Academic journal article Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy

Hegel's Philosophy of Nature of 1805-06; Its Relation to the Phenomenology of Spirit

Academic journal article Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy

Hegel's Philosophy of Nature of 1805-06; Its Relation to the Phenomenology of Spirit

Article excerpt

G. W. F. Hegel tells us that his Phenomenology of Spirit (1807) is the introduction and first part of his system of knowledge (GW ix, p. 447). (1) This system today is called the Jena System Projection III', wherein the second part contains the Logic and the Philosophies of Nature and Spirit; it was composed in 1805-6 and, thus, overlapped the composition of the PG. (2) No one has attempted to relate Hegel's Philosophy of Nature to the PG, even though it has specific chapters that involve his conception of nature. (3) This paper makes this connection evident, and it shows that Hegel was committed to a system of philosophy that incorporated the natural science of his day. (4) It attempts to counter a widely held belief that Hegel's PG deals exclusively with self-consciousness and social science. (5) While Hegel's work does focus on them, 'Spirit' (Geist) is a natural occurrence; it is the result of the evolution from inorganic to organic nature; thus the PG, in order to exhibit a unified system, must relate Spirit to natural processes. The paper explicates the main divisions and sections of his Natural Philosophy of 1805-6 and relates them to the sections of the PG that are most influenced by his understanding of nature. (6) It serves the purpose of showing why we should think that the PG has integrated within it the other parts of System III.

The NP was the first part of System III to be written. Unlike the earlier version of 1804-5, this one is more empirical and has no discussion of God, only a brief treatment of aether, and the ideal elements appear only from the processes of the real elements. (7) It has three main parts: I) Mechanics, II) Formation and Chemistry, and III) Organism. It is Hegel's philosophy of the 'real', which looks to the natural sciences as its source, and in it we should see the emergence of what Hegel calls the 'concept', culminating in the unity of self and world. This identity is presupposed in the PG itself since it, being the introduction and first part of Jena System III, necessarily assumes the other parts and their unity with it.

I

The NP begins with Hegel's concept of absolute matter, which as in the System II version is called 'aether', but almost immediately thereafter Hegel turns to the concepts of space and time which are explicitly Kantian. We should accept that Hegel thinks that space and time are concepts, even though this is not how we experience them in our phenomenal existence. Experience is prior to abstract conception. The concepts are quantitative determinations of absolute matter. They are not 'ordinary' concepts of space and time but are, as geometers and physicists surmised, created from mathematical abstractions and pure intuition; these involve only the absolute forms of space and time. In the PG, near the conclusion of chapter one, 'Sense Certainty', we see the parallel treatment of these concepts. The universals of space and time, which he calls there the 'here of many heres' and the 'now of many nows', are formed by an act of intelligence that creates the universal in which the fleeting moments of time and space, individual nows and heres, appear (PG, GW ix, p. 68). The transcendental universal is an 'abstract concept' that determines how the matters of sense will occur in perception. The concept is in the Kantian manner 'mathematical' since it sets the order, dimension, and sequence for things and sense qualities to appear in observation.

In both accounts Hegel departs, however, from Kant's 'Transcendental Aesthetics' once he identifies the intuition of space with a mode of self-consciousness. Hegel tells us that

...space is in-itself the immediate inward ensouled spirit which, as being in-itself, is not valued for its truth. Instead, it now becomes a nature that is present there and is no longer in-itself. In spiritual nature the self-conscious essence of space falls outside of spirit; that is to say, spirit is self-consciousness implicitly, or internally, in its idea. …

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