Schelling’s “great leap” begins by cutting adrift of two of the foundational concepts of modern metaphysics—Descartes’ I think—I am, and Kant’s thing-in-itself. The former establishes the pre-critical ‘I’ as the sovereign experiencer and consequently anoints the duality of the experiencer and experience, and the latter introduces the second key binary of modern thinking: that of the “thing-in-itself” versus “appearance.” Schelling negates both and reaches beyond to look for a way of establishing the source of our reality in “unities” rather than in binaries. Going beyond Descartes and Kant, Schelling offers two perspectives: one from the phenomena upwards to the Absolute, and the other, from the Absolute down to the particulars. Together these two perspectives show conventional thinking to be foundering in misapprehensions regarding the world of finite particulars as well as its own nature. This includes the haloed world of empirical science. Nietzsche’s intuition with respect to the “Eternal Return” is much better understood when we apply Schelling’s construction of the phenomena/essence relation. Eternal Return is not to be thought of in terms of a perpetual return to accidental aggregates or external conditions, that is, in terms of recuperating contingent social formations or personal circumstances indefinitely (the latter is both improbable and a misapprehension). Rather it is to be thought of in terms of things forever returning to their essence as an underlying principle of ontological necessity.
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