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Schelling’s philosophy of nature and the environmental challenge


The contemporary environmental crisis has triggered a revival of discussions on the concept of nature. Among scientists, philosophers, policy makers and citizens questions regarding environmental practices and the overall state of nature have become a matter of central concern. But what exactly is nature beyond the specific phenomena studied by specialized natural sciences, such as physics, chemistry or biology? Is there something else beyond these particular phenomena? What is the relationship between these phenomena and humanity? Do humans have a special status in relation to nature? On my account, these questions are at the core of the philosophy of nature that Schelling developed at the turn of the 19th century in response to the increasing instrumentalization of nature. More precisely, I take Schelling’s philosophy of nature to address versions of these same questions, especially as regards (a) the unity of nature beyond the phenomena studied by emerging scientific disciplines such as chemistry and biology, and (b) the status of humanity in relation to this unity. The overall aim of the project is to bring out the contemporary relevance of Schelling’s philosophy of nature by investigating it as an attempt to address these challenges. Counteracting mystical readings of Schelling’s project, I will argue (1) that he is concerned with the elaboration of a unified account of the phenomena studied in the natural sciences; (2) that his theory of self-organization aims to provide such an account; (3) that he conceives of the distinction between humans and non-human forms of nature as a distinction of degree; and (4) that this conception of nature as the manifestation of different degrees of self-organization is relevant to contemporary debates in that it forges a middle path between anthropocentric and non-anthropocentric approaches to nature.


Net EU contribution
€ 175 920,00
Oude Markt 13
3000 Leuven

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Vlaams Gewest Prov. Vlaams-Brabant Arr. Leuven
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Other funding
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