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JOAN STEIGERWALD

Epistemologies of Rupture:
The Problem of Nature in
Schelling's Philosophy
TN

HIS 1801 ESSAY THE DIFFEENCE BETWEN FICHTE'S AND SCHELLING'S

1Systenm of Phtilosophy, Hegel set out that difference in terms of a contrast


between reflective and speculative philosophy. Dichotomy, rupture [En tzweitutg], he argued, gives rise to the need for philosophy, a rupturing which
reflective philosophy both seeks to resolve and exasperates. The understanding strives to enlarge itself to the absolute, but, in its finitude, it only
reproduces itself endlessly, positing oppositions within itself and its products, and so mocks itself.I The being of nature, in particular, is either dissolved into abstractions or remains but a deadly darkness within intellect.
Although Fichte was Hegel's prime target here, much of contemporary
philosophy was included in his critique. Hegel argued that the identity philosophy of Schelling, however, in which reason raises itself to speculation
and provides a positive account of being, overcomes such finitudes and
ruptures. Thie Critical Jortnal of Philosophy that Schelling and Hegel
launched from Jena in 1802, critical of the limitations of proliferating contemporary philosophical systems, sought to establish an objective philosophical criticism based upon such a speculative use of reason. 2
In Germany at the tum of the nineteenth century, all philosophy, and
especially all philosophical criticism, began with reference to Kant's critical
philosophy. In the "Preface" to his Dfference essay, Hegel praised the spirit
of Kantian philosophy, the speculative principle articulated in the transcendental deduction of the categories, but deprecated the "remainder"-the
i. G. W. F. Hegel, Differenz des Ficdtne'scle,z itad Sciellitng'stilenf Systemis der Phtilosophie, in
Gcsammilelte Werke, ed. Otto P6ggeler, 2i volumes (Hamburg: Felix Meiner Verlag, 1968-89)
4: 12-13.
2. G. W. F. Hegel, "Einleitung. Ueber das Wesen der Philosophischen Kritik iiberhaupt,
und ihr Verhalltniss zum gegenwirtigen Zustand der Philosophie insbesondere," in Hegel,
GCesaimmelte Werke 4: 117-28. Although Hegel is the author of the introduction, it was written in consultation with Schelling.
SiR, 41 (Winter 2002)

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JOAN STEIGERWALD

hypostatization of the thing-in-itself, the transformation of the categories


into dead compartments of the understanding and their opposition to the
empirical realm of sensation, the restriction of practical reason to what can
be conceived by the understanding-all of which became fodder for
reflective philosophy (Hegel, Dffferenz 5-6). Kant never had the opportunity to comment on the project of Tlhe CriticaljJournalof Plilosoplhy, but his
own critical project started from exposing the errors and contradictions of
reason in its purely speculative use and arguing for its restriction to finite,
empirical knowledge. Nevertheless, Kant's critical works were primarily
preoccupied with the cognitive processes involved in the production of
such knowledge, with the laws of reason that are the necessary conditions
of possible experience, with interrogating how cognition in general is possible. Yet Kant left a problematic rupture in his critical examination of the
conditions and sources of cognition, a rupture that he explicitly
acknowledged and graphically represented in the "Introduction" to his
I790 Critique ofJusdginient as "an immense gulf [Kl:Sft]" between the two domains of our cognitive powers, that in which understanding legislates
through the concept of nature and that in which reason legislates through
the concept of reason, the subjects of his first two critiques. 3 For Kant, this
chasm leaves indeterminate not only how freedom was to be reconciled
with the necessity of nature, but also how nature was to be comprehended
as an organized system. We are left merely with reflective judgments of
these relations, problematic acts of synthesis, rather than determinative
judgments based upon the necessary laws of cognition. Kant also acknowledged a mpture in his attempt to deterrnine the conditions and sources of
cognition in his I782 Critique of Puire Reason, when he referred the relation
of sensory intuition and understanding to a "common," "unknown root
[Wutzefl." 4 As Heidegger has argued, it is the transcendental imagination
that acts as this "unknown root," unconsciously relating the concepts of
understanding to the manifold of intuition in judgment. Indeed, it is the
unconscious transcendental imagination that enacts the synthesis of the
manifold of intuition, prior to apperception, to produce a unified representation of appearances for reflective consciousness in Kant's celebrated, if
problematic, "Transcendental Deduction of the Pure Concepts of the Understanding." 5 If Kant designated specific judgments as indeterrninate
3. Immanuel Kant, Critiqtue ofJuidg:ent, trans. W. S. I'luhar (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing, 1987) 175-76. Page numbers refer to the Akademie edition of Katts gesaninfelte
Scirifiten, vol. S, which are also given in the Pluhar translation.
4. Immanuel Kant, Critique of PIre Reason, trans. N. Kemp Smith (London: MacMillan,
1933) Ax5/B29 and A835 /1386 3 .
S. Kant, Critiquie of Pure Reason A98-ioo. See Martin Heidegger, Kant uind das Problem der
Metaphtysik, 4th edn. (Frankfurt am Main: Vittorio Klostermann, 1973).

NATURE IN SCHELLING'S PHILOSOPHY

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and hence a problem for critical reflection in his Critiquie ofJudginienit, the
unconscious role of the transcendental imagination in the Critique of Puire
Reasont means that even purportedly determinate judgments have an indeterminate basis.6 Hegel and Schelling regarded reflection as an instrument
for producing philosophical awareness of the unconscious synthetic activity
of thought, but argued that only an intellectual intuition is able to overcome the dichotomizing inherent in reflection.7 Indeed, intellectual intuition is purported to enact consciously what the transcendental imagination
enacts unconsciously. The speculative philosophy Schelling and Hegel advocated around I800 appears a less radical departure from Kant's critical
philosophy when the central role of the transcendental imagination in the
first critique is acknowledged.
Jena was the perfect site for Schelling and FIegel to launch Thie Critical
Jornialof Plhilosophty. The university was the center for post-Kantian philosophy at the end of the eighteenth century, with Reinhold, one of Kant's
chief expositors, the Professor of Philosophy from 1787, only to be replaced on retiring by Fichte in 1794; and it was the home of the Allgemneine
Literatur-Zeituttg, the leading joumal for the dissemination of Kantian philosophy from I785 to I803. If Kant drew attention to the extent to which
our knowledge is dependent upon cognitive processes, he did not provide
an account of our knowledge of those cognitive processes. Post-Kantian
philosophy thus introduced a second order critique-it not only asked how
knowledge is possible, but also asked how a critique of knowledge is possible. Fichte introduced his Wissensclhaftslehre, the science of knowledge or
theory of philosophy, as such a meta-critique that took the critical philosophy itself as an object, and posed the question of how we know the necessary conditions of cognition.A Fichte argued that we have an indubitable
awareness of our own rational activity, of the activity of the I [Icti] in think6. These arguments are developed in Joan Steigerwald, "Instruments of Judgment:
Inscribing Organic Processes in late Eighteenth-Century Germany," Stuidies in History and
Phtilosophy of Biological and Bio-,nedical Sciences 33 (2002): 79-131.
7. Hegel, Differenz i6-ig and 27-28; and F. W. J. Schelling, System des transcendental
Idealisnmus, in Sciellings Sdnmtiliche Werke, ed. K. F. A. Schelling (Stuttgart: J. G. Gotta'scher
Verlag, 1856-61) 3: 397-629; hereafter cited as SW.
8. Harris, "Introduction to the Djfferentce Essay," in G. W. F. Hegel, Thje Dtfferente Bettveen
Fichite's and Schellinig's Systemil of Plilosophy, trans. by H. S. Harris and Walter Cerf (Albany:
SUNY Press, I977) 13-14; and Frederick C. Beiser, The Fate of Reasoni: Genman Philosophy
from Kant to Ficite (Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 1987) 7. Fichte sought to raise philosophy
to a science [Wissenschaft]. SeeJ. G. Fichte, Gnmndlage dergesaminiteni Wissenschaftslehre (1794),
in Gesanuntausgabe der Bayeristhen Akadendie der Wissetnscliaft, eds. Reinhard Lauth, Hans Jacob,
and Hans Gliwitzky, 35 volumes to date (Stuttgart-Bad Cannstatt: Friedrich Frommann,
1964-) i: 251. The pagination of the 1845-46 editionjohatnts Gottlieb Fichtessditmniliceli Werke,
hereafter cited as FsW, is also given in the Gesannntatisgabe (FsW i: 86).

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JOAN STEIGERWALD

ing. His claim was that the self-positing activity of the I is the "first, absolutely unconditioned principle of all human knowledge" (Grndlage 255;
FsW i: 91). Fichte further argued that this pure activity of the I can only
become determinate and present for the self through the counterpositing of
a not-I [Nicht-Ich] in opposition to the I. But as Hegel relentlessly made
clear in his Difference essay, the not-I, if postulated to be a product of the
activity of the I, remains an unconscious product. In attempting to provide
a foundation for critical philosophy, Fichte's science of knowledge thus
only transposed the rupture at the core of Kant's system of philosophy into
a rupture within the self In introducing the self-positing activity of the I as
the foundation of all knowledge, Fichte only provided a subjective account
of the relationship between the subjective and objective sides of knowledge, what Hegel described as a "subjective subject-object," in which the
not-I remains unconscious, the problem of nature a darkness within consciousness.
In his Difference essay Hegel praised Schelling's philosophy, in contrast,
for giving equal weight to our knowledge of the universe "as an organization intuited as objective and appearing as independent" and "the universe
constructed by and for intelligence," to NathrplTilosophie and transcendental
idealism. 9 Such a complete philosophical system, Hegel maintained, is only
possible when speculative philosophy makes the synthetic acts effecting
the construction of nature as transparent to the intellect as those of its own
activity, the project of Schelling ts Naturphilosophie. Yet Schelling had
difficulties living up to the promise Hegel saw in his philosophy. The persistent problem in all Schelling's various philosophical systems, a problem
he never resolved to his lasting satisfaction, was how to give nature life by
demonstrating its construction without destroying its positive presence. In
the Natuirphilosophie that Schelling developed from 1797, if he started from
a construction of nature after Kant that sought to demonstrate the theoretical principles necessary for the possibility of nature, he applied the methods
of critical philosophy more relentlessly than Kant, extending them even to
the empirical concept of matter. The result was that all natural phenomena
became problems for reflective judgment, and were conceived as complex
organizations of formal and material principles, of activity and constraint,
whose synthetic principle remained indeterminate. Moreover, his relentless
critical construction of nature resulted in the positive presence of nature
being dissolved into an abstract relation. Having thus abstracted the phenomena of nature into theoretical principles in his speculative physics, in
9. Hegel, Differcniz 6-7 and 27-28. Although Hegel's criticisms of Fichte in this essay are
solely directed at his Wissensc1hafislehre (1794), they also apply to his later lectures on the science of knowledge.

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549

his i8oo System of Transcendental Idealism Schelling turned his attention to


tracing the genesis of all concepts of nature from the activity of thought according to the principles of Fichte's Wissenscltaftslelhre. He concluded that
the problems plaguing transcendental idealism, the dichotomizing effect of
the self's reflection on its own activity and the counterpositing of the I to
the not-I that left the not-I as an unconscious element within consciousness, could only be resolved through art. Kant's critical philosophy remained important here, but now on the Critique ofJuidg,nent and its concern
with the reflective judgment of organized nature and art. Schelling's interest in art was also influenced by the Jena Romantics-their critical
reflections upon the fragmentation and incompletion of all art, their attention to process of artistic production, and their conception of the relationship between the fragmentary individual and the system in terms of
potentiation. Schelling conceived organized nature in analogous termns. But
in attempting to articulate an absolute principle as the foundation of the
whole system of nature and art, of every potency of the real and the ideal,
Schelling again found himself reduced to abstract formulations, attempting
to conceive it through a paradoxical logic of indifference as the identity of
identity and difference. Hegel appears to have been disturbed by this aspect
of Schelling's identity philosophy-even in the Dfference essay there is an
implicit criticism of it as empty formalism. It is thus not surprising that soon
after attempting a collaboration on Thiejournalof Speculative Phlilosophy, the
philosophies of Hegel and Schelling developed in quite distinctive ways. In
his I 807 The Phenomenology of Spirit Hegel would seal his separation from
Shelling's mode of philosophizing by condemning it as falling back into
"inert simplicity" and even expounding "reality itself in an unreal manner."10
But what Hegel saw as the failure of Schelling's philosophy is perhaps its
most interesting aspect. Schelling is often represented as the grandest of
metaphysical system builders. Yet developing his philosophy in the context
of rigorous philosophical reflection and critique, reflection not only upon
the conditions of knowledge but also upon the conditions of philosophy
and critique, he encountered at every point the problem of rupture. Pursuing the ideal into its furthest reaches, he could only conceive it in terms
of an abstract Band; pursuing the real, he either similarly theorized it into
an abstract Band or was left with an incomprehensible dark presence. In his
I809 essay Plhilosophical Enquiries into thie Natture of Human Freedom these
problems are presented in stark and irresolvable terms. Dichotomy now extends even to God, who is conceived in terms of ground and existence.
The ground of God, his impenetrable and unruly nature, persists in created
lo. Hegel, Die Plzanonzenologie des Ceistes, in Gesammelle Werke 9: i8.

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JOAN STEIGERWALD

nature as that which cannot be brought to order. And the absolute principle of indifference is now articulated only negatively, as nonground
[Ungrun]l. Thus a fundamental incompletion remained the core of each of
Schelling's attempts at a philosophical system, an incompletion in which
the problem of nature has a particular prominence. His unwillingness to
publish after the Freedom essay perhaps was an acknowledgement of his inability to produce a complete philosophical system." As he would argue
late in life, in his Munich lectures of 1832-33:
Nothing is easier than to displace oneself into the realm of pure thinking; but it is not so easy then to escape that realm. The world does not
consist of mere categories or pure concepts, . . . but of concrete and
contingent things, and what must be considered is the illogical,
the other, which is not concept, but its opposite, which only unwilling
accepts the concept. It is here that philosophy must take its test.' 2
The Construction of Nature: Schelling's Natlrplilosophie
When Schelling arrived inJena in I798 to take up the position of Professor
of Philosophy, he was only twenty-three, yet he already had a considerable
number of publications to his credit. He had completed two substantive
works on Naturphilosophie, Ideasfor a Phiilosophy of Nature in I797 and On thle
World Souil in 1798. He had also published several essays critically respond-

ing to Fichte's writings between 1794 and I797. The engagement with
Fichte's science of knowledge began when Schelling was a student at a
serninary in Tiibingen together with Hegel and Holderlin. But he had developed an interest in Natuirphilosophieby the close of his studies in 1796, an
interest he was able to pursue that autumn when, taking a position as a
tutor to an aristocratic family, he traveled to Leipzig, an important center
for the study of the natural sciences at that time.' 3 At Leipzig Schelling ender Wesen der meetschl1ichien Freihteit,
i l. On this failure, see Martin Heidegger, Sdtellitig: Vomti
in Gesamtauisgabe, ed. Ingrid SchuiBfler (Frankfurt am Main: Vittorio Klostermann, 1976-) 42:
4-6; and David Clark, "'The Necessary Heritage of Darkness': Tropics of Negativity in
Schelling, Derrida, and de Man," in Iitersections: Nineteenith-Cenituiry Plhilosophy and Contemtporary Theory, ed. Tilottama Rajan and David L. Clark (Albany: SUNY Press, 1995) 81-82.
12. Schelling, Zntr Grutndlegizing der Positiveen Phtilosophic, cited in Clark, "'The Necessary
Heritage of Darkness"' 79.
13. Schelling's early interest in Natuirphilosophie is revealed in a fragment from a 1796 essay,
"Oldest System Programme of German Idealism," in Andrew Bowie, Aesthetics and Subjectivity from Kant to Nietzschie (New York: Manchester UP, 9ggo)265-67. Although the authorship of the essay is uncertain, with Hegel and Holderlin also appearing to have had a hand in
it, the emphasis on nature is likely Schelling's. See Manfred Frank, Eine Einleitilg in Schiellings
PhIilosophic (Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1985) 13; and W. Schmied-Kowarzik, "Thesen zur
Enstehung und Begriindung der Naturphilosophie Schellings," in Die Naturphilosophie in
Detutsclhen Idealismins, ed. K. Gloy and P. Burger (Stuttgart: Frommann, 1993) 73, no. 10.

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grossed himself in the study of contemporary physics, chemistry, physiology and medicine. His first works on NattTrphilosopihie also display a close
reading of Kant's critiques and his I786 Metaphzysical Fouindation of Natutral
Science. The Ideas introduced the project of Naturphilosophzie through a precocious dialogue with this complex of forrnidable sources, and particularly
Kant's philosophy of nature.
Schelling made clear that the concern of his Natutrphilosophiewas not to
present a system of nature once it exists, but "the possibility of a nature";
that is, not how the connections of phenomena we call nature "have become actual otutside us, but how they became actualfor tus," how those connections of phenomena attained the necessity in our representation in
4
which we are compelled to think of them.' The terms are Kantian. Kant's
critical philosophy was concerned to determnine the forms of cognition that
enable knowledge of objects. He argued that the possibility of nature,
indeed the possibility of an object of experience, depends upon our concepts and representations, for only through such concepts is it possible to
know anything as an object, or to know the necessary connections between phenomena-a priori concepts give our sensory intuitions determine
meaning. But Schelling was critical of the appeal to the idea of a noumenal
thing-in-itself in Kant, an idea he noted that Kant inherited through tradition, for to Schelling it was inconceivable what things external to us and
independent of our representations might be. Such ideas make the separation between human beings and nature permanent, into "bottomless
abysses" [bodenlose)t Abgrfinde].'5 But Schelling did not seek unity in a metaphysical monism, whether of an infinite material substance, after Spinoza,
or infinite divine spirit. His sought unity in a philosophy of nature in
which nature would "not only express, but even realize, necessarily and
originally, the laws of our mind, and that it is called nature only insofar as it
does so" (Ideeni 93). Schelling was thus truer to Kant's critical philosophy
than its author, at least in his view, restricting the conditions of our cognition of nature to the cognitive phenomena of the finite human mind.
These ideas for a philosophy of nature were made more precise in
Shelling's 1799 Introduictioni to tihe Otutline of a System of Natuirphilosophie.
Natuirphilosophie is now defined as a speculative physics, in which "our
knowing is changed into a construction of nature itself, that is, into a sci14. F. W.J. Schelling, Ideetl zu einer Philosophie derNatfr,in Historiscil-KritischeAusgabe, ed.

Hans Michael Baumgartner, Wilhelm 'G. Jacobs, and Hermann Krings (Stuttgart:
Frommann-Holzboog, 1992-) S: 69 and 84-85.
is. Schelling, Ideet 71-72 and 87. The apology for Kant appears only in the second 1803
edition of Ideas. See Schelling, Ideen zu eitnerPlhilosophiederNatuire, 1803 edition, in SWZ: 33.
The first edition attributed this dichotomizing to speculative philosophy; the second edition
referred instead to reflective philosophy.

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ence of nature a priori." Schelling argued that we know objects only when
we know the principles of their possibility, which means "a puire knowing
a priori." It is only through a deduction from a priori principles that phenomena of nature are conceived with the necessity requisite of a science.' 6
The basic conception remains Kantian. In the Metaphtysical Foundatiotns,
Kant presented a construction of Newtonian laws of physics by reasoning a
priori from categories. But Kant distinguished his metaphysical constructions from a purely speculative philosophy of nature by making such constructions dependent upon the injection of empirical concepts from contemporary science.' 7 Schelling, in contrast, whilst insisting that we know
nothing at all except through experience, also insisted that empirical physics is directed "only at the surface [ObeflUdze] of nature. " Even experiment,
he argued, is only a first step toward science. In putting a question to nature that it is compelled to answer, experiment contains an implicit a priori
judgment of nature, making it what Schelling called a "production of nature," but experiment can never go beyond the forces of nature it uses as its
tools of inquiry. A speculative physics was to have no such limitations. It
was to be directed "at the inner spring-work [Triebwerk]" of nature. Accordingly, it was necessarily a subjective or purely theoretical science. If
empirical physics is directed to what is "objective" in nature, it only
"regards its object in being," as a finished product; a speculative physics, in
contrast, is directed to what is "non-objective in nature"; it "regards its object in becoming," in its productivity (Einleitullg 274-75, 282-83).
For Schelling, Kant's concept of matter is the physical correlate of his
idea of the thing-in-itself. Representing the limits of human rationality, the
impenetrable content of objects given to cognition, it acted in a similar
way to the purported presence of some thing in experience that was the
absolute other to all the mind's activity. But Schelling contended that no
physical concept, no phenomena, no thing is in principle refractory to further rational analysis. In the Ideas he argued that any body, no matter how
inert or minute, can be regarded as a system of yet smaller bodies. His argument was based upon a consideration of the simplest distribution of matter
in space required to ensure an orderly and self-perpetuating motion in all
its parts. His solution was that of an indefinite number of unequal bodies,
each disposed in relation to the others so that they all would gravitate
16. Schelling, Einleitung zn dem Entiurf eitnes Systems der Naturphilosophie. Oder iiber den
Begriff der speadlativen Plhysik ind die innere Organisationeines Systems dieser Wissenschlaft, in SW
3: 275-80.
17. Immanuel Kant, Metaphysische Anfatngsgrainde der Natnavissenschiaft, in Kants gesammelte
Selriften (Berlin: K6niglichen Preuschen Akadeniie der Wissenschaften, 1908-13) 4: 469-70;
and Gerd Buchdahl, Kant and thle Dynatnis of Reason: Essays on the Stntcture of Kant's Phzilosoplhy (Oxford: Blackwe]l, 1992) 32-36 and 222-35.

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around an ideal center. In such an arrangement, any determinate set of


bodies that achieved equilibrium around a center of gravity would also be
gravitating as a unit around some other center as part of a larger system of
bodies. On the other hand, the bodies within the first system could be conceived to consist of smaller bodies all forming a system around their own
center. Schelling argued that to stop the analysis at any particular system of
bodies would be arbitrary. Accordingly, he rejected the conception of matter as an impenetrable substratum endowed with attractive and repulsive
forces. Neither Kant nor Newton before him, he argued, had been able to
explicate how forces are supposed to inhere in this inert substratum, or
what matter without forces or forces without matter might be conceived to
be. Schelling rather argued that the material content of any phenomena
8
must also be conceived as a system of attractive and repulsive forces. "In
resolving the problem of how matter in general is originally possible," he
concluded, "the problem of a possible universe has also been solved" (Ideen
I87). To state his point more modestly, the problem of understanding the
nature of matter is no different from that of understanding the nature of the
universe as a whole, or any organized body. Schelling thus broke down the
difference in kind Kant had introduced in the Critique ofjJudgtnent between
determinate judgments of inorganic bodies, in which phenomena are subsumed directly under the concept of mechanical causality, and reflective
judgments of organic bodies or nature as an organized whole, in which the
complex interrelationship of phenomena posed a problem for conception.
For Schelling, all of nature and each part of nature was to be understood
like an organism, and thus posed a problem for judgment.
Schelling also blurred the boundary between inorganic and organic phenomena through his treatment of chemistry. In his Metaplhysical Foulndations
Kant had excluded chemistry from science proper, which "treat[s] its object according to a priori principles," because its "principles are ultimately
merely empirical" (Metaplhysisclhe Anfangsgriinde 468). But some ten years
on, the new French chemistry was widely accepted in Germany, providing
investigators with the theoretical foundation for a science of chemistry, and
new instruments and methods for the study of inorganic and organic phenomena, the results of which were widely disseminated in new joumals
and monographs, and by increased funding for chairs in chemistry and
chemical laboratories at universities.' 9 Schelling, fresh from his scientific
studies at the University of Leipzig, gave chemistry a central place in the
i8. Schelling, Ideen 78-83 and 183-97. See George di Giovanni, "Kant's Metaphysics of
Nature and Schelling's Ideasfora Philosophy of Natuire, Journal of tile History of Plhilosophy xvii
(1979): 207-9.
ig. On these changes to the German chemical community, see Karl Hufbauer, Thse Fortuation of tile Gemian Clhemical Conminrtniy (Berkeley: U of Califomia P, 1982).

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Ideas. If mechanics examines the motion of bodies under the impact


of external forces, insofar as the parts of the bodies appear at rest, Schelling
argued that chemistry examines how bodies supposedly inert become
active under an external stimulus. He attributed the apparently spontaneous
chemical reaction to the forces within bodies, which only need the stimulus of something extraneous to be excited into free play. If that stimulus
should be continued, he contended, these new activities could become
permanent. "Thus already in the chemical properties of matter actually lie
the first seeds, albeit still quite undeveloped, of a future system of nature,
which can unfold into the most diversified forms [Fonnen] and formations
[Bildungen], up to the point at which creative nature seems to return into
herself" (Ideen 190). Schelling argued that any chemical event is open to
the conceptualization of mechanics, whilst mechanical events are liable to
the conceptualization of chemistry-it is just a question of the perspective
of one's analysis. Furthermore, chemistry lies at the juncture of mechanical
and organic bodies, with the difference between mechanical, chemical, and
organic phenomena conceived as a difference in degrees of activity and organization rather than a difference in kind. The Naturphilosophie that
Schelling put forward in the Ideas was that all natural phenomena must
be conceived as an interplay of attractive and repulsive forces in varying
degrees of complexity and activity. These opposed forces were not introduced as empirical concepts, or as the physical grounds of explanation like
some form of occult qualities, but as the necessary conditions for the possibility of a world system (Ideen 79-80).
If the Ideas extended the conception of natural phenomena as organized
systems of opposed forces into matter infinitely and indefinitely, On the
World Soiul extended that basic conception in the opposite direction,
through the organic world towards the appearance of mind in nature with
the human form. In the 1798 work, rather than forces, Schelling referred to
the more abstract notion of principles, representing the basis of life as contained in opposed negative and positive principles. The negative principle
of life is the specific material condition lying within each individual being,
which determines the differing degrees of receptivity to stimulus of the diverse forms of life (Vont der Weltseele, SW2: 503-5). Much of the World Soul
is concerned with detailing these negative material conditions of life, by
drawing upon contemporary research in chemistry and physiology, from
the role of light and the elements of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen in plant
nutrition, to animal respiration and the influence of nutrition on irritability
of muscles, with Schelling displaying an impressive command of the material. But he argued that these negative conditions alone are insufficient to
account for the phenomena of life-the capacity of organs to develop and
maintain their form and composition, the machinations preserving the ani-

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mal fluids that animate the body, the contraction of muscles-all these processes are inconceivable without the assumption of a positive principle
which disturbs the tendency of the negative conditions of life toward stasis.
This positive principle lies outside the living individual; a single principle
spread throughout the whole of creation, it penetrates each individual as
the "common breath of life." But Schelling, in keeping with the project of
Naturphilosophie, did not introduce this positive principle as a determinate
entity and was critical of his contemporaries who appealed to a special force
or Lebenskraft as a purported cause of the phenomena of life. Indeed, he
even contended that language has no term for it, and hence made use of
the poetic expression of the ancient philosophers, the "world soul," to indicate metaphorically what eluded conception (Vont der Weltseele 502-4,
247, 529, 565-69). Life thus appears as the interaction of an indeterminate
positive principle and material conditions that are also indeterminate, receding, as the Ideas showed, infinitely into ever smaller systems of interacting forces. When changing material phenomena become bound together
in a product, something enduring is formed. But this product, as the combination of phenomena, is not anything real in itself but only the concept
of a definite organization, and as dependent upon actual phenomena that
are continually altering, is not anything enduring-it is only the union of
both, of concept and phenomena, that gives rise to a living being. Schelling
translated this representation of life directly into the terms given by Kant in
the Critique ofJuidgmiientt. Life, "organization is nothing other than an arrested stream of causes and effects . . . a succession [of processes] that, enclosed within certain borders, flows back into itself." Such an organized
20
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introduced
first
formative impulse,
tive activity of organic matter. For Schelling, the Bilduingstrieb expresses the
synthesis of positive and negative principles, activity and constraint, of freedom and lawfulness in all natural formations, but is not the explanatory
ground of this union itself 2' Thus in the World Sotul Schelling represented
life in terms of a concept of a relation between positive and negative principles, principles that are ultimately indeterminate and recede into infinity,
but a concept without constitutive significance in itself
These provocative aspects of the Ideas and On thie World Soutl are much
more explicitly articulated in Schelling's 1799 First Outline of a Systent of
Natirplhilosoplhie and the subsequently produced Introdtuctioni to that work,
20. Von der Weltseele, 349, 519-20. See also the Introduction to Ideen 40-44.
21. Von der Weltseele, 527-30. See Kant, Critiqu(e ofjudgntzetnt 424; and Johann Friedrich
Blumenbach, Ober den Bildnngstrieb untid das Zcgnnitngsgesdztafte (Gbttingen: Johann Christian
Dietrich, 1781).

556

JOAN STEIGERWALD

both completed after his arrival in Jena. In these works Schelling stressed
the infinite and indeterminate nature of the negative and positive principles
and the abstract and indeterminate nature of their relation in any given natural product. These later works also place a greater emphasis on the activity
of nature, with the positive principle characterized as pure productivity and
the negative principle as its constraint. Schelling also emphasized that if the
negative principle is to constrain the positive principle, pure productivity,
it must be something positive itself-a counteracting tendency. It is in the
space between these two principles, each receding beyond the horizon of
our representations, that the phenomena of nature occur. Schelling depicted the products resulting from the concurrence of the pure productivity, the positive principle, and constraint, the negative principle, with the
image of a whirlpool. "Where [a stream] meets resistance, there is formed a
whirlpool; this whirlpool is nothing fixed, but something that in every moment is vanishing, and in every moment springing up anew" (Einzleitung
289). Such a product appears finite, "but as the infinite productivity of
nature concentrates itself within it, it must have the impulse to infinite development . . . the empirical representation of an ideal infinity." In each
such product, therefore, lies "the germ [Kei1n] of a universe" (Einleituing
290o-i). The image of a whirlpool highlights the activity inherent in all
natural phenomena. It also suggests the potential or potency of each natural
product for further change and development, already suggested by his
treatment of chemistry in the Ideas, what Schelling now termed its
entelechy or potency [Potenz]. Again he emphasized that the difference between inorganic and organic products is only the degree of productivity
enclosed within it. Of particular import is the synthetic aspect of these natural products. Schelling's discussion of the Bildtungstrieb buried in the middle of World Soul thus now becomes highlighted, and the discussion in Ideas
of the interplay of attractive and negative forces is supplemented with a discussion of their synthetic relation through gravity. The concept of gravity
had acquired symbolic significance during the course of the eighteenth
century as the representation of an actual relation whose nature remained
unknown. It was appealed to throughout the sciences to justify the introduction of a conception of synthesis that could not be made specific, with
Blumenbach introducing his notion of a Bildttngsttieb by invoking the authority of the concept of gravity.' Schelling made the indeterminate nature
of such syntheses explicit by referring to them abstractly as a third something, ci)t Dritte, "as something [etulas] which is mediated by the antithesis,
and by which the antithesis is in turn mediated" (Einileitunlg 308). Nature is
22. Johann Friedrich Blumenbach,
Christian Dietrich, 1789) 24-26.

Uber den

Bildrrngstrieb, 2nd ed. (Gottingen: Johann

NATURE IN SCHELLING'S PHILOSOPHY

557

that "third" arising out of the dynamic opposition between negative and
positive principles, each of which recede, indeterminately, into infinity;
nature is that middle, das Mittel, between pure productivity and its constraint, between the free and the fixed, that middle which is ever in a state
of formation, and whose formative or synthetic principle also remains indeterminate (Einleittng 299-300). For Schelling, this indeterminate relation
between activity and constraint, form and matter, was not only a problem
of organic bodies and the system of nature as a whole, as in Kant's Critiquie
ofJuidgiient, but of each natural product.
In his I799 works Schelling introduced a series of analogies, analogies
between sensibility and magnetism, between irritability and electricity, between the Bilduingstrieb and chemistry, each in turn represented in terms of
opposed principles in different relations and potencies. Scientific details
seem obfuscated by this overlaying of apparently fanciful speculations. But
Schelling was very clear that he was not offering a system of nature but a
system of speculative physics; his concern was not with natural products
but with the principles for the construction of nature, the principles necessary for our knowledge of nature. Whereas Kant's construction of nature
was dependent upon empirical concepts, upon some content given in experience that was not open to further analysis, Schelling critically questioned such restrictions, arguing that speculative physics cannot set out
from some product, some "thing," but must extend to the unconditioned
(Einleitting283). The result was a construction of nature premised upon an
opposition of positive and negative principles, both of which extended into
infinity and so defied determinate representation. Between these opposites
"all of nature lies" as some Dritte struggling to indifference, as an infinitely
progressive formation, in which are found only relative mediating links of
synthesis, never a lasting or an absolute synthesis. In any particular product
there is both productivity and constraint, freedom and necessity, so that in
even the simplest formation there is some element of freedom and the potential for further formation, and in even the highest formation some element of necessity. It would be a strange metaphysical system in which
"outside this opposition nothing is." Schelling relentlessly questioned all
foundations for a system of speculative physics so that in the end he was left
only with this indeterminate opposition. But as he argued, "who cannot
think activity or opposition without a substrate cannot philosophize at all"
(Einleitulng 308).
Schelling introduced his Natuirplhilosophie in 1797 by arguing: "Nature
should be the visible mind [Geist], the mind the invisible nature. Here
then, in the absolute identity of the mind within us and nature outside us,
the problem of how a nature external to us is possible must be solved"
(Ideen 93). In the Ideas he also included a chapter on the "First Origin of

558

JOAN STEIGERWALD

the Concept of Matter, from the Nature of Perception and the Human
Mind," in which he provided a "trantscenidentaldiscussion" of the concept of
matter, tracing the origin of the concept in our minds after the method
of Fichte's Wissenschaftslehre (Ideert 2I3-23). Thus from the beginning of his
engagement with Naturphilosophie, he was concerned with its relationship
to idealism. Indeed, the positive and negative principles of his Naturphilosophie, pure activity and its constraint, were conceived as analogies of
the activities of freedom and constraint in Fichte's analysis of the activity of
thinking. On the completion of his three important works on Naturphilosophie, Schelling turned to the problem of the relationship of his
Naturphilosophie to transcendental idealism.
The Natural History of the Mind: Transcendental Idealism
In his i8oo System of Transcendental Idealism Schelling offered a new conception of the natural history of the mind, depicting the emergence of nature from the mind by tracing the genesis of all intuitions and concepts of
nature from the mind's activity according to the principles and method of
Fichte's Wissensclaftslehre. Fichte's dominant presence in Jena no doubt
stimulated Schelling shortly after his arrival there to reexamine Fichte's
work with which he had engaged so productively as a student at Tiibingen.
Moreover, given the project of his speculative science to bring theory into
the phenomena of nature, to examine the a priori conditions or the possibility of a nature, it became important to clarify its relationship to idealism.
Schelling insisted that the two were quite separate sciences, starting from
different bases and proceeding in different directions. Naturphilosophie ascends from experience and empirical laws to the pure principles prior to all
experience; it sets out to idealize the real, to spiritualize all natural laws into
the laws of thought. Transcendental idealism, in contrast, descends from
pure subjectivity to empirical phenomena; it sets out to produce a realism
out of idealism, to display phenomena as products of the mind. Thus
although both offer constructions of nature, they do so in distinct ways. As
opposed to Fichte, Schelling contended that a complete system of philosophy would need both.23 His System of TranscendentalIdealisrm was introduced
as a complement to his earlier Naturphilosophie, and as a part of a complete
philosophical system. Schelling also offered a different emphasis than Fichte
in his treatment of transcendental idealism-whereas Fichte was principally
concerned with finding a consistent definition of the principle of pure subjectivity and proving his system through immediate inference from that
principle, Schelling claimed to offer a factual proof of transcendental ideal23. Schelling, System 340-42; and Einleiitutg 271-72. Schelling would repeat this argument
in numerous essays in the early nineteenth century.

NATURE IN SCHELLING'S PHILOSOPHY

559

ism by demonstrating that it could actually derive the entire system of


knowledge (System 377).
Fichte's science of knowledge is best understood as a reworking of
Kant's critical philosophy, and its claim to examine the sources and conditions of cognition. As Schelling's Naturphilosopiuie subjected the empirical
concepts that Kant took as a starting point for his construction of nature to
further critical construction, so Fichte subjected the facts of consciousness
that Kant took as the starting point for his critical philosophy to further
critical analysis. Fichte objected, for example, to Kant resting the argument
for practical reason upon an appeal to a fact of consciousness. He also maintained that Kant "by no means proved that the categories he set up to be the
24
conditions of self-consciousness, but merely said that they were this." Indeed, Kant left the synthesis of the manifold of intuition that constitutes the
categories to the unconscious activity of the transcendental imagination
(Critiquie of Pure Reason A 7 78/BIo3). Fichte sought to examine the grounds
for these facts [Thatsache] of consciousness by examining the activity of
thinking giving rise to them, what he called the Act or active deed
[Tlhathandlung].25 Rather than simply accepting that an "I think" accompanies all states of consciousness, Fichte demanded of his students and readers
that they attend to the activity of thinking involved in thinking the I. He
would thus claim to provide a better defense of Kant's philosophy than
Kant himself gave, and in ways more consistent with the principles of critical philosophy.
In attending to the activity of one's I in thinking, Fichte cautioned
against tuming such activity of thinking into phenomena of consciousness
requiring a distinct subject possessing awareness of that phenomena, resulting in an infinite regression of the subject's thinking of thinking. Such an
error had been made by Reinhold, Fichte's predecessor at Jena.26 In his
Fouindationts of thie Entire Science of Knrowledge, published in I 794 for his first
lectures on the Wissensclhaftslelhre in Jena, Fichte introduced the notion of
self-positing [sicil setzen] to avoid the self-alienating effect of the infinite regress of reflection upon the self's activity of thinking.
The positing of the I through itself is thus its own pure activity.-The
I posits itself, and by virtue of this mere self-assertion it is; and con24. Fichte, "Zweite Einleitung in die Wissenschaftslehre," in Gesamtaztsgabe I.4: 230, and
FsW l: 479.
25. The term Tliatizanidlhig is derived from the term Thlatsacie [fact], but replaces Sachle
[thing] with Handlmng [action].
26. Fichte, "Aeneisdemus, oder iuber der von dem Hrn. Prof. Reinhold inJena gelieferten
Elementar-Philosophie," in Gesamlauisgabe 1.2: 41-67; FsW 1: 3-25. See Beiser, Fate of Reason, ch. 8; and Frederick Neuhouser, Ficthte's Tlheory of Suibjectivity (Cambridge: Cambridge
UP, 9ggo)69-75.

560

JOAN STEIGERWALD

versely, the I is [ist] and posits its being [Seyn] by virtue of its mere being. It is at once the agent [Handelnde] and the product of action
[Handlung]; the active [Thidtige], and what the activity [Tltatigkeit]
brings about; action [Handltng] and deed [That] are one and the same,
and hence the I anl [Ichi bin] expresses an Act [Thathandlhing].
(Gnmndlage 259; FsW I: 96)
Fichte played with the double meaning of the word Seyn, as both the noun
"being" and the verb "to be" or logical copula "is," to express the identity
of the self's being and the activity of thought in self-positing. In the positing of itself, he argued, the I is both subject and predicate, subject and object of itself For Fichte, philosophical reflection is concerned with the
transformative activity of reflecting on the form of knowing, "through
which the form becomes the form of the form as its content and returns
into itself" (Fs W i: 67). But the Wissenschaftslehre is not solely a formal science of potentially unending reflection, of the self reflecting upon the form
of its thought. The positing of the I determines the I, making its being
present, and halting the infinity of reflection. The term Thathandllung expresses the identity of reflection and positing, of the form and content of
the self's activity.27 The judgment that something is something, that
phenomenological awareness of something is connected to a concept, that
act of thought, constitutes the being of the self as an active power or pure
activity. The content of the self's activity is thus identical to its form.
Fichte introduced this absolute [schlechthin], unconditioned self-positing of
the I as the first principle of all philosophy.
Fichte thus foregrounds the identity of the self, the "I think" that Kant
held accompanies all cognitive activities, making it the basis of all human
knowledge. But, as Heidegger has noted, Kant held that the identity of the
self that accompanies all cognition only becomes aware of itself through
opposition [entgegensteht] to some object [Gegenstanda of thought or representation.28 Fichte followed Kant here, oppositing or counterpositing
[Etntgegensetzeti] to the positing [setzen] of the I [Ichi] that of a not-I [NichtIch] as the second principle of all human knowledge. The not-I acts as a
check [Anstofi] or limit upon the I's infinite and unconditioned activity,
reflecting it back upon itself and thus making it conscious of itself. Fichte
used this strange expression not-I to indicate that all cognitive activity involves the I, that any phenomenon must be a phenomenon of consciousness for us to be aware of it as a phenomenon-a not-I. Like Schelling,
27. See Walter Benjamin, "Der Begriff der Kunstkritik in der deutschen Romantik," in
Walter Bciamint Cesan,nnelte Scitifteni, ed. Rolf Tiedemann and Hermann Schweppenh-iuser,
7 volumes (Frankfurt: Surkamp, 1974-89) 1.I: 18-25; and Terry Eagleton, The Ideology of
Aesthetic (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1990) 126-33.
28. Heidegger, Kant 65-8i, especially 69-7i; and Kant, Critiqute of Pure Reason Axo4.

NATURE IN SCHELLING'S PHILOSOPHY

561

Fichte found Kant's notion of a noumenal thing-in-itself completely separate from the activity of the I meaningless and uncritical. Yet this phenomenon of consciousness appears as something alien and unconscious to the
pure, unconditioned activity of the I-a niot-I. The opposition of the I and
not-I led Fichte to introduce a third principle, that of a synthetic relation
between these opposites. This third principle addresses the Kantian problem of how synthetic a priori judgments are possible. Fichte argued that by
regarding the pure activity of the I as quantitatively divided into an objective portion of the I, or not-I, opposed to a subjective portion of the I,
their synthesis could be comprehended as grounded in the self-positing I as
the basis of both. From these three principles-the pure, unconditioned
activity of the I, the opposition within the I's activity of a not-I to the I,
and the synthesis of the I and the not-I-Fichte claimed to be able to derive the entire form and content of cognitive activity.
Fichte's presentation of the Wissensclhaftslelzre is mind-numbingly convoluted, and it is hard to imagine his students thinking with him as he traced
the supposed activity of the I through all aspects of its self-construction. Its
complex formulation is in part due to its hasty composition and episodic
publication as lecture notes, and in part due to Fichte's unusual modes of
expression. Indeed, some have read him as postulating the production of
the entire world from the absolute, unconditioned activity of the self, al29
though it is unclear what that might mean. But we should take seriously
Fichte's claim that he was a Kantian, that he offered a critical examination
of the cognitive activities of the finite human mind, and only went beyond
Kant in offering a critical examination of elements of cognition left opaque
by Kant. The close relationship between Fichte's Wissensclzaftslehre and
Kant's critical philosophy is particularly manifest in the "Deduction of
Representation," the summary statement that concluded the first, theoretical part of the Founidationis, and that was based on the argument and terminology of Kant's "Transcendental Deduction of the Pure Concepts of Understanding" in the Critiquie of Puire Reasonj (Fichte, Grundlage 369-84; FsW
I: 228-46). In Kant's treatment, the synthesis of intuitions into a unified
representation, ready for recognition in a concept, is enacted by the transcendental imagination working unconsciously. As the "unknown," but
"common root" of sensation and thought, the transcendental imagination
has an essential but problematic place in Kant's architecture of pure reason.30 Fichte, in contrast, argued that through philosophical reflection, all
29. Neuhouser attributes such "popular" readings of Fichte as due to a misreading of his
use of the term absolute [scisIecdithizi]. Fichte used the term to refer to the unconditioned
activity of the 1, rather than to claim that the I was an absolute being productive of all other

being. See Neuhouser, Ficite's Thjeosy of Sibjectivity 46.


30. Kant, Critique of PUre Reasoni Ag8-ioo and Ai5/B2g. See Heidegger, Katnt 33-35, 130-

36 and i55.

562

JOAN STEIGERWALD

activity of the I could be attended to and traced genetically, including that


of the imagination. Indeed, a science of knowledge must not only posit
knowledge as the identity of intuition and thought, but show that identity
by its Act (Hegel, Djferenz 36). Fichte depicted the imagination as
wavering between the opposite directions of the l's activity, its spontaneous, outward activity and the reversion of that activity back into itself
through some extraneous check. The imagination thus posits an intuited
[Anschauteni], an "extuition [Hinsclzauent] of an indeterminate something
[Ettvas]," and has its wavering or transciency stabilized or brought to a
stand [verstdtzdigt] in a concept of the understanding [Verstandl.3' Not only
the intuited but also the intuitant is thus determined through reflection, in
Fichte's version of Kant's argument for the unity of apperception. Indeed,
all elements of Kant's presentation are found in Fichte's, including the synthesis of the now dichotomized intuition and concept through judgment,
in which the activity of the I in the form of the imagination again enacts
the synthesis, now rendered a conscious act through philosophical reflection. LHegel's critique of Fichte's Wissentsclaftslehre in his Djfference essay
was that this reflexive re-enactment of the immediate and unconscious activity of the I in fact separates the I from itself. Indeed, reflection can only
conceive of the synthetic activity of the I by first dividing the I into subjective and objective portions, thus rendering its synthesis as merely relative
and theoretical. Fichte's transcendental treatment of the I's unified activity
does not provide the conditions of its possibility, Hegel argued, but rather
makes it impossible (Dffferenz 34-40). In his attempt to explicate the aspects
of cognitive activity Kant left unconscious and unexplicated Fichte has thus
only multiplied the ruptures within the self-not only is the synthetic activity of thought comprehensible to philosophical reflection solely on the
premises of a separation within the I of its subjective and objective parts, of
the I from the not-I, but the immediate synthetic activity of the I is also
separated from the reflective activity of the I.
But the most scandalous aspect of Fichte's account for Hegel is his
account of the not-1. The I's spontaneous activity must be checked and
reflected by something alien to its act. Into the infinity beyond the check
and reflection of the 1, there is posited a product of the imagination,
"through a dark, unreflected intuition that does not reach consciousness.
. . . This product is the not-I."3 2 That the not-I remains unconscious
3i. Fichte, Gnttdlage 371 and 373-74; FsW i: 230 and 233. Although the transcendental
imagination has only a very implicit role in Kant's "Transcendental Aesthetic," Heidegger
gives it emphasis in the formation of intuitions in his reading of Kant. See Kant, Critiq,ue of
Putre Reasons A40/Bs7;and Heidegger, Kant 41-48.
32. Fichte, Cnindlage 375; FsW i: 235. See also Michael G.Vater "The Construction of
Nature 'Through a Dark, Unreflected Intuition,"' Fic/lte Studien ii (1997): I-1 1.

NATURE IN SCHELLING'S PHILOSOPHY

563

means, however, that although the activity of the transcendental imagination that was left as unconscious and unknown in Kant is now explicated
through Fichte's philosophical reflection upon the activity of the I, something unconscious and inexplicable nevertheless remains in his science of
knowledge in the guise of the not-I-an alien element, a dark spot, a negation of being at the heart of being. Hegel complained that "the objective
world, in its endless determinacy through intelligence, still remains a something for intelligence that is at the same time undetennined for it. The notI has no positive character, to be sure; but it does have the negative character of being something other, that is, something opposite in general"
(Dffferenz 42). For Fichte, Hegel argued, pure consciousness, since it is a
positing of itself, cannot produce the not-I from itself nor conquer it,
rather it must presuppose it, and yet in doing so it recognizes its own primordial defectiveness. From the standpoint of the I's activity "nature has
the character of absolute objectivity or of death" (Djfferenz si).
Fichte, having recognized such problems in his discussion of theoretical
philosophy, attempted to resolve them in his discussion of practical philosophy in the third and final part of the Fontdations. That practical philosophy appeared at the end of his work belies its import for Fichte. When
Fichte first became engaged with Kant in 1790 whilst preparing for a tutoring position, it was Kant's Critiquie of PracticalReasotn and its argument that
any understanding of human beings must start from the fact and experience
of freedom that affected him most profoundly. His experience with censorship shortly thereafter made him a public and strident defender of freedom
and the French Revolution.3 3 And as a teacher in Jena he continually demanded that his students display freedom of thought, that they think for
themselves, arguing that the science of knowledge could not be learned by
transmission from another but only by attending freely and critically to the
activity of thinking in oneself In the concluding part of the Foulndations
Fichte argued that practical reason was a necessary condition of theoretical
reason, that self-consciousness was grounded in self-autonomy. The philosophical reflection that enabled awareness of all activity of thinking, of all
acts of the I, is an act of absolute freedom. Philosophical reflection lifts itself
out of the sphere of givenness by an act of free choice [Willkiir] and thus
produces consciously what in empirical consciousness intelligence produces
unconsciously so that it appears to be given.-But Fichte reconciled the absolute, infinitely free activity of the I in philosophical reflection with finite
33. See Daniel Breazeale, "Editor's Introduction," in J. G. Fichte, Foludationsof Transcenldental Phzilosoplhy (Wissenscliaftslelhre) Nova Methodo (i796-99), ed. Daniel Breazeale (Ithaca:
Cornell UP, 1992) 1-49; and Frederick C. Beiser, Enlightentnent, Revolution, and Romanticism:
Thie Genesis of Modeni Gennan Political Thzoulght, 1790-1800 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP,
1992) 58-73.

564

JOAN STEIGERWALD

empirical consciousness by appeal to the notion of striving [Streben]. Rather


than positing a complete determination of the not-I by the free activity of
the 1, Fichte ascribed to the I a striving toward determination. The subject's absolute independence from its object, the I's complete conquest of
the not-I, remains a demand [Forderung] of practical reason. As Hegel critically noted, the practical faculty of the I is not able achieve absolute selfintuition any more than the theoretical faculty, but can only progress
infinitely towards it.34 The not-I remains eternally opposed to the I.
Fichte attempted a new presentation of his Wissensclhaftslelhre in his Jena
lectures from 1796 to 1799, in which freedom became the starting point
for his exposition. He now even allowed that the first principle of philosophy, whether the highest condition of philosophy is regarded as the thingin-itself or the self-positing I, is a matter of free choice, although he did go
on to argue that only the latter choice could produce a complete and consistent philosophical system. 35 Fichte began his new sequence of lectures
by describing self-positing as a transition from spontaneous activity to selfintuition, an act of free self-determination that is at the same time an immediate intuition of the I. Fichte now used the expression intellectual intuition for this immediate self-consciousness, in which the self-reverting
activity of the intellect is at the same time the original intuition of the I.
The intuition is intellectual as its object is the activity of the I as opposed to
an object extraneous to the I-the object of consciousness is the subject of
consciousness. But this immediate consciousness does not provide conceptually mediated awareness of the I's activity; "immediate consciousness is
no consciousness at all." In Fichte's new version of the Wissenschaftslehlre
reflection is still needed to trace genetically the initial free activity of the I,
and bring it to repose or stability in a fixed concept. Free self-determination is the I's real activity, its practical activity, its actual doing, its striving.
Reflection on this real activity is the I's ideal activity, its theoretical activity,
the activity that produces the concept of the I. "An image of this real activity is that of a river that continues to flow even while it mirrors ourself in
our eye. What our eye does when it observes the river corresponds to the
ideal activity."13 6 But if real or practical activity took precedence in Fichte's
1796/99 Wissensclhaftslehre, it is a practical activity that is intellectual; free
self-determination is intuitable only as a determination to become something, with a concept of a goal underlying each free act, as an ideal, a
34. Fichte, Gnindlage 396-401; FsW i: 261-66; Hegel, Djfferenz 43-45; and Neuhouser,

Fichte's Theory of Subjectivity so-si.

35. Fichte, "Versuch einer neuen Darstellung der Wissenschaftslehre," in Gesanitausgabe


igo-2o2; FsW i: 428-43.

14:

36. Fichte, (Wissetischaftslehre) Nova Metlodo 142 and 143. See also "Zweite Einleitung in
die Wissenschaftslehre," in Gesanitausgabe 1.4: 216-44; FsW I: 463-91.

NATURE IN SCHELLING'S PHILOSOPHY

565

model [Vorbild] or a reason for acting, and thus making free activity possible. This intellectual restriction of practicality also appeared in Fichte's discussion of willing; willing freely restricts thinking to a particular direction,
and is at the same time a kind of thinking in its determrination of that direction. 3 7 Thus Fichte's I retains its duplicitous nature-the I is a subjectobject, both real and ideal activity, free self-determination and reflection,
willing and thinking.
After a couple of years in Jena, Schelling redirected his energy to the
philosophy of his earlier mentor and more recent colleague, and became
concerned to find a way to relate Fichte's idealism to his recent work in
Naturphilosophie. His I800 System of Transcenidenttal Idealism was introduced
as such a complement to Naturphilosophie. Schelling opened the System by
rehearsing Fichte's arguments for the need for an ultimate principle of all
human knowledge in the form of immediate self-consciousness or intellectual intuition. Schelling then proceeded to derive "the entire system of
knowledge" from this principle, with each representation being depicted as
a product of the synthesis of the free activity of the I and its limitation by
the not-I. For the I itself, each synthetic act is a single, instantaneous, unconscious act of productive intuition grounded in the original act of immediate self-consciousness. Philosophical reflection can, however, analyze
these unconscious acts into a sequence of acts that can be traced consciously and progressively in time. But although thus closely following the
method of Fichte's transcendental idealism, Schelling's Systemj contained
significant criticisms of and clear departures from its explication of human
subjectivity. In Schelling's presentation philosophical reflection remains
alienated from the original activity of the I by its reflexive observation of
the I's activity. If the transcendental philosopher recognizes the principle of
the harmony between subjective and objective, conscious and unconscious
activities of the I lies within the I, "The I itse!f does not see this" (System
6I0). The philosopher in fact can only present a temporal narrative of a
progressive revelation of identity through the seemingly endless conflict of
original duplicity within the self.38 Fichte had gone to great lengths to
eliminate the alienating or dichotomizing effect of self-reflection, the precise problem he criticized in Rheinhold's presentation of a first principle of
philosophy, by claiming the identity of "I am" and "I think" in selfpositing, the identity of real and ideal activity of the I in intellectual intu37. Fichte, (Wissensehaftslehre) Nova Methodo 147-53 and 277-307; and Giinter Z6ller,
"Thinking and Willing in Fichte's Theory of Subjectivity," in Newv Perspectives on Fictte, ed.
Tom Rockmore and Daniel Breazeale (Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities P, 1996) lo-l i.
38. For a discussion of the important role of time in Schelling's System, see Thomas Pfau,
"Critical Introduction," in Idealism and the Endgame of Theory: Three Essays by F. W. .
Sclhelling, ed. and trans. by Thomas Pfau (Albany: SUNY Press, 1994) 29-36.

566

JOAN STEIGERWALD

ition, and that the I only exists in self-awareness. But it is difficult to retain
a unitary notion of the I when it is intuitant and intuited, and the activity
of intuiting, and when the I's awareness of itself as such only arises through
philosophical reflection. Fichte himself was aware of these problems, and
would make yet another presentation of the Wissentsclhaftslehre in i8oi in an
attempt to resolve them. 39 This dichotomizing and alienating effect of
reflection, to which Hegel had drawn attention in his Difference essay, is directly criticized by Schelling in the Systenm. Manfred Frank argues that it
was such problems with Fichte's transcendental idealism that led Schelling
in his writings subsequent to the Systein to posit an absolute spirit [Geist]
extraneous to the finite individual consciousness as the ultimate determinant of the finite 1.40
Certainly in the philosophy of identity that Schelling developed in the
early nineteenth century he introduced an idea of the absolute, as pure
identity and indifference of ideality and reality, as the ultimate principle of
a complete system of philosophy, claiming thus to overcome the shortcomings of transcendental idealism. But for Schelling in the System, as for Hegel
in i8oi, it was the inability of Fichte's Wissenschaftslelhre to illuminate nature, the counterpositing of a not-I to the I that remained opaque to consciousness, that made it an incomplete philosophical system. 4 ' In the I796/
99 formulation of the Wissensclhaftslehre Fichte retained his postulate that
"one cannot grasp the concept of the I which comes into being by determinate activity without determining this concept by means of an opposed
Not-r'; "ideal activity is possible only as constrained activity" ([Wissenschaftslelhrej Nova Metlodo 67, 174). Indeed, the not-I must be something
real if it is to constrain the free activity of the I. Hence Fichte gave it the
designation being, a being that annihilates the actual doing and striving of
the I. But he again rehearsed his argument that it is absurd to treat the not-I
as a thing-in-itself, for although it is something opposed to the activity of
the I, and intuited by the I, it can be nothing actual unless related to acting
on the part of the I. Thus the not-I is but another way of looking at the I.
39. Indeed, insome presentations of his Wissensclzaftslclhre Fichte does not escape this problem at all. See in particular his 1796 publication "Vergleichung des vom Herrn Prof. Schmid
aufgestellen Systems mit dem Wissenschaftslehre," in Gesamtausgabe 1.3: 235-66; FsW 2:
421-58. For critical examinations of Fichte's attempts to resolve these difficulties, see Dieter
Hlenrich, "Fichtes urspriingliche Einsicht," in Subjektivitdt unlid Metaphysik, ed. Dieter
Henrich and Hans Wagner (Frankfurt: Vittorio Klostermann, 1966) i88-32; and Neuhouser,
Fichte's Theory of Snbjectivity i1 4-16.
40. Frank argues that it was Hollderlin, the close friend of Schelling and Hegel in

Tiibingen, who first identified these problems with Fichte's Wissenschaftslehre. See Frank,
Einleitung in Schellings Philosophie.

41. See, for example, Schelling's letter to Fichte of 19 November 1800, in Schelling, Briefe
nnd Dokumenite, ed. Horst Furhmans (Bonn: Bouvier Verlag, 1973) 2: 294-302.

NATURE IN SCHELLING'S PHILOSOPHY

567

And if arguing that the not-I is not nothing, Fichte provided no further
characterization of it than a negative magnitude or privation of the I, a
darkness within the I. As a real negation of the I's activity or striving, it is
itself a suppressed activity or drive [Trieb], whose actual being remains concealed ([Wissenschaftslehre] Nova Methodo I3I-33, I69-80). In his new
presentation of the Wissenscihaftslehre, Fichte still only offered what Hegel
had criticized as a subjective subject-object, and the problem of nature remained. As Schelling argued in an I80I essay, "Over the True Concept of
Naturphilosophie," what remains but a negative presence of the not-I in
Fichte's Wissenischaftslelhre are activities to be explicated, which is the task of
Naturpidlosophzie.4 2 Fichte, in fact, appears simply to have ignored Schelling's
first works on Natutrpiilosopihie. But he did communicate to Schelling his
objections to Schelling's presentation of the relations between Naturphilosophie and transcendental idealism in the "Introduction" to the Systemll
and in his I 80I Presenttationt of my System of Phiilosophie, arguing that "there is
no special idealism, or realism, or Naturphilosophie . . . there is everywhere
only one science, this is the WissenschaftsL[ehre]."03 It was these differences
regarding the place of nature in a philosophical system that led to the collapse of their intended collaboration on Tlhe CriticalJoumnal of Phiilosophiy,
and Schelling enlisting Hegel instead. After the appearance of Hegel's Dfference essay, relations between Fichte and Schelling eroded sharply, with
each criticizing the other's philosophical system with growing acrimony in
publications and in public lectures.44
The direction that Schelling's philosophical system would take over the
next years was indicated in the last sections of the Systemt. Schelling emphasized here, as he had in his Nathrphilosophie, that the highest construction of
nature is that of organic nature or an organized system, and then introduced the argument that the highest construction of free human activity is
that of art. Schelling's model was clearly Kant's Critiquie ofJuidgmentt. He
concluded the Systemt by representing the problem of the relation of
Natuirphilosophie and transcendental idealism as the problem of the relation
between a philosophy of organism and a philosophy of art. Schelling
accepted the main argument of Kant's "Critique of Teleological Judgment," that nature as a product must appear as purposive, as an identity of
42. Schelling, "Ueber den wahren Begriff der Naturphlilosophlie und die rightige Art ihre
Probleme aufzul6sen," in SW 4: 88 and 92.
43. Fichte-Schelling, Briefwechisel, ed. W. Schlulz (Frankfurt, 1968) F i26.
44. H. S.Harris, 'Skepticism, Dogmatism and Speculation in the Critical Joumal," in Betivecni Kait and Hegel. Texts in the Development of Post-Kantiani Idealism, trans. and ed. George
di Giovanni and H. S. Harris (Albany: SUNY Press, 1985) 252; and Wolfdietrich SchmiedKowarzik, "Das Problem der Natur. Nahe und Differenz Fichtes and Schellings," Fichte
Stidiens ii (I997): 211-33.

568

JOAN STEIGERWALD

the concept of purposiveness with the concept of an object or of the concept of freedom with the concept of identity, but that it cannot be purposive in its production. He argued that nature can be comprehended thus
only intellectually, that the organism is only a monogram [Monogra,nm], an
intricate sketch [verschilingetn Zuig] or reflection [Reflex], of an act of synthesis within the I (Systemz 6iI). For Schelling the problem then became how
to represent this identity enacted in thought objectively and to others.
Rather than turning, like Kant, to the productive use of such judgments by
physicians like Blumenbach in their observations and experimental
activities, Schelling turned to art, proposing a much more intimate relationship between the two parts of the Critique ofjuidg,nent than presented by
Kant.
Schelling argued that through artistic production the dichotomy between the original productive intuition of the I and philosophical reflection
can be resolved, for in it productive intuition or imagination is taken to its
highest power, and its action brought to consciousness. Aesthetic intuition
has the ability "to bring together that which exists in separation in the appearance of freedom and in intuition of the natural product; namely identity
of thze consciouts and thie unzconsciouis in thie I, and consciolusness of this idenltity"
(System 612). Artistic production begins with an opposition between conscious and unconscious activities, with "a feeling of a seemingly irresolvable
contradiction," but it reaches a point where production must stop, where
all conflict is resolved, and where conscious and unconscious activity
merge into one, and so ends "in the feeling of iinfitite harmony" (System
6i7) Moreover, in the art product the identity breaks free from the intelligence in which it was produced to become totally objective to intelligence.
"Intelligence will therefore end with a complete recognition of the identity
expressed in the product as an identity whose principle lies in intelligence
itself; that is, it will end in a complete intuiting of itself." "That which the
philosopher allows to be divided even in the first act of consciousness, and
which would otherwise be inaccessible to any intuition, comes, through
the wonder of art, to be reflected back from the products thereof." "The
aesthetic intuition simply is the intellectual intuition become objective."
Schelling thus concluded his examination of transcendental idealism with
the claim that "art is the only true and eternal organon and document of
philosophy" (Systent 6I5, 625, 627-28).
But in the philosophy of art presented in the Systen, Schelling has not
actually removed the unconscious element, the darkness or rupture, at the
heart of transcendental idealism, but only displaced it and renamed it.
Schelling contended that artists bring an element of necessity to their free
creations in that they are involuntarily driven to create their works and in
producing them satisfy an irresistible urge of their own nature. It is this incomprehensible gift granted by nature that endows their productions with

NATURE IN SCHIELLING'S PHILOSOPHY

569

objectivity (System 6I6-i9). Thus, some notion of the unconscious not-I


that he criticized in Fichte's transcendental idealism remains. Schelling has
introduced an unconscious drive into artistic production, an element of
necessity that he leaves unexplicated, simply likening it to fate.
Identity Philosophy as Negative Philosophy:
Art, Nature, and the Absolute
It was not only through Kant's Critique ofJtudgment that Schelling came to
see the import of aesthetics. Aesthetics was second only to critical philosophy as a preoccupation of those based in Jena at the turn of the nineteenth
century. This preoccupation was due not only to the presence of Schiller,
and of Goethe and Herder in nearby Weimar, but also the small group of
early romantic writers and critics that gathered in Jena from I798 to I800.
Soon after arriving in Jena, Schelling began associating with this romantic
group, frequently meeting with them at the home of August Wilhelm and
Caroline Schlegel, and becoming progressively involved with Caroline.
When Schelling decided to give lectures on the philosophy of art from
i 8o2 to I805, he turned to August Wilhelm for information about the empirical details of art and its history; he managed to maintain cordial relations
despite his aflair with Schlegel's wife. But it was Friedrich Schlegel, and to
a lesser extent Novalis, who had the most profound influence on his philosophy of art. Influenced by the philosophical debates taking place around
them in Jena, they regarded an awareness of rupture as the heart of the
modem consciousness, arguing that modem poetry is distinguished by containing its own critique and thus reflection upon its fragmentation and
incompletion, in contrast to the sense of natural form and perfection in
classical poetry. But if critique, stimulated by philosophical reflections of
the time, opened up a sense of rupture even within works of art, for these
Jena Romantics it was only through artistic production or poesy that the
possibility of bridging that gap lay. The romantic concept of poetry not
only contained its own theory and critique, but theory and critique were in
turn conceived as poetry. Schlegel in fact argued for a union of art and phi45
losophy, that "poetry and philosophy should become one." By I8oo
Schelling was convinced. As he worked out a new philosophical system in
the first years of the nineteenth century that would give equal place to the
real and ideal, and that would attempt to resolve the problem of their relationship, his philosophy of identity, it was the conception of art of the Jena
Romantics, and its attendant conceptions of reflection and critique, that
increasingly informed his idea of the ideal.
Benjamin has offered a helpful interpretation of the concept of art
45. Friedrich Schlegel, Philosophical Fragmenits, trans. Peter Firchow (Minneapolis: U of
Minnesota P, 9gg1)CF no. I17.

570

JOAN STEIGERWALD

critique of theJena Romantics in the terms of the meta-critique and philosophical reflection articulated by Fichte. For Fichte, reflection has reference to the I; it is a thinking that produces its own object, so that the form
and content of thinking, intellect and intuition, are identical. The romantics, in contrast, remained with pure reflection, pure intellect, a thinking
that produces its own form and thus in which thinking is infinite, rising
to ever higher levels of reflection-the thinking of thinking of thinking,
and so on. For Fichte, the pure activity of the I is limited and deternined
by means of opposition to a not-I. The romantics, contrarily, allowed
reflection to expand infinitely without limit or check, so that rather than
the not-I, the absolute becomes the counter-I to the activity of the I. Yet
attention is thus not directed to the substance of the absolute, but to the
unfolding of the absolute, as revealed in the medium of reflection. For the
romantics, the infinity of reflection was not simply an infinity of continued
advance, but an infinity of connectedness. Interconnection is grasped in a
mediated way from the infinitely many stages of reflection, and from the
way everything hangs together in an infinitely manifold manner or systematically. Novalis described the movement in the medium of reflection as
"romanticizing," thus indicating it as essential to romanticism: "Romanticizing is nothing but a qualitative potentiation. The lower self becomes
identified with the higher self through this operation." 4 6
As Lacoue-Labarthe and Nancy have argued, romantic criticism draws
attention to the reflective excess of poetry or literature in relation to itself,
to its demand for completion and perfection beyond of any finite instance
of it. Schlegel's i800 Cotnversationts over Poesy, a critical dialogue that mirrors
the exchanges of the Jena group, raised the question of what is romantic
poetry, to the point of demonstrating its impossibility. The characters have
all devoted themselves to poetic composition. Yet only one character,
Lothario, who corresponds to Novalis, promises to deliver a work, repeatedly; a promise he never delivers, but merely repeats at the dialogue's end.
They are characters waiting for the work, characters waiting for a view of
the work; thus romanticism occupies the place of the absence of the work.
Reflective criticism results in the infinitization of poetry by demonstrating
the impossibility of actually producing the perfect work that it promises,
but thus directing attention to the process of production. 4 7 That the negative space of romantic poetry resulting from its containing its own critique,
46. Novalis, Novalis Stcnfiten, ed. Richard Samuel, Hans-Joachim Mahl and Gerhard
Schulze (Stuttgart: W. Kohlhammer, 1965-68) 2: 304; and Benjamin, "Begriff der
Kunstkritik" 26-40.
47. ;See Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe and Jean-Luc Nancy, Literary Absolu(te: Tlue Tlheory of
Literatlire in Gemian Romaticidsm, trans. P. Bernard and C. Lester (Albany: SUNY Press, 1988)
83-92, 101-5.

NATURE IN SCHELLING'S PHILOSOPHY

571

the absence of work in every work, that this rupture is filled by the productive act which ever relates the finite product to the absolute, is perhaps
most clearly expressed in Atheiaeumit fragment 1i6:
Romantic poetry is a progressive, universal poetry. Its aim isn't merely
to unite all the separate species of poetry and put poetry in touch with
philosophy and rhetoric. It tries to and should mix and fuse poetry and
prose, inspiration and criticism. ... And it can also-more than any
other form-hover at the midpoint between portrayer and portrayed,
free of all real and ideal self-interest, on the wings of poetic reflection,
and can raise that reflection again and again to a higher power, can
multiply it in an endless succession of mirrors. . . . Other kinds of
poetry are finished and are now capable of being fully analysed. The
romantic kind of poetry is still in the state of becoming; that, in fact,
is its real essence: that it should forever be becoming and never be perfected. (PhzilosopihicalFragmenits AF ii6)
Criticism becomes essential to romantic poetry as the reflection that raises
poetry to an ever higher power, but in the process criticism becomes poetic. Hovering at the midpoint between the ideal and its realization, it finds
itself in the space of production, of the formation of form, the domain of
poesy. The absence of form in form necessitates the formation of form. It is
only through criticism that poetry penetrates to the heart of the formative
process that constitutes it.
This critical reflexivity is clearly manifested in the romantic genre of the
fragment. The fragment is not unique to romanticism, and most generally
designates a work that has no pretence of completion, but rather that indicates that incompletion can and even must be published. The romantic
fragment, however, makes incompletion essential to every work of art. The
fragment thus becomes the projection of what it incompletes, and identical
to the romantic project expressed in Athenzaeium fragment i i6 of a "progressive universal poetry," a poetry that is "forever becoming and never perfected." But the individuality of the fragment also suggests an organic
wholeness. "A fragment, like a miniature work of art, has to be entirely
isolated from the surrounding world and to be complete in itself like a porcupine" (AF 206). Yet individual fragments, if like singular organic totalities or systems in miniature, because of their incompletion, remain only
seeds or germs of future systems. "Aren't all systems individuals just as all
individuals are systems at least in embryo and tendency? Isn't every real entity historical? Aren't there individuals who contain within themselves
whole systems of individuals?"4 8 In an age of system building, the fragment
48. AF 242. See also Novalis, Szrifictn 2: 463.

572

JOAN STEIGERWALD

was the only possible system that the romantics could conceive. But if
failed expressions of totality, fragments critically point "toward the heart of
things," the productive center of each system, each individual, for what
makes an individual is its capacity to hold itself together, the intemal
Bildungstrieb that enables it to produce itself "The genre of the fragment is
the genre of generation. " 4 9 The fragment thus captures the event character
of a system, the relation of parts into a whole that occurs in each individual
formation, the formative act essential to every work of art. It is here that
the romantic project expressed in Athienaeum fragment I1i6 lies.
The argument of the Jena Romantics that critique and reflection can
only be checked by the absolute, their attention to the medium of
reflection and process of formation, their conception of the relationship between the individual and the system, the finite and infinite, in terms of
potentiation-all these ideas can be found within Schefling's philosophy of
identity. In a series of works published in the early i8oos, Schelling argued
that the entire system of mind and nature must necessarily have reference
to the absolute or God as a first principle, as the absolute identity or indifference [Iidffferenz] of ideality and reality. Schelling insisted that this identity 'was original, rather than being the result or synthesis of sublated opposites; yet, to account for othemess and difference, it must have a principle
of difference built into it. As Schelling articulated this problem in his I802
work Brino or Ont the Nattural and Divitne Principle of Tlin,gs, "we must
define this supreme identity as the identity of identity [Einlheit] and opposition [Gegenisatz], or the identity of the self-identical [selbst Gleiclhe] and the
non-identical [Ungleiche].sO But what is indifferent in the absolute appears to
us as separation, as the sundering of the ideal and the real. If the absolute is
the identity or indifference of the ideal and the real, phenomena are distinguished by differences of emphasis or preponderances of ideality or reality,
what Schelling termed potencies [Potenzeni].
[Potency] refers to the general doctrine of philosophy regarding the
essential and inner identity of all things and of that which we are able
to distinguish in general. There is actually and essentially only One
essence, One absolute reality, and this essence, as absolute, is indivisible such that it cannot change over into other essences by means of
division and separation; since it is indivisible, diversity among things is
49. Lacoue-Labarthe and Nancy, Literary Absolute 49, 39-58, 90-93; Rodolphe Gasche,
"Foreward: Ideality in Fragmentation," in Schlegel, Philosophical Frag:nents xi-xiii; and
Schlegel, PhtilosophicalFragnments *, no. iSS.
So. Schelling, Bnnto oder fiber das g6ttliche usd nidtirliche Priuzip der Dinge, SW 5: 236. See
also Michael G. Vater, "Introduction," in Schelling, Bmuno or On the Natitral attd Divitne Pritniple of Thtitngs, ed. and trans. M. G. Vater (Albany: SUNY Press, 1984) 24-26.

NATURE IN SCHELLING'S PHILOSOPHY

573

only possible to the extent that this indivisible whole is posited under
various determiinations. (Phtilosophie der Ktnst, SW 5: 366)
In his I802 Presentation of nty System of Philosoply, Schelling represented
these concepts in mathematical terms (SW 4: I 3 7 f):
iA=B A=B"
A=A
The mathematical formula illustrates how each phenomenon, A = B, is an
image of the absolute identity, A = A, and how the entire absolute informns
[einbildeni] itself into every potency, but with a preponderance of ideality or
reality, an imbalance toward one pole or the other. There are no real or
ideal entities as such, only relative identities of the real and ideal. Indeed,
each potency is always correlated with and reflects its opposite. And each
individual potency of the real and the ideal has its identity only through its
relation to absolute identity or indifference. Schelling regarded the system
thus constructed to have a completeness lacking in his Systent of Transcenidental Idealisnt; the whole, whilst containing all difference, has a perfect balance between ideality and reality, and thus is itself total indifference.
In his identity philosophy Schelling retained the privileging of art and
organic nature found in the System. Art, as the highest potency of the ideal,
is the identity or indifference of knowledge and action, unconsciousness
and consciousness, necessity and freedom; the organism, as the highest potency of the real or nature, is the identity or indifference of matter and
formn, corporeality and activity. What is essential to art, as well as to the
organism, is the productive activity of relating the real and ideal. "All art
is the direct expression of the absolute act of production or the absolute
self-affirmation." Indeed, "poesy [Poesie], that is creating [Ersdcaffuing]," "can
be viewed as the essence of all art" (Philosophie der Ktnst 63 1-32). Within
art, this creating occurs through artistic genius, the presence of the universal mind in the individual mind, as in his or her product, the individual
art product, the infinite is present. But whilst in the Systet, Schelling
had regarded genius an "exceptional human being," in whom "that unalterable identity, on which all existence is founded, had laid aside the veil
with which it shrouds itself in others," in his lectures on Plhilosophy of Art,
it became the "daenton" [Genie or Geniuis], the creative spirit or "indwelling
element of divinity" that is part of the nature of all human beings (System
6I 6; Philosophie der Knulst 460). Within nature, this productive activity takes
different forns in different potencies or different natural phenomena. In his
I799 works, Schelling had added to the construction of matter through
positive and negative principles the necessity of a third principle of construction, gravity or even more metaphorically that third [Dritte] which

574

JOAN STEIGERWALD

is "a striving after indffference, a striving which is conditioned through difference itself, and through which difference in turn is conditioned" (SW 3:
309). In On the World Soul, the formative activity relating the positive
and negative tendencies within the organism had been represented by the
concept of the Bilduingstrieb. In his i8o6 supplement to that work, "On the
Relation of the Real and the Ideal," this synthetic relation becomes the
Banzd, the Dritte, enacting the identity or indifference of the real and ideal
that makes each a potence of absolute. In the Ideen Schelling had claimed
that "in resolving the problem of how matter in general is originzally possible, the problem of a possible universe has also been solved" (Ideen I87). In
his 1803 supplemenlt to the constnrction of mzatter in the Ideas, Schelling argued
that "matter is the general seed-corn [Samenkonz] of the universe, in which
is hidden all that unfolds in later developments." Or, as he argued in I799,
in each natural product lies "the germ [Kein] of a universe" (Ideen [I803]
223-24;

Einleitzong 290o9I). As Friedrich Schlegel made his similar point:

"Aren't all systems individuals just as all individuals are systems at least in
embryo and tendency?" (Phzilosophical Fragmlents AF 242).
Gasche's reading of Benjamin's reading of the Jena Romantics, in his essay "On the Sober Absolute: On Benjamin and the Early Romantics,"
finds in Benjamin's marginal comments and notes the extent to which he
was disturbed by Schlegel's suggestion. By his failure to pay attention to the
difference between the absolute and individuality Benjamin contended that
Schlegel illegitimately mixed levels of thought. Dissolving the single work
of art into the medium of reflection not only renders the finite absolute,
it also relates the absolute to the finite, to the tangible and profane. Not
only is the absolute the basis for the potentiation of the individual work of
art, it is also thus opened to the possibility of abasement. The absolute is
tainted by lower forms, the infinite by the terrible signature of nature and
fate.M5 Benjamin might have been even more disturbed if he had read
Schelling, with his explicit discussion of not only potentiation but also
depotentiation, of not only how everything which appears to us as particular has its essence in the absolute as pure identity but also how the absolute
"expands itself into the particular, so that in the absolute embodiment
[Einibildtng] of its infinity into the finite itself, it may take back the latter
into itself, and in it both are One act" (Ideen [I803] 65). The absolute
informs each real and ideal product, providing the basis for its identity, the
basis for its potency, and yet to be this basis, in Schelling's disconcerting
formulation, the absolute cannot be unitary, but must retain some aspect of
both the real and the ideal, even if indifferently, within itself The absolute,
the infinite, is in some sense informed by the finite.
5i. Rodolphe Gasche, "The Sober Absolute: On Benjamin and the Early Romantics,"

SiR 31 (Winter 1992): 433-53.

NATURE IN SCHELLING'S PHILOSOPHY

575

Indeed, Hegel's criticism of Fichte's science of knowledge, that the identity of the I's activity can be grasped in philosophical reflection only by first
sundering it into oppositions, applies as forcefully to Schelling's attempts to
characterize absolute identity or God.
The absolute . . . is necessarily putre identity; it is just absoluteness and
nothing other, and absoluteness is only equal to itself: but it does indeed also belong to the idea of that, that this pure identity, independent of subjectivity and objectivity, as this, is itself matter and form,
subject and object. (Ideen [i803] 62)
As Michael Vater has argued:
Schelling is forced by his logic of indifference to forego any positive
metaphysical characterization of the absolute. In essence, the absolute
is the 'neither . . . nor . . .' of all contrasting predicates, in form their
'both . . . and . . .' It hardly needs mention that the coexistence of
both aspects is formally a paradox. If the absolute can be indicated at
all, it is solely in terms of logical relations, not in terms of metaphysical
predicates. (Vater, "Introduction" 29)
The further Schelling pursued the paradoxical play between identity and
difference in his impossible logic of indifference, the more it defied positive
conceptualization. Constrained to express himself with the concepts of rational philosophy, within the language of dualistic metaphysics, even as he
attempted to overthrow them, Schelling tried to express what cannot be
expressed in such language-neither simply identity nor difference, but
somehow both at once. Even the metaphors to which he turned in articulating the construction of nature or the construction of art-formative impulse, Dritte, striving, daemon-dissolve as Schelling retreated further into
the purified logic of indifference. Fichte's abstraction of the being of the I
into the synthetic activity of thought is now further abstracted so that only
a copula, a Band, remains, which Scheiling denied can even be conceived
as a synthetic relation of the real and the ideal, but must rather somehow be
conceived as their indifference. The result is an absence of being at the
heart of all real and ideal being, an abtruse band that extends even into the
absolute, an abstract identity with no content. In Schelling's philosophy of
identity the notion of rupture has become fundamental. Schelling's penetrating critical examination of contemporary philosophical systems, from
philosophies of nature to transcendental idealism, ended in his own attempt
at a complete system of philosophy, his philosophy of identity, but in
which his critical principles prevented him from founding that system
through the presence of some being. It thus remained an epistemology of
rupture, a philosophy in which there remains an indifference, an identity

576

JOAN STEIGERWALD

yet difference, in every potency of the ideal and the real and in the absolute
itself, a rupture that can only be traversed through a purely abstract notion
of a copula or Band. It is for this reason that Schelling would describe his
philosophy of identity as a negative philosophy. And it was for this reason
that Hegel criticized Schelling's philosophy of identity as empty formalism.
From God to Ground to Ungrmnd: The Elusiveness of Being
The years following Schelling's sojourn in Jena were marked by a series of
losses. The community of early romantic writers and critics who had been
gathering at the home of August Wilhelm and Caroline Schlegel began to
fragment in the first years of the nineteenth century. A growing tension
within the group was the love affair developing between ScheDing and
Caroline Schlegel. August Wilhelm behaved with extraordinary forbearance during this affair, but early in i8oi he departed for Berlin. Novalis, after a period of increasing illness, died in i8oi. Friedrich Schlegel, having
failed to get a position at the university, left Jena in I802, travelling first to
Paris, then Cologne, and eventually settling in Vienna. Fichte had been
dismissed from the university in I799 under charges of atheism and was
now in Berlin. When Schelling left Jena in 1803 to take up an invitation to
teach at the University of Wiirzburg, he left under a cloud of scandal. He
had originally planned to go to Berlin in i 8oo to further his medical studies, but he changed his plans because Caroline had become ill, and he instead travelled with her to Bamburg for treatment. Then Caroline's daughter, Auguste, became very ill and died suddenly in July. Schelling, who had
arranged Auguste's treatment with the local doctors, was accused of culpability in her death in an anonymous pamphlet attacking the "new philosophy" written in the summer of i 8o2 by a Wiirzburg theologian Franz Berg;
an obscure pamphlet that achieved prominence by being reviewed in the
Jena Allgemeine Literathr-Zeitung.52 After the Napoleonic invasions of I8o6,
Schelling sought refuge from the embattled north in Munich together with
a small group of followers of his Natu1rphilosophie. In 1807 Schelling's precocious philosophical stardom was eclipsed by the appearance of Hegel's
formidable The Plhenoinienology of Spirit. Then in I809 Caroline died.
Throughout these years of personal losses, of personal crises, Schelling
struggled to bring his identity philosophy to completion. But the Phiilosophical Inquiiies into the Nature of Human Freedom that he published in 1809, his
last major published work, appears rather to demonstrate the impossibility
52. On this incident see Urban Wiesing, "Der Tod der Auguste B6hmer: Chronik eines
medizinischen Skandals, seine Hintergriinde und seine historische Bedeutung," History and
Philosopihy of the Life Sciences i i (I989): 273-9s; and Werner E. Gerabek, Friedrich Wilhelmi Joscplh Schelling utid die Medizin der Romantik: Stidien zut Schellings Wiirzbntrger Periode (New
York: Peter Lang, 1995) os-ui.

NATURE IN SCHELLING'S PHILOSOPHY

577

of that task. God, the absolute principle in his identity philosophy, is given
prominence in the Freedom essay, but in a complex yet necessary relation to
God's revelation, to created nature and to the human individual and his
freedom, and to God's own ground, in a way that elaborates and further
problematizes the identity and difference of the infinite and the finite, the
ideal and the real, freedom and necessity.
The Freedom essay, ostensibly concerned with the problem of the apparent contradiction between the concept of freedom and the concept of system-how freedom is possible in connection with the conception of a
scientific order of the world or with the system present at least in divine
understanding-in fact rehearsed a theme found throughout the varied
permutations of Schelling's philosophy, the significance of the real, the import of nature, and the inadequacy of idealism due to its "abhorrence
[Abschteu] of everything real" (Plhilosophisclhe Untersuclhuntgen fiber das Wesen
der ,nenisclhliclhenl Freiheit, SW 7: 356). As Schelling argued in the Freedom essay, idealism treats freedom as the mastery of the spirit over the sensory, of
reason over desires, and thus as the freedom from nature and natural necessity. Its conception of freedom is accordingly merely empty formalism. By
the dissolution of all being into the idea, idealism becomes groundless; as
nature does not exist for it, idealism lacks a living ground. Schelling, in
contrast, sought the real ground of freedom. But the concern of the Freedomi essay was not nature as the system of the real, it was not how freedom
is the fundamental potentiating act through which nature raises itself to intellect and will, the being of nature in its various stages as the coming to be
of human freedom, the object of his Natuirphilosophie. Rather, its concern
was nature in the ideal, the real as the ground and means for idealism to actualize itself and assume flesh and blood. Yet Schelling argued that the two
concerns-the nature [Weseni] of nature [Natuir] and the nature of freedom-are not unrelated. Indeed, he found it curious that whilst in the Critique of Practical Reason Kant treated freedom and independence of time
as correlative concepts, and in the Critique of Pure Reason distinguished
things-in-themselves from appearances through their independence of
time, Kant did not think "to transfer this sole possible positive concept of
in-itself [An-sicht] to things," and to make freedom part of the conception
of in-itself in general (Freiheit 352, 356). As Heidegger articulates
Schelling's argument in his commentary on the Freedom essay, "where nature is understood, not as what is merely to be overcome, but as what is
constitutive [Mitbestiinmende], then it joins in a higher unity with freedom"
(Heidegger, Schelling I45).
Having established the real ground or nature of freedom as the central
problem of his essay, ScheDling proceeded to use a basic principle of Naturphilosoplhie, the distinction between being [Weseti] insofar as it exists and be-

578

JOAN STEIGERWALD

ing insofar as it is the ground of existence, to understand freedom and to


understand the nature of God and the relationship of God to nature as the
foundation of a system of freedom or of the understanding of the concept
of freedom in connection with the concept of system. Schelling thus began
the main body of his essay with a discussion of the ground or nature of
God.
This ground of his existence, which God has within himself, is not
God absolutely considered, i.e. insofar as he exists; for it is only the
ground of his existence, it is tnatuire [Natur]-in God; a being [Wesen]
actually inseparable from him, yet still distinguished from him. (Freiheit
358)
Ground, nature, being, essence [Gnrnd, Natur, Wesen]-these are terms
with which Schelling attempted to indicate the real in God as the foundation of God. But as he elaborated on his meaning, it only became more
elusive. As the incomprehensible basis of reality in things, the ground of
God cannot be resolved in understanding, and yet it is that from which understanding is born. It is the striving for the self-revelation of God, but a
striving, a longing without understanding, an unruly ground that always already threatens to break through, even once brought to order, thus making
it appear as though order and form are not original. It is the positive presence that cannot be penetrated, the dark ground, without which God and
the whole of creation could not exist, could have no reality. It is the necessary inheritance, the indivisible remainder, of being. As if to compound
ambiguity with ambiguity, Schelling argued that although the ground of
God has precedence over the existence of God, in some sense acting as its
basis, this precedence does not constitute a priority in time or a priority in
essence. "Since nothing is before or outside God, he must have the ground
of his existence within himself." "God has within himself an inner ground
of his existence, which in this respect precedes him as to his existence; but
likewise God is prior to the ground, as the ground, as such, could not be if
God did not exist in actuality" (Freiheit358). It is the same paradoxical logic
that Schelling utilized in his identity philosophy in characterizing God.
David Clark highlights the problematic nature of Schelling's "strange and
self-estranged God":
Neither 'inseparable' nor 'distinguishable,' but both at once: this
Grtnd, this 'irreducible remainder' . . . shimmers before our gaze,
simultaneously there, distinct from God, and not there, [a] spectral
presence/absence . . . How can God be divided by a difference that
does not differentiate, his determined identity deferred by the 'irre-

NATURE IN SCHELLING'S PHILOSOPHY

579

ducible remainder' that makes it possible? (" 'The Necessary Heritage


of Darkness"' 87)
Schelling struggled with the limits of philosophical language of his time
to articulate thinking that violated its categories. At first he turned to the
language of Nattirphilosophie, to Kant's philosophy of the organism that
informed Oin thie World Soul, in which "all things mutually presuppose each
other" or are cause and effect of each other. "In the circle out of which all
things become, it is not a contradiction that what produces one thing is
itself generated by it" (Freilteit 358). God might be better understood,
Schelling suggested, through this notion of becoming. God's existence
comes to be from his ground; but this ground is the cause as well as the effect of God's existence, so that what God is is best understood as this
relation of becoming, as the formative process linking ground and existence. As Heidegger elaborates this notion, "the Being of God is a becoming to himself out of himself." But it is the "not-yet-existing [Nochlnicltexistente]" of the ground that ultimately, and positively, makes existence
possible; the "not-yet for itself" is that from which that which emerges
from itself begins (Heidegger, Schelling I95-96). Schelling tried again; remaining within the language of Nattirphilosoplhie, he now expressed the
relationship between the ground and the existence of God through an
analogy with the interplay between gravity and light. Gravity, as the absolute identity viewed in a specific potency, precedes light as its eternally dark
ground, but does not exist in actuality itself. Schelling here referred to his
more detailed discussion of the relationship between gravity and light in his
JoinialforSpeculative Phzysics, but his discussion elided between the scientific
and the metaphorical or mythical. Gravity, as the dark ground, "flees into
the night when light (the existing) dawns" (Freilheit 358). The dark, unruly
ground, like a surging sea or Plato's matter, incapable of forming something lasting in itself, requires the eternal act of God's self-revelation to
bring rulelessness to order. Schelling's language was that of the Protestant
mystics to whom he had been introduced as a youth growing up near
Stuttgart and who he began to read seriously around I8o4-Schtwabenvdter,
such as Friedrich Oetinger, and the seventeenth-century theosophistJacob
Bohme-as well as Plato's mythical theogony and cosmogony in the
Timnaeus.53 Schelling then tried yet again. The being of God might be
53. See Clark, "'Necessary Heritage of Darkness"' 88-ioo; Werner Marx, Schiellitig:
C.sciichte, Systemi, Freiheit (Munich: Alber, 1977) 1o6-9; and Robert Brown, The Later Phiilosophy of Schelling: Thte Inflietnce of Boilmie on the Works of 1809-1815 (London: Associated University Press, 1977). On the historical background to this protestant mysticism, see S. R.
Morgan "The Palingenesis of Ancient Wisdom and the Kingdom of God: Towards an Historical Interpretation of Schelling's Earliest Philosophy" (unpublished doctoral thesis, University of Cambridge, igg9).

580

JOAN STEIGERWALD

more accessible to the human being [dieser Wesen mnenscdlicd niaher bringett],
he argued, if expressed in anthropomorphic terms. The ground of God is
"the longing felt by the eternal one to give birth to itself" (Freiheit 358).
But too sophisticated a philosopher to linger long with a simplistic idiom of
personification, Schelling immediately translated the notion of God's longing for existence into the language of Fichte's I796/99 lectures on the
Wissenschaftslelhre, tracing the production of determinate representation
from indeterminate striving. Schelling, like Fichte, conceived longing or
willing as a kind of thinking: as "a will of the understanding, namely
its longing and desire; not a conscious, but a prescient willing, whose prescience is understanding" (Freiheit 359). It is a striving to understanding,
aroused by understanding, but not yet determinate understanding.
Schelling presented the actualization or self-revelation of God as a reflexive
representation engendered within God, as a counterpart to the indeterminate longing, through which God beholds himself in his own image, having no other object but himself This self-reflexive act is analogous to that
in human thought, through which unconscious and indefinite longing is
raised by understanding into the unity of an idea, imagined into something
comprehensible, singular, determinate. In Fichte's terms, the I determines
itself, the activity of the intellect becomes aware of itself, by becoming an
image for itself ([Wissenschaftslelhre] Nova Methodo 151-52). Yet Schelling littered this detour into the language of transcendental idealism, as he did that
into the language of Naturphilosophie, with obfuscating metaphors. "All
birth is birth from darkness into light.... The human being is formed in
the womb, and from the darkness of non-understanding (from feeling,
longing, the glorious mother of knowledge) lucid thoughts first grow."
This representation is "the word of this longing"-"in the sense that one
says: the word of [the solution to] a riddle"-the resolution of obscure
longing into meaning. The eternal spirit utters the word, as understanding
combined with longing, and "becomes freely creating and omnipotent will
and informs the initially ruleless nature" (Freiheit 360-6I). In a few packed
pages, in a disturbing confusion of tongues, Schelling strove to articulate
the being of God.
What Schelling did manage to convey is that the only way for us to conceive of God is through his others. Schelling argued that the "consequence
[Folge] of things from God is God's self-revelation" (Freiheit 347). Thus the
actualization of God, the transformation from ground to existence, from
indeterminate longing to representation or self-revelation, is the act of creation, through which the unruly ground or nature becomes the natural
world ordered in a series of potencies culminating in human nature. To
consider the nature of things is to consider them in relation to God, to
consider the becoming of things from God or the process of creation. But

NATURE IN SCHELLING'S PHILOSOPHY

581

to understand the nature of things as becoming is to understand them as


presenting the stages and manner of emergence of divine being into existence. Thus things reveal the being of God. Moreover, if things become in
and through God, they are also different from God, for things become in
that in God which is not God himself, that is, in the ground in God
(Heidegger, Sclhellitng 20I-5, 2I2-I4). Schelling's argument here is provocative. "The process of creation comes to light only in the inner transmutation or transfiguration of the initially dark principle" (Freiheit 362). This
dark principle which originates in the ground is the created being's selfwill; to the extent to which it is not raised to or does not grasp its unity
with light, the principle of understanding, it is a blind craving. Opposed to
the self-will of the creature is the universal will-understanding, light,
what brings unruly craving to order. Each singular being comes to be from
both. But it is the ground in God, that nature which is distinct if inseparable from him, which becomes the basis for the separate nature of created
beings, a self-craving that stands against the universal will of understanding
to order and unity.
The implications of Schelling's argument are only fully realized in the
case of human beings. In human beings the deepest point of initial darkness
is transfigured completely into light in one being-in them are the whole
power of the principle of darkness and the principle of light, "the deepest
abyss and highest heaven" (Freilheit363). Like all natural beings, human beings arise from the ground, and thus have within them a principle independent of God. But in human beings the word is completely articulate;
only in human beings is the image of God, which God first beheld in his
own longing, apprehended and brought to light, and the becoming of nature brought to rest. The unique consonance of principles in human beings
elevates them above other creatures as spirit, and enables human selfhood
to act freely in accord or in discord with universal will. This freedom is the
condition of the possibility of evil; evil is the proclamation of self-will
above universal will. As Heidegger presents Schelling's contention, evil
consists in "a reversal of the unity of the divine world in which the universal will stands in harmony with the will of the ground" and thus the becoming of a "reversed god [umizgekehrten Gottes], of the counter spirit
[Gegengeistes]," in which "the ground elevates itself into existence and puts
itself in the place of existence" (Heidegger, Scltelling 246-48). As Slavoj
Zizek notes, with "speculative audacity . . . Schelling locates the split
which opens up the possibility of Evil in God Himself."54 Evil has its
ground in the ground within yet independent of God, in the primal will
54. Slavoj Zizek, Tlue Indivisible Remainder: An Essay on Scizelling and Related Matters (New
York: Verso, 1996) 6x.

582

JOAN STEIGERWALD

that has emerged to separate selfhood. Since "every being can be revealed
only in its opposite," there must be an other for God. This other is the
human being; the human being is necessary for God to be revealed. But
the revelation of the existing God as the free human being is at the same
time the condition for the possibility of evil. Thus evil is "necessary for the
revelation of God" (Freiheit 373).
It seems that Schelling's appeal to Naturphilosophie and transcendental
idealism was not just analogical. Since God is only revealed, only exists, in
his creation, the being of God can only be known through his creation. In
Schelling's Naturphilosophie the opposition in natural beings between dark
and light principles, between the real and the ideal, is what gives them
activity and life, their existence as real living entities, in contrast to the
deadly abstractions of idealism. In the Freedom essay, Schelling argued that
God too is "a life." The unity of ground and existence in God is a necessary unity, but Schelling insisted it could not be conceived as a logical necessity; rather God is "the living unity of forces" (Freiheit 399, 394-95). As
Clark argues, "God's being is primordially a conflictual site ... that is constituted rather than compromised by othemess" ("'Necessary Heritage of
Darkness"' 89). As in his identity philosophy, in his Freedom essay Schelling
appears to have collapsed the distinction between divine and created life,
the infinite and finite. But not only is God thus "incorporated" (" 'Necessary Heritage . . ."' 86, IO9-II) there is also an element of the ground of
God, that basis of freedom, in all of nature. This dark ground, as an unruly
or irrational principle, resistant to light, understanding, unity and order,
like Plato's matter, is the basis for dissonance and contingency in nature.
This unruly ground can never be fully overcome; the human being never
attains complete control over this condition, and even in God it remains
relatively independent, although God is able integrate it into himself
(Freiheit 399). If this ground of freedom only rises to evil in human selfhood, in other natural beings, such as organic being, it provides the basis
for varied formations and deformations (Freiheit 250-52). Freedom for
Schelling is thus not found in the triumph of the ideal over natural necessity, as he portrayed his idealistic predecessors, but in the dark, unruly,
real basis of nature. 55 Nature thus "by no means exists through the capacity of mere geometric necessity; not sheer, pure reason, but personality
and spirit are in nature (just as we distinguish between the rational and
ingenious [geistreichen] author)" (Freiheit 395). In all of nature freedom,
55. Perhaps Schelling is not so far from his idealistic predecessors here as he claims. For
Fichte, in his (Wissensczaftslclzre) Nova Metizodo (17g6/9q), also regarded freedom as based in
the unconscious striving of the self, the real side of the self, as opposed to the conscious and
ideal. And insofar as the not-I was a product of the 1,it too constrained and concealed this element of the real striving of freedom.

NATURE IN SCHELLING'S PHILOSOPHY

583

spirit and self-will is combined with the necessary in the formation of


being.
The distinction of ground and existence in all being, in God as well as
his creatures, leaves the problem of their relation. Schelling began his essay
by conceiving this relation in tenms of becoming-the becoming of creation from God, the becoming of the existence of God from his ground.
This becoming, in Heidegger's terms, is the joining of ground and existence, is the essence [Weseti] orjointure of Being [Seynsfige], the in-itself of
all being, what all being is (Heidegger, Scltelling I85-90, 205-i5). In the last
few pages of his essay, Schelling returned to this central problem, and attempted to articulate the being [Wesen] before all ground and all existence,
before any distinction or duality-"how can we name it other than as the
primal ground [Urgnrndj or rather nonground [Ungnind]" (Freilheit 406).
Preceding all oppositions, it is not the identity of opposites, or the product
of opposites, but their indifference. Schelling appears at first to have appealed again to the paradoxical logic of his identity philosophy, the indifference that is neither identity nor difference but the identity of identity
and difference, the two principles predicated by the Ungnuld as nonopposites [Nidctgegensdtzes], in disjunction and each for itself. But in these
last pages of his Freedom essay, he pushes this impossible reasoning even further, claiming that the Ungnitnd is "a being [Wesen] of its own, separated
from all opposition, off which all oppositions rebound, which is nothing
other than just their non-being [Niclhtseyn], and which thus has no predicate except lack of predicates, without therefore being nothingness [Niclhts]
or an absurdity [Undinig]" (Freilheit406). The ultimate essence, before or behind even the ground and existence of God, the non-being beyond all differentiated being and yet not nothing, this absolute that Schelling sought to
make the positive essence of all, he could only negatively express as
Ungntid. "About the Ungnitid . .nothinig can be said. Or next to nothing,
since, remarkably, he strains in the same sentence to make shades of negative discrimination where, strictly speaking, none should be possible."
The Ungnind "is neither the void of nothingness or the nonsense of nonentity"; it is "nothing but nothing" ("'Necessary Heritage of Darkness"'
130). Clark here reads Schelling through Derrida: "How to avoid speaking
(of the Ungnund)? That is, both "how not to speak?" and how, in speaking,
"to avoid an inexact, erroneous, aberrant, improper form? How to avoid
such a predicate, and even predication itself?" 56 What Heidegger conceived as the jointure of being becomes for Schelling an abyss of negativity
56. Jaques Derrida, "How to Avoid Speaking: Denials," trans., Ken Frieden, in Derrida
1992) 85.
Cited in Clark, "'Necessary Heritage of Darkness"' 130-31. See also Clark, "Heidegger's
Craving: Being-on-Sclelling," Diacritics 27.3 (1997): 8-33.

and Negative Tlreology, ed. Harold Coward and Toby Fosbay (Albany: SUNY Press,

584

JOAN STEIGERWALD

[Fuge-joint, gap]. A positive expression of being eluded Schelling once


again.
Indeed, no sooner had Schelling attempted to articulate what defies
all positive expression, to think the unthinkable, then he appears to have
conceded defeat, and concluded his Freedom essay with a retreat into the
farmiliar vocabulary of idealism. Schelling surprisingly allowed that the duality that comes to be in Ungnind, if at first becoming one in love as the
combination of ground and existence, eventually resolves into an absolute
duality, as all that is true and good in the ground or longing is raised to luminous consciousness and all that is false and impure in the ground is eternally locked in darkness to remain "as the captut mortum of its life process."
The duality that he had just denied as a predication of the Ungnind now
becomes its end. The one essence of all finally divides itself into two, into
the purely ideal and the excluded, expelled ground. The ground continues
to exist, but not to act, as an irreducible remainder, debased now to eternal
excrement (Freilteit 408).
Then, as if himself shocked at what he had written, in the last lines of his
Freedoin essay Schelling turned back once more to nature, that unarticulated presence that portends all.
We have an older revelation than any written one-nature. It contains
the prototypes [Vorbilder] that no human being has yet interpreted,
whereas those of the written ones have long received their fulfilment
and interpretation. The sole true system of religion and science would
appear, if the understanding of this unwritten revelation were disclosed, not in the wretched state pieced together out of a few philosophical and critical concepts, but appearing at once in the full radiance of truth and nature. (Freilheit 415-16)
York University, Canada

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