[The following is a post based on my paper for the German Idealism Workshop (which was just rejected…c’est la vie!) and in many ways foregrounds issues that Iain Grant discussed this past week in Pittsburgh. I will follow this post with a discussion of Grant’s lectures]
There is a fairly well known saying that the German Idealists (primarily Fichte, Schelling, Hegel) ran through the door which Kant had only wished to peak through. This means, among other things, that the cautious uncertainty where Kant stood was ‘ruined’ by the German Idealists who wanted to talk more about ‘things in themselves’ or to, in various ways, get rid of the things in themselves all together and expand that shaky ground outwards. Whereas Zizek has argued that Hegel effectively ontologizes that which Kant had recognized without really recognizing (that the subject comes to be substance through a kind of indirect self-recognition) the Pittsburgh Hegelians, insofar as I grasp them, take both Fichte and Hegel’s idealism to be one that grounds the stability of the starting subject position on the efficacy of the normative which is sui generis and separate from what McDowell calls, following Sellars, the logical space of nature.
In essence, the problem of how mind and world (or reason and nature) interact is based upon a self-sustaining space of reasons, where we have learned via linguistic structures to be able to self-test that the world is thus and so in relation to us saying that the world is thus and so. This capacity cannot, following Brandom and McDowell, be anchored in naturalistic processes (to do so would be to fall into the naturalistic fallacy as Sellars called it) because the set of rules governing conceptual behavior are different in kind from those laws which govern the logical space of nature. However, I believe that the way in which the logical space of nature is described immediately fixes the game in a way that any kind of naturalism other than as empirical explanation, cannot but fail to appease the force of second nature (the space of reasons). That is, I believe that Schelling’s naturalism is not a bald naturalism as McDowell would put it, but, given its speculative nature, questions the descriptive ground put in place by the Pittsburgh Hegelians.
Put otherwise, if naturalism is that which fundamentally describes laws and their empirical ambit, this presupposes the efficacy of description, already grounded, as the boundary of the space of nature. Such a formulation outrightly dismisses speculative physics, whether in Hegel, Schelling, or in comtemporary thought, Gabriel Catren. Catren’s speculative physics asserts an a priori (but non-transcendental in the Kantian sense) structure of laws which determine the limitations of the empirical. As Dan Sacilotto has discussed succintly here, Catren’s speculative physics runs against Meillassoux’s assertion that the laws of nature cannot be contingent. In this sense, and as I have argued previously in talks, whereas Meillassoux asserts the necessity of contingency and Hegel the contingency of necessity, Schelling asserts the necessity of necessity however speculatively determined. This means the necessity of nature however (something is impossible if its conditions cannot be given in nature) and not the necessity of necessity removed from nature and placed in the logical space of reasons. Markus Gabriel’s move is to push this logical space of reasons ‘backwards’ and equate it with Schelling’s concept of das unvordenkliche (the un-pre-thinkable). But what this means for the separability of nature and logic in Gabriel appears somewhat uncertain.
As Iain Hamilton Grant has skilfully pointed out, Schelling effectively reverses Kant through a naturalization of the transcendental. Whereas Kant is concerned with how experience is possible (as a synthesis of impression into experiences, sensations which in an empirical register must be of nature), Schelling wonders how nature must be in order for us to be, and for us to be even able to think of something like nature. On the first point, how must nature be in order for us to be, assumes, as a ground, that nature prexists us or as Schelling states ‘it is because there is being there is thinking. Thus while Schelling does not at all dispute the starting point of Kantian critical philosophy, Schelling claims that Kant should not be lambasted for peeking through the door at the in itself illegitimately, but that this peeking (through our speculative capacities) can only ever be grounded in a continuum between the space of nature and the space of reasons. In so doing, Schelling claims that Kant did not go far enough namely in stating that things in themselves should be, to acquire something approaching a ‘higher realism,’ forces in themselves or activity in itself. This is why, again following Gabriel, that Schelling goes a step further than Hegel in feeding the structure of lack into the structure itself thereby generating unprethinkable being.
In a seemingly paradoxical sense Schelling takes this generation as the activity of the I whereby the I realizes its own ungraspable ground as activity. Schelling’s fascination with Fichte’s I as the form of philosophy, the I as endless doing, is not taken by Schelling as seed for a rampant idealism (at least, as idealism would be construed by Kant) but as arguing that the activity of being a self can only be grounded in an existence outside of it, namely by the speculatively determined dynamics of nature. That is, whereas Fichte took nature as not-I to be an internalized formal constraint on which the activity of the I operates, Schelling sees this activity of of nature and appearing, in our minds, as our own activity (as intentionality), as only possible following a self inhibition of mental activity in order for anything resemblign reason to even be possible.
This brings us to the second issue above, how is it even possible that we can think something like nature outside of us?
Schelling’s approach here seems somewhat akin to Meillassoux in that both assert that there is an absolute without thought but that there is a way to think this absolute without falling into a trap of co-constitutive meaning (or strong correlationism). It is worth noting that Meillassoux accuses Schelling of not only being a strong correlationist in this sense but is guilty twice over: through the use of both Nature and the objective-subject object. Yet, it would seem that Schelling is not saying that nature is hypostatized mind or vital (he explictly knocks down both of these assertions) but argues that the contingency of reason is not the same functionally as the contingency of nature. The latter necessarily pre-exists the former for us to be here and no normative quarantine can seal the breach between modal possibility and natural constraints.
There are two (perhaps more) approaches here. Iain Grant’s seems to be to push the concept of a sanitized logic to its breaking point to show how logic cannot be exculpated from nature. The approach which I will be pushing in my dissertation is from the other side, to show how a speculative account of nature can redraw the logic capacities of reason. That there is a relation between nature and thought which is consequential rather than evental (in Meillassoux’s sense) and that Schelling attempts this through a kind of Kantian formalism naturalized (via Plato), Fichtean combined with Fichtean activity de-centralized, thereby making Spinozistic realism dynamic. Schelling’s form of speculation (as I will discuss next entry) is ultimately about the forms which must exist in nature in order for nature to function whereas Kant attempts to claim that logic forms can be deduced from experience in order to explain experience. For Schelling this gives too little freedom (as activity) to the a priori in as seen in Kant’s anxiety about destabilizing the ground of judgement in light of the dynamics of nature.
Filed under: Hegel, Iain Hamilton Grant, Kant, Meillassoux, nature, ontology, Schelling, Speculative Realism, Zizek | 6 Comments
Tags: Iain Hamilton Grant, nature, Naturphilosophie, Physics, Schelling, speculative physics