Schelling, Iain Hamilton Grant and Differential Nature(s) 2.0


Heuser correctly noted:

“Schelling correctly noted that a universal theory of self-organization may not presuppose objects, but that they must first be constructed from the non-objective.”

The dynamic system is therefore according to Schelling short of accepting the primacy of the ‘originary being’ and also the primary body which would help the others derived from it and hence, to overcome this problem and to conflate all the problems of naturephilosophie like the ontology of nature or the phenomenality in nature or the self-articulation in nature’s ideation, or nature transcendental with respect to its products, but immanent with respect to its forces, Schelling proposes the identity of the transcendental and the dynamic. Grant’s surprising move in this reading is to pit Schelling against Plato. Grant looks up to a commentary by Schelling on Timaeus as his point of reference. The centrality of the text lies in the fact of matter in movement as alongside the primal basal matter, thus indicating a separate world soul. This also connotes the understanding of, what evolves out from the earth as a result of morphogenesis, the derivatives due to earth’s own magnetic forces. With this, it becomes very difficult to rehabilitate the two-world theory of Plato, as morphogenesis takes strong hold. Grant reminds us of the peculiarity in Schelling’s commentary of Timaeus by highlighting the latter’s strong insistence on nature as a generative machine. If we were to go by the Platonic conception of the ‘World Soul’ as underlined in the Timaeus, as the being which always remains the same and is ever indivisible and the being known for its transitory-ness and divisibility, then once again, we get ensconced in the Schellingian differentiation of ‘materiality’ and ‘corporeality’. To get out of this dual arresting, Schelling takes recourse to Kielmeyer once again by basing his arguments on the notion of time in order to resolve the problems concerning nature’s primitives.  His prioritizing time helps him transcend the divisible-indivisible dichotomy conceived by space, as is the general case in reading the Platonic text in question. This would still indicate the ‘lesser’ timescale as proving to be no measure for the ‘greater’ transformations undergone by nature as far as accessibility to phenomenality is concerned. The way to negotiate this dilemma is to support the forces of nature as primary to the body as against secondary to finally displace the Kantian metaphysical foundation of the physical forces as spatial with the ‘now’ physical forces as temporal, thus calling for epoch breaking constructions of ‘becoming’. 

Schelling is prone to be misrepresented here, but as Grant makes a strong defense of his by showing that for the former, phenomenality is not illusion, but a natural production, having its a prioris not in mind, but in nature and further explicating on why for Schelling naturephilosophie isn’t advocating the elimination of empirical research for investigating nature, but the integration of such research at the phenomenal level, thereby extending empiricism to the unconditioned rather than thinking it as a limiting case. Even if not taken literally, the Platonic idea of development when arrested is evident here. To stick on to the Platonic idea of the ‘World Soul’, Schelling calls it the primary diversifying antithesis of nature, because it is not just being body, it is matter, the darkest of all things, the generator of phenomenality. This sequence in nature is derived by combining the particular phenomena by the what generates it and further going on to prove that no phenomena can enjoy the absolute status, but is always produced by the many becomings (could also be looked at as infinite becomings). If this is the way operations are carried out, the specificity of individuals could only approach approximations with the inherent disappearance of forces and matter being acted upon by these forces. 

The commonsensical problem to the above dynamics would be: How the germ of an infinite revolution, the germ of infinite decompositions into ever new products, was placed in the Universe? Schelling comes with a couple of solutions to answer this problem, the first of which, deals with the prioritizing of the problem of antithesis over the specificities in differences in matter. For him, the problem of antithesis is possible only between things of one kind and having a common origin, as, only when this is so, the inert homogeneity could trigger infinite decompositions. These infinite decompositions in turn suggest the infinite divisibility of matter and hence unending becomings. The second solution considers nature as a priori without giving any kind of necessity to the series of decompositions, as these series are never exhaustive. As these series are never exhaustive, a couple of consequences are derived from this infinity of series. The first being naturephilosophie neither prescribing nor proscribing empirical sciences thus highlighting for Schelling the presentation of the infinite in the finite as the highest problem of science. Secondly, as matter is always presenting itself as not an individual body, but as a series of bodies, nature is therefore always demonstrated as infinite self-decomposition. Such an analysis could only mean for Schelling the coincidence of self-recapitulating nature with intuition, as the series progresses through the potentialities of matter thereby possibilizing humans as idealist not just in the eyes of the philosophers, but in the eyes of nature as well. In short, as long as science constructs its own models to understand nature, the understanding that science possess of nature is nothing but of ossification and when nature itself is self-capable of breaking away from any sort of objectification, it not only shuns away the understanding that science has given it due to its own constructions, but also breaks away from any kind of human manipulations whatsoever. 

Sellars, Brandom and Historicity of Reason. Note Quote

If one tries to build perception as dependent on legacies and/or cultivations of values either in the cultural or the religious sense, then the metaphorics of judgments hovering around values locks away the empirical investigations. This is beautifully outlined in the work of Wilfred SellarsScience, Perception and Reality. For Sellars, perception is a non-inferential knowledge. But, it has epistemic significance, since it is gathered via the labors of the the way language is learned and acquired. Further on, his distinction between the manifest and the scientific image gives legitimacy to the issue with the former being the commonsensical conceptual template that enables the practice of philosophy in the first place, since through this, man gets to be aware of his existence as man-in-the-world. This is the point where Sellars shows his allegiance to the Platonic-Aristotelian western philosophical framework. In contrast to the manifest image, scientific image drives on by using postulated entities at its core, thus obligating the not-so-necessary inclusion of the awareness of man-in-the-world. Perception is built heavily into the manifest image in comparison to the scientific one.

On to a distinction between perception and religion, I cannot say much excepting the maintenance of a water-tight distinction in order to preserve the normative kernel of rationalism and trading it off as regards the metaphysical shell. Perception is vulnerable to fall into the latter, and therefore in the process is likely to hurt Sellarsian and Brandomian clinging on to the historicity of reason in the true Hegelian sense, and subsequently elevate the neo-Aristotelian substantialization of mind which mires itself in Hegelian theological orthodoxy. I emphasize this, since I suggest Sellars as the point de capiton. I still maintain Sellars and even for that matter the present day analytical philosopher Robert Brandom to be copiously converging towards the thesis of perception versus religion. One way to create this distinction would be call back inferentialism (Brandom does it perfect!). Inferentialism sticks on to methodological naturalism, and thus creates spaces for folk-psychological theorizing. The best person that comes to my mind in this regard happens to be an American anthropologist Pascal Goyer, who in his Religion Explained unequivocally sets out to promulgate the mentally constructive and perceptual evolution of the mind-brain based on a much better understanding of critiques of religious representation.

Schelling, Iain Hamilton Grant and Differential Nature(s) 1.0


Schelling has often been at the receiving end for his idiosyncrasies or the frequent jumps that he undertook providing a lack of synthetic conflation and therefore missing on a philosophical system. He has most importantly been confined to near total oblivion in the English-speaking fraternity of philosophers and has had to face rebarbative charges against him. Although, there are some sympathetic voices emanating from the continental tradition in trying to revive his importance, like Slavoj Zizek, who has extensively fused the German with Lacanian psychoanalysis, citing Marx’s critique of speculative idealism as derived from Schellingian formulations of post-Hegelian universe of finitude-contingency-temporality. Zizek even goes a step ahead by crediting Schelling over Heidegger as the progenitor of ‘Artificial Earth’. But, it is Grant’s ‘Philosophies of Nature After Schelling’, which takes up the issue of graduating Schelling to escape the accoutrements of Kantian and Fichtean narrow transcendentalism.

Schelling gave a new twist to understanding nature by going past the Kantian nature as subject to necessary laws, as for Kant, nature enjoyed a formal sense. Kant overlooks the phenomenological deficit by arguing for subject’s access to forms of intuition and categories to bear upon what it perceives. Schelling discovers the problematic by raising the issue of subject’s spontaneity to judge in terms of categories. This dynamism of ‘becoming’ is what incites Grant to look into the materialist vitalism in Schelling’s understanding of nature. Grant frees Schelling from the grips of narrow minded inertness and mechanicality in nature that Kant and Fichte had presented nature with. This idea is the Deleuzean influence on Grant. Kant himself pondered over this dilemma, but somehow couldn’t come to terms with subject taking a leap from its determinism in crafting episteme. For, if nature was formal in its adherence to necessary laws, then splitting this boundedness to nature from subject’s autonomous or self-determining cognitivity would arrest the leap from determinism. In a way, Kant falls into the pit that he tries to negotiate, but comes out in conceding to nature the generation of self-determining organisms that possibilizes disinterested aesthetic pleasure in his third critique.  It didn’t take Schelling any Herculean effort to underline the central problems with this position of Kant, but it has taken a path of deliberate neglect of Schelling’s discovery of nature as more subject than object in modern readings of the philosopher.

Grant affirms the cardinality of Schelling’s naturephilosophie as the core, rather than just a phase as against Heidegger’s proclamation of Schelling’s discovery of nature as a fleeting episode, despite Heidegger paying fullest respects to Schelling for his profoundest grasp of spirit because of his commencing from the philosophy of nature. In a remarkable tour de force, Grant takes the accusation of Eschenmayer’s against Schelling head on and helps resurface the identity between nature and history. This identity is derived from Schelling’s insistence on freedom arising from nature, as the latter’s final and most potentiating act, the idea that constantly irritated Eschenmayer. Nature is history also helped Schelling cut the umbilical cord between evolution and teleology, in that he could fix his impressions on Carl Friedrich Kielmeyer’s signaling of a new epoch in natural history, thus getting over with transcendental philosophy’s obsession with fixed forms. That the inertness of nature was already on the way of getting dislodged, was proved by Kielmeyer’s influence on the earliest programme of the German comparative Biology, by which Schelling had himself been mightily influenced. As Kielmeyer had noted in his writings,

“I myself would like to derive all variation in the material of inert nature from a striving for heterogenesis, analogous to that in the organism, in the soul of nature.”

Schelling and Kielmeyer were fellow travelers in the sense that both recognized the fundamental delusion of the Kantian possibility of using a piori principles in deducing external nature. Grant makes a very affirmative intervention in here, when he elevates Deleuzean admonition to the fact that only contemporary French philosophy offers a scathing attack on the modern philosophy since its inception by Descartes holding the verdict of ‘nature not existing for itself’. This whole notion of becoming over being is wrought about by seemingly imperceptibly small and infinitely many changes. Or as Schelling maintains:

“Nature admittedly makes no leap; but it seems to me that this principle is much misunderstood if we try to bring into a single class of things which nature has not only separated, but has itself opposed to one another. That principle says no more than this, that nothing which comes to be in nature comes to be by a leap; all becoming occurs in a continuous sequence.”

This continuous sequential becoming is what has made Schelling to look at forces more potently rather than at phenomena as the measure of the differentials between the things that are separated by nature, but only as factors pertaining to becoming. This is a direct supplement to Kielmeyerian account of natural history, converting the principles underlying transcendental philosophy from the phenomenal and the somatic nature to making the somatic into the phenomenal products of a priori dynamics,  without making the phenomenal somatic coextensive with nature as such.  Products as such, for Schelling were discontinuities in nature and therefore not in the real sense speculative, as this was based on the principle of an Idea of nature as against nature and as ‘materiality is not yet corporeality’.