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Idealistic Studies

Volume 37, Issue 2, Summer 2007

Michael Halley
Pages 105-120
DOI: 10.5840/idstudies20073723

Schelling’s Empiricism
A Transcendentalist’s Conversion

The viability of Schelling’s Philosophy of Identity depends on the maintenance and cultivation of a reciprocal relationship between internal and objective reality. To stay on course Schelling assiduously checked the conceptual answers he derived from subjective thought against the objective measurements of contemporary physics. As the physicists of his day came to question the materiality of light, Schelling conceptualized it as the outer limit of what the intelligence is capable of grasping intuitively. At the same time he criticized Hegel for ignoring knowledge altogether and for propagating a philosophy of ignorance. More than a century later Jacques Derrida recognized this characteristic in Hegel, but drew a contrary conclusion. Where Schelling counseled that rational philosophy should alter course and set sail toward a higher empiricism, Derrida insisted that in pushing rationality beyond its limits Hegel had sprung a trap of incomprehension and indeterminacy from which no one would or could henceforward escape. This essay evaluates the competing claims of Schelling and Derrida in light of the revolutionary advances of twentieth-century physics. Is this work indeed bringing forth a new world the mind qua mind cannot conceive or measure and liberating man from a prior constraint, or are the emerging physical directives of four dimensional space-time and a flat universe themselves possible only within the cloture de la representation where Derrida presumes to detain human kind indefinitely?