On an Artificial Earth

Posted by | Chris | 15.7.10 | 1 Comment


Trying to think through Iain’s paper on panpsychism I thought I’d re-read the Notre Dame review of ‘On an Artificial Earth’. ‘All Things Think’ is a brilliant piece, suggestive of a great many possibilities, but I feel like it’s only a beginning with a great many things left unsaid.


It’s clearly no substitute for actually reading the book, but the review is illuminating of a number of points:


Schelling unveiled in nature a material vitalism that rescues matter from the category of the inert and mechanical to which Kant and Fichte had relegated it. In this way, he understood nature as always more subject than object, the ground and condition of human subjectivity rather than simply the object of human reflection.


Clearly, a vital materialism is something that we’re all interested in, but what really struck me is “nature as subject”. Precisely this point was suggested recently here on the blog in the context of panpsychism and nature as the producer of human subjectivity.


What Grant adds to the general vision of physical dynamism is the thesis (and, yes, this too is very much in Schelling) that nature itself is therefore history.


I want to expand more on this at another time but the history of nature is something that I think is really important. Today I mentioned to Alex the idea of nature’s generativity as based on chance; like the flip of a coin. But as I walked home I thought that this cannot do justice to the repetition of pattern and form which characterises all we see in nature. That nature re-uses, in different places and times, forms that exceed their particular instantiation is I would argue an important point for a realist metaphysics.

Comments

One Response to “On an Artificial Earth”

  1. Zachariah
    16/7/10 03:58

    "Today I mentioned to Alex the idea of nature’s generativity as based on chance; like the flip of a coin. But as I walked home I thought that this cannot do justice to the repetition of pattern and form which characterises all we see in nature. That nature re-uses, in different places and times, forms that exceed their particular instantiation is I would argue an important point for a realist metaphysics."

    I feel it's my place to note the implications of this for freedom. The problem of freedom faces the same problem of chance/determinism. If the generativity of nature is based on a genuine, 'ontological' chance then the scope of human freedom is curtailed in proportion to range of chance events. We are, after all, parts of nature. What of causation? The regularity of nature?

    Conversely, if the generativity of nature is somehow determined (the repetition of pattern and form), then equally the problems for freedom are clear: our actions and their consequences are not free actions issuing from ourselves, but the determined outcome of nature's generativity.

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