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Force, Understanding and Ontology

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  23 June 2015

Kenneth R. Westphal*
Affiliation:
University of Kent, Canterbury, k.r.westphal@kent.ac.uk
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Extract

In Night Thoughts Henry Harris made plain that Hegel imbibed naturalism deeply in Jena. Harris states:

The balance of social influence has shifted so drastically between Hegel's time and ours … from the religious to the scientific establishment, that Hegel's own contribution to this shift has itself become an obstacle to the right understanding of what he said. He wanted to swing religious consciousness into full support of a scientific interpretation of human life …. His own choice of language was conditioned by the Christian teaching, but also by the knowledge that the Christian doctrine of spirit was derived from Stoic sources. (Harris 1983, 302)

The Stoics were uncompromising materialists and naturalists. Harris (1998, 492) admitted, however, that Night Thoughts is less successful than Towards the Sunlight because he didn't have detailed knowledge of contemporaneous natural science and so could not explicate Hegel's philosophy of nature effectively. Similarly, Hegel's 1804–05 philosophy of nature is omitted from the collective translation of Hegel's Jena system edited by Burbidge and di Giovanni because

its translation would require specialized knowledge that none of the […. translating collective] has and also because it is removed from the interests of all of them. (Hegel 1986, vii–viii.)

This lack of interest leaves two members of Hegel's philosophical system – his logic and metaphysics – precariously imbalanced because they lack their third supporting member, the philosophy of nature. This can only result in serious distortion of our understanding of Hegel's system.

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Copyright © The Hegel Society of Great Britain 2008

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