The Dynamic Model of Nature: Naturphilosophie and Romantic Science ** Night Lessons @ PAF ** Feb 28 - March 5

What would it mean to think nature if nature expresses itself through the minds that set out to investigate it? If nature is fundamentally creation both concretely and abstractly understood, nature rapidly turns strange. The growth of crystals become a algebra cut in stone, experience is rendered as visible, tactile chemistry, animal motion generates abstract space, the fecund but lowly polyp is taken as the seed of all life, and even the skull can become the flower bloom of the spine.

In the late-18th and early 19th century Naturphilosophie and Romantic Science confronted the mechanistic and teleological vision of nature as a fine-tuned machine built for human use. These natural philosophers (being neither strictly scientists nor strictly philosophers) attempted to understand what it meant to exist as a part of a dynamic nature—a nature not made of inert physical objects ruled by precise laws, but a nature composed of forces and activities without any rational blueprint nor theological guarantee of a final purpose.

The ideas and experiments of thinkers such as Schelling, Goethe, Novalis, Ritter, Oken, Humboldt, Lamarck and many others were attacked as too reflective, too imprecise, or simply as an abuse of metaphor. Such quick dismissal is not only a clumsy treatment of philosophy, science, and the history of its concepts, but indicates a fear of straying too far from theoretical certainty. For Schelling and others philosophy is then tasked with conceiving of a nature which is properly generative.
This course will also trace how such a dynamic model of nature has persisted for the last 200 hundred years via figures such as Whitehead, Merleau-Ponty, Deleuze, and Châtelet.

Rough plan: 5 days (Feb 28 - March 5), 5-6 hours approximately
Places: limited to 20 participants per course. These will simply be the first twenty people to reserve, so if you want to come, reserve as soon as you can.
Location: Performing Arts Forum in Saint Erme, France
Accommodation: 18€ per night (to PAF) plus a 12€ one-year PAF membership
Food: not included – there will not be chefs, so the teacher and students will just figure it out collectively (part of the shopping will be done in advance.)
Teaching fee: 70€ total to the teacher (exceptions possible)
Make reservations at

Ben Woodard is a post-doctoral researcher in philosophy and art theory at Leuphana University, Lüneburg Germany. His research focuses on the relationship between naturalism and idealism across continental and analytic philosophy. His text, Schelling's Naturalism, is forthcoming from Edinburgh Press.

For questions about the Naturphilosophie course, you can get in touch with Ben Woodard. For inquiries about Night Lessons generally (if you want to organize one, for example!), email