Monday, August 14, 2006

The Indeterminacy of Space

From FWJ Schelling's System of Transcendental Idealism:
If intuition becomes wholly indeterminate, absolutely without concepts, nothing else remains of it save the general intuition itself, which, if it is itself intuited once more, is space.

Space is a conceptless intuiting, and thus in no way a concept that might have been first abstracted, say, from the relationships of things; for although space arises for me through abstraction, it is still no abstract concept either in the sense that categories are, or in the sense that empirical or specific concepts are; for if there was a specific concept of space, there would have to be many spaces, instead of which there is but one infinite space, which is presupposed by every limitation in space, that is, by every individual space. Since space is merely an intuiting throughout, it is necessarily also an intuiting into the infinite, such that even the smallest part of space is still itself an intuiting, that is, a space and not, say, a mere boundary; and this alone is the basis for the infinite divisibility of space. Geometry, although it draws all its proofs solely from intuition, and yet does so no less generally than from concepts, ultimately owes its existence entirely to this property of space; and this is so generally admitted, that no further demonstration of it is needed here.

Schelling's conceptualization of space is by no means unique: infinite, infinitely divisible thus is divisibility is without import; no part of space holds special properties over others, save its position relative to others. Space as a whole, however, holds a special place in Schelling's thought because of complete exteriority to self: awareness of that which is outside the self is intuited in distance, whereas inner sense is intuited in time. Only one real place exists with regard to consciousness--that which is occupied by the self, which is isolated from space by the self's growing awareness of the differences between inner and outer. Indeed, as time defines inner intuition, space becomes dependent on it as space becomes an object to consciousness.

What makes Schelling's interpretation of space problematic (if not atypical) is that the same work introduces concepts of organism/organicism that contribute to the evolution of Gemeinschaft in German philosophy and sociology: the self belongs to a non-mechanical system, plant like in nature, that places it in relation to nature:
... it has framed itself outwardly from within everything that is external to it, and that which constitutes the universe for it is merely the grosser and remoter organ of self-consciousness.
It is this sense that the differences between Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft would be understood, and the naturalness of Heimat celebrated.

[ETA] With the weakened importance of space in Schelling's romantic thinking, organic, communal concepts such as Gemeinschaft and Heimat lack qualities of location and place. Belonging to a community, necessary for the formation of the self based on its own experiences, nonetheless is an abstraction, its specificity carrying no merit, and the self remains separable from the community around it.


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