Mechanistic views of nature and the omnipresence of death: Insight from Schelling
The philosopher F. W. J. Schelling made an interesting observation in the early nineteenth century on the impact of Newtonian, mechanistic views of nature on the understanding of life:
Since men agreed that, in the beginning, matter was dead, it was decided that death was the principle governing all things, and that life was just a derivative phenomenon. And after matter had succumbed to death, nothing remained but to banish the last witness to its vitality, that is, to transform light, the universal spirit of nature, the form of forms, into an equally corporeal entity, to divide it up mechanistically just like everything else. Now since life was extinguished in all the members and organs of the universe, since even the living manifestations that connect bodies to one another were reduced to lifeless motions, there now remained only the final and grandest task, namely, to bring nature, already dead in its innermost parts, back to life again, mechanistically.But, as contemporary philosopher David C. Schindler notes, for Schelling, "if a connection to life were removed altogether from matter even at its most rudimentary level, it would never be able to be reintroduced later, and that the loss of life in nature would in turn evacuate the meaning of human existence."