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Adrian Johnston: "Monism and Mistakes: Schelling's 'Puzzle of All Puzzles'"

Updated: Jun 12, 2022

Study Group With Adrian Johnston:

Wednesday June 15th, 10 am PDT

Over the course of the past few decades, the German idealist F.W.J. Schelling has come to attract renewed interest amongst philosophers working in a number of areas. More recently, Schelling's corpus has become a point of reference for those working on the inter-linked issues of idealism, materialism, naturalism, and realism in contemporary Continental metaphysics. In this intervention, I reconstruct Schelling's lengthy and protean philosophical odyssey as unfolding along the lines of an incompatibility between two fundamental ontologies: a hen-kai-pan ontology of the Absolute as harmonious, homogeneous Identity (i.e., as All, God, Indifference, Infinity, natura naturans, One, Whole, etc.) and a conflict ontology of the Absolute as discordant, heterogeneous Difference. On my reconstruction, although Empedoclean notes are sounded throughout Schelling's corpus, only in the 1815 third draft of his unfinished Weltalter project does a conflict ontology momentarily win out over an ontology of Unity sounding not only Parmenidean notes, but also notes echoing the neo-Platonists, Spinoza, and Hölderlin too. The latter has the upper hand throughout most of Schelling's oeuvre. At the same time, Schelling intermittently registers fatal flaws to his repeatedly affirmed hen kai pan. Through an immanent-critical employment of these intermittent registrations, I seek to outline a contemporary naturalistic conflict ontology inspired by, but moving beyond, Schelling's foreshadowings of such a philosophical program.

Recommended readings:

A New German Idealism: Hegel, Žižek, and Dialectical Materialism, New York: Columbia University Press, 2018

Prolegomena to Any Future Materialism, Volume Two: A Weak Nature Alone, Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 2019 “Meta-Transcendentalism and Error-First Ontology: The Cases of Gilbert Simondon and Catherine Malabou,” New Realism and Contemporary Philosophy [ed. Gregor Kroupa and Jure Simoniti], London: Bloomsbury, 2020, pp. 145-178 “Cake or Doughnut?: Žižek and German Idealist Emergentisms,” Žižek and His Critics [ed. Dominik Finkelde and Todd McGowan], New York: Routledge, 2022 (forthcoming) “Transcendental Materialism: A Conversation with Adrian Johnston [with Anthony Morgan],” The Kantian Catastrophe?: Conversations on Finitude and the Limits of Philosophy [ed. Anthony Morgan], Newcastle-upon-Tyne: Bigg Books, 2017, pp. 183-207 “Confession of a Weak Reductionist: Responses to Some Recent Criticisms of My Materialism,” Neuroscience and Critique: Exploring the Limits of the Neurological Turn [ed. Jan De Vos and Ed Pluth], New York: Routledge, 2015, pp. 141-170 “The Difference Between Fichte’s and Hegel’s Systems of Philosophy: A Response to Robert Pippin,” Pli: The Warwick Journal of Philosophy, special issue: “Hegel and the Sciences: Philosophy of Nature in the Twenty-First Century” [ed. Filip Niklas], no. 31, 2019, pp. 1-68 “Interview with Adrian Johnston [with Gerardo Roberto Flores Peña],” Figure/Ground, October 15, 2018,

“Whither the Transcendental?: Hegel, Analytic Philosophy, and the Prospects of a Realist Transcendentalism Today,” Crisis and Critique, special issue: “Philosophy and Science” [ed. Agon Hamza and Frank Ruda], vol. 5, no. 1, 2018, pp. 162-208 “Transcendentalism in Hegel’s Wake: A Reply to Timothy M. Hackett and Benjamin Berger,” Pli: The Warwick Journal of Philosophy, special issue: “Schelling: Powers of the Idea” [ed. Benjamin Berger], no. 26, Fall 2014, pp. 204-237 “An Interview with Adrian Johnston on Transcendental Materialism [with Peter Gratton],” Society and Space, October 2013,


Adrian Johnston is a Distinguished Professor in the Department of Philosophy at the University of New Mexico at Albuquerque and a faculty member at the Emory Psychoanalytic Institute in Atlanta. He is the author of Time Driven: Metapsychology and the Splitting of the Drive (2005), Žižek’s Ontology: A Transcendental Materialist Theory of Subjectivity (2008), Badiou, Žižek, and Political Transformations: The Cadence of Change (2009), and Prolegomena to Any Future Materialism, Volume One: The Outcome of Contemporary French Philosophy (2013), all published by Northwestern University Press. He also is the author of Adventures in Transcendental Materialism: Dialogues with Contemporary Thinkers (Edinburgh University Press, 2014). He is the co-author, with Catherine Malabou, of Self and Emotional Life: Philosophy, Psychoanalysis, and Neuroscience (Columbia University Press, 2013). His most recent books are Irrepressible Truth: On Lacan’s “The Freudian Thing” (Palgrave Macmillan, 2017), A New German Idealism: Hegel, Žižek, and Dialectical Materialism (Columbia University Press, 2018), and Prolegomena to Any Future Materialism, Volume Two: A Weak Nature Alone (Northwestern University Press, 2019). He also co-edited, with Boštjan Nedoh and Alenka Zupančič, Objective Fictions: Philosophy, Psychoanalysis, Marxism (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2022). With Todd McGowan and Slavoj Žižek, he is a co-editor of the book series Diaeresis at Northwestern University Press.

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