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«All the principles of being and becoming»: Schelling’s ontogenetic hypothesis

Iain Hamilton Grant
p. 22-38

Abstract

Schelling’s Naturphilosophie was, from the outset, more concerned with ontogeny than ontology, i.e. not on what nature is but on what it does: ubiquitous creation. Therefore, the processes articulated in the Philosophy of Mythology remain instances of a philosophy driven by what might be called a post-naturalist naturalism. The two aims of this paper are, firstly, to demonstrate this nature-philosophical continuity throughout Schelling’s so-called Protean philosophical projects in order, secondly, to re-prepare Schellingian themes for current debates concerning ontology. To this end, I draw on the worldmaking and abundance postulates of Goodman and Feyerabend, respectively, to demonstrate the persistence of Schellingian ontogenetic pathways for remodelling process metaphysics for contemporary philosophy. Finally, the paper argues that the logical form of the hypothesis (antecedent and consequent) is itself consequent upon the ontogeny it hypothesises.

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Note della redazione

«All the principles of being and becoming» F.W.J. Schelling, Historisch-kritische Einleitung in die Philosophie der Mythologie, in K.F.A. Schelling (ed.), Sämmtliche Werke, XIV vols, Stuttgart-Augsburg, Cotta, 1856-1861, cited by volume and page number, here XI, 216.

Testo integrale

Introduction: Natura anceps? 2

  • 2 F.W.J. Schelling, Philosophie der Mythologie. Zweites Buch. Die Mythologie, XII, 142.

It is not given to everyone to know the end, fewer see the primordial beginnings of life and fewer still think through the whole from first things to last. (VIII, 207, emphasis mine)

1Is nature simply or merely first, before all, insuperable antecedence? Knowing, seeing, thinking through: the ascent Schelling’s Die Weltalter here maps out from what the known entails as being past, up through current perception, does not terminate, as the Weltalter’s ‘Introduction’ suggests, in anticipation, prescience or prophecy, so that the first lines of the main text runs in parallel with its ‘Introduction’, but in a pre-science in the precise sense of a science, a Wissenschaft, a «making of knowing», that reaches from the finally achieved – call it Beingall the way through to «that which is prior to Being» (XIII, 207). The loop is not the raw repetition of discrete form in discrete material, but the recapitulation of origination in its consequents. Because, therefore, creation is not rare but ubiquitous, morphogenesis is profligate:

  • 3 XII, 670. See also XI, 216: «Es ist an sich nicht zu denken, daß die Principien eines Processes, de (...)

The same movement by which nature in its abundance originally exists, generates in consciousness, by a recurrent process, the whole world of the gods, which acts as a fourth, so to speak, in relation to the productive powers, only emerging as a result of the cooperation of these powers as the phenomenon of that cooperation.3

  • 4 On the philosophy of prophecy, see Hogrebe 1992 and Struck 2016.
  • 5 The Erster Entwurf says much the same (III, 21): «we have determined the unconditioned as that whic (...)

2There is therefore a structure to these appearances. Physiogony, noogony, theogony: another series, the third of which discovers the anceps of the nature operative in a consciousness when the «whole world of the gods» arises. The hypothesis underlying each identifies, on the one hand, Schelling’s speculative philosophy with mantics or prophecy,4 and on the other renders first creation its own hypothesis of whatever future it eventually becomes the past of. This ontogenetic hypothesis therefore looks, with the future’s ancient eyes, back to the undiscovered past of a future yet to emerge. Yet emergence happens unconditionally such that its conditions are late acquisitions. That is to say, the form of the hypothesis runs not from condition to conditioned (X → Ǝ), but from the unconditioned to that emergence (→ Ǝ) which is only then conditioned when something has emerged the history of whose emergence then involves that emergence.5

  • 6 Descending Stufenfolge are only addressed in the Darstellung des Naturprozesses (X, 311, 329-330).
  • 7 Not only the Naturphilosophie: there are Stufenfolge of «actions not possible via nature» in the Sy (...)

3Amongst the surprises in Schelling’s Philosophy of Mythology is the threefold series by which theogony is monumentalised in consciousness as its own advent (which, by virtue of involving its own transition from not-being to being, it cannot think) as a branch of a branch of the production of nature that remains the free realisation of an ascending-descending6 ontogenetic series, a Stufenfolge, by which Schelling’s Naturphilosophie was always articulated7 and the position of nature within which movement was and remained constantly examined. This being so, is it possible to ask a Schellingian what nature is? Is it, that is, an occupant of, or even identical to, some ontic domain or ontology as such? The later Naturphilosophie, by which I mean that whose form begins most clearly to emerge during the Weltalter inquiries and develops thereafter, is focused around the problem of creation. Since creation is no thing but rather a process, the questions it asks are not reducibly ontic or ontological, since they entail an ontogenetic dimension. This is what the claim to seek «all the principles of being and becoming», from the Philosophy of Mythology involves: the science of being will always be the science of being, but as such must continuously be remade. In other words, inattention to ontogeny reduces ontology’s object domain (is the reason for reduction) just as the Weltalter tells us inattention to prophecy reduces that of epistemology.

1. The parts of movement

  • 8 F.W.J. Schelling, ‘Vorwort zu H. Steffens nachgelassenen Schriften‘, SW X, 396-397.
  • 9 Einleitung zu dem Entwurf, III, 299.

The Naturphilosophie, as many these days call the whole of what was once philosophy, was only a part, only the first transitive point in a movement that must, following a determining and directing law, lead above and beyond nature.8
Nature will therefore originally be the midpoint [Mittlere] of two, and this is how we achieve the concept of productivity grasped in transition into product, or of an infinitely productive product.9

  • 10 See the Philosophie der Offenbarung XIII, 207-211, for Schelling’s outline of ontogeny (Seyns-Entst (...)
  • 11 See Feyerabend 1984; 2009; 1999.

4What is the position of nature in Schelling’s later philosophy? On the basis of our two epigraphs, nature enjoys the same position in the later as in the earlier. The question therefore becomes: how is Naturphilosophie to be conceived when nature is nothing other than a transitional point between what will be and what can no longer not be?10 And what is the relevance of Schelling’s with respect to more recent naturephilosophy? These questions go to the core of what Hilary Putnam (2012) described as the ‘content and appeal of naturalism’, which consist respectively in the assertion that nothing can be that is not nature, rejecting therefore a supernaturalism nobody holds; or something is nature just when it is analysable by at least one scientific method. If there are no supernaturalists, then what is to be said of those phenomena conceived to be manifestly non-natural, such as artworks or technologies? How is ontology to honour both nature and what is not nature without falling into reductionism on the one hand or supernaturalism on the other? The standard contemporary response to this problem is, as Putnam himself advocates, a pluralism that either rejects the real fundamentality of fundamentality candidates such as nature, or rejects, in line with post-Kantian philosophy in general, a realism determined in reference to the given for a nominalism that honours not merely how nature is constructed, but the number of ways in which it can be. Amongst these latter projects, for instance, are Feyerabend’s later work, including his own mythology-embracing Naturphilosophie, his ‘science as art’11 and abundance theses, but especially Goodman’s concept of worldmaking qua anthropic fact. As we will see, the disjunction of aim and function in key theses by Feyerabend and Goodman concerning abundance and worldmaking compare unfavourably with their conjunction in the later Schelling’s account of cosmopoiesis.

  • 12 As I argue in my 2008.
  • 13 Chief amongst these predations is the consensus that presentational uptake eliminates givenness (Se (...)

5The same assumptions as underlie naturalism also motivate denials of Schelling’s as «Naturphilosophie throughout12», since it is only on considering nature as finite in respect of being that any non-natural state, whether vicious or virtuous, might obtain. Contrastively, the present essay argues that Schelling’s post-naturalist naturalism neither conceives nature as ontically particular for reductionist or abundantist reasons, nor symmetrically conceives construction as an Anthropos-only attribute in order to save its riches from naturalist or pre-modern philosophical predations13. I will thus present a theory of Schellingian as against Goodman worldmakers as abundant precisely because it is naturephilosophically conceived.

  • 14 According to Diogenes Laertius, Lives I.17
  • 15 VII, 356: «the whole of modern European philosophy since its inception in Descartes has this common (...)
  • 16 XI, 216: «nature is equally necessarily a transitive point in the mythological as in the universal (...)

6According to the citation above, from his 1845 foreword to Steffens’ posthumous works, Schelling argues that Naturphilosophie indeed persists throughout his later work, though as a part, rather than the whole, of philosophy as such. The echo of the «ancient Greek division» (IV, 92) or trisection of philosophy into physics, ethics and dialectic14 (i.e. into nature, the practises of life and the discipline of ascent) in Schelling’s endeavours demonstrates the equally long-standing insistence that nature be reclaimed for philosophy, following their parting of the ways «since Descartes»15 When we ask Schelling as to the character of the part he conceives nature to be or possess, we find that nature is thought as a «necessary transitive point» in the movement evident, for example, in both «the mythological and in the universal process».16 The question is whether this «transitive point» is partial in relation to some whole that remains incomplete without something additional to nature, or whether the partial character of nature must be reconceived in accordance with some other contrastive case, as for example the State is said to be only in relation to «higher development», such that this relation, or the development, is prior to the part.

  • 17 Hogrebe’s rich contrast (1992: 122-123) of the «discrete and indiscrete» dimensions has the latter (...)

7Taking the first, mereological understanding, that nature is a finite part of some to-be-completed whole, it is a consequence of the resultant reciprocal limitation of nature by some thing or set of things that, according to Schelling, lies «above and beyond nature», that the following dilemma imposes itself: either what is not nature must be supernatural and the partial character of the Naturphilosophie therefore begging the question as to its successors’ natures; or the nature superseding nature is itself nature in turn. As long as the question is posed in this form, or has these ontic entailments, however, the movement whose transitions they are is lost. Consequently, as Die Weltalter puts the point, «where there is no consequent, there is no science» (VIII, 209). In other words, there can be no discrete ontology17 or science of what is without one of what comes to be, no ontology without ontogeny. In consequence, as the Weltalter recalls, the logic or structure of emergence must also be mobile: in place of the mechanical echo of being in ‘A=x’, Schellingian ontogenesis is that what is being is an hypothesis of further development, because hypothesis instantiates the operations to which its being issued contributes. The hypothesis that being makes is therefore that being is an hypothesis.

2. What is prior to being: the ontogenetic hypothesis

It is in this sense, for example, that the last lecture of the Philosophical Introduction to the Science of Mythology claims that «in regard to higher development the state is just the substrate, hypothesis, transitive point» (XI, 553). The first part of this claim provides further information on how we are to conceive the partial character Schelling ascribes both to Naturphilosophie and to nature as such. Rather than conceiving nature as enjoying finite being in relation to its equally finite successors, it is in relation to a «higher development» that the Durchgangspunkt characterising the state’s transitive being is to be understood. The partial character of some x does not entail x’s finite being in relation to other finite beings but instead relates to that movement to which the transitivity contributes. Nature, that is, is partial not because it lacks some x, but because nature is never just one.

  • 18 Keith R. Peterson’s English language translation (2003) gives «original actants», thus mistaking Sc (...)

8What then is the nature of this contribution? Conceiving nature as an always transitive point in a movement also has consequences regarding how part or point are conceived. This was also the problem addressed in the Erster Entwurf’s theory of «original actions [Aktionen]18». Identifying the error of atomism as lying in the assumption that the mechanical divisibility of matter must eventually isolate its «absolutely smallest» part, Schelling reconceives it around a «constantly active filling of space». In consequence…,

there is moving force in every part of space, and therefore mobility, as well as the separability of however small a part of matter from the remainder, proceeds to infinity. (III, 22)

  • 19 Contrastively, amongst the possible solutions identified in the Introduction to the Ideen (II, 21-2 (...)
  • 20 III, 22: «The original actions… are not themselves in space; they cannot be viewed as parts of matt (...)
  • 21 III, 23n: «It is not our view that there are such simple actions in nature… [These are] only the id (...)

9Neither the emergence of space nor its relation to the forces filling it are explained here. The composition of matter, which the Ideen argued could not occur but by the balancing of forces, remains equally unexplained19. Schelling does however tie the fate of matter to that of space while isolating «the principle of dynamic atomism», as «ideal only», from space20 or nature21. The result is that the partibility problem not only remains unresolved, but not yet adequately formulated. While mechanically understood, the parts of matter are isolable smallest simples, the same discreteness criteria seem not to apply to the parts of movement. In a nutshell, dynamic atomism’s reciprocal isolation of ideal parts of motion from space and nature is on the right tracks with the concept of original or ‘originating’ actions but does not properly conceive these.

  • 22 Though Aristotle (Physics 262a24f) describes how division arises through the intercession of some t (...)

10Thus, contrasting the divisibility of matter into its smallest simple parts with that of movement, Feyerabend claims on behalf of Aristotle22that «parts emerge only if the line is cut»:

  • 23 Feyerabend (1984: 125) discusses this in ‘Ganzheits- und Aggregatauffassungen, illustriert am Beisp (...)

part of the continuous motion can be separated from another part of the same motion only by a real modification [… such that it] comes to a temporary halt.23

11According to this passage, motion acts on motion, such that a partial motion emerging from a cutting motion will itself be motion that, to produce parts, must be submitted to that motion in turn. Instead therefore of reaching ultimate simples by means of mechanical division, cutting is here conceived properly dynamically, i.e. as producing parts of movement quantitatively additional to and qualitatively transitive of, the movement thus acted on. The problem, as the theory of «original actions» inchoately anticipates, concerns the production or origination proper to actions. It is left to the later Philosophy of Mythology to articulate the Law of Movement in compensation for its unsatisfactory treatment in the earlier Naturphilosophie.

  • 24 III, 261-2: «For intuition, [an] infinite tendency towards evolution at infinite velocity. Thus not (...)
  • 25 II, 397: «Real antithesis is possible only between things of one kind and common origin».

12The Law of Motion, though lately so designated, has a history in Schelling’s thought, a history that makes sense of the Protean character it must exhibit if it is both to satisfy philosophically natural pluralism, as it must just if nature is articulated as a universally «transitive point», i.e. as operative in the mythological and the theogonic processes as in the universal (XI, 216). As well as the Erster Entwurf’s dynamics, it further addresses the problem of movement along with Die Weltalter and the Philosophische Einleitung in die Philosophie der Mythologie. In the first case, Schelling considers a movement at infinite speed,24 which would not be – or better, would never issue in – a movement because it would be over before it began. To become movement at all, a movement of such velocity must therefore be restricted, which, according to the Weltseele, can only happen through another of the same kind.25 Thus where movement acts, it acts on movement. Indeed this is already recognised in the Ideen (II, 185), where Schelling writes of…

a Stufenfolge of motions, as follows: All other motions are necessarily preceded by the original dynamical motion.

  • 26 I have here modified Jason Wirth’s (2000: 11) translation of VIII, 218: «keines kann sich von Natur (...)

13The hypothesis preceding that of dynamic atomism was precisely a theory of motions that are original just when they precede others: in other words, the hypothesis is that there is a necessary complexity of movement rather than an absolute simplicity of matter. In the second: when the «primal urge to Being», the «Urdrang zum Seyn» (VIII, 220) is achieved, it must be «finished in the beginning [such that… e]verything has happened and there is no further progression.» (VIII, 229) Similarly, the «first nature [is] from the very beginning… decomposed into three powers [… but] not one of them can bring itself by nature to sheer Being nor submit to not being what is being».26 It is only however with The Philosophical Introduction that a Law of Movement is formulated as such.

14If the failure to integrate the medium of movement with the action of movement, or space with action, rendered dynamic atomism at best a merely ideal phoronomy, the coincident actuality of reason and what is being entails that the Law of Movement, in mythology and universally, encompasses both ontogenesis and science, the being that becomes and the issuant artefact. Schelling writes (XI, 375):

in what is being [das Seyende…] not only the material but also the law of movement is prescribed.

15The Law of Movement is to elucidate the «converse of common order», or how what happens to be prescribes (vorherbestimmt) the material and law of the movement of which what is being is the consequent. Rather than setting out exclusively from either thought or thing, their apparent discreteness is eliminated in being both principle and actuality in relation to which what is prior to what is being is its hypothesis. The non-obtaining of what is being becomes, what what is being is, the hypothesis of what is being, the actuality of which is in turn «sheer actuality in which there is no possibility any longer». What is being becomes its own principle and hypothesis just when it is being. «These relations between the potencies entail» that, according to the Law of Movement,

  • 27 XI, 375-6. Schelling attributes the last phrase to Plato’s Sophist 347e, which Whitehead (1933: 153 (...)

here the converse of the common order obtains such that the antecedent has its actuality in the consequent in respect of which it is accordingly nothing other than power27.

  • 28 XI, 422: «all the things of nature are set as it were outside themselves, thus in motion towards th (...)

16If the Law is one of movement, however, then the movement does not cease with the coincidence of fact and principle, since what is being is only principle in relation to the powers that conjointly compose its hypothesis; rather than containing potencies, it therefore becomes the hypothesis of another that will act as principle in relation to which what is being is power. Hence the claim that «movement is implicit in what is being» (XI, 375). The Stufenfolge that the Naturphilosophie explicated from nature is, it turns out, a structure or shape of reason and being as by nature «in motion towards the highest28».

17The final turn that makes the Law of Movement into the Ontogenetic Hypothesis is articulated most clearly in the Philosophie der Offenbarung (XIII, 205): «the source of Being is what it is that will be». Just as what is being pre-scribes the Law of Movement and the material it articulates, so the source of Being lies in the future when or if what is being is. Hypothetical states, that is, are ‘source-makers’.

18This loop completes the implications of the Law of Movement that The Philosophy of Mythology prescribed. The «positive principle» (II, 382) or «absolute cause» (III, 274) of movement had formed the «primary problem» of the Naturphilosophie, and in this sense, the latter manifestly persists in the Philosophy of Mythology’s addresses to the «natural movement» articulating theogony and noogony, to which the Philosophy of Revelation adds the movement from «can-being (Seynkönnen to «what is being (das Seyende)». Movement is “natural” just when it is productive of some product, or when it is ontogenetic.

19Thus far, we have shown what Schelling’s later philosophy inherits the «law of movement» as entailing ontogony. Next, I want to show how this law, together with the ontogenetic hypothesis it articulates, entails in turn a second law, the Law of the World. I will argue that it is by virtue of the universal process by which what is being is simultaneously the hypothesis of another, the central problematic of Schellingian naturalism is not to discover which parts compose nature and how, but to exhibit those laws by which creation is not rare but ubiquitous. Parts, in other words, are not prior to nature composed but require to be produced from it, thus transitive points for the process they augment.

3. Ontogenesis and abundance

  • 29 I take this term from Paul Feyerabend’s attempt to defend what he calls «the richness of Being» aga (...)
  • 30 Feyerabend 1999: 13.
  • 31 VI, 388: «Alles ist Urkeim oder nichts». See my 2015.
  • 32 Feyerabend 1999: 33, emphasis mine.
  • 33 Feyerabend 2009 ch.1.
  • 34 Goodman 1978: 17.

Accordingly, the Law of the World (XI, 592) turns Schelling’s Ontogenetic Hypothesis into a theory of ‘worldmaking’ that honours what, following Feyerabend, we might call a principle of Abundance.29 We may understand ‘principle’ here as Schelling does: namely, as the actuality that, because it possesses no further possibility, itself becomes the hypothesis of another. With this in mind, we may identify two elements of the principle of abundance. The first is that «a large part of the abundance… on Earth arose in the attempt to conquer abundance30». That is, if abundance is true, every putative structure, core or principle augments rather than resolves abundance into simplicity and there are no non-productive principles. The ubiquitous fact of generation both provokes first philosophy’s search for its principles and entails that, as Schelling puts it, «everything is primal germ or nothing is».31 The second, therefore, is that «potentially, every culture is all cultures», or that totality is likewise contributory to rather than the completion of abundance.32 Feyerabend’s goal is, granting the historical forms reason and inquiry have taken, there is no reason to assume final form will ever be attained, though each inquiry or «culture» (each Bildung) self-conceives exactly thus. Historically considered, then, «every culture is all cultures» warns that the epistemic denigration, for example, of myth in respect of science,33 amounts to the denigration of epistemology as such, whether of the earlier by the later or the peripheral by the globally metropolitan. In fact, the ‘inverted fundamentalism’ of «a unique world of worlds» that Goodman warns is just another version of «the unique world»,34 is eliminated as a prospect by virtue of the «potentially» that qualifies the becomings of cultures. As with Schelling’s account of antecedence as the potency of consequents and so renders non-finality a trans-cultural driver such that every culture must forge its concept of the «all cultures» of every culture so again contributing rather than resolving our Feyerabend-Schelling «abundance» principle. In other words, abundance does not entail the ‘inverted fundamentalism’ of «a unique world of worlds».

20In accordance with the declared aim of the Positive Philosophy as the concept of creation, we may characterise a fully Schellingian account of this principle as the principle of the ubiquity of creation, which is why every state of affairs is material for its successor according to the ontogenetic hypothesis.

  • 35 «Nichts ist schwieriger, als ursprüngliche Seyns-Entstehung oder -Erzeugung zu begreifen» (XII, 37)
  • 36 Plato, Philebus, 26d: «γένεσιν εἰς οὐσίαν», cited in Schelling 1994: 63. In an essay in the same vo (...)
  • 37 Not only was this the situation Kant (Ak. 5, 525) confronted when he argued that, because matter co (...)

21«Nothing is more difficult than to conceive the original emergence or generation of Being35» as Schelling puts it in the Philosophy of Mythology. The difficulty at issue is not simply a complexity, but a problem of Being and becoming Schelling first notes, in his Timaeus commentary of 1794, is articulated by Plato in his Philebus as the «becoming of being»,36 and which becomes a central theme of his Naturphilosophie. Thus, when the Erster Entwurf proposes that «the concept of original Being should simply be eliminated from Naturphilosophie as it has been from transcendental philosophy» (III, 11). The emphasis is not on eliminating Being but original Being – the concept, that is, that Being is not only primary, but also originary. Thus, though the question arises of what is primary if this were not to be Being, this turns into the problem of Being’s capacity for origination, or of Being’s powers at all. The concept of something that simply is and ‘has’ powers or forces as its predicates, so that something that is may also move, is considered sufficiently key to figure in the ‘Introduction’ to the Ideen zu einer Philosophie der Natur. At issue is whether there is any possible consistent explanation for the claim that «matter has original forces» (II, 22-3), i.e. that they form the substrate on which powers act but do so while remaining the properties or predicates of bodies. The problem is, that if bodies arise at all, i.e. are not simply or cosmologically ‘given’, or if they come to have powers, how can this occur other than by the impetus or attraction of forces? If this is the case, however, it yields two distinct ontological classes that would, ex hypothesi, be incapable of interaction and lead to a dualism of the Newtonian sort (II, 23), and so could not provide a coherent philosophy of nature.37 Rather than acquiescing in the dualistic assumption that powers are no more than the predicates or dispositions of underlying bodies, the Ideen argues that the hypothesis of «original forces» rules out the prospect of a matter or body prior to or possessing them as its properties, since if this was not the case, we are left only with arbitrary hypotheses as to how forces come to be added to bodies, and the inexplicable fact of their capacity to interact. Clearly therefore, the only possible solution is that bodies are local structures within fields of force or, all beings are field beings.

  • 38 Schelling 1989: 117.

22This established, we are now in a position to return to the Erster Entwurf’s case for the elimination of originary Being. It is important to stress that the function of this elimination is not to invert the objects to be accorded priority in the relation bodies-forces. Rather, because the problem is not the elimination of Being but of originary Being, it first enables an examination of what is involved in origination. Thus, what was true for the Naturphilosophie remained so for the positive philosophy, whose «true aim», Schelling stipulates, is «the concept of creation38». Involved in the concept of creation, minimally, is a change of state we might describe as from not-X to X. But this is an abstraction. Clearly, the ‘not-X’ formally antecedent to an X that was not only becomes specifically that not-X once X is. X that is augments and alters the career of what become its antecedents. The solution therefore proposed in the Erster Entwurf to the construction of creation is twofold: the dichotomy of product and production, or of nature as object and nature as subject; and the hypothesis, in partial solution to the relatedness of matter and forces in the Ideen, of «dynamic atomism», which theorizes units of minimal force as the simples from which bodies are composed. The latter seems merely to reduce to unity the dichotomy the former which, conversely, accords with the bifurcation claim around which Schelling’s first iteration of the «Law of the World» takes form in the Weltseele:

The primary effect of the Sun on the Earth was certainly to have roused its magnetic property. The law of polarity is therefore a Law of the World that is universally operative in every planetary system and in each of its subordinate bodies and equally in our own solar system and in the Earth. (II, 489)

23This first version of Schelling’s Law of the World therefore hypothesises, minimally, a primary bifurcation rather than a unity at the root of things. This version of the law then structures the Erster Entwurf’s product-productivity antithesis, which presents matter as the indifference-state of that polar tension. In this respect, the dynamic atomism hypothesis seems again at odds with the major tendencies of the work, merely providing a model to satisfy the need for explanatory simples, for άτομα, if not of bodies then of movements. Rather than pursuing the additional element argument the Aristotelian account of division entails, thus merely increasing the quantity of entities required to produce division, atomism becomes dynamic when it differentiates degrees of polar tension.

24This was a possibility that the Weltseele’s «common origin» argument left open: if, that is, «real antithesis is possible only between things of one kind and common origin», then this either asserts that some candidate simple nevertheless contains «original duplicity», or that it is the duplicity that is original, and as such therefore inheres in what will become its «principle», or again, that this polarity is always prior because what emerges does so within its parameters, which seems to be implied by the claim immediately preceding the «common origin» one: «no principle could rouse polarity unless it had an original duplicity within it» (II, 397). Thus, to the question ‘which comes first?’ this first iteration of the Law of the World can only respond, with the Erster Entwurf, that «there is identity in duplicity and duplicity in identity» (III, 218). This ‘all the way down’ account indeed renders a holographically self-similar nature, «finished before it began», precisely by virtue of Schelling’s being seized by a nature already there or given, but from which the intended elimination of the concept of original Being negatively monumentalises Naturphilosophie’s particular escape.

25If the elimination of originary being is not the elimination of first philosophy or its objects but the elimination of the concept of any originary X, a «primal germ» (VI, 388) or »seed-corn of the universe» (II, 223), this is to reveal the face creation must acquire if as such it has none. While in Schelling’s case, as we shall see, this leads to a nature articulated in accordance with the second iteration of the Law of the World, which stipulates the maximal ubiquity of creation, it was precisely in order to avoid attributing creation to nature, and thus leaving thought a hostage of the given and to naturalistic philosophical assumptions concerning the methods philosophy must for that reason adopt, that Goodman offered his account of worldmaking. I will briefly set out some parameters of Goodman Worldmaking before contrasting and recommending Schelling’s maximalist version as the fundamental issuance of the later Naturphilosophie.

4. Goodman and Schelling on worldmaking

  • 39 1999: 359.

There can be no such subject as comparative religion as long as we study only the religions of man. (Arthur C. Clarke)39

  • 40 Goodman in McCormack 1996: 203.

Realism and idealism disagree over what is admissible in the foundation of the unique correct description of the world. Irrealism dismisses the issue, denying that there can be any such unique version. (Nelson Goodman)40

  • 41 Note the assumption of discrete universes in Cassirer’s (1953: 44) acknowledgement of Schelling as (...)
  • 42 Goodman 1978: 4.
  • 43 McCormack (ed.) 2006: 10.
  • 44 Goodman (1978: 21) puts the point pithily: «awareness of varied ways of seeing paints no pictures. (...)
  • 45 1978: 7.

26In the passage above Goodman indicates what he takes it to be irrealism’s virtue to avoid, namely, conceding that there is just one «way the world is». Inspired by Cassirer, just as the latter was by Schelling’s revelation of «the universe of myth»41 Goodman’s irrealism is the view that, though neither the realist nor the idealist can be right because they each assert single yet antinomic accounts of fundamentality, this does not eliminate rightness and wrongness when measured by the former’s capacity to make a world, one, that is, that fits together.42 Thus, contrastively with both the mystic’s silence over ineffable being and the naturalist’s noisy assertion that fundamentality prescribes the world’s being, the Irrealist’s answer to the question «What is the way the world is?… is not a shush but a chatter»43. So far, so abundantist. Yet another answer, hidden amongst this chatter, was already given above: it does not concern the way the world is, but the idea that the world is as it is given, rather than described. This seems to set the bar ‘unnaturally’ high for an entity’s qualifying as a worldmaker: though «chatter» resonates with both Rorty’s liberal and Feyerabend’s anarchic pluralisms, it also reveals the provenance of making as exclusively a property of symbol users, i.e. those engaged in the «hard work» of worldmaking.44 Accordingly, though gods may qualify,45 stones do not, so that worldmaking is work only for beings for which description is work, i.e., where the difference between reporting and remaking is moot. The passage is worth quoting at length:

  • 46 1978: 22, emphasis mine.

If worlds are as much made as found, so also knowing is as much remaking as reporting. All the processes of worldmaking I have discussed enter into knowing. Perceiving motion, we have seen, often consists in producing it. Discovering laws involves drafting them. Recognizing patterns is very much a matter of inventing and imposing them. Comprehension and creation go on together.46

  • 47 Ritter (2010: 536) distils science or Wissenschaft into «desjenigen, was das Wissen überhaupt schaf (...)
  • 48 Goodman 1978: 6. On the previous page, Goodman argues that world building may properly be a study o (...)

27The italicised line above clearly demonstrates that it is in reporting’s becoming remaking that worlds emerge. Yet there is another element in this passage that will serve to introduce Schelling on the issue of worldmaking. The repeated insistence that differences between acknowledged antecedents to making arise only consequently upon that making being engaged certainly echo Johann Wilhelm Ritter’s insight, in Die Physik als Kunst (1806), that knowing is making.47 It is this aspect, the work indissociable from the world words make into knowing, that allows Goodman to restrict worldmakers to wordmakers, since we can have words without a world but no world without words or other symbols.48

  • 49 Goodman 1978 ch. IV.
  • 50 Goodman 1978: 7. Compare Cassirer 1910.

28But it additionally raises a question Goodman raises in the context of a specific kind of work namely, «when is art?»49 The question concerns, on the one hand, the chapter in the morphogenetic history of a particular movement of forms at which structure appears and so differentiates old from new worlds. The issue is significant because it highlights an additional element of Goodman’s indebtedness to Cassirer, namely, his concern with «substance dissolved into function».50 Taken together with Arthur C. Clarke’s statement, above, that a properly comparative study of any cultural phenomenon entails the broadest possible comparative base of species, this raises a prospect of abundant worldmakers to which, ultimately, Goodman is only opposed on the axiological grounds that value inheres exclusively in the hard-won. This brings us to the second iteration of Schelling’s Law of the World in the Philosophische Einleitung in die Philosophie der Mythologie:

  • 51 XI, 492, my translation.

The science with which we are concerned knows no other law than that every possibility be fulfilled and none suppressed; the one vow it lays down is that, as concerns the order of beings [Wesen], everything proceeds in accordance with reason; yet reason is without interest, indifferently oriented towards everything (omnibus aequa) and therefore wants that nothing be overpowering, that nothing happen by subordination. The antagonism between the first principle, not at all material in itself, and the higher for which, as matter, it should lay itself down, should not be talked of as though the one is simply subdued while the other is unconditionally triumphant, but only by a comparison, whereby each grants the other its rights. The justice, which science makes into a law, is at the same time the highest law of the world.51

29Like Goodman, Schelling is as equally ill-disposed towards a ready-made substance, matter, or essence as he is to a «unique world of worlds». Moreover, as this second iteration shows, both replace such accounts with operations as opposed to substances or essences. But Schelling’s principle of selection is not an axiology tied to species but to worldmaking itself. Just as the parts of a movement are additional to and transformative of it, so there are worldmakers wherever there are transitive points. Now if nature consists in just such points of transition, rather than in this or that entity or kind, nor therefore does the second Law of the World allocate worldmaking responsibilities according to such kinds; all kinds are worldmakers just if they are now being but were not always and will be another. Thus, where the first iteration of the Law of the World aims at creation but achieves only a holographically self-reproducing world, its second iteration achieves creation not as the unique underpinning or restricted goal of a creative whole; rather, the concept of creation as the aim of the positive philosophy is achieved just when it becomes ubiquitous rather than rare.

30Schelling’s later Naturphilosophie thus hypothesises a transitional rather than a foundational or final nature, a nature precisely that is not nor could ever be equal to itself on pain of cessation, a nature that is a nature just if quarks, bacteria, serpents, gods and other animals are amongst its hypotheses. Articulated according to the two laws of Movement and the World, it satisfies the principle of abundance that must obtain if reductive naturalism denaturalises that which it simultaneously maintains must be a natural issuance on pain of not being at all, or of being illusory. Yet it does this without the cost of an irrealism or a relativism to save philosophy from precritical reversion to the given.

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Bibliografia

Aristotle 1934, Physics, 2 vols., tr. by P. Wicksteed, F.M. Cornford, Cambridge, Harvard University Press.

Aristotle 1957, On the Soul, tr. by W.S. Hett, Cambridge, Harvard University Press.

Cassirer, E. 1953, Philosophy of Symbolic Forms 1: Language, New Haven - London, Yale University Press.

Cassirer, E. 1910, Substanzbegriff und Funktionsbegriff: Untersuchungen über die Grundfragen der Erkenntniskritik, Berlin, Bruno Cassirer.

Clarke, A.C. 1999, ‘Credo’, Greetings, Carbon Based Bipeds, London, Harper Collins.

Diogenes Laertius 1972, Lives of Eminent Philosophers, tr. by R.D. Hicks. Cambridge, Harvard University Press.

Feyerabend, P.K. 1984, Wissenschaft als Kunst, Frankfurt, Suhrkamp.

Feyerabend, P.K. 1987, Farewell to Reason, London, Verso.

Feyerabend, P.K. 1999, The Conquest of Abundance, Chicago, University of Chicago Press.

Feyerabend, P.K. 2009, Naturphilosophie, Frankfurt a.M., Suhrkamp.

Goodman, N. 1978, Ways of Worldmaking, Indianapolis, Hackett.

Goodman, N. 1996, ‘Comments’, in P.J. McCormack (ed.), Starmaking. Realism, Anti-Realism, and Irrealism, Cambridge, The Mit Press.

Grant, I.H. 2006, Philosophies of Nature After Schelling, London, Continuum.

Grant, I.H. 2015, Everything is primal germ or nothing is: the deep field logic of nature, “Symposium”, 19, 1: 106-124.

Grant, I.H. 2017, Filosofie della natura dopo Schelling, tr. by E.C. Corriero, Torino, Rosenberg & Sellier.

Hogrebe, W. 1992, Metaphysik und Mantik, Frankfurt a.M., Suhrkamp.

Kant, I. 1922ff, Kants Gesammelte Schriften, ed. Königlich Preußischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, Berlin, Riemer.

Lyotard, J.-F. 1991, Leçons sur l’Analytique du sublime, Paris, Galilée.

Mumford, S. 2006, The ungrounded argument, “Synthèse”, 149: 471-489.

Plato 1925, Statesman. Philebus. Ion, trs. H.N. Fowler, W.R.M. Lamb, Cambridge, Harvard University Press.

Plato 1928, Theaetetus. Sophist, tr. by H.N. Fowler, Cambridge, Harvard University Press.

Putnam, H. (2012) Philosophy in an Age of Science, M. de Caro, D. Macarthur (eds), Cambridge, Harvard University Press.

Ritter, J.W. (2010) Key Texts of Johann Wilhelm Ritter (1776-1810) on the Science and Art of Nature, tr. with essays by J. Holland, Leiden, Brill.

Schelling, F.W.J. 1856-1861, Sämtliche Werke [SW], ed. by K.F.A. Schelling, Stuttgart-Augsburg, Cotta.

Schelling, F.W.J. 1989, Einleitung in die Philosophie. Schellingiana 1, ed. by W.E. Ehrhardt, Stuttgart - Bad Canstatt, Frommann-Holzboog.

Schelling, F.W.J. 1994, Timaeus (1794). Schellingiana 4, ed. by Hartmut Buchner, Stuttgart-Bad Canstatt, Frommann-Holzboog.

Schelling, F.W.J. 2000, The Ages of the World, tr. by J.M. Wirth, Albany, Suny Press.

Schelling, F.W.J. 2003, First Outline of a System of the Philosophy of Nature, tr. by K.R. Peterson, Albany, Suny Press.

Struck, P.D. 2016, Divination and Human Nature, Princeton, Princeton University Press.

Williams, N.E. 2009, The ungrounded argument is unfounded, “Synthèse”, 170: 7-19.

Whitehead, A.N. 1933, Adventures of Ideas, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press. Emilio Carlo Corriero

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Note

2 F.W.J. Schelling, Philosophie der Mythologie. Zweites Buch. Die Mythologie, XII, 142.

3 XII, 670. See also XI, 216: «Es ist an sich nicht zu denken, daß die Principien eines Processes, der sich als ein theogonischer erweist, andere als die Principien alles Seyns und alles Werdens seyn können.»

4 On the philosophy of prophecy, see Hogrebe 1992 and Struck 2016.

5 The Erster Entwurf says much the same (III, 21): «we have determined the unconditioned as that which, although it is the principle of all being, yet itself never “is”».

6 Descending Stufenfolge are only addressed in the Darstellung des Naturprozesses (X, 311, 329-330).

7 Not only the Naturphilosophie: there are Stufenfolge of «actions not possible via nature» in the System of Transcendental Idealism (III, 633) just as there is a «natural Stufenfolge of acts of spirit» (VII, 532). In general, Schelling argues, a Stufenfolge arises where indifference ceases (Die Weltalter, VIII, 232), whether in Being itself (XI, 529) or in the emergence of nature (XI, 411).

8 F.W.J. Schelling, ‘Vorwort zu H. Steffens nachgelassenen Schriften‘, SW X, 396-397.

9 Einleitung zu dem Entwurf, III, 299.

10 See the Philosophie der Offenbarung XIII, 207-211, for Schelling’s outline of ontogeny (Seyns-Entstehung).

11 See Feyerabend 1984; 2009; 1999.

12 As I argue in my 2008.

13 Chief amongst these predations is the consensus that presentational uptake eliminates givenness (Sellars, McDowell). As Lyotard (1991: 222-223), commenting on Critique of Judgment (Ak. V, 280) puts it, «thought imposes a finality all its own on what remains of nature when natural form is no longer ‘given’ (data)… but only ‘received’ (accepta)».

14 According to Diogenes Laertius, Lives I.17

15 VII, 356: «the whole of modern European philosophy since its inception in Descartes has this common defect, that nature does not exist for it».

16 XI, 216: «nature is equally necessarily a transitive point in the mythological as in the universal process».

17 Hogrebe’s rich contrast (1992: 122-123) of the «discrete and indiscrete» dimensions has the latter delving «into the depths» of beings, i.e. of «everything that is». Schelling offers a similar contrast, but additionally regionalises the discrete outlines of beings with respect to an outside reached through what discretely is. Thus, as the Historical-Critical Introduction to the Philosophy of Mythology puts the point, an inquiry is philosophical when «it proceeds through and beyond the mere fact (here, the existence of mythology) and inquires after the nature, the essence» (XI, 5). For Schelling’s doubly «indiscrete» theory of essence, see VII, 409: «das Eine Wesen in seinen zwei Wirkungsweisen wirklich sich in zwei Wesen scheidet…».

18 Keith R. Peterson’s English language translation (2003) gives «original actants», thus mistaking Schelling’s Aktionen for whatever performs such actions.

19 Contrastively, amongst the possible solutions identified in the Introduction to the Ideen (II, 21-23) to the problem of the divisibility of matter, are either that, when infinitely divisible, matter turns out to have no essential being (wesenlos) or, if not, this latter must be produced by forces that it cannot have by virtue of there being no substrate of matter, but must instead be on pain of an irreconcilable dualism of body and force.

20 III, 22: «The original actions… are not themselves in space; they cannot be viewed as parts of matter».

21 III, 23n: «It is not our view that there are such simple actions in nature… [These are] only the ideal grounds for explaining quality».

22 Though Aristotle (Physics 262a24f) describes how division arises through the intercession of some thing: «that which is in motion divides the line by coming to a stand at that point and beginning its motion again…».

23 Feyerabend (1984: 125) discusses this in ‘Ganzheits- und Aggregatauffassungen, illustriert am Beispiel der Kontinuität und der Bewegung‘ and again in (1987: 224).

24 III, 261-2: «For intuition, [an] infinite tendency towards evolution at infinite velocity. Thus nothing would be distinguishable in this evolution… unless there were a retarding element in this series…. Therefore, the evolution of nature with finite velocity presupposes, as ultimate factors, an accelerating and a retarding force which are both infinite in themselves, and which are only reciprocally limited by one another». The same issue is raised in the Philosophische Briefe über Dogmatismus und Kriticismus, I, 327: «If an activity no longer limited by objects, and wholly absolute, is no longer accompanied by consciousness; if unlimited activity is identical with absolute rest [… then] every object is lost for me…».

25 II, 397: «Real antithesis is possible only between things of one kind and common origin».

26 I have here modified Jason Wirth’s (2000: 11) translation of VIII, 218: «keines kann sich von Natur zum bloßen Seyn oder dazu bequemen, nicht das Seyende zu seyn».

27 XI, 375-6. Schelling attributes the last phrase to Plato’s Sophist 347e, which Whitehead (1933: 153) calls nature’s “immanent law”, while drawing the entire sentence from Aristotle’s De anima 414b29-30. Their combination demonstrates that we ought not to take the apparent chronology of Schelling’s claim (XI, 380) that «the best course for a life devoted to philosophy would be to begin with Plato and end with Aristotle» too literally.

28 XI, 422: «all the things of nature are set as it were outside themselves, thus in motion towards the highest.»

29 I take this term from Paul Feyerabend’s attempt to defend what he calls «the richness of Being» against naturalist reduction in his (1999) and (2009). Compare Erster Entwurf III, 44n: «All productive nature is however originally nothing but infinitely ongoing metamorphosis», or more pointedly, from the Einleitung zu dem Entwurf: «all other infinite series are just imitations of an original infinite series».

30 Feyerabend 1999: 13.

31 VI, 388: «Alles ist Urkeim oder nichts». See my 2015.

32 Feyerabend 1999: 33, emphasis mine.

33 Feyerabend 2009 ch.1.

34 Goodman 1978: 17.

35 «Nichts ist schwieriger, als ursprüngliche Seyns-Entstehung oder -Erzeugung zu begreifen» (XII, 37).

36 Plato, Philebus, 26d: «γένεσιν εἰς οὐσίαν», cited in Schelling 1994: 63. In an essay in the same volume, Hermann Krings translates Plato’s phrase directly as «werden zum Sein» (117).

37 Not only was this the situation Kant (Ak. 5, 525) confronted when he argued that, because matter could not be constructed from forces, the hypothesis of primary bodies retained its advantages over that of a dynamical nature; it has also been the majority position in contemporary dispositional essentialism. See Mumford’s (2006) contrarian support for primitive modalities and Williams’ (2009) critical response. Schelling, in his obituary for Kant (VI, 7-8), accuses him of lacking a philosophy of nature entirely since he cannot reconcile his theoretical philosophy with its real side.

38 Schelling 1989: 117.

39 1999: 359.

40 Goodman in McCormack 1996: 203.

41 Note the assumption of discrete universes in Cassirer’s (1953: 44) acknowledgement of Schelling as the first to «draw attention» to it. Goodman (1978: 1) acknowledges his debt to Cassirer.

42 Goodman 1978: 4.

43 McCormack (ed.) 2006: 10.

44 Goodman (1978: 21) puts the point pithily: «awareness of varied ways of seeing paints no pictures. A broad mind is no substitute for hard work.»

45 1978: 7.

46 1978: 22, emphasis mine.

47 Ritter (2010: 536) distils science or Wissenschaft into «desjenigen, was das Wissen überhaupt schafft», i.e. the making of knowing.

48 Goodman 1978: 6. On the previous page, Goodman argues that world building may properly be a study of «anthropology and developmental psychology».

49 Goodman 1978 ch. IV.

50 Goodman 1978: 7. Compare Cassirer 1910.

51 XI, 492, my translation.

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Iain Hamilton Grant, ««All the principles of being and becoming»: Schelling’s ontogenetic hypothesis»Rivista di estetica, 74 | 2020, 22-38.

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Iain Hamilton Grant, ««All the principles of being and becoming»: Schelling’s ontogenetic hypothesis»Rivista di estetica [Online], 74 | 2020, online dal 01 février 2021, consultato il 18 septembre 2021. URL: http://journals.openedition.org/estetica/7056; DOI: https://doi.org/10.4000/estetica.7056

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