Mind and Matter in Hegel and Schelling

Tilottama Rajan (University of West Ontario)

Dynamic Matter

Tilottama Rajan

In his Introduction to the First Outline of a System of the Philosophy of Nature, written after the Outline itself, Schelling says it would be impossible to get ‘a glimpse of the internal construction of nature’ except by an ‘invasion of Nature … through freedom,’ which he calls an ‘experiment.’ An ‘experiment’ is a ‘question put to Nature, to which it is compelled to give a reply,’ and is itself ‘a production of phenomena [Hervorbringen der Erscheinungen]’ (196-7). Schelling’s statement can be read alongside Goethe’s comment that a science matures when it reaches a ‘crisis’ that confronts the ‘universalist’ with the ‘singularist’ who wants to but cannot find one Idea everywhere, putting both deductive and inductive systems at risk. But it follows logically from newly dynamic theories of matter that complicate, if they do not erase, the boundaries between the inorganic and organic. For if there is no absolute boundary between  organic and inorganic, there is no clear dualism of mind and matter, opening the possibility that mind is a potency of matter, and that material singularities can also reconfigure mind. In other words, a subject-object dualism in knowledge is also impossible as mind and matter continuously unfold and enfold each other.

         This reflexivity–not correlationism– of mind and matter can be seen if we contrast two apparently similar passages from 1797 and 1799. In the more conventionally idealistic 1797 ‘Treatise Explicatory of the Idealism in the Science of Knowledge,’ Schelling writes that spirit only ‘gradually… approximate[s] its own nature’ by ‘appear[ing] for itself in an external form, namely, as organized, animated, matter.’ Though spirit must ‘intuit itself’ outside itself in matter in ‘the succession of its representations,’ matter is the ‘visible analogue’ of an immanently developing spirit with ontological if not temporal priority (93). In 1799, in the First Outline, it is again a question of a dynamic relation between inside and outside, as Schelling writes that ‘the empirically infinite is only the external intuition of an absolute (intellectual) infinity whose intuition is originally in us, but which could never come to consciousness without external, empirical exhibition’ (15). But in this complex back and forth, even as the empirical world is ‘only’ the intuition of the ‘intellectual,’  what comes to consciousness through the outside is not an ontologically prior inside, or spirit, made manifest in a ‘gradual succession of organisms’ (Treatise 93).  Rather what comes to light is a productivity in nature that requires intellectual intuition to grasp what lies within the mathematical infinity of the empirical, while this productivity in turn simulates or serves as an intuition of the absolute infinity of intellectual possibilities that mind can encounter only by grasping itself through nature.

         With such absolute infinity or absolute knowledge in mind, this paper takes up the First Outline as one of Schelling’s most radical and formally experimental texts, standing to the Naturphilosophie as the unpublished Ages of the World (1815) stands to the philosophy of spirit, as an archive of ideas. Absolute knowledge, as Schelling elaborates it in ‘On the Nature of Philosophy as Science’ (1821) leaves ‘everything behind,’ all presuppositions, all ‘definable science[s],’ since to define is to confine (217). Indeed this much later essay is a useful gloss on the Outline, as it too holds the desire of ‘one system’ to ‘become absolute master over the others’ against the ‘asystasy’ of knowledge: the fact that the very desire for system presupposes that knowledge ‘does not exist in a system’ but ‘in inner conflict’ (168-9).  In keeping with this asystasy, which requires the ‘human spirit [to] have searched in every possible direction’ (168), the Outline does not unfold as an argument like the System, nor does it have the narrative and de-cisionary structure of the Freedom essay. I will therefore put it in dialogue with Hegel’s Philosophy of Nature (PN), which wrestles differently with a dynamic rather than mathematizable nature. For although Hegel’s argument suffers multiple diremptions on the way to a goal it never attains, PN tries to narrativize the life sciences through what Schelling calls the Stufenfolge, which Schelling describes as a dynamic process in which individual types of natural phenomena develop as one production ‘inhibited at various stages’ (Outline 49). To consider Hegel and Schelling together further lets us highlight the Outline’s role as an  encyclopedia of the natural sciences from the perspective of their dynamic interaction with and impact on philosophy. In other words this paper is also specifically concerned with the disciplines or fields through which both thinkers focalize nature, with the ontological personalities of disciplines, and with a certain in-discipline in Schelling’s  text.

         For as Schelling writes, even while publishing it, the Outline is a ‘treatise… written … as a guide for lectures’ and cannot be subjected to ‘the same demands’ as book ‘intended for the public’ (3). As such, it is not even a set of lectures printed as chapters on recognizable disciplines, like the 1803 lectures On University Studies, which Schelling describes as an ‘outline [Grundriss]’ that can stand in for an ‘encyclopaedia of the sciences’ (41; SW 1,5, 247). Rather the First OutlineEntwurf or draft– is a chaos of (un)divided parts without a clear architecture. Mark Wigley has critiqued the profoundly conservative role of ‘architectural discourse’ (25), evident in Kant’s use of the word architectonic to describe a system conceived as the coinherence of parts in a whole (Kant, Reason 691-2). As Wigley writes, architecture ‘represents building to itself as ‘complete’ and ‘secure,’ and so by analogy the ‘edifice’ or ‘grounded structure’ represents philosophy as ‘the construction of propositions that stand up’ (9, 25). But rather than a book with an architecture, the Outline is truly a text in Roland Barthes’ sense of not ‘clos[ing] on a signified’ but being a weave of possibilities produced and shifted by its writing (155-8).

         Within its ‘whirlpool,’ in Schelling’s own image for thought (Outline 18n), I will argue that there is one recurrent idea: an idea that indexes Idealism’s ambitions for a newly dynamic sense of matter by channelling the volatile, organismic forces of nature into a form of purposiveness. This idea, though it is constantly at risk, is the Idealist projection of the Stufenfolge or ‘graduated stages’ by which nature organizes itself in increasingly complex forms, as ‘one production captured at different stages’ (39). The notion of a ‘history of nature’ that also grounds reason in history sounds Hegelian, and is indeed the structuring prototype for Hegel’s philosophies of nature, history and aesthetics. But Schelling proposes it well before Hegel in the Treatise Explicatory. He returns to it in the 1800 System of Transcendental Idealism (122, 125, 199), and the hypothesis also distinguishes the First Outline from the earlier Ideas for a Philosophy of Nature (1797) and On the World Soul (1798). To elaborate, in the Outline Schelling is disappointed with the existing concept of ‘Naturgeschichte’ or ‘natural history’ as a merely taxonomical ‘Naturbeschreibung’ that frustrates the purposiveness implicit in the word ‘history.’ For as Michel Foucault points out, natural history, as the collection and arrangement of nature’s contents, contains very little that is historical, seeking to place ‘the proliferation of beings occupying the surface of the globe’ in space rather than time, in ‘the field of a mathesis’ where ‘development’ is no more than the traversal of a ‘preordained table of variations’ (Order 235-6, 276). Schelling therefore wants to give the term natural history a ‘much higher meaning’ that would yield ‘eine Geschichte der Natur selbst,’ replacing a static account of nature’s contents with a dynamic ‘history of nature’ itself,  in which nature ‘brings forth the whole multiplicity of its products through continuous deviations from a common ideal,’ which it realizes ‘not indeed in the individual, but in the whole’ (53; SW 1/3,68).

         Responding to Schelling, Coleridge’s friend Joseph Henry Green gives this history of nature the name ‘physiogony,’ in lectures from the 1820s that he synthesized two decades later in Vital Dynamics (1840).  Vital Dynamics was followed by Mental Dynamics (1847) to provide a titular simulacrum that would recontain the disciplinary ferment of the life sciences in a progress from nature to spirit. Green distinguishes three approaches to nature, increasingly hypostatising the last. Physiography is natural history in its conventional sense of natura naturata or the enumeration of nature’s products. Physiology (which is broader than animal physiology) studies natura naturans or the laws and powers behind nature, and is a dynamic rather than mathematical science. And finally physiogony or the history of  nature traces a development ‘from the polypi to the mammalia, as so many embryonic states, of an organism, to which nature from the beginning had tended, but which Nature alone could not realize’ (101-2). By claiming that nature ‘labour[s] in birth with man’ ‘to complete the evolution of the organic realm,’ physiogony makes nature a ‘preface and portion of the history of man’ and part of his ‘self-knowledge’ (38, 73). It not only moves from the static to the dynamic, but gives the dynamic a clearly evolutionary direction.

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         Green’s term captures what Arthur Lovejoy calls the temporalizing of the Chain of Being, whereby the ‘plenum formarum’ is no longer just an ‘inventory of nature’ but the gradual carrying out of a ‘program of nature’ (242-4), but as an ‘Idea’ that ‘lies in Reason’ rather than a literal evolution (Schelling, Outline 49; trans. modified). Yet as an environment for this Idea, the Outline is unique because its lack of architectonic boundaries makes it a resource for thought rather than a grounding of concepts. This gives the Stufenfolge, which is less determinately anthropological in the Outline than in Schelling’s the System or Green’s Vital Dynamics, only experimental status. I will return to the unique epistemology of the Outline, but turn now to Hegel, who provides a logic of disciplines absent from the Outline, while involving this logic in a deeply reflexive relation with the nature it tries to regulate. Hegel’s PN has been read as an account of the graduated stages of naturethat knits philosophy and nature together through a series of increasingly tight ‘matter/thought’ or ‘concept/matter relations’ (Stone 54, 57). This Stufenfolge has its goal in the Kantian organism conceived as natural purpose: namely as a whole whose parts are both cause and effect of each other (Kant, Judgment   ): a whole made up not of parts but ‘members’ that are both ‘product and also productive,’ both means and ‘ends’ (PN 279, 377).

         Hegel’s claim for the progression from matter to organic life is generally seen as a ‘logical’ rather than ‘natural’ evolution (Ferrini 203, Gambarotto 119), and I would add, an ‘Idea’ he struggles to realise.[1] For as Coleridge says, in a comment that strikingly approximates the Hegelian agon, ‘life’ and ‘mind’ are distinct. Mind is complete in itself as ‘a Subject possessing its object in itself,’ whereas life is ‘a Subject with an inherent tendency to produce an Object, wherein and whereby to find itself,’ and is incomplete and lacking (Shorter Works 2.1426-7, 1437). In PN Hegel likewise produces nature as an object in which ‘philosophy’ struggles to recognise itself, an ‘alien existence, in which Spirit does not find itself’ (3). This formulation, like Coleridge’s, lacks the confidence of Green’s account of nature as ‘preface and portion of the history of man’ and thus part of his ‘self-knowledge and the outwardly realized history of our own consciousness and conscious being’ (43). Coleridge nevertheless wants to see life as having an ‘ascension towards mind’ and thus as intelligent (Shorter Works 2).  Life is a term that wavers in being attached to either subject or object, and can thus be defined as the milieu in which the interchange between them occurs, as the cogito finds itself in life, so that mind unfolds as a life. Paul Ricoeur describes the resulting ‘phenomenology’ (rather than logic) in terms similar to Coleridge’s. Whereas ‘consciousness’ is ‘directed toward another’  that ‘is lacking to it,’ ‘spirit’ ‘is entirely complete within itself,’ yet falls short of this completeness till the final moment (‘Hegel and Husserl’ 230-1). Hegel’s phenomenology is therefore ‘a phenomenology of mind that remains … in consciousness,’ or ‘a phenomenology of spirit in the element of consciousness’ (231). The final moment serves as a ‘hermeneutic tribunal,’ ‘a criterion of meaning’ or ‘measure of truth’ with respect to which ‘all the modalities that precede it … [are] lacking’ (231). Yet despite terms such as spirit and mind, Hegelian consciousness is by no means ‘transcendental,’ as the ‘very thing that, in Kant, had been set up as a tribunal is born suffering  the pain of uprooting’ (233).

         PN unfolds as an attempt to reach Mind, through the biological analogue of the Kantian organism as a unity that holds its members together. But Hegel goes beyond organizing nature through strategies of dialectic and teleology that forward this Kantian Idea. He also puts forth a ‘Stufenfolge der Wissenschaften,’ in the phrase he uses elsewhere (Aesthetics 1. / ). The philosophy of nature is thus organized as a scale of disciplines, which is meant to forward the programme of an evolution from matter to spirit; as such, it comprises one ‘circle’ in the larger circle of philosophy where each ‘member [Glied] has an antecedent and a successor’(PN 2). The phrasing associates Kant’s theory of organisms as means-end purposes with knowledge itself, which Hegel says (again echoing Kant’s definition of architectonic)  ‘must not be an aggregate’ but ‘must present itself as an organism’ (PN 6). This focalizing of material nature through a system of sciences may partly account for Hegel’s insistence on the greater rigour attending his philosophy of nature over Schellingian ‘fantasy’ on the one hand,  and on the other hand over a British natural philosophy based in physics, which remains empirical and has not raised itself to the level of a philosophical science  (2, 6). Yet this does not mean that Hegel claims to have grasped the essence of ‘this Proteus’ he calls nature (3). For while he refers to Logic (the first part of the Encyclopedia) as ‘Wissenschaft,’ and while he also attaches this honorific to the study of nature in the Philosophical Propaedeutic, thereafter Hegel entitles the second part of the Encyclopedia ‘Philosophie der Natur.’

         The emphasis on disciplines is clearest in the first, bare-bones version of this enkyklos paideia in the Propaedeutic, lectures Hegel gave at the Gymnasium in Nürnberg  (1808-11). Across this text and the three versions of the Encyclopedia Outline (1817, 1827, 1830), the scale begins with mathematics, which is subsumed into mechanics after 1817.  It then moves to physics, including meteorology and chemistry, and then to the third division, ‘Organics.’ But three points are worth making about Hegel’s restless modifications of his headings and divisions. First, in the Propaedeutic and the 1817 Outline mechanics is part of the second division on ‘Physics,’ but thereafter it becomes the first division, absorbing mathematics as a metonym. The result of removing mechanics from Physics is to make Physics more purely dynamic, since inert matter and quantification are put behind us as ways of grasping nature.[2] Here Hegel also breaks with Kant, who had said that in ‘any special doctrine of nature there can be only as much proper science as there is mathematics therein’ (MF 6). Second, with the demotion of mechanics to the first division after 1817, the second division on Physics is also trisected into ‘physics’ of the ‘universal,’ ‘particular,’ and ‘total individuality,’ thus making the dialectic of individuation a key theme of the lectures. Finally, in the Propaedeutic and 1817 Outline,  the third division is entitled ‘Physik des Organischen,’ mirroring ‘Physik des Unorganischen’ in the second division on Physics. But in later versions of the Encyclopedia (1827, 1830) and in K-L Michelet’s enriched, posthumous editions of PN, the third division becomes just ‘Organik’ to mark a sharper, if troubled, division between physico-chemistry and organics.[3] The organic, in turn is subdivided into terrestrial nature (the material of geology and mineralogy), vegetable nature (botany and plant physiology), and the animal organism (physiology and medicine), taking Hegel to the threshold of spirit. Without going into detail, the ascent of disciplines is by no means smooth. The organic is profoundly complicated by its subdivisions, as the very logic of the Aufhebung as cancellation and preservation allows mechanical and vegetable structures to return in the animal (for instance in the bones and ganglia respectively). Moreover, since the human is included under the animal, the transition to the human sciences in the larger Encyclopedia is also highly problematic, as animal somatology returns in the convolutes of anthropology and psychology, preventing them from becoming pure sciences of spirit (see Rajan ‘Openings’).

            Three further points are worth making of PN itself in its more evolved form. The movement from its first to its second division narrates a transition in knowledge from the static Newtonian disciplines of mathematics and mechanics to  dynamic physics. Hegel sets out this goal as early as De Orbitis Planetarum (1801),  which wants to emancipate physics from the mechanical notion of an ‘inertial matter’ moved from outside to ‘forces, internal and immanent’ to matter (9). But secondly, Hegel’s Stufenfolge is doubly removed from the thing-in-itself, since he organizes nature not just through concepts but through the sciences as the imperfect shapes or Gestalten by which we grasp nature. This double remove concedes the idealism, even solipsism, inhabiting the philosophy of nature, rather than simply offering what Alison Stone calls a ‘strong a priori’ reading of nature itself  (21). And third, PN is beset by an ‘ever-increasing wealth’ of empirical ‘detail’ avoided by Kant’s third Critique. This detail not only proves ‘refractory to the unity of the Notion’ (PN 444). It also means that Hegel does not fully observe the  Kantian precaution of proposing his program as an Idea of Reason. PN is not purely about mind self-organizing its understanding of nature. For Hegel does not hold the Idea, a word charged with affect, firmly separate from nature. In that sense Schelling is wrong to accuse him of a withdrawal into ‘pure thought’ that ‘hid[es] the lack of true life’ (Modern Philosophy 136, 143).  Rather Hegel posits the Idea as an Idea in nature, not an Idea of nature. This is not equivalent to converting a regulative into a constitutive Idea; rather Hegel attempts an invasion of nature through freedom in which ‘nature’ talks back, binding him even more to nature as the medium of the Idea’s immanent development and disappointment. Hegel’s graduated stages are not only posited as unfolding dynamically; they involve a dynamic but ruinous interfolding of mind and matter, as ‘spirit’ tries to find itself in nature and cannot do so.

            It is here that PN and Schelling’s Outline converge because both go beyond a dynamic theory of matter to our concern here: a dynamic relation of mind and matter in the context of ‘life.’ But it is here that they also diverge. For in the labour of the negative that constitutes his lifelong struggle with nature, Hegel is tormentedly Fichtean in the resistance he feels between the I Am and the It Is. Hegel holds subject and object apart, unable to withdraw mind back into itself, as Kant does in his theory of the sublime, but unable to embrace mind and matter as folds of each other, as Schelling does in the Outline. This is not to critique Hegel, since the Outline is a product of Frühromantik, while the ‘tragic tone’ of Hegel’s work, as Ricoeur calls it (Husserl 206), had its own impact on Schelling after 1807. In repeating the familiar argument that the post-Kantians make reflective judgment determinant and render the regulative constitutive, Maurizio Esposito writes that they ‘‘ontologized’’ and ‘naturalized’ a ‘strategy of reason’ (31). The key word here is ‘ontologized.’ By positing consciousness in phenomena, Hegel brings out the ontological stakes of what Kant poses as an epistemological strategy. But contrary to Esposito, Hegel cannot hypostatize purpose in nature. On the one hand consciousness is posited outside itself in nature. On the other hand this nature in its unassimilable materiality is also inside consciousness. For as Hegel writes, the ‘sciences,’ which should prove the emergence of spirit from nature, are themselves man’s ‘non-organic nature,’ which resists him and which he struggles ‘to make his own’ (PN 276).

             The ontological task of PN unfolds in the climate of disciplines that are no longer static and thus self-certain. As John Zammito says, science in the late eighteenth century shifted from ‘mathematical kinematics’ to ‘‘experimental physics’ and ‘natural history’’: to ‘the problem[s] of ‘imponderable fluids’’ like ‘electricity, magnetism, chemical bonding, light and heat,’ and that ‘of ‘organized form’ or life’ (52).[4] Life in all its complexity is the milieu of Hegel’s thought, as distinct from Kant’s, and the milieu in which PN, if not the Logic, actually develops itself.[5] In Coleridge’s terms, Kant comprehends life within mind, whereas for Hegel mind is thrown outside itself into life. Idealism, nevertheless, wants to see life as intelligent, and Kant’s theory of the organism as natural purpose gave Hegel a telos that would bind the volatile forces unloosed by a dynamic rather than mathematically based physics and chemistry within this ascension towards Mind. But the point was to get from experimental physics and chemistry to the organism through the newly developmental Geschichte der Natur Schelling describes, in which nature proceeds through ‘continuous deviations from a common ideal’ that it realizes not ‘in the individual, but in the whole’ or genus process (Outline 53).

            Accordingly, we can follow Alison Stone in seeing the desired logic of PN as one where nature’s progress from the inorganic to the organic, and through planets, plants etc. to the animal organism, gradually approximates a body made up of interdependent  ‘members’ (Glieder) rather than ‘parts’ (Teile).  An organism made up of parts (like the plant) does not fully possess those parts, whereas in one composed of ‘members’ the universal is revealed within the part(icular) so that the body is ‘intelligibly structured’ throughout (Stone 46-50, 75; PN 277, 291). The movement towards an integrated body is effected through a series of sciences, including crystallography, meteorology, geology, botany, animal physiology and finally medicine, which Hegel tries to put in an intensifying scale of what Green and Coleridge will call individuation and integration. In his argument with British natural philosophy, it is individuation that Hegel sees as crucial to recovering physics for philosophy (6), which he presumably does not see Schelling’s ‘speculative physics’ as having accomplished.

            Yet the ascent of nature is not as simple as Stone suggests, even if we reconceive it as a dialectic of individuation and integration rather than as straightforwardly linear. Thus a crystal is ‘articulated through and through’ and is not ‘mechanically compounded,’ but because it is ‘rigid,’ ‘mechanism is resumed’ or returns in organism (PN 99, 160); a comet is not rigid, but is an ‘unstable mass of vapour,’ lacking ‘a nucleus’ and centre of individuation (99). The difference between these deviations from the ideal raises the problem of a disunion between force and form that is supposedly resolved in the organism: the fact that form without force is rigid but forces without form annihilate their matter rather than reveal themselves in their parts. Or as Hegel elaborates, ‘the body of rigidity has only a formal being-for-self,’ whereas ‘the body of dissolution … behaves aberrantly’ (99). These deviations from the ideal also raise issues having to do with individuation, integration, and what Coleridge calls ‘specification.’ That a crystal is a ‘specific total’ means that because of its molecular structure its parts are uniform rather than differentiated and individualized, and exist in ‘apposition’ rather than being integrated.[6]  Such discrepancies between individuation and integration persist higher up the scale in planets–covered by Hegel under physics–, and remain even in organics. For planets, the terrestrial organism and plants all deviate from the ideal of the animal organism as a whole that holds its ‘members’ together rather than falling apart into subsystems (PN 276). But the point is that throughout the space of nature, entities deviate differently from this ideal, falling short of the philosophical norms in various ways that expose aporias and tensions between these norms. Indeed, this may be why Schelling, as we will see, cannot construct a scale of being or a Stufenfolge der Wissenschaften culminating in Organics.

            Individuation and integration are the contrary ‘tendencies’ that Green wants to see reconciled in the organism (105). But Green manages to synchronize them by conceiving individuation on the Kantian model of organisms as natural purposes that are both means and ends. In this model individuation as an increasing complexity and specialization of parts is kept in check because it also entails the interdependence of parts and the ‘subordination of the lower to the higher’ (41). The ‘tendency to integration in the parts’ makes individuation simply a microcosm of the other ‘great tendency’: ‘integration’ itself, whereby nature creates a ‘comprehensive whole’ through ‘advancing integration,’ within a ‘physiogony or genetic process’ of ‘gradative evolution’ (37, 39). Interestingly, for Green, the scientific terms have moral extensions: ‘Individuality has its acme in integrity’ (43). But for Coleridge, who in his Theory of Life similarly wants to see individuation in terms of organisms as natural purposes whose parts are all ‘reciprocally means and end’ (510, 512-13), the tendencies are also ‘counteracting’ pulls. Paralleling Goethe’s distinction between the universalist and the singularist, Coleridge describes a force of ‘attachment or reduction’ into ‘the universal life’ and of ‘detachment’ from it (515, 557), a tension already taken up by Schelling (Outline 53-4).  Indeed when Coleridge distinguishes among the tendencies to ‘totalise,’ ‘specificate,’ and ‘individualise,’ and when he offers the pebble and crystal as examples of the first two tendencies and the daisy and fly as examples of the third, his sense of individualisation comes closer to what we might call ‘singularity’ (‘Life’ 1029). For Coleridge does not describe the daisy and fly, unlike the pebble and crystal, in terms of the part-whole relationship; nor does he approach them as representatives of a class, as Green does in discussing individuation. The term individual, when thought within the part-whole relationship is still normative, in that even deviations are considered in relation to the whole or an ideal of wholeness. When individuation is approached in relation to a class of entities (birds or fish, for example), the term is likewise being thought in relation to the genus-process, as when Jean-Luc Nancy refers to a ‘higher form of substance of subject taking charge … of separate individualities’ (Inoperative 27).  Singularity, by contrast, better describes a poetic sensitivity to difference, at the level of what he calls ‘infra-individual’ ‘singular differences’ (Being 13-15)

            A detachment or individuation –let alone singularization–at odds with the whole explains why the various deviations from the ideal along the Chain of Being cannot really be ‘continuous,’ as Schelling hopes in his experiment with nature (Outline 53). Thus Coleridge describes how the ‘class of fishes’ marks a ‘higher step’ over that of insects yet ‘sinks a step below’ the latter in its mode of impregnation (546-7). Similarly, as Hegel moves from Physics to Organics, plants have the advantage over planets in being organisms that develop, as Coleridge would say, ‘ab intra’ (‘Life’ 1029). The parts of a planetary system remain external to each other, while the plant grows from within and ‘differentiates itself into distinct parts.’ But although the plant thus enters the ‘first… stage of subjective vitality,’ it ‘falls apart into a number of individuals’ rather than being ‘a subjective unity of members’ (PN 303). Planets, which are lower on the scale than plants, thus advance beyond them in forming a system, which in turn is associated with volition. For whereas the plant is ‘impotent to hold its members in its power’ (276), there are a ‘number of earths or planets which together form an organic unity,’ whose ‘arrangement … in space is the act of the planets themselves’ (104).[7]

            Coleridge rationalizes this uneven development when he writes that every ‘grade of ascension’ is accompanied by ‘an apparent retrograde movement,’ but when nature ‘drops a faculty’ she never fails to pick it up again’ at a higher level (Theory 546-8). And Green similarly streamlines his logic of nature by arguing that in the ‘evolution of the organic realm’ there is’an apparent sinking back’ necessary to concentrate ‘the organific energies’ for a ‘higher and more complete ascent’ (36, 114). The logic is that of Hegel’s Aufhebung as a dialectical spiral rather than linear progress, and as I argue elsewhere, Green tacitly supplements Schelling with Hegel to rein in the volatility of Naturphilosophie (‘Asystasy’   ). That task was made easier by the fact that the work by Hegel Green knew was the Logic rather than the still unpublished  Philosophy of Nature in the more detailed eclectic text that was not edited by K.L. Michelet till 1842. But it is another question whether this logic can contain the singularities that are throughout the Zusatze that Hegel added to the propositions in his Encyclopedia Outline (Grundriss), the minutely granular details that Schelling added to his Outline (Entwurf), or the entries in Coleridge’s Notebooks wherein a poet’s eye for detail is transferred to the way he engages with the sciences. Coleridge cordons off these details in his notebooks and fragments. But as Novalis says in his Romantic Encyclopedia, every ‘molecule of science’ can be philosophically potentiated (#489), so that the empirical, instead of being determined by the transcendental, retroacts upon it in a dynamic interfolding of mind and matter.

            A gradative evolution of natural phenomena is also Hegel’s aim, as he strives to attain the maximum of ‘individuation and integration’ in the animal organism, narrating this progress through the relevant sciences But this is not the end of the story, since the Stufenfolge undergoes a profound diremption in the section on the animal, which ends with pathology. Throughout PN the Kantian organism as a whole rather than aggregate has been the light at the end of the tunnel. But when Hegel reaches this climax, he writes that the animal can ‘as well not conform to its genus,’ which resistance he calls ‘disease.’ In disease one of the organism’s ‘systems or organs … establishes itself in isolation … against the activity of the whole’ (228). Here the very unity and integrity of the animal body, from which the plant is exempt, means that all of its systems –nervous, digestive, circulatory etc.– ‘interpenetrat[e]’ in this dis-memberment (372). Or as Hegel puts it, hovering on the border between physiology and psychology, only an animal can become ill and ‘turned against’ its very ‘structure,’ whereas a stone is ‘destroyed in the negative of itself [and] chemically decomposed’ (429).

            Thus the very superiority of biology to chemistry as a way of grasping organic vitality, meant to distinguish Idealist biology from British natural philosophy, becomes a pharmakon. Likewise the integration of the animal body, which is made up of ‘individual’ and ‘specialized’ subsystems (Schelling, Outline 127), proves its undoing. For the ‘isolated activity’ that occurs when a member separates itself from the whole is still a ‘moment of the whole,’ as the ‘entire organism … is involved and its activity deranged because one wheel (Rad) in it has made itself the centre’ (PN 428, 433). Moreover, Hegel seems unable to approach the animal through normal physiology, as he does the plant. The result is that the ‘biological normal,’ as Georges Canguilhem writes, is ‘revealed only through infractions of the norm and that concrete … awareness of life exists only through disease.’ As Canguilhem argues in The Normal and the Pathological, disease thus preempts health, since the norm can be established only a posteriori through deviations from it (118), making any ‘common ideal’ purely ideal: an understanding that provides an example of how philosophical paradigms are shifted by the dynamic retro-action of nature on mind.

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In his Jena lectures, especially in 1805/6, Hegel was already working out the Stufenfolge der Wissenschaften that forwards this problematic telos of the organism. In terms of the two regions of dynamic nature Zammito describes, dynamic matter and organic vitality, Hegel wants to chart a progression from physics and chemistry as sciences of matter, to biology which, as Canguilhem says, is concerned with ‘life.’ The irreducibility of life to mere matter is due to the ‘originality’ and singularity ‘of the biological phenomenon.’ But in valorising biology, Canguilhem does not mean to dismiss physics and chemistry, but to ‘‘comprehend’ matter within life, and the science of matter–which is science itself–within the activity of the living’ (Knowledge 69-70). His essays in Part 3 of Knowledge and Life–particularly those on vitalism, the machine as organism, and the milieu–are concerned with the complex dialogue among mechanics, physics, organics, and finally medicine that is also central to Hegel and Schelling. It is in medicine that biological originality produces the most profound diremption from the regularity of the Idea. What Grant calls the ‘eliminative idealism’ of transcendental philosophy (108, 202), is designed, in Hegel’s case as he moves up the scale of sciences, to protect biological originality, particularly from chemistry. But it also tries to repress this originality within the notion of autopoietic ‘Kantian wholes’ (Kaufman 67). Yet the Kantian regulation is finally defeated by the ‘instability and irregularity’ of the organism (Canguilhem 70), as biological originality turns out to include illness. For a stone cannot fall ill, as Hegel tells us. Or as Canguilhem puts it, ‘there is no physical, or chemical, or mechanical  pathology’ (Normal 127)

         The sciences in PN are also in Schelling’s Naturphilosophie, but they exist in a consciously experimental (dis)solution, given how many of these texts bear titles like ‘ideas for,’ ‘hypothesis’ or ‘first outline.’ We could say, then, that at least in his Naturphilosophie Schelling embraces a ‘non-eliminative idealism’ (Grant viii) that is more open to ‘life,’ including the understanding of matter within life. In terms of Zammito’s two regions of dynamic nature, Schelling never quite resolves their (dis)connection and the related question of whether a transcendental direction can emerge from, or be synchronized with, natural philosophy. The 1797 Ideas for a Philosophy of Nature unfolds purely in ‘physics and chemistry,’ though in revising its Preface for the 1803 edition, Schelling promises a continuation that ‘include[s] the principles of a theory of organic nature, or so-called physiology’ (5). But in the Preface to On the World-Soul (1798) Schelling  puts this promise more negatively, writing that he will not continue Ideas till he can formulate a ‘scientific [wissenschaftlichen] physiology’ that ‘rounds off the whole.’ The World-Soul, he insists, does not provide this physiology (SW 1/2.35). Yet the World-Soul is subtitled a ‘Hypothesis of the Higher Physics for the Explanation of the Universal Organism,’ describes Blumenbach’s Bildungstrieb as ‘epoch-making’ (1/2.128), and evokes the Kantian notion of organisms as natural purposes (1/2.123).

         So why does the World-Soul not round off the whole? The hope for a progression from physics/chemistry to organics marks a desired advance of German Idealism over British natural philosophy. I use the term Idealism rather than Naturphilosophie deliberately, to suggest an episteme that seeks to gather a more individuated and (dis)integrated body of knowledge in Naturphilosophie into a system itself conceived on the model of Kant’s Naturzweck, in which each science would be both means and end, or as M.J. Petry puts it, a sphere in its own right and a level in an ascending scale of knowledge (31).  But despite seeking a capstone in the 1803 revision of the 1797 Preface, in the actual Preface to the second edition of Ideas,[8] Schelling describes his promised further part as ‘organic physics’ (7), which still puts the text short of ‘organics’ as the culmination of the Hegelian schema. Schema: because, as Schelling himself says of the schematic, we are dealing with a construct in which the universal and particular have not been synthesized (Art 46), or in which the particulars appropriate to the universal have not been conceived.

         So perhaps Schelling never filled out his schema and never wrote his third part because organic physics cannot really bring the ‘real’ series of disciplines to an end, allowing us to move on to the ‘ideal’ series. In his middle work, especially Ages of the World (1815) Schelling becomes preoccupied with the difficulty of beginning and ending, or of moving from the first to the third through a linear or dialectical progression, without again going ‘back to the first’ or second (13, 36). Despite dwelling much more on the organism than Ideas (1797), we can argue that the World-Soul does not decisively proceed beyond Ideas because it remains too entangled in chemistry. In Ideas a chemistry of forces rather than elements, an organic rather than inorganic chemistry, had been the result of ‘dynamics as the basic science of a theory of Nature,’ which provided the text’s ‘philosophical part’ (5). It seemed, therefore, that progress was being made. But in the World-Soul Schelling expresses frustration with even this chemistry, because it discloses only ‘incomplete organizational processes,’ furnishing only ‘analogies’ (499), and so does not mark a real advance. And in the Outline, he complains that chemistry provides only ‘effects instead of causes’ (Outline 110), and hence is not yet a science (University 132).

         At the heart of this dissatisfaction is the irreducibility of life to physico-chemical causes characteristic of what Esposito calls ‘Romantic biology’: a tradition he traces from the post-Kantians, via British Idealism, to twentieth-century scientists such as J.S. Haldane and D’Arcy Thompson. In Hegelian terms, the World-Soul does not quite cross the threshold between a ‘physics of the total individuality’ with which the second division of PN ends, into Hegel’s third division on Organics. Instead it approaches the organism through what Iain Grant calls a ‘field-theoretical theory of nature’ in which ‘individuation and organization’ occur through forces rather than forms (87).  There are of course reasons for this drawing back. Briefly, Schelling often approaches differences in nature quantitatively. But for Hegel ‘merely quantitative’ differences are ‘indifferent,’ and domains such as physics and Organics, or even more so nature and spirit, must be separated by qualitative differences (PN 26-7). The quantitative/qualitative distinction means that Schelling unfolds nature in space, while Hegel develops it in time, where time contains a teleological promise but also entails finitude and fatality. Thus we need not necessarily read Schelling’s difficulty in proceeding to a ‘third’ part through Hegel. For after all in Ages (1815) Schelling will cast doubt on any linear or even dialectical progression from first to third, noting that the ‘third is incapable of continuance’ because the ‘unity [cannot] elevate itself and be outside the antithesis,’ and because ‘each of the three has an equal right to be that which has being’ (19, 36). So perhaps Schelling did write an (in)complete physiology or biology, not in the World Soul but in parts of the First Outline, but could not give it the synthesising authority of ‘the third.’ because he questioned the very possibility of synthesis.

         Yet if I evoke Hegel, it is also because Schelling cannot be as purely aligned with a quantitative and spatial understanding of nature as has now become fashionable (see Woodard; Heuser; Furlotte 6). It is because the schema of a temporal development that is most clearly formulated by Hegel also retreats and returns in Schelling’s work, thus providing a scaffolding that Schelling’s texts (dis)assemble. This temporal schema emerges powerfully in the middle work, especially the Freedom essay and the 1811 Ages, which participate in both the philosophy of freedom and the philosophy of nature. But as we have seen, it is present, albeit more abstractly, as early as the Treatise Explicatory, where Schelling writes of a ‘gradual succession [Stufenfolge] of organisms’ and a ‘transition from an inanimate [unbelebte] to an animate nature [that] clearly reveals a productive force’ developing ‘towards complete freedom’ (93; SW 1,1, 387).

         Put differently we cannot just oppose Schelling as a dynamic materialist or Deleuzean transcendental empiricist to Hegel as an Idealist, whether a complacent pan-logician or a ‘tormented’ idealist for whom nature is a series of ‘botched’ attempts at the ‘absolute’ (Krell     25, 96). For much of Schelling’s work is also deeply Idealist. But nor can we follow Hegel in dismissing Schelling as an Idealist without a sense of dialectic, without the labor of the positive that occurs in the differences between his texts. Rather than moving from Naturphilosophie, to the Identity philosophy, to the philosophy of freedom, as Manfred Shröter’s edition represents Schelling’s corpus, Schelling works on several tracks at once, seeing natural and transcendental philosophy as ‘one science’ with ‘opposite orientation[s]’ (Schelling  ‘Introduction’ 194),  and yet constantly probing their divergences. Even his idealisms are different: evolutionary and/or historical at times, and at other times involving a synchronicity wherein particulars are modes or potencies of the universal. It is notable that when Schelling revised Ideas in 1803 by refocalizing the speculative realism of 1797 through a Spinozistic neo-Platonism, he did so through a series of ‘Supplements’ that let the original version stand, as in a palimpsest.

iv

         It is the Outline which, in a disciplinary sense, comes closest to the engram of what will become the Hegelian schema, beginning with experimental physics in the discussions of dynamic atomism and the universal fluid, and ending (if it can be said to end) with physiology, which segment includes, in the middle, an Appendix on disease, if not on medicine per se. In between, Schelling floats the hypothesis of ‘natural history’ in the ‘higher’ sense of a ‘history of nature,’ which could then be seen as a bridge from experimental physics to the organism, but a bridge that the actual physiology may well collapse. The Outline notably, has no clear division between sections that is not overrun by its proliferating details. There is no paginated Table of Contents, as in Hegel’s Encyclopedia, where divisions and subdivisions are clearly schematised in advance. While the English translation has three divisions extrapolated from the Hauptabschnitten in the Grundriss, or opening outline of the Outline, these are not marked in the 1799 original. And we cannot simply treat the Grundriss as a Table of Contents, since the First Division has four subdivisons in the Grundriss and five in the text itself. The text is studded with Roman and Arabic numerals–upper and lower case–, Latin and also Greek letters, confusing any subordinaton of subdivisions to divisions, or any hierarchy of thoughts and afterthoughts. And in contrast to the complicating but graspable structure of Satz and Zusatz used in Michelet’s enriched text of Hegel’s PN, Schelling uses a multiplicity of terms: Satz, Lehrsatz, Zusatz, Folgesatz, Beweis, Anmerkung, Erlauterung, Problem, Auflösung. Finally, there are also long footnotes by Schelling in the manscript, inserted by his son (probably with Schelling’s permission) when he republished the Outline in the Sämmtliche Werke begun during Schelling’s lifetime.  

         This method that decomposes system into asystasy makes the Outline what Deleuze, using Joyce as an example, calls a ‘great work which contains all the complicated series,’ and into which these ‘divergent series … lead out and back in.’ Within this great work, ‘each series,’ which could be an idea, category, paradigm, discipline or pre-discipline, ‘explicates or develops itself, but in its difference from the other series which it implicates and which implicate it’ (123). Within the Outline, lines of enquiry not quite stabilized as sciences develop and are implicated in other lines or folds, and the history of nature is only one of these series. Indeed Schelling’s larger corpus might also be a great work in which divergent series lead out and back in. These series, as Deleuze says, are not ‘different points of view on the same story,’ to be absorbed into a Leibnizian pre-established harmony (Deleuze 123; cf. Leibniz, Monadology #57). This synchronization is one of Schelling’s experiments, when he argues that the temporal is a mode of the eternal (Ideas 272), or that natural and transcendental philosophy are different perspectives on one science (‘Introduction’ 194). But the series or paradigms are ‘divergent’ series that ‘unfold simultaneously,’ such that the ‘point … of convergence lies in a chaos’ or asystasy (Deleuze 123). For as noted, throughout his life Schelling worked experimentally on several tracks at once, constructing multiple outlines, ideas and systems that involved natural and transcendental philosophy, religion and mythology. Until 1809, for example, the transcendental and natural series lead in and out of his corpus, reconfiguring each other in the pivotal Freedom essay, and then being again unbound in the Ages (1815) from the de-cision reached in 1809.

         The First Outline is the great work that contains Schelling’s Naturphilosophie upto this point; hence it must be (un)published as an archive rather than a finished text. As such the text is in restless transition between fields of knowledge –physiology, physics, geology etc.– as even hard sciences become life sciences subject to the excitability Schelling discusses, whereby, as soon as a balance among forces is found in an (intellectual) product, the ‘organic activity’ that prevents life from being ‘exhausted … in its product’ results in this balance disclosing a disproportion that requires a further product (FO 159-60). Yet the Outline, though presenting an unbound conceptuality that unfolds on what Deleuze and Guttari call a smooth, undivided space, or ‘plane of immanence’ rather than ‘development’ (266), is a form of transcendental thinking. For it is concerned with how mind thinks as a fold in nature, since mind is part of the same continuum as matter. But as we suggested earlier, this is not a transcendental idealism that proceeds from inside to outside. When Schelling says that to ‘philosophize about nature means… to create it’ and that ‘everything that exists is a construction of the spirit’ (FO 5, 13),  he means that everything is in construction, or that there are no a priori categories of mind. To experiment with thought does require an ‘a priori judgment’ (‘Introduction’  197), but the forms that mind takes are disclosed by the new forms in which nature causes it to think. Just as there are no a priori categories of mind, so too the ‘state of configuration’ is ‘the most original in which nature is viewed’ (FO 6). It is thus and not in the sense of any correlationism that Schelling can describe philosophy as ‘a natural history of our mind’ and say that ‘the system of nature is … the system of our mind’  (Ideas 30).

         If both mind and nature are in constant configuration, the text itself becomes a dynamic field to be experimentally de- and recomposed. We will attempt this in two ways, the first being to construct it along vertical and horizontal axes, where the vertical is an experiment with idealism, while the horizontal is an ‘unconditioned empiricism ‘ (FO 24). The vertical axis of the Stufenfolge is transcendental not just in a Kantian and formal sense but also in the more common sense where ‘transcendental’ signifies a content: the possible emergence of spirit from matter. Yet, as we have seen in Hegel, such an emergence is an Idea of Reason, which Hegel simulates through a progression in the sciences that never happens in Schelling’s work. This difficulty, which we have seen in Schelling’s inability to gather his earlier texts into a system of sciences, is reflected in the Outline in the way the vertical thrust of the Stufenfolge is constantly interrupted by a horizontal axis that distributes the text into a network of fields in which it is enveloped instead of being able to put them in  sequence. In the System, when Schelling writes that ‘nature is the unconscious poetry of the spirit’ (12),  nature, history and aesthetics are bound into an architectonic, if not sequentially, then through anticipation, analogy and homology. But in the Outline, through a series of events or collisions, scientific fields as snapshots of mind being refolded by matter generate competing energetics of thought rather than forwarding a single idea.

         These fields, as figures of thought-matter, include physics as a theory of dynamic atomism that recasts thought as a finding of differences within differences; the earth sciences which open up processes of composition and decomposition in soils and other solids; and chemistry, as a space of volatile exchanges which allows us to know only ‘effects instead of causes,’ and which here, unlike in Ideas, is mixed up with physiology. Physiology, in turn, is both the body’s chemistry in John Brown’s Elements of Medicine, and physiology in Green’s broader sense of natura naturans or the forces in nature, which is to say that the individual and universal organism, nature and the body, are thought and rethought through each other. But importantly these fields are rarely named as sciences. Rather an intensity or potency hypostatises in an organ of knowledge through which nature is focalised, and the text then moves on, creating a different organ of knowledge. Thus, the text is less an organization of knowledge ‘defined by determinate organs’ than a body without organs which, as Deleuze says, moves through ‘provisional organ[s]’ of knowledge that endure only temporarily and which are then ‘displaced’ and ‘posited elsewhere.’ (Francis Bacon 47). Indeed Schelling indicates that organs form epigenetically in relation to situations and needs rather than being pre-formed (FO 38n, 113), which we can extrapolate to sciences as organs of understanding that are not restricted to disciplines named a priori.

         These fields then retroact on knowledge itself, in the way that Novalis describes in his Notes for A Romantic Encyclopedia, written in the same year as the Outline. For Novalis ‘encyclopedistics’ consists in applying ‘the system to the parts–and the parts to the system and the parts to the parts’ (#460).  In On University Studies, in a more conservative logic of emanation, if not hierarchies, Schelling describes ‘the organic body of knowledge’ as ‘flow[ing’ from its ‘central organs’ to sciences located in its ‘outermost parts’ (42). Using this image of fluidity far less idealistically than in its slightly later counterpart in Schelling’s transcendental philosophy, the Outline begins by evoking an unbedingt or universal fluid which is ‘determined’ in ‘figures’ that occur when actants (Aktionen) of thought-matter are bound, only to be unbound by the pressure of other actants within the figure ( ). These actants or ‘original productivities’ do not ‘actually exist’ but are the ‘ideal grounds of the explanation of quality’ (21). In Schelling’s theory of dynamic atomism, adapted from Leibniz, all products contain ‘an infinite multiplicity of unified tendencies’ or actants. Because monads too are not physical but ideal or ideational entities, Leibniz’ notion of the monad as indivisible is strictly heuristic and, as Kant argues, is not in contradiction to its infinite divisibility if we consider it as a ‘sphere of activity’ rather than an atom of matter (      ).  In the Outline sciences and fields can thus be seen as momentary bindings of multiple forces, figures deconstructed by nature’s complexity. So as Nature organizes ‘to infinity,’ the ‘sphere’ or field to which it is ‘limited must again contain an infinity,’ so that within it ‘other spheres are again formed and within these spheres others’ (FO 44).

         A different experiment for constructing this text is to read it in series, following Novalis, who organizes his entries neither alphabetically nor in a Hegelian enkyklos paideia or course of learning, but in series. In the Romantic Encyclopedia terms like encycyclopedistics, physics, or natural history, are repeated at intervals in what Deleuze calls the eternal return of difference (   ). In Schelling’s encyclopedistics of nature, which is richer in content than Novalis’ numbered Schlegelian aphorisms, terms are similarly repeated to give the idea a renewed or different potency. As a topic returns, another field makes an incursion into it, ‘derang[ing]’ it, in Schelling’s words (FO 39). Take the  Stufenfolge. The term first appears in footnotes and as the idea of a single ‘organism inhibited at various stages of development’ (FO 43), a theory of evolution avant la lettre. This ‘absolute organism,’ Schelling explains, must be thought as ‘a graduated series of productivity,’ since the series of ‘products’ is necessarily ‘interrupted’ as creation fails to move smoothly up the Chain of Being (43). Ten pages later the Stufenfolge is emphatically if hypothetically linked to a potential new discipline: ‘the history of nature’ (53), which Green will call physiogony.  But in between Schelling speaks of  ‘increasingly graduated divergences’ between entities, as he allows ‘comparative anatomy’ to temporarily hypostatise as an interruption of this history of nature (50). Interestingly in the transcendental series of texts which includes the lectures on academic study, comparative anatomy promises the ‘inner unity and affinity of all organisms’ (University   ). But in the natural series it is the site of divergences that potentially derange the analogical leap from nature to history.

         This is to say that comparative anatomy raises the problem of Naturbeschreibung as diversifying a history of nature and not just failing to achieve it. For Schelling also asks about different products that detach themselves from the absolute process to assert their autonomy, as individuation struggles against universalization. Since products are formed by inhibition (Hemmung) the arresting of productivity is a limitation. Thus Schelling tries to valorise ‘nature as subject’ over ‘nature as object,’ productivity over products (     ). But this natura naturans that ‘continues irresistibly’ (   ), consuming what is in its way, risks being the Hegelian Aufhebung that Schopenhauer, in his bitter critique of Idealism, later calls the will in nature. For Schelling too, ‘Life comes into existence in opposition to Nature.’ Raising the problem of biodiversity, he thus asks how ‘inhibition could  be permanent,’ how these ‘natures which have torn themselves away from universal Nature … can maintain an individual existence.’ While he says they cannot do so, clearly they do: fish do not sacrifice themselves to the genus process and become birds. In short, the physiology (in Green’s sense) that underpins physiogony is interrupted by physiography, as a return within the biological series of that dynamic atomism of understanding by which ‘every organ organizes again into infinity.’

         After this segment the Stufenfolge disappears for a hundred pages. Schelling then adds a further dimension in the form of a Stufenfolge of functions: the schema sensibility> irritability> reproduction (or the reverse) common in physiology of the time, which he constructs as a graduated series, so as to posit ‘ a unity of FORCE of production throughout…organic nature’ (149). Such a series, both in the individual organism and the absolute organism as it ascends from plants and polypi to mammals, could ideally synchronize with the graduated stages of nature, bringing the ‘graduated series of production’ and ‘products’ into convergence (140n). But the problem is that functions are not aligned with separate organisms, allowing us to move beyond irritability to sensibility in the chain of being itself. Rather, in complex organisms each function becomes its own sphere as the organism breaks down into ‘individual systems of specialised excitability’ (127, 143). Not only does the Stufenfolge of functions thus become a kindof ourobouros that cycles back into itself. In terms of a Stufenfolge of disciplines, like the one Hegel maps at least as a schema, physiology also fails to provide the desired unification for Schelling. For as he first projected it, John Brown’s physiology–his theory of excitability–was supposed to unify the functions and to synthesise the systems of chemistry and vital force (68). But physiology proves to be the site at which vital force, or the Bildungstrieb that pushes the graduated stages of nature forward, is disrupted by the chemistry of organisms.

         This diremption of vital force by its chemical intensity raises another line of flight, the  problem of illness, which Schelling brackets in an Appendix but which extends throughout the Outline. For if the Stufenfolge provides ‘a perspective… for the whole of organic nature …another is furnished’ for the individual by disease as a ‘deviation’ from ‘rule’ or ‘proportion.’ The Appendix thus takes us back to the graduated series of divergences, with the added recognition that disease in one organism may be health in another: thus the polyp would ‘be quite healthy’ ‘with the degree of irritability’ that sickens the plant (159). The tension between universal and individual perspectives further raises issues about the projection of normativity onto nature. For it seems that disease ‘has the same factors as life,’ just in different proportions, and so is ‘just as natural’ as life. But this raises a question, lethal to the Stufenfolge, of what life is, as Schelling, reflecting from a different perspective on the anthropological Idea, observes ironically that life is ‘extorted from Nature … a perduring sickness’ (159, 160n).

         In conclusion, the Outline is the ‘chaos of a cyclic poem,’ to evoke Percy Shelley who anticipates Deleuze’s notion of the great work. It is one of those primal texts in Schelling’s corpus into which many series lead in and out, another being the Ages (1815), which is similarly unsequenced and without an architecture. .. The Outline is a kind of encyclopedia of the sciences, but on the model of Novalis, for whom a science ‘is applicable to everything’ and ‘everything is applicable to it.’ In Novalis’ part-whole logic, we do not just read the parts within a whole as in Kant’s architectonic, but apply ‘the parts to the parts.’ In Novalis’ words, this ‘encyclopedization’ of a science is the genuine ‘self-criticism’ of that science, and the ‘stimulus’ for the ‘self-(post)-development of another science.’ Thus the various sciences in the Outline intersect and involve each other, creating feedback loops in which a science discussed earlier in the text, like dynamic atomism, is reinvolved as a way of un-thinking sciences that come up later, since, as Schelling says, ‘every science’ has ‘its unconditioned.’ As ideas are passed through this weave of sciences, which themselves exist in both real and ideal, or natural and transcendental series, these ideas, such as ‘nature’ or ‘life,’ enter a dynamic process that involves both self-criticism and concept-creation. Given more time, I would also suggest that such feedback loops connect what Schelling calls ‘the ideal part’ of philosophy in the Freedom essay back to the Naturphilosophie. through what Deleuze calls the trinity of complication/explication/implication. For instance, the pair evolution/involution occurs several times in the Outline, and following his own invitation to translate propositions ‘into the idealist potency,’ so as to raise physics to metaphysics, Schelling repeats these terms in the 1815 Ages. The Ages explicates the idea that Nature is ‘an infinite evolution from one original involution’ (77) with reference to history, which is complicated by nature, as what has been expanded in the later text is contracted back into or re-involved in the great whole of the First Outline. Through this process of explication and implication,or expansion and contraction, the ideal series itself as it had existed in the System is subject to criticism.  In this sense the early text is also a first outline for thinking Schelling’s corpus as a whole.

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Zammito, John. ‘Kant’s Persistent Ambivalence Toward Epigenesis, 1764-90.’ In Understanding Purpose: Kant and the Philosophy of Biology. Ed. Philippe Huneman. Rochester: University of Rochester Press, 2007. 51-74.


[1]‘Logical’ may not state the case properly, as Hegel does give this evolution an ontological force, describing ‘a system of grades of which one arises necessarily from the other but not in such a way that one is generated by the other naturally but rather in the inner Idea lying at the base of Nature’ (Propaedeutic 143; emphasis mine)

[2] In the Propaedeutic Hegel previews the second division as ‘Inorganic Nature’ and then as ‘Physics of the Inorganic’ (143), and then divides the actual section, which is just called ‘Physics,’ into ‘Mechanics’ and ‘Physics of the Inorganic’ (145-6). In 1817 the Second Division is entitled ‘Physics of the Inorganic’ and subdivided into Mechanics, Elementary Physics, and Physics of Individuality. 

[3] I emphasise the word ‘troubled,’ since although ‘Organik’ is used in the Table of Contents, Hegel still uses ‘organisches Physik’ in the actual subdivisions.

[4] Zammito is presumably using the term ‘natural history’ more broadly than in its normal usage.

[5] This is the fundamental point made by Jean Hyppolite’s Logic and Existence. As George di Giovanni says,  

[6] Coleridge distinguishes among the terms ‘individualise,’ ‘totalise,’ and ‘specificate.’ A daisy or fly are ‘individualised,’ which connotes some kind of singularity. A ‘pebble is a mere total,’ internally undifferentiated. A crystal, as a ‘specific total,’ has uniform and not differentiated parts and so is only ‘an aggregate by apposition,’ in which there is no ‘evolution (ab intra)’  (‘Life’ 1029).       

[7] It is worth noting that Hegel considers planets both under Mechanics and Physics. In the former section he accuses the planets, though they have their ‘centre within [themselves]’ and  ‘possess determinateness,’ of being ‘just’ a ‘plurality’ (77, 80). 

[8] The 1803 Ideas contains both a revised Preface to the 1797 edition and a Preface to the 1803 edition.

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