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’.



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