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Evolution and Emanation of Spirit in Hegel's Philosophy of Nature 1

  • Martin Drees (a1)

Extract

Having studied Hegel's philosophy, as it is epitomized in the Encyclopaedia, many scholars would be in agreement with David G Ritchie who, in his book on Darwin and Hegel (1893), remarked: “Everywhere in Hegel we read about Entwickelung; but of Evolution he does not speak in so friendly a manner.” Bearing in mind the distinction between “Entwicklung” (“development”) and “evolution” and recalling Hegel's criticism of conceptions of natural evolution in the initial section of the Philosophy of Nature, it is certainly not immediately evident why a serious scholar like John N Findlay should maintain that “if any philosopher is a philosopher of evolution, that philosopher is Hegel.”

It can hardly be denied, however, that more recent studies in Hegel's philosophy can be used to support Findlay's statement to a certain extent. Not only has the relevance of Hegel's philosophy for an adequate understanding of organic life and its evolution been strongly emphasized; it has even been asserted that Hegel had at his disposal a concept of evolution essentially determining the methodic approach of his philosophy of nature.

Now I would not venture to ascertain whether or not Hegel's concept of evolution is of present relevance for our understanding of nature and even less would I dare to decide on the hypothetical question whether or not Hegel, if he “had lived a little later, … would have given us an evolutionary, teleological theory of Nature as he did of mind in history.” In my paper, I would like to deal with a subject matter of more limited scope. Discussions concerning the systematic importance and present relevance of Hegel's concept of evolution tend to be somewhat vague and abstract as long as the meaning of “evolution” in Hegel's philosophy is anything but unequivocal. Therefore, I am going to attempt to outline a systematic reconstruction of the function of Hegel's concept of evolution within the conceptual framework of Hegel's encyclopaedic Philosophy of Nature. More precisely, I will try to elucidate: 1) the question whether or not Hegel's criticism of philosophic and scientific concepts of evolution led him to his own positive concept of evolution; 2) the question in what sense a specific Hegelian concept of evolution is relevant for the understanding of the notional development taking place between the logical “absolute Idea” and “subjective spirit”.

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1

For his linguistic support, I am indebted to HE Malay Kumar Ghoshal, Kumar of Sunderbans.

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2 Ritchie, D G, Darwin and Hegel. With other philosophical studies, London, New York 1893, p 44 .

3 Findlay, J N, Hegel. A Re-Examination, London, New York 1958, p 272 .

4 Cf eg. Wandschneider, D, “Die Absolutheit des Logischen und das Sein der Natur”. In: Zeitschrift flir philosophische Forschimg, Vol 39 (1985), p 331 ff; Breidbach, O: “Hegels Evolutionskritik”. In: Hegel-Studien, Vol 22 (1987), p 165 ff; Breidbach, O: Das Organische in Hegels Denken. Studien zur Naturphilosophie und Biologie um 1800. Würzburg 1982; Warnke, C: “Aspekte des Zweckbegriffs in Hegels Biologieverständnis”. In: Ley, H (ed): Zum Hegelverständnis unserer Zeit, (East) Berlin 1972, p 224 ff.

5 Cf Bonsiepen, WHegels kritische Auseinandersetzung mit der zeitgenössischen Evolutionstheorie”. In: Petry, M J Horstmann, R-P (ed): Hegels Philosophie der Natur, Stuttgart 1986, p 151171 .

6 Findlay, J N, Ascent to the Absolute. Metaphysical Papers and Lectures, London, New York 1970, p 145 .

7 Cf Drees, M, “The logic of Hegel's Philosophy of Nature”. In: Petry, M J (ed) Hegel and Newtonianism, Dordrecht, 1993 (forthcoming).

8 Philosophy of Nature, ed Petry, , Vol 1, §249, Remark, p 212 .

9 Philosophy of Nature, ed Petry, , Vol 1, §249, p 212 .

10 Cf Voigt, F S, Grundzttge einer Naturgeschichte, als Geschichte der Entstehung und weiteren Ausbildung der Nalurkörper, Frankfurt/Main 1817, pp 500 f, 538 . I find it hard to understand how W Bonsiepen can regard Voigt as someone who anticipated Darwin's thoughts (Cf Bonsiepen, W: “Hegels kritische Auseinandersetzung mit der zeitgenössischen Evolutionstheorie”. In: Petry, M J, Horstmann, R-P (ed), Hegels Philosophie der Natur, Stuttgart 1986, p 164 .

11 Philosophy of Nature, ed Petry, , Vol. 1, §249, Addition, p. 213 .

12 Philosophy of Nature, ed. Petry, , Vol. 1, §249, p. 212 .

13 Cf Philosophy of Nature, ed Petry, , Vol 3, § 339 , Addition, p 17 ff; Philosophy of Subjective Spirit, ed Petry, , Vol 2, §392, Addition, p 35 .

14 Levere, T H, “Hegel and the Earth Sciences”. In: Hegels Philosophie der Natur, ed Petry, M J, Horstmann, R-P, Stuttgart 1986, p 106 .

15 Philosophy of Nature, ed Petry, , Vol 3, §370, Addition, p 186 . I am in doubt however, whether “the consonance of the Lamarckian and the Hegelian dialectic is obvious”, as Gillispie, Ch C maintained in his Genesis and Geology, Cambridge and New York 1969 (2nd edition), p 278 .

16 Philosophy of Nature, ed Petry, , Vol 3, §339, Addition, p 23 .

17 Steffens, E, Beyträge zur innern Naturgeschichte der Erde, Freyberg 1801, p 256 .

18 In the transcription of the lectures on the Philosophy of Nature which Hegel delivered during 1819-20 and during 1821-22 neither evolution nor emanation are mentioned.

19 Philosophy of Nature, ed Petry, , Vol 1, §249, Addition, p 213 f.

20 Philosophy of Subjective Spirit, ed Petry, , Vol 1, §381, Addition, p 47 .

21 Philosophy of Subjective Spirit, ed Petry, , Vol 1, §3 81, Addition, p 45 .

22 Alexander, S, “Hegel's Conception Of Nature”. In: Mind, Vol XI, 1886, p 502 .

23 Philosophy of Subjective Spirit, ed Petry, , Vol I, § 384, Addition, p 59 .

24 Philosophy of Subjective Spirit, ed Petry, , Vol 1, §385, Addition, p 67 .

25 Since, in the Philosophy of Nature, “time, like space, is a pure form of sensibility or intuition”, it is not only “the insensible factor in sensibility”, as Hegel calls it ( Philosophy of Nature, ed Petry, , Vol 1, §258, Remark, p 230 ), but time and space are the most elementary traces of spirit's presence in nature.

26 Philosophy of Subjective Spirit, ed Petry, , Vol 2, §411, Addition, p 415 .

27 Priest, S, Theories Of The Mind, London 1991, p 87 .

1 For his linguistic support, I am indebted to HE Malay Kumar Ghoshal, Kumar of Sunderbans.

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Evolution and Emanation of Spirit in Hegel's Philosophy of Nature 1

  • Martin Drees (a1)

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