The Origami Fold

Nature as Organism in Schelling’s Later Identity Philosophy


  • Michael Vater Marquette University


From 1801–1807 Schelling continued to refine his early attempts at Naturphilosophie in the metaphysical framework of a transcendental Spinozism that he initially called Identity Philosophy. While mathematics and geometry provided the model for identity and its quantitative differentiation in early versions of identity theory, from 1804–1807, logic and theory of language offered a model of identity capable of unknotting persistent Spinozistic puzzles such as the connection between natura naturans and natura naturata—the absolute and its potencies—and the ontological status of the individual. Schelling’s initial concepts of identity as “indifference” or “the identity of identity and difference,” themselves the offshoot of meditations on polarity and repeating structure in the philosophy of nature, make way for logical concepts such as “expression” or “affirmation” and the propositional operator “bond” or “Position” found in the copula. The new essays approach ultimate reality through Spinoza’s disjunction of God or nature, or productive and produced nature; so in addition to identity theory, a general metaphysics of nature prefaces treatments of specific natural phenomena. These dual metaphysics of God and nature inject a dynamic or expressive movement into identity that is not yet the unfolding of identity as grounding-and-division that Schelling will articulate in the 1809 Freedom Essay, but it carries a sense of motion and differentiation—or evolution and unfolding—not found in his earlier attempts. The entire identity philosophy period is best viewed as a step in Schelling’s lifelong project of reworking Spinoza by adding life and spirit to nature.