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Negative and Positive Philosophy in the late work of Fichte and Schelling

Seymour, Robert G (2020) Negative and Positive Philosophy in the late work of Fichte and Schelling. PhD thesis, University of Essex.

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In this thesis I attempt to uncover the general philosophical significance of the distinction made by F.W.J. Schelling (1775–1854) between negative and positive philosophy in his later work. Instead of approaching this issue in the customary way, via a comparison with Hegel, I argue that the distinction marks the point of culmination of a distinct strand in the development of idealism which has a significant precursor in the neglected and misunderstood later work of J.G. Fichte (1762–1814). I argue that the tendency of both thinkers’ later work is to provide a criticism of the systematic project most commonly identified with German Idealism, namely holistic monism. I further attempt to elucidate the steps both thinkers take towards providing an alternative account of systematicity. In the first part of the thesis I examine the roots of the distinction between negative and positive philosophy in the disagreement about the status of the system that finds expression in Fichte’s and Schelling’s correspondence. I argue that this debate reveals both the ambiguities of the early Wissenschaftslehre as well as the inconsistency of Schelling’s attempt to supplement it with an ontological grounding. In the second part of the thesis, I argue that Fichte’s later philosophy, as it is expounded in the Berlin Wissenschaftslehre, is to be understood as crystallising in the wake of his disagreement with Schelling. Fichte develops, on my reading, a negative philosophy in order to separate the structure of self-consciousness from the absolute partly in order to reveal the inadequacy of Schelling’s approach to ontological grounding. I identify the further significance of the Berlin Wissenschaftslehre as consisting in Fichte’s novel reformulation of the ontological argument, which likewise anticipates a central element of Schelling’s later thought. In the final part, I examine Schelling’s self-conscious formulation of negative and positive philosophy and try to uncover its wider methodological significance.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > B Philosophy (General)
Divisions: Faculty of Humanities > Philosophy and Art History, School of
Depositing User: Robert Seymour
Date Deposited: 24 Feb 2020 16:00
Last Modified: 24 Feb 2020 16:00

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