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The Antinomy of the Organic, or How Visibility Can Coincide with Blind Mechanism in Nature: A Comparative Study of Kant’s Philosophy of Nature and Schelling’s Naturphilosophie

Núñez de Cáceres González, Bárbara; (2019) The Antinomy of the Organic, or How Visibility Can Coincide with Blind Mechanism in Nature: A Comparative Study of Kant’s Philosophy of Nature and Schelling’s Naturphilosophie. Masters thesis (M.Phil.Stud), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

This is a comparative study between Kant’s and Schelling’s approaches regarding the antithesis between mechanism and teleology in nature. I show how this opposition is reformulated in Schelling’s Naturphilosophie, and how he ultimately resolves it as an opposition of epistemic attitudes towards nature. My conclusion is that Schelling’s outcome is similar but in inverse fashion to Kant’s. According to Kant, the antithesis is the result of a conflict between capacities in their proclivity to put forward their own maxims, which themselves are mutually exclusive. The outlook of the conflict looks like this: on the one hand, reflective judgement places its maxim, which states that some natural products, namely, living beings, cannot be judged to be possible in terms of mechanical laws. On the other hand, understanding affirms that if not explainable through natural laws, then living beings entail a different kind of causality. The two maxims, antithesis and thesis respectively, thus assume two different types of causality. The former is a causality that appears to be governed by purposes, the latter appears to be mechanical, but if we suppose that some natural products are possible only if conceived as purposes, then we face the contradictory scenario of trying to fit an uncaused causality (freedom) in a world determined by mechanical relations, which per se rules out any possibility of freedom. Kant’s solution to the conflict is to restrict the maxims to their proper place as regulative functions of reason, so the principle of purposiveness has no claims over objective truth. Schelling’s solution, on the other hand, is not merely formal but ontological. In his works on Naturphilosophie, Schelling developed a monistic approach to reality as a unitary whole constituted by opposing aspects that are reconciled only through the original principle of philosophy and nature. Such a framework inverts the explanatory role and ontological status of mechanism and teleology in nature: the latter expressing a constitutive and original principle of nature as a whole; the former, demoted as an explanatory strategy pertaining to empirical investigation. In this dissertation I show that, once Schelling demotes mechanism to a derivative, partial and merely functional approach, it no longer can oppose teleology constitutively and therefore the contradiction disappears. Moreover, I also explain that in Schelling’s framework the cognitive dissonance between capacities of reason still obtains. It is precisely the epistemic difference of function and scope between discursive understanding and intellectual intuition what gives us access to nature through two opposing perspectives: intellectual intuition, the proper philosophical one, gives us access to the productivity of totality; reflection, the empirical one, which is subsidiary, gives us collections of facts and isolated products. According to Schelling, by means of a shift in attitude, from reflection to intuition, the philosopher is able overcome the initial opposition by showing that, before the organic totality of nature, mechanism is not one of its constitutive principles originally.

Type: Thesis (Masters)
Qualification: M.Phil.Stud
Title: The Antinomy of the Organic, or How Visibility Can Coincide with Blind Mechanism in Nature: A Comparative Study of Kant’s Philosophy of Nature and Schelling’s Naturphilosophie
Event: University College London
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © The Author 2019. Original content in this thesis is licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) Licence (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/). Any third-party copyright material present remains the property of its respective owner(s) and is licensed under its existing terms. Access may initially be restricted at the author’s request.
Keywords: Antinomy, Teleology, Mechanism, Purposiveness, Naturphilosophie
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Dept of Philosophy
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10071803
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