On Hegel’s ‘Philosophy of Nature’ : A Free Reflex of Spirit — part fifty four.

David Proud
45 min readJan 18, 2024

A Woman’s Life and Love — 3.

‘I can’t grasp it, nor believe it’

by Adelbert von Chamisso (1781–1838)

I can’t grasp it, nor believe it,

a dream has bewitched me,

how should he, among all the others,

lift up and make happy poor me?

It seemed to me, as if he spoke,

“I am thine eternally”,

It seemed — I dream on and on,

It could never be so.

O let me die in this dream,

cradled on his breast,

let the most blessed death drink me up

in tears of infinite bliss.

‘Ich kann’s nicht fassen, nicht glauben’

Ich kann’s nicht fassen, nicht glauben,

Es hat ein Traum mich berückt;

Wie hätt’ er doch unter allen

Mich Arme erhöht und beglückt?

Mir war’s, er habe gesprochen:

Ich bin auf ewig dein —

Mir war’s — ich träume noch immer,

Es kann ja nimmer so sein.

O laß im Traume mich sterben,

Gewieget an seiner Brust,

Den seligsten Tod mich schlürfen

In Thränen unendlicher Lust.


What is a woman? (Continued).

‘Trans women are women at the end of the day. Every woman is a woman.Women are multifaceted, intergenerational, international. They are limitless, formless .. women are the world’.

— UN Women.on Twitter, 6 Mar 2020.

So then, a woman is like something out of the mind of H. P. Lovecraft? (1890–1937)

‘The aperture was black with a darkness almost material. That tenebrousness was indeed a positive quality; for it obscured such parts of the inner walls as ought to have been revealed, and actually burst forth like smoke from its aeon-long imprisonment, visibly darkening the sun as it slunk away into the shrunken and gibbous sky on flapping membraneous wings. The odour arising from the newly opened depths was intolerable, and at length the quick-eared Hawkins thought he heard a nasty, slopping sound down there. Everyone listened, and everyone was listening still when It lumbered slobberingly into sight and gropingly squeezed Its gelatinous green immensity through the black doorway into the tainted outside air of that poison city of madness. Poor Johansen’s handwriting almost gave out when he wrote of this. Of the six men who never reached the ship, he thinks two perished of pure fright in that accursed instant. The Thing cannot be described — there is no language for such abysms of shrieking and immemorial lunacy, such eldritch contradictions of all matter, force, and cosmic order. A mountain walked or stumbled. God! What wonder that across the earth a great architect went mad, and poor Wilcox raved with fever in that telepathic instant? The Thing of the idols, the green, sticky spawn of the stars, had awaked to claim his own. The stars were right again, and what an age-old cult had failed to do by design, a band of innocent sailors had done by accident. After vigintillions of years great Cthulhu was loose again, and ravening for delight’.

- ‘The Call of Cthulhu’

My favourite comic book artist Matt Howarth as it happen does quite a good job of giving form to Cthulhu the thing that ‘cannot be described’:

But to return to some serious philosophy. Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, (1770–1831). ‘Philosophy of Nature’. ‘Organic Physics’.

I concluded the previous article with Hegel’s account of sex difference in the ‘Philosophy of Nature’. This account forms some of the groundwork for the ‘Philosophy of Mind’ wherein he maintains with regard in particular to human beings as the unique bearers of mind and that female embodiment transmutes into a specific maternal-female form of psychical organization in which no firm distinction exists between the mother’s self and the self of her foetus or child. something he discusses in the section on the feeling soul.

‘The feeling individual is the simple ideality, subjectivity, of sensation. What it has to do is to posit its substantiality, its merely implicit fulfilment, as subjectivity, to take possession of itself, and to become for itself as the power over itself. As feeling, the soul is no longer a merely natural, but an inward, individuality; its being-for-self, which in the merely substantial totality is only formal, is to be liberated and made independent’.

‘As individual, the soul is altogether exclusive and it posits difference within itself What is differentiated from it is not yet an external object, as in consciousness, but only the determinations of its sentient totality. In this judgement, the soul is the subject in general; its object is its substance, which is at the same time its predicate. This substance is not the content of its natural life, but becomes the content of the individual sensation-packed soul; but since the soul is in that content at the same time particular, the content is its particular world, in so far as that world is, in an implicit way, included in the ideality of the subject’.

‘1) Initially the feeling individuality is indeed a monadic individual, but, being immediate, it is not yet Itself, not a subject reflected into itself, and is therefore passive. Hence its selfish individuality is a subject different from it, a subject that may even be another individual. In relation to this subject it takes the form of a substance, which is only a dependent predicate; the subject’s selfishness sets it in vibration and determines it without the least resistance. This subject may be called its genius’.

‘2) The life of feeling, when it becomes a form, a state, of the self-conscious, educated, sober human being, is a disease, in which the individual stands in unmediated relationship with the concrete content of its own self and has its sober consciousness of itself and of the intelligibly ordered world as a state distinct from its feeling-life. This is seen in magnetic somnambulism and related states’.

- ‘Philosophy of Mind’

The condition of being a feeling soul (fühlende Seele) is one whereby each individual human being has to pass at an extremely early stage in his or her life and as a feeling soul one is overwhelmed by the flux of one’s sensations not yet having the cognitive and conceptual skills to organize and comprehend these sensations. As a feeling soul one is not yet conscious having not yet developed the capacity to take one’s sensations to be one’s own to attach these sensations to oneself as a subject a capacity that is a precondition of being able to organize and comprehend those sensations and hence to be conscious taking it that someone is conscious if they have experience as a specifically cognitive state.

Other subjects and in particular the individual’s mother are principal sources of these sensations that overwhelm the feeling soul and as a matter of fact the suggestion is that this condition of being deluged with sensations that emanate from the mother starts while the child is still a foetus in the womb and at this time opposition is completely absent and the foetus is totally dominated by its mother who is the source of all its sensations, as Eric O. Clarke describes it anyway, ‘Fetal Attraction: Hegel’s An-aesthetics of Gender’ (nice title) in ‘Feminist Interpretations of G. W. F. Hegel, ed. Patricia J. Mills, 1996. A trace of this domination continues after birth with the psyche of each young child being fundamentally imprinted by sensations that are simultaneously the sensations of its mother also.

‘The mother is the genius of the child, the presiding spirit who fundamentally stamps the child’s personality. In immediate existence this is the relationship of the child in its mother’s womb, a relationship neither merely bodily nor merely mental, but psychical — a relationship of the soul. Here are two individuals, yet still in undivided soul-unity: the one is still no self, not yet impenetrable, incapable of resistance; the other is its subject, the single self of both . -The mother is the genius of the child; for by genius we commonly mean the selfish totality of the mind, in so far as it exists for itself, and constitutes the subjective substantiality of another, which is only externally posited as an individual; the latter has only a formal being-for-self. The substance of the genius is the whole totality of reality, of life, and of character, not as a mere possibility, or capacity, or in-itself, but as activity and activation, as concrete subjectivity’.

- ‘Philosophy of Mind’

Unable to distinguish its own sensations from those of others the child is in a condition whereby the sensations of others in particular those of the mother with whom the child’s life is so entwined can be literally transmitted into the child. The child is infected in a preponderantly immediate manner by the mind of the adults it sees around it chiefly its mother.

‘For an understanding of this stage in the soul’s development it will not be superfluous to explain in more detail the concept of magic. Absolute magic would be the magic of mind as such. This, too, exerts a magical infection on objects, acts magically on another mind. But in this relationship immediacy is only one moment; mediation effected by thinking and intuition, as well as by speech and gesture, forms the other moment in it. The child is, of course, infected in a predominantly immediate way by the mind of the adults it sees around it; at the same time, however, this relationship is mediated by consciousness and by the incipient independence of the child. Among adults, a superior mind exerts a magical force over the weaker mind; thus, for example, Lear over Kent, who felt himself irresistibly drawn to the unhappy monarch because the king seemed to him to have something in his countenance which he, as he puts it, ‘would fain call master’. A similar answer, too, was given by a queen of France who, when accused of having practised sorcery on her husband, replied that she had used no other magical force against him than that which nature bestows on the stronger mind over the weaker. In the cases cited, the magic consists in an immediate influence of one mind on another mind, and generally in magic or sorcery, even when it related to merely natural objects like the sun and moon, the idea has always been in play that sorcery occurs essentially by the immediate operation of the force of the mind, and in fact by the power of the diabolical mind, not the divine mind, so in the very same measure that someone possesses the power of sorcery, he is subservient to the devil’.

- ‘Philosophy of Mind’

The conclusion is that in any child’s early life there is a lack of psychical opposition between the child and its mother prolonging the physical indistinction that obtained when the child was still in the womb, a description of the psychical mother/child relationship from the child’s perspective though we can extrapolate so that the point has application for mothers also. As with pregnancy no firm physical boundary demarcates the child from its mother’s body, in the early stages of the child’s life no firm psychical boundary demarcates the sensations of the mother from those of the child and this psychical indistinction recapitulates the physical lack of distinction that obtained during pregnancy. The self/other fusion that expressed itself in women’s anatomy during reproduction transmutes, postnatally, into the psychical form of a self/other fusion at the level of sensations. Although the mother unlike the very young child is conscious, it appears that in her relationship with the child she undergoes a type of regression to an infantile state of indistinction. Indeed individuals may relapse from higher to lower stages of mind.

‘What we described … as the soul involved in the dreaming away and intimation of its individual world, has been called …. ‘the feeling soul in its immediacy’. We propose to portray this developmental form of the human soul more determinately … it was said that the stage of dreaming and intimation also constitutes a form to which, as a state of disease, even the mind that has already developed into consciousness and intellect can again relapse. Both modes of mind-healthy, intellectual consciousness on the one hand, dreaming and intimation o n the other- can now, in the first developmental stage of the feeling soul here under discussion, exist as more or less mutually interpenetrating, since the peculiarity of this stage consists precisely in the fact that here the dull, subjective or glimpsing consciousness is not yet posited in direct opposition to the free, objective or intellectual consciousness, as it is at the second stage of feeling soul, at the standpoint of derangement, but has rather only the relationship to it of something different, of something therefore that can be mixed with intellectual consciousness. Mind at this stage therefore does not yet exist as the contradiction within its own self, the two sides which, in derangement, fall into contradiction with each other still stand here in an unconstrained relation to each other. This standpoint can be called the magical relationship of the feeling soul, for with this expression one denotes a mediation-free relationship of the inner to an outer or to an other in general. A magical force is one whose effect is not determined by the interconnection, the conditions and mediations of objective relationships; and ‘the feeling soul in its immediacy’ is such a force working without mediation’.

- ‘Philosophy of Mind’

The essence of the female body and of the maternal-female psyche, no distinction between maternal and female is drawn here, is immediate self/other unity and, simultaneously, immediate individual/species unity, claims that will inform Hegel’s position on the role of women in the family in the ‘Philosophy of Right’. (Alison Stone (1970 — ) puts it as ‘his relegation of women to the family in the Philosophy of Right’ but let us not wear our ideological biases on our sleeves).


‘The Serenade’, Federico Andreotti (1847–1930)

— —


The Political Implications of Sex Difference. Hegel thought that modern European states are becoming increasingly organically structured and that is a good thing and these states are on their way to being articulated into three subsystems or social spheres, the immediate unity of the family, the difference of civil society, and the mediated unity of the political state, as Frederick Neuhouser (1957 -) has outlined it, and that some people must be permanently based in each of the earlier spheres, that is to say, in the family and in civil society, and that it is and should be women who remain in the family and this is so since corporeally and psychically to be female is to draw no self/other, individual/species distinction, women are suited to a familial role because their bodies and psyches are organized by the same principle of immediate unity that regulates the family.

‘The ethical substance is: (a) as immediate or natural spirit,-the family; (b) the relative totality of the relative relations of individuals as independent persons to one another in a formal universality,-civil society; © the self-conscious substance, as the spirit developed to an organic actuality,- the political constitution. (a) THE FAMIL Y The ethical spirit, when in its immediacy, contains the natural moment that the individual has its substantial reality in its natural universality, the genus, -the sexual relationship, but elevated to a spiritual determination; — the unity of love and the disposition of intimate trust; -spirit as family is sensitive spirit. ( 1 ) The difference of the natural sexes also appears at the same time as a difference of intellectual and ethical determination. These personalities combine, in accordance with their exclusive individuality, to form one person; subjective intimacy determines them to substantial unity, makes this union into an ethical relationship-marriage. The substantial intimacy makes marriage into an undivided bond of persons- monogamous marriage; the physical union is a consequence of the ethically formed bond. The further consequence is community of personal and particular interests’.

- ‘Philosophy of Mind’

So, exactly in what way does such an ostensible fact about what it is to be female equips women for the familial role?

‘Reading the Newspaper in the Garden’, 1847, Carl Spitzweg

Referring to a natural determinacy of the sexes does not presuppose biological determinism, there are differences, for a biological determinist argument would perhaps be structured thus: women’s and men’s biological traits, perhaps their hormones or energy levels, predispose them toward certain kinds of activities and away from others, toward the domestic realm and away from the public realm in women’s case, and vice versa for men and hence women and men should stick to the activities for which they are each predisposed and society should be so arranged as to encourage men and women to do this since anything else would be futile and would lead to frustration and unhappiness for both men and women and would be damagingly inefficient for society.

Hegel’s approach to sex difference is different from that of biological since the natural difference between the sexes is understood to be biological in the standard modern sense, that sense which became current following the French revolution, which is that differences in anatomy cause men and women to think and act differently. This is discussed by Londa Schiebinger in ‘The Mind Has No Sex?: Women in the Origins of Modern Science’, 1989. In an endeavour to secure a place for women in scientific culture, the Cartesian François Poullain de la Barre, (1647–1723) asserted that ‘the mind has no sex’ in ‘On the Equality of the Two Sexes: A Physical and Moral Discourse, Which Shows That it is Important to Rid Oneself of Prejudice’, 1673, which I have not read so I won’t discuss but I am intrigued by and will put it on my reading list. But apparently his claim is that sexual difference lies in part through the constitution of the body and the unequal treatment that women experience in religious and educational instruction and the effects of the environment create a perceived apparent innate difference between the sexes which does not have a natural basis, it is not essential nor is it innate but proceeds from cultural prejudice and can be understood as social constructionism and he advocated for equal education of women emphasizing that women should receive a true and quality education and all careers including scientific ones should be open to them.

Simone de Beauvoir (1908–1986), includes a quotation from Poullain de la Barre in an epigraph to ‘The Second Sex’ , in 1949: ‘All that has been written about women by men should be suspect, for the men are at once judge and party’. But if true doesn’t that apply to himself? Don’t men pretend to be feminists in the hopes of improving their chances with women? Which doesn’t work, the evidence suggests it has the opposite outcome.

But as I say I have not read him. De Beauvoir has, so I will quote from her about what he said:

‘It is understandable that the duality of the sexes, like all duality, be expressed in conflict. It is understandable that if one of the two succeeded in imposing its superiority, it had to establish itself as absolute. It remains to be explained how it was that man won at the outset. It seems possible that women might have carried off the victory, or that the battle might never be resolved. Why is it that this world has always belonged to men and that only today things are beginning to change? Is this change a good thing? Will it bring about an equal sharing of the world between men and women or not?’

‘These questions are far from new; they have already had many answers; but the very fact that woman is Other challenges all the justifications that men have ever given: these were only too clearly dictated by their own interest. ‘Everything that men have written about women should be viewed with suspicion, because they are both judge and party,” wrote Poulain de la Barre, a little-known seventeenth-century feminist. Males have always and everywhere paraded their satisfaction of feeling they are kings of creation. … Among the blessings Plato thanked the gods for was, first, being born free and not a slave and, second, a man and not a woman. But males could not have enjoyed this privilege so fully had they not considered it as founded in the absolute and in eternity: they sought to make the fact of their supremacy a right. ‘Those who made and compiled the laws, being men, favoured their own sex, and the jurisconsults have turned the laws into principles’, Poulain de la Barre continues. Lawmakers, priests, philosophers, writers, and scholars have gone to great lengths to prove that women’s subordinate condition was willed in heaven and profitable on earth. Religions forged by men reflect this will for domination: they found ammunition in the legends of Eve and Pandora. They have put philosophy and theology in their service, as seen in the previously cited words of Aristotle and Saint Thomas. Since ancient times, satirists and moralists have delighted in depicting women’s weaknesses. The violent indictments brought against them all through French literature are well-known: Montherlant, with less verve, picks up the tradition from Jean de Meung. This hostility seems sometimes founded but is often gratuitous; in truth, it covers up a more or less skillfully camouflaged will to self-justification. ‘It is much easier to accuse one sex than to excuse the other’, says Montaigne. In certain cases, the process is transparent. It is striking, for example, that the Roman code limiting a wife’s rights invokes ‘the imbecility and fragility of the sex’ just when a weakening family structure makes her a threat to male heirs’.


‘The period’s most determined feminist is Poulain de la Barre who in 1673 publishes a Cartesian-inspired work, De I’egalite des deux sexes (The Equality of the Two Sexes). He thinks that since men are stronger, they favour their sex and women accept this dependence out of custom. They never had their chances: in either freedom or education. Thus they cannot be judged by what they did in the past. Nothing indicates their inferiority to men. Anatomy reveals differences, but none of them constitutes a privilege for the male. And Poulain de la Barre concludes with a demand for a solid education for women’.

- ‘The Second Sex’

Hegel thought that men and women’s different biological traits reflect and realize a difference in reproductive roles that is required by the metaphysical character of reproduction and since the two sexes are defined by their different ways of relating species and individual, universal and particular the natures of the two sexes are primarily metaphysical rather than biological so if Hegel is an essentialist with respect to sex, he is a metaphysical rather than a biological essentialist, according to Stone, taking the distinction between metaphysical and biological essences from Cressida Heyes, (‘Line Drawings: Defining Women Through Feminist Practice’, 2000).

And furthermore Hegel’s approach is a departure from biological determinism since he does not believe that women have to remain in the family because their nature causally predisposes them to do so, by disposing them to prefer family-focused activities or to perform poorly in the public world, rather the position is that women’s bodily organization around immediate unity corresponds to the organization of the family around the principle of immediate unity. He writes, The natural determinacy of the two sexes acquires an intellectual and ethical significance by virtue of its rationality and this significance is determined by the difference into which the ethical substantiality, as the concept in itself, divides itself up in order that its vitality may thereby achieve a concrete unity:

‘The difference in the physical characteristics of the two sexes has a rational basis and consequently acquires an intellectual and ethical significance. This significance is determined by the difference into which the ethical substantiality, as the concept, internally sunders itself in order that its vitality may become a concrete unity consequent upon this difference’.

‘Thus one sex is mind in its self-diremption into explicit personal self-subsistence and the knowledge and volition of free universality, i.e. the self-consciousness of conceptual thought and the volition of the objective final end. The other sex is mind maintaining itself in unity as knowledge and volition of the substantive, but knowledge and volition in the form of concrete individuality and feeling. In relation to externality, the former is powerful and active, the latter passive and subjective. It follows that man has his actual substantive life in the state, in learning, and so forth, as well as in labour and struggle with the external world and with himself so that it is only out of his diremption that he fights his way to self-subsistent unity with himself. In the family he has a tranquil intuition of this unity, and there he lives a subjective ethical life on the plane of feeling. Woman, on the other hand, has her substantive destiny in the family, and to be imbued with family piety is her ethical frame of mind’.

‘Remark: For this reason, family piety is expounded in Sophocles’ Antigone — one of the most sublime presentations of this virtue — as principally the law of woman, and as the law of a substantiality at once subjective and on the plane of feeling, the law of the inward life, a life which has not yet attained its full actualisation; as the law of the ancient gods, ‘the Gods of the underworld; as ‘an everlasting law, and no man knows at what time it was first put forth’. This law is there displayed as a law opposed to public law, to the law of the land. This is the supreme opposition in ethics and therefore in tragedy; and it is individualised in the same play in the opposing natures of man and woman’.

‘Addition: Women are capable of education, but they are not made for activities which demand a universal faculty such as the more advanced sciences, philosophy, and certain forms of artistic production. Women may have happy ideas, taste, and elegance, but they cannot attain to the ideal. [Ideale. By this word Hegel means ‘the Beautiful and whatever tends thither’ (Science of Logic, i. 163, footnote). It is to be distinguished, therefore, from Ideelle] The difference between men and women is like that between animals and plants. Men correspond to animals, while women correspond to plants because their development is more placid and the principle that underlies it is the rather vague unity of feeling. When women hold the helm of government, the state is at once in jeopardy, because women regulate their actions not by the demands of universality but by arbitrary inclinations and opinions. Women are educated — who knows how? — as it were by breathing in ideas, by living rather than by acquiring knowledge. The status of manhood, on the other hand, is attained only by the stress of thought and much technical exertion’.

- ‘Philosophy of Right’

(I am merely the messenger)..

‘René d’Anjou présentant à Jeanne de Laval le ‘Livre du coeur d’Amour épris’, ‘1835, Gillot Saint-Evre

Ethical substance of society subdivides itself into family, civil society, and state because this substance is a vital, that is, organic whole. The resulting difference between family and public sphere the latter encompassing both civil society and state) gives ethical meaning, a socio-political dimension, to natural sex difference and once arisen, the higher-level, more spiritual difference between the social spheres of immediate unity and difference imparts a new layer of meaning to the lower-level, more natural difference between bodies organized by immediate unity and difference. On the one hand when sexually differentiated human beings find themselves living within modern European societies that are organically sub-differentiated their natural sex difference becomes enfolded within the higher-level domestic/public difference and on the other hand the natural sex difference should be enfolded by the domestic/public division in this way, because, through this enfolding, that which is more spiritual, the social order, takes up what is more material, bodily sex difference, and renders this material functional for its own ends hence imparting to this material an enhanced level of rationality. As a consequence of this enfolding men’s and women’s different natures assume a new significance with male difference taking on the form of personal self-sufficiency and female immediate unity taking on the form of spirituality which maintains itself in unity as knowledge and volition of the substantial in the form of concrete individuality and feeling.

‘The relationships of mother and wife — however, are those of particular individuals, partly in the form of something natural pertaining to desire, partly in the form of something negative which sees in those relationships only something evanescent and also, again, the particular individual is for that very reason a contingent element which can be replaced by another individual. In the ethical household, it is not a question of this particular husband, this particular child, but simply of husband and children generally; the relationships of the woman are based, not on feeling, but on the universal. The difference between the ethical life of the woman and that of the man consists just in this, that in her vocation as an individual and in her pleasure, her interest is centred on the universal and remains alien to the particularity of desire; whereas in the husband these two sides are separated; and since he possesses as a citizen the self-conscious power of universality} he thereby acquires the right of desire and, at the same time, preserves his freedom in regard to it. Since, then, in this relationship of the wife there is an admixture of particularity, her ethical life is not pure; but in so far as it is ethical,the particularity is a matter of indifference, and the wife is without the moment of knowing herself as this particular self in the other partner’.

- ‘Phenomenology of Spirit’

Naturally women’s bodies are not differentiated from those of their offspring, and psychically also women-mothers experience sensations that are indeterminately those of their offspring and these characteristics now gain added spiritual significance by being rendered into the basis for women’s familial role of identifying their interests with those of their families where women unlike men, do not re-emerge from this identification into the renewed individualism of civil society. Hence the enfolding of the natural sex difference into the social domestic/public difference gives women’s natural fusion with their children and with the species a new socio-political function and equally women’s female (weibliche) nature is made into the basis of the socio-political identity of woman-as-wife-and-mother (Frau). It is not that women’s bodily and psychical fusion with their children directly causes them to identify their interests with those of their families at the political level but rather women’s natural character of bodily and psychical fusion acquires (erhält) or receives the further character of domestic identity when that natural character is enfolded into the social sphere of the family.

If the rationale for women being excluded from the public world it rests in the theory of nature albeit but this does not mean that biological determinism is being argued for but that women’s nature corresponds at a lower relatively natural level to the more spiritual structure of the family and that as part of the process of spiritualizing what is natural women’s nature should and in modern Europe largely does assume the further spiritual form of a domestic identity. As Kimberly Hutchings has observed Hegel joins together his accounts of women’s place in social life, the family, and of mind’s emergence from nature, an emergence that nevertheless is non-natural since mind over-grasps nature, enfolding nature into its own higher-level functioning and woman becomes the hinge whereby this enfolding of material nature by mind takes place so that ‘for Hegel women only [ever] appear at a point of mediation or transition between natural and spiritual existence’ claims Hutchings.

Such is largely Stone’s interpretation of Hegel’s rationale for consigning women to the family and is disputable but I put that to one side for now, and she goes further in contending that his account of sex difference in the ‘Philosophy of Nature’ emerges out of and represents the culmination of a broader pattern of sexuate symbolism that informs his entire theory of nature a pattern in which matter is symbolically female while the concept and mind are symbolically male, an account of sex difference and of how that difference takes on socio-political significance to be understood though tracing the sexuate symbolism with which his theory of nature is imbued.

‘Portrait of Sofia Apraksina’, (1800–1886), 1820s. Unknown artist of the Russian school of the first quarter of the 19th century.

Female Matter, Male Concept. Sexuate symbolism informs Hegel’s ‘Philosophy of Nature’. How so? Let us look again at the text’s basic structure and contents. It begins with nature emerging from the idea itself the highest form of the concept the whole rationally interconnected sequence of basic ontological principles and forms, as narrated in Hegel’s ‘Science of Logic’, Being, Nothingness, Becoming, Determinacy and so on and the concept is nothing subjective but is the true, objective, actual being of things themselves. It is like the Platonic Ideas, which exist in individual things as their substantial kinds.

‘God has two revelations, as nature and as spirit, and both manifestations are temples which He fills, and in which He is present. God as an abstraction is not the true God; His truth is the positing of his other, the living process, the world, which is His Son when it is comprehended in its divine form. God is subject only in unity with His other in spirit. The determination and the purpose of the philosophy of nature is therefore that spirit should find its own essence, its counterpart, i.e. the Notion, within nature. The study of nature is therefore the liberation of what belongs to spirit within nature, for spirit is in nature in so far as it relates itself not to another, but to itself. This is likewise the liberation of nature, which in itself is reason; it is only through spirit however, that reason as such comes forth from nature into existence. Spirit has the certainty which Adam had when he beheld Eve, ‘This is flesh of my flesh, this is bone of my bones.’ Nature is, so to speak, the bride espoused by spirit. Is this certainty also truth however? The inwardness of nature is nothing but the universal, and we enter it of our own accord if we have thoughts. If subjective truth is the correspondence between sensuous representation and the object, objective truth is the correspondence of the object, of the fact, with itself, so that its reality is in conformity with its Notion. The essential ego is the self-equality of the Notion, which pervades everything, and which through maintaining its control over particular differences, constitutes the universal returning into itself. This Notion is, on this account, the true Idea of the universe, the sole actuality. Thus God alone is truth, according to Plato, He is that which is immortally alive, and his 5 body and soul are by nature one. The first question to arise is therefore, ‘Why has God determined himself in order to create nature?’ ‘

- ‘Philosophy of Nature’

The idea comes out of itself or externalizes itself to constitute nature and as the product of the idea’s self-externalization nature initially exists as sheer externality, partes extra partes, that is, as pure matter. Nature’s matter becomes permeated by thought in a series of stages consisting of many moments, the exposition of which constitutes the philosophy of nature.

‘For us mind has nature as its presupposition, though mind is the truth of nature, and is thus absolutely first with respect to it. In this truth nature has vanished, and mind has emerged as the Idea that has reached its being-for-self. The object of the Idea as well as the subject is the concept. This identity is absolute negativity, since in nature the concept has its complete, external objectivity, but this externalization of the concept has been sublated and the concept has, in this externalization, become identical with itself. And so the concept is this identity only so far as it is at the same time a return out of nature’

‘Zusatz. We have already indicated, in the Zusatz to §379, the concept of mind, saying that the mind is the self-knowing, actual Idea. Philosophy has to demonstrate the necessity of this concept, as of all its other concepts, which means that philosophy has to cognize it as the result of the development of the universal concept or of the logical Idea. But in this development, mind is preceded not only by the logical Idea but also by external nature. For the cognition already contained in the simple logical Idea is only the concept of cognition thought by us, not cognition existing for itself, not actual mind but merely its possibility. Actual mind, which in the science of mind is our only object, has external nature for its immediate presupposition and the logical Idea as its first presupposition. Philosophy of nature, and indirectly logic, must therefore have as its final result the proof of the necessity of the concept of mind. The science of mind, on its part, has to authenticate this concept by developing and actualizing it. Accordingly, what we say here assertively about mind at the beginning of our treatment of it, can only be scientifically proved by philosophy in its entirety. All we can do initially is to elucidate the concept of mind for representation’.

- ‘Philosophy of Mind’

To begin with the concept re-emerges within nature in the form of the unifying principles that hold portions of matter together into individual bodies and then the concept increasingly reshapes matter into forms that express and reflect it so that material bodies acquire increasingly complex properties first mechanical, then electrical, then chemical, in respect of which their matter progressively comes to manifest the complex articulated character of the concept and at the very top of nature’s hierarchy are animals whose bodies are completely conceptually permeated, the whole of the animal’s body is so pervaded by its unity that in the animal body the complete untruth of material being-outside-one-another is revealed.

‘Zusatz. In the introduction to the philosophy of mind, we noted how nature itself sublates its externality and individualization, its materiality, as an untruth which is inadequate to the concept dwelling in it, and by thus acquiring immateriality it passes over into mind. That is why … immediate mind, the soul, is determined not merely as immaterial for itself, but as the universal immateriality of nature, and also as substance, as unity of thinking and being’.

- Philosophy of Mind’

This foreshadows the emergence of mind within human beings, an emergence that represents the concept’s completed return-to-itself from its self-externalization in the multiplicity of material nature. Hegel symbolizes matter as female, a symbolic equation that surfaces in several passages from the Introduction to the ‘Philosophy of Nature’. The study of nature is thus the liberation of spirit in nature this is also the liberation of nature. Spirit has the certainty which Adam had when he looked on Eve, ‘This is flesh of my flesh, and bone of my bone’. Thus Nature is the bride which spirit weds. (or rather in my translation given above: ‘Nature is, so to speak, the bride espoused by spirit’. So to speak, I don’t think we are to take matter literally as female as Stone seems to).

By tracing how nature’s material side becomes increasingly permeated by its conceptual side eventually to the point where the concept assumes the form of spirit or mind, we the Hegelian philosophers “liberate” nature. At the same time, we confirm that the nature that we are studying is of the same “flesh” as us: nature is not pure matter standing over against ourselves as beings of pure mind; rather, we are composed of concept-permeated matter and so is nature. This places nature in the same relation to human beings as the biblical Eve stands to Adam: Eve/nature shares Adam’s/humanity’s concept-permeated materiality. Nonetheless, nature remains relatively material compared with humanity — for in much of nature, the concept struggles to express itself within matter, succeeding only partially. By implication, Eve too is relatively material compared to Adam. As a woman Eve is more material than Adam; implicitly, her greater materiality is what makes Eve female and not merely another man, another instance of spirit. Matter is, then, symbolically female, so that it confers womanhood on those in whose flesh it predominates.

The inscription on the veil of Isis, ‘I am that which was, is, and will be, and no mortal has lifted my veil’ melts away before thought and so on recognizing that nature is conceptually permeated we remove the illusory appearance that nature is merely material, which corresponds to the philosopher’s lifting of the veil of Isis, his symbolic marrying of Isis, whereby according to Hegel’s account of marriage) he identifies with what they have in common, the status of being concept-permeated matter. But, Stone insists, the fact that Hegel figures nature as Isis a quintessentially female goddess, traditionally depicted as many-breasted reflects his view that nature remains relatively material compared to the human inquirer, and so this figuration confirms that he associates matter with the female. (Does he?)

Hegel further claims that traditional Christian doctrine offers a merely representational grasp of the relations between nature, concept, and matter, that is, a grasp of these relations that partially attains to the level of conceptual thought but remains infected with pictorial, imaginary thinking. The process by which the idea, at the end of the Logic, transforms or inverts itself into pure matter corresponds to God’s creation of the world.

‘Eternity is not before or after time, it is not prior to the creation of the world, nor is it the sequel to its disappearance; it is absolute present, the now, and has no before or after. The world is created, is now being created, and always has been created; this becomes apparent in the conservation of the world. The activity of the absolute Idea is created; like the Idea as such, the Idea of nature is eternal. (b) If one asks whether the world, nature, in its finitude, has a beginning in time or not, one has the world or nature in general before one’s mind, i.e. the universal; and it has already been shown that the true universal is the Idea, which is eternal. That which is finite is temporal however, and has a before and after; and if one has the finite as one’s object, one is within time. That which is finite has a beginning, but not an absolute beginning; its time begins with it, and there is no time without finitude. Philosophy is the timeless comprehension of everything in general according to its eternal determination, and including time. Having removed the concept of the absolute beginning of time, the opposite concept of an infinite time occurs; but infinite time, if it is still regarded as time, and not as transcended time, is still to be distinguished from eternity, and if thought cannot resolve the finite into the eternal, it can never be this time; it is perhaps another time, or another, and always another’.

- ‘Philosophy of Nature’

‘Portrait der Ehefrau des Johann Kaspar Enslin’, c. 1788, Georg Anton

The stage at which the concept has returned to itself from matter and has assumed the form of mind corresponds to the appearance of Christ. Nature corresponds to the son of God, but not as the son, but as abiding in otherness. Nature is spirit estranged from itself; in nature, spirit lets itself go, a Bacchic god unrestrained.

‘If God is all sufficient and lacks nothing, how does He come to release Himself into something so clearly unequal to Him? The divine Idea is just this self-release, the expulsion of this other out of itself, and the acceptance of it again, in order to constitute subjectivity and spirit. The philosophy of nature itself belongs to this pathway of return, for it is the philosophy of nature which overcomes the division of nature and spirit, and renders to spirit the recognition of its essence in nature. This then is the position of nature within the whole; its determinateness lies in the self-determination of the Idea, by which it posits difference, another, within itself, whole maintaining infinite good in its indivisibility, and imparting its entire content in what it provides for this otherness. God disposes therefore, while remaining equal to Himself; each of these moments is itself the whole Idea, and must be posited as the divine totality. Distinctiveness can be grasped in three forms; the universal, the particular, and the singular; firstly it is preserved in the eternal unity of the Idea, i.e. … the eternal son of God as it was to Philo. The other of this extreme is singularity, the form of finite spirit. Singularity, as return into self, is certainly spirit, but as otherness to the exclusion of everything else, it is finite or human spirit, for we are not concerned with finite spirits other than men. In so far as the individual man is at the same time received into the unity of the divine essence, he is the object of the Christian religion, which is the most tremendous demand that may be made upon him. Nature is the third form with which we are concerned here, and as the Idea in particularity, it stands between both extremes. This form is the most congenial to the understanding. Spirit is posited as contradiction existing for itself, for there is an objective contradiction between the Idea in its infinite freedom and in the form of singularity, which occurs in nature only as an implicit contradiction, or as a contradiction which has being for us in that otherness appears in the Idea as a stable form. In Christ the contradiction is posited and overcome as life, passion and resurrection. Nature is the Son of God, not as the Son however, but as abiding in otherness, in which the divine Idea is alienated from love and held fast for a moment. Nature is self-alienated spirit; spirit, a bacchantic god innocent of restraint and reflection has merely been let loose into it; in nature, the unity of the Notion conceals itself’.

- ‘Philosophy of Nature’

Nature corresponds to a dead dismembered Dionysian God or to put it another way to the concept dispersed in materiality and insofar as Christ is born from out of this materiality of nature this materiality occupies the symbolic place of Christ’s mother Mary, that is, of the female. In a fragment from his Bern period (1793–97) Hegel suggests that Bacchanalian festivals existed to satisfy ‘female temperaments’ and implies that the condition of God being dismembered in matter is a peculiarly female condition so that the cult of the dismembered God would have appealed especially to women perhaps alluding to Euripides’ tragedy ‘The Bacchae’ in which it is female revelers who, possessed by the Dionysian spirit, tear apart king Pentheus.

Some Maidens.

O hounds raging and blind,

Up by the mountain road,

Sprites of the maddened mind,

To the wild Maids of God;

Fill with your rage their eyes,

Rage at the rage unblest,

Watching in woman’s guise,

The spy upon God’s Possessed.

A Bacchanal.

Who shall be first, to mark

Eyes in the rock that spy,

Eyes in the pine-tree dark —

Is it his mother? — and cry:

“Lo, what is this that comes,

Haunting, troubling still,

Even in our heights, our homes,

The wild Maids of the Hill?

What flesh bare this child?

Never on woman’s breast

Changeling so evil smiled;

Man is he not, but Beast!

Lion-shape of the wild,

Gorgon-breed of the waste!”

All the Chorus.

Hither, for doom and deed!

Hither with lifted sword,

Justice, Wrath of the Lord,

Come in our visible need!

Smite till the throat shall bleed,

Smite till the heart shall bleed,

Him the tyrannous, lawless, Godless, Echîon’s earth-born seed!

Other Maidens.

Tyrannously hath he trod;

Marched him, in Law’s despite,

Against thy Light, O God,

Yea, and thy Mother’s Light;

Girded him, falsely bold,

Blinded in craft, to quell

And by man’s violence hold

Things unconquerable.

A Bacchanal.

A strait pitiless mind

Is death unto godliness;

And to feel in human kind

Life, and a pain the less.

Knowledge, we are not foes!

I seek thee diligently;

But the world with a great wind blows,

Shining, and not from thee;

Blowing to beautiful things,

On, amid dark and light,

Till Life, through the trammellings

Of Laws that are not the Right,

Breaks, clean and pure, and sings

Glorying to God in the height!

All the Chorus.

Hither for doom and deed!

Hither with lifted sword,

Justice, Wrath of the Lord,

Come in our visible need!

Smite till the throat shall bleed,

Smite till the heart shall bleed,

Him the tyrannous, lawless, Godless, Echîon’s earth-born seed!


Appear, appear, whatso thy shape or name

O Mountain Bull, Snake of the Hundred Heads,

Lion of Burning Flame!

O God, Beast, Mystery, come! Thy mystic maids

Are hunted! — Blast their hunter with thy breath,

Cast o’er his head thy snare;

And laugh aloud and drag him to his death,

Who stalks thy herded madness in its lair!

Enter hastily a Messenger from the Mountain, pale and distraught.


Woe to the house once blest in Hellas! Woe

To thee, old King Sidonian, who didst sow

The dragon-seed on Ares’ bloody lea!

Alas, even thy slaves must weep for thee!


News from the mountain? — Speak! How hath it sped?


Pentheus, my king, Echîon’s son, is dead!

- ‘The Bacchae’

(Dionysus was angry because some people doubt that he is really a god believing that his human mother lied about his father. and that really he is simply the child of a mortal man). Hegel symbolizes matter as female and considers matter to be the being-outside-itself of the concept (‘nature is the idea in the form of otherness’) so the implication is that the female is to be understood as the being-outside-itself of the male and the female ranks as an inadequate self-alienated form of the male rather than being a sexuate identity in its own right. And furthermore the progression that occurs in nature whereby the concept re-emerges and progressively reshapes matter is a progression wherein that which is symbolically male re-emerges and increasingly converts the symbolically female into the vehicle of its own self-expression. The question arises concerning the importance of such sexuate symbolism in Hegelian philosophical thought and whether or not the basic assertion with regarding to matter, the concept, and nature can be restated independent of this symbolism, so we can keep the claims and ditch the symbolism. The symbolism is not constitutive of the substance of the theories and yet the historical character of Hegel’s thought colours his sexuate symbolism, his Hegel’s philosophical system is explicitly constructed as a working-through of previous philosophies.

Feminist philosophers have drawn attention to the fact that throughout the history of philosophy matter has been symbolized as female, from Plato’s idea of the maternal chora or receptacle (male as the begetter and female as the passive Mother Receptacle on the cosmic):

‘In our former discussion I distinguished two kinds of being — the unchanging or invisible, and the visible or changing. But now a third kind is required, which I shall call the receptacle or nurse of generation. There is a difficulty in arriving at an exact notion of this third kind, because the four elements themselves are of inexact natures and easily pass into one another, and are too transient to be detained by any one name; wherefore we are compelled to speak of water or fire, not as substances, but as qualities. They may be compared to images made of gold, which are continually assuming new forms. Somebody asks what they are; if you do not know, the safest answer is to reply that they are gold. In like manner there is a universal nature out of which all things are made, and which is like none of them; but they enter into and pass out of her, and are made after patterns of the true in a wonderful and inexplicable manner. The containing principle may be likened to a mother, the source or spring to a father, the intermediate nature to a child; and we may also remark that the matter which receives every variety of form must be formless, like the inodorous liquids which are prepared to receive scents, or the smooth and soft materials on which figures are impressed. In the same way space or matter is neither earth nor fire nor air nor water, but an invisible and formless being which receives all things, and in an incomprehensible manner partakes of the intelligible. But we may say, speaking generally, that fire is that part of this nature which is inflamed, water that which is moistened, and the like’.

- ‘Timeaus’

.. through to Descartes’ theoretical reconstitution of the living, maternal cosmos of medieval times as bare extended matter (medieval representations of female corporeality is certainly a subject worth exploring):

‘First, I know that if I have a clear and distinct thought of something, God could have created it in a way that exactly corresponds to my thought. So the fact that I can clearly and distinctly think of one thing apart from another assures me that the two things are distinct from one another — that is, that they are two — since they can be separated by God. Never mind how they could be separated; that does not affect the judgment that they are distinct. So my mind is a distinct thing from my body. Furthermore, my mind is me, for the following reason·. I know that I exist and that nothing else belongs to my nature or essence except that I am a thinking thing; from this it follows that my essence consists solely in my being a thinking thing, even though there may be a body that is very closely joined to me. I have a clear and distinct idea of myself as something that thinks and isn’t extended, and one of body as something that is extended and does not think. So it is certain that I am really distinct from my body and can exist without it. Besides this, I find that I am capable of certain special kinds of thinking, namely imagination and sensory perception. Now, I can clearly and distinctly understand myself as a whole without these faculties; but I can’t understand them without me, that is, without an intellectual substance for them to belong to. A faculty or capacity essentially involves acts, so it involves some thing that acts; so I see that I differ from my faculties as a thing differs from its properties. Of course there are other faculties — such as those of moving around, changing shape, and so on — which also need a substance to belong to; but it must be a bodily or extended substance and not a thinking one, because those faculties essentially involve extension but not thought’.

- ‘Meditations’

Hegel as historical thinker draws freely upon this heritage of thinking about matter thereby structuring his own account of matter/concept relations as correcting the deficiencies within this heritage thereby incorprating the tradition’s sexuate symbolism into his system so no matter whether the metaphor of matter-as-female is profound or shallow in Plato and Descartes and other philosophers the fact remains at least for feminist philosophers that this metaphor has become sedimented in the river of history hence the metaphor is inescapably embedded in Hegel’s thinking since this thought is constituted as a reworking of the history of philosophy, and so sexuate symbolism may not be necessary to Hegel’s account of matter and the concept if it is regarded in abstraction from its historical provenance and precursors and yet that symbolism is necessary to Hegel’s account when it is considered in its historical concreteness.

Girl Arranging Flowers, 1921, William McGregor Paxton

Hegel’s account of sex difference in the ‘Philosophy of Nature’ is the consequence, according to Stone, of the symbolic equation between female and matter, male and concept, that has informed his entire preceding account of nature and although Hegel has described male and female reproductive anatomies as organized respectively around differentiation and its absence he adds that the female and the male respectively contribute the material element and subjectivity to their offspring. Procreation must not be reduced to the ovary and the sperm as if the new product were merely a composition of the forms or parts of both sides rather the female contains the material element but the male contains the subjectivity.

‘Conception must not be regarded as consisting of nothing but the ovary and the male semen, as if the new formation were merely a composition of the forms or parts of both sides, for the female certainly contains the material element, while the male contains the subjectivity. Conception is the contraction of the whole individual into the simple self-abandoning unity of its representation. The seed is precisely this simple representation; it is a wholly singular point, as is its name and its entire self. Consequently, conception consists of nothing but the unification of these opposed and abstract representations’.

- ‘Philosophy of Nature’

Because the female retains the foetus within her own body as part of her own physical processes she exchanges bodily materials with the foetus on an ongoing basis and in that regard she contributes to the foetus materially while on the other hand the male expels his semen outside him and thereafter has no further material corporeal relationship with the foetus. The male bestowing subjectivity upon the foetus … what does that mean? The seed is a simple representation simply a single point, like the name and the entire self. Which is to say since the male’s contribution to the foetus takes the form of one single emission of semen rather than many material exchanges over time the male is providing matter in a shape suited to represent the individuality of the foetus, the single emission of semen represents the child-to-be as a single individual and as such the material aspect of the emission of semen carries a meaning, its matter is concept-permeated from which we can extrapolate that the male is contributing to the foetus matter that is fully concept-permeated, that is, subjectivity.

Tacitly equating matter with the female and the concept with the male throughout the system leads once we theorize upon sex differences to mapping the man/woman difference onto the concept/matter opposition and because the progressive domination of the concept over matter is symbolically a progressive domination of male over female this process of spiritualization of matter will continues through the ‘Philosophy of Mind’ and into the ‘Philosophy of Right’ a process as feminist philosophers have interpreted as resulting in women being situated in subservience to men confined to the family since their immediately unified nature corresponds at a lower more material level to the immediately unified structure of the family that enveloping women’s nature into its own higher-level functioning.

This enveloping of women’s nature by the family is part of the wider process of the spiritualization of matter, a the process whereby the symbolically male concept moulds matter into forms that express and reflect the concept’s dominion and since the concept is symbolically male the spiritualization of women’s nature at the same time renders that nature into a vehicle of service to male citizens. Spiritualized, ‘women’s nature becomes the wellspring of women’s devotion to the reproduction and tending of the male citizens who exercise economic power and legal jurisdiction over the family and its female inhabitants’, says Stone. Women’s spiritualized nature henceforth expresses and reflects the mastery exercised by the male citizens for whom that nature has been made functional hence Hegel concludes in one of his early Jena drafts (1802/03):

‘The sexes are plainly in a [hierarchical] relation to one another, one the universal, the other the particular; they are not absolutely equal’.

- ‘System of Ethical Life’

(An early draft, recall). ‘The deeply gendered structure of Hegel’s philosophy that I have described is hardly likely to enhance the appeal of his philosophy to feminist readers’ says Stone. ‘Nonetheless, it is important for we feminist readers of Hegel to acknowledge that his thought does have this deeply gendered structure, and for our efforts to use and reconstruct Hegelian ideas to be informed by this acknowledgment. Otherwise we run the risk of inadvertently reproducing in our own thinking the very gendered schemata that we aim, as feminists, to expose and challenge’. Stone contends that Simone de Beauvoir, (1908–1986), does this very thing in ‘The Second Sex’ when she takes up Hegel’s master/slave dialectic as a way of understanding the relations between men and women, arguing that women’s oppression has its historical roots in hunter-gatherer conditions when women’s reproductive burden prevented them from participating in the struggle for recognition by risking life but she does not raise the question as to whether Hegel’s master/slave dialectic was conceived all along as a struggle between men, as Genevieve Lloyd contends, suggesting that Hegel conceives the struggle to risk and transcend life as a struggle to transcend the feminine. (‘The Man of Reason: ‘Male’ and ‘Female’ in Western Philosophy’, 1984).

‘Certain passages where Hegel’s dialectic describes the relationship of master to slave would apply far better to the relationship of man to woman. The Master’s privilege, he states, arises from the affirmation of Spirit over Life in the fact of risking his life: but in fact the vanquished slave has experienced this same risk, whereas the woman is originally an existent who gives Life and does not risk her life; there has never been combat between the male and her; Hegel’s definition applies singularly to her. ‘The other [consciousness] is the dependent consciousness for which essential reality is animal life, that is, life given by another entity’. But this relationship differs from the relationship of oppression because woman herself aspires to and recognizes the values concretely attained by males. It is the male who opens up the future toward which she also transcends; in reality, women have never pitted female values against male ones: it is men wanting to maintain masculine prerogatives who invented this division; they wanted to create a feminine domain — a rule of life, of immanence — only to lock woman in it. But it is above and beyond all sexual specification that the existent seeks self-justification in the movement of his transcendence: the very submission of women proves this. Today what women claim is to be recognized as existents just like men, and not to subordinate existence to life or the man to his animality’.

- ‘The Second Sex’

Because Beauvoir disregards this and merely taking over the value of transcendence she arrives at the conclusion that those things that seem most female and life-related about women, reproduction, mothering, menstruation, and so on, are inherent obstacles to transcendence for she regarded women as being alienated from their own projects in the service of the species. Stone accuses her of being unhelpful in attributing part of the blame for women’s oppression to women’s own biology rather than to what society has made of that biology. ‘By attending to the gendered structure of Hegel’s philosophy we can avoid simply reproducing it as Beauvoir ends up doing’ claims Stone.

Understanding this gendered structure need not make it impossible for feminists to use parts of Hegel’s philosophy Stone concedes but it suggests that if we do so then we need at the same time to reconstruct and reinterpret that philosophy, or the parts of it that one helps oneself to and puts to use in a more gender-egalitarian form. An instance of this kind of simultaneous use-and-reinterpretation is Luce Irigaray’s, (1930 — ), stance ‘I love to you: sketch for a felicity within history’, 1996, whereby she moves from the critique of patriarchy to an exploration of the ground for a possible inter-subjectivity between the two sexes and continuing her rejection of demands for equality she poses the question as to how can we move to a new era of sexual difference in which women and men establish lasting relations with one another without reducing the other to the status of object. And drawing upon Hegel she proposes a dialectic appropriate to each sex as well as a dialectic of their relation arguing for ‘sexed rights’ and a right of persons based on the right to life, not the right to property. Utilising the results of her research into the sexing of language she analyzes how women seek communication in discourse with the other, an other, pre-occupied with his abstract or concrete object, who does not respond and so she proposes another syntax for communication, one that does not incorporate the other as the object of the subject but allows for an indirect relation. And so, ‘I love to you’ replaces ‘I love you’, and in her vision of the happiness possible in sexual difference the love between a man and a woman finds its ‘reason’ not in property or children, but in its own place within the couple, hence arguing for a new language of personal relations, ‘I Love to You’ looks toward a future where nihilism can be overcome by ‘love in sexual difference’.

Which is t say that each sex should have its own dialectic rather than only the male sex undergoing a dialectical development in which it envelops and incorporates the female and especially for Irigaray both sexes should undergo a negative dialectic whereby they learn to limit themselves out of respect for the alterity of the other sex, and if like Irigaray one wishes to transform rather than reproduce Hegel’s gendered model when one uses his ideas one needs at the outset to identify how the model operates within his thought.

‘Interior with a woman’, (‘Interiør med en tænksom dame’), Bertha Wegmann, (1847–1926)

Dedicated to my lovely Other.❤️ Freedom is being at home with oneself in one’s other. Hegel said that. (His thought on sex-differences and the sex-relationship is much deeper than this slight article might suggest and it is in need of considerable labour in interpretation). I have never felt freer. I love to you.. I love you too.

Where ever we are, we are always beside each other. 💑

I’ll sing it one last time for you Then we really have to go You’ve been the only thing that’s right In all I’ve done

And I can barely look at you But every single time I do I know we’ll make it anywhere Away from here

Light up, light up As if you have a choice Even if you cannot hear my voice I’ll be right beside you dear

Louder, louder And we’ll run for our lives I can hardly speak I understand Why you can’t raise your voice to say

To think I might not see those eyes Makes it so hard not to cry And as we say our long goodbyes I nearly do

Light up, light up As if you have a choice Even if you cannot hear my voice I’ll be right beside you, dear

Louder, louder And we’ll run for our lives I can hardly speak I understand Why you can’t raise your voice to say?

Slower, slower We don’t have time for that All I want is to find an easier way To get out of our little heads

Have heart, my dear We’re bound to be afraid Even if it’s just for a few days Making up for all this mess

Light up, light up As if you have a choice Even if you cannot hear my voice I’ll be right beside you dear

Snow Patrol, ‘Run’:


Coming up next:

The sex-relationship.

It may stop but it never ends.



David Proud

David Proud is a British philosopher currently pursuing a PhD at the Institute of Irish Studies, University of Liverpool, on Hegel and James Joyce.