The biggest names in modern philosophy, and the most remember in modern science, Newton, Descartes, Bacon, Locke, etcetera, were prominent positivists at the cusp of the industrial revolution. These thinkers held that there exists objective reality, that our minds are able to grasp that reality by reasoning through our empirical senses, and that it was humankind’s job to dissect nature and to master it. The idea that humans are able to observe nature implies that humans are outside of nature, however, much forgotten German idealist philosopher, enemy of the mechanistic empiricists, and reactionary to Kant dared to develop a new system of philosophical inquiry.
Schelling saw that modern science promotes a view of the world that is unsustainable because the system makes fundamentally corrupting presuppositions about the human condition. Modern science saw human beings as pinnacles of creation, as God’s manifestation on earth. Man could do no wrong so long as we were looking for truth; the ends (truth) justified the means (using the earth as a means). This fundamentally closed metaphysical manifest destiny understood nature as a collection of resources that solely to make human life better. The essence of science and the trajectory of our relationship with the natural world to them was simply to manipulate and control it. Schelling’s philosophy of nature, however, provides a metaphysical infrastructure of a very different kind insofar as it allows for organic growth to take place and the adoption of a reciprocal relationship between man and nature to unfold.
Rather than the cold separation of a mechanistic positivistic dualistic philosophy, philosophy of nature has key metaphysical differences that allow for a more creative, holistic, sustainable, and organic system of meaning. How is this done? Through Schelling’s legendary speculative physics. Speculative physics is physics practiced with the backdrop-contextualizing qualification that we know only the self produced; knowing, in the strictest sense, is therefore a function guided by ideas, a priori, before experience. How can science take place in this kind of a environment, where our senses are not capable of representing realty?
Schelling’s answer is this: although we project ideas and patterns onto reality, the reality of patterns reciprocally and inevitably project onto our ideas; we cannot help but see patterns, because patterns exist in nature, with our without a reasoning human mind to rip the patterns out of context and label them. Accepting the necessity of working in patterns and thinking with purposiveness, physics can continue to be practiced with a more examined methodological approach, and a two way system of validity that make sure that no matter what happens in the scientific foreground; the nature bound backdrop must be cared for and cultivated as well. A much more healthy, yet just as pragmatic, system of thought.