Schelling’s Darkness or The Sadness of the Double Series


In the introduction to On University Studies its said that it was one of Schelling’s last happy texts – as he begins to entertain ideas of darkness, chaos, and evil in the Essay on Freedom. But this, I think, overlooks a serious transition in Schelling, a movement away from Spinoza and towards something more unique to Schelling himself. Schelling’s texts prior to the Essay on Freedom play with darkness and loss but this tend to be put in terms of substance. The dark reef of matter (though this returns later in the Grounding of Positive Philosophy) becomes the swirling chaos of Platonic matter. The romantic image of the lantern of knowledge which only points forward (in the System of Transcendental Idealism) becomes, even in the same book,  a more troublesome image of thought being completely captured by that which it thinks directing thought to think that object a certain way but to assert that thinking becomes objected even when thinking otherwise (Schelling’s remarks on the cube).

Part of this could be seen as Schelling’s move away from Spinoza and it could be also be connected to biography (the death of his wife). But in many ways it seems that while Schelling’s Naturphilosophie celebrates a dynamism which is pre matter, Schelling seems to reach even farther back into a speculative (or non-historical) past that exceeds all knowing, whether knowing knowing itself or knowing the genesis of any particular thing, system, etc. This can be related to Schelling’s double series (which he sets up in the System of Transcendental Idealism and I’ve discussed before) as the split between the real and ideal being a split in the ideal (we have to think of these projects differently) but they are not split in the real or in nature as the real produces thought and thought finds traces of the real nature in ideal (noetic) ways.

But a problem arrises given Schelling’s use of real/ideal. Mostly there is an issue due to the Platonic genes floating throughout Schelling’s Naturphilosophie now doubt stemming from his reading of the World Soul in the Timaeus. That is, to call the forms or Platonic archetypes ideal is to negate their productive effect in nature ie that they are unthinkable things or universal instances in nature where the same pattern occurs. They are real insofar as they are actual but not real in so far as they are sensible or purely thinkable. So nature produces this in the same mode  or at least in a similar modality that nature produces thought but that thought is an occurrence of organization (as organic leads to sensibility and sensibility to thought) but this ideality which has pull in the real (or on the real) can also exist independently of a body. This tension is also, I think, tied to the fact that while the organism represents the highest of the three potenz (with physics at the low end) Schelling still calls Naturphilosophie Speculative Physics as its base.

The model of dynamism, as physics grasping the ideal as pushing into the real is too appealing to Schelling for him to abandon.

So the split of the double series, how that is taken up in nature and in thought (as beings who think) can be taken in the following way – in a way that justifies Schelling’s darkness, in a way that presupposes something like existentialism or dark vitalism.

Being a thinking being in the world, with the thought of the double series, means that the difference between myself in nature is both in thought and a part nature itself the things I see in nature grant me some access to nature, if I can understand what it is about those things that is reflective of the absolute, as nature as a pure dynamism stemming from an original tension. The rocks, and the trees, are invaded by my freedom to think them as my thinking them as apart from nature as dynamism (as things) reduces them while at the same time in trying to think their genesis from nature as a whole I ‘do them more justice’ than thinking them of a dead thing, as a dead instance of nature. In this sense, parts of nature are not so much parts but can be thought more in terms of instances of nature, and these instances will be swallowed back (not into a lump, or One) but will recede into a point of indifference, a point in which the heterogeneity of nature will then proceed in a different direction. The crumble or the rot will dump energy back into the system something different will occur  – difference stretches out away from this points of indifference which are themselves regulated by attractors and the other behaviors of the potencies. And this process occurs in the thinker, and reflection gives us the problem of death, not death as experience, but that this corpse will snap back into oblivion.

Schelling’s melancholy seems to come from the fact that while the dynamism never dissipates, never ceases to excite him, the problem of the time where we can only before of our anterior and posterior nonexistence causes a problem for beings who are nothing more than puppets for thought. Not only does nature nature through us, tearing as slowly to pieces with age, disease, stress, and so on, but our capacity for thought makes us all too aware of the fact that our very capacity for infinitude is tied to that process. I can speculate because of the tension in the absolute which comes about as a double series and this speculation can be tested with experiment, by the sciences.

Hence ‘the veil of sadness spread over all of nature, the deep, unappeasable melancholy of all life’ It’s not the being of the split subject, as if nature explains such fetishized interiority, but that the split between natura naturans and natura naturata as grasped or not in thought reflects the degrees to which thought invades nature but also how nature invades and eventually compacts thought.



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