Freedom and Spirit

So, if you thought last month was out there, you haven't seen anything yet. Fichte, we will recall, had postulated consciousness, subject as differentiated from object, as the noumenal, absolute reality of our existence, as it is in itself. This absolute subject posits itself as itself, to be the phenomenal self, and as not-itself, to be the phenomenal world that is a representation to the self. Furthermore, in doing so there is a kind of primal metaphysical rupturing, a sundering of the Absolute Spirit from itself to become finite, limited, "posited". There is a primal freedom to this act, for the self or "I" is primordially activity, not substance, verb rather than noun. It can therefore be its own cause, unlike substance in extension, in time and space, each component of which is always effect of some other component, each aspect determined, mechanistic, Cartesian, not free. The world negates the freedom of the I. "The not-I negates the I." The I, consciousness, in the limited aspect to which it appears to itself, becomes absorbed by the not-I, which determines it. But the freedom of the I remains innate, latent. The I can in turn determine the not-I, it can act in freedom. How to understand philosophically this possibility of freedom is a central concern of Fichte's immediate successor, Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph von Schelling (1775-1854), who is the subject of tonight's lecture.

We will proceed with a summary of his metaphysical position. Our text is System des transcendentalen Idealismus, or System of Transcendental Idealism, written in 1800 while Schelling was teaching at the University of Jena, lecturing alongside Fichte. This work is important because, in addition to being highly influential (Coleridge plagiarized sections of it in Biographia Literaria) its structure is the basis for Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit, which we will be studying in the next class.

Schelling begins the System with a reassertion of Fichte's position. He starts where the Wissenschaftslehre leaves off, attempting to expand on its implications. Therefore the realization of consciousness' identity with itself, which is the central insight of the Wissenschaftslehre, is also asserted by Schelling. He calls this activity of self-recognition "self-consciousness".

He writes,

The fact that, in self-consciousness, the subject and object of thinking are one, can only become clear to anyone through the act of self-consciousness itself. What is involved here is that one should simultaneously undertake this act and in so doing should again reflect upon oneself. —Self-consciousness is the act whereby the thinker immediately becomes an object to himself, and conversely, this act and no other is self-consciousness. —This act is an exercise of absolute freedom, to which one can certainly be directed, but not compelled. (pg 24)

He continues,

The concept of the self arises through the act of self-consciousness, and thus apart from this act the self is nothing; its whole reality depends solely upon this act, and it is itself nothing other than this act. (pg 25)

Therefore the self is not a substance, a thing or object but is rather discovered to be pure activity. Furthermore, it is its own activity, both actor and that which comes into being through its own action.

The self is a Being for-itself. Regarding this characterization Schelling writes,

The self is indeed an object, but only for itself, and is thus not originally in the world of objects; it first becomes an object by making itself into an object, and does not become one for anything external, but always only for itself.

Everything else, that is not self, is originally an object, but for that very reason is so,not for itself, but for an intuitant outside it. The originally objective is always merely a known, never a knower. The self becomes a known only through its knowing of itself. —Matter is said to be without self, precisely because it has no inwardness, and is apprehended only in the intuition of another. (pg 26)

That is to say, matter exists essentially, in terms of its metaphysical nature as appearance (vorstellung) to self-consciousness, towards a being that is for-itself.

Regarding the relationship of self-consciousness to the phenomenal/noumenal distinction of Kant's Critical Philosophy, Schelling states, "The question whether the self is a thing-in-itself or an appearance is itself intrinsically absurd. It is not a thing at all, neither thing-in-itself nor appearance." (pg 32) The self, as an absolute metaphysical ground, drops out, as it were, from the whole network of the categories of phenomenal reality. It is unique, not really part of the universe at all, but rather its transcendental ground. Therefore, self-consciousness, in virtue of possessing this ontology, is free, because it is not part of the system of causal determinations of the universe.

Or, as Schelling remarks, "Anyone who has followed us attentively thus far will perceive for himself that the beginning and end of this philosophy is freedom, the absolute indemonstrable, authenticated only through itself. --That which in all other systems threatens the downfall of freedom is here derived from freedom itself. --Being, in our system, is merely freedom suspended." (pg 33) Being, by which he mere means nature, the world of forests and galaxies and societies in the not-I, the object in opposition to the subject, that which negates and nullifies the freedom of the self. How, then, are we to be free?

In the next section of the System of Transcendental Idealism Schelling begins to formulate what he calls a "history of self-consciousness". He argues that the self contains both subject and object as it is the ontological ground of both. The self is both itself and that which limits itself.

But there is more -- the self-consciousness is also a synthesis of subject and object, it is a synthetic activity of their unification. Schelling writes,

The self contains fundamental opposites, namely subject and object; they cancel one another out, and yet neither is possible without the other. The subject asserts itself only in opposition to the object, and the object only in opposition to the subject; neither, that is, can become real without destroying the other, but the point of destruction of one by the other can never be reached, precisely because each is what it is only in opposition to the other. Both have therefore to be united, for neither can destroy the other, and yet nor can they subsist together. The conflict, therefore, is not so much a conflict between the two factors, as between the inability, on the one hand, to unite the infinite opposites, and the necessity of doing so, on the other, if the identity of self-consciousness is not to be blotted out. This very fact, that subject and object are absolute opposites, puts the self under the necessity of condensing an infinity of actions into a single absolute one. (pg 46)

If we conceive the objective self (the thesis) as absolute reality, its opposite will have to be absolute negation. But absolute reality, just because it is absolute, is no reality, and both opposites are thus in their opposition merely ideal. If the self is to be real, that is, to become an object to itself, reality must be blotted out in it, that is, it must cease to be absolute reality. But by the same token, if the opposite is to become real, it must cease to be absolute negation. If both are to become real, they must, as it were, share out reality between them. But this division of reality between the two, the subjective and the objective, is possible no otherwise than through a third activity of the self, that wavers between them, and this third activity is again not possible unless both opposites are themselves activities of the self. (pp 46-47)

Here, stated clearly for the first time in the texts we have covered in this series, is the basic form of the dialectic as used by Hegel. There is a thesis, whose ontology implies or manifests its own opposite such that it negates itself, leading to the positing of a third term to mediate between the initial dichotomy. Do we not see here, in this thinking, the fundamental grammar of non-dualism as it appears in German Idealism? For the mediating third term is found to be a restatement, in an evolved fashion, of the initial thesis. The series, which can be continued with each new synthetic term becoming a new thesis, therefore simultaneously evolves the initial absolutely spiritual thesis through a process of becoming, and also returns itself to that principle at each step, to rediscover the non-dual identity of the system with its metaphysical ground at each point.

Therefore, for Schelling's System, self-consciousness has entered into becoming, into history, by being both the absolute self positing consciousness as well as the mediation between that subject and its limiting objects that are its representations. By entering into such mediation, however, self-consciousness has separated itself from itself and must, as it were, refind itself through the stages of the System. In so doing, self-consciousness will refind itself as its own essence, which is freedom. This, then, is what is meant by the "history of self-consciousness".

Schelling writes,

The concept we start from is that of the self, that is, of the subject-object, to which we elevate ourselves through absolute freedom. Through this act there is now, for us who philosophize, something posited in the self qua object, but hence not yet posited therein qua subject (for the self as such, what is posited as real is in one and the same act also posited as ideal); our enquiry will therefore have to go on until what is posited for us in the self qua object is also posited for us in the self qua subject, that is, until for us the consciousness of our object coincides with our own consciousness, and thus until the self itself has for us arrived at the point from which we started. (pg 42)

There is a continuation in this movement of a theme from Fichte, namely that of the striving. The finite-I, we will recall, in its self-limitation from the absolute-I has undergone a separation from itself. It therefore posits the ideal of the absolute-I to itself and strives after this. Likewise, in Schelling there is a movement within the I, within self-consciousness, to return to itself, in recognition of itself as the spiritual reality, the presence of the absolute spirit to itself.

The stages of the history of self-consciousness are illustrated in the following diagram:

F.W.J. Schelling's System of Transcendental Idealism (1800)

System of Transcendental Idealism

The first stage in the history of self-consciousness is self-consciousness itself, which is the foundation of the whole system. Self-consciousness now comes into initial contact with the not-I, with object opposed to and limiting its subject. This occurs through sensation.

Schelling writes, "The self is the absolute ground of all positing. For something to be opposed to the self means, therefore, that something is posited which is not posited through the self. The intuitant must therefore find in the intuited something (the limitation) which is not posited through the self as intuitant." (pg 54) Or at least, the object appears to posit itself to the subject as that which is autonomous, or outside of the self, i.e. as being a thing-in-itself. However, this is really an illusion, for the object is a representation in sensing, and is therefore really, for the philosopher, a presentation of the self to itself.

Schelling says on this point, "The claim is not that there is in the self something absolutely opposed to it, but that the self finds something in itself to be absolutely opposed to it. That the opposite is in the self, means that it is absolutely opposed to the self; that the self finds something to be opposed to it, means that it is opposed to the self only with respect to its finding, and the manner thereof; and so indeed it is." (pg 55)

"[T]he self always senses only its own suspended activity, the sensed is nothing distinct from the self; the latter is merely sensing itself, a fact to which ordinary philosophical parlance has already given expression, in that it speaks of the sensed as something purely subjective." (pg 56)

Thus the whole odyssey of self-consciousness through its stages occurs purely internally, that is ideally, as a movement of an absolute metaphysical reality within itself.

Upon the basis of its sensation of the object, self-consciousness is able to make of itself an object, to intuit itself to itself. In doing so self-consciousness moves from merely being ideal to itself to being real to itself. Schelling calls this productive intuition, for the reflexive self-knowing is an activity, or productive movement of the self-consciousness which, as previously remarked, is essentially activity.

By raising itself to this level of self-cognition, sensation becomes not merely pure object to the self-consciousness, in which the I is, to itself, fully absorbed and hidden within the representation of the object. Rather, sensation becomes sensation of object to a subject. Therefore, the full (assumed) relationship between subject or consciousness sensing an autonomous object, or world, is now established, Schelling asserts, out of self-consciousness.

In facilitating this movement, the productive intuition oscillates (schweben) between subject and object, Schelling describes, mediating between their opposition and producing the synthesis of their relation in and through self-consciousness.

As Schelling notes, The deduction has now progressed to the point at which something outside the self is for the first time present to the self as such. (pg 69)

We should pause here for a moment and discuss the philosophical intelligibility of this argument. We began with what seemed a valuable and important insight, namely that of the self-identity of consciousness. It seemed that this implied a non-reducible quality to the self, and that there might be implications from this regarding freedom and other issues. However, rather than developing these implications in a way that we as modern readers would find adequate, the text instead develops itself in a manner that it is hard not to find rhetorical at the expense of real content. Has anyone here been convinced by the argument for productive intuition that external reality is a direct metaphysical projection of an absolute subject, on the basis of Schelling's specific argument? Rather, haven't we detached ourselves entirely from our concrete phenomenon, namely consciousness, and extended ourselves into exactly the kind of pure metaphysical speculation that the Kantian Critical philosophy was intended to reject?

Let us return to our text. The System of Transcendental Idealism has reached the point of positing the object to the subject through the activity of the productive intuition. This object is matter, Schelling asserts, and he now theorizes three movements in the construction of matter, as a parallel process to the first three acts in the history of self-consciousness in its first epoch. These are magnetism, electricity, and chemical process, the forces that constitute matter in the System.

Schelling assigns them to this order of sequencing based upon a further correspondence between these three moments of force and the three dimensions of space. Magnetism, of which Schelling believes gravity to be a type, attracts or repels. From this is derived length. Electricity, in contrast, "does not act in merely linear fashion, seeking and guided by length, but adds to the pure length of magnetism the dimension of breadth, in that it spreads over the whole surface of a body to which it is conveyed; yet no more acts in depth than does magnetism, since, as we know, it seeks merely length and breadth." (pg 88)

Schelling continues, "As surely as the two now completely separated forces are originally forces of one and the same point, so surely must their cleavage occasion a striving in both for a return to unity. But this can come about only by means of a third force, which can intervene among the two opposed forces and in which these may interpenetrate. This mutual interpenetration of the two forces by means of a third first endows the product with impenetrability, and by this property adds to the two earlier dimensions a third, namely thickness, whereby the construction of matter is first completed." (pp 88-89)

"This third stage of construction is evinced in nature through the chemical process. For that the two bodies in a chemical process represent only the original opposition of the two forces is evident from the fact that they mutually interpenetrate, which only forces can be thought to do." (pg 89)

It is in these passages that we can see very clearly the philosophical grammar of Schelling's System, particularly in his comment regarding the "return to unity" of the forces. Let us look more closely at this use of language. The passage reads, again:

"As surely as the two now completely separated forces are originally forces of one and the same point, so surely must this cleavage occasion a striving in both for a return to unity." (pg 88) There is a kind of animism here in this striving of forces which is characteristic of Romanticism generally, as surely in Wordsworth as in Schelling. Furthermore, this striving is a reflection of the striving of the I to return to the absolute that is itself. Surely this is a religious, even a mystical logic in which the created creature returns to its divine source in the unity.

Schelling writes, "In the first epoch of self-consciousness we could distinguish three acts, and these seem to reappear in the three forces of matter and in the three stages of its construction. These three stages of construction give us three dimensions of matter, and these latter, three levels in the dynamic process. It is very natural to hit upon the idea that it is always just one and the same trinity that recurs among these various forms." (pg 90) Here completely and clearly stated is the essence of the Hegelian dialectic. So Schelling is the true culprit!

In any case, let us now examine the second epoch in the history of self-consciousness. The productive intuition having mediated the positing of object to subject, there is now a full bifurcation of consciousness into an inner sense, namely the content of though independent of sensation, and a succession of presentations appearing as the sensory object. From this pair is in turn derived their mediating factor, which is also their unity. This is sensation with consciousness, which is a further development of the I or self-consciousness, to which the System always returns as its ground and unity.

As with the first epoch, features of the world as object are derived. Time and space are aspects of the inner sense and the sensory object, respectively. Schelling arrives at this through a relatively orthodox Kantian conception of time as the form of inner sense and space as the form of outer sense. He writes, "Time is merely inner sense becoming an object to itself, and space is outer sense becoming an object thereto." (pg 107) Again, "There is no object for the intelligence in the absence of a causal relation, and the relation is for that very reason inseparable from objects." (pg 107)

Causality now gives rise to the pheonomenon "of an involuntary succession of presentations" (pg 108) to the subject, that is a succession of representations whose content and ordering are not subject to the immediate volition of the self in the same manner as the content of inner sense.

This in turn gives rise to a concept Schelling calls reciprocity. Schelling asserts, "No causal relationship can be thought of without reciprocity, for no relationship of effect to cause is possible, i.e., the above-required opposition is impossible, unless the substances, as substrate of the relationship, are fixed by each other." (pg 118) Or to translate this out of Schelling-speak, for the objective world to have consistent causality all its possible parts must relate to each other causally. This means they are all parts of a common continuum, which gives rise to the next derivation, which is coexistence.

From this common continuum comes for the first time the deriviation of the universe, in all its material fullness of suns and planets in space and time. For all the objects in virtue of the continuum of cooexistence "will be subordinated one to another, and all of them ultimately to the first, since every preceding product sustains the opposition which is the condition of the one following. If we reflect that the force corresponding to the productive activity is the true synthesizing force of nature, namely gravitation, we shall be persuaded that this subordination is none other than the subordination of celestial objects one to another, as it occurs in the universe; a subordination such that the organization of those bodies into systems, where one is conserved in its being by the next, is nothing else but an organization of the intelligence itself, which throughout all these products is continually in search of the absolute point of equilibrium with itself, albeit that this point lies at infinity." (pg 114)

Self-consciousness now finds itself not merely positing the abstract form of time, but in time -- continually synthesizing itself as a present moment. Here there is a further sundering of self-consciousness from the absolute self.

As Schelling notes, "If one seeks to determine, through time as such, the absolute intelligence, which has absolute rather than empirical eternity, then it is everything that is, and was, and will be. But the empirical intelligence, in order to be something, that is, to be a determinate, must cease to be everything and cease to be outside time. Originally there exists for it only a present, and through its infinite striving the present instant becomes an earnest of the future, but this infinitude is now no longer absolute, that is, timeless, but an empirical infinitude engendered through succession of presentations. The intelligence strives, indeed, at every moment to exhibit the absolute synthesis; as Leibniz says, the soul brings forth at every moment the presentation of the universe. But since it is unable to do so through an absolute act, it attempts to show it forth through a successive progression in time." (pp 119-120)

Here then is the gnostic myth, or rather might we say the gnostic grammar. The divine pleroma of the absolute consciousness has become sundered from itself and become enmeshed in matter, yet remaining in fundamenta opposition -- pneuma versus hyle.

Indeed the organic is now derived as existing within the universe, completing the fall of consciousness into embodiment. Only here for the first time in the System is Schelling talking about a body or organism that the self has any kind of relationship to. Prior to this derivation self-consciousness has solely been in an abstract position with regard to an object.

Schelling derives the positing of the organic from the self-consciousness by noting that "the intelligence was to intuit, not merely the succession of its presentations as such, but itself, and itself as active in the succession. If it is to become an object to itself as active in the succession [...], it must intuit the succession [of itself within the larger succession --ed.] as sustained by an inner principle of activity. But now the internal succession, outwardly intuited, is motion. Hence the intelligence will be able to intuit itself only in an object that has an internal principle of motion within itself. But an object such as this is said to be alive [according to the Aristotelian concept of organism --ed.]. Hence the intelligence must intuit itself, not merely qua organization as such, but as a living organization." (pg 124)

So there we have it. The System has derived the whole of the physical universe from the I. The self "has transformed itself, for itself, into the thing-in-itself" (pg 97) -- that is, into an object.

Yet at no point has any of this universe of trees and literature and galaxies ceased to be in essence a Vorstellung, a representation. As Schelling explains, "Outer sense begins at the point where inner sense leaves off. What appears to us as the object of outer sense is merely a boundary point of inner sense, and hence both of them, outer and inner, are also in origin identical, for outer sense is merely inner sense subjected to a limit. Outer sense is necessarily also inner, though by contrast, inner is not necessarily also outer. All intuition is in principle intellectual, and hence the objective world is merely the intellectual world appearing under restrictions." (pg 98)

The System cannot come to rest with the second epoch if it is to accomplish the task set to it by Schelling, namely to demonstrate the freedom of the self. The second epoch is the epoch of relation, and the subject has come into relation with the object through representing itself as an organism, i.e. a body alongside other objects in a world. Therefore the self has limited itself in so doing, for it now appears to itself not as subject, but as object. How is it both to know and be its freedom in these circumstances?

Let us now examine the third epoch of the history of self-consciousness, whose task is to derive the next step in the self's coming to consciousness of its own freedom.

The issue of the third epoch, like those of the previous two, is to determine the mediating basis of the relation of subject and object, and to discover this in an aspect of consciousness. Thereby the object is found to be ontologically grounded in the subject, which is the whole project of idealism.

At this point in the history of self-consciousness the I has completed the arc of its external positing, resulting in the coming to be of the external universe as Vorstellung. The self is now at "the standpoint of reflection" (pg 134), and all further derivations in the System are analyzed by reflection from the totality already synthesized from the activity of the absolute I.

Through reflection, then, the self must raise itself to self-consciousness so that it can return to itself. It is completing a circle of its own device to know itself in and as that circle, although this is concealed from itself by itself until the last act of the dialectic. Is this not a theodicy? Is this not the same underlying logic as that of the mystical hadith sacred to the Sufis that has God say: "I was a hidden treasure that longed to be known, therefore I created the universe"?

Schelling writes, "Since the intelligence, so long as it is intuitant, is one with the intuited and in no way distinct therefrom, it will be unable to arrive at any intuition of itself through the products until it has separated itself from the products." (pg 134) Consciousness must now differentiate itself from its object and see itself as separate -- that is, to see itself as subject.

"This separating of the acti from the product is referred to in ordinary usage as abstraction, which therefore appears as the first condition of reflection." (pg 134)

Schelling writes, "Since the intelligence, so long as it is intuitant, is one with the intuited and in no way distinct therefrom, it will be unable to arrive at any intuition of itself throught the products until it has separated itself from its products." (pg 134) Consciousness must now differentiate itself from its object and see itself as separate -- that is, to see itself as subject.

"This separating of the act from the product is referred to in ordinary usage as abstraction, which therefore appears as the first condition of reflection." (pg 134)

Furthermore, "That which arises for us, when we separate the acting as such from the outcome, is called the concept." (pg 135)

Here then is the classic Cartesian problem of the correspondence of our mental concepts with their objects. For, as Schelling writes, "So long as the act of producing does not become an object to us, uncontaminated by and separated from the product, everything exists only within us, and without this separation we should indeed believe that we intuited everything purely within ourselves." (pg 135)

The mediating act in consciousness between concept and object is judgement, which is a technical term derived from the Kantian philosophy. The third of Kant's Critiques, we will recall, is the Critique of Judgement.

Judgement provides for a synthetic joining of the concepts of the understanding with their corresponding sensations of the intuition in virtue of what Schelling calls a schematism. This is "an intuition of the rule whereby a specific object can be brought forth. It is an intuition, and so not a concept, for it is that which links the concept with the object. But nor is it an intuition of the object itself, being merely an intuition of the rule whereby such an object can be brought forth." (pg 137)

Schelling gives a specific example of what he means: "The nature of the schema can be explained most clearly from the example of the craftsman, who has to fashion an object of specific form in accordance with a concept. What can be conveyed to him, in effect, is the concept of the object, but it is utterly inconceivable that, without any external pattern, the form associated with the concept should gradually emerge under his hands, if he did not have an inner, though sensorially intuited, rule that guides him in the making. This rule is the schema, which contains nothing in any way individual, and is equally little to be identified with a general concept, whereby an artist could create nothing. Following this schema, he will first bring forth merely a raw sketch of the whole, proceeding from thence to the fashioning of the individual parts, until gradually, in his inner intuition, the schema approximates to the image, which again accompanies him, until simultaneously with the fully emergent determination of the image, the work of art itself is also brought to completion." (pg 137)

This is the basic crux of the third epoch. The self actualizes its free nature through its activity in the world, which activity unites subject and object through the mediation of the subject's productive action. For Schelling art and the aesthetic will become, at least in the System of 1800, the ultimate expression of the Self's freedom and its showing of the same to itself.

But do we not also see here a shadowing forth of the Marxist conception of human nature as productive capacity? When Marx, in the Grundrisse for example, theorizes human productive power as the starting point for the dialectic of historical materialism, is he not reversing German Idealism exactly as he claims? ("Turning Hegel on his head," etc.) For in idealism, human activity in-the-world is derived as a projection of a universal consciousness, whereas for historical materialism consciousness is derived from human productive activity in-the-world. Material production is the base for the superstructure of individual self-identity, self-reflection, society, culture, history, religion, and art.

Heideggers' conception of Being-in-the-world also seems derived from the context of these ideas in German Idealism and the Marxist philosophical tradition. Human behavior, i.e. pre-cognitive skillful coping with the equipmental totality in circumspective concern, is the epistemic basis for cognitive noticing, for the coordination of concept and object, rather than in a mental act of the Cartesian thinking subject. Although, as with Marx, Heidegger displaces the Cartesian self-consciousness from the center of the actiton, Heidegger also rejects Marx's materialism. Rather, he concludes on the basis of the existential analytic that the ontology of the present-at-hand of object as bare spatio-temporal extended presence is itself privative and derived from the more primoridial ontology of the ready-to-hand and of the self-disclosure of Being as temporality.

We have described the main movement of the third epoch in the history of self-consciousness. Schelling continues in this section to derive the various synthetic a priori categories of the understanding as they appear in the Transcendental Logic of Kant's Critique of Pure Reason. As we skipped that section in our discussion of Kant, we will skip this corresponding section in Schelling.

This brings us to the end of the third epoch, which also concludes the section of the System related to theoretical philosophy. There is a following section which, like in Kant, explores practical philosophy as it derives from and relates to the former. Our theme being non-dualism, our concern is largely with the ontology of the figures we are covering. Therefore, we have focused our attention on the theoretical, rather than the practical, part of the System.

One component of Schelling's practical philosophy we will examine is his view of history, as this is crucial to understanding the Hegelian and Marxist conceptions of history.

History, Schelling says, is "a union of freedom and necessity." (pg 208) That is to say it unites the free activity of the totality of subjects with the world, which is causally necessitated in itself. Thus, the free activity of the self-consciousness is able to realize itself in striving after its ideal. This ideal the self strives after is a concept found in Fichte's Wissenschaftslehre, where the finite-I posited its absolute, noumenal aspect to itself with the imagination as an ideal. Schelling pushes this ideal out of the imagination and finds it within history itself, as a process of progress.

He writes, "history comes about neither with absolute lawfulness nor with absolute freedom either, but exists only where a single ideal is realized under an infinity of deviations, in such a way that, not the particular detail indeed, but assuredly the whole, is in conformity thereto." (pg 199)

This ideal is the creation of a universal legal organization of society. "... the universal reign of law has been set before rational beings as a problem, realizable only by the species as a whole, that is, only by way of history. ... the sole true object of the historian can only be the gradual emergence of a political world order, for this, indeed, is the sole ground for a history." (pg 202)

Schelling now proposes three historical stages of human history in its evolution toward a future utopia. The first aeon is that of destiny or blind fate, "which coldly and unwittingly destroys even what is greatest and most splendid; to this period of history, which we may call the tragic period, belongs the downfall of the glory and the wonder of the ancient world, the collapse of those great empires of which scarcely the memory has survived, and whose greatness we deduce only from their ruins; the downfall of the noblest race of men that ever flourished upon earth, and whose return there is simply a perennial wish." (pg 211)

The second age has its ground in the principle of nature from which arises "a manifest natural law, compelling freedom and wholly unbridled choice to subserve a natural plan, and thus gradually importing into history at least a mechanical conformity to law." (pp 211-212) This corresponds to the emergence of the Roman world order, persisting to Schelling's day. Indeed, in 1800 the Holy Roman Empire had not yet been abolished by Napoleon's conquests as an officially organized, if largely symbolic, political body within the German speaking lands. Of the will in the Roman Empire, Schelling says, "In first joining the nations generally together, and in bringing into mutual contact such customs and laws, such arts and sciences, as had hitherto been merely conserved in isolation among particular peoples, it was compelled unconsciously, and even against its will, to subserve a natural plan which, in its full development, is destined to lead to a general comity of nations and the universal state." (pg 212)

Regarding the third and final epoch Schelling prophesies that it "will be that wherein the force which appeared in the earlier stages as destiny or nature has evolved itself as providence, and wherein it will become apparent that even what seemed to be simply the work of destiny or nature was already the beginning of a providence imperfectly revealing iself. When this period will begin, we are unable to tell. But whenever it comes into existence, God also will then exist." (pg 212)

If the moral legal order and the teleology of history are both expressions of freedom in the world of appearance, then art is the fullest such expression. Art and the aesthetic are the climax of the System, the completion of the history of self-consciousness.

Art, as with history, is a unity of the activity of the free subject and the necessitated natural order. In this it follows the general form of the System, where the duality of subject and object, reappearing in a new guise at each phase of philosophical deduction, is bridged and united by the discovery of a mediating activity that is found to be the expression of the essential metaphysical subject behind and supporting the pairs of opposites.

In the case of art, Schelling writes that it serves "to bring together that which exists in separation in the appearance of freedom and in the intuition of the natural product; namely identity of the conscious and the unconscious in the self, and consciousness of this identity. The product of this intuition will therefore verge on the one side upon the product of nature, and on the other upon the product of freedom, and must unite in itself the characteristics of both." (pg 219)

In this, "The intelligence will therefore end with a complete recognition of the identity expressed in the product as an identity whose principle lies in the intelligence itself; it will end, that is, in a complete intuiting of itself. Now since it was the free tendency to self-intuition in that identity which originally divided the inelligence from itself, the feeling accompanying this intuition will be that of an infinte tranquillity. With the completion of the product, all urge to produce is halted, all contradictions are eliminated, all riddles resolved." (pg 221)

There is an act of self-recognition of the absolute subject being described here, resulting in a state of "infinite tranquillity". Is this not clearly akin to a species of gnostic epiphany? Is this not similar in form to the philosophic import of the essential Upanishadic dictum "Thou art That"? Is this not, in short, non-dualism? Finally, although he rejects art as the final resting place for his own system, Hegel also aims for a self-recognition of the absolute self in and through the phenomenal subject as the goal and end of human knowledge.

But that process is the subject of our next class. We will leave off tonight with Schelling's closing summation of the System of Transcendental Idealism of 1800:

These are the phases, unalterable and fixed for all knowledge, in the history of self-consciousness; they are characterized in experience by a continuous stepwise sequence, and they can be exhibited and extended from simple stuff to organization (whereby unconsciously productive nature reverts into itself), and from thence by reason and choice up to the supreme union of freedom and necessity in art (whereby consciously productive nature encloses and completes itself). (pg 236)


All quotations from:

Schelling, F.W.J. (tr. -- Peter Heath), System of Transcendental Idealism (1800), University Press of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA, 1978.

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