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Time of Freedom: Schelling's Philosophy of Absolute Temporality in "The Ages of the World" (1810-1815) (2020-2024)

Zahra (Sepid) Birashk, Research Area 3: "Future Perfect"
Doctoral Research Project

This doctoral project investigates the question of time, both literary and ontological, in relation to the concept of freedom and against the background of classical German philosophy.

The goal is to present a new reading of Schelling's theory of 'absolute temporality' as put forward in his grand yet unfinished project of "The Ages of the World (Die Weltalter)". By unearthing the Weltalter's lesser-known (non)grounds in mythological and mystical traditions of Babylonian, Persian, Indian and Jewish sources, this project claims that Schellingian time, in its non-linear essence, has the potential to gift us with new insights into the central problems we are facing today in the theoretical-cultural discourse concerning the relationship between past, present and future, and thus can lead to the dawn of genuinely new beginnings.

The Weltalter idea of 'absolute temporality' emerges from theologically and ethically motivated plans for the temporalisation of the Absolute (or God, or eternity). In Schelling's view, as the project argues, the Absolute is constructed as a future-past in coming and becoming, in a way that it grounds an authentic temporality through the parallel acts of seizure (Scheidung) and remembrance.

The future of this project will then present an interpretation of Schelling's later lectures on narrative philosophy as the necessary fruit of the Weltalter programme. It will further discuss the ways in which this reformed temporality, a temporality of freedom (in which the future determines the past and not the other way around), is found and founded through "the word" (i.e., literature in a general sense). Here, the search for lost beginnings will involve Schelling's return to pre-metaphysical, non-occidental sensibilities of time and eternity in the gesture of a "second beginning", where the remembrance of the mother (i.e., the forgotten and repressed female voice in history) goes hand in hand with acknowledging the "barbaric principle" (i.e., the marginalised non-European element at the heart of human temporality).

This move will simultaneously create a reform in the very form of writing philosophy to liberate its findings from the abstract limits of the concept. The Weltalter itself will be analysed as an attempt to bridge ultimate system-building acts of German Idealism with the playfulness of literary creation.