Reiner Schürmann’s The Philosophy of Nietzsche, edited by Francesco Guercio, provides a comprehensive detailing of the philosopher’s corpus while interpreting it largely through the lens of Kantian Transcendentalism. Schürmann claims that Kant’s transcendental philosophy is the horizon of Nietzsche’s transvaluation of all values and roots each element of Nietzsche’s thought in the Kantian concept from which he believes it actually derives. Schürmann claims this is necessary «to understand the horizon within which Nietzsche’s transvaluation of all values, and primarily his transvaluation of reason and truth, actually applies (17).» By interpreting Nietzsche in this way Schürmann is eventually able to derive a moral imperative from Nietzsche’s transvaluation of the will through the concept of eternal recurrence.
Nietzsche claims to be the first to question the founders of religion and philosophy seriously but it is Kant, according to Schürmann, who really did so, and Nietzsche is radicalizing this critique. Nietzsche criticizes Kant as having won a victory over dogmatic traditions only to open a secret path for them to work their ideals back into philosophy, which is why he seeks to go beyond Kant by criticizing truth itself (21).
The quest for truth, in Nietzsche’s view, is seen as a symptom and he targets the individual seeking it. While this might seem to invoke truth and reason as criteria and thus undercut the raising of the question in the first place, Schürmann believes Nietzsche avoids this pitfall by associating the question with a certain type of person or will. Because philosophers have so far failed to make this association, their prejudice remains masked. Schürmann believes that this is still a transcendental quest, however, arguing that it is compatible with Kant’s definition (23). The conditions of truth in Nietzsche are defined in terms of the truthful person. Reason is a tool for the purposes of life itself, thus Nietzsche’s genealogy of reason can be seen as a continuation of the Kantian project.
Transcendentalism is a tracing back of phenomena to their condition of possibility in the subject. This is core to both Kant’s and Nietzsche’s transcendentalism, with one key difference. In Kant, this is forms of knowledge, in Nietzsche, it is will types. The a-priori forms are then distinct life types or wills.
In The Birth of Tragedy, Nietzsche praises Kant for making philosophy creative instead of contemplative. However, Nietzsche began to observe the negative effects of Kant through a despair of truth, and believes this led Kant back into the cages of dogma and God. This is why Nietzsche wants to radicalize Kant’s critique. Schürmann draws our attention away from the detail of Nietzsche’s aphorisms, which he takes to be easily understandable, and instead examines the many different points of view Nietzsche takes, which are often contradictory. We are then meant to approach his concepts with an emphasis on nuance, multiplicity, and interwoven forces at play, as opposed to deducing some common unifying thread.
Schürmann says that everything from Zarathustra onward should be read with quotation marks, as Nietzsche distancing himself from the specific affirmations because Western language is contaminated with a faith in reason. Schürmann thinks this leads to an illusory reification through language. It is the Platonic structure of our language that sets us as unlike each other and identifies types abstractly, thus generating the illusion that some ideal prototype could be discovered and give us a science of that which we speak. In other words, the establishment of a mean among many is core to the very function and flow of our language, which disguises the rather nebulous nature of being in something artificial.
Kant reduced the self (identity) to form and function while Nietzsche believed it is dissolved entirely once traced back. The instinct or drive to discover stable principles is one of fear, a fear of a loss of identity, because our notion of identity is not metaphysically stable. Thus Schürmann believes that for Nietzsche the cardinal principle of logic appears to be the principle of identity. So, if identity is dissolved at the level of a-priori forms (will), logic does not have transcendental application.
Nietzsche’s transcendentalism as a genealogy of life forms amounts to radical criticism because it is leveled against faith in reason and truth itself. This criticism cannot be carried out in ordinary language so it takes place in the background of another truth that Schürmann believes should be taken with quotation marks, tragic truth. In tragic truth our instinct for truth reconciles itself in the insight that the only taste of a stable backdrop we can have comes from our dissolution into nothing, the opposite of metaphysical truth which then turns out to be the only one. Nietzsche shifting the question away from what truth is to where do truth and reason arise is exemplified in his critique of Socrates as the symptom of decadence and emblematic of a particular type of will. This also serves as a genealogy of not only truth, but the type of will that finds it so appealing. The history of truth as error shows “how the real world became a fable” and this part of Nietzsche’s work, Schürmann claims, is preparatory for tragic truth that can act as a protagonist.
Kant takes appearance to be, among other things, manifestations. Nietzsche rejects this in favor of preserving the beauty of things as presented. Nietzsche does not deny synthetic a priori judgments, but he denies that such judgments produce any objectivity in the sense of a transcendental science (47). Instead of asking how such judgments are possible, Nietzsche asks why our belief in such judgments is necessary. The objective validity of such judgments is, to Nietzsche, a value for someone and is necessary for life.
Schürmann believes Nietzsche uses Kant’s own insights to dismantle the Kantian quest for knowledge. What we call knowledge is, according to Nietzsche, only a schematization of chaotic sense reality for practical vital needs. Schürmann directs the reader’s attention to an emphasis on the body given by Nietzsche as evidence of chaotic reality. The practical need for schematizing and simplifying is then to resist the thrashing of chaos, but the body shows us that this resistance is futile in the long run, and instead serves our purposes during life alone.
Schürmann points out that Heidegger identifies Nietzsche as still within the Platonic tradition because of his poeticizing prior to reasoning out his concepts, something Plato does in Phaedrus. Schürmann believes this is an oversight on Heidegger’s part because the “prior-poeticizing” in Nietzsche is actually the transcendental grounds for truth in service of life (51). In other words, poeticizing is ontologically prior to reason in Nietzsche’s account.
The tragedy of ideal truth, understood historically, undertakes epochal turns at the moment of a “self-emptying” of values, also known as nihilism. The will to power is Nietzsche’s final conceptual understanding of the play of tragedy on truth and the various forms and emergences of nihilism. Schürmann focuses heavily on historical nihilism, but he does provide explanations for all forms of nihilism addressed by Nietzsche. Furthermore, linking nihilism with his broader attempt to explain Nietzsche’s work as a radicalization of the Kantian project, he says that because Kant placed ideas about totality in thinking and the human mind alone they had to inevitably be denounced as nothingness.
Schürmann interprets the will to power differently than Heidegger and Kaufmann (68). He views it through the notion of historical decadence culminating in Nietzsche’s passage in Twilight of the Idols called “How the ‘true world’ became a fable.” Schürmann takes a phenomenological approach and comes to describe it as a playing out of forms which through time is a perpetual attempt at configuration. The will to power is most evident as the means of distinction between epochs. To break from epochal influences is to assume control of one’s reality, transvaluating its activities into joyful creations. This phenomenological view puts struggle at the heart of all that there is and invokes a need to resist getting too carried away with useful fictions.
For Schürmann, the very phenomenology of the will to power makes for a verbal understanding of being. Nietzsche’s gift-giving virtue is a horizontal transfer of knowledge motivated by love. Its necessity for action and the emptying of power (knowledge) makes for a highly verbal description of ethical life. After examining the grounds of what he calls Nietzsche’s practical philosophy, the will to power emerges as the differentiating principle within the flux of forces. For Schürmann, the moral imperative derived from the will to power is then along the lines of “do justice to that flux (85).”
Nietzsche sees himself as the first philosopher to compare many moralities as part of the same phenomenon, opposed to his predecessors who attempted to understand a “correct” morality (90). The bad conscience that takes hold as a result of allowing oneself to live in service of one of these moralities is an example of assuming an inherited role instead of assuming control of reality. The result of Nietzsche’s critique is that “Kant is turned against himself: if morality is ‘common,’ then what is moral is to show what commonly happens, namely the a-moral aggregation of forces for which Western morality is but a disguise (94).”
Schürmann interprets the eternal recurrence as a transvaluation of both time and will. It is a movement from “thou shalt” to “I will” to the “free spirit.” Once eternal recurrence is fully thought, the selective essence contained within moments is revealed and creative choice becomes accessible. The wills of others is then transvaluated and one’s own will can live through the body and time goes from a succession of events narrated by a prior will into the now and its perpetual repetition of moments. Thus time goes from a particular life to be endured through one’s given role to a continuous return of opportunities for joy; from “a life” to “life.”
Nietzsche’s project of radical enlightenment robs us of the chance to systematize ethics, but Schürmann believes that the heavy moral imperative derived from the eternal recurrence, that of facing the consequences of each action as if we had to do so for eternity, is a chance to universalize ethical thinking in a different way. The moral imperative derived from Nietzsche is then identified as a kind of Hereclitean justice. To do justice is to homologize one’s logos with the strife of existence. The homologizing of living and thinking is meant to avoid the very essence of injustice, which is to be selective of certain forces over others. In other words, injustice can be understood as a breach in the process of thinking one’s way through life in a manner that is compatible with the flux.
Schürmann’s coverage of Nietzsche is comprehensive and detailed. It succeeds in its task of establishing him within the broader philosophical discourse. While some of the conclusions Schürmann draws are thought in a manner compatible with his own, particularly in relation to the tragic double bind, I see no reason to think of them as uncharitable or unreasonable. Any reader would walk away from this book with a firm grasp of core Nietzschean concepts, but that is not all. In this work one finds the beginning of an altogether different Nietzsche, a positive Nietzsche. While we have been thoroughly treated to Nietzsche’s negative concepts through his reclamation in the 20th century, Schürmann successfully pulls back the veil on a vast reservoir of thought that is, as of yet, largely untouched. For anyone looking to do serious work on Nietzsche in the future, it is my firm opinion that this will be a fundamental and necessary text.
From a first look at the Table of Contents of Peter Dews’s Schelling’s Late Philosophy in Confrontation with Hegel (OUP USA, 2023), one gets already the impression of seeing the intertitles of Schelling’s works and central philosophical preoccupations: nature, agency, identity, thinking, being, idea, blind-existingness, mythological consciousness, reason, revelation, history, liberation, and genealogy. Already here the reader suspects an ambitious endeavor, which is then confirmed by the length of the work (311 densely written pages), which is accompanied by a Preface, Notes on Translations and References, Notes on Terminology, List of Abbreviations, and then includes an Introduction, 9 Chapters, 3 Figures, Bibliography and Index. This ambitious endeavor is then further confirmed but also achieved by the reading of the book.
As the author writes in the Preface, the aim of the book is the following:
Studying the confrontation between Schelling and Hegel promises not only to promote a better comprehension of the inner life of German Idealism as a whole, but can throw light on many questions which continue to surge up for those who seek to grapple philosophically with the modern world, and the forms of human existence, agency, and self-understanding which it has fostered. (Dews 2023, xii)
Thus, we already see the intention of not just another book on the history of philosophy recounting the theories and ideas of the philosophers announced in the title (Schelling, Hegel), but also, as justified by the reading of the book, nearly an overview of German Idealism and of the modern world, as well as of the notions examined, such as existence, being, agency, nature, etc. However, the book achieves much more than this. We see a parade of unsuspected philosophers along the pages, such as, except from Schelling and Hegel, Aristotle, Spinoza, Kant, Fichte, Leonhard Reinhold, Jacobi, Heidegger, Sartre, and others, including many scholars writing on them.
I found the Notes on Terminology especially helpful, clarifying and precise. With them we get in direct touch with the German original (Aufheben/Aufhebung; Das reine Daß; Potenz; Das Seyende; Das Existirende; Das Existiren; Das unvordenkliche Seyn; Das urständliche Seyn), we see the translation/transcription choices of the author being justified and juxtaposed with those of other philosophers/scholars, and we avoid many misconceptions, assumptions, and misinterpretations, since similar or the same words are also used by other philosophers, and we might read Schelling with their apparatus, or to cite Donna Haraway, with their “situated knowledges”. Peter Dews already mentions such confusion and misinterpretations, or even biases, when reading Schelling or any other philosophers, and when it comes to understanding or interpreting them through the lens, the nomenclature and the concepts of another, especially when this other has been more influential in their time, as it happens with the case of Heidegger, who seems to intrude in every understanding and interpretation of even philosophers before him. Especially so in the case of the philosophers that influence Heidegger, and the works of whom he un-remorselessly usurps, who become themselves, within scholarship, only as their Heidegger doppelgänger. Even more specifically in the case of Schelling, who “has been on” Heidegger since the moment that Heidegger “had been on him”. Peter Dews writes:
Although Schelling is not entirely consistent, his use of “das Seyende” and “das Seyn” can therefore be regarded, very roughly, as reversing the polarity which these terms have in Heidegger. This is worth noting since the Heideggerian influence on recent European philosophy has led even some translators of Schelling into error. One should also bear in mind that Schelling no doubt intended to replicate the grammar of Aristotle’s most general term for being, “το ὂν” (to on), a nominalized present participle. (xviii)
Following the Notes on Terminology, particularly helpful are also the Abbreviations, since apart from their necessity in looking back at them while reading the book, they are also, simultaneously, lists of the works of the main philosophers employed (Kant, Fichte, Hegel, Schelling, Sartre, and others) both in their original language and in English. Furthermore, I particularly appreciate the note on Gendered Language towards the end of the Abbreviations section, together with the notes on Orthography that add to the precision and the wide critical abilities demonstrated in this book, which are not limited into the usual and mere claustrophobic examination of a particular author or a particular historical philosophical era.
What I particularly appreciated in the Introduction, except from the very concise outline of the chapters, are some general comments regarding both the contemporary status of research on German Idealism and on Schelling, but also the historical milieu around Schelling’s thought, in relation to his contemporaries and especially Hegel. Concerning the first, Peter Dews notices that German Idealism (and in general the German Philosophy after Kant), as well as “its less systematic complement, Jena Romanticism” (1), are not only preoccupying the thought and scholarship of philosophers and scholars in the continental tradition, but there is an upsurge of interest by some analytic schools as well. This is something that, I would add, is seen not only with the employment of post-Kantian German philosophers by analytic philosophy, but also with other figures of continental thought, as for example the Phenomenologists. Moreover, as Peter Dews observes, in order to understand the “awkwardness in the reception of Schelling’s thought, we need to consider the dominant orientation of the new wave of research on the German Idealist period, which began in the late twentieth century, with an initial focus on Hegel” (2). And it is mostly this latter awkwardness that he clarifies in the Introduction. This constant juxtaposition and comparison not only of Schelling with his contemporaries, but also with “modern frames of reference” (14 and elsewhere; where with “modern” he means contemporary and not “modern” as a historical period), is something that constitutes the leitmotif of the book. In the Conclusion, Peter Dews even employs in his analysis the very modern-postmodern “hermeneutics of suspicion” (Marx, Nietzsche, Freud) (15; 281-283).
While studying the chapters one by one, –one can find a brief outline of them at the end of the Introduction (12-16), so that I do not merely repeat it here–, what I found most appealing and even positively surprising is how, despite having been studying Schelling for many years, many aspects of his philosophy have become much clearer to me, as I suppose will become for other readers, too. Moreover, the interconnections between notions, ideas, and theories all over his philosophy, or of ones used in specific works of his, have also been allocated a more concrete order of understanding. More so, concepts, theories, ideas, and notions from Aristotle, Hegel, Heidegger, and Sartre, have attained a clearer sense, through their interpretation by Shelling via Dews, and also through their comparison and juxtaposition with Schelling, who are, simultaneously, constantly compared, juxtaposed and interpreted through one another on the first stratum, and on the second stratum or “image of thought”, as Deleuze would say it, through or via Dews. I am referring here to notions major not only to these specific philosophers but paramount within Philosophy itself: myth-ology, reality, essence, not-being, non-being, becoming, nothing-ness, consciousness, nature, spirit, subject-object, agency, potentiality, actuality, dependency, freedom, necessity, autonomy, the “ontological argument”, etc. This book becomes, thus, nearly a storytelling narrative of characters and their exchanges, where the author becomes actively one of them. This is what philosophy is supposed to do, anyway, and Peter Dews has done it perfectly, with the end result becoming a book that is also pleasurable and grasping to read; another attribute or “virtue” sine qua non of good philosophizing.
I will now give some highlights from the book, which cannot be but bound to personal preferences and “decisions”, as is always the case, either when implicitly or explicitly stated. Taking the opportunity from the reference to “decisions”, and since I have a personal interest in “philosophical decisions”, especially as meant by François Laruelle, but also as implied by Friedrich Nietzsche (“ephexis from interpretation”) and others, I will at first mention some instances where in Peter Dews’s book I found some ideas that reminded me of these Laruellian philosophical “ideals”, either as interpretations and characterizations of certain philosophies and philosophers, or as direct quotations. Of course, almost certainly without the intention of Peter Dews, but still I find the mere fact of using or quoting these phases already as a testimony to a commitment to pluralism, democracy, and a withholding or suspension of a final decision (which would otherwise mean a dogmatism, and an authoritarianism, in which philosophers, according to Laruelle, engage as per usual, but which is unlike his ideals of Non-Philosophy that actually means his ideals of Philosophy itself, outside the discrepancies and the aberrances of its actual history). I am particularly referring to the characterization of “theoretical agnosticism” (146) (which, here, goes to Kant and specifically for his approach on the existence of the Ideal, but it can stand alone without Kant or this specific philosophical idea). Then in the section on the “transition from the Idea to the ‘External Existence’ in Hegel”, Peter Dews, gives attention to what Hegel emphasizes to be the reason for or the why of “the shift from the domain of logic to nature”. In Peter Dews’s words:
Hegel emphasizes that the shift from the domain of logic to nature is not a “having become” (Gewordensein) or a “transition” (Übergang), that it is “free” (that is, not a logical consequence), and that it is the result of a “decision” (Entschluβ—arguably, this follows from its characterization as free, once we rule out—as Hegel must—the existence of the world as random) (SL: 752– 753/W20, 6: 573). In light of this, the best sense to be made of the major scene- change within his system seems to be the following. The circular closure of the sphere of logic as a whole both confirms the internal self-sufficiency of the sphere and reveals it as determinate or limited—as the sphere of what is “still as yet logical” (noch logisch). This one-sidedness generates the philosophical drive to move into another sphere. (155)
Here, I shall boldly accentuate the words: decision (Entschluβ), self-sufficiency, and philosophical drive. This paragraph could have been written, I think, by Laruelle, too. Decision could take the notion of the “philosophical decision” that each philosopher arrives to when formulating a theory, with which decision one forms a sphere of thought, or an “image of thought”, which one believes it is philosophically “sufficient” or self-sufficient and thus becomes enclosed and limited by one’s own formulations and decision and by the sphere of thought one has created and attach oneself to. This “belief” in the sufficiency of their philosophical decision stems from the general illusion of a sufficiency of philosophical thought and in repercussion of one’s own philosophical thought, which can do without any other form of thought either philosophical or other. Here Peter Dews, through Hegel, or Hegel through Peter Dews, seems to have the same intuition or ideal for philosophy that Laruelle has, by saying that there exists a “philosophical drive” towards moving “into another sphere”. This “philosophical drive” seems quite Nietzschean as well, as Nietzsche sees the philosopher as the sapio <sapere>, that is, the one that tastes from idea to idea, without remaining or being grasped by or clinging to any of them; namely, without arriving at a final decision, but by keeping “an ephexis in interpretation” [Ephexis in der Interpretation], as Nietzsche says, where interpretation and decision, I propose, can be used interchangeably. This is how Nietzsche defines philology or the philological method, as “an ephexis in interpretation” [Philologie als Ephexis in der Interpretation], which he also employs in his philosophy as well. This ephexis is also at the core of the Nietzschean type of skepticism. A little bit later in the book, Dews examines the notion of dependency (156, 164-170, and elsewhere), which is also existing in Aristotle and is quite known in analytic philosophy as “ontological dependency” or “existential dependency”, and it can be also seen in a more Nietzschean, Laruellian and even Hegelian sense, where each idea, and each system, sphere, or “image of thought”, as well as, more broadly, each discipline of thought, and each discourse, is dependent on all others, thus one alone cannot be ontologically efficient and sufficient (self-sufficient), even if it can be separated for the sake of epistemological analysis. Peter Dews has a worth mentioning comment/conclusion on this epistemological/ontological separation, in connection with Schelling’s distinction/separation between Positive and Negative Philosophy:
Arguably, if we wish to sustain an explanatory project of the Idealist kind, committed to the ultimate satisfaction of reason, yet also to separate epistemological from metaphysical monism, we cannot avoid a distinction comparable to that drawn by Schelling between negative and positive philosophy. Negative philosophy is the domain of the “eternal truths.” Positive philosophy, as we shall explore in more detail in the next chapter, begins from the Daβ— which Schelling also terms the “un-pre-thinkable” (das Unvordenkliche), or, more disquietingly, “blind existing-ness” (das Blindexistierende). (170)
In order to clarify what is Negative Philosophy in Schelling, I quote some passages from Peter Dews:
Schelling’s negative philosophy is a large, complex structure, consisting of a philosophy of nature and a philosophy of spirit. (140)
[…] “purely rational” (reinrationale) philosophy […] “logical’ philosophy” […]. (117)
[…] negative philosophy elaborates an a priori theory of the structures of being; […]. (117)
In negative philosophy, thought turns back on itself, reflecting on the manner in which it is logically compelled to think pure being. (118)
[…] the legacy of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. Schelling’s suggestion is that, in these thinkers, “dialectic” plays the role of negative philosophy […]. (118)
In the thought of Socrates, as portrayed by Plato, dialectic plays a ground-clearing role, destroying the illusory knowledge of Sophists and Eleatics, but it does not culminate in any positive theory. It is in this context that Socrates’ claim to uniqueness in knowing that he does not know acquires its significance. His lack of knowledge is a docta ignorantia, which refers both backwards and forwards. (118)
Aristotle’s thought presents a very different picture, however, since he purges Greek philosophy of its mythological dimension, and—in the Metaphysics—develops a style of thinking which Schelling regards as a precursor of his own negative philosophy. […] There are two fundamental features of Aristotle’s thinking which are significant in this respect. The first is Aristotle’s denial that the structure of the ideas, as understood by Plato, can play any role in explaining the existence of things. In this context, Schelling refers to Aristotle’s criticism of “the confusion which arises . . . when the logical order is confused with the order of being,” with the upshot that “inevitably the real causes of being are mistaken for the merely formal principles of science” (GPP: 160/SW, II/3: 101). (119)
In effect, on Schelling’s reading, Aristotle “suppressed” the elements of a positive philosophy which were already present in Plato’s dialogues in the form of a “mere anticipation” (GPP: 164/SW, II/3: 107); that is to say, in the form of the mythical or eschatological discourse to which Plato was unable to establish a strictly philosophical transition from the domain of dialectic. (120)
Negative Philosophy is a categorization having sense only next to what Schelling calls Positive Philosophy:
[…] “historical’ philosophy” (117)
[…] the task of positive philosophy is to confront the bare fact of the world’s existence, and—operating abductively—to frame the most comprehensive explanation it can for the inner dynamic of nature and the evolving history of human consciousness. (117)
In positive philosophy, by contrast, it begins from one supreme fact—that the world exists—and seeks to frame an account of nature and the history of human consciousness, which, in a hermeneutic circle, is both guided by, and constitutes an ongoing confirmation of, its inaugural hypothesis concerning the intelligibility of the world’s existence. (118)
[…] the concerns central to positive philosophy are explored primarily through the medium of myth. (118)
(He [Schelling] suggests that what can be classified as “positive” in Aristotle’s thought—in other words, not purely constructible by reason—is only the empirical data, which are examined for the purpose of framing definitions that can then be used in syllogistic inference.) (119)
This illusion of sufficiency or independency of each philosophy or philosophical decision, theory, system, etc., or of Logic over what Hegel calls Realphilosophie, or of Negative Philosophy over Positive Philosophy, as Schelling calls it, and vice versa, is evident here. There is, in fact, an intra-dependency of decisions within Philosophy and of types of Philosophy, and an inter-dependency between Philosophy and the other disciplines or domains of thought. All these types of philosophy or “kinds of philosophical activity” (117) or “modes of philosophizing”, as Dews calls them (118), both in Hegel and in Schelling, (Dews clarifies them throughout his book), are precisely, as I see it, what Hegel, too, tried to avoid through his dialectical method, and accordingly what the aforementioned philosophers (Laruelle, Nietzsche) attempted to avoid with their own approaches and methodologies. Peter Dews quotes the following passage from Hegel, where again there is an anachronistic “reference” to the Laruellian philosophical decision, and to what Hegel gives as the why of “the shift from the domain of logic to nature”, the answer to which is “decision”, which as he says in the passage quoted here, does not need to have “any inner reason, in actual fact, as the French say, sans rime ni raison”. These can also have correspondences with Deleuze’s philosophical presuppositions, which often become the reasons sans rime ni raison for a (philosophical) decision. I quote:
Because Hegel’s logical domain is entirely self-sufficient, we would be required to suppose that: The very idea which is first presented as the most perfect, and which no dialectic could have any further power over, that this idea, without having any inner reason, in actual fact, as the French say, sans rime ni raison, could break apart into this world of contingent things, opaque to reason and resistant to the concept. (SET: 63/SW, II/1: 584) (168)
As a further comment on the above, I think that all criticisms between philosophers are due to their illusion of the independency and sufficiency of their proper philosophy, and the reflex towards a direct proximity to interpretation (rather than an ephexis from it); this was, I think, Deleuze’s intuition too, and thus his disrelish for criticism. Edmund Husserl’s notion of “regional ontology” or “ontological region” is also relevant here as well as in connection to the aforementioned ideas/methodologies of Laruelle, but I will not go into more detail here.
Moreover, I think that Peter Dews in this book exemplifies what Laruelle, again, phrases as the “democracy of all thought”, since I did not anywhere catch any pejorative statement or a hierarchy or a court-like mono-defense of one or the other of his philosophical protagonists.
What I would also like to highlight is the extent to which Peter Dews’s book manages to both clarify and juxtapose the following fundamentally philosophical-ontological terms/concepts in Schelling, and the neighboring ones in Hegel, Aristotle, Spinoza, Fichte (see, especially, pp. 40-41, where the concepts/notions of reality, existence, and consciousness are also juxtaposed), Sartre (see Chapter 6, esp. pp., 172-185), and others, as well as “the ontological argument” in general (pp. 185-193): being [das Seyn]; being-ness [das Seyende]; being-ness itself [das Seyende selbst]; blind being [dem blinden Seyn]; the subject of being [das Subjekt des Seyns); what Is [Was Ist]; “that which is not able-not-to-be” [“das nicht Nichtsein-könnende”] (SdW: 28); “the able-to-be” [das Seynkönnende]; the primordial being [Ursein]; being-in-the-role-of-essence [“wesendes Sein”] (SdW: 28); the pre-jective [das Urständliche], objective [gegenständlich] (HMP: 52–53/SW, I/10: 18); “the necessarily existing mode of being” [des nothwendig existirenden Wesens] (HMP: 53–54/SW, I/10: 19; see also SdW: 8); essence [Wesen]; absolute emptiness [die absolute Leerheit]. (Enc.1: §87, Zusatz/W20, 8: 188); “mere being” (das blose Sein); “negatively not-being” (negativ nichtseiend); “positively not-being” (positiv nichtseiend); etc.
And then I think that one of the greatest achievements of this book, is to clarify in an anachronistic manner the famous Aristotelian distinction between the “μὴ ὂν” (mē on) and the “οὺκ ὂν” (ouk on), by juxtaposing it, as already Schelling does in his work, with Schelling’s “positively not-being” or “positive not-being”, and “negatively not-being” or “negative not-being”, and “nothing”, as well as with Hegel’s relevant terms. I will quote here some extended passages from Dews, which I consider to be stellar in achieving the aforementioned:
From Schelling’s point of view, Hegel’s argument that the thought of pure being collapses into—has always already passed over into—the thought of nothing fails to distinguish between two distinct ways in which “mere being” (das blose Sein) can be regarded, which he distinguishes in the lecture course System der Weltalter: it can be thought as “negatively not-being” (negativ nichtseiend) or as “positively not-being” (positiv nichtseiend). The positively not-being is the “not-being which is posited as such, thus nothing at all.” By contrast, the “negatively not-being” is the “not-being, which is only not-being where actual being is denied, but in which there is also the possibility to be some entity (ein Seiendes zu Sein)” (SdW: 113). Schelling frequently distinguishes these two negations of being by using the Greek expressions “μὴ ὂν” (mē on) and “οὺκ ὂν” (ouk on). Here he is drawing on Aristotle’s theory of potentiality and actuality, as Aristotle uses the term “μὴ ὂντος” (mē ontos) rather than “οὺκ ὂντος” (ouk ontos) (that is to say, the expression for the contrary rather than contradictory negation of being) in order to describe the existing of properties potentially (δυνάμει—dunamei) as the negation of their existence in actuality (ἐνεργείᾳ—energeiai) (see, for example, Metaphysics XII.1.1069b18– 20). In a later discussion of the same issue, Schelling uses an Aristotelian example: to describe a voice as “not white” one would use the negative “ouk,” whereas to describe a sunburned face as “not white” one would use “mē” (see DRP, SW, II/1, 306–307). He further points out that, when Aristotle states the fundamental principle that the same thing cannot be and not be, he writes “εἶναι καὶ μὴ εἶναι ̓ (einai kai mē einai) rather than “εἶναι καὶ οὐκ εἶναι” (einai kai ouk einai), using “mē” rather than “ouk” to express negation. According to Schelling, modern philosophers only give this principle the “formal meaning” connected with contradictory negation, whereas Aristotle uses the expression that gives the principle a “wider extension” (see DRP, SW, II/1: 308–309). […] The disagreement between Hegel and Schelling, therefore, hinges on whether the not-being of pure being should be understood as a distinctive negative mode of being, which cannot be accommodated by the Hegelian contrast between the thought of sheer being, on the one hand, and the thought—in intention absolutely opposed and yet, according to Hegel, logically indistinguishable—of its total absence or nullification, on the other. To register this important Schellingian distinction in a convenient form, I will from now on draw a contrast between not-being or nothing (das Nichts) and non-being (das Nichtsein). As Schelling himself points out, this opposition corresponds to the modern French distinction between “le rien” and “le néant” (e.g., DPE, SW, I/10: 285–286). (127-129)
At this stage, one can imagine a further Hegelian objection: that the concept of “potentiality” is simply not available at the radical beginning of pure thinking. Hence it is important to note that, at the start of the discussion of being, Hegel does in fact consider the possibility that the contrary negation of being (which he refers to as “das Nichtsein”), rather than its contradictory negation (which he terms “das Nichts”), could be taken as following from the thought of pure being. […] (129)
Hegel concedes, then, that treating “non-being” as the next logical stage after “being” is not an inherently illegitimate move. He simply thinks the result would be a direct transition to one of the two moments of the subsequent category of becoming, which combine being and nothing—specifically, the moment of transition from nothing to being. It seems clear that Hegel must also have Aristotle’s conception of the shift from potentiality to actuality— from dunamis to energeia—implicitly in mind here, and that he is using the expression “das Nichtsein” to render Aristotle’s “μὴ ὂν.” What is striking about this concession is that the phrase “nothing, as it is in becoming” renders rather precisely what Schelling describes as das gegenständliche Seyn (objective being), as opposed to das urständliche Seyn (pre-jective being). For das gegenständliche Seyn is pure, formless givenness—one might think here of unconceptualized Kantian intuitions which, as the first Critique says, would be “less than a dream” (A112), unless taken up into a process of categorial synthesis. (130)
So, thinking of pure being as “μὴ ὂν” rather than “οὺκ ὂν” does indeed involve thinking of it in mediated way. Das Subjekt des Seyns cannot entirely shake off its relation to the being of which it is the subject—as Schelling puts it at one point, potentialities “exist as waiting for” actuality (DRP, SW, II/1: 311). Yet, of course, this cannot be the whole story, else we would not find ourselves at any kind of radical beginning. It is fundamental to Schelling’s conception, in fact, that pure being should be double in this way. On the one hand, we apprehend it as immediately identical with its concept; in his lectures On the History of Modern Philosophy, Schelling refers to this moment of thinking as the “concept of concepts” or the “pure concept”—an apprehension of existence which abstracts from any determinate grasping of something as something […] (130)
[…] This is, Schelling asserts, “the point where thinking and being are one” (HMP: 52/SW, I/10: 18). […] Schelling’s critique of modern philosophy, then, hinges on the claim that the primordial identity of thought and being (“das urständliche Seyn”), the most abstract expression of the freedom or spontaneity of thinking, is almost inevitably forgotten or obliterated, with the result that philosophy fatefully makes a beginning not with the pure possibility of being, but with some version or other of the notion of substance. (131)
My only “criticism” is minimal, and it is the following, which is not quite a criticism in its usual sense, since I am against that practice, but more like a throwing of an opinion so as to initiate a problematization and a dialogue. It concerns the triadic schema of correspondences of Hegel’s categories (158):
Logic of Being –––––> Science of Logic
Logic of Essence –––––> Philosophy of Nature
Logic of the Concept –––––> Philosophy of Spirit
As Dews says, also referring to Vittorio Hösle’s Hegels System [(Hamburg: Felix Meiner, 1978), vol. 1, 101–104], there seems to be an incongruence or a difficulty between the three doctrines of Being, Essence, and Concept and their corresponding Philosophies. So, Peter Dews attempts a relocation of these correspondences in an attempt to solve the difficulty as follows (159):
Logic of Being –––––––> Philosophy of Nature
Logic of Essence –––––––> Philosophy of Spirit
Logic of the Concept –––––––> Science of Logic
It is with this attempt or any attempt of relocation of the Hegelian or of any philosopher’s correspondences and inner-system of thought that I would disagree, although it is a common practice of philosophers to criticize the “decisions” of other ones. I think that the difficulty in understanding the aforementioned schema of Hegel, as well as it is the case with other difficulties of understanding a philosopher’s thought and “decision”, lies in the names, that is, in the disagreement in definitions, which are not absolute but perspectival and “situated”. In the case of Hegel, I think that the major incomprehension of many aspects of his philosophy as well as a name that concentrates a heavy load of debates, obscurities, criticisms, etc., is the name of essence, that is, its definition in Hegel and subsequently in many feminists that were influenced by Hegel, such as Luce Irigaray. However, it is not of the present to dive into more detail on this, and I would refer the interested parties to my Thesis (Christodoulou 2022), where I discuss this in detail.
To conclude, Peter Dews’s Schelling’s Late Philosophy in Confrontation with Hegel achieves what it prepares one to do in the title, in the contents, in the Introduction, and much more. This is a book that is worth reading not only for its original contributions to Schelling, Hegel, and especially Schelling’s later philosophy, on which latter, dedicated secondary bibliography is scarce, but also to the research on fundamental ontological notions existing diachronically in Philosophy. It is also a book that is not only to be read once and archived, but to which one can return so as to consult for various issues, not only regarding Schelling, and only in case they are a Schelling scholar, but also if they are thinking on any of the terms/notions/concepts mentioned above and many others. In this regard, it is also worthwhile as a textbook and even a didactic one within academic classrooms, but at the same time it avoids the dryness that such books are often characterized with, and it is pleasurable to read both to the academic but also to any other reader who is a philosopher or is interested in philosophy.
 This paper is prepared as part of my postdoctoral research project “Ontological Exhaustion: Being-Tired, and Tired-of-Being: a philosophy of fatigue, exhaustion, and burnout” at the Institute of Philosophy and Sociology, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, implemented with the financial support of the National Programme “Early-stage and Postdoctoral researchers” – 2, Stage 1, 2022–2024.
 I am making reference here to some sections from my Thesis, especially the one entitled “Heidegger “Being-on-Schelling”: A Beginning to Schelling and a Closing to Heidegger”, where I use this phrasal verb to denote an intoxication/addiction of Heidegger to Schelling, and Heidegger’s usurpation of his philosophy. This expression/phrase is based on David Clark’s “Heidegger’s Craving: Being-on-Schelling,” in Anna Alexander and Mark S. Roberts (eds.), High Culture: Reflections on Addiction and Modernity (Albany, New York: SUNY Press, 2003), 95-131, or Clark, David. “Heidegger’s Craving: Being-on-Schelling.” Diacritics, vol. 27, no. 3 (1997): 8-33. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/1566331. See, Marina Christodoulou, Life as Addiction, PhD Diss., University of Klagenfurt & University of Toulouse –Jean Jaurès, 2022.
 See, my Thesis (Christodoulou 2022), and especially the Introduction and the Conclusion, and my following two articles: Marina Christodoulou, “Neither «pathimaton», nor «symptomaton», or «kataphaseon» katharsin. The non-cathartic philosophy of «non- decision» and «ephexis in decision»,” Systasis 40: Special thematic section: “Παθημάτων κάθαρσιν or πραγμάτων σύστασιν? Professor Michail D. Petruševski’s Solution of the Problem of Tragic Catharsis 80 Years Later” (2022): 86-146; and Marina Christodoulou, “Essaying-in-philosophy as an ephexis in decision” in Odradek: Studies in Philosophy of Literature, Aesthetics, and New Media Theories 8, no.2: ‘Heretical Voices: The Reasons of the Essay in Modern and Contemporary Literature’ (Edited by Paolo Bugliani) (2022): 23-63.
In response of the increasingly overwhelming interest of today’s scholars in various forms of naturalism and realism, Cynthia D. Coe offers us a look at the opposite side of philosophy, that inhabited by German idealism and phenomenology. Theses traditions, as the editor states, “jointly provide a counterpoint to the veneration of a materialist worldview and empirical methods of investigating reality that have dominated not only the natural and social sciences but also analytic philosophy” (p. 1). We believe that it is important to make this counterpart since, in the face of these tendencies, the Husserlian phenomenological project of saving man from being treated as a fact (Husserl, 1979) cannot be more relevant today: there are indeed still reasons to defend human freedom in terms of an irreducibility of the humanity or the spirit to the material conditions of scientific and technological progress. Unfortunately, the defence of this irreducibility in both German idealism and phenomenology have been widely misunderstood, in the sense that these traditions are accused of flat intellectualism and forgetfulness of reality, to say nothing about the supposed obscurity of the language and theories of their exponents, who have certainly preferred theoretical rigour to clearness of expression.
Now, with respect to the links immanent to the development of the studies of these traditions, much has been said about the influence of thinkers such as Kant, Hegel, Schelling or Fichte on the phenomenological proposals of Husserl (Steinbock, 2017, chapter 4), Heidegger (Slama, 2021), Fink (Lazzari, 2009) or Merleau-Ponty (Matherne, 2016), among others. However, this collective work offers us a vision of phenomenology either as a reappropriation, overcoming or continuation of the project of German idealism. Therein lies its importance. According to Cynthia D. Coe there would thus be a continuity to be emphasised between the preoccupation with consciousness in German idealism and the phenomenological preoccupation with first-person lived experience. This continuity is reviewed by the contributors to this book on different thematic fronts which articulate the 6 parts of this book: subjectivity, intersubjectivity and the other, ethics and aesthetics, time and history, ontology and epistemology, hermeneutics.
Throughout the contributions in these parts, we can identify the influence of German idealist thinkers on Husserl and on the phenomenological tradition in general. In addition, some contributors choose to point out the problems of interpretation of either Husserl or other phenomenologists with respect to the most representative texts of German idealism. In other contributions, the influence of the German idealist project on the conception of the phenomenological project can be seen. Finally, it can also be observed that the very definition of phenomenology for some representatives of this movement owes as much to Husserl as to German idealism. There remains, however, an interpretative line to be explored: in what sense phenomenology has been important not only for the reception of German idealism, but also for current studies of this tradition, contributing themes, angles, or interpretative nuances that the specialists of German idealist thinkers may not follow, but with which they discusse and dialogue. Although the importance of phenomenology for current studies in German idealism is a fact that we can ascertain (see for exemple Schnell, 2009), no author of this book cares to make this explicit. The directionality that the dialogue between these traditions thus takes is to start from German idealism to see its influence on phenomenology and to return to German idealism only if there is an error of interpretation to be criticised with respect to a specific problem. But let’s take a closer look at the content of the contributions in this book.
We would say that the concern with the concept of subjectivity can itself characterise both the idealist tradition and the phenomenological tradition. The contributions in the first part of this book are devoted to this common concern. Dermot Moran, in his paper entitled “Husserl’s Idealism Revisited” (pp. 15-40), drawing on Husserl’s understanding of the intentionality of consciousness, reveals that the place given to consciousness leads him to affirm a new kind of transcendental idealism. Husserl’s idealism, akin but not comparable to that of German idealism, gives intersubjectivity a fundamental character. But if Moran focuses exclusively on Husserl’s thought, the two following contributions in this part explore more closely the relationship between Husserlian phenomenology and German idealism.
Claudia Serban’s contribution (pp. 41-62) discusses the relation between the transcendental I and empirical subjectivity in both Kant and Husserl, differentiating their conceptions. The transcendental perspective is positioned here, in both authors, against the psychological and anthropological perspective regarding the concept of the inner man. First of all, the author opposes Husserl’s and Kant’s perspectives on internal and external experience within the horizon of the purely psychological perspective. Serban insists on defending Kant against some of Husserl’s criticisms. This opens the way to the Kantian distinction between the inner man and the outter man that appears in the context of his anthropology. Anthropology will try to be brought closer, by Husserl, to transcendental phenomenology. The paper thus shows how Husserl and Kant converge in the continuation of the transcendental perspective in an anthropology.
Federico Ferraguto, in his chapter (pp. 63-83), explores the relationship between Fichte and Husserl. Ferraguto begins with a reconstruction of Fichte’s influence on Husserl, and then points out the role of the self in the constitution of knowledge and thus in the conception of philosophy as a rigorous science for both authors. While it is clear that subjectivity is a fundamental theme of Husserlian thought, it is also present in other representatives of phenomenology. In this sense, even with regard to subjectivity, the last two contributions of this part follow closely the relationship between Gabriel Marcel, Jean-Paul Sartre and German idealism.
The article “Bodies, Authenticity, and Marcelian Problematicity” (pp. 85-106) by Jill Hernandez explores the influence of German idealism on Marcel’s thought, specifically with regard to the existentialist concept of incarnation and the ethical perspective of a life lived, by the self, in an intersubjective communion. This first part ends with Sorin Baiasu’s contribution (pp. 107-128), in which Sartre’s concept of freedom is established through dialogue and opposition with the Kantian perspective of freedom. Baiasu shows that the differences between the conceptions of these authors should not be understood, as is usually believed, as if the Sartrian view of freedom were an implausible radicalisation of the Kantian proposal.
The second part of this book deals with a perspective that is already present, albeit in the background, in the first part. It is about the importance, given by phenomenology, to intersubjectivity and the other. This importance leads us to the communicating vessels that phenomenology makes possible with social philosophy. The whole complexity here lies in identifying the influence that German idealism may have had on this phenomenological area of study. In some cases phenomenology will radicalise the perspective of German idealism in order to integrate the fundamental role of intersubjectivity, in other cases, the strategy will be to elaborate a critique of the tradition of German idealism against and its treatment of social problems, which will allow phenomenology to show itself as overcoming this tradition in response to these issues.
In his chapter (pp. 131-152), Jan Strassheim thus devotes himself to revealing the influence of the Kantian transcendental perspective on Alfred Schutz’s anthropology of transcendence, passing through Husserl’s critique of Kant’s anthropological theory. Strassheim shows that Schutz will insert intersubjectivity into his anthropological perspective inherited from Kant. First, the author shows in what sense Schutz’s anthropology has a phenomenological basis. Next, a difference is established between Kant’s and Schutz’s perspectives on transcendence. For the latter, transcendence will not be that which persists beyond all possible human experience, but rather transcendence “is a category for various ways in which human finitude appears within experience” (p. 137). Transcendence will also be understood on the basis of the concept of meaning and the concept of types, which will allow him to enlarge the Kantian categorical perspective. Intersubjectivity will be inserted here in order to understand the formation of the self.
In the article entitled “Moving Beyond Hegel: The Paradox of Immanent Freedom in Simone de Beauvoir’s Philosophy” (pp. 153-172), Shannon M. Mussett reveals the influence of Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit on Beauvoir’s conception of freedom as expressed in situations of oppression. Mussett argues that Beauvoir’s perspective is able to surpass the historical optimism of Hegelian dialectics by showing how immanent expressions of freedom can remain even in situations of oppression but in empty, abstract and ineffective behaviour. The paper begins by articulating the Hegelian notion of negative freedom by giving special attention to the dialectic of master and slave, which is for Beauvoir an instantiation of the optimism of the Hegelian system. Indeed, despite conditions of domination, the subject can, for Hegel, progress. Next, the author shows the ineffective forms of freedom according to Beauvoir, who not only radicalises the Hegelian perspective of freedom, but is capable of denouncing situations of oppression that only express themselves in empty social behaviour.
The last contribution in this part is that of Azzedine Haddour (pp. 173-199), who situates the dialogue between phenomenology and German idealism in the field of decolonial theory, also devotes special attention to the Hegelian dialectic of master and slave. However, this contribution focuses less on the notion of freedom implied in this dialectic than on the extra-philosophical conditions that make Hegel understand the issue of slavery in a particular way. Thus, the author of this chapter first analyses the position of the Hegelian dialectic vis-à-vis historical narratives that are read, by the system, in a teleological way, thus justifying slavery and infantilising people of colour. The Hegelian system is said to be founded on binary oppositions “premised on a Eurocentric and racialized view of the world” (p. 176). Haddour then draws a comparison between the Hegelian conception of slavery and Frantz Fanon’s decolonial theory. For Fanon, the fact that the world of the spirit is governed by rationality and that freedom is not one of its properties shows Hegel’s Eurocentrism. The Hegelian dialectic is dismantled then, in this paper, as counterintuitive.
If the second part of the book introduced social perspectives in the dialogue between phenomenology and German idealism, the third part of the book will deal with a central theme in order to clarify the deep constitution of the social: the theme of value, from an ethical and aesthetic perspective. David Batho’s contribution, entitled “Guidance for Mortals: Heidegger on Norms” (pp. 203-232), deals with the relationship between Heidegger and Hegel with regard to the normative constitution of the social. Batho argues with Robert Pippin, Steven Crowell and John McDowell, and defends that Heidegger’s concept of death as self-awareness of mortality is a necessary condition for grounding action in norms, which shows that Heidegger accounts for the self-legislation of agents as much as Hegel does.
Takashi Yoshikawa (pp. 233-255) focuses on Husserl’s Kaizo articles in order to point out the contribution of transcendental idealism to moral philosophy. Yoshikawa shows the influence of Kant and Fichte on the Husserlian idea of practical reason. In fact, Kaizo‘s ethical perspective shows, according to Yoshikawa, that as in German idealism, Husserl does not reduce reality to subjectivity. Rather, the transcendental idealism of Kant, Fichte and Husserl is not incompatible with empirical realism if we argue that the world exists independently of us. In fact, Kaizo‘s ethical perspective shows, according to Yoshikawa, that as in German idealism, Husserl does not reduce reality to subjectivity. Rather, the transcendental idealism of Kant, Fichte and Husserl is not incompatible with empirical realism if we argue that the world exists independently of us. In ethical terms, this translates into the defence of the virtue of modesty in the face of the incompleteness of our perception and the dependence of our action on the surrounding world.
María-Luz Pintos-Peñaranda discusses, in her chapter intitled “The Blindness of Kantian Idealism Regarding Non-Human Animals and Its Overcoming by Husserlian Phenomenology” (pp. 257-278), the issue of non-human animals. This subject, which would be indifferent to Kantian idealism, can be understood within Husserlian phenomenology. In this sense, the latter represents a real improvement of the idealist perspective. Pintos-Peñaranda first concentrates on Husserlian critique of Kant’s naturalistic logic, and then unveils the affinity of the concept of transcendental consciousness with non-human animals. Insofar as this concept is constituted on the basis of a pre-reflexive understanding that precedes it, animality occupies an important place in the unveiling of the origin of consciousness. Important implications of this are to be found in the phenomenological understanding of will, lived space and the capacity for spatialisation.
The contribution of Íngrid Vendrell Ferran, “Aesthetic Desinterestedness and the Critique of Sentimentalism” (pp. 301-322), explores the relationship between the Kantian tradition of aesthetics and the phenomenological perspectives of Moritz Geiger and José Ortega y Gasset. The absence of interest with which Kant characterises judgements of taste by emphasising the form of the work of art to the detriment of the content is here opposed to sentimentalism as a defect in aesthetic appreciation. Geiger and Ortega y Gasset are equally opposed to sentimentalism in aesthetics following Kant, but the former emphasises aesthetic value while the latter emphasises the formalism of aesthetics.
The fourth part of this book touches on a fundamental theme for both phenomenology and German idealism. This is the one concerning temporality and historicity, which implies going through the concept of memory. Some of the authors in this part argue for a convergence of perspectives between phenomenology and German idealism, while others oppose them, and still others dispute the erroneous readings of German idealism by representants of phenomenology.
Thus, Jason M. Wirth’s contribution (pp. 325-341) brings Schelling and Rosenzweig into dialogue with regard to the time of redemption. On the basis of a cross-reading between the two philosophers, Wirth argues that idealism is redeemed when truth is located between philosophy and theology, between the side of the intellect and that of revelation. In this sense, what is eternal is realised within the concrete completeness of time. Markus Gabriel, in his chapter entitled “Heidegger on Hegel on Time” (pp. 343-359), first reconstructs the reading of Hegel in Being and Time, and then answers it on the basis of a reading of the Hegelian texts. Finally, he criticises Heidegger’s existentialist perspective on temporality. Gabriel argues that Heidegger does not attend to the methodological architecture of the Hegelian philosophical system because he assumes that this system is a historicised form of ontotheology, which is totally inaccurate. In fact, the Heideggerian reflection on time in general fails with respect to the relation between nature and history.
In her paper, Elisa Magrì (pp. 361-383) explores the relationship between Hegel and Merleau-Ponty with regard to sedimentation, memory and the self. Firstly, sedimentation is understood, in Merleau-Ponty’s thinking, as inseparable from the institution as a process of donation of meaning. Magrì interprets this understanding as a revised version of Hegelianism. Hegel’s concept of absolute knowledge is comprehended here as a process of sedimentation that implies a process of institution. The Hegelian concept of absolute knowledge is finally related to a kind of ethical memory that reactivates potential new beginnings in history and society as a form of critique. This contribution closes by pointing out the ethical value of memory for contemporary debate. On the basis of Merleau-Ponty’s and Hegel’s thought, we can understand memory, according to Magrì, as the constant institution of the self, and not as its neutralisation. Memory thus helps to avoid repeating mistakes and to germinate a new dimension for collective reflection and action.
Zachary Davis focuses his contribution (pp. 385-403) to Max Scheler’s idea of history and shows how it has been influenced by German idealism. Davis explores the different periods of Scheler’s thought. The first period, strongly phenomenological, is marked by discussions with the Munich circle and their views on history. In this period, Scheler shares with Hegel the belief that there is an idea in history which develops in the life of culture. However, Scheler criticises the Hegelian perspective that would see history solely as the realisation of the spirit and historical progress as the realisation of absolute knowledge. Historical progress is seen by Scheler as the socialisation of material conditions and the individualisation of spiritual values. Scheler opposes Hegel’s impersonal view to a personalistic view of the spirit. In the last, anthropologically oriented period of his philosophy, Scheler refers to Schelling’s thought. Contrary to Schelling’s internalist view, Scheler argues that there are external material conditions for the realisation of history.
The fifth part of this book unveils the ontological and epistemological discussions that phenomenology entertains with German idealism. The latter appears, in these phenomenological perspectives, sometimes as a presence, sometimes as something to be overcome, sometimes as a persistence. The contributions gathered here focus exclusively on the non-Husserlian approaches of phenomenology. Thus, Mette Lebech, in her article entitled “The Presence of Kant in Stein” (pp. 407-428), focuses on the questions of idealism and faith in Edith Stein and how these relate to Kant’s influence on her phenomenological approach. Lebech articulates Stein’s engagement with Kant through Kant’s influence on Reinach and Husserl. This allows him to elaborate an idea of phenomenology as an extension of the Kantian understanding of the a priori and to oppose Husserl whom he labels a metaphysical idealist. Finally, Lebech argues that Kant signifies, in Stein, the beginning of a philosophical thought that can be articulated with faith. For his part, M. Jorge de Carvalho (pp. 429-455) makes us reflect on Heidegger’s interpretation of Fichte’s three principles. These principles will be understood here in an existentialist key with regard to the question of finitude. For Heidegger, Fichte’s preoccupation with constructing a system of knowledge prevents him from exploring the temporal and existential problems of Dasein analysis.
Jon Stewart (pp. 457-480) explores the relationship between the phenomenological method in Hegel and the later movement of phenomenology. Although it is known that Hegel and Husserl do not share the same concept of phenomenology, according to Stewart, some of the post-Husserlian phenomenologists know Hegel well. The question this article attempts to answer is therefore whether they attempt to approach the Hegelian sense of phenomenology. The article begins by showing the meaning of phenomenology for Hegel and then sets out the Husserlian critique of Hegel, before pointing out Hegel’s influence on French phenomenology, specifically on Sartre and Merleau-Ponty. Stewart concludes that while there are differences between the latter’s and Hegel’s sense of phenomenology, we find in the phenomenology of Sartre and Merleau-Ponty a clear Hegelian influence because of the importance they gave to Hegelian thinking, unlike Husserl.
The paper by Stephen H. Watson, entitled “On the Mutations of the Concept: Phenomenology, Conceptual Change, and the Persistence of Hegel in Merleau-Ponty’s Thought” (pp. 481-507) somewhat extends the reflections of the previous chapter. Taking as evidence the Hegelian influence on Hegel’s thought, Watson identifies the ideas of Hegel, both systematic and metaphysical, that Merleau-Ponty draws on to elaborate his theory of behaviour and perception in his early thought. We then participate in the resolution of some paradoxes that, in the period of Merleau-Ponty’s expression of thought, appear regarding the relation between system and subjectivity. Finally, Watson shows the influence of Schelling and Hegel on Merleau-Ponty’s last period in which a new ontology is formulated.
Interpretation being one of the fundamental themes of the phenomenological movement, which has made possible the formation of a hermeneutic variant of phenomenology, a final part of this book seeks to identify the influences of German idealism for the proposals of three exponents of this variant: Heidegger, Gadamer and Ricoeur. However, this part of the book escapes the question of whether there would be a real continuity between the phenomenological project and the hermeneutic project, and whether hermeneutics would not have its own origin in the philological sciences and in the interpretation of sacred texts, disciplines that precede the birth of phenomenology. In any case, the question at issue here is whether the hermeneutics that takes place within the phenomenological movement has been influenced by German idealism.
Frank Schalow thus focuses, in his chapter (pp. 511-528), on the importance of Kantian transcendental philosophy for Heidegger’s hermeneutics, which would be a radicalisation of certain Kantian theses, specifically with regard to the power of the imagination. The chapter begins by showing the relationship between the cognitive sense of imagination in Kant and its linguistic and temporal sense. Schalow then shows how Heidegger deconstructs the rationalist tradition of German idealism with his reinterpretation of the Kantian imagination and extends his critical view of Kantian metaphysics to the realm of ethics. Besides, Heidegger’s reading of Kant allows him to distinguish himself from German idealism, in terms of the dialectical method, the metaphysical implications and the place of language in all this. It is here that Heidegger’s hermeneutics finds its specificity, in terms of a deconstructive imagination in which language plays an essential role, as opposed to the systematising rationality of German idealism. Particular attention is given here to Kant’s influence on Heidegger’s aesthetic theory, which also allows him to return to a particular exponent of German idealism, Hörderlin, in order to rediscover the confluence between poetry and truth.
Theodore George’s paper entitled “Gadamer, German Idealism, and the Hermeneutic Turn in Phenomenology” (pp. 529-545) concentrates on the fundamental hermeneutic concepts of facticity, history and language. In contrast to Husserl and Heidegger, Gadamer considers that in Hegel and German idealism we find philosophical perspectives that can be integrated into his hermeneutics, although in order to do so we would have to break with a neo-Kantian reading of this tradition. The author first locates the place of the hermeneutic turn of phenomenology in Gadamer’s thought. Like many students of his generation, Gadamer, according to George, found in both existentialism and phenomenology an alternative way to escape Neo-Kantianism. Later, he was strongly influenced by “Heidegger’s hermeneutical intervention against Husserl’s phenomenology” (p. 534). But if Gadamerian hermeneutics certainly begins with a critique of the inherited forms of consciousness that we receive from German idealism and the Romantic tradition as forms of alienation, we find in it, paradoxically, a positive reception of Hegel. Hegel allows Gadamer to articulate the role of history and language in the hermeneutics of facticity.
Robert Piercey’s contribution shows that Ricoeur’s relation to Hegel is paradoxical since we find different versions of Hegel in Ricoeurian thought. Hegel appears here in methodological, ontological and metaphilosophical form. In fact, the author argues that renouncing Hegel, for Ricoeur, does not mean renouncing dialectical thought altogether or renouncing all Hegelian ontological tendencies. On the contrary, it is a matter of avoiding only unrealistic promises that dialectical thought believes it can keep. It is therefore a critique of a particular metaphilosophy. Although Ricoeur criticises Hegelianism, Hegel is an important philosophical source for his hermeneutical thinking.
The book concludes with a reflection by Cynthia D. Coe (pp. 547-575) that attempts to situate the different historical contexts of German idealism, on the one hand, and phenomenology, on the other, showing that both traditions still have much to offer for the current historical context that is ours. From enviromental ethics to the relationship between life and technology, the sense of humanity and its relationship to the world that we forge through the study of these traditions still has much to offer. We can only invite those interested in these traditions, but also those interested in the various philosophical disciplines, to immerse themselves in the timeless and fruitful dialogue that this book establishes, by many voices, between phenomenology and German idealism.
Husserl, Edmund. (1970). Crisis of European Sciences and Transcendental Phenomenology: An Introduction to Phenomenological Philosophy, David Carr (trans.), Evanston: Northwestern University Press.
Lazzari, Riccardo. (2009). Eugen Fink e le interpretazioni fenomenologiche di Kant, Milan: Franco Angeli.
Matherne, Samantha (2016). “Kantian Themes in Merleau-Ponty’s Theory of Perception”, Archiv für Geschichte der Philosophie 98 (2):193-230.
Slama, Paul. (2021). Phénoménologie transcendantale. Figures du transcendantal de Kant à Heidegger, Cham: Springer, coll. “Phaenomenologica”, vol. 232.
Schnell, Alexander. (2009). Réflexion et spéculation. L’idéalisme transcendantal chez Fichte et Schelling, Grenoble: J. Millon, coll. “Krisis”.
Steinbock, Anthony. (2017). Limit-Phenomena and Phenomenology in Husserl, Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield International Ltd.
In the contemporary philosophical landscape, Gregory S. Moss’s book stands out for many different reasons, and even though it should be considered a major contribution to the understanding of Hegel’s logic, its worth cannot be limited to the narrow boundaries of Hegelian scholarship. In this review I would like to illustrate some of the merits of this book, and I will try to show why Hegel’s Foundation Free Metaphysics can be read as an autonomous philosophical work, an exciting occasion to continue and renew the debate on some fundamental philosophical questions.
The Author’s first monograph on Cassirer’s Philosophy of Symbolic Forms addressed the question of the autonomy of language. While dealing with partially different issues – the nature of language and the philosophy of culture – this book already discusses some topics that are the main focus of Moss’s philosophical work, and shows methodological elements that remain unaltered in his second book. Aside from the general interest in the history of German thought, the book already deals with the problem of autonomy and of universality, discussing the relationship between language and logic and introducing the question about interculturality.
More importantly, in Ernst Cassirer and the Autonomy of Language Moss already showed his deeply theoretical approach to the analysis of the authors of the past. His reconstruction of Cassirer’s philosophy of language does not simply aim at offering an accurate sketch of the author’s thought, but rather it is an attempt to show how that theory can still find a place in the contemporary debate.
Following the same methodological inspiration, Hegel’s Foundation Free Metaphysics offers a monumental reconstruction of Hegel’s metaphysics, often underlining some aspects of his thought that have been lost in the most successful trends of the Hegelian research in the English-speaking world. However, it is also a striking attempt to show why Hegel’s metaphysics continues to be relevant. This may be the greatest achievement of Moss’s work: it does not just illustrate Hegel’s own position, but also and foremost shows what it means to have a Hegelian approach to philosophy today.
Despite its remarkable internal coherence, the impressive size of the book – around 500 pages – makes it almost impossible to provide a comprehensive summary of its content. Instead of doing so, I will start by introducing the main focus of the book – the relation between singularity and absoluteness. After that, I will discuss some pivotal elements of Moss’s interpretation of Hegel’s thought. Finally, I will try to point out some issues that remain open at the end of the analysis, in the attempt to show how this book can be understood as the starting point for a productive debate on Hegel, on the contemporary debate, and on the future of philosophy.
1. Philosophy’s Paradoxical Stance Toward Singularity
Since Plato, the relationship between philosophy and singularity has been complicated, even paradoxical. On the one hand, philosophy has been constantly presented as the kind of knowledge that addresses the universal rather than the singular. The tradition offers us a bunch of formulas in order to clarify this taxonomy: while philosophy is knowledge of the universal, art or history address what is singular. While thought only grasps the universal, only intuition has access to individual things.
On the other hand, however, philosophy has always been obsessed with singularity. The greater part of the philosophical effort since Plato and Aristotle is devoted precisely to understand how singular being (ta ekasta) are structured, how they are generated, how we think and say things about them, how they relate to each other. While the singular is banned from the domain of philosophy, nonetheless philosophy’s main task has always been the discovery and the elaboration of the structure of singularity in itself.
But what is singularity? Even this question, along with the distinction between singular and universal, is quite problematic. We are accustomed to identify singularity as the lower limit of thought, namely as what lies beyond any possible specific difference in the great taxonomy of genera and species. Yet, what is singular is also what lies beyond the upper limit of thought, namely what exceeds any possible genus: it is epekeina tes ousias, to use Plato’s formulation. In a sense, “singular” is the opposite of “universal”; in another sense, it is the opposite of “plural”. I know it is a schematic oversimplification, but this could account for the main difference between Aristotle and Plato: according to Plato, ideas are the true “singulars”: there is only one Beauty, it is one, eternal, and determinate, whereas sensible things are always plural, changing, indeterminate and temporal. In this context, what is most universal is at the same time utterly singular. On the contrary, Aristotle’s attempt to “save phenomena” – a formula used by Simplicius – is precisely the attempt to think sensible things as singular, determinate beings. Universals are plural, they are instantiated and thus have specific, but not numeric unity. Only individual things – both sensible and supra-sensible – are singular. For the sake of discussion, this oversimplification could be useful to identify this basic difference between a Platonic and an Aristotelian attitude towards singularity: on the one side, the singular is the absolute; on the other side, the singular is first and foremost finite, individual being.
2. Hegel’s Thought as a New Theory of Singularity
Now, how do we place Hegel’s philosophy in this frame? First of all, it’s worth mentioning that Hegel’s thought has traditionally been accused of having a complete lack of interest in singularity. Hegel is the “philosopher of universality” par excellence. Universality, necessity and subjectivity are the three key notions that structure most traditional interpretations of Hegel’s idealism, in which singularity, contingency and objectivity are therefore accounted for only as partial and lower steps of a more comprehensive dialectical process.
Already right after Hegel’s death, his first commentators criticized his disregard for singularity. According to Ludwig Feuerbach, the distinction between logical and sensible being is the inescapable mark of Hegel’s failure in thinking the individual: «Die Sprache gehört hier gar nicht zur Sache. Die Realität des sinnlichen einzelnen Seins ist uns eine mit unsern Blute besiegelte Wahrheit» (Sämtliche Werke, II, 212). This is Hegel’s major fault, not recognizing that „reality of singular sensible being” that we cannot help but feel as an immediate truth.
The strongest critic of Hegel’s philosophy of singularity, however, is Kierkegaard, who polemically used the term “Einzelheit” in his philosophy precisely to rescue the singular from Hegel’s monistic and universalistic account. Since idealism is “abstract thought”, Kierkegaard’s aim is to highlight the philosophical significance of existence, whereas what exists is precisely that singular being that abstract thought keeps overlooking.
This interpretation of Hegel’s philosophy has survived up to contemporary philosophy. In particular, French thought used the term “singularity” in order to develop an anti-Platonic and anti-Hegelian concept of individuality. Gilles Deleuze is the philosopher who expresses this critique in the most explicit way: «Hegel substitutes the abstract relation of the particular to the concept in general for the true relation of the singular and the universal in the Idea» (Difference and repetition, 10). Quite ironically, while Hegel is one of the first philosophers to use the word “singularity” as a technical term, clearly distinguishing between a commonsensical and a speculative use of the notion, the whole post-structuralist tradition uses the term “singular” as an anti-Hegelian device, tracing it back to Spinoza in contraposition with Hegelian dialectic.
A second element that is useful to point out, in order to understand the novelty of Gregory S. Moss’s approach, is that this criticism of Hegel’s notion of singularity goes along with a critique of Hegel’s systematic and anti-foundational idea of philosophy. Feuerbach and Kierkegaard, but also many other early commentators of Hegel’s system, such as Karl Werder, Kuno Fischer, Schelling, and Friedrich A. Trendelenburg, criticized Hegel’s disregard for the individual and at the same time stated the impossibility to obtain a complex categorical structure starting from the absolute simplicity of being. In other terms, the impossibility to get difference starting from identity.
Now, this close connection between systematic metaphysics and the problem of singularity is at the core of the theoretical analysis of Hegel’s Foundation Free Metaphysics. The so-called Hegel-renaissance in the English-speaking world has already rediscovered the importance of Hegel’s account of individuality. Paul Redding highlighted in the clearest way how the Pittsburgh school – Robert Brandom in particular – has managed to read Hegel’s philosophy as a semantic theory of individuation. However, these interpretations have systematically underplayed the systematic aspect of Hegel’s thought, along with its strictly metaphysical character. Following the oversimplified frame that I’ve proposed before, Robert Brandom’s inferentialism is – in a way – an Aristotelian reading of Hegel’s theory of singularity, since it understands singular beings only as finite, individual objects.
In this context, Gregory Moss’s book offers a timely and original reading of Hegel’s logic, since it finally highlights some aspects of Hegel’s philosophy that have been structurally neglected by many commentators. Three aspects are particularly worth mentioning.
In the first place, the author clarifies that Hegel’s notion of singularity not only refers to individual, finite beings, but also – and foremost – to that peculiar singular being that is the Absolute. In a way, therefore, Hegel’s speculative use of the notion of singularity overcomes the difference between the Platonic and the Aristotelian approach.
Secondly, Moss shows how it is impossible to understand Hegel’s use of the notion of “singularity” without taking into account the necessary relationship between these two dimensions. There is no account of the singularity of finite being without addressing the singularity of the Absolute, and any account of the Absolute that does not illustrate the metaphysical status of singular finite being is incomplete and partial.
Finally, the book puts a very strong accent on necessity to highlight the general aim of Hegel’s philosophical enterprise. It is impossible to understand Hegel’s use of the notion of “singularity” without considering the metaphysical character of his logic. Here it is important to grasp Hegel’s own understanding of what metaphysics is, rather than applying some contemporary use of the term to the Hegelian text, which forces Hegel into a theoretical frame that does not have much to do with his own methodology.
As I will point out later, these three elements also identify three problematic aspects of Moss’s theoretical and interpretative framework, or at least three questions that are still open after reading the book. However, before going deeper into the critical analysis, I will briefly illustrate the main structure of the book.
3. Thinking the Absolute
One of the most striking elements of Moss’s book is that it emphasizes the strict relationship between infinite and finite thought. While tradition generally accepted that we cannot think the Absolute in the same way we think finite being, one of the key contributions of Classic German Philosophy is the idea that if we fail to think the Absolute, even thinking finite being becomes impossible. If I’m not misunderstood, this is what is at stake in what Moss calls the “problem of nihilism”. I won’t go into it in detail, but a general consequence of this approach is precisely Moss’s attempt to show how Hegel’s philosophy is a unification of Plato’s and Aristotle’s approaches: if the Absolute is absolute, and therefore there is nothing outside of it, then it is impossible to differentiate between two faculties or two different methods, as if, for instance, understanding were to be identified with the faculty of finite being, and reason with the faculty of the Absolute. So, by developing a critical discussion of how the Absolute has been thought in the metaphysical tradition, we are at the same time questioning the way we think finite being. This traditional view is what the Author calls the “duality of principles”, the idea that knowledge – and reality – cannot be grounded on one principle, but rather require at least two: intuitions and concepts, matter and form and so on. Against this position, the Author defends a strongly monistic account of Hegel’s metaphysics, according to which the true Singular – the Absolute – self-differentiates in a way that can be compared to the Neoplatonic One.
The thesis of the duality of principles is grounded on another assumption, namely the impossibility of self-reference. If there is only one principle, then identity and difference must stem from the same source, and this source has no external matter on which to operate. According to Moss, the history of Western thought has mostly rejected this idea because of the undisputed adherence to the principle of non-contradiction. If identity generates difference, then the same thing is at once identical and different, namely contradictory.
These three metaphysical assumptions, the principle of non-contradiction, the rejection of self-reference, and the duality of principles, are presented by the Author as the fundamental argumentative structure that undermines at the basis the very possibility to think the Absolute, and that can be found in the history of Western metaphysics from Plato up to Kant.
For this reason, Moss’s analysis starts with a critical assessment of some basic problem of traditional metaphysics. While the author does not have philological or reconstructive interests, his confrontation with some authors of the past is extremely useful in order to grasp his fundamental orientation. For instance, while Plato, Aristotle and Kant are examples of the duality of principles approach, the brief but intense reconstruction of early German idealism aims at showing that Fichte’s and Schelling’s objective was precisely to overcome Kant’s dualism, and to re-introduce a self-referential first principle as the metaphysical and epistemological ground of a new philosophy. At the same time, this approach is strongly connected by Moss to Plotinus and Neoplatonic philosophy, with a long and dense excursus on ancient philosophy that reveals the Author’s tendency to offer a somewhat Neoplatonist interpretation of Hegel’s logic.
After having offered a critical reconstruction of these three metaphysical assumptions, Moss shows how they inevitably lead to five paradoxes that can be found throughout the history of philosophy.
The Problem of Instantiation: if particulars and universals are indebted to different (epistemological/ontological) principles, it’s impossible to clarify their relationship.
The Missing Difference: if conceptuality is not the source of its own differentiation, then the source of this differentiation is non-conceptual. «The essential difference that distinguishes one thing from another cannot be accounted for by appealing to what the thing is ‘in virtue of itself’» (165).
Absolute Empiricism: since the differentiated content of the conceptual dimension is not conceptual, the source of conceptuality is entirely empirical.
The Problem of Onto-Theology: the most universal notion is indicated as both universal and particular.
The Third Man: if the Concept is not self-differentiating, then every instance of the Concept, as a particular concept, cannot be the Universal Concept. Every attempt to find the universal concept leads to new particular concepts.
The largest part of the book’s first section is devoted to the historic and theoretical analysis of these paradoxes. The second section, instead, shows how – by positing the Concept as one self-referential and dialetheic principle – Hegel’s logic manages to overcome them.
Surprisingly, the book does not use the classic difference between understanding and reason as an instrument throughout this analysis. The question of the difference between understanding and reason is of course present, but it is not always clear whether these issues could be addressed as the result of an intellectualistic and non-speculative understanding of the domain of conceptuality. For instance, and here I’m forcing and radicalizing the issue in order to facilitate the discussion, the problem of the missing difference could be analysed as a specific formulation of a more general issue that concerned British and Italian idealism for a long time, namely the insufficient and contradictory nature of the forms of judgment. In fact, since every judgment, as Kant states, is in the form “The singular is universal”, and since the singular is not universal, an intellectualistic approach to the nature of conceptuality already finds itself entangled in a contradiction.
However, rather than appealing to this methodological instrument, the Author prefers addressing these problems systematically, retracing their origin in the three metaphysical assumptions listed above. This choice gives a very strong conceptual unity to the book, even though it could lead to some forced passages, in particular when it comes to analysing these issues through examples taken from the history of philosophy.
For instance, the first two paradoxes – the problem of instantiation and the missing difference – are addressed by quoting many passages from Plato’s Parmenides and the Book B of Aristotle’s Metaphysics. Now, while these passages are in fact very good examples of the problems the Author is discussing, both the Parmenides and Metaphysics Beta are, so to say, “partes destruentes”, critical preliminary moments of a new theory. In other words, it is possible to find already in Aristotle’s and Plato’s work – as Hegel himself recognizes in his Lectures on the History of Philosophy – speculative solutions to the problems they raise in some of their texts.
The difference between intellectualistic and speculative thought seems to be a very good way to account for this internal evolution in Plato’s and Aristotle’s thought. For instance, Plato’s generative account of the koinonia ton genon in the Sophist does not look to be still subject to these paradoxes. In it, for instance, the self-referential character of ideas is no longer problematic, but at the same time it is not trivialized through the reference to empirical concepts as it happens in the Parmenides. Another example is Aristotle’s philosophy: following Ferrarin, Moss concedes that Aristotle’s metaphysics is speculative and belongs to the domain of the concept. But then, how can we integrate this idea with the paradoxes of Aristotle’s account of conceptuality? Isn’t this account, as it is presented in the book, utterly intellectual rather than speculative?
In other words, while the author manages to provide a strikingly coherent and dense systematic account of some fundamental metaphysical issues, a more extensive analysis of Plato’s and Aristotle’s own solutions to these problems, along with a comparison with Hegel’s own interpretation of their works, could give the chance to highlight how there is more than one way to think speculatively. The author does discuss Aristotle’s solutions to some of the problems he listed in Metaphysics Beta, but the historical reconstruction of Aristotle’s approach is not the main focus of Moss’s research, and it is only mentioned in order to highlight some aspect of Aristotle’s thought that the author recognizes in Hegel’s work.
However, given the book’s size, focusing on the systematic aspect of the issue has been a wise choice: this remark only aims at pointing out, once again, that this monumental book must not be interpreted as the end of a research, but rather as an exciting proposition for a new approach to the study of Hegel’s logic, of the history of philosophy and of metaphysics in general.
Four Open Problems
With this spirit in mind, I would like to point out some specific issues that I find of particular importance in Moss’s book. Of course, as already mentioned, this is a monumental piece of scholarship, and there are many topics worth discussing. There are many arguments and analyses that deserve a much deeper discussion than I can provide here. Nevertheless, I will try to avoid discussing specific matters or individual passages of the book, since I would like to keep the debate on a more general and fundamental level, and discuss some structural aspects of Moss’s proposal rather than specific topics. In particular, I will try to propose a brief critical assessment of four questions that remain open.
4a. What Kind of Metaphysics?
In the final part of his critical analysis, the Author thoroughly discusses different metaphysical and non-metaphysical accounts of Hegel’s logic. In particular, he also highlights Hegel’s intention to reform metaphysics beyond any dogmatic understanding of it. The interpretation of Hegel’s own understanding of metaphysics is deeply connected with the relationship between logic, nature and spirit. While Moss does not expressly analyse this aspect of Hegel’s system, the passage from logic to nature is a crucial point of his reading.
As we know, one of the main arguments of the book is that Hegel’s logic introduces a self-referential and self-differentiating account of the Concept. As Roberto Morani has shown in his monumental book on the evolution of Hegel’s dialectics, this aspect of Hegel’s philosophy is also the main focus of the auto-reformation of his own logic in the Second Edition of the Doctrine of being, when he stresses that objective logic already is subjective logic in disguise. This issue is closely related to the question of the “formal” character of logic. According to Hegel, logic is not formal because it has logical forms as its own content: logical forms are at the same time form and content of the logical process, that in this way is truly noesis noeseos:
But logical reason is itself the substantial or real factor which, within itself, holds together all the abstract determinations and constitutes their proper, absolutely concrete, unity. There is no need, therefore, to look far and wide for what is usually called a matter; it is not the fault of the subject matter of logic if the latter seems empty but only of the manner in which this subject matter is grasped. (SL, trans. Di Giovanni, 28)
Elena Ficara has stressed the importance of this passage, which shows Hegel’s opposition to any formalistic understanding of logic as a discipline. However, Moss radicalizes this aspect and points out how this unity of form and matter generates a self-determining progression. But what is the limit of this activity?
The logic is a self-generating process, through which the concept determines itself as concept: while we discover a great variety of conceptual determinations, these determinations never become empirical. In other terms, the logical development of the category of quality never generates the concept of “colour” or of “green”. In other words, what does never happen is what Fichte talks about in his lectures on the Tatsachen des Bewusstseins: if we radicalize this monistic self-generating activity, then everything must be deduced starting from the first principle, even this singular blade of grass. It is the same conception of systematic metaphysics that Wilhelm Traugott Krug presents as a critic to Idealism, and that Hegel ridicules. For instance, when Hegel talks of the ontological proof, the point is that the Concept has logical objectivity. Nevertheless, Moss is right to highlight how important it is to understand the Concept as a creative activity, and by doing so he defends a strong metaphysical interpretation of Hegel’s logic that many passages in Hegel’s work seem to confirm. While the author recognizes that the creative activity of the Concept does not entail the deterministic deduction of all empirical content, establishing the precise nature and the limits of this self-particularizing activity is one of the tasks that remain open after having read his analysis, and it is a crucial element to test the hermeneutical validity of his interpretation.
4b. What Kind of Singularity?
I would like to go back to the notion of singularity, which is the main focus of the book as a whole. In Moss’s book it is clearly stated that each category of the logic cannot be used exclusively to think the Absolute, since the Absolute is not separated from finite being. Therefore, singularity does describe both “limits” of thought—the Absolute and finite being. Nevertheless, Moss’s reconstruction strongly privileges the “Platonic” side of the analysis. In other words, the Author seems to be much more interested in showing how singularity expresses the logical structure of the Absolute, rather than explaining how the same notion can be used to describe the nature of finite being. For instance, Hegel writes that singularity is the principle of every “individuality and personality” (SL, 547). In order to complete the analysis of Hegel’s use of the notion of singularity, it would be very interesting to integrate Moss’s interpretation with a focus on this dimension.
This does not mean, of course, that Moss’s reading is a Platonic one. As I’ve already highlighted, if it is true that Platonism and Neo-Platonism play a pivotal role in the development of his reading of Hegel, Moss aims at showing both the Platonic and Aristotelian aspects of Hegelian dialectics, in particular by emphasising the importance of Aristotle’s notion of the «self-particularizing universal». This interpretation of Aristotle’s notion of Form is also quite interesting, and it would be worth discussing it in a further analysis of Hegel’s own historical sources.
One of the most surprising aspects of Moss’s book is his analysis of syllogism. Usually judgment and syllogism are analysed as logical developments of the abstract concept, and Hegel also expressly indicates them as such in the Science of Logic. Nevertheless, the Author seems to understand judgment and syllogism as a logically impoverished form of the first section, identifying them with a «self-alienated» form of the Concept (374). While this strong accent on the Concept is quite original, it is very hard to explain Hegel’s own statement at the beginning of the section on the syllogism, where he writes that «the syllogism is the completely posited concept; it is, therefore, the rational» (SL, 588). More generally, Hegel repeatedly highlights the syllogistic character of his system: the end of the Encyclopaedia is maybe the strongest example.
This issue leads to another question on the relationship between syllogism and inference. Moss’s critique of Robert Brandom’s account of Hegel’s philosophy as a form of inferentialism is very convincing, and does show the partiality of neo-pragmatist, non-metaphysical readings of Hegel. Nevertheless, by criticizing Brandom, the Author seems to share with him one core assumption, namely that syllogism is inference, and that when Hegel speaks about syllogism, he’s always talking about a formal structure of reasoning. This identification could be the main reason for Moss’s scepticism against the importance of syllogism in Hegel’s thought. For instance, in the Science of Logic Hegel expressly writes that «All things are a syllogism, a universal united through particularity with singularity; surely not a whole made up of three propositions» (SL, 593). Of course, Hegel does heavily criticize the form of inference (even in his Lectures on history of philosophy), but this passage seems to show that we must distinguish the subjective form of inference from the logical, objective form of syllogistic unity. For this reason, while Moss’s interpretation of the relationship between the concept and syllogistic forms is quite original and in some cases very convincing, it does need further discussion.
Finally, I would like to briefly discuss the question of contradiction. One of the structural aspects of the book is to show that, in order to think the Absolute, we must accept dialetheism, namely the position according to which some contradictions are true. In the case of Hegelian thought, this question is closely connected with the meaning of the term “speculative” as Hegel uses it throughout his work. While it is hardly debatable that only speculative thought is able to grasp the Absolute in its concrete and actual form, the question is whether such a way of thinking necessarily entails a violation of the principle of non-contradiction (PNC) in its Aristotelian formulation.
A good start for illustrating the issue is a passage quoted by the Author while analysing the relationship between speculative thought and contradiction:
Speculative thought consists solely in holding on to the contradiction, and thus to itself. Unlike representational thought, it does not let itself be dominated by the contradiction, it does not allow the latter to dissolve its determinations into other ones or into nothing/ (SL, 383)
Right after this passage Hegel does give some examples, and his choice are determinations of relation — above/under, father/son – that can hardly be seen as violation of Aristotle’s PNC. The interpretation of this passage is very contentious and I won’t go into it. Instead, I would like to argue that there are two possible interpretations of the nature of speculative thought. According to the first, speculative thought is necessarily dialetheic, since it requires to accept that the same x is and is not P. Here it is important to clarify that “not being P” is not the same than “being non-P”.
According to the second interpretation, speculative thought generates a new understanding of the predicates and of their reciprocal relationship. In this case, x can be P and non-P, according to a meaning of non-P that does not entail not being P.
For instance: the proposition “the particular is universal” is contradictory only as long as we assume that “being universal” entails “not-being particular”. This implication is different from the simple fact that universal and particular are different concepts, namely that “universal” is not “particular”. I do believe that it is possible to make the case that, in his subjective Logic, Hegel shows how universality, particularity and singularity, as conceptual determinations, are not reciprocally exclusive.
Moss does provide an exhaustive analysis of many different interpretations of Hegel’s account of contradiction. Again, his criticism of Robert Brandom’s strong coherentist reading is very compelling. Nevertheless, while it is clear that, according to Hegel, speculative thought somehow “deals” with contradictions, this statement must be compatible with other two explicit Hegelian theses: that contradiction is a defining aspect of finite being and finite concepts, and that contradiction itself is used throughout the system as a criterion to identify the finite and false character of the categories.
This could mean, in a way, that the Absolute cannot be contradictory in the same way finite concepts and beings are. Moss’s analysis of the difference between explosive and non-explosive contradictions could be a way to express this fundamental difference. However, it seems clear that Hegel’s foundation free metaphysics is an exciting contribution to a debate that is still open and is impossible to close simply by choosing one option over the other, be it coherence or contradiction.
At the end of this brief critical assessment of some aspects of the book, there would be much more worth mentioning. Gregory S. Moss’s book offers a compelling reconstruction of Hegelian metaphysics as a form of strong monism and shows how it can be profitably used to discuss some contemporary philosophical positions. Moss is also the translator of the English edition of Markus Gabriel’s Why The World Does Not Exist, and Gabriel’s pluralistic metaphysics is one of the main critical references throughout the book. By using Hegel’s philosophy to debate with Alain Badiou, Quentin Meillassoux, Graham Priest, Robert Brandom and others, Moss brilliantly shows how the study of Classic German Philosophy can still offer a valid contribution to the contemporary debate on metaphysics.
Another aspect that resonates throughout the book is Moss’s interest for intercultural philosophy, as well as for the mystic tradition. There is no doubt that this book is a vital and promising contribution to the contemporary debate on Hegelian philosophy. However, it is also much more than that, since it provides a very compelling theoretical framework for the discussion of many different questions in contemporary continental metaphysics. Finally, it also offers a profitable exchange between philosophy, theology, and the study of other cultures.
Despite its remarkable size, Hegel’s Foundation Free Metaphysics does offer an extremely coherent and well-argued account of some of the most important theoretical issues in the history of metaphysics. By doing so, it succeeds at showing the ground-breaking nature of Hegel’s approach to logic and provides a very original interpretation of the Doctrine of the Concept. It is an ambitious example of Hegelian scholarship, but it is also a very good example of a truly Hegelian approach to philosophy today.
Schelling’s philosophy seems to be breaking free from its long-term neglect. While the earliest Schelling has always been recognized as a valuable intermediary between Kant and Hegel, the traditional reception saw his middle philosophy as an unfortunate step into Romanticism and his latest philosophy as a retreat into Christian orthodoxy. The last decade or two has shown renewed interest in Schelling’s philosophy in its own right, and tries to read Schelling not merely as a philosopher on the way to Hegel, but as someone who offers valuable arguments himself. This volume is a welcome contribution to this renewed interest in Schelling’s thought, specifically because it aims to discuss Schelling’s “contribution to and internal critique of the basic insights of German idealism, his role in shaping the course of post-Kantian thought, and his sensitivity and innovative responses to questions of lasting metaphysical, epistemological, ethical, aesthetic, and theological importance” (2).
This volume follows the trend of dividing Schelling’s trend in ever-increasing periods: early idealism, philosophy of nature, philosophy of freedom and late philosophy. While such a periodization can be helpful for fleshing out the exact meaning and context of Schelling’s argument, it does risk obfuscating the developmental nature of Schelling’s thought as such. Some of the contributors do point out how certain periods of thought follow naturally from previous premises and arguments, in such short contributions, an idea of the whole of the development of Schelling cannot be provided. The chapters of this book are thus concerned with fairly specific topics narrowed down to a specific period in Schelling’s philosophical development. Though attempts are made to spread the attention evenly to all periods of his thought, there does seem to be more attention paid to his earlier thought up to 1809 (the first 15 years of his career) rather than Schelling’s very latest philosophy up to 1854 (the last 45 of his career). On a whole, the contributions are well-crafted, clearly structured and well-argued. The editor maintained a firm hand in streamlining the different chapters, which made for that a singular style pervades all different chapters.
The first set of chapters deal with Schelling’s earliest idealism, mostly in relationship to two contemporaries: Kant and Novalis. In her opening essay ‘Nature as the World of Action, Not of Speculation’, Lara Ostaric proposes a reading of Schelling’s ‘Letters on Dogmatism and Criticism’ where Schelling’s engagement with Kant in that essay is geared towards interpreting Kant in the spirit rather than the letter of his idealism. At the time, the Tübingen theologians saw Kant’s practical postulates as a way to speak of revelation again, while for Kant, Schelling argues, it signals that God is known through freedom and action, not thought. Ostaric’s purpose is then to show that Schelling is in greater proximity to Kant in his earliest development than is usually believed. In my view, Ostaric gives too much credit to the theological reading of Kant’s postulates (e.g. Storr). In fact, Schelling’s reading of Kant’s postulates seems to be in line with Kant’s text, not just the spirit of that text. Ostaric’s approach to Kant’s argument seems to miss the constitutive difference between a ‘proof’ and a ‘postulate’ of God. She supports her reading by turning to the first Critique, while it would be better to investigate the development of this issue in the third Critique. The second chapter in this series, by Joan Steigerwald titled ‘Schelling’s Romanticism’, traces certain overlapping concerns between Novalis and Schelling. Her approach is speculative rather than historical. The point is that Novalis and Schelling start both from a discontent with how Fichte’s idealism is too focused on the activity of the I, and so tends to forget the world and nature. Both philosophers then seek to come to a more organic relationship between world and the I. Both Novalis and Schelling see this in term of opposing forces of ‘lowering’ and ‘raising’. While the set-up of this paper is very interesting, its speculative nature makes it so that it hovers over texts rather than deals with these in more detail and nuance. Here, a more specific focus might have been more enlightening.
The second set of papers, four in total, deals with Schelling’s philosophy of nature. In the first essay in this series ‘Freedom as Productivity in Schelling’s Philosophy of Nature’, Naomi Fisher takes a look at Schelling’s view of freedom prior to writing his famous Freedom-Essay. Her point is that Schelling is trying to make sense of two things: (1) Nature acts freely; (2) Human freedom is yet an escape from nature. The key to understanding this conundrum is ‘lawful productivity’. This paper offers a sustained, systematic discussion of how Schelling treats with productivity, freedom and determinism, which is very helpful to understanding how Schelling came to his famous argument in Freedom-Essay. In the second essay in this series ‘From World-Soul to Universal Organism’, Paul Franks aims to offer a reading of a part of Schelling’s philosophy of nature which is unpalatable to many scholars, namely his views of a world-soul. In accordance with his usual erudition, Franks shows how discussion regarding certain Cabbalistic notions, most importantly tsimtsum, was widespread at the time and how Maimon paved the way for Schelling’s views of a world-soul. Schelling came to his own views regarding the world-soul by blending his reading of Maimon with his understanding of Plato. In the third essay in this series, ‘Deus sive Vernunft. Schelling’s Transformation of Spinoza’s God’ Yitzhak Y. Melamed offers the obligatory discussion of Spinoza’s impact on Schelling’s philosophy of nature. He offers a reading of the Darstellung (1801) where Schelling transforms Spinoza’s God into reason. After offering a, rather hasty, overview of how Schelling became increasingly critical of Spinoza in his later thought (without mentioned Freedom-Essay!), Melamed aims to show that Schelling retains an appreciation for Spinoza throughout his work. Then, Melamed moves to show the formal and stylistic similarities between Schelling’s Darstellung and Spinoza’s Ethics – a point which is rather obvious and does not really enhance the claims in this paper. After that the paper turns to showing how in Schelling reason takes over the role of God in Spinoza’s thought. Regrettably, this does not move beyond a mostly formal discussion. In the final essay in this series, ‘Schelling on Eternal Choice and the Temporal Order of Nature’, Brady Bowman asks whether we can call Schelling a naturalist. The question, of itself, seems rather anachronistic and does not do justice to the complex meaning of the term nature in Schelling’s thought – 1800s and contemporary views of nature are quite distinct. In order to elucidate this, Bowman turns to Schelling’s notion of eternal choice, which undergirds Schelling’s naturalism. While Bowman warns against reading Schelling as a naturalist in our contemporary sense, he does not take into consideration other ways of thinking about naturalism which would more naturally blend with Schelling’s thought.
The third series of essays deal with Schelling’s views of freedom, mostly in Schelling’s Freedom-Essay and The Ages of the World. In the opening essay ‘Schelling on the Compatibility of Freedom and Systemacity’, Markus Gabriel offers a sustained and very helpful discussion of how Schelling thinks freedom and systematicity can be compatible. He does this by means of a reconstruction of Schelling’s discussion of the law of identity and the copula. Regrettably, the discussion is cut short towards the end when the ethical and religious consequences of this new understanding of freedom come up for discussion. In the second essay in this series ‘The Personal, Evil, and the Possibility of Philosophy in Schelling’s Freiheitsschrift’, Richard Velkley gives what is mostly an overview of the general argument of Schelling’s Freedom-Essay, focused mostly on the ground of God as a will to revelation. Velkley does make some interesting notes towards the end on how Schelling interacts with Kant’s notion of radical evil. In the third essay in this series, ‘Nature, Freedom, and Gender in Schelling’, Alison Stone turns to a much-neglected topic in Schelling’s scholarship, namely his views of gender. Schelling entertains, Stone argues, a gendered duality in a number of his works, which tends to associate ‘reason’ with masculinity and ‘nature’ (or receptiveness) with femininity. He seems not to argue for this association and merely assumes this duality, because of his philosophical pedigree. While critical of the way gender is portrayed in Schelling’s thought, Stone does recognize the ambiguity of a simplistic sense of male supremacy in Schelling’s philosophy. Nature does always precede reason in Schelling, and so the female precedes the male as well. In the final essay in this series ‘The Facticity of Time’, G. Anthony Bruno, also the editor, discusses Schelling’s attack on Hegel (how reason is unable to ground itself) from the perspective of The Ages of the World. He insightfully argues how Schelling views the Past and Future as necessary conditions for the possibility of reason, while for Kant and idealism generally, reason was seen as the condition for time.
The last series of essays deals with Schelling’s last philosophy. In the first essay in this series ‘Thought’s Indebtedness to Being’, Sebastian Gardner offers a very complex, speculative take on the Schelling-Hegel debate by offering two ways of reading one of Kant’s pre-critical essay ‘The Only Possible Proof for the Existence of God’. In the final essay in this series ‘An Ethics for the Transition’, Dalia Nassar discusses how Schelling can solve a difficulty in environmental ethics. Schelling namely offers a diagnosis for our problematic relationship to nature and a means by which environmental ethics can be spurred into action.
While some essays are better crafted than others, the papers in this volume are generally very insightful and helpful towards a variety of issues in Schelling’s philosophy. While some topics, mostly of the latest Schelling, are left out (such as revelation, metaphysical empiricism, etc.) the papers that did appear in this volume will ignite further discussion on Schelling’s philosophy