The Philosophy of Nature of Kant, Schelling and Hegel

In Dean Moyar (ed.), The Routledge Companion to Nineteenth Century Philosophy: London, New York. London, New York: Routledge. pp. 64—‘l03 (2010)
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The present investigation brings into view the philosophy of nature of German Idealism, a philosophical movement which emerged around the beginning of the nineteenth century. German Idealism appro- priated certain motivations of the Kantian philosophy and developed them further in a "speculative" manner (Engelhardt 1972, 1976, 2002). This powerful philosophical movement, associated above all with the names of Fichte, Schelling and Hegel - and moreover having nothing whatsoever to do with the "subjective idealism" of George Berkeley - was replaced by philosophical positions designated roughly as metaphysics of the will, Marxism, life-philosophy, phenomenology and existentialism, as well as positivism, empiricism, philosophy of science, the linguistic turn, and analytic philosophy. These philosophical positions more or less still shape us today. German Idealism amounts to a virtual intellectual-historical antithesis to these movements and thus presents itself in retrospect as a striking alternative. The basis of Idealism - in its various respective forms - is the ideal <Ideelle>, and thus the opposite of that which is real. It continually takes as its task explaining the real in terms of the ideal, and this is especially true of the Idealists' philosophy of nature.' Is this a hopeless undertaking? Does Idealism not lack an empirical basis? Can one secure any solid ground whatsoever in the ether of the ideal? In what follows, I explain how, more than anyone else, Schelling and Hegel sought to handle this problem and to cope with it. By way of anticipation, a clear preference for the Hegelian philosophy of nature will emerge in what follows, a preference which may come as some surprise considering how much controversy has surrounded the significance of that view. The project of renewing a thoroughgoing philosophy of nature can meaningfully begin here.
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