Volume 50, Issue 1, Spring 2020
Metaphysics’ Accountability Gap
Hegel and Schelling on Reason’s Authority
This article suggests a frame for thinking together Hegel and Schelling’s competing mature approaches to metaphysics. It argues that both reject modern metaphysics’ belief that there exists such a thing as the “world’s ontology.” In their mature philosophies, Hegel and Schelling develop metaphysical approaches based on what I call the “accountability gap.” For Hegel, reason is a matter of thinking under conceptual presuppositions we come to know and evaluate in hindsight. Hegel gives up on the modern rationalist idea that reason can in principle account for what the world is like without introducing assumptions. In the Logic, he concludes that metaphysics should be reconsidered along the lines of normative authority by freeing it of the commitment to thorough accountability. I describe a similar process in Schelling’s post-1809 metaphysics. In his middle period, Schelling describes traditional metaphysics as unable to account for reason’s creative basis. Reason gets its bearings creatively in a way systematic thinking cannot account for from within. Schelling concludes that reason’s authority arises from “creative storytelling” and not from laying out the world’s ontology. This paper argues for an accountability gap as a helpful construct to draw out the stakes of Hegel and Schelling’s metaphysics.