Published online by Cambridge University Press: 28 July 2009
Though it was initiated by Pythagoras, expanded in Plato's Timeaus, comprehensively developed by Aristotle, and healthy throughout the Mediaeval, Renaissance and Modern periods well into the nineteenth century, in the twentieth century among analytic and scientifically minded philosophers, “philosophy of nature” apparently vanished. Fortunately, the increasing calibre of recent research in history, methodology and philosophy of science has once again revealed fascinating issues at the intersections among the natural sciences, scientific methodology, history of science, and philosophy of science, which today - precisely because no discipline can plausibly monopolize them - are rightly designated philosophy of nature. Placing Hegel's notorious Philosophy of Nature within this interdisciplinary area does not yet illumine it. Hegel classifies his philosophy of nature as rational physics. “Rational physics” may sound quaint, outdated, and even presumptuous. However, Newton identified the genre of the Principia as “rational mechanics” (a proper part of rational physics), and rational physics remains a serious discipline today, with professional journals and recent textbooks to show for it. “Rational physics” is physical theory which emphasizes the conceptual foundations and basic principles of physics and how these can be used to explain particular physical phenomena, rendering them comprehensible. This is the key aim of Hegel’s Philosophy of Nature, because sufficient analysis of the conceptual foundations of natural sciences requires philosophical resources which complement the resources found within scientific theories and methods, which alone, he argues, are insufficient to the task.