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Encyclopedia > Naturphilosophie

Naturphilosophie (philosophy of nature) was a current in the philosophical tradition of German idealism in the 19th century, particularly associated with Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph von Schelling and Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel. This Manual of Style has the simple purpose of making things easy to read by following a consistent format — it is a style guide. ... Socrates (central bare-chested figure) about to drink hemlock as mandated by the court. ... German Idealism was a philosophical movement in Germany in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. ... Alternative meaning: Nineteenth Century (periodical) (18th century — 19th century — 20th century — more centuries) As a means of recording the passage of time, the 19th century was that century which lasted from 1801-1900 in the sense of the Gregorian calendar. ... Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph von Schelling (January 27, 1775 – August 20, 1854) was a German philosopher. ... Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel [] (August 27, 1770 – November 14, 1831) was a German philosopher born in Stuttgart, Württemberg, in present-day southwest Germany. ...

The Fichtean method had striven to exhibit the whole structure of reality as the necessary implication of self-consciousness. The fundamental features of knowledge, whether as activity or as sum of apprehended fact, and of conduct had been deduced as elements necessary in the attainment of self-consciousness. Fichtean idealism therefore at once stood out negatively, as abolishing the dogmatic conception of the two real worlds, subject and object, by whose interaction cognition and practice arise, and as amending the critical idea which retained with dangerous caution too many fragments of dogmatism; positively, as insisting on the unity of philosophical interpretation and as supplying a key to the form or method by which a completed philosophic system might be constructed. But the Fichtean teaching appeared on the one hand to identify too closely the ultimate ground of the universe of rational conception with the finite, individual spirit, and on the other hand to endanger the reality of the world of nature by regarding it too much after the fashion of subjective idealism, as mere moment, though necessitated, in the existence of the finite thinking mind. It was almost a natural consequence that Fichte never succeeded in amalgamating with his own system the aesthetic view of nature to which the Kritik of Judgment had pointed as an essential component in any complete philosophy.

From Fichte's position Schelling started. From Fichte he derived the ideal of a completed whole of philosophic conception and also the formal method to which for the most part he continued true. The earliest writings tended gradually towards the first important advance. Nature must not be conceived as merely abstract limit to the infinite striving of spirit, as a mere series of necessary thoughts for mind. It must be that and more than that. It must have reality for itself, a reality which stands in no conflict with its ideal character, a reality the inner structure of which is ideal, a reality the root and spring of which is spirit. Nature as the sum of that which is objective, intelligence as the complex of all the activities making up self-consciousness, appear thus as equally real, as alike exhibiting ideal structure, as parallel with one another. The philosophy of nature and transcendental philosophy are the two complementary portions of philosophy as a whole.

Animated with this new conception Schelling made his hurried rush to Naturphilosophie, and with the aid of Kant and of fragmentary knowledge of contemporary scientific movements, threw off in quick succession the Ideen, the Weitseele, and the Erster Entwurf. Naturphilosophie has had scant mercy at the hands of modern science. Schelling had neither the strength of thinking nor the acquired knowledge necessary to hold the balance between the abstract treatment of cosmological notions and the concrete researches of special science. His efforts after a construction of natural reality are bad in themselves, and gave rise to wearisome and useless physical speculation. Yet it would be unjust to ignore the many brilliant and sometimes valuable thoughts that are scattered throughout the writings on Naturphilosophie--thoughts to which Schelling himself is but too frequently untrue. Regarded merely as a criticism of the notions with which scientific interpretation proceeds, these writings have still importance and might have achieved more had they been untainted by the tendency to hasty, ill-considered, a priori anticipations of nature. However, perhaps we are being too harsh here, and we should recall what Schelling wrote in his 1809 Freedom essay: "It cannot be denied that it is a splendid invention to be able to designate entire points of view at once with such general epithets. If one has once discovered the right label for a system, everything else follows of its own accord and one is spared the trouble of investigating its essential characteristics in greater detail." The terms a priori and a posteriori are used in philosophy to distinguish between two different types of propositional knowledge. ...

Nature, as having reality for itself, forms one completed whole. Its manifoldness is not then to be taken as excluding its fundamental unity; the divisions which our ordinary perception and thought introduce into it have not absolute validity, but are to be interpreted as the outcome of the single formative energy or complex of forces which is the inner aspect, the soul of nature This we are in a position to apprehend and constructively to exhibit to ourselves in the successive forms which its development assumes, for it is the same spirit, though unconscious, of which we become aware in self-consciousness. It is the realization of spirit. Nor is the variety of its forms imposed upon it from without; there is neither external teleology in nature, nor mechanism in the narrower sense. Nature is a whole and forms itself; within its range we are to look for no other than natural explanations. The function of Naturphilosophie is to exhibit the ideal as springing from the real, not to deduce the real from the ideal. The incessant change which experience brings before us, taken in conjunction with the thought of unity in' productive force of nature, leads to the all-important conception of the duality, the polar opposition through which nature expresses itself in its varied products. The dynamical series of stages in nature, the forms in which the ideal structure of nature is realized, are matter, as the equilibrium of the fundamental expansive and contractive forces; light, with its subordinate processes--magnetism, electricity, and chemical action; organism, with its component phases of reproduction, irritability and sensibility.

  1. Just as nature exhibits to us the series of dynamical stages of processes by which spirit struggles towards consciousness of itself, so the world of intelligence and practice, the world of mind, exhibits the series of stages through which self-consciousness with its inevitable oppositions and reconciliations develops in its ideal form. The theoretical side of inner nature in its successive grades from sensation to the highest form of spirit, the abstracting reason which emphasizes the difference of subjective and objective, leaves an unsolved problem which receives satisfaction only in the practical, the individualizing activity. The practical, again, taken in conjunction with the theoretical, forces on the question of the reconciliation between the free conscious organization of thought and the apparently necessitated and unconscious mechanism of the objective world. In the notion of a teleological connection and in that which for- spirit is its subjective expression, that is, art and genius, the subjective and objective find their point of union.
  2. Nature and spirit, Naturphilosophie and Transcendentalphilosophie, thus stand as two relatively complete, but complementary parts of the whole. It was impossible for Schelling, the animating principle of whose thought was ever the reconciliation of differences, not to take and to take speedily the step towards the conception of the uniting basis of which nature and spirit are manifestations, forms, or consequences. For this common basis, however, he did not succeed at first in finding any other than the merely negative expression of indifference. The identity, the absolute, which underlay all difference, all the relative, is to be characterized simply as neutrusn, as absolute undifferentiated self-equivalence. It lay in the very nature of this thought that Spinoza should now offer himself to Schelling as the thinker whose form of presentation came nearest to his new problem. The Darstellung meines Systems, and the more expanded and more careful treatment contained in the lectures on System der gesammten Philosophie und der Naturphilosophie insbesondere given in Würzburg, 1804 (published in the Sammtliche Werke, vol. vi. pp. 131-576), are thoroughly Spinozistic in form, and to a large extent in substance. They are not without value, indeed, as extended commentary on Spinoza. With all his efforts, Schelling does not succeed in bringing his conceptions of nature and spirit into any vital connexion with the primal identity, the absolute indifference of reason. No true solution could be achieved by resort to the mere absence of distinguishing, differencing feature. The absolute was left with no other function than that of removing all the differences on which thought turns. The criticisms of Fichte, and more particularly of Hegel (in the "Vorrede" to the Phenomenologie des Geistes), point to the fatal defect in the conception of the absolute as mere featureless identity.
  3. Along two distinct lines Schelling is to be found in all his later writings striving to amend the conception, to which he remained true, of absolute reason as the ultimate ground of reality. It was necessary, in the first place, to give to this absolute a character, to make of it something more than empty sameness; it was necessary, in the second place, to clear up in some way the relation in which the actuality or apparent actuality of nature and spirit

The briefest and best account in Schelling himself of Naturphilosophie is that contained in the Einleitung zu dern Ersten Entwurf (S. W. iii.). A full and lucid statement of Naturphilosophie is that given by K Fischer in his Gesch. d. n. Phil., vi. 433-692. Benedictus de Spinoza (November 24, 1632 – February 21, 1677), named Baruch Spinoza (Hebrew: ברוך שפינוזה) by his synagogue elders, and known as Bento de Espinosa or Bento dEspiñoza in his native Amsterdam, was a Jewish-Dutch philosopher. ...


  • This article incorporates text from the Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain.

Encyclopædia Britannica, the 11th edition The Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition (1910–1911) is perhaps the most famous edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica. ... The public domain comprises the body of all creative works and other knowledge—writing, artwork, music, science, inventions, and others—in which no person or organization has any proprietary interest. ...

See also

  • Vitalism - a Naturphilosophie-like idea in physiology. At the time of Naturphilosophie, it was heavily debated by physiologists and attacked by scientists such as Hermann von Helmholtz who wanted to reform physiology into a more mechanical and materialist science.
  • Witzany G. (2000). "Life: The Communicative Structure." Norderstedt: Libri Books on Demand. ISBN 3-8311-0349-6

  Results from FactBites:
SCHELLING, FRIEDRICH W... - Online Information article about SCHELLING, FRIEDRICH W... (4586 words)
It is not unfair to connect the apparent failings of Schelling's philosophizing with the very nature of the thinker and with the historical accidents of his career.
The function of Naturphilosophie is to exhibit the ideal as springing from the real, not to deduce the real from the ideal.
It was impossible for Schelling, the animating principle of whose thought was ever the reconciliation of differences, not to take and to take speedily the step towards the conception of the uniting basis of which nature and spirit are manifestations, forms, or consequences.
Ludwig Wittgenstein - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (6414 words)
To add insult to injury, those publishers who were interested proved to be mainly interested in the book because of Russell's introduction.
At last, Wittgenstein found a publisher in Wilhelm Ostwald's journal Annalen der Naturphilosophie, which printed a German edition in 1921, and in Routledge Kegan Paul, which printed a bilingual edition with Russell's introduction and the Ramsey-Ogden translation in 1922.
At the same time, Wittgenstein was a profoundly changed man: he had embraced the Christianity which previously he had opposed, faced harrowing combat in World War I, and succeeded in crystallizing the upheavals in his intellectual and emotional life with the exhausting composition of the Tractatus.
  More results at FactBites »



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