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Berger, Benjamin (Researcher in philosophy)
Languages: English
Types: Doctoral thesis
Subjects: B1
This thesis is a study of the relationship between 'nature' and 'spirit' in the philosophies of F.W.J. Schelling and G.W.F. Hegel. I aim to show that Schelling and Hegel are involved in a shared task of conceiving spiritual freedom as a necessary outcome of nature's inner, rational development. I argue that by interpreting spirit as 'emergent' from nature, the absolute idealists develop a 'third way' beyond Cartesian dualism and monist naturalism. For on the idealist account, nature and spirit are neither ontologically discontinuous, as if separated by an insurmountable 'gap', nor are they identical, as if spirit were simply a 'second nature'. Rather, according to both Schelling and Hegel, spirit emerges from nature as its ontologically distinct and non-natural telos.\ud \ud What makes Schelling's and Hegel's philosophies of nature so unique, however, is not simply that they present spiritual freedom as dependent upon nature, but that the ontological specificity of spirit is shown to be rationally necessary. In fact, neither the early Schelling nor Hegel is concerned with the historical emergence of spirit. Rather, both philosophers see the 'emergence' of spirit as an atemporal feature of being that must be derived through sheer reason—be it Schelling’s method of 'depotentiation' or Hegel's dialectical logic. I therefore argue that by bracketing the question of historical emergence, Schelling and Hegel each develop a distinctive logic of emergence whereby spiritual freedom is shown to be necessary thanks to the ontological structure of the impersonal, natural world.\ud \ud In my concluding chapter, I consider Schelling's argument in his Berlin lectures of the 1840s that the idealist logic of emergence must be supplemented with a speculative consideration of historical emergence if philosophy is to be a complete science of reality. From this perspective, it looks as though both Hegel's and the early Schelling's 'logics of emergence', despite all their promise, presuppose the idea that nature's necessary stages need not express themselves in temporal succession (as do the necessary stages of human history) in order for them to be fully realised. I conclude the thesis by suggesting that Schelling's Ages of the World was meant to overcome this apparent limit of the 'logic of emergence' without abandoning its fundamental aims. For in the Ages, nature's rationally necessary development is presented as unfolding in time, and time is understood as nothing other than the actual development of nature into spirit.
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