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Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph von Schelling (Leonberg, Germany, 1775 – Bad Ragaz, Switzerland 1854) highlighted an aspect that was already implicit in Fichte’s philosophy, but was not developed. Fichte had said that it is the I that does everything, that creates everything. Schelling deduces that, if this is the case, it can be said that the non-I is not different from the I, but has the same nature, it is intelligence all the same.
To understand this thought it may be useful to start from another completely different assumption, but one that will guide us well to understanding.
Let’s start with one that says that everything is matter, everything is mechanism; one that says that we ourselves are nothing but small computers; except that computers are a bit simpler, they have another architecture, while our brain and our body are a bit more complicated; computers are made of metals, wires and plastic, whereas we are made of proteins, vitamins, tissues; but many operations respond to the same logic: the brain moves muscles by sending electrical impulses through the nervous system, in the same way as a computer puts in motion the printer, connected to it through a cable; the brain reasons by creating electrical connections within itself, making them interact with one another; a computer also processes by making certain electrical connections react. The activity of a computer can be displayed on a screen; that of the brain can also be visualized and interpreted on an electroencephalogram; today it is already possible to send some commands to a computer directly by the thought, through electrodes applied to the head.
At this point an important question arises: what then is intelligence and the I? In this way of thinking intelligence is nothing but the action of the electrical impulses that interact in our brain; consequently, a computer or animal should not be said having no intelligence, but only that they have less, or that they have it structured with different architectures. Naturally, if we begin to descend from man, to the animal and the computer, we arrive down to the stone: even a stone then has its own intelligence, because even within it there are electromagnetic forces that interact the one with the other, only excepting that they have different operating structures. So the whole universe is nothing but a mass of matter, which, since it contains in itself the interaction of electromagnetic forces, can be considered as a cluster of intelligent matter, only excepting that intelligence is distributed in very different ways among one object and another, for example among a man and a stone.
Now let’s take the step that will allow us to return to Schelling and understand it. We have said that the whole universe can be considered made of intelligent matter because it contains electricity; but now let us remember that actually we don’t know what matter is: Kant called it noumenon, saying that we cannot know anything about the noumenon. So, if the universe is intelligent matter, but we don’t know what matter is, and even if it really exists, the only thing that remains is that the whole universe is intelligence. Here is the thought of Schelling. With Schelling we no longer have the “I” that produces the non-I within itself, as Fichte had said; we have instead that everything is I; the objects are a natural extension, a prolongation of the I, in the same way as our arms or a portion of our brain are; this is true whether it is my particular I, or the I that is the whole world: all is I.