Becoming as Formation of Boundaries

Schelling’s Philosophy of Nature and Whitehead’s Process Philosophy


  • Philipp Höfele University of Freiburg


The beginning of process philosophy is usually associated with Alfred N. Whitehead. Nevertheless, with regard to the understanding of the whole of nature as a process, there are obvious precursors to be found in the philosophy of nature around 1800 and especially in that of F.W.J. Schelling. Hans Jonas registered this proximity, at least indirectly. In his contribution to A Philosophical Biology, traces of both Schelling and Whitehead can be found, even if he never quotes the former directly and thinks he has to differentiate himself from the latter despite all kinship. A central question in common for Schelling and Whitehead concerns the formation of boundaries and, thus, of structures and forms. This question appears too in Jonas’s work, albeit less radically insofar as he understands only organic life and its permanent metabolism, rather than the whole of nature, as processual. Thus, Jonas poses the question of identity formation solely with respect to organic life. The process-philosophical perspective on the whole of being, which is shared by Schelling and Whitehead but rejected by Jonas, is, however, justified from certain points of view, especially in view of a holism increasingly discussed in the Anthropocene.