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Evil, Freedom, and Time: A Conference on Schelling's Freedom essay and Ages of the World

Log In Sign Up. Alex Levine. The German Natur-philosoph Friedrich Schelling published his treatise Of Human Freedom in that reveals traces of romantic notions of nature with an existential undercurrent that predated and influenced the philosophi- cal movement known as Existentialism. The existentialist philosopher Martin Heidegger delivered a series of lectures on the treatise at the University of Freiburg in In his works, Heidegger stresses the importance of being actively involved in the world.

His interpretation of the treatise, with its emphasis on the way humans and other creatures are engaged with their environment, calls to mind contemporary thinking in ecology. Introduction In this interpretation of F.

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The perspectives of the disciplines of environmental studies, political science, philosophy, anthropology, and history will all be taken at different points. Ecology was not a word when he wrote the treatise years ago, of course. The German biologist Ernst Haeckel coined the term ecology in and it was not widely used until years later. With the rise of Romanticism in western culture, figures like Schelling, Wordsworth, Goethe, and later Em- erson and Thoreau, sought to redefine the place that humans had in nature.

Despite their diverging views about nature, these thinkers shared a fascina- tion with the study of the organic world. Idealistic Studies, Volume 42, Issue 1.

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ISSN Michelle Kosch gives an insightful interpretation of the treatise in Freedom and Reason in Kant, Schelling, and Kierkegaard but this takes up a negligible portion of the book. In this interpretation of the treatise, it will not only be argued that his attempt to construct a system of freedom was a success and that the system is ecological but also that these two things are related. His reading of the treatise will simply be used to stress its ecological quality.

In the system, all hu- man knowledge is related to an outside structure but structure emerges from the unconscious and irrational elements of existence. The system is modern because it incorporates the unknown and even terrifying facts of nature and in this way, it sets up both ecology and existentialism. It is of a deep speculative nature, but it stands alone.

In philosophy a single piece cannot be developed. The fact that it stands alone, above his other works, does not illegitimatize its doctrines. Interpretation will start with the treatise itself. It begins by preparing the reader for discussion of the leading question of the essence of freedom. Philosophical investigations into the nature of human freedom may, in part, concern themselves with the correct conception of the term, for though the feeling of freedom is ingrained in every individual, the fact itself is by no means so near to the surface that merely to express it in words would not require more than the common clarity and depth of perception.

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In part, such investigations may be concerned with the relation of this concept to a whole scientific world view. This is especially the case in the conception of freedom, for if it has any reality at all, it cannot be a merely subordinate or incidental conception, but must be one of the dominant central points of the system. What does it mean for a concept to have reality? It means that the concept is the central part of a comprehensive system. The system itself is the system of freedom. Freedom and system are, for Schelling, inextricably connected.

Kant understands the term reason to mean the faculty of forming concepts from representations. These representations do not show the objects themselves but only point out the direction in which to search for them. According to Kant, the system is to be determined by the highest concepts of God, world, and man. What most people found unsatisfying was that for Kant, these were simply ideas that pointed in the direction of things and not things in themselves. This should give an idea as to what is at stake when it is asked if freedom is compatible with system. System cannot be denied since it is necessarily posited with the fact of freedom.

Since freedom of the individual exists, it must in some way exist together with the totality of the world. These concepts have reality only when they are incorporated into a system. Even when the inevitability of the system is assured, new difficulties appear. One can admit that there is a system but then state that this system is inaccessible to human knowledge.

For it may be true or false according to how it is interpreted, depending on the definition of the principle by virtue of which man can in any wise attain knowledge. Schelling recognizes that one can simply not think about the possibility of system, though he points out that this amounts to avoiding the matter. Certain examples of the incompatibility of freedom with system can be cited from previous philosophy but the question of their compatibility must be developed in terms of the matter itself. Is not Idealism already the system of freedom?

According to Idealism, freedom means standing outside of the causal connectedness of nature. But the real and vital conception of freedom is that it is the possibility of good and evil. According to the newly posited concept of human freedom, good and evil are that for which freedom can decide. The difficulty is that freedom here could mean indecision.

However, as mere indecisiveness, it is neither freedom for good nor for evil.

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This positive conception of freedom is only possible on the basis of an explication of what good and evil are. Schelling has a philosophical system and it is one that orients people in a world of nature and of choice.

Human Freedom and Divine Foreknowledge

A Philosophy of Nature It seems that Schelling would turn to ethics for an explanation of what good and evil are. Instead, he turns to the fundamental principles of a philosophy of nature. He does this because the principle of idealism received a living basis in the investigation of nature and out of this grew the philosophy of nature.

This opposition is one of contraction versus expansion. Contraction individuates things, while expansion brings them into connection with one another. A person always wills something within a totality of other wills. If the totality consisted solely of the desires of individuals then there would be no order. Sometimes an individual uses the existing order merely as a means to will its own desires.

It is not merely a lack of harmony, though, but rather a positive perversion. Desire is not the source of evil, nor is the understanding the source of good. The possibility of good and evil depends on the presence of norms that human beings can orient themselves toward or away from. Schelling rejects the Kantian notion that individuals can look to their faculty of reason as a source of norms but he does not actually give an account of their origin.

Here Schelling analyses one of the prominent answers to the question of freedom, which is to look to Pantheism. This structure knows itself as absolute knowledge. This knowledge itself belongs to the system. A pantheistic account of system is therefore inconsistent with freedom. To Spinoza, God is the one thing in nature that is brought into being purely through itself; it is the sole being that is the cause of itself in itself. Thus every individual being must be identified with God, if it to exist in nature. The law of antecedence therefore means that the subject, in its being prior to and the basis of the predicate i. So if we are to apply this to the problem of God in pantheism we can see that, to look at an object as a modified version of God, in that the sum of finite objects has been derived from, i. What Schelling therefore wants to produce is an ontology through which the nature of freedom is not inconsistent with the law of identity, an idea that had been misinterpreted by many of his predecessors i.

In other words, it is not a necessary condition of the subject, i. So, this means that evil does not have the ability to be in itself, it needs the good to become what it is. So for Schelling, what does not exist within evil is not. However, Schelling does not give any specific account of what defines the Good. Therefore, as evil exists only in this act it is not grounded in the good itself, it is autonomous from it yet identical to it. Go directly to content Go directly to font size and contrast.

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