Friday, February 15, 2013

Schelling's Logic and the Characteristics of the Absolute

As a philosopher, there are some works that leave me utterly speechless. I must admit that Schelling's lecture On the Nature of Philosophy as Science was one of those occasions that left me thinking about his ideas long after I finished the text. It goes to show how just a mere thirty pages of text can leave individuals with open minds in complete awe of logic. In class, this past Thursday, we discussed the work. My professor admitted that this particular work called for a  discussion instead of a traditional lecture about the material. I felt comforted to know that another thinker realized the true beauty of Schelling's claims.

Friedrich Schelling's lecture covers the topic of the human subject; a seemingly cliche topic of philosophy - no doubt. However, his writing and his process through logical claims is truly astounding, and makes even the most ubiquitous subject a pleasure to read. His main logical argument concerning the absolute can be simply symbolized thus:

1. A
2. S⇢O
3. ~S
4. K ∙ I
∴ 5. ~S⇢S
Scheme of abbreviation:
A = Philosophers want to figure out the subject that underlies everything
S = Subject
O = Object
K = Knowledge is lost about the subject
I = The philosopher becomes ignorant of the subject

As a general overview of his conclusion apart from logical terms, Schilling asserts that the underlying subject of reality only becomes feasible when the human mind notices the indefinable nature of this experience. In his own words he writes about this realization: "... the indefinable itself, the aspect of the subject that cannot be defined, has to be made the definition." This conclusion is explained when Schilling uses Socrates to allude to his admonition of "...not knowing anything." From this awareness, true wisdom becomes possible. When working from a foundation that is indefinable, there is a certain "ecstasy" that overwhelms the philosopher.  This allows him/her to see (or feel?) the nature of the Absolute.

Another astounding characteristic of Schelling's logic in this lecture deals with the concept of God in relation to the Absolute. He is quick to acknowledge the fact that these two manifestations (that is the only term I can think of to explain his use of the comparison) are inherently different. When further explaining the incomprehensible nature of the Absolute, Schelling writes: "Those who want to gain command of the completely free and self-generating science must rise to its level. Here we have to depart from everything finite, from everything that is still an entity, and our last attachments must dwindle. Here we must leave everything... even God. For from this standpoint God, too, is only an entity... the absolute subject is not not God, and it is not God either, it is also that which is not God. Hence, in this respect it is above God..."

As one of my classmates humorously pointed out, this seems like "theism with a funny hat." However, it could be possible that Schelling wished to say that this Absolute is something that exists on a plane above all of existence - perhaps morality in its Platonic form. I do admit that this is speculation, and I need to read further into Schelling's views. For the time being, I will bask in the astounding logic of this lecture. 

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