Friday, July 23, 2010

Thoughts on the Schelling Book and After

Today was the day that the typesetting and proofing and indexing of the Schelling book (if you're not already in the know, it's here) was supposed to be finished, and...we made it.

To think, only a year ago, to the day, I was writing Chapter 4, which is about Schelling's philosophy of art during the period that he held to a position he called absolute idealism (1801-1806), and which, as almost everybody knows, he developed with Hegel, before their later break over that one book that Hegel published in 1807...

I've already discussed, in a very schematic fashion, Schelling's absolute idealism and his philosophy of art on the blog (parts one, and two), and the nice part is, much of this discussion doesn't appear in the book, so if you read it, it won't be redundant. In fact those posts are more than likely going to be used for a future paper about Schelling and Hegel.

But a year ago, to the day, I was still grappling with a flaw in previous Schelling secondary-lit. Most people follow this line: Schelling's philosophy of art was important when he held to the subjectivism of transcendental philosophy (through the System of Transcendental Idealism), and when he dismissed that subjectivism, he no longer needed artistic production as the 'keystone' of the system. I argue that he still needs the philosophy of art, in fact, he makes recourse to artistic production to move his changing system along through 1807.

During the period of absolute idealism, Schelling argues that philosophy constructs a system from the perspective of reason itself, and in the lectures later published as The Philosophy of Art he argues that artistic production in the form of mythology provides the historical content of the transition from the infinite to the finite. That is, philosophy deals with the infinite as the perspective of reason, and art (via the imagination/Einbildungskraft) 'forms into unity' the historical content of art through mythology, art presents the absolute in finite form. Far from dismissing art, Schelling needs it to give content to the absolute. (now I know that some might say that nature-philosophy does that as well, and it's true, although Schelling claims that art is a superior truth; we have to just leave it at that for the moment).  But I argue that the historical content that art is to provide is itself formally different than what the so-called perspective of reason (absolute idealism) tells us about the world, and the two can't be, or weren't, reconciled. This sends us off to Chapter 5, which you are all going to have to wait for.

Now, I had been rehearsing this post for a few weeks, because I was going to tell you that, for the first time in years, I didn't have a project with a deadline at hand for the first time since I spent the summer reading the three volumes of Foucault's History of Sexuality (that was the summer between my BA and the start of my 2001).

But it's no longer true. I've volunteered to review Rancière's Dissensus, and last week the RPA accepted my conference abstract on a critique of Laclau and Agamben, both so far apart and yet so similar in not quite grasping, for very different reasons, the uses of violence. 

However, with just that gloss, I know what you're thinking: between the time you write the abstract and the time that it's accepted, you've been reading a lot of Fanon and Lukacs, and now you're quite certain that the paper has transformed into something entirely different and you're right. Laclau's got to go, and you've got to get serious about Agamben's tendency to turn historical violence into metaphysical violence. Hell, you might even get a chance to throw in a critique of Zizek, because they have a common fault: too much early Benjamin, not enough later Benjamin.

Yeah, that's it, that's exactly what I'm working on. Imagine if conference abstracts started reading like the paragraph above...

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