McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts
Joseph P. Lawrence
Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling, the Ages of the World, Weltalter, philosophy of time, metaphysics, ground, unprethinkable decision, Naturphilosophie, freedom, contingency
This dissertation traces the development of Schelling's philosophy of time as it appears in the Ages of the World, a work which Schelling himself never completed but which he clearly intended as his magnum opus. My project focuses on Schelling's claim that time is the absolute, a claim which grew out of his Naturphilosophie and which later served as the basis for his fruitful interactions with Kierkegaard in Berlin. In the dissertation, I defend the thesis that Schelling's concept of "beginnings" paves the way for an "organic" understanding of time which articulates the latter as a living, breathing entity. In short, my work attempts to prove that Schelling does not conceive of time as a horizon of being, or as a category of consciousness, but as the ultimate basis from which living things grow and evolve. As I write in the introduction to my project, time, for him does not simply "pass by;" instead, it "ripens," and "bears fruit." Similarly, living things are not merely in time, but time is in them insofar as living things produce time just as much as they are produced by it.
Supporting this thesis is my investigation into Schelling's concept of "ground" [Grund], which regards time as a contradiction-producing a priori. Time begins with the free decision of the subject; however, this free decision is grounded, paradoxically, in the subject's confrontation with its own fate. "Ground," then, has the character of irreducible indeterminacy, giving time the character of "unprethinkability" [Unvordenklichkeit]. In the opening lines of the Ages of the World, Schelling argues that "only the past can be known." However, as I demonstrate, Schelling's insights on "ground," in addition to fragmentary nature of his essay, prove otherwise. Instead, what we discover in the Ages of the World is the unfolding of the insight that even the origin of history remains obscure to us, and that this obscurity is endemic to all "beginnings" in time, past, present, and future.
Jussaume, A. (2017). Schelling's Ages of the World: The Beginning of the Beginning (Doctoral dissertation, Duquesne University). Retrieved from https://dsc.duq.edu/etd/220