Epistemology of Nature: Why matter matters

Arno Böhler
Arts and Society, Cross-Disciplinary Strategies
2020W, Lecture and Discussion (VD), 3.0 ECTS, 2.0 semester hours, course number S03415


The aim of this epistemology class consists in the cross-disciplinary study of different concepts of Nature, which have shown up in the history of the spirit till today.

Firstly, we will discuss the speculative approach toward Nature in the philosophy of F.W.J. Schelling (German Idealism), a teacher of Marx, Engels, Kierkegaard, Bakunin, Humboldt and others.

Secondly, we will consider contemporary re-inventions of a speculative understanding of Nature in what some called “Speculative Materialism” (Diefenbach).

Thirdly, we will conclude our studies on Nature with a discussion of what some called “New Materialism” (Barad), in which the process of mattering starts to matter most. A discussion, which will bring us back, as we will see, to Schelling, who already defined matter as a (virtual) field of possibilities, capable to manifest itself by virtue of its actualization.



F.W.J. Schelling: System der gesamten Philosophie und der Naturphilosophie insbesondere (Nachlass) (1804). Translated as System of Philosophy in General and of the Philosophy of Nature in Particular in Thomas Pfau, Idealism and the Endgame of Theory, Albany: SUNY Press (1994).

Katja Diefenbach: Spekulativer Materialismus. Spinoza in der Postmarxistischen Philosophie. Wien/Berlin: Verlag Turia + Kant (2018).

Karan Barad: Meeting the Universe Halfway. Quantum Physics and the Entanglement of Matter and Meaning. Durham & London: Duke University Press (2007).

Examination Modalities

Examination Modalities

Certificates are acquired through regularly attending the course and participating in class discussions (40% of the overall grade). Every  student registered in the course has to give an oral presentation on one of the texts, provided in the literature folder during the semester (30 % of the overall grade). Finally a written version of the oral presentation has to be send to arno.boehler@univie.ac.at  till April 30, 2021 (30% of the overall grade).

Grade A:  more than 85 % of the overall grades.

Grade B: more than 50%  and less than 85 % of the overall grades.

Grade C: less than 50 % of the overall grade = C 

Students from other faculties or universities will be given a place on the course subject to room capacities.



due to Covid-19 regulations our further meetings will take place online via Zoom on the following dates:

09.11.2020: 3 EH, 10:15–12:45

16.11.2020: 3 EH, 10:15–12:45

23.11.2020: 3 EH, 10:15–12:45

30.11.2020: 3 EH, 10:15–12:45

07.12.2020: 3 EH, 10:15–12:45

14.12.2020: 3 EH, 10:15–12:45



Key Words

Philosophy of Nature, Speculative Physics, Matter/Mattering, Mind and Meaning


12 October 2020, 10:15–12:45 Seminar Room 3
19 October 2020, 10:15–12:45 Seminar Room 3
30 October 2020, 15:30–22:00 Seminar Room 20
09 November 2020, 10:15–12:45 Seminar Room 3
16 November 2020, 10:15–12:45, "digital (Zoom-meeting)"
23 November 2020, 10:15–12:45, "digital (Zoom-meeting)"
30 November 2020, 10:15–12:45, "digital (Zoom-meeting)"
07 December 2020, 10:15–12:45, "digital (Zoom-meeting)"
14 December 2020, 10:15–12:45, "digital (Zoom-meeting)"

Course Enrolment

From 04 September 2020, 09:03
Via online registration

co-registration: possible

Cross-Disciplinary Strategies (Bachelor): Philosophy: Deepening / Application

Individual courses: possible