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On Origins and Species: Hegel on the Genus-Process

  • Daniel Lindquist (a1)

Abstract

There is a broad consensus in the literature that in the section on ‘The Genus’ in the Science of Logic, Hegel argues that any living being must exist among other instances of its kind, with which it reproduces to create future generations, and out of which it was itself produced. This view is not only hard to motivate philosophically, it also seems to contradict many things Hegel says elsewhere in his system about the details of living nature, especially concerning the reality of spontaneous generation. After an examination of the secondary literature on ‘The Genus’, I offer an alternative view of this section, which I call ‘the Modal Reading’. The Modal Reading sees the language of pluralities in ‘The Genus’ as really Hegel's peculiar way of articulating certain modal features of thoughts about the living: to grasp a living individual as living, we need to distinguish not only between this individual and its environment, but also between the things this individual actually does and other possibilities which it does not actualize. The Modal Reading has a logical motivation insofar as it articulates what is needed to think of a living being as living, but it also avoids saddling Hegel with the problematic entailments he is usually read as taking on in this section. A further upshot of the Modal Reading is that approaching Hegel in this way provides us with a way to see Hegel as defending a non-nominalistic alternative to essentialist accounts of living kinds. Finding a way to read ‘The Genus’ which coheres with Hegel's views elsewhere in his system thus shows Hegel to have been an especially subtle and penetrating thinker, with continuing relevance for the philosophy of biology.

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References

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On Origins and Species: Hegel on the Genus-Process

  • Daniel Lindquist (a1)

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