‘ ‘Philosophizing about Nature: Hegel’s Philosophical Project’

In F. C. Beiser (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Hegel and Nineteenth Century Philosophy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (2008)
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Abstract

Henry Harris noted that ‘the Baconian applied science of this world is the solid foundation upon which Hegel’s ladder of spiritual experience rests’. Understanding the philosophical character of Hegel’s Philosophy of Nature requires recognizing some basic legitimate philosophical issues embedded in the development of physics from Galileo to Newton (§2). These issues illuminate the character of Hegel’s analysis of philosophical issues regarding nature (§3) and the central aims and purposes of Hegel’s philosophy of nature (§4). Hegel recognized some key weaknesses in Newton’s own mathematical treatment of planetary orbits which were only rectified when Johann Bernoulli recast Newtonian gravitational theory on the basis of mathematical analysis (calculus). So reconstructed, Newtonian physics provides sufficient grounds to ascribe gravitational force to matter (Enz. §§262, 269). Hegel incorporated this important point into his illuminating accounts of causal laws of nature and natural-scientific explanation. These points reveal how Hegel’s Science of Logic and Philosophy of Nature are interdependent works, integrated in part by Hegel’s critical, moderately holistic theory of semantic meaning and reference. Highlighting these features of Hegel’s Philosophy of Nature illuminates Hegel’s emergentist account of structural and functional organization of various kinds of natural phenomena.

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Kenneth R. Westphal
Bogazici University

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