The Transcendental Conception of Living Organisation: Kant, Schelling, and Their Relevance for Darwin

Start - End 
2021 - 2024 (ongoing)
Department of Philosophy and moral sciences



This project intends to investigate the contentious relation between German idealism and life sciences. It pays, on the one hand, major philosophical attention to how German idealistic philosophy takes up the concepts of living organisation and evolution, and, on the other hand, it pays a limited yet due historical attention to the affinity and distance between Darwin’s theory, the most important biological paradigm tody, and its German idealistic precursors.

I read Kant’s critical philosophy and Schelling’s Naturphilosophie with regard to the so-called inscrutability of the inner possibility of the living organisation. I contend that this problematics of knowing living organisations remains dialectical, whether it is approached through a transcendental-logical critique like Kant or through a naturalistic-dynamic construction like Schelling. In other words, for both, there is always an epistemological price to pay in claiming biological cognitions and knowlege. There is a ever present locuna in the ever newly charted biological domain. This fundamental missing invites methodological and disciplinary ramificaitons and interconnections. Nevertheless, Kant's and Schelling's sophisticated philosophical considerations have provided substantial apparatuses for the following multiple appropriations, including Darwin’s evolutionary theory and various modern ideas such as autopoiesis and organisational closure. It follows that, at the same time, the same dificiency can also be found in them.

The final doctoral dissertation is a collection of four articles, respectively addressing 1) the transcendental logic of Kant’s teleological critique of the concept of a natural purpose and the generation of teleological antinomy; 2) the naturalistic-dynamic construction of Schelling’s Naturphilosophie in defining living organisation; 3) the duality of logic and nature in Kant and Schelling and the inevitability of contingency and organisation; and 4) Darwin’s debts to German idealistic and romantic science and philosophy. For each article, I offer a supplement to elaborate on those points that cannot be fully addressed in the limited range of an article and incorporate new developments of recent literature. Also, by means of these supplements, I hope, the interconnection and unity of these different topics, the common concern of the whole research, can be better explicated.




Phd Student(s)


Charles T. Wolfe

Université de Toulouse Jean-Jaurès