domains of applicability arise. As the form of all becoming, such a form must be a consequent form rather than either a primal one or a form antecedent to all forms from which form alone issues.

  • 65 SW I/4, 10.
  • 66 SW I/4, 156; tr. Vater and Wood, 171.

48Yet just as the consequent is not reducibly rational, nor is it reducibly biological. Schelling stresses throughout that the Stufenfolge is not limited to organic features but extends to “inorganic nature”.65 If this is so, it is not the particular from which general nature develops (the primal seed hypothesis) but rather the general from which particularity proceeds. Biology and reason are merely two particulars, rather than the sum-total of all things. What then is the general? It is not a given universal, awaiting activation and thus satisfying if not the primal germ hypothesis, then at least the design one, since it has itself no prior form. The form of the universal is created, i.e. is consequent, as a particular diversity; form is consequent upon formlessness, structure is not prior to instantiation, but only afforded by it insofar as uninstantiated form cannot itself have form. In other words, each particular is a proportion of particularity relative to the universality of form. The universality of form, however, is itself not universal but particular, and not itself given but precisely what nature creates: the emergence of form from unform. Universality per se, in other words, is all; but the universality of X is always for that reason a conditioned or relative universality, equal to all minus not-X. The particular therefore is a product of the natural process in the degree to which form is (a) emergent from formlessness and (b) thus contributory to the universal. The empirical magnet, is a localization of the total magnet.66

49Form is unconditioned, therefore, insofar as its conditions are not given in advance, but contributed as its production. In other words, unconditioning entails ungrounding. The ungrounding of relative universals, or of the ubiquitous – ultimately of existence – ungrounds not some but all such relative universals, such that none is that has the ground of its existence in itself. The simple actants that are the “intermediary links” in the Stufenfolge are not intermediary between things, therefore, not simple in the sense of being individuals, but insofar as are actualized proportions between particularity and universality, or the degree of creation of form in formlessness. Bluntly put, since an action is one just when something occurs that hitherto was not, an action is simple when X arises from not-X, that is, when creation occurs.

 

50What recommends Schelling’s account of what an action is, therefore, is threefold. Firstly, it eliminates the “autochthony” undercurrent that underwrites voluntaristic accounts of action, and is only barely disguised in the concept of “spontaneity”. Secondly, it shows that an action is an action when it issues in a consequent independent of that from which it itself issues, but which by that token creates its antecedent as such, without which that antecedent would not be a factor of emergence, and no action would have taken place. Finally, it shows the extent to which ungrounding is entailed by any theory of emergence, or of powers. If it were not, powers would not act, and to what extent then would they be powers at all?

Notes

1 Schelling F.W.J., Philosophische Untersuchungen über das Wesen der menschlichen Freiheit und die damit zusammenhängende Gegenstände, in Schelling K.F.A. (ed.), Schel-lings Werke [SW], Stuttgart and Augsburg, Cotta, 1856-61, XIV vols. Here SW I/7, 395-6. Tr. Gutmann, 75.

2 Schelling F.W.J., System der gesamten Philosophie und der Naturphilosophie insbesondere (1804), in SW I/6, 214-576.

3 “The natural philosophy of our time”, says Schelling, “has first advanced in science the distinction between being [Wesen] in so far as it exists and being [Wesen] in so far as it is the ground of existence.” (SW I/7, 357; tr. Gutmann, 31)

4 SW I/7, 371; tr. Gutmann, 47

5 SW I/7, 357; tr. Gutmann, 31

6 SW I/7, 396; tr. Gutmann, 76, t.m.

7 SW I/7, 395; tr. Gutmann, 74, t.m. See also SW I/7, 415; tr. Gutmann, 98: “We have an earlier revelation than any written one – nature.” Compare, e.g. SW I/7, 421; 1994c, 197.

8 That is, the nature ‘outlined’ in the First Outline of a System of the Philosophy of Nature (1799) is the nature ‘exhibited’ in the Exhibition of the Process of Nature (1844).

9 This is how Schelling, drawing on Aristotle’s De anima 414b29f, presents what he calls the “law of motion” (SW I/1, 375) in the Darstellung der rein rationale Philosophie (1854): “the law that ‘the antecedent always consists in the consequent according to potency’, was applied particularly by the Naturphilosophie to the greatest extent and with the greatest consistency, yet remains to be proven.” (SW I/1, 376)

10 Schelling F.W.J., Timaeus. Schellingiana 4, Buchner H. (ed.), Stuttgart-Bad Canstatt: Frommann-Holzboog, 1994, passim.

11 Schelling F.W.J., Einleitung in die Philosophie. Schellingiana 1, Ehrhardt W.E. (ed.), Stuttgart-Bad Canstatt: Fromman-Holzboog, 1989, 117.

12 This is too compressed to be helpful here. For more on this claim, see my ‘Remains of the World’, in Schelling-Studien 1 (2013), 9-25.

13 Andere Deduktion der Prinzipien der positiven Philosophie (1839), SW I/4, 339: “the necessarily existent or natura necessaria which, independently of actual existing, of the actus of existing, is also what necessarily exists, namely, according to its nature or its essence.”

14 “Inwiefern ist überhaupt ein System möglich? Antwort: es hat lange schon ein System gegeben, ehe der Mensch darauf gedacht hat, eines zu machen – das System der Welt.” (SW I/7, 421; ‘Stuttgart Seminars’, in Pfau T. (tr. and ed.), Idealism and the Endgame of Theory. Three Essays by F.W.J. Schelling, New York: SUNY, 1994, 197, t.m.).

15 Although I will not concentrate on this here, its first formulation follows from Schelling’s 1794 commentary on the Platonic account of nature in the Timaeus. He returns to it throughout his work, strikingly in the Freedom essay. At Timaeus 28b, Plato notes the central difference between being and becoming: if what is “always is”, what becomes “always becomes” and therefore never is. Does this mean that what becomes is not-being? The Timaeus’s account of what “always becomes”, or of a phusis that consists in “approximations” to what is, thus raises the question of whether there is a form or Idea of becoming that becoming approximates (in Plato, “kata phusin” or “in accordance with nature” is always “kata dunamin”, “in accordance with “power or possibility”). What is the intelligible nature of becoming? The absence of such a form leaves becoming groundless and shifting, hence the Platonic theory of matter which, as noted in the Freedom essay, “follows a dark, uncertain law and is incapable of forming anything that can endure” (SW I/7, 360). The “powers philosophy” that fascinates Schelling’s later period attests to the persistence of the problem despite the alteration in orientation. As he says in his last work, the Presentation of Pure Rational Philosophy (1847-52), “To begin with Plato and end with Aristotle might be the best course for a life dedicated to philosophy [Der beste Verlauf eines der Philosophie geweihten Lebens möchte seyn, mit Platon anzufangen, mit Aristoteles zu enden.]” (SW II/1, 380).

16 SW I/3, 12: “der Begriff des Seyns als eines Ursprünglichen soll aus der Naturphilosophie (eben sowie aus der Transscendental-philosophie) schlechthin eliminirt werden.” tr. Keith R. Peterson, First Outline of A System of the Philosophy of Nature, Albany: SUNY, 2004, 14.

17 See Lectures 12 (SW II/1, 282-287) and 13 (SW II/1, 297-299) of the Darstellung des rein rationalen Philosophie for Schelling’s detailed discussion of Kant’s transcendental ideal.

18 SW I/10, 303. The question Schelling asks is richer. He writes, “the first question of philosophy is therefore this: what is the existent? What belongs to the existent? What am I thinking when I think what exists? [die erste Frage der Philosophie ist darum diese: Was ist das Existirende? Was gehört zum Existirenden? Was denke ich, wenn ich das Existirende denke?]”

19Über die Natur philosophiren heißt die Natur schaffen”, SW I/3, 11, tr. Peterson, 14. This is also the first line of the ‘Outline of the whole’ that prefaces the First Outline: “Da über Natur philosophiren so viel heißt, als die Natur schaffen, so muß vorerst der Punkt gefunden werden, von welchem aus die Natur ins Werden gesetzt werden kann” (SW I/3, 5).

20 SW I/3, 17n; tr. Peterson, 17n.

21 SW I/3, 12; tr. Peterson, 14.

22 The edition of the Weltalter published in Schelling’s Works (SW I/7) dates from 1815 and has been translated by Frederick de Wolfe Bolman (New York: Columbia University Press, 1946, 84) and by Jason M. Wirth (Albany: SUNY, 2000, xxxvi). Manfred Schröter published two earlier drafts – WA I (1811) and WA II (1813) – along with fragments and outlines, in 1946 as an SW Nachlassband. The Mitwissenschaft claim occurs at WA I (1946: 4), WA II (1946, 112; tr. Judith Norman, Ann Arbor: Michigan University Press, 1997, 114), and in a fragment entitled ‘Introductory concept’, where the phrase “the human soul has, to a certain degree…” is added (1946, 205).

23 SW I/8, 200: “Aus der Quelle der Dinge geschöpft und ihr gleich, hat die menschliche Seele eine Mitwissenschaft der Schöpfung”. Tr. Jason M. Wirth, xxxvi.

24 Plato, Philebus 26d, cited Schelling 1994, 63. Hermann Krings notes, in ‘Genesis und Materie - Zur Bedeutung der “Timaeus”-Handschrift für Schellings Naturphilosophie’ (in Schelling F.W.J., Timaeus 1794, Buchner H. (ed.), Stuttgart-Bad Canstatt: Frommann-Holzboog, 1994, 117-155), that “In Plato, Schelling encounters the concept of a nature “prior” to all becoming of things, the concept of a pregenetic physis as the condition of the emergence of the visible world” (137-138).

25 SW II/3, 163n. “Denn nicht weil es ein Denken gibt, gibt es ein Seyn, sondern weil ein Seyn ist, gibt es ein Denken.”; tr. Bruce Matthews, Grounding of Positive Philosophy, New York: SUNY, 2007, 203.

26 Unpublished paper, first annual meeting of the North American Schelling Society, Seattle, August 29-September 1, 2012.

27 SW I/10, 126; History of Modern Philosophy, tr. Andrew Bowie, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994, 134.

28 Hegel’s Philosophy of Nature. Part Two of the Encyclopaedia of the Philosophical Sciences (1830) § 248z, tr. A.V. Miller, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1970, 19.

29 Lyotard, J.-F., Leçons sur l’analytique du sublime, Paris: Galilée, 1991, 222.

30 SW I/3, 13: “Das Seyn selbst = Thätigkeit ist.” Tr. Peterson, 14.

31 SW I/3, 12: “[A]lles, was ist, Construktion des Geistes ist, so ist das Seyn selbst nichts anderes als das Construiren selbst.” Tr. Peterson, 13.

32 ‘Über den wahren Begriff der Naturphilosophie und die richtige Art ihre Probleme aufzulösen’ was first published in Schelling’s Zeitschrift für speculative Physik Bd.II, Heft 1 (1801): 110-146. The Zeitschrift has recently been reissued, ed. Manfred Dürner (Hamburg: Meiner, 2001), where the present essay, a highly critical response to Karl August Eschenmayer’s ‘Spontaneität = Weltseele oder über das höchste Princip der Naturphilosophie’, (Schelling ed., 1801: 3-68; Dürner, ed., 2001: 233-272), is found at pp. 297-319.

33 SW I/4, 84.

34 Fichte writes that “the concept of being [Seyns] is by no means regarded as a primary and original [erster und unsprünglicher] concept, but merely as derivative, as a concept derived… by opposition to activity, and hence as a merely negative concept.” (Werke I: 499; Science of Knowledge tr. Heath and Lachs, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982, 69; translation modified)

35 SW I/4, 84 &n; tr. Peterson, 21 &n.

36 I have not altered Vater’s translation choices as they are felicitous for my argument. However, it is not standard to render Kraft as “power” rather than “force”, and Grund as “cause”, especially if, as I think, Schelling deploys the concepts of ground and consequent in order precisely to avoid the over-determination of sequences in accordance with what he often criticizes as the invention of fictitious causes: “I hate nothing more that the mindless striving to eliminate the multiplicity of natural causes through fictitious identities.” (SW I/2, 348; tr. Grant 2010, 90).

37 SW I/4, 145, tr. Vater, 2012, 164.

38 SW I/3, 17; tr. Peterson 17.

39 SW I/2, 350; tr. Grant, 2010, 93.

40 SW I/2, 15; tr. Harris and Heath, 1988, 12.

41 As Fichte found: “Intellect and thing are thus exact opposites [entgegengesetzt]: they inhabit two worlds between which there is no bridge.” (Werke I, 436; tr. Heath and Lachs, 17).

42 SW I/2, 16; tr. Harris and Heath, 13.

43 Schelling introjects the question, therefore, of how the question of the possibility of a world for me supplants the actuality of a world in which I am. If I can cogently represent myself as arising from nature, that is, then what prevents this representation informing the transcendental world I now populate with objects extraneous to my representations is the isolation of acting on my own part, not on that of the object which must remain, insofar as it is an object for me, an effect of my acting.

44 SW I/2, 17, tr. Harris and Heath, 13.

45 SW I/2, 23; tr. Harris and Heath, 18.

46 SW I/2, 23; tr. Harris and Heath, 18.

47 SW I/4, 156; tr. Vater 2012, 171.

48 SW I/9, 439-452.

49 SW I/2, 313-314n; tr. Harris and Heath, 249.

50 See Schelling’s discussion of dimensionality in organic and inorganic nature in Lecture 19 of the Presentation of Pure Rational Philosophy, with its references to his own Naturphilosophie and to Davy’s electromagnetic experiments. SW II/1, 433-436. The comparison with mid nineteenth century ethology and the phase-spaces of animal motion with later versions of these same sciences would be instructive.

51 SW I/4, 43.

52 SW II/1, 502: “[T]he ascending consequent is consonant with and natural to reason”.

53 SW II/3, 102; Schelling 2007, 160, t.m.

54 SW II/1, 375f, my emphasis. See also Aristotle, De anima II 414b29f, on which Schelling draws here: “the earlier type always exists potentially in what follows”.

55 SW I/10, 303.

56 As Schelling states in the title of his 1800 work Universal Deduction of the Dynamic Process, or, the Categories of Physics (SW I/4, 1-78).

57 SW I/3, 90-91.

58 SW I/3, 68.

59 SW I/4, 43.

60 As Schelling argues, in the Introduction to the Ideas, bodies or essences cannot be said to have powers in the manner of accidents without eliminating the possibility of bodies coming into existence by virtue of powers, and thus resulting in a dualism; and as he demonstrates in regard to rational grounds for the elimination of substrate hypotheses if reason must begin hypothetically, even though reason itself is issuant of darkness, errancy and chaos, as per the Ideas and later reiterated in the Freedom essay (SW I/7, 359-360; tr. Gutmann, 34): “Following the eternal act of self-revelation, the world as we now behold it is all rule, order and form; but the unruly lies ever in the depths…, and order and form nowhere appear to have been original, but it seems as though what had initially been unruly had been brought to order. This is the incomprehensible basis of reality in things, the irreducible remainder which cannot be resolved into reason”.

61 SW I/7, 346; tr. Gutmann, 18-19.

62 SW I/3, 11; tr. Peterson, 13, t.m.

63 SW I/2, 223; tr. Harris and Heath, 179.

64 SW I/3, 68; tr. Peterson, 52, t.m.

65 SW I/4, 10.

66 SW I/4, 156; tr. Vater and Wood, 171.

Auteur

Established the Philosophy Department at the University of the West of England in 2006. He has written widely on post-kantian European Philosophy and is author of the books Philosophies of Nature after Schelling (Continuum, 2006) and, with Jeremy Dunham and Sean Watson, of Idealism. History of a Philosophy (MQUP, 2011). He is currently completing a book titled On Grounds and Powers and translations of Schelling’s On the World Soul and Other Nature-Philosophical Writings.