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Hegel, Naturalism and the Philosophy of Nature

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article


Journal publication date05/2013
JournalHegel Bulletin
Number of pages20
Original languageEnglish


In this article I consider whether Hegel is a naturalist or an anti-naturalist with respect to his philosophy of nature. I adopt a cluster-based approach to naturalism, on which positions are more or less naturalistic depending how many strands of the cluster naturalism they exemplify. I focus on two strands: belief that philosophy is continuous with the empirical sciences, and disbelief in supernatural entities. I argue that Hegel regards philosophy of nature as distinct, but not wholly discontinuous, from empirical science and that he believes in the reality of formal and final causes insofar as he is a realist about universal forms that interconnect to comprise a self-organizing whole. Nonetheless, for Hegel, natural particulars never fully realize these universal forms, so that empirical inquiry into these particulars and their efficient-causal interactions is always necessary. In these two respects, I conclude, Hegel's position sits in the middle of the naturalism/anti-naturalism spectrum.