Journal of the Association of Future Philosophers
Schelling’s Principles on the Art Production
and the Artist’s Identity as the Object
by Humberto Garciasalas
Schelling describes the process of the production of art in terms of a human being’s mental construct and consciousness during the creation of a work of art. Schelling asserts that the process of the artist producing a work of art is a mental activity and a conscious activity. The mental activity is about an infinite on-going use of the individual’s intuition, therefore, the act of creation is a natural act where the artist’s mind defines his identity and individuality, namely, the self. However, the product of this process is an object, yet that object is a work of art and also a production of the artist’s new identity, the new self.
The self is an important concept in Schelling’s philosophy on the production of art because many factors take place in shaping the identity of the artist. Schelling emphasizes that these factors are on-going functions in the artist’s mind. The factors are the identity of the conscious, the unconscious in the self, and the intuitive imagination, and these functions define the harmony of an artist’s existence, namely, the self and nature. We can begin to understand that the most important point in Schelling’s deduction of the art production is the development of the artist’s new identity from the production of the final product of a work of art in objective reality.
What is the process in the production of the artist’s work of art? James Engel describes the process as the unifying action of man’s self-conscious and free intelligence:
Part of this philosophy, philosophy of art, tries to bind together the
philosophies of nature and of the mind by seeing in works of art, in their
highest and best sense, a unity of man’s self-conscious and free intelligence
with nature’s material and objective reality. Through creative imagination the
mind affirms its own existence by joining its subjective impulses and
perceptions with the particulars of nature. The resulting work of art, or
kunstprodukt, is itself real and objective, a token and a promise to man, it
symbolizes the union of the mind’s free willful consciousness with the
independence and given nature of the cosmos (Engell, 301-302).
Engell further describes this process as “the power to produce this unifying symbol of Einbildungskraft,” the imagination. Engell says Schelling presents a dialectic between man and nature that reconciles and fuses the transcendental intelligence of the artist with the material system of nature. The power of the imagination is the order of Schelling’s cosmological realm of the creative production of the work of art, which is the unconscious and conscious realm of the mind.
The process of the development of the identity and the work of art of the artist is a complex synthesis that starts from the aritist possessing a subjective view of the world and ending with an objective view of the world in the finished product of a work of art. Schelling has a reoccurring point in his argument for the development of the identity of the artist and the objectively finished product of the work of art. The reoccurring point is that the activities of conscious and unconscious are free acts that form an organic unity, which Schelling calls an organic product. These two activities are suppose to always never be separated, because the opposite forces of these activities manifests a contradiction (Schelling, 220). The free act brings the product of the objective reality. Schelling explains further in his analysis of the infinite progress of the activities:
The two activities must be separated for the purpose of the appearing, the
becoming-objective of the production, just as in the free act they had to be
separated in order that the intuition might become objective. But they cannot
be separated ad infinitum, as in the free act, since otherwise the objective
element would never be a complete manifestation of this identity. The identity
of the two was to be abolished only for the sake of consciousness, but the
production is to end in unconsciousness; so there must be a point at which the
two merge into one; and conversely, where the two merge into one the
production must cease to appear as one free one (Schelling, 220-221).
Here Schelling is concerned that the opposing forces of the artist’s activities in the production of the art will not be a free act. Schelling emphasizes that it is a necessity for the activities to be separate from each other during this process, so that the product can become actual, objective, and something infinite. Why is this necessity needed for the identity of the artist? The production has reached a point that may come to a stop, because of the merge of the activities of the conscious and the unconscious, so Schelling came to the conclusion that the oppositions between the activities will coincide with each other, thus, the contradiction will happen without a conflict, hence, the ultimate actuality of the production will result in a reconciliation (Schelling [614-15], 221).
Now, Schelling solves the problems of subjectivity in this merge as he analyzes theintelligence of the artist in the reconciliation of conscious and unconscious activities:
The intelligence will therefore end with a complete recognition
of the identity expressed in the product as identity whose principle
lies in the intelligence itself; it will end, that is, in a complete intuiting
of itself (Schelling, 221).
Schelling is leading to the fact that this reconciliation of the activities shapes the new self of the artist in the production of the work of art. Schelling asserts that the absolute product of this merge of the two activities is the artist. The absolute identity of the artistis the product from which all of the contradiction in the merge of the conscious and unconsciousness, which Schelling calls the primordial self.
The harmony occurs during the purposiveness within the development of the artist’s self. How can this harmony of the activities bring a new self? Before I answer this question, let’s consider Schelling’s view of “purposiveness” in the nature of the reconciliation of opposite forces, the subjective and the objective consciousness:
Nature, in its blind and mechanical purposiveness
admittedly represents to me an original identity of the
conscious and unconscious activities, but [for all that]
it does not present this identity to me as one whose ultimate
ground resides in the self, itself. The transcendental
philosopher assuredly recognizes that the principle of this
harmony is that ultimate in ourselves which already
undergoes division in the primary act of self-consciousness,
and on which the whole of consciousness, with all this
determination, is founded; but for the self itself is not aware
of this. Now the aim of our whole science was in fact
precisely this, of explaining how the ultimate ground of the
harmony between the subjective and objective becomes
an object of the self itself (Schelling [609-10], 217).
Here, Schelling is insinuating that the nature of the [blind and mechanical purposesness] is the essence of the soul (Theleology in Nature, 609-10.). The process within the consciousness of the artist as the whole must go through this determined transformation in order to achieve harmony. Schelling indicates that harmony occurs in the artist’s absolute identity as the two activities merge together. The process about the mind at work is crucial in the progress of the artist’s merge in his mental faculities and consciousness together. Schelling’s principles on the deduction of art production indicates that the artist’s intelligence expresses who he is as an intelligible being in the reality between the mind and nature in the phenomenal world.
At this point of the summary, I would like to ask the reader at this moment to think about a question I have about the artist’s expression and assertion of his/her identity onto the reality of the world: When you express yourself as you write an essay or draw or make a work of art in another manner, what is it that your intuition tells your what to be? As you think of an answer to this question, consider Schelling’s view of the intuition and the intelligence of the artist in the process of production of a work of art. My answer would go like this: If I think of my identity during the production of this summary, I am thinking about who I am as a person and what kind of individual I am. I am thinking as an artist about what is important about who I am as I write this essay. My consciousness is being cognizant of what the other parts of my mind are doing to edit all of my thoughts to write in this manner. Schelling would say that I am asserting my absoluteness of my being in the production of this essay.
What is the source of my imagination in this process of the production of this work of art? The source is the absolute being of my imagination, Schelling calls it the genius of the product of this work of art. Let us observe the analysis of Schelling’s principles on the genius of the product of art. The work of art is me, and the thoughts that occur in my mind, as Schelling would put it, “the forces in free activity” of the production of this work of art. What is true of this work of art is not what I wanted the reader to understand, but the intentions of my work of art is to express what I know about this world and my understanding of philosophy. What you read and understand is the objective reality from the finished product of my process of the production of this summary. The forces of the activities going on in my mind are called deep emotions (223). Schelling says that the feeling and thought are inspirations from an infinite harmony of my unconscious and conscious activities during the production of this summary (Schelling, 223).
What does Schelling’s ideas of genius and infinite progress indicate about poetry? Schelling says that the process of writing a poem is about the genius being neither one of the two activities in an art production of poetry, the artist has free bounty of nature, because through the free acts of the poet’s process of his production of his poem, he uses what he learned and thought about himself in his life. The poet’s practice of aesthetics depends on his/her reflection. The deep emotion in this process namely “feeling” brings the original voice of the poet. According to Schelling’s “character of the product,” the identity of the conscious and unconscious activities express the infinities of the identity of the artist. Schelling says that the production of the work of art is not only an expression, it is an infinite tranquility from feelings of the artist. The feelings of the artist is not only an expression, yet it is an expression the self and its reflection of the inner deep perception of his experiences. The aesthetic is an involuntary act that comes from the artist’s simultaneous light in that tranquility in his product.
The concern is on the infinite possibilities in the expression by the poet or an artist, for if we look back at the process of a production of art, the forces influence the work of art not to be together, and the expressions art not together as well. Schelling views the genius as a mediator of the contradictions and as the operator of the production of the work of art. The poet or the artist expresses his identity in the work of art, yet he reveals the actual elements, from the synthesis of the forces of the conscious and unconscious. The genius is at work in the poet’s creation of the elements in the expression during the process in his mental faculties. Schelling indicates that the lower faculties of the artist’s mind, such as the memory and consciousness, have conceptions of the details of those moments in his experiences, and his ideas of those experiences are infinite within themselves, hence the actual product has many facets to it on the reflection of the individual’s experiences. The whole of the product is not whole, but rather an infinite picture of the artist’s expression of the truth of what his imagination reveals about his understanding of those experiences, yet these expressions are fragments of the poet’s identity.
Schelling’s Transcendental Idealism in the Works of Art by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
The ideals of Schelling’s view of the process of the production and the reconciliation of the contradictions of the two activities in the mind of the artist is evident in the works of Samuel Coleridge. If we look at Samuel Coleridge’s writings about the self and action of the artist’s mind, we will find a strong connection to Schelling’s transcendental idealism Coleridge’s main ideal of the nature of man is the soul of the man, yet specially he views the powers of the poet as the creative genius whose actions defines the identity of the poet in the faculties of the imagination:
The imagination then, I consider either as primary,
or secondary. The primary imagination I hold to be
the living power and prime agent of all human
Perception, and as a repetition in the infinite mind of
The eternal act of creation in the infinite I am (Coleridge in Richter, 321).
Here, Coleridge expresses his belief on the transcendental construct of the human mind at work in the process of the production of a work of art. The secondary imagination, Coleridge calls the conscious will. Coleridge understands that Schelling’s process of the production is about the two activities, which he calls the primary and secondary. Further, Coleridge understands that this process is about forming the artist’s new existence, and the new self, which comes from the forces of the two activities within in the mind of the artist. Coleridge calls the action of the will of the artist’s identity, I am, which is also the infinite identity of the artist, namely, the I am.
Schelling’s reconciliation of opposite forces becomes theoretical in the literary philosophy of Coleridge’s view in the “perfection of the poet.” For example, the passage on “what is poetry” reveals the Schellingian ideal of the self and the synthesis of the contradictions of the two activities of the poet:
The poet, described in ideal perfection, brings the whole soul of man
into activity, with the subordination of its faculties to each other, according
to their relative worth and dignity, He diffuses a tone and spirit of unity
that blends, and (as it were) fuses, each into each by the synthetic and
magical power, to which we have exclusively appropriated the name of
imagination. This power, first put in action by the will and understanding,
and retained under their irremissive, through gentile and unnoticed, controul
reveals itself in the balance or reconciliation of opposite or discordinate
qualities (Richter, 325).
Here, Coleridge demonstrates his understanding of Schelling’s transcendental principles in the deduction of the artistic production. Coleridge contemplates how poetry and philosophy are connected in terms of the mythic realm of the artist’s inner expression in the production of a work of art. Most importantly, the two activities in the mental powers of the poet must come to a unity of contradictions of the forces of the two activities, namely the reconciliation of opposites. The artist or the poet decides what comes out of the process of the production, because the artist has the imaginative powers to bring his own activities of his consciousness to a reconciliation. If we look at a poet like Samuel Coleridge, we see that he wanted to bring an objective view of the world, but his feelings and thoughts on a reflection of an experience is read as subjective from Coleridge’s view of the will of the imagination.
Coleridge’s words in his poetry express the process of the production if the objective product. His poems such as “Frost at Midnight”, “Love, and “Dejection” reveal a nuance of Schelling’s process of the infinite identity in the expression of a work of art. Coleridge’s words may seem subjective as he recalls moments with friends and loved ones, yet his finished expression becomes a finished product with an objective view of the world. Like Wordsworth, Coleridge’s expression is very vivid in detail of concepts and insightful remarks about nature, but he dwells on his self-introspection on his feelings about his relationships with people. Schelling’s ideals of the character of the artist is in Coleridge’s words, because his poems describe the phenomenon of his reflection of his life. In these poems, he brings a reality, which is a product of objectivity. Coleridge’s voice is the voice of the internal state of man such as the two activities in the production in a work of art, but the work of art as a whole is the synthesis of then reality that an organic merge between the external world and man’s internal world. The synthesis occurs during a man’s expression about his reflection of his self and the external world, nature.
Engell, James. The Creative Imagination, Enlightenment to Romanticism. New York.
Havard University Press. 1999.
Richter, David H. The Critical Tradition, Classic Texts and Contemporary Trends. Boston.
Bedford Books. 1998.
Schelling,F.W.J. Peter Heath trans. System of Transcendental Idealism(1800). Charlottesville.
University Press of Virginia. 1978.
To contact the author, email Humberto Garciasalas
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