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Tilottama Rajan

“The Anthropological ‘Idea’: The (De)construction of Nature Between Schelling’s   First Outline (1799) and his Freedom Essay (1809)”

Abstract: My paper takes up Schelling’s First Outline of a System of the Philosophy of Nature (1799) as a text that wrestles with thinking about the anthropological “Idea” often associated with German Idealism, namely the “graduated stages” or Stufenfolge by which nature organizes itself in an ascending scale of complexity, as “one production captured at different stages.” This idea of a “history of nature” is the structuring prototype for “histories” in other domains such as aesthetics, history, mythology etc. It is what Schopenhauer more bitterly describes as the will in nature, by which a “higher Idea” subdues the “lower ones through overwhelming assimilation.” But arguably this will is really a projection of Man’s annihilation of the complexity of nature, as he tries to construct a system to contain the increasingly troublesome role played by the life sciences in the nineteenth century. My paper looks at how the complexity of nature and the identity of mind and nature as folds of each other contest this “speculative invasion of nature” (as Schelling calls it), with consequences for the “ideal portion of philosophy in the Freedom essay.


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Date(s) - November 13, 2015
3:30 pm - 5:00 pm

McMaster University, Kenneth Taylor Hall 109


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