Schelling: Nature, Philosophy, and Existence
F.W.J. Schelling is (in)famous for his seemingly ever-changing views and proliferating “systems.” But underlying his philosophizing was a single obsession: to heal the rift between nature and reason that had been newly ruptured in the work of his immediate and venerable predecessor, Immanuel Kant. Schelling developed a philosophy of nature (Naturphilosophie) and a monistic theory of identity (Identitätstheorie) that would soon inspire Hegel’s Absolute Idealism, only to later labor for decades to combat Hegel’s “negative” philosophy with a new “positive” philosophy of mythology and revelation. In the process, Schelling would develop visionary concepts that would bear fruit for centuries to come: a concept of the “unconscious” that would later influence Freud, a concept of “existence” and radical freedom that would inspire existentialists from Kierkegaard to Sartre, and most recently, a new conception of “nature” that has sparked attention and enthusiasm from ecologically-minded thinkers in a time of climate emergency. But, how can we understand Schelling’s protean philosophy as a whole? What are its implications for how we think about existence, freedom, and the interconnection between humanity and the natural world?
In this course, we will chart a path through the varied and diverse geographies of Schelling’s thought. What does it mean for thought and being, nature and reason to be “identical”? If the world is fundamentally rational, how do we account for the possibility of “radical,” even “diabolical” evil? How can we understand ourselves and human life more broadly as integrated with the natural world? How must we conceive of Nature in order to understand ourselves and Nature as part of an interconnected whole? What motivated such disparate thinkers as the Marxist Friedrich Engels, the anarchist Mikhail Bakunin, and the Christian existentialist Soren Kierkegaard to literally travel to Berlin to hear Schelling’s lectures purporting to “dismantle” Hegel’s system? In answering these questions, we will read broadly from Schelling’s mature philosophy, including “Ideas for a Philosophy of Nature,” “Philosophical Investigations into the Essence of Human Freedom,” “The Ages of the World,” among others.
Course ScheduleTuesday, 6:30-9:30pm ET
January 31 — February 21, 2023