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ISSN 0869-5377
The Logos Journal

Abstraction and Utopia in Early German Idealism

Author: Whistler Daniel

About author:
Senior Lecturer, Philosophy Department, Liverpool University. Address: Mulberry Court, Mulberry Str., L69 7ZY Liverpool, UK. E-mail:

This paper is based on a close reading of the first five propositions of Schelling’s Darstellung meines Systems der Philosophie (1801). The author argues that what is distinctive and significant about these propositions is that they both describe and create an ideal space determined by an a-thetic logic. The first five propositions of the 1801 Darstellung are intended to transport the reader outside of time and space, outside of affirmation and negation, to a neutralised utopia defined by three functions alone: abstraction, entailment and definition. The author considers this intention in the context of German Idealist discussions of abstraction: Hegel’s critique of the abstract particular and abstractive methodology, as well as Fichte’s and early Schelling’s attempt to theorise abstraction as the starting point for the philosophical enterprise. This leads the author to consider what a philosophical text that practices abstraction and construction (rather than deduction, inference, or explanation) looks like, and he draws upon the early work of Louis Marin to characterise such a text as utopic. In so doing, he attempts to demonstrate the significance and cogency of a non-dialectical, a-Hegelian tradition in early German Idealism that culminates in the opening pages of Schelling’s 1801 Darstellung.

Keywords: Friedrich Schelling; Louis Marin; abstraction; utopia; early German idealism

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