International Society for History, Philosophy, and Social Studies of Biology

twitter 2015
     facebook 2015


TUESDAY, JULY 7  /  15:30 - 17:00  /  DS-R340
Organized session / standard talks
"Organic Physics": Philosophical biology and anthropology in Schelling, Troxler and Hegel

Barbara Orland (Universität Basel, Switzerland)

The bio-philosophical debates at the turn of the 19th century laid the foundation to the differentiation and further development of the modern life sciences. An outstanding representative of this period of transition was the Swiss physician, politician and philosopher Ignaz Paul Vitalis Troxler (1780-1866), well known to his contemporaries, but today only seldom commemorated. Troxler had studied medicine and philosophy (with Schelling, also with Hegel) at the University of Jena in 1800. After his return to Switzerland, he became an extremely industrious physician and professor of philosophy at the universities of Basel and Bern, but also one of the intellectual founding fathers of democracy in the emerging Swiss federal state. The session will honour his work by outlining the points of discussion in Schellings und Hegels philosophy of biology and their scientific background. It will trace the path, that led Troxler from philosophical conceptions of organic life towards a new form of philosophical anthropology, called “anthroposophy”. This philosophical enterprise forms one of the many historical roots of and gives a cue to the anthroposophical movement founded by the Austrian philosopher, literary critic and social Reformer Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925).

Periods and rhythm as biological phenomena

Brigitte Hilmer (Universität Basel, Switzerland)

In classical transcendental philosophy experience of time has been described as a phenomenon of consciousness and cognition. The faculty of imagination in the inscrutable depths of the human soul was supposed, following Kant, to provide schemes of application of categories in space and time. For Schelling and even more for Troxler our organic life has a say if we want to understand our experience of time. It is the periodical and rhythmic structure of biological processes, like respiration, heartbeat, pulse, digestion, sleeping and being awake, menstruation and so on, that make a living organism a scheme of timely experience in itself. Troxler clearly envisages the task of explaining the rhythmic structure of organic processes in its autonomy and as related to the surrounding universe and thus anticipates modern chronobiological research.

Hegel, Schelling and Troxler on sensibility and irritability

Christian Steiner (Universität Basel, Switzerland)

Hegel criticizes the theories of irritability of his time in the context of his account of the practical relation between the animal and its anorganic nature. Among the target of his critique are Schelling’s and Troxler’s theory on sensibility and irritability in their natural philosophies which he blames for being too formalistic. According to Hegel, they understand sensibility and irritability as a merely quantitative relation, rather than as two concrete aspects of the individual organism’s relation to its environment. The aim of this contribution is to reconstruct Hegel’s critique by drawing on these different conceptions of sensibility and irritability.

Dialectic of the soul: Platonic heritage in Schelling’s philosophy of nature

Mario Schärli (Universität Basel, Switzerland)

The starting point of any understanding of Troxler’s biological and anthropological studies is Schelling’s philosophy of nature, in which he deals with the issue of how nature’s organic and inorganic phenomena can be given a unified, non-reductive explanation. Schelling first achieves this in his seminal Von der Weltseele (1798) by reverting to Plato’s conception of a world-soul (psyche tou pantos), thereby placing the principle of a ‘universal organism’ at the heart of nature as a whole. By tracing back the development of this crucial idea to Schelling’s 1794 commentary of Plato’s Timaeus, it will be argued that Schelling not only inherits the concept of a world-soul from Plato, but also implements the dialectic of the infinite (apeiron) and finite (peras) from the Philebus in his philosophy of nature. However, as Schelling translates the dialectic into an antagonism of fundamental forces of nature he thereby conceals their Platonic origin. By reference to the commentary it will be shown how Schelling already reads these concepts from the Philebus into the Timaeus in his 1794 interpretation and thus advocates a profoundly Platonic philosophy of nature. Put in this perspective, Troxler’s departure from Schelling’s philosophy of nature appears as giving privilege to the organic structure of the world-soul not only in the realm of nature, but also over and above reason.