Schelling’s early writings on Naturphilosophie, unlike his later philosophical writings, have recently received a good deal of attention in both English and German.1 The aspect of theNaturphilosophie that I wish to examine is not, however, its now acknowledged contributions to the ‘advance of science’ in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, but rather its possible philosophical contribution to the kind of hermeneutic approach to the natural sciences that has become influential in recent years in the post-empiricist history and philosophy of science. Clearly, Naturphilosophie generally ceased to be regarded as a tool for scientific discovery by the second half of the nineteenth century, and in certain versions was a positive hindrance to warrantable science.2 The important point here, though, is that Schelling’s Naturphilosophie has not necessarily outlived its significance for trying to understand what science is. Now that the realist conceptions, based on the notion of a world of absolute objects ‘out there’, that have dominated much Anglo-American philosophy are coming to be seen as relying on indefensible, pre-Kantian metaphysical premises,3 a philosophical view of natural science need no longer be bound to the probably futile task of explaining how it is that science ‘works’ (whatever that exactly may mean). One can accept the fact of the problem-solving success of modern science without thinking that there is no reason to ask whether some kinds of modern science might not be leading to problems which could turn out to be more serious than the problems solved by that science. The fact is that the questions posed by Schelling have gained a new actuality because they offer conceptual tools

that enable one to gain a philosophical understanding of contemporary doubts about the dangers of a scientistic approach to nature. How is it, though, that an evidently metaphysical conception like Schelling’s, which relies above all on the idea of the whole of nature as an organism, now seems relevant to a ‘post-metaphysical’ anti-foundationalist understanding of science that has broken with the realist notion of the true representation of objects? As in so many questions regarding contemporary conceptions of science, one is led back to issues first raised by Kant.