A Weak Nature Alone: Substance and Subject Throughout Hegel’s Philosophy
AbstractHegel’s Naturphilosophie is by far the most neglected dimension of his entire philosophical apparatus. However, rather than being confined solely to the second volume (Philosophy of Nature) of the Encyclopedia of the Philosophical Sciences, his underappreciated real-philosophical reflections on nature surface time and again throughout the full span of his corpus, from the 1796 Bern “Earliest System-Program of German Idealism” to the 1831 Berlin Lectures on Logic. In this article, I offer an admittedly heterodox materialist and realist re-reading of Hegelian philosophy on the basis of recognizing and bringing to the fore the crucial role of Naturphilosophie therein. I focus particularly on Hegel’s notion of the “impotence” or “weakness” (Ohnmacht) of nature, identifying this as an ultimate-yet-contingent material condition of possibility for the genesis of Geist and all that this immanent emergence out of Natur entails. I conclude by indicating the implications of this reconstruction of Hegelianism for Marx’s (and others’) materialist critiques of Hegelian “idealism.”
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