Public Programs And Events

 Bruce Matthews on "Schelling and the Normativity of Nature"

Bruce Matthews on "Schelling and the Normativity of Nature"

Wolff Conference Room, Room D1103, Albert and Vera List Academic Center
General Public 

Join the Philosophy Department for a lecture by Professor Bruce Matthews, Bard College/BHSEC.

In 1804 Schelling warned of the “annihilation of nature”, seeing this as a possible result of modernity’s characteristic duality that both facilitated the economic exploitation of nature, as well as providing the condition of possibility of metaphysics by divorcing the object world of physica rationalis from the subjective interiority of psychologia rationalis (I/5 274). Schelling’s writings not only offer a compelling diagnosis of modernity’s crisis in its alienation from and ongoing destruction of nature, they also offer resources in which we might find the means to create a viable, constructive response that argues for a new understanding of our relation to nature. One such avenue of investigation is to develop and advance the idea of the normativity of nature. Axiomatic for this exercise is adopting Schelling’s position that every metaphysical concept is equally ethical, a position that follows from his position that theoretical and practical reason are differentiated yet complementary parts of the larger whole of philosophy (I/5 276). The normativity of nature is thus just as much an ethical position as it is ontological and epistemological.

The definition here sought seeks a slightly more coherent and thus robust definition of the relation between mind and world than that provided by McDowell, thereby clearly avoiding the pitfalls of unconstrained coherentism and brute naturalism. Material for this definitional attempt comes from the young Schelling’s insistence on integrating sensuous content into philosophy’s formalism, a move which leads him to invert Kant’s dynamic categories over the mathematical, which in turn animates Kant’s regulative ideas into the constitutive force whose dynamic trajectory seeks unity in the finality of nature. The epistemological consequences of this inversion will be examined by comparing the normativity of nature to the Space of Reasons, after which I will offer a speculative reinterpretation of Schelling’s idea of a Mythology of Nature.

Bruce Matthews
Bard College/BHSEC, professor of philosophy, research in German Idealism and Romanticism, with a focus on life and thought of F.W.J. Schelling, whose recent work revolves around Schelling’s critique of modernity with its anticipation of, as he wrote in 1804, ‘the annihilation of nature,’ and its relevance to the Anthropocene. 

Presented by the Philosophy Department at The New School for Social Research



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