Saturday, May 12, 2012

Freedom and Nature in Schelling's Philosophy of Art

Paperback due out in September for a much cheaper price than what is listed on amazon. 

A decent review of the book is HERE.


Schelling is often thought to be a protean thinker whose work is difficult to approach or interpret. Devin Zane Shaw shows that the philosophy of art is the guiding thread to understanding Schelling’s philosophical development from his early works in 1795-1796 through his theological turn in 1809-1810.

Schelling’s philosophy of art is the ‘keystone’ of the system; it unifies his idea of freedom and his philosophy of nature. Schelling’s idea of freedom is developed through a critique of the formalism of Kant’s and Fichte’s practical philosophies, and his nature-philosophy is developed to show how subjectivity and objectivity emerge from a common source in nature. The philosophy of art plays a dual role in the system. First, Schelling argues that artistic activity produces through the artwork a sensible realization of the ideas of philosophy. Second, he argues that artistic production creates the possibility of a new mythology that can overcome the socio-political divisions that structure the relationships between individuals and society. Shaw’s careful analysis shows how art, for Schelling, is the highest expression of human freedom.

Table of Contents

Introduction \ 1. Dogmatism, Criticism, and Art \ 2. From Nature-philosophy to the ‘Mythology of Reason’ \ 3. Artistic Activity and the Subversion of Transcendental Idealism \ 4. Substance and History: Absolute Idealism and Art \ 5. From Art and Nature to Freedom and Revelation \ Conclusion \ Bibliography \ Index

Thorne offers some remarks about political ontology and speculative realism

Thorne weights in with this post on political ontology and speculative realism.  Also, and thanks to jason/immanent transcendence once again, there is this post on Meillassoux by Thorne which is quite good.

Christian Thorne blogs very rarely but when he does, look out.  Nice reading, I am going to add his blog to my blogroll so I can touch base with his writing from time to time.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

review of new Meillassoux book and commentary about talk

Adam Kotsko reviews the new Meillassoux book HERE.  HT to Jason/immanent transcendence for grabbing this first. 

The only thing that I would disagree with in the review is that "Meillassoux is an atheist."  That would be true if we were going by conventional definitions.  But in Meillassoux, nothing is conventional.

In the review many of Meillassoux's fans are identified as atheists - and atheists in the conventional sense.  Thus why they would shy from Meillassoux's theism, even if it is strange, weird, or speculative.  But, to keep things on a consistent plane: M is not a theist or atheist in any traditional sense of either term.  His theist followers aren't traditional theists, but his atheist followers are quite conventional atheists (what it usually means to be an atheist culturally, as in God talk is a waste of time).  M is in the former category, not the latter.  This means that there is alot you can do with Meillassoux and theism. With that minor point aside, I am excited to see where this goes.

My impressions of his talk hinted at a forthcoming speculative Christian process-numbering philosophy of sorts, where not only deity (and deity's Incarnation of a divine human) will empty its own reality of power, but that such power will be given up (abjured) in the act of conquering death and granting immortal life to the living and dead; thus an advent and new mass, given through the very release of power and self-sacrifice.  This is at once eucharistic and even more generally sacramental.

Something along the lines of this comment rings true:
[Meillassoux] mentioned, several times, that Mallarme’s goal was to reinvent the mass, once Christianity had passed. Or I suppose to reinvent Christianity? In any case, that seems to be Meillasoux’s aim as well, or his own aim attributed to Mallarme (as you brilliantly draw the Paul to Christ analogy). I suppose what strikes me is how, again and again, the European philosopher, even in his most avant-garde forms, keeps returning to Christianity.

Desmond at 45th Annual Villanova Theology Institute

Sunday, May 6, 2012


Raymond Ruyer is a name that keeps popping up for me.  I first heard of him while reading Whitehead, and then Deleuze, and then randomly while listening to an interview with Hartshorne.

Ruyer's "neofinalism" is concerned with form and formation, insisting on purposiveness in a world of panpsychism and materialist vitalism.

Fractal Ontology blog gives us nice translation and paper propsal, and this article may also provide some background.  On the level of impact and importance, but also for just being interesting, a comparable figure vis-a-vis Whitehead, Deleuze, and friends would be Felix Ravaisson.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

new book on Schelling and psychoanalysis

As I've said, I am currently writing an essay which sets out to argue that, there may be some benefit for those contemporary process theisms that take seriously the legacy of Schelling if, in the future of thinking about Schelling's God, a shift is made in emphasizing God's psychoanalytic aspects to emphasizing God's aesthetic aspects - that is, in looking at Schelling and the question of deity we ought to consider more carefully how the psychoanalytic is refracted within the aesthetic.  To this end I bring in some minor notes from Hegel and Schopenhauer as well.  

In the course of my research I found an interesting new book which seems like a "must read" for anyone interested in Schelling: McGrath's The Dark Ground of Spirit: Schelling and the Unconscious.   Link HERE.

Introduction. Tending the Dark Fire: The Boehmian Notion of Drive. The Night-side of Nature: The Early Schellingian Unconscious. The Speculative Psychology of Dissociation: The Later Schellingian Unconscious. Schellingian Libido Theory. Appendix: The Metaphysical Foundations of Schellingian Psychology. 

Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling is widely regarded as one of the most difficult and influential of German philosophers. In this book, S. J. McGrath not only makes Schelling's ideas accessible to a general audience, he uncovers the romantic philosopher's seminal role as the creator of a concept which shaped and defined late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century psychology: the concept of the unconscious.

McGrath shows how the unconscious originally functioned in Schelling's philosophy as a bridge between nature and spirit. Before Freud revised the concept to fit his psychopathology, the unconscious was understood largely along Schellingian lines as primarily a source of creative power. Schelling's life-long effort to understand intuitive and non-reflective forms of intelligence in nature, humankind and the divine has been revitalised by Jungians, as well as by archetypal and trans-personal psychologists. With the new interest in the unconscious today, Schelling's ideas have never been more relevant.  

"Rarely has Schelling been written about with such clarity and passion: McGrath's careful research clinches the argument that the theosophical tradition of Boehme as received by Schellingian philosophy constitutes the root of the unconscious." - Paul Bishop, University of Glasgow, UK

 "This book deals with Schelling's theory of the unconscious and examines its complex, critical relations to psychoanalysis and psychology, showing that it constitutes a theory of mental health, an entire psychology, which stands on its own. Moreover, it demonstrates the centrality not only of theology but also of the esoteric tradition in Schelling's philosophy, and carefully traces the development of his thought in that essential context." - Professor James Bradley, Memorial University, Newfoundland, Canada

"McGrath's The Dark Ground of Spirit is among the most imaginative, original, at at times exhilarating, studies of Schelling to appear in recent years. Although he carefully charts the full historical trajectory, including the difficult late work on philosophical religion, of what he calls Schelling's "style" of thinking, he does so in order to carefully unpack the problem of the unconsciousness. This allows him to make a powerful case for a uniquely Schellingian style of psychoanalysis. McGrath's pursuit of what Schelling's student Schubert felicitously dubbed the 'night-side of nature" performs a delicate bi-directional hermeneutic. On the one hand, McGrath contextualizes the work of Schelling in relationship to Boehme, Baader, and other indispensable thinkers, giving us a fuller sense of Schelling's fundamental philosophical impulse. On the other hand, this is an expansive work of 'hermeneutical refraction,' carrying Schelling's 'thought forward into contexts that it does not and cannot anticipate.' Contrasting Schelling with Freud, Jung, and Lacan, McGrath discovers a 'theory of the libido in its own right." - Jason Wirth, Seattle University, Washington, USA

Friday, May 4, 2012

infinite density and aesthetics

Infinite Density and Aesthetics

 This semester I am using Fr. Robert Barron's Catholicism text and DVD series as part of my "Catholicism and Asian Religious Traditions" course that I am teaching (which also covers Buddhism, Confucianism, and Daoism).

Preparing for my lecture  tomorrow, on the life of prayer, I found a rather poignant reminder concerning not only the depths of the soul, but also the depths of all things, of the immanent creative life - the Holy Spirit - that is near and inside all things, and infinitely so.  This became apparent to me as I was reading Fr. Barron on Saint John of the Cross.

Reflecting on Saint John of the Cross, Fr. Barron discusses how John was a reformer and therefore unpopular and criticized.  Eventually for his criticisms and reforms, John was beaten and put under arrest by his Carmelite brothers. There in his cell John composed verse in his mind (he had neither pen nor paper).  One day, however, John escaped through a tiny window from his prison.

Christ of Saint John of the Cross (1951), Dali
In his verses, Saint John offers a powerful image of the soul.  Within us, John states, are unfathomable and great "infinite caverns" of intellect, will, and feeling.  These caverns are infinite precisely because they are ordered to God.  They are unfathomable because it is not until that one raises one's mind and heart to God that they would be filled, completely only in a "beatific vision," given in the afterlife.  The initial moment of raising of our heart and mind to God, however, is not a fuga mundi, not a "flight from the world" John said, but it is rather a looking into the world.

How this happens occurs in two steps, as outlined in Saint John of the Cross' Dark Night of the Soul.  First, during the "dark night of the senses" one peers into the senses seeking to empty them of their exterior content, in order to traverse "inside."  Second comes "the dark night of the soul" when one "empties oneself" traveling yet even further inside the soul - preparing oneself to be a conduit for God, to receive the gift that God wants to give.

As with Saint Teresa of Avila, the "interior" here is a fortress, an "inner castle" - the innermost and deepest chamber that may only be filled in union with God, and it is only in beatific vision with God that the deepest aching of the heart will ever be satisfied (Edith Stein, otherwise known as Saint Theresa Benedicta of the Cross, a student of Husserl, described the soul this way as well and wrote beautiful letters and phenomenological essays concerning the soul as an inner-chamber that houses an "infinity" within itself).

Dali, said that his painting (above) came to him in a "cosmic dream" where he gained insight into "an atom's nucleus" - inside the object he saw the "entire universe, Christ!"  The atom's shell-like surface is translucent, and so we may be drawn back into to its center point where the internal-external divide is dissolved within an infinitely deep center. Thus: the intuition of the infinite exterior (life) is to be found within all interiors.  "Entering into" another, or being "entered into" by another, seems to be another meaning of ecstasis.  An ecstasis through empathy: all of nature is ecstatic, all of nature is empathic.

Saint Teresa's ecstasy was similar.  A "transverberation," as she called it: inter-vibrancy.  For her, a castle was a keep, a place of safety and power, giving one shelter from all storms.  Yet, the inside, the radical interior, which always leads to another level of the chamber, always withdraws as we approach it.  But, there always is a trace.  One thus senses the infinite density within this realm of the interior, and one senses that this infinite density must be had by all things as divinely created beings.  Within the glassy surface of all things there is depth.

Now, as my research these days into Schelling progresses, my theory is that the psychoanalyst need not necessarily look further and further into the human person in order to flesh out the soul, the infinitely dense interior.  Rather, perhaps, we may turn to an aesthetics of sublimity on the outside, in that one that may probe into a radical material exterior in order to engage the spirit as well.  Does that exterior, too, withdraw from availing its sublime gift of the spirit?  May nature "out there" reveal soul, spirit?  Allow me come back to this idea in just a moment.

Fr. Barron writes of the spiritualists who write about this theme of the center, the "divine still point around which the self properly revolves."  In my own "speculative naturalism" this divine still point is in each object of nature, the center of each monadic perspective-point: a soul.  As Teresa's interior castle indicates, the things of this world may stand as places of evocation, each with their own interior castle, each with their own receding inner chambers.  The "inside" of those chambers are revealed through semiotic aesthetic expression to the other as mediated traces, yet are also immanently intuited as a feeling, a feeling out of and intuition "into" another soul or perspective, another deep world all of its own.

The above suggests that the human soul may rest confidently in Christ and find a place in Him wherein the mystical marriage unfolds.  But, for as much as Christ is in those who seek Him, those who seek refuge in Him, and lean on Him, the Word also became flesh, and so we are also in all partakers in God's body being one with the Holy Spirit as it is enfleshed in the Church and in the world.  Thus Christ is part of the mystical body of God with the Holy Spirit, Christ as that body's head. Or, in Plato's organic conception: there is the "body" of God, Christ the logos speaking God's sentience.  Or, from the Catholic Church: the church of God is God's mystical body with Christ as its head.  A panentheism of love (Hegel), or a cosmic body (Plato, Schelling).

With these topologies in mind, and wishing to turn toward the exterior, that great plane of immanence and the body of the virtual power constituting it, let me now return to my earlier thought and entertain for a moment what Emerson tells us with respect to nature being God's "Great Church" (nature being exterior and universal, being catholic).  The spirit is also the exterior nature, that which helps to construct the vital living material of the Great Church.

“Nature is my church, philosophy and poetry my scripture.”  - Emerson

“It [Christianity] is not yet one with the blowing clover and the falling rain.”  - Emerson

 I would like to, in the future, suggest that the supposed "fleshing out of [the] soul" in psychoanalysis, being an interior turn for most, is also possible in a turn toward the exterior material realm of the natural world, where such divisions unite and dissolve through the rhythms of nature "naturing."  Psychoanalysis and aesthetics join hands, then. Psychoanalysis, through a peculiar speculative aesthetic moment, becomes nonhuman, perhaps even suprahuman, focusing on the enfleshment of spirit; the ontological incarnating of nature: a revealing within materiality an infinite density of generative condition, or, the depth dimension of the spiritual pole - tragic and manic aspects of nature's God longing for wholeness and completion, in short: deity as it pertains in its innermost essence to natura naturans. The revelations within natura naturata. Speculative aesthetics as spiritual-nature revelation.

Would this result, then, outline the contours of a truly philosophical religion?: aesthetics being its crown - a result that Schelling and the early German romantics and idealists were seeking as they wrestled with an analysis of consciousness, nature, and (the unconscious drive of) spirit?


Thursday, May 3, 2012

couldn't have said it better myself

While polemical, Adam seems to be hitting the nail on the head HERE.  Highlights are,
Heidegger and Derrida are out, and with them the various approaches to philosophical discourse that proceed via commentary. Suspicion of system-building is out, and accordingly Hegel is reemerging as a major point of reference — and one must have very firm convictions about the proper reading of Hegel, dismissing vast swathes of the existing traditional commentary. More generally, caution and qualification seem to be out. We must boldly speculate into new realms, it seems, having developed our own axiomatic ontology by the age of 23...

I am unwilling to speculate out into the air, without the guardrail of working through the thoughts of those who have gone before me. The world will have to look elsewhere for a bold new form of jargon purporting to capture the essence of the things themselves.
I am, in short, an old man now. 
A few weeks back there was a kerfuffle in the blogosphere about "tradition" work.  As usual we got the same old response of "Saying that our speculative work has been done before doesn't contribute to the debate!" (a response that I have grown more than annoyed in hearing).

Absolutely, let's go beyond the commentary - let's go beyond name-dropping here and there or resurrecting the dead to do our work for us.  BUT, let's call a spade a spade.  When what you are doing is basically concept for concept in a new language game the same exact moves of philosopher x and y before you, then admit it. 

What's funny about Adam's response is that it's true. I enjoy all of Hegel, Derrida, and Heidegger.  I also enjoy Whitehead, Hartshorne, Bergson, and Peirce.  Consider me an old man, consider me unfashionable.

Back to reading my unfashionable and irrelevant Gilles Deleuze.  He is "just so 2009" you know.