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Schelling and modern European philosophy

Schelling (SMEP:61-63) – Não sou eu sabendo, mas a totalidade sabendo em mim

It is not I that know, but rather only the totality (All) knows in me

terça-feira 18 de novembro de 2008, por Cardoso de Castro


Bowie, Andrew. Schelling   and modern European philosophy: an introduction. New York: Taylor & Francis, 2001, p. 61-63


Schelling  ’s first, thoroughly subversive, move beyond the subject is the following: ‘It is not I that know, but rather only the totality (All) knows in me, if the knowledge which I call mine is a real  , a true knowledge’ (ibid. p. 140). Schelling makes a clear distinction between the empirical knowledge generated in synthetic judgements and ‘knowledge’ in terms of the Absolute. He later claims: ‘The I think, I am, is, since Descartes  , the basic mistake of all knowledge (Erkenntnis); thinking is not my thinking, and being is not my being, for everything is only of God   or of the totality’ (I/7 p. 148). Real ‘knowing’ is, then, not what we arrive at in synthetic [61] judgements. In arguing as he does here, Schelling evidently does not privilege the subject. Is the position, though, not just a grandiose tautology, in which the Absolute knows it is the Absolute? Schelling has, to be sure, no doubt that the question must initially be discussed in terms of the statement of identity: A = A. The statement and its reformulation are the basis of his rethinking of Kant  ’s question about synthetic judgements which we considered earlier.

Schelling’s first move is to deny that, in relation to the Absolute, A = A expresses a relationship of subject to object or subject to predicate. A = A is here, then, not just an expression of the most abstract synthetic judgement possible, which would be no more than a tautology:

In this proposition one can, therefore, abstract from everything, from the reality of A at all, as well   from its reality as subject and as predicate; but what absolutely cannot be abstracted from and what remains as the sole reality in this proposition is the sameness (Gleichheit) or absolute identity itself, which is accordingly the true substance of knowledge in this proposition . . . . The sameness (Gleichheit) does not exist via the subject and the object, but rather the other way round, only in so far as the sameness is, i.e. only in so far as both are one and the same, are subject and object as well. (I/6 p. 146–7)

There is, Schelling claims, a ‘doubling of identity’, in which the sameness of what is divided is only possible on the basis of a prior absolute identity. This can be explained by pondering the fact that the statement that two things are absolutely different is meaningless, in that if they are absolutely different they are not even two things, and the statement refutes itself. If I say that the subject is the predicate, what is on each side of the proposition can change: the same person can be angry and not be angry at different times. What cannot change is the ontologically prior fact that both subject and predicate are. The fact that they both are is the prior condition of their being identified with each other as whatever kind of being they may be.

This sameness might appear suspiciously like the night in which all cows are black, but the argument does not entail such a result. Schelling puts Leibniz  ’s question in his own way when he confronts:

that last question of the understanding which stands dizzily at the abyss of infinity, the question: why is there not nothing, why is there anything at all? This question is eternally banished by the knowledge that being necessarily is, i.e. by that absolute affirmation of being in knowledge. (I/6 p. 155) [62]

The key terms are ‘affirmation’ and ‘knowledge’, but what do they mean? Manfred Frank suggests that Schelling conceives of being as the ‘transitive relationship of a subject to its predicates’ (Frank 1991 p. 141).6 Instead of ‘to be’ functioning as an intransitive linking verb, in the Absolute, things are transitively ‘been’. Sartre   will later use the notion of être été to express this; in Schelling’s terms, specific existents are ‘affirmed’. You or I, as empirical knowing subjects, are, therefore, predicates of being. Our particular being as you or I, in which my identity is arrived at by my difference from you or all other yous, is ‘affirmed’ by a being which we cannot know as our own because that being cannot depend upon difference, which would be the condition of possibility of knowing it. To get to this being we must, therefore, go beyond reflexive knowledge, otherwise we fail to comprehend the way in which we are as everything else is, which is the condition of possibility of predication and truth  . How, though, can we do this?

Ver online : Schelling and modern European philosophy (epub)