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Article

Nature, Spirit, and Revolution: Situating Hegel's Philosophy of Nature

Comparative and Continental Philosophy. 2016. Vol. 8. No. 3. P. 302-314.

This paper ties together several anthropological and naturphilosophische themes in Hegel in order to re-examine the place of the philosophy of nature in the Encyclopedia of the Philosophical Sciences. By taking Hegel’s anthropology, and the apparent “transition” from Natur to Geist, as a starting point, I argue that Hegel’s philosophy of nature has for its subject not nature “as such,” or nature as the real, but rather a “spiritual” nature, nature as cognized by Geist, so that the identity of these two natures is not something given, but rather, is constructed by spirit itself retroactively. I trace the origin of this difference to the revolutionary event that institutes Hegel’s anthropology – an event which is, I contend, not a transition from nature to spirit, but a pure break or new beginning; this break and the logic of “idealization” that builds upon it, culminating for Hegel in the creation of the conceptual world of nature as “we” (that is, philosophers of nature) know it. As a result, the philosophy of nature does not precede, but rather follows from, the anthropology and the philosophy of spirit; the natural foundation is retroactively replaced by the philosopher with the anthropological one. The human is revolutionary for Hegel, and not nature as such – the human revolutionizes, among other things, the natural status quo itself. The philosophy of nature is also a product of this revolution.