Kant, Schelling and the Organization of Matter

In Gerad Gentry (ed.), Kantian Legacies in German Idealism. Routledge (2021)

Authors
Dalia Nassar
University of Sydney
Abstract
Over the last two decades there has been a significant increase of interest in Schelling’s philosophy, and in particular his philosophy of nature. However, even the most generous of Schelling’s interpreters are confused by one of Schelling’s key theses: his view that nature as a whole (including non-living nature) is “organized,” and his related rejection of the hard-and-fast distinction between living and non-living. My aim is to offer an explanation of these two related points. Given that Schelling regards all of nature as organized, it makes most sense to begin with the basic stuff of nature—matter. For if we can understand how matter can be organized, then we can also understand how non-living material beings are also organized. Accordingly, I focus on Schelling’s first work in the philosophy of nature, the 1797 Ideen zu einer Philosophie der Natur (Ideas for a Philosophy of Nature), where he deals with matter most directly and challenges mechanistic accounts of matter. I show that the crucial influence on the Ideen was not (as many interpretations have it) Fichte, but Kant, and explicate how and why Schelling departs from Kant’s understanding of both matter and organization. Finally, I will briefly point to the ways in which Schelling’s understanding of organization can be brought to bear on current questions in theoretical biology.
Keywords Schelling  matter  organization in nature  organized matter  Kant  18th century philosophy of science
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