Three ends of the absolute: Schelling on inhibition, hölderlin on separation, and Novalis on density

Research in Phenomenology 32 (1):60-85 (2002)
Abstract
"Three Ends of the Absolute" discusses (1) Schelling's notion of inhibition in the philosophy of nature, (2) Hölderlin's notion of separation in his "Seyn, Urtheil, Modalität," and (3) Novalis' notion of the density of God in his late scientific notes. All three thinkers can be contrasted with Hegel on the basis of their attacks on philosophical absolutes. Schelling (1775-1854), in his First Projection of a Philosophy of Nature (1799), reflects on the conundrum of absolute inhibition in nature, an inhibition of absolute freedom that is necessary if there is to be a procession of natural products. Inhibition conditions all putative absolutes. Hölderlin (1770-1843) argues that absolute separation is essential to consciousness of any kind. Whereas he advances no "doctrine" of the end of the absolute as such, he does emphasize the tragic separation and dissolution to which all intellectual intuition comes. The absolute "original" suffers from an irremediable "debility." Novalis (Friedrich von Hardenberg, 1772-1801), in his Universal Sketchbook, continues the work of his early Fichte Studies by resisting the notion of the absolute ego. "Everything pure is . . . a deception." For Novalis, the absolute can only be our absolute inability to think or act in conformity with an absolute. The article ends with a reflection on Goethe's opposition between "relative" and "absolute" death.
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