Volume 4, 2011
Selected Essays from Northern Europe
Schelling’s Organism and Merleau-Ponty’s Flesh
Merleau-Ponty’s 1956/1957 lectures on Nature show that his late philosophy of the flesh in Le visible et l’invisible was preceded by a study of Schelling’s philosophy of nature. But what is Schelling’s Naturphilosophie like, and what does Merleau-Ponty actually inherit from it? This article gives an overview of the different stages of Schelling’s philosophy of nature, that starts as a transcendental philosophy of natural sciences, develops through a metaphysics of nature’s productivity and takes finally the form of a peculiar ontology of “gravity” and “light.” Then it shows how Merleau-Ponty’s idea of “flesh” repeats Schelling’s idea of nature as “organism,” except for one thing: relying on “perceptive faith” instead of “reason,” it refuses the general overview on the organic totality of nature and rests embedded in the tissue of flesh. Finally, pointing at a critical confrontation with Schelling that is lacking in Merleau-Ponty, the article weighs the pertinence of Schelling’s ideas for us, today.