Objects of Physis/Physis of Objects pt. 2

02Feb09

In his First Outline of a System of the Philosophy of Nature Schelling makes a fairly Bohrian statement.  Discussing the relation of freedom to nature Schelling discusses the experiment as how science invades  nature via a question with an implied judgement which produces a phenomenon (196-197).  The difference that is immediately noticeable is that Schelling asserts, against Fichte, that nature is an a priori which produces ideality itself.

Bohr’s philosophy-physics entangles agency and phenomena in such a way that objects (in the philosophical sense) and as extension in space (in the physical sense).  Schelling’s treatment of the object is not as humanistic as Bohr’s – despite the formers transcendentalism – and Schelling’s object (as the Real) created through the dynamics of matter, functions as the base of all ideality.

The question here is whether Schelling’s object is primarily one of speculative physics or one of the physical world.  In his nature philosophy Schelling is clear that his thought is not one of empirical physics but one that addresses the metaphysics of nature.  As Iain Hamilton Grant shows in his”The ‘Eternal and Necessary Bound between Philosophy and Physics” – Heidegger, Wirth and several other commentators on Schelling have argued that Schelling ultimately subordinates nature to freedom.  Zizek and Adrian Johnston are guilty of this as well.

Schelling repeatedly states that while there is a immaterial which we create (via the experiment) there is no bargaining with nature as a priori –  there is no negotiating with the indifference of gravity.  Objects make simply make up the world for Schelling and since nature is infinite productivity which must be infinitely restrained (so that products, or objects can be created).

The most interesting statement that Schelling makes in regards to Speculative Physics is that while empirical physics aims at the inner clockwork of things speculative physics aims at the surface of nature and “the objective outside in it.”   Speculative physics aims at not the causes but at the final state which nature never reaches.  In this sense nature, as object, is the philosophical object proper.  How then can Schelling adhere to a physics via a philosophical object?

Comparing Harman’s object to Schelling’s (and Grant’s) might expose the limits (or non-limits) of the philosophical object in relation to the scientific one.  But can there be said to be any object in physics?  While a certain folk physics is utilized in our quotidian dealings with bodies – there is question as to whether particles that make up those bodies can be said to be bodies themselves.  Are physical bodies in fact without extension and only representable as points located in Minkowski space-time?

Harman in “Space, Time and Essence: An Object-Oriented Approach” questions the limit of space-time in terms of objects and relationality.  For Harman, objects do not need an extension in space but only some sort of unified reality, qualities brought together by some organizing principle (but seprate from qualities, accidents and relations).  Intentional objects, for Harman, exist in a continguity – their sensual outpourings overlap and interpenetrate one another in sensorial landscapes.

Accidents, the way an object changes with the shifting light of the day is time whereas the emanation of intentional objects from real objects (always withdrawn) is space (p. 22).  Space becomes the chasms between intetions left by the retreat of the real whereas time becomes the swirling of surface features (p. 24).  Harman sums it up thusly: “The difference between objects and accidents gives us time, while the difference between objects and relations gives us space.”

Harman’s conceptualization of time, as odd hunks inside real objects, is Bergsonian and vaugely, or perhaps directly Deleuzian in that, it is time as a long now.  Harman admits exactly this discussing time in terms of experience.  If this is time as such, what happens to the distinction between synchronic and diachronic time? And, furthermore, does time exist without objects?

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