The epistemology of Schelling's philosophy of nature

History of Philosophy Quarterly 34 (3):271-290 (2017)
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The philosophy of nature operates as one complete and systematic aspect of Schelling’s philosophy in the years 1797-1801 and as complement to Schelling’s transcendental philosophy at this time. The philosophy of nature comes with its own, naturalistic epistemology, according to which human natural productivity provides the basis for human access to nature’s own productive laws. On the basis of one’s natural productivity, one can consciously formulate principles which match nature’s own lawful principles. One refines these principles through a process of experimentation, which relies on the human being’s naturalness in productivity. By making natural activity central to knowledge, Schelling takes seriously the naturalness of humans, without denying the dramatic shift that occurs when consciousness and rationality factor into experience. This epistemology can thus be fruitfully put in conversation with current philosophical discussions of mind and nature, in that it offers a naturalized account of mind which does not suffer from the typical weaknesses of a contemporary Kantian or Hegelian account. The paper thus concludes with a discussion of John McDowell’s Mind and World, and shows how Schelling’s philosophy can resolve some tensions in that work.
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