Message from the President
Occasionally I am the recipient of various discussions and controversies via what is now known as Internet listservers. This form of communication can be most valuable. As always it depends on the quality and tone of the individual submissions. “Netiquette” is obviously still in its early stages of refinement. There is something about the spontaneity of the Internet, without the social restrictions of face to face contact, that seems to grant participants a linguistic license which often borders on the obstreperous. There are now listservers for almost every type of philosophical discourse – some freewheeling and anarchic, others controlled by various rules decreed by the manager of the listserver.
I was struck recently while on one listserver of how prevalent the temptation is for philosophy students to seek out secondary literature before they had even begun to study an original text. There were even requests for secondary literature from particular perspectives, such as an analytical reading of Hegel’s Logic or a post-modern interpretation of Kant. The pitfalls associated with reviewing secondary literature before one has a thorough understanding of the original text are obvious and need no repeating here. It appears to me, however, that the philosophical condemnation of such practices is neither common nor fashionable. Graduate students therefore feel no hesitation in making such admissions and requests. There is now no disciplinary shame in confessing your intentions to read this literature as a modus vivendi to allegedly understanding Plato or Aristotle.
There are several possible remedies to this situation. Quotations from secondary sources in term papers will result in demerits not advancement. The sighting and citation of secondary literature in classroom discussions will be strictly forbidden. Professors deeply immersed in such practices will have to exercise restraint. Survey courses based on textbooks designed primarily by the larger commercial publishing houses should be eliminated from all curricula. Finally, the classroom mantra at the beginning of every semester will be the understanding of the text through individual study, effort and reflection. Let the students know that they are usually capable enough.
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This issue of ELEUTHERIA contains Part III of “Metaphysic and Dialectic: Ancient and Modern” by James Lowry and “F.W.J. von Schelling and Post-Hegelian Nihilism” by Francis Peddle which are continuations of essays published in Volume X, Number 2, Fall, 1998. F.W.J. von Schelling is the last representative of classical German Idealism before its disintegration as a philosophical force around the middle of the nineteenth century. He remained an idealist all his life. His philosophical writings have enjoyed a considerable resurgence in recent decades.
As an interpreter of Hegel he was astute, conceptually rigorous and often prophetic of later developments for which a critical understanding of the import of the Encyclopedia of the Philosophical Sciences is a necessary prerequisite. With his invocation of a positive philosophy, and his preoccupation with Naturphilosophie, as opposed to Hegel’s negative rationalism, many modern writers see him as more exemplary of a form of modern existentialism than as an idealist. The following essay is primarily concerned with the issue of Schelling’s understanding of the role of nothing in relation to the Absolute in Hegel, and philosophy in general, and the implications this has for modern nihilism.