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Friedrich Schelling and "Philosophical Psychology"

Lecturer: Gord Barentsen

Originally Taught: Summer School 2018

Much of the renewed contemporary interest in Friedrich Schelling’s philosophy resists the orthodox understanding of him as a “systemic” thinker in the German Idealist tradition.  This hermeneutic shift has also emphasised Schelling’s important prefiguration of contemporary psychological theories of the self, and this opens up the space for considering the idea of a philosophical psychology – a concept which names the disciplinary transference between metaphysics and metapsychology (the latter taken in its broadest, not specifically Freudian sense) which resonates throughout Schelling’s oeuvre, and which also punctuates the question of “system” which haunts the pages of some of Schelling’s most powerful works.  This course tracks this philosophical psychology by focussing on texts which represent significant evolutionary points in Schelling’s thought.  We will read Schelling’s oeuvre through the lens of a dissociationist psychology avant la lettre, which is marked in particular by a key turn in Schelling’s thinking circa 1809 to a darker, more aleatory conception of Being than his earlier work in transcendental idealism.

The course will begin with a brief introduction to the premises of the course.  We will then turn to brief excerpts from the early Naturphilosophie of his First Outline of a System of the Philosophy of Nature (1799), which already suggests a dissociationist topography that reappears at crucial points in his thought.  We then move to Schelling’s embattled attempt to formulate a “system” of knowledge that includes both mind and Nature in the System of Transcendental Idealism (1800).  Philosophical Inquiries Into the Nature of Human Freedom (1809) is Schelling’s self-described “theory of personality,” which makes the powerful claim that God is always already subject-ed to its own unconscious.  This text marks the conclusive turn in Schelling’s thinking which is pursued in The Ages of the World (1815), which invokes mesmerism and magnetic sleep in a significant step toward merging metaphysics with psychology.  The 1821 Erlangen lecture “On the Nature of Philosophy as Science,” despite its title, ultimately formulates a philosophical psychology which anticipates modern theorists such as Bataille.

The course will conclude by amplifying this philosophical psychology’s alignment with dissociationism.  We will discuss a key lecture from Schelling’s 1842-1843 philosophy of mythology, reading it forward to Carl Jung’s analytical psychology, which in many ways constitutes a post-Schellingianism that has influenced such seminal thinkers as Gilbert Simondon, Gilles Deleuze, and Gaston Bachelard.  Contrary to historical misunderstandings of Jung, there is a radically deconstructive element to analytical psychology which is brought out in Jung’s alignment with Schelling’s philosophy – a relationship of which Jung was not aware, and which has only very recently attracted critical attention.

Students registering in this course are recommended to read in advance the very short text “The Oldest System Programme of German Idealism,” which outlines several themes taken up by both Schelling and Jung.  It exists in various forms and translations but which can be found in Chapter 1 of David Krell’s The Tragic Absolute: German Idealism and the Languishing of God (Indiana UP, 2005).

Course Schedule

Week 1: Introduction; the concept of philosophical psychology and Schelling’s place in the dissociationist tradition; First Outline of a System of the Philosophy of Nature (excerpt); System of Transcendental Idealism (1800)

Week 2: Philosophical Inquiries Into the Nature of Human Freedom (1809)

Week 3: The Ages of the World (1815)

Week 4: “On the Nature of Philosophy as Science” (1821); as Jung remains largely unknown, there will be some preliminary discussion of Jung in preparation for the final session, where I will discuss key Jungian concepts as ways in to the essays for the following week.

Week 5: Schelling, Historical-Critical Introduction to the Philosophy of Mythology, lecture 10; Jung, “On Psychic Energy” (1928), “On the Nature of the Psyche” (1947/1954)

Bibliography of Readings

Schelling

  • The Ages of the World (Fragment), From the Handwritten Remains: Third Version (1815),  trans. Jason Wirth (Albany: State U of New York P, 2000).
  • First Outline of a System of the Philosophy of Nature, trans. Keith Peterson (Albany: State U of New York P, 2004).
  • Historical-Critical Introduction to the Philosophy of Mythology, trans. Mason Richey and Markus Zisselsberger (Albany: State U of New York P, 2007).
  • “On the Nature of Philosophy as Science,” trans. Marcus Weigelt, in German Idealist Philosophy. ed. Rüdiger Bubner (London and New York: Penguin, 1997), pp. 210-243.
  • Philosophical Investigations into the Essence of Human Freedom, trans. Jeff Love and Johannes Schmidt (Albany: State U of New York P, 2006).
  • System of Transcendental Idealism (1800), trans. Peter Heath (Charlottesville: UP of Virginia, 1978).

Jung

  • “On Psychic Energy,” The Structure and Dynamics of the Psyche, 2nd. ed. (Princeton: Princeton UP, 1969), pp. 1-66.
  • “On the Nature of the Psyche,” The Structure and Dynamics of the Psyche, 2nd. ed. (Princeton: Princeton UP, 1969), pp. 159-234.