I gave a guest-lecture for one of the graduate seminars here at MUN last week. The course is a historical reading of Schelling’s Freiheitsschrift, providing the context necessary for a thorough reading of Schelling’s essay from Spinoza, to Kant, to Fichte, to Boehme. My lecture took the opposite strategy, making a case for taking Schelling as a significant figure by tracing his ideas and concepts through post-Schellingian thought. I’ve decided to post the handout from this otherwise unscripted lecture since I know there are people who frequent this blog who are very much interested in Schelling and his effect on philosophy. I hope this will help those interested further their study of some of Schelling’s key concepts.
I have posted the handout here on my Academia.edu page.
They were trying to establish exactly how organic photosynthesis approaches 95% efficiency, whereas the most sophisticated human solar cells operate at only half that. What they discovered is nothing short of remarkable. Using femtosecond lasers to follow the movement of light energy through a photosynthetic bacterial cell, Engel et al. observed the energy traveling along every possible direction at the same time. Instead of following a single trajectory like the electrons on a silicon chip, the energy in photosynthesis explores all of its options and collapses the quantum process only after the fact, retroactively “deciding” upon the most efficient pathway.
What does this all mean? Not only does quantum phenomena occur in living systems, but the basic processes of life we take for granted rely on the transfer of information backward in time. Life is so magical because it cheats.
What’s amazing to me is the fact that this retroactive decisional structure is one of the foundations not only of Schelling’s thought (the mystery of personality or rather, of there being things at all being explained through the logical necessity of a retroactive [and therefore unconscious] decision from God creating Himself all the way down to the tiniest existents) but also that this structure is at the core of many post-Schellingians as well. Maybe this is the connection that needs to be drawn between Schelling and a whole school of Schellingians, from Heidegger’s “thrown-projection,” to the Lacanian Real, to Badiou’s Subject of Truth. I don’t know Laruelle at all, but I know the act of decision is crucial to his critique of philosophy. Can someone fill me in briefly of how these philosophers of retroactive decision fit his critique?