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

David Proud
61 min readDec 22, 2023

‘I attempt from Love’s sickness to fly in vain’

by John Dryden (1631–1700)

I attempt from Love’s sickness to fly in vain,

Since I am myself my own fever and pain.

No more now, fond heart, with pride no more swell,

Thou canst not raise forces enough to rebel.

I attempt from Love’s sickness, etc..

For Love has more power and less mercy than fate,

To make us seek ruin and love those that hate.

I attempt from Love’s sickness, etc..

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‘Love Sickness’, circa 1660, Jan Steen

This, I say, took away all compassion; self-preservation, indeed, appeared here to be the first law. For the children ran away from their parents as they languished in the utmost distress. And in some places, though not so frequent as the other, parents did the like to their children; nay, some dreadful examples there were, and particularly two in one week, of distressed mothers, raving and distracted, killing their own children; one whereof was not far off from where I dwelt, the poor lunatic creature not living herself long enough to be sensible of the sin of what she had done, much less to be punished for it.

It is not, indeed, to be wondered at: for the danger of immediate death to ourselves took away all bowels of love, all concern for one another. I speak in general, for there were many instances of immovable affection, pity, and duty in many, and some that came to my knowledge, that is to say, by hearsay; for I shall not take upon me to vouch the truth of the particulars.

- Daniel Defoe, ‘Journal of the Plague Year’, 1722

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Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, (1770–1831), ‘Philosophy of Nature’, ‘Organic Physics’.

Figures of life and death as rhetorical and material conditions for self-consciousness and mutual recognition feature in Hegel’s ‘Phenomenology of Spirit’, a treatment of life and death, concepts that in accordance with the mature system anticipate and prefigure the struggle for recognition and its Lord/Bondsman dialectic. In the ‘Philosophy of Nature’ attention is given to how the sex relation, species-life, and the diseased body pathologically figure the life and death of the nonhuman or lower-animal) organism, and the ‘Anthropology’ section of the ‘Philosophy of Mind’ explores the tricky relationship between love and sex, particularly reproductive sex, and love as an incipient politics of woman, family, civil society, and state. There have also been endeavours, by Stuart J. Murray for instance, to bring Hegel’s world-historical system into dialogue with contemporary biopolitics the argument being that recognition today is driven by a world-historical discourse upon bios and that Hegel’s pathological figures might occasion a productive critique of affirmative biopolitics (according to Murray).

‘182. Now, this movement of self-consciousness in relation to another self-consciousness has in this way been represented as the action of one self-consciousness, but this action of the one has itself the double significance of being both its own action and the action of the other as well. For the other is equally independent and self-contained, and there is nothing in it of which it is not itself the origin. The first does not have the object before it merely as it exists primarily for desire, but as something that has an independent existence of its own, which, therefore, it cannot utilize for its own purposes, if that object does not of its own accord do what the first does to it. Thus the movement is simply the double movement of the two self-consciousnesses. Each sees the other do the same as it does; each does itself what it understands of the other, and therefore also does what it does only in so far a.s the other does the same. Action by one-side only would be useless because what is to happen can only be brought about by both’.

‘183. Thus the action has a double significance not only because it is directed against itself as well as against the other, but also because it is indivisibly the action of one as well as of the other’.

‘184. In this movement we see repeated the process which presented, itself as the play of Forces, but repeated now in consciousness, What in that process was for us,is true here of the extremes themselves. The middle term is self-consciousness which splits into the extremes; and each extreme is this exchanging of its own determinateness and an absolute transition into the opposite. Although, as consciousness, it does indeed come out of itself, yet, though out of itself, it is at the same, time kept back within itself, is for itself, and the self outside it, is for it. It is aware that it at once is, and is not, another consciousness, and equally that this other is or itself only when it supersedes itself as being for itself, and is for itself only in the being-for-self of the other. Each is for the other the middle term, through which each mediates itself with itself and unites with itself; and each is for itself, and for the other, an immediate being on its own account, which at the same time is such only through this mediation. They recognize themselves as mutually recognizing one another.

- ‘Phenomenology of Spirit’

As my concern is with the ‘Philosophy of Nature’ I shall only deal here with sex and disease (not that I like bringing the two issues together) as covered in that work leaving Hegelian anthropology until get started on the ‘Philosophy of Mind’. As for biopolitics I suppose I have to cover it at some point. Biopolitics, as in the work of Paul-Michel Foucault, (1926–1984), referring to the style of government that regulates populations through biopower, the application and impact of political power on all aspects of human life.

An account of recognition is given in the Lord/Bondsman dialectic in the ‘Phenomenology of Spirit’ whereby we learn that the dialectic of mutual recognition is the key to actualized self-consciousness, that moment in which the I transcends its immanence in the life process to become a self-reflective subject, actively superseding the immediacy of nature and passing from lower animal life to a form-of-life that is recognizably human. At the outside the relation is neither self-reflexive nor reciprocal, each is a being-for-self (Für-sich-sein) in which the other is an unessential, negatively characterized object while in their unreflexive immediacy these individuals appear for one another like ordinary objects, independent shapes [Gestalten], individuals submerged in the being of Life [in das Sein des Lebens] for the object in its immediacy is here determined as Life [als Leben] and they are, for each other, shapes of consciousness [versenkte Bewußtsein] which have not yet accomplished the movement of absolute abstraction, of rooting-out [zu vertilgen] all immediate being.

‘Self-consciousness is, to begin with, simple being-for-self, self-equal through the exclusion from itself of everything else. For it, its essence and absolute object is ‘I’; and in this immediacy, or in this [mere] being, of its being-for-self, it is an individual. What is ‘other’ for it is an unessential, negatively characterized object. But the ‘other’ is also a self-consciousness; one individual is confronted by another individual. Appearing thus immediately on the scene, they are for one another like ordinary objects, independent shapes, individuals submerged in the being [or immediacy] of Life-for the object in its immediacy is here determined as Life. They are for each other, shapes of consciousness which have not yet accomplished the movement of absolute abstraction, of rooting-out all immediate being, and of being merely the purely negative being of self-identical consciousness; in other words, they have not as yet exposed themselves to each other in the form of pure being-for-self, or as self-consciousnesses. Each is indeed certain of its own self, but not of the other, and therefore its own self-certainty still has no truth. For it would have truth only if its own being-for-self had confronted it as an independent object, or, what is the same thing, if the object had presented itself as this pure self-certainty. But according to the Notion of recognition this is possible only when each is for the other what the other is for it, only when each in its own self through its own action, and again through the action of the other, achieves this pure abstraction of being-for-self’.

- ‘Philosophy of Spirit’

Here the concept of life is overdetermined and weighed down due to its implicit relation to death and to the livingness of the body, my body the life of which is something the I is enjoined to wield, bet against and in some sense sacrifice, and yet still survive and if each I is for the other the middle term these mediating terms themselves are mediated in and by life and death for life features here as pure immanence, the material and rhetorical conditions of mutual recognition. So the relation of recognition depends upon a pre-existing relation to life that has to be cut in actual fact the immediacy of consciousness has to be submitted to a rooting out or a pure abstraction if the self-certainty of the I hopes to realize its truth as universal, for consciousness [versenkte Bewußtsein] is submerged, and submerged in life and from the beginning it is in and of life. Life must be staked, risked, negated as part of the claim to mutual recognition, the I of each must act, must demonstrate, that it is not attached to any specific existence, not to the individuality common to existence as such, that it is not attached to life.

‘187. The presentation of itself, however, as the pure abstraction of self-consciousness consists in showing itself as the pure negation of its objective mode, or in showing that it is not attached to any specific existence, not to the individuality common to existence as such, that it is not attached to life. This presentation is ,a twofold action; action on the part of the other, and action on its own part. In so far as it is the action of the other, each seeks the death of the other. But in doing so, the second kind of action, action on its own part; is also involved; for the former involves the staking of its own life. Thus the relation of the two self-conscious individuals is such that they prove themselves and each other through a life-and-death struggle. They must engage in this struggle, for they must raise their certainty of being for themselves to truth, both in the case of the other and in their own case. And it is only through staking one’s life that freedom is won; only thus is it proved that for self-consciousness, its essential being is not [just] being, not the immediate form in which it appears, not its submergence ill the expanse of life, but rather that there is nothing present in it which could not be regarded as a vanishing ,moment, that it is only pure being-for-self. The individual who has not risked his life may well be recognized as a person, but he has not attained to the truth of this recognition as an independent self-consciousness. Similarly,just as each stakes his own life, so each must seek the other’s death, for it values the other no more than itself; its essential being is present to it in the form of an ‘other’, it is outside of itself and must rid itself of its self-externality. The other is an immediate consciousness entangled in a variety of relations hips, and it must regard its otherness as a pure being-for-self or as an absolute negation’.

- ‘Phenomenology of Spirit’

Life must be negated, sublated, Aufgehoben, and the question arises as to the form-of-life is this in its immediacy and in its attachment and as a critical condition to be overcome in the process of mutual recognition, and to the relation such life bears to organic life, the mortal life of the body, that figures tangentially in these passages as a derivative corporeity of self-consciousness. Organic life also is a condition for self-consciousness and mutual recognition albeit it features only negatively in the Phenomenology in relation to death through the life-and-death struggle (Kampf). The provenance of life is the implicit rhetorical and material force in operation in the struggle for recognition and self-consciousness and to understand the stakes of life and death we can focus upon the treatment of these terms in Hegelian texts that systemically anticipate and prefigure this section of the Phenomenology texts that were written subsequent to the Phenomenology but that situate the Phenomenology’s scene of recognition within the context of Hegel’s mature philosophical system.

For instance the ‘Philosophy of Nature’ discusses of organic, animal, life and death foreshadowing and informing the systemically subsequent appearance of these terms in the life-and-death struggle and underwrites the rhetorical work that they have to do in the process of recognition, and in nature also death looms and life is variously negated for the non-human, animal, organism, in sexual congress, in the struggle of the species, and by disease, respectively. In the sex relation for example it is not the life of the individual that is preserved but that of the species, a form of species-life, the life of a population, which some in this modern age, such as Murray, recognize in the language of biopolitics.

‘A giant hand roaming through the dark streets of London, people and rats try to escape its grasp; symbolising the bubonic plague’, Richard Tennant Cooper, (1885–1957)

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Next to these public things were the dreams of old women, or, I should say, the interpretation of old women upon other people’s dreams; and these put abundance of people even out of their wits. Some heard voices warning them to be gone, for that there would be such a plague in London, so that the living would not be able to bury the dead. Others saw apparitions in the air; and I must be allowed to say of both, I hope without breach of charity, that they heard voices that never spake, and saw sights that never appeared; but the imagination of the people was really turned wayward and possessed. And no wonder, if they who were poring continually at the clouds saw shapes and figures, representations and appearances, which had nothing in them but air, and vapour. Here they told us they saw a flaming sword held in a hand coming out of a cloud, with a point hanging directly over the city; there they saw hearses and coffins in the air carrying to be buried; and there again, heaps of dead bodies lying unburied, and the like, just as the imagination of the poor terrified people furnished them with matter to work upon.

So hypochondriac fancies represent

Ships, armies, battles in the firmament;

Till steady eyes the exhalations solve,

And all to its first matter, cloud, resolve.

I could fill this account with the strange relations such people gave every day of what they had seen; and every one was so positive of their having seen what they pretended to see, that there was no contradicting them without breach of friendship, or being accounted rude and unmannerly on the one hand, and profane and impenetrable on the other. One time before the plague was begun (otherwise than as I have said in St Giles’s), I think it was in March, seeing a crowd of people in the street, I joined with them to satisfy my curiosity, and found them all staring up into the air to see what a woman told them appeared plain to her, which was an angel clothed in white, with a fiery sword in his hand, waving it or brandishing it over his head. She described every part of the figure to the life, showed them the motion and the form, and the poor people came into it so eagerly, and with so much readiness; ‘Yes, I see it all plainly,’ says one; ‘there’s the sword as plain as can be.’ Another saw the angel. One saw his very face, and cried out what a glorious creature he was! One saw one thing, and one another. I looked as earnestly as the rest, but perhaps not with so much willingness to be imposed upon; and I said, indeed, that I could see nothing but a white cloud, bright on one side by the shining of the sun upon the other part. The woman endeavoured to show it me, but could not make me confess that I saw it, which, indeed, if I had I must have lied. But the woman, turning upon me, looked in my face, and fancied I laughed, in which her imagination deceived her too, for I really did not laugh, but was very seriously reflecting how the poor people were terrified by the force of their own imagination. However, she turned from me, called me profane fellow, and a scoffer; told me that it was a time of God’s anger, and dreadful judgements were approaching, and that despisers such as I should wander and perish.

- Daniel Defoe, ‘Journal of the Plague Year’, 1722

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Jn the Phenomenology’s account of recognition the organismic sex relation does not feature or if it comes back it has transmogrified into the erotics of the Lord’Bondsman dialectic which according to Murray is ‘a libidinal economy of subjugation, war, terror, and not unrelatedly, the labor of the slave, whose material products, as Marx understood, come to represent a perverse form of freedom through sublimated, desexualized (re)production (cf. Marcuse 1974)’, but as I always like to point out, apart from the fact that this is just one stage in the life of self-consciousness after which there is a long way to go before attaining absolute knowledge, but also at the end of the Lord/Bondsman dialectic it is the Bondsman that finishes up on top so to speak.

But we will run with Murray’s reading for now. Sex is sublimated as a life to be superseded by self-consciousness, a morphology or abstraction that Murray examines further pointing out that critical of the abstractions of German ideology, Karl Marx (1818–1883) and Friedrich Engels (1820–1895) have Hegel in their sights when they claim that ‘life is not determined by consciousness, but consciousness by life’. But Hegel through the life/consciousness dialectic and the several instances of organismic life prefigures if not actually determining the freedom attributed to recognizing self-consciousness in the struggle for recognition (Murray refers to this as a perverse freedom for some reason, I don’t think he quite grasps what is going on).

In Hegel’s terms it seems, says Murray, that the Lord/Bondsman dialectic (which he keeps referring to as the master/slave dialectic thereby confirming he doesn’t understand what is going on) is little more than the conscious activity of anxiety or fear (Angst), which acts on an individual life, not fear of this or that particular thing or just at odd moments but the kind of fear in which the subject’s whole being has been seized with dread for it has experienced the fear of death, the absolute Lord.

‘194. We have seen what servitude is only in relation to lordship. But it is a self-consciousness, and we have now to consider what as such it is in and for itself. To begin with, servitude has the lord for its essential reality; hence the truth for it is the independent consciousness that is for itself. However, servitude is not yet aware that this truth is implicit in it. But it does in fact contain within itself this truth of pure negativity and being-for-self, for it has experienced this its own essential nature. For this consciousness has been fearful, not of this or that particular thing or just at odd moments, but its whole being has been ‘seized with dread; for it has experienced the fear of death, the absolute Lord. In that experience it has been quite unmanned, has trembled in every fibre of its being, and everything solid and stable has been shaken to its foundations. But this pure universal movement, the absolute melting-away of everything stable, is the simple, essential nature of self-consciousness, absolute negativity, pure being-for-self, which consequently is implicit in this consciousness. This moment of pure being-for-self is also explicit for the bondsman, for in the lord it exists for him as his object. Furthermore, his consciousness is not this dissolution of everything stable merely in principle; in his service he actually brings this about. Through his service he rids himself of his attachment to natural existence in every single detail; and gets rid of it by working on it’.

- ‘Phenomenology of Spirit’

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It was very sad to reflect how such a person as this last mentioned above had been a walking destroyer perhaps for a week or a fortnight before that; how he had ruined those that he would have hazarded his life to save, and had been breathing death upon them, even perhaps in his tender kissing and embracings of his own children. Yet thus certainly it was, and often has been, and I could give many particular cases where it has been so. If then the blow is thus insensibly striking — if the arrow flies thus unseen, and cannot be discovered — to what purpose are all the schemes for shutting up or removing the sick people? Those schemes cannot take place but upon those that appear to be sick, or to be infected; whereas there are among them at the same time thousands of people who seem to be well, but are all that while carrying death with them into all companies which they come into.

This frequently puzzled our physicians, and especially the apothecaries and surgeons, who knew not how to discover the sick from the sound; they all allowed that it was really so, that many people had the plague in their very blood, and preying upon their spirits, and were in themselves but walking putrefied carcases whose breath was infectious and their sweat poison, and yet were as well to look on as other people, and even knew it not themselves; I say, they all allowed that it was really true in fact, but they knew not how to propose a discovery.

- Daniel Defoe, ‘Journal of the Plague Year’, 1722

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The absolute fear of death is necessary and formative but becomes pathological without the discipline of service and obedience that channels it into slavish servitude, production, and profit for others in the name of freedom and of life itself.

‘196. But the formative activity has not only this positive significance that in it the pure being-for-self of the servile consciousness acquires an existence; it also has, in contrast with its first moment, the negative significance of fear. For, in fashioning the thing, the bondsman’s own negativity, his being-for-self, becomes an object for him only through his setting at nought the existing shape confronting him. But this objective negative moment is none other than the alien being before which it has trembled. Now, however, he destroys this alien negative moment, posits himself as a negative in the permanent order of things, and thereby he comes for himself, someone existing on his own account. In the lord, the being-for-self is an ‘other’ for the bondsman, or is only for him [i.e. is not his own]; in fear, the being-for-self is present in the bondsman himself; in fashioning the thing, he becomes aware that being-for-self belongs to him, that he himself exists essentially and actually in his own right. The shape does not become something other than himself through being made external to him; for it is precisely this shape that is his pure being-for-self, which in this externality is seen by him to be the truth. Through this rediscovery of himself by himself, the bondsman realizes that it is precisely in his work wherein he seemed to have only an alienated existence that he acquires a mind of his own. For this reflection, the two moments of fear and service as such, as also that of formative activity, are necessary, both being at the same time in a universal mode. Without the discipline of service and obedience, fear remains at the formal stage, and does not extend to the known real world of existence. Without the formative activity, fear remains inward and mute, and consciousness does not become explicitly for itself. If consciousness fashions the thing without that initial absolute fear, it is only an empty self-centred attitude; for its form or negativity is not negativity per se, and therefore its formative activity cannot give it a consciousness of itself as essential being. If it has not experienced absolute fear but only some lesser dread, the negative being has remained for it something external, its substance has not been infected by it through and through. Since the entire contents of its natural consciousness have not been jeopardized, determinate being still in principle attaches to it; having a ‘mind of one’s own’ is self-win, a freedom which is still enmeshed in servitude. Just as little as the pure form can become essential being for it, just as little is that form, regarded as extended to the particular, a universal formative activity, an absolute Notion; rather it is a skill which is master over some things, but not over the universal power and the whole of objective being’.

- ‘Phenomenology of Spirit’

The question arises for Murray as to the extent the life and death, ‘the living death of the enslaved body figure here, in immediate and unreconstructed form, through violence, the subjugating system of capital, and today, we might say, through the ravages of neoliberal biopolitics?’ But it is not a slave we are talking about. I know I am labouring the point but it is a bondsman! Herrschaft und Knechtschaft. Marx contended that although we may destroy the phenomenal body the real body nevertheless remains to haunt the system as Jacques Derrida (1930–2004) describes it in ‘Specters of Marx: The State of the Debt, the Work of Mourning, and the New International’. The life-and-death struggle for mutual recognition presumes the immediacy of a life that can be staked and risked, negated in a particular way, through the threat of death, through anxious mortification, and life arrives upon the scene in a manner of speaking always already imbued with a human value and when confronted by death the intrinsic value of life must already have been anxiously and self-reflexively understood by both Lord and Bondsman and each in and through the other.

This presumes a death that amounts to more than mere animal or organismic perishing a human self-consciousness of death as death, mortal self-consciousness represents a radical break from nature and yet the seeds of such self-consciousness are nevertheless prefigured there. The goal of Nature is to destroy itself and to break through its husk of immediate, sensuous existence, to consume itself like the phoenix in order to come forth from this externality rejuvenated as spirit.

‘This is the transition from natural being into spirit; nature has found its consummation in living being, and has made its peace by shifting into a higher sphere. Spirit has therefore issued forth from nature. The purpose of nature is to extinguish itself, and to break through its rind of immediate and sensuous being, to consume itself like a Phoenix in order to emerge from this externality rejuvenated as spirit. Nature has become distinct from itself in order to recognize itself again as Idea, and to reconcile itself with itself. To regard spirit thus, as having come forth from implicitness, and as having become a mere being-for-self, is however a one-sided view. Nature is certainly that which is immediate, but as that which is distinct from spirit, it is nevertheless merely a relativity. As the negative of spirit, it is therefore merely a posited being. It is the power of free spirit which sublates this negativity; spirit is nature’s antecedent and to an equal extent its consequent, it is not merely the metaphysical Idea of it. It is precisely because spirit constitutes the end of nature, that it is antecedent to it. Nature has gone forth from spirit; it has not done this empirically however, for while it presupposes nature, it is already constantly contained within it. In its infinite freedom however, spirit allows nature freedom, and opposes it by exhibiting within it the action of the Idea, as an inner necessity; just as a free man is certain that his action constitutes the activity of the world. Spirit itself therefore, proceeding forth in the first instance from immediate being, but then abstractly apprehending itself, wants to liberate itself by fashioning nature from within itself; this action of spirit is philosophy.-’

- ‘Philosophy of Nature’

The perpetuation of species-life through sexual reproduction hence take on more than an analogy to the life-and-death struggle of human recognition but how does human life rises from nature’s ashes like the phoenix whether this is really the implicit goal or telos of nature or whether there is something missing in the account of mutual recognition some universal anxiety or freedom that is conjured from elsewhere and therefore ensures that human life is more than the mere negation of death and human death more than the mere extinguishing of life? ‘I find it rather grim’, says Murray, ‘to turn for an answer to Hegel, whose exaltation of the slave links freedom to terror, who tells us that wars are from time to time necessary in order to return us to the universal and that “those who remain slaves suffer no absolute injustice; for he who has not the courage to risk his life to win freedom . . . deserves to be a slave’.

Murray is quoting from the William Wallace (1844–1897) and A. V. Miller (1899–1991) translation of the ‘Philosophy of Mind’ which is the one I use, and it does say deserves to be a slave, after talking about bondsmen.

‘Since the bondsman works for the master and therefore not in the exclusive interest of his own individuality, his desire acquires the breadth of being not only the desire of a particular individual but containing within itself the desire of another. Accordingly, the bondsman rises above the selfish individuality of his natural will, and to that extent stands higher, as regards his worth, than the master who, caught up in his egotism, beholds in the bondsman only his immediate will and is recognized by an unfree consciousness in a formal way.2 This subjugation of the bondsman’s egotism forms the beginning of genuine human freedom. This quaking of the individuality of the will, the feeling of the nullity of egotism, the habit of obedience, is a necessary moment in the education of every man. Without having experienced the discipline that breaks self-will, no one becomes free, rational, and capable of command. To become free, we acquire the capacity for self-government, all peoples must therefore undergo the severe discipline of subjection to a master. It was necessary, for example, that after Solon had given the Athenians democratic free laws, Pisistratus gained a power by which he compelled the Athenians to obey those laws. Only when this obedience had taken root did the mastery of the Pisistratids become superfluous. Thus Rome, too, had to live through the strict government of the kings before, by the breaking of natural egotism, that marvellous Roman virtue could arise, a patriotism ready for any sacrifice. Bondage and tyranny are, therefore, in the history of peoples a necessary stage and hence something relatively justified. Those who remain bondsmen suffer no absolute injustice; for he who has not the courage to risk his life to win freedom, deserves to be a slave; and if by contrast a people does not merely imagine that it wants to be free but actually has the vigorous will to freedom, then no human power will be able hold it back in the bondage of merely being governed passively’.

- Philosophy of Mind’

‘Such indifference is unbearably cruel yet familiar’ says unduly sensitive and ticklish Murray, ‘recognition continues to be won by subjugation, exploitation, and the exposure of others to biological or social death. And as for the slave, he or she continues to wait and to labor for a recognition promised by the dialectic but undelivered — an old but perennial ruse’. The question of nature and the place of biological or organismic life has renewed and has particular relevance today he contends, for the value of life and the work of death under biopolitics invoke species-life and that the struggle for recognition is modeled today upon its universalizing terms. Foucault in an oft-cited description of biopolitics, writes: ‘There is absolutely no question relating to an individual body. . . . [Biopolitics] is therefore not a matter of taking the individual at the level of individuality but . . . a matter of taking control of life and the biological processes of man-as-species’. Nature red in tooth and claw remains indifferent to the individual, ‘much as it did for Hegel’claims Murray bout the philosopher who believed we are spiritual beings. But Murray continues to dig into the text for a critical reading of recognition today, a recognition he believes in which nature is co-opted by biopolitics.

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‘A Provocative Naked Young Woman Lying on a Bed; Death, a Cloaked Skeleton, Sits at Her Side, and a Naked Man Walks away from the Bed with His Head Bowed, towards a Throng of Diseased and Dying People; Representing Syphilis’. Richard Tennant Cooper (1885–1957)

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We had at this time a great many frightful stories told us of nurses and watchmen who looked after the dying people; that is to say, hired nurses who attended infected people, using them barbarously, starving them, smothering them, or by other wicked means hastening their end, that is to say, murdering of them; and watchmen, being set to guard houses that were shut up when there has been but one person left, and perhaps that one lying sick, that they have broke in and murdered that body, and immediately thrown them out into the dead-cart! And so they have gone scarce cold to the grave.

I cannot say but that some such murders were committed, and I think two were sent to prison for it, but died before they could be tried; and I have heard that three others, at several times, were excused for murders of that kind; but I must say I believe nothing of its being so common a crime as some have since been pleased to say, nor did it seem to be so rational where the people were brought so low as not to be able to help themselves, for such seldom recovered, and there was no temptation to commit a murder, at least none equal to the fact, where they were sure persons would die in so short a time, and could not live.

That there were a great many robberies and wicked practices committed even in this dreadful time I do not deny. The power of avarice was so strong in some that they would run any hazard to steal and to plunder; and particularly in houses where all the families or inhabitants have been dead and carried out, they would break in at all hazards, and without regard to the danger of infection, take even the clothes off the dead bodies and the bed-clothes from others where they lay dead.

- Daniel Defoe, ‘Journal of the Plague Year’, 1722

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Murray proceeds by inquiring into the spaces between nature and spirit which today might be read as nature and culture which he contends according to Hegel are populated by monstrous and pathological figures that appear merely to disappear in the systematic transition from non-human, lower animal, forms-of-life to a life that is recognizably human and self-reflexive.

‘The immediacy of the Idea of life consists of the Notion as such failing to exist in life, submitting itself therefore to the manifold conditions and circumstances of external nature, and being able to appear in the most stunted of forms; the fruitfulness of the earth allows life to break forth everywhere, and in all kinds of ways. The animal world is perhaps even less able than the other spheres of nature to present an immanently independent and rational system of organization, to keep to the forms which would be determined by the Notion, and to proof them in the face of the imperfection and mixing of conditions, against mingling, stuntedness and intermediaries. The feebleness of the Notion in nature in general,! not only subjects the formation of individuals to external accidents, which in the developed animal, and particularly in man, give rise to monstrosities, but also makes the genera themselves completely subservient to the changes of the external universal life of nature. The life of the animal shares in the vicissitudes of this universal life (cf. Remark § 392), and consequently, it merely alternates between health and disease. The milieu of external contingency contains very little that is not alien, and as it is continually subjecting animal sensibility to violence and the threat of dangers, the animal cannot escape a feeling of insecurity, anxiety and misery’.

- ‘Philosophy of Nature’

In tracing a Hegelian genealogy of bios or life and bringing this into dialogue with biopolitics in this latter’s own world-historical project Murray is calling for a reorientation of recognition as carnal knowledge, the body, in pain, in suffering, but also in love, and in the sex relation, pathē (the emotions and passions, notably pain, fear, desire, and pleasure, hence a-pathy) that suggest an empathic future of recognition and he presents a thesis on biopolitics hoping to provoke a critical reflection in which Hegel’s monstrous lives are offered the chance of redemption from being relegated by to nature and to visualise a sort of recognition on their dimensions and upon such terms one may critically account for and subvert the ways that modern biopolitics produces its own monsters as the necessary conditions of biopolitical life.

Hegel’s mature philosophy includes the three-volume ‘Encyclopaedia of the Philosophical Sciences’ the last work to be published in his lifetime and penned as a kind of textbook for students and his mature philosophy beginning with the ‘Philosophy of Right’ it is argued that life is much like love the property of nature and not of spirit, life and love are feelings, passions, rooted in the body whereby they are passive and coded as female or womanly (Weiblich), that which remains submerged in nature, not quite human, and that which must be superseded. In the ‘Philosophy of Nature’ that comprises volume two of the Encyclopaedia one can trace the genealogy of life in the aporia that opens up between nature and spirit, non-human and human life, with particular attention directed towards sex, species-life, and the figure of the diseased body and each of these natural life-relations implies distinct struggles and forms-of-death, nascent forms of recognition and in the final chapters of the ‘Philosophy of Nature’ organic disease is presented as monstrous or rogue life, a resurgence of primitive organic life, a throwback to an inhuman nature that threatens to undermine the life of spirit. One can follow the trope of the pathological, as vestigial or deviant life, which references an implicit ideological norm and in the ‘Philosophy of Mind’, volume three of the Encyclopaedia, entitled ‘Anthropology’ which like the final section of the ‘Philosophy of Nature’ functions to bridge the gap between volumes two and three of the Encyclopaedia but brings in the Aristotelian concept of soul that provides a transition between nature and spirit and prefigures the main content of ‘Philosophy of Mind’ that incorporates encyclopedic summaries of the Phenomenology and the ‘Philosophy of Right’ among others.

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‘Crowded Dark Streets Full of Dead and Dying People, Bodies Are Being Loaded on to a Cart; Representing Cholera’, Richard Tennant Cooper (1885–1957)

Accordingly, when John Hayward with his bell and the cart came along, finding two dead bodies lie upon the stall, they took them up with the instrument they used and threw them into the cart, and, all this while the piper slept soundly.

From hence they passed along and took in other dead bodies, till, as honest John Hayward told me, they almost buried him alive in the cart; yet all this while he slept soundly. At length the cart came to the place where the bodies were to be thrown into the ground, which, as I do remember, was at Mount Mill; and as the cart usually stopped some time before they were ready to shoot out the melancholy load they had in it, as soon as the cart stopped the fellow awaked and struggled a little to get his head out from among the dead bodies, when, raising himself up in the cart, he called out, ‘Hey! where am I?’ This frighted the fellow that attended about the work; but after some pause John Hayward, recovering himself, said, ‘Lord, bless us! There’s somebody in the cart not quite dead!’ So another called to him and said, ‘Who are you?’ The fellow answered, ‘I am the poor piper. Where am I?’ ‘Where are you?’ says Hayward. ‘Why, you are in the dead-cart, and we are going to bury you.’ ‘But I an’t dead though, am I?’ says the piper, which made them laugh a little though, as John said, they were heartily frighted at first; so they helped the poor fellow down, and he went about his business.

I know the story goes he set up his pipes in the cart and frighted the bearers and others so that they ran away; but John Hayward did not tell the story so, nor say anything of his piping at all; but that he was a poor piper, and that he was carried away as above I am fully satisfied of the truth of.

- Daniel Defoe, ‘Journal of the Plague Year’, 1722

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In the ‘Anthropology’ the relationship between reproductive sex and love is interwoven with a nascent politics of woman and the family anticipating the transition from these more primitive or natural instantiations of spirit the domain of feelings to their sublation in civil society and the state and according to Murray;s reading Hegel sheds light upon contemporary terms of recognition and their relation to life and death in the biopolitical present and pathological figures can be productively deployed for a critique of affirmative biopolitics.

Anatomopathology. The final section of the ‘Philosophy of Nature’ entitled ‘The Process of the Genus’ describes the life process from genus to species and each of the section’s three parts, the sex relation, in which the individual perishes, the particularization of genus into species that is described as death by violence, and death by disease that is conceived as natural death prefigures a process of recognition of sorts exhibiting an explicit relation to life and to the different ways in which the living creature meets its death.

‘The genus constitutes the concrete substance of the subject, and is in implicit and simple unity with its singularity. As the universal is basic division however, it may proceed from this its self-diremption as a unity which has being-for-self, and so posit itself within existence as subjective universality. This process by which the universal links up with itself, contains both the negation of the merely internal universality of the genus, and that of the merely immediate singularity in which living being still belongs to nature. The negation of this singularity exhibited in the preceding process (see § 366) is merely primary and immediate. In this generic process, it is only the being which merely lives that perishes, for as such it does not transcend naturality. As the moments of the generic process are not yet based on the subjective universal of a single subject however, they fall apart and exist as various particular processes, which terminate in the various kinds of death suffered by living being’.

‘Addition. Consolidated by means of its sentience, the individual has acquired breadth so to speak; its immediate singularity is sublated, and singular being no longer needs to have a relationship with inorganic nature. With the disappearance of its determinations as an exclusive singularity, the Notion acquires the further determination of the subject’s determining itself as a universal. This determination falls into a further basic division and exclusion of an other; it has the determination of being identical for this other however, and of existing for it as this identity. It is thus that we have the genus, the determination of which is its coming into existence in distinct opposition to singularity, which is the generic process in general. It is certainly true that in the individual, the genus fails to attain to free existence and universality; at this juncture however, although on the one hand the genus is also still identical with the individual in a merely immediate manner, on the other hand, the individual has already assumed a singular subjectivity, and is therefore also distinct from the genus. This difference constitutes a process, the result of which is that the universality of the genus asserts itself, and immediate singularity is negated. This submergence constitutes the death of the individual’.

- ‘Philosophy of Nature’

These parts need to be taken in order for the sake of the system and the ontological journey of life-forms understood from lower to higher manifestations of spirit but this is complicated by the fact that in the third and final edition of the Encyclopaedia published in 1830 parts one and two remain unaltered textually but are reversed in order and in this final edition the particularization of genus into species now precedes the sex relation and so death by violence now precedes the perishing of individuals on the altar of the species. Each part can thus be read as presuming the work of the other part, and some confusion arises. The sex relation between individuals seems to presume a kind of species-recognition and places sex in the service of species-life, whereas conversely, the propagation of the species seems to presume sex-recognition and sex-desire among already recognizable members of that selfsame species. The ambiguity of order points to a chicken and egg paradox, a paradox of temporality and historization: the species requires reproductive sex, but reproductive sex requires a determinate species.

‘This brings organic nature to a close, for by coming into its own through the death of the singular being, the genus becomes its own object, and it is this that constitutes the proceeding forth of spirit. We have still to consider this submergence of singularity within the genus. The relationship of the genus to the singular being is not always the same however, so that we also have to distinguish between the particular processes which constitute the various kinds of death suffered by the living individual. Thus, the generic process has three forms. The first is the sex-relationship, through which the production of the kind consists of the procreation of individuals through the death of other individuals of the same kind, i.e. the individual’ s dying after having reproduced itself as another individual. Secondly, the genus particularizes itself into its various species, and comporting themselves as individuals in opposition to other individuals, these species at the same time constitute inorganic nature for one another, for they comport themselves as a genus does to individuality, and so give rise to violent death. The third form is the relationship of the individual to itself as genus, within a single subjectivity. This relationship is partly the transitory disproportion of an ailment, and partly the terminating state in which the genus as such maintains itself through the individual’s passing over into existence as a universal, i.e. natural death’.

- ‘Philosophy of Nature’

Furthermore both death by violence and individual perishing prefigure the advent of self-consciousness and the life-and-death struggle for mutual recognition,as well as the temporo-historical paradox within the section of the Phenomenology titled ‘Lordship and Bondage’. Species-recognition necessitates an intraspecies struggle to the death, the genus particularizes itself, divides itself into its species and these species behaving as mutually opposed individuals are at the same time, non-organic nature as the genus against individuality …. death by violence.

One may read the species process as sociological in nature, a nascent form of identification or of civil society, but this must wait until the ‘Anthropology’ while here Hegel presents a detailed and expository excursus into the contemporary science of zoology, comparative anatomy, and taxonomy, paying particular attention to the French naturalists observing the difficulties of fixing upon any certain principle of species classification. Animal species are not merely distinguished from one another through their internal anatomical differences but also through myriad external contingencies such as climate and within a logical point of view this division of the species seems to precede the sex relation that Hegel describes equally as a negative and hostile attitude towards others and as an essentially affirmative relation of the singularity to itself in it.

‘This [sex] relationship is a process which begins with a need, for while the individual as a singular being is not adequate to the immanent genus, it is at the same time the identical self-relation of the genus in a single unity. It therefore feels this deficiency. Consequently, the genus is present in the individual as a strain opposed to the inadequacy of its single actuality; it is present as an urge to attain its sentience in the other of its genus, to integrate itself through union with this other, and by means of this mediation to bring the genus into existence by linking itself into it. This constitutes generation’

- ‘Philosophy of Nature’

Put in such terms we discern their echo in the struggle for recognition found in the Phenomenology and in the encyclopaedic entry upon recognition in the ‘Philosophy of Mind’. Hence the natural sex relation is both hostile and affirming, a process which begins with a need for the individual as a singular does not accord with the genus immanent in it and yet at the same time is the identical self-relation of the genus in one unity it thus has the feeling of this defect.

‘… the immediately exclusive being-for-self of singularity, is merely a negative and hostile attitude towards others. However, the genus is to the same extent singularity, as an essentially affirmative self-relatedness within the genus. In this self-relatedness, the singularity is an exclusive individual opposed to another of its kind, continues itself in this other, and is sensible of itself within it.’

‘Since the ideality of inorganic nature is posited through the process with it, the animal has consolidated its sentience and objectivity in its own self. This is not merely implicit sentience, but a sentience which is existent and animated. In the separateness of the two sexes, the extremes constitute totalities of sentience, and in its sex-drive, the animal produces itself as a sentience, as a totality. In the nisus formativus, organic being became a dead product; it was certainly freely released from organic being, but it was only a superficial form imposed upon an external material, so that this externality was not objective to it as a free and indifferent subject. This case bears a resemblance to the process of assimilation however, for both sides are now independent individuals. The difference is that they are not related to each other as organic and inorganic beings however, for they are both organic beings belonging to the genus, and they therefore exist only as a single kind. Their union is the disappearance of the sexes, in which the simple genus has come into being. The animal has an object with which it feels an immediate identity; this identity is the moment of the first process (of formation), which is added to the determination of the second process (of assimilation). The relation of one individual to another of its kind is the substantial relationship of the genus. The nature of each permeates both, and both find themselves within the sphere of this universality. Both are implicitly a single genus, the same subjective vitality, and in the process they also posit this as being so. At this juncture, the Idea of nature is actual in the male and female couple; up till now their identity and their being-for-self merely had being for us in our reflection, but they are now experienced by the sexes themselves in their infinite reflection into each other’.

- ‘Philosophy of Nature’

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‘A Sickly Young Woman Sits Covered Up on a Balcony; Death, a Ghostly Skeleton Clutching a Scythe and an Hourglass, Is Standing Next to Her; Representing Tuberculosis’, Richard Tennant Cooper (1885–1957)

I am not of the number of the physic-haters or physic-despisers; on the contrary, I have often mentioned the regard I had to the dictates of my particular friend Dr Heath; but yet I must acknowledge I made use of little or nothing — except, as I have observed, to keep a preparation of strong scent to have ready, in case I met with anything of offensive smells or went too near any burying-place or dead body.

Neither did I do what I know some did: keep the spirits always high and hot with cordials and wine and such things; and which, as I observed, one learned physician used himself so much to as that he could not leave them off when the infection was quite gone, and so became a sot for all his life after.

I remember my friend the doctor used to say that there was a certain set of drugs and preparations which were all certainly good and useful in the case of an infection; out of which, or with which, physicians might make an infinite variety of medicines, as the ringers of bells make several hundred different rounds of music by the changing and order or sound but in six bells, and that all these preparations shall be really very good: ‘Therefore,’ said he, ‘I do not wonder that so vast a throng of medicines is offered in the present calamity, and almost every physician prescribes or prepares a different thing, as his judgement or experience guides him; but’, says my friend, ‘let all the prescriptions of all the physicians in London be examined, and it will be found that they are all compounded of the same things, with such variations only as the particular fancy of the doctor leads him to; so that’, says he, ‘every man, judging a little of his own constitution and manner of his living, and circumstances of his being infected, may direct his own medicines out of the ordinary drugs and preparations. Only that’, says he, ‘some recommend one thing as most sovereign, and some another. Some’, says he, ‘think that pill. ruff., which is called itself the anti-pestilential pill is the best preparation that can be made; others think that Venice treacle is sufficient of itself to resist the contagion; and I’, says he, ‘think as both these think, viz., that the last is good to take beforehand to prevent it, and the first, if touched, to expel it.’ According to this opinion, I several times took Venice treacle, and a sound sweat upon it, and thought myself as well fortified against the infection as any one could be fortified by the power of physic.

- Daniel Defoe, ‘Journal of the Plague Year’, 1722

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The feeling necessarily implies a mutuality, the urge to obtain its self-feeling in the other of its genus [Gattung], to integrate itself through union with it and through this mediation to close the genus with itself and bring it into existence, copulation.

‘As the different sexes constitute the sex-drive as differentials, there must be a difference in their formation; their mutual determinateness must exist as posited through the Notion. … The identification of the female uterus in the male parts has presented the greatest difficulty. The scrotum has ineptly been mistaken for it, for it is actually the testicle which apparently corresponds to the female ovary. In the male, it is however the prostate which corresponds to the female uterus; in him therefore, the uterus is reduced to a gland, an indifferent generality. Ackermann has demonstrated this very well from his hermaphrodite, which has a uterus, although the formation of its other organs is male. This uterus not only occupies the position of the prostrate however, for the ejaculatory ducts also pass through its substance, and open into the urethra at the crista galli. What is more, the lips of the female pudendum are shrunken scrota, which accounts for the labia pudendi of Ackermann’s hermaphrodite having been filled with a kind of testicular formation. Finally, the medial line of the scrotum is split in the female, and forms the vagina. From this, it is quite understandable that one sex should change into the other. On the one hand, the uterus in the male is reduced to a mere gland, while on the other, the male testicle in the female remains enclosed within the ovary, fails to emerge into opposition, and does not become an independent and active cerebrality. The clitoris moreover, is inactive feeling in general; in the male on the other hand, it has its counterpart in active sensibility, the swelling vital, the effusion of blood into the corpora cavernosa and the meshes of the spongy tissue of the urethra. The female counterpart of this effusion of blood in the male consists of the menstrual discharges. Thus, the simple retention of the conception in the uterus, is differentiated in the male into productive cerebrality and the external vital. On account of this difference therefore, the male is the active principle; as the female remains in her undeveloped unity, she constitutes the principle of conception’.

- ‘Philosophy of Nature’

[J. F. Ackermann, (1765–1815), author of ‘Dissertatio de corporis thyreoidei vera functione’, 1811, described by his contemporaries as a very literate person but also as a very corpulent one, albeit he weighed 300 pounds (136 kg) he was said to be able to hop long distances on one leg while whistling cheerfully … which is completely irrelevant to anything I am writing about I just like the thought, died at 50 of kidney disease, I don’t suppose he was whistling then].

Given their order of appearance in the first two editions Hegel is referring to the genus rather than the species and the sex relation is posited as prior to species-recognition, a point in the process at which male and female are not related to each other as organic and non-organic beings.

‘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’

As a matter of fact the sex relation also referred to as the substantial relation of the genus (see above) is posited as the condition most notably through feeling of the species and while a case for ontological priority is not so much discernible in the text and yet such a linguistic register is also discoverable in the Phenomenology, in the pages that immediately precede the section on Lordship and Bondsman whereby the other Life for which the genus [Gattung] as such exists and which is genus on its own account, namely self-consciousness, exists in the first instance for self-consciousness only as this simple essence, and has itself as pure I for object:

‘173. This other Life, however, for which the genus as such exists, and which is genus on its own account, viz. self-consciousness, exists in the first instance for self-consciousness only as this simple essence, and has itself as pure ‘I’ for object. In the course of its experience which we are now to consider, this abstract object will enrich itself for the ‘I’ and undergo the unfolding which we have seen in the sphere of Life’.

‘174. The simple ‘I’ is this genus or the simple universal, for which the differences are not differences only by its being the negative essence of the shaped independent moments; and self-consciousness is thus certain of itself only by superseding this other that presents itself to self-consciousness as an independent life; self-consciousness is Desire. Certain of the nothingness, of this other, it explicitly affirms that this nothingness is for it the truth of the other; it destroys the independent object and thereby gives itself the certainty of itself as a true certainty, a certainty which has become explicit for self-consciousness itself in an objective manner’.

- ‘Philosophy of Nature’

Hegel is describing immanent self-consciousness that has not yet risked its life in order to return to itself in and through the mutual recognition of the other, albeit the word genus (Gattung) can be used both in a biological sense as well as in a more abstract sense to refer to a logical class or group of individuals in this passage the ambiguity becomes productive, both self and other are described as independent genera spawning the reflection that perhaps if something akin to the natural feeling of the sex relation or species process conditions their substantial relation and kindles recognition’s life-and-death struggle.

The understanding of organismic life as it emerges in nature is not only intimately linked to species-life but also to the vitality of sexual self-feeling that ensures that the self recognizes in a nascent sense the sexed other of its own species, a self that as a result of this feeling is urged to copulate in the name of life and such an account of identity and self-feeling operates despite male and female sexual difference (see above) an anatomical difference one might suppose produces immediate disidentification or the failure of self-reflection in the opposite sex but one may omit such complexities and contradictions inherent in heterosexual desire and focus upon an organic model whereby originally male and female are united in the individual organism only to become sexually differentiated at a later moment and to make this argument he appeals to hermaphroditism(see above) and embryology to demonstrate how male and female genitals are despite appearances co-present and ultimately of the same type, the female labia pudendi are shrunken scrota, even as he ultimately maintains that the male contains subjectivity(see above) in relation to his passive if not receptive female counterpart.

As a matter of fact such descriptions depict male as origin and female as derivative, female sexual parts appear in Latin, supposedly we are meant to acknowledge our embryological similarity with members of the opposite sex or maybe our gendered identifications are all coded as male despite anatomical differences. Rubbing against the cultural dimensions of (hetero)sexual desire Hegel’s argument takes some twists and turns for later male and female are posited as efficacy and stimulus respectively, the opposition of sex separates efficacy and stimulus (Wirksamkeit und Reize), distributing them between two organic individuals. But the organic individual originally is itself both and this is the possibility of its death, a possibility immanent in it, namely, that the organic individual itself separates itself into these forms.

‘In the two relationships considered above, the self-mediation of the genus with itself is the process of its diremption into individuals and the sublation of its differences. However, as the genus also (§ 357) assumes the shape of an inorganic nature which is opposed to the individual, it brings forth its existence within it in an abstract and negative manner. The determinate being of the individual organism is therefore involved in a relationship of externality, and while the organism preserves itself by returning into itself in its genus, it may also, and with equal facility, fail to correspond to it (§ 366).-The organism is in a diseased state when one of its systems or organs is stimulated into conflict with the inorganic potency of the organism. Through this conflict, the system or organ establishes itself in isolation, and by persisting in its particular activity in opposition to the activity of the whole, obstructs the fluidity of this activity, as well as the process by which it pervades all the moments of the whole’.

- ‘Philosophy of Nature’

Even the organic differentiation of the sexes is motivated by the fear of death and this passage appears in a later section on disease effectively pathologizing sexual difference and desire as a morbid excess stimulus namely, woman or inherent womanliness that the one supposes male organism is incapable of bearing.

‘Disease is not an irritation incommensurate with the susceptibility of the organism; its Notion consists of a disproportion between the organism’s being and its self, and not of a disproportion between certain mutually dissociating factors within it. Factors are abstract moments, and cannot dissociate. When disease is spoken of as a heightening of excitation and a lessening of excitability, as if this were a matter of qualitative contrast, and an increase in the one were accompanied by a corresponding decrease in the other, the interpretation is immediately suspect therefore. To bandy about the concept of disposition, as if it were possible to be implicitly ill without being infected and sick, is no improvement; the reason for this being that the organism itself constitutes this reflection, within which that which is implicit is also actual. Disease occurs when the organism as a being separates itself, not from inner factors, but from inner aspects which are completely real’.

- ‘Philosophy of Nature’

Throughout the ‘Philosophy of Nature’ Hegel portrays life as a process that transcends the individual’s death, surviving through the sexual activity of the species. In the genus-process the separate individuals perish.

‘Thus, the animal organism has run through its cycle, and now constitutes the asexual and fecundated universal. It has become the absolute genus, which is however the death of the particular individual. Lower animal organisms such as Butterflies die immediately after generation therefore, for their singularity is their life, and they have sublated it within the genus. Higher organisms survive the act of generation, for they have a higher degree of independence; their death is the developed dissolution of their shape, which we shall see presently as disease. The genus brings itself forth by negating its differentiation; it exists merely in a series of single living beings however, not in-and-for-itself. Consequently, the sublation of each contradiction invariably gives rise to a fresh one. The different individuals perish within the generic process, for it is only outside the unity of this process, which is the true actuality, that they are different. In the feeling of love however, the selfishness of the single being is negated, together with its self-contained aloofness. The single shape is no longer able to preserve itself therefore, and so perishes, for only that which is absolute in its self-identity, i.e. the universal which is for the universal, is self-preserving. The genus is merely implicit within the animal however, it does not exist within it, and it is only within spirit that it is eternal in its being-in-and-for-self. The transition to the existent genus takes place implicitly, in the Idea, in the Notion, that is to say, in the sphere of eternal creation. There however, the sphere of nature is closed’.

- ‘Philosophy of Nature’

In the third and final section Hegel focusses upon disease and the natural death of the individual where disease is featured almost as a reverse process of spirit, a pathological dissolution or return of the organism to its constitutive, non-organic parts but here the trope of sexual difference is not overcome but instead through the figure of disease pathology becomes radically entrenched and explained according to natural gender norms. Life and health depend upon a proper proportionality between organic and nonorganic parts whereas disease is a disproportion between irritation and the capacity of the organism to respond.

‘It is thus that life’s inner essence appears externally as its character. Where everything is, living from a single Idea and a single essence, all opposition is merely apparent and external, and has being only for appearance and reflection, not for the inwardness of life and of the Idea. Yet it is precisely in living being itself that reflection and distinctness are prominent. To appear is to have life; what the philosophers of nature have in mind however, is merely an external reflection. They are unable to comprehend life because they fail to reach it, and stop short at inanimate gravity. One of Mr. Gode’s particular tenets seems to be that in the first instance, the diseased form enters into conflict with its own essence, not with the organism, ‘The collective activity of the whole is primarily a consequence and reflex of the checking of free movement in its individual parts.’ He considers this to be a truly speculative remark. But what is this essence if it is not animation? And what constitutes actual animation, if it is not the organism as a whole? Consequently, when he says that the organ is in conflict with its essence, with itself, this must mean that it is in conflict with the totality which is within it as a general animation or universal. It is the organism itself which constitutes the reality of this universal however. Here we have true philosophers, for they are of the opinion that essence is what is true, and that in order to express what is internal and correct, they merely have to mention it! I can find nothing worth considering in their prattle about essence however, for they proffer nothing but abstract reflections, while if essence is to be made explicit, it has to be made apparent as a determinate being’.

- Philosophy of Nature’

The organism is in a state of disease when one of its systems or organs, stimulated into conflict with the inorganic power (Potenz), establishes itself in isolation and persists in its particular activity against the activity of the whole and health is not merely the proper proportionality of humors within the organism itself; a healthy or efficacious disposition (male Wirksamkeit) is in addition frequently able to tolerate an irritation or stimulus (female Reiz) temporarily greater than its capacity to assimilate it. Medicines are irritants or stimuli (Reize) designed to provoke the whole organism into a healthy system response so we may with justification privilege the final moment of disease, acute crisis in the ancient Hippocratic sense whereby cure mainly depends upon the possibility of the entire organism becoming morbidly affected because then the activity of the whole organism too, can be released.

‘Consequently, fever is disease in its purity, or rather the ailing individual organism, freeing itself from its specific disease in the same way as the healthy organism frees itself from its specific processes. As fever constitutes the pure life of the diseased organism therefore, it is actually only when fever is present that the diagnosis of a distinct disease becomes possible. As fever is both the constitution and fluidification of this succession of functions, the disease is simultaneously sublated by it, i.e. digested by its motion. This sublation constitutes an interior circulation opposed to the inorganic nature of the organism, a digestion of medicines. Consequently, although fever is certainly a morbid state and a disease, it is also the means by which the organism cures itself. This is only true of a severe and virulent fever which affects the whole of the organism however, for a lingering and consuming fever which never really develops is a very dangerous sign in chronic diseases. Chronic illnesses are therefore of a kind which cannot be overcome by fever. In the course of a lingering fever, the disease does not dominate the digesting organism, for all the individual processes of this organism merely produce themselves in an untrammelled manner, each operating of its own accord. In this case, fever merely follows a superficial course, and fails to subdue these individual parts of the organism. In the case of violent inflammatory fevers, it is mainly the vascular system which is attacked, while in the case of asthenic fevers it is mainly the nervous system. When it is attacked by a true fever therefore, the organism subsides initially into the nervous system, which is the general organism; then into the internal organism, and finally into its shape’.

- ‘Philosophy of Nature’

This is noticeable in homeopathic medicine, with the principle of similia similibus curentur (let like be cured by like) that posits that substances that cause particular disorders can be used to cure the organism holistically. In total the organism is in a state of health when it is in proportion to the whole and when all its organs are fluid in the universal.

‘In a state of health, there is no disproportion between the organic self and its determinate being; all its organs give free play to the fluidity of the universal. When this state prevails, there is a commensurate relationship between organic and inorganic being, as the result of which inorganic being does not offer any insuperable resistance to the organism. Disease is not an irritation incommensurate with the susceptibility of the organism; its Notion consists of a disproportion between the organism’s being and its self, and not of a disproportion between certain mutually dissociating factors within it. Factors are abstract moments, and cannot dissociate. When disease is spoken of as a heightening of excitation and a lessening of excitability, as if this were a matter of qualitative contrast, and an increase in the one were accompanied by a corresponding decrease in the other, the interpretation is immediately suspect therefore. To bandy about the concept of disposition, as if it were possible to be implicitly ill without being infected and sick, is no improvement; the reason for this being that the organism itself constitutes this reflection, within which that which is implicit is also actual’.

- ‘Philosophy of Nature’

Life has to forever assert itself and re-assert itself pledging itself to the whole hence the organism’s health is none other than the health of the whole in which the organism finds itself dissolved much as a substance might be proportionately suspended in a chemical solution or much as the individual is submerged in the being or immediacy of Life prior to its life-and-death struggle for mutual recognition. Relapse into a preceding state is figured either as death or disease an aberration in the dialectic and in the meantime such states are to be tolerated if they are overcome along the way of spirit’s upward progress. Disease states are not in themselves dangerous but only when they become a form or state of the self-conscious, educated, self-possessed human being.

‘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’.

‘[Remark] In this summary encyclopaedic exposition it is impossible to supply what would need to be supplied for a proof of the determination we have given of the remarkable state aroused chiefly by animal magnetism, to show, in other words, that the experiences correspond to it. For this the phenomena, intrinsically so complex and so very different one from another, would have first of all to be brought under their universal points of view. The facts, it might seem, are above all in need of verification. But such a verification would, after all, be superfluous for those on whose behalf it was needed; for they make the inquiry extremely easy for themselves by flatly declaring the accounts- infinitely numerous though they be and authenticated by the education, character, etc., of the witnesses-to be mere deception and imposture. They are so fixed in their a priori intellect that no authentication can make any headway against it, and they have even denied what they have seen with their own eyes. In order to believe in this area even what one sees with one’s own eyes, and still more to comprehend it, the first requisite is not to be in bondage to the categories of the intellect.

- ‘Philosophy of Mind’

Otherwise said these states only represent disease when they are regressive states after a higher state has been achieved, disease is disease in retrospection merely.

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Rammstein — Angst:

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Such an account of how medicine understands and treats disease sheds light upon the distinction not just between healthy and unhealthy organisms but between spirit and a less proportional regressive state of nature and in contrast to the scientific rigour with which he discussed the classification of natural species Hegel explains the action of medicine as magical like that of animal magnetism (see above) in which the organism is brought under the power of another person (this is the only place you will find him talking about magic however).

‘Every disease, and especially acute disease, is a hypochondria of the organism, in which the organism loathes the external world and repulses it. The reason for this is that it is restricted to itself while containing its own negative. As the medicine now stimulates it into digesting this negative however, the organism is restored to the general activity of assimilation. The precise way in which this effect is obtained is by administering to the organism something which is much more potently indigestible than its disease, and so forcing it to draw itself together in order to overcome it. This results in the internal division of the organism; for as the initially immanent indisposition has now become external, the organism has been duplicated internally into its vital force and its diseased parts. This effect of medicine may well be regarded as magical. It resembles the effect of mesmerism in bringing the organism under the power of another person, for it is by means of the medicament that the whole organism is subjected to this specific determination, succumbing as it were to the power of a magician. However, even if the organism, on account of its diseased condition, is under the power of something other than itself; at the same time, as in the case of mesmerism, it also has a world beyond, which is free from its diseased state, and by means of which it can recover its vital force. Thus, the organism is capable of internal repose; for in sleep it remains by itself As the organism has divided itself internally in this way, the force of its vitality endows it with individuality, and in assuming this condition, the organism has broadly re-established its general vitality, and removed the particularity of its indisposition. As this particularity is no longer able to obstruct it, the inner life of the organism has re-established itself by means of this removal. In the case of mesmerism also, the organism’s indisposition is countered by the vitality of its inner life. It is just this liberation therefore, which at the same time permits and effectuates the return of the organism into itself by means of digestion; and it is precisely this state of being withdrawn into itself which facilitates the self-digestion constituting the organism’s recovery’.

- ‘Philosophy of Nature’

If the self is diseased the self is in the power of something other than itself and by this same logic as in animal magnetism it also has a world beyond free from its diseased state, through which the vital force can restore itself. Magnetism and the laying on of hands works to restore the universality of the organism lost to the particularity of its disease. The finger-tips of the magnetizer which conduct this magnetism throughout the whole organism and which, in this way, fluidify it. Once more Hegel comes back to the trope of fluidity and the organism’s proportional assimilation into the universal whole and yet the invocation of magic, vital forces, and worlds beyond somewhat sidesteps medical science circa 1830, when statistical medicine, anatomopathology, and physiopathology were gaining ground in Europe albeit especially in relation to women’s bodies nineteenth-century physicians continued to deploy magical cures and the intimate laying on of hands frequently that of a prurient physician for the treatment of hysteria. Rather the personable presence of the magnetizing healer allows Hegel the metaphor of a life-and-death struggle, a rudimentary process of recognition, rather than a struggle within the organism itself. An extended discussion of magnetism appears in the Anthropology but the magnetizer features here at the end of the ‘Philosophy of Nature’ as a transitional figure ambiguously allied with both nature and spirit and yet belonging neither in a complete sense, the magnetizer, and by implication, therapeutic medicine, is situated at the threshold between nature and spirit.

Hegel confronts a concern here showing itself in his attempt to account for the magical manner in which nature becomes conscious, the way feelings develop into self-consciousness and recognition, and how organismic life becomes human life, and if we begin in this text to picture properly self-conscious human beings, they seem nearly always in crisis, diseased, in a struggle for life, for they are merely situated at a threshold, creatures with an ancestral past that lingers, such figures appearing in the closing pages of the ‘Philosophy of Nature’ and anticipating that this is precisely where the third volume of the Encyclopaedia will pick up moulding its anthropology as a propaedeutic to the philosophy of spirit but we never quite leave behind the language of disease, a body afflicted, or the death of the finite organism, finitude is the original disease, the germ of death.

‘Universality, in the face of which the animal as a singularity is a finite existence, shows itself in the animal as the abstract power in the passing out of that which, in its preceding process (§ 356), is itself abstract. The original disease of the animal, and the inborn germ of death, is its being inadequate to universality. The annulment of this inadequacy is in itself the full maturing of this germ, and it is by imagining the universality of its singularity, that the individual effects this annulment. By this however, and in so far as the universality is abstract and immediate, the individual only achieves an abstract objectivity. Within this objectivity, the activity of the individual has blunted and ossified itself, and life has become a habitude devoid of process, the individual having therefore put an end to itself of its own accord’.

- ‘Philosophy of Nature’

Those who are ill play their part. The goal of Nature is to destroy or consume itself (like the Phoenix see above) and yet this destruction, this consuming, this negation, haunts the texts as we are haunted by the abnormal, the sick, the dying, the dead, the undead, lives lived out on the threshold, maybe unrecognizable, domain. For instance sleepwalkers bother Hegel representing a pathological state of being in which the individual succumbs to an earlier moment of development such figures as these are deemed monstrous, in dreams there is a primitive immediacy that is characteristic of the sleeping state, a natural state that is not yet self-conscious and in which we are liable to mistake dreams for waking life, but in waking life proper dreams are known as dreams in the same way that daydreams are not taken for real but are recognized as subjective fancies and if he has not lost his reason, he knows that these fancies are only fancies because they conflict with his present totality.

‘Without the involvement of any specific sense and without the common sense becoming active in an individual part of the body, an indeterminate sensation gives rise to an intimation or clairvoyance, a vision of something not sensibly near but distant in space or in time, of something future or past. Now though it is often difficult to distinguish merely subjective visions relating to non-existent objects from those visions which have something actual for their content, yet this distinction must be maintained here. The first kind of vision too does occur in somnambulism, but mostly in a predominantly physical state of illness, for example in the heat of a fever, even in waking consciousness. An example of such a subjective vision is Friedrich Nicolai, who, in a waking state, saw with perfectly clarity other houses in the street than those actually present there, and yet knew that this was an illusion. The predominantly physical ground of the poetic illusion of this otherwise thoroughly prosaic individual revealed itself when the illusion was dispelled by the application of leeches to the rectum’.

- ‘Philosophy of Mind’

That would certainly wake me up.

By analogy if death is to be known as death a similar totality or universal ought to be working through particular individuals, parts in relation to an assimilating whole. Truth here is connected to reason and cognition in relation to a totality, to a whole that guarantees a normative proportionality of its particular parts. In the ‘Anthropology’ under the general heading disease are cited many suspect pathologies for instance the magic tie that appears in so-called questionable friendships, especially female friends with delicate nerves a tie which may go so far as to show magnetic phenomena.

‘Sporadic examples and traces of this magic relationship appear elsewhere in the area of sober conscious life, say between friends, especially female friends with delicate nerves (a relationship which may develop into magnetic phenomena), between husband and wife and between members of the same family’.

- ‘Philosophy of Mind’

… and the oncoming of puberty in girls, pregnancy, also St. Vitus’s dance, and the moment of approaching death …

‘Now the diseased states in which such a separation of the soulful from mental consciousness emerges are very varied in kind; almost any illness can advance to the point of this separation. But here in the philosophical treatment of our subject we do not have to pursue this indeterminate multiplicity of diseased states but only to establish the main forms of the universal which shapes itself in them in various ways. Among the illnesses in which this universal earl appear are sleepwalking, catalepsy, the onset of puberty in young women, the state of pregnancy, also St Vitus s dance, and the moment of approaching death as well, if death brings about the relevant splitting of life into a weakening healthy, mediated consciousness and a soulful awareness approaching ever closer to complete ascendancy; but especially we must examine here the state which has been called animal magnetism, both when it develops by itself in an individual and when it is produced in a particular manner in the individual by another individual. Mental causes, particularly religious and political exaltation, can also bring about the relevant separation of soul-life. In the war of the Cevennes, for example, the free emergence of the soulful showed up as a prophetic gift present to a high degree in children, in girls and especially in old people. But the most remarkable example of such exaltation is the famous Jeanne d’Arc, in whom we earl see, on the one hand, the patriotic enthusiasm of a quite pure, simple soul and, on the other, a kind of magnetic state’.

- ‘Philosophy of Mind’

Even everyday synaesthesia is pathologized as a regressive immediacy by which one sees and hears with the fingers, and especially with the pit of the stomach, etc.

‘As already noted, in sleep-walking sight is extinguished and replaced by the sense of feeling-a replacement that also occurs in really blind people, only to a lesser extent, and, incidentally, in both cases must not be understood to mean that by the dulling of one sense an intensification accrues to the other sense in a purely physical way, since this intensification rather arises merely from the soul’s throwing itself into the sense of feeling with undivided force. However, the sense of feeling by no means always guides sleep-walkers correctly; their complex actions are a contingent matter. Such persons do occasionally write letters in their sleep-walking; often however they are deceived by their feeling, when they believe for example that they are mounted on a horse when in fact they are on a roof. But besides the marvellous intensification of the sense of feeling, in cataleptic states, as also already noted, the common sense too, mainly in the pit of the stomach, reaches such a degree of heightened activity that it takes the place of sight, hearing, or even taste. Thus at a time when animal magnetism was not yet well-known, a French doctor in Lyons treated a sick person who could hear and read only in the pit of his stomach and who could read a book held by someone in another room who was put in contact with the individual standing by the pit of the sick person’s stomach by a chain of persons standing in between, as arranged by the doctor. Such seeing at a distance has, incidentally, been described in various ways by those in whom it occurred. They often say that they see the objects internally, or they assert that it seems to them as if the objects emitted rays. But as regards the above-mentioned replacement of taste by the common sense, there are instances of persons’ tasting food placed on their stomachs’.

- ‘Philosophy of Mind’

Pathologies such as these, deviant and deficient lives, are the essential condition of normative life and the material and rhetorical precursors of the life that will be brandished, staked upon, and sacrificed in the process of mutual recognition.

‘A Ghostly Skeleton Trying to Strangle a Sick Child; Representing Diphtheria’, Richard Tennant Cooper (1885–1957)

It was a common thing to meet people in the street that were strangers, and that we knew nothing at all of, expressing their surprise. Going one day through Aldgate, and a pretty many people being passing and repassing, there comes a man out of the end of the Minories, and looking a little up the street and down, he throws his hands abroad, ‘Lord, what an alteration is here! Why, last week I came along here, and hardly anybody was to be seen.’ Another man — I heard him — adds to his words, ‘’Tis all wonderful; ’tis all a dream.’ ‘Blessed be God,’ says a third man, ‘and let us give thanks to Him, for ’tis all His own doing, human help and human skill was at an end.’ These were all strangers to one another. But such salutations as these were frequent in the street every day; and in spite of a loose behaviour, the very common people went along the streets giving God thanks for their deliverance.

It was now, as I said before, the people had cast off all apprehensions, and that too fast; indeed we were no more afraid now to pass by a man with a white cap upon his head, or with a cloth wrapt round his neck, or with his leg limping, occasioned by the sores in his groin, all which were frightful to the last degree, but the week before. But now the street was full of them, and these poor recovering creatures, give them their due, appeared very sensible of their unexpected deliverance; and I should wrong them very much if I should not acknowledge that I believe many of them were really thankful. But I must own that, for the generality of the people, it might too justly be said of them as was said of the children of Israel after their being delivered from the host of Pharaoh, when they passed the Red Sea, and looked back and saw the Egyptians overwhelmed in the water: viz., that they sang His praise, but they soon forgot His works.

I can go no farther here. I should be counted censorious, and perhaps unjust, if I should enter into the unpleasing work of reflecting, whatever cause there was for it, upon the unthankfulness and return of all manner of wickedness among us, which I was so much an eye-witness of myself. I shall conclude the account of this calamitous year therefore with a coarse but sincere stanza of my own, which I placed at the end of my ordinary memorandums the same year they were written:

A dreadful plague in London was

In the year sixty-five,

Which swept an hundred thousand souls

Away; yet I alive!

- Daniel Defoe, ‘Journal of the Plague Year’, 1722

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Dedicated to my lovely one, my medicine, the remedy for all my ailments, I have never felt more healthy and sprightly even though I am getting on in years 🙂 💊 💊 💊 💊 💊 ❤️

I find it hard to say ‘bye bye’

Even in the state of you and I

And how can I refuse?

Yeah you rid me of the blues

Ever since you came into my life

Cause you’re my medicine

(Yeah, you’re medicine)

Yeah, you’re my medicine

(You’re medicine)

I, I wanna marry you

Said I, I adore you

And that’s all I have to say, bye-bye

And you opiate this hazy head of mine

Cause you’re my medicine

(Yeah, you’re medicine)

Yeah, you’re my medicine

(You’re medicine)

Cause you’re my medicine

(Yeah, you’re medicine)

Yeah, you’re my medicine

(You’re medicine)

(You’re medicine)

The 1975s — Medicine

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Coming up next:

Further thoughts on health.

It may stop but it never ends.

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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.