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

David Proud
43 min readJan 26, 2024

A Woman’s Life and Love — 6.

‘Sweet friend, thou gazest’

by Adelbert von Chamisso (1781–1838)

Sweet friend, thou gazest

upon me in wonderment,

thou cannst not grasp it,

why I can weep;

Let the moist pearls’

unaccustomed adornment

tremble, joyful-bright,

in my eyes.

How anxious my bosom,

how rapturous!

If I only knew, with words,

how I should say it;

come and bury thy visage

here in my breast,

I want to whisper in thy ear

all my happiness.

Knowest thou the tears,

that I can weep?

Shouldst thou not see them,

thou beloved man?

Stay by my heart,

feel its beat,

that I may, fast and faster,

hold thee.

[ … ]

Here, at my bed,

the cradle shall have room,

where it silently conceals

my lovely dream;

the morning will come

where the dream awakes,

and from there thy image

shall smile at me.

Sweet friend, thou gazest

upon me in wonderment,

thou cannst not grasp it,

why I can weep;

Let the moist pearls’

unaccustomed adornment

tremble, joyful-bright,

in my eyes.

How anxious my bosom,

how rapturous!

If I only knew, with words,

how I should say it;

come and bury thy visage

here in my breast,

I want to whisper in thy ear

all my happiness.

Knowest thou the tears,

that I can weep?

Shouldst thou not see them,

thou beloved man?

Stay by my heart,

feel its beat,

that I may, fast and faster,

hold thee.

[ … ]

Here, at my bed,

the cradle shall have room,

where it silently conceals

my lovely dream;

the morning will come

where the dream awakes,

and from there thy image

shall smile at me.

‘Süßer Freund, du blickest’

Süßer Freund, du blickest

Mich verwundert an,

Kannst es nicht begreifen,

Wie ich weinen kann;

Laß der feuchten Perlen

Ungewohnte Zier

Freudenhell erzittern

In den Wimpern mir.

Wie so bang mein Busen,

Wie so wonnevoll!

Wüßt’ ich nur mit Worten,

Wie ich’s sagen soll;

Komm und birg dein Antlitz

Hier an meiner Brust,

Will in’s Ohr dir flüstern

Alle meine Lust.

Weißt du nun die Thränen,

Die ich weinen kann?

Sollst du nicht sie sehen,

Du geliebter Mann;

Bleib’ an meinem Herzen,

Fühle dessen Schlag,

Daß ich fest und fester

Nur dich drücken mag.

[ … ]

Hier an meinem Bette

Hat die Wiege Raum,

Wo sie still verberge

Meinen holden Traum;

Kommen wird der Morgen,

Wo der Traum erwacht,

Und daraus dein Bildniß

Mir entgegen lacht.

Schumann: Frauenliebe und -leben Op. 42–6. Süsser Freund, du blickest mich verwundert an:

____________

‘Portrait of an unknown woman with flowers’, c. 1690, Michiel van Musscher

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

Continued from previous article:

The second process or the second moment of the process peculiar to plant being, the process of assimilation, is directly connected to the previous process, the process of formation and by the process of assimilation, Hegel refers to the plant entering into relationship with Nature not as individualized but with Nature as the Elements introduced earlier in the ‘Physics of the Universal Individuality’ or at least with the processes of light, air, and water.

‘The determinations of the elemental totality, which are, by themselves, an immediacy of freely independent bodies, are contained in the body of individuality as subordinate moments. As such, they constitute its universal physical elements’.

- ‘Philosophy of Nature’

The relations of the plant to light, air, and water, are already implicated first in the process by which the plant dirempts itself into root and leaf, with the former, the plant reaches towards earth and water, with the latter towards light and air, while the plant’s return-into-self is a drawing of the plant further and further outside of itself, towards the sun. This relation of the plant to light is not only the supposed basis of Hegel’s analogy of plants to men in civil society and, likewise, the reason for his allusion to Schelling’s description of plants as would-be light or sun-worshipers, it is in addition the case that the plant develops its unique inward energies by the light, its hue differentiated past neutral green, and its fragrance. The plant’s relation to light culminates in the production of the flower-bud, a manifestation of the plant’s particular as opposed to general relation to light, and from one perspective the flower-bud is an aspect of the process of formation while from another perspective it is an aspect of the third process, the forthcoming genus-process, since the flower-bud indicates sexual difference.

Transition to the third moment of the process of plant life, the genus-process: in the flower-bud the plant takes hold of itself, returns into itself; the blossom itself is just this moment of return, of being-for-self, although the plant can never really develop into a self, and the suggestion is that while the plant does not return into itself from the perspective of the animal, the plant does not develop into a self, there is a sense in which the plant does return into itself since the bud and blossom arrest plant growth, and the climax of the blossom is an image of the self generated in the plant itself, which brings itself into relationship with the self, that is to say, the flowering of sexual difference in plant life, so while plant life does not result in a veritable self even from the perspective of Nature there is nevertheless an image of the self that imprints itself on plant nature, the differentiation into sexual organs which have been compared to the genitals of the animal and in this manner sexual difference or at least its image emerges in Hegel’s Encyclopedia in plant nature.

The genus-process arrests the growth of the plant as an unrestrained sprouting from bud to bud and this arresting of growth marks the plant’s return into itself which does not count as a veritable return into itself because the plant does not attain to selfhood, and because the plant does not achieve, as will the animal from the standpoint of Nature a genuine return into itself the plant does not attain to a relationship between individuals as such but only to a difference whose sides are not at the same time in themselves whole individuals, do not determine the whole individuality, hence the difference also does not go beyond a beginning and an adumbration of the genus-process, and because each plant is not an organic individual but is rather a living being containing many parts which are each themselves individuals sexual difference and the genus-process, merely adumbrated in plants, do not occur between two individual plants, one male, the other female. There are, to speak precisely, no male plants and no female plants even amongst the Dioecia, all plants are in a certain way asexual.

‘With regard to sexual difference, it has to be pointed out that the differentiation reached by the plant, in which there are two vegetative selves, each of which has the impulse to identify itself with the other, is only present as a determination analogous to that of the sexual relationship. For that which enters into relationship does not consist of two individuals. There are only a few plant-forms in which this difference of sex occurs in such a manner, that the two sexes are the distinctive features of two separate plants. These are the Dioecia, which include some of the most important plants such as Palms, Hemp, Hops etc. Consequently, these dioecious plants constitute an important indication of impregnation. In Monoecia such as Melons, Pumpkins, Hazels, Firs, and Oaks however, the male and female plants are found on the same plant, so that such plants are hermaphroditic. The Polygamia, some of whose flowers have a distinct sex, and some of which are hermaphroditic, also belong here. These differences often vary very considerably during the growth of the plants however. For example, in dioecious plants such as Hemp and Mercurialis etc., a plant will show an early disposition towards being female, and yet subsequently become male. Thus the difference here is only quite partial, and the different individuals cannot therefore be regarded as having distinct sexes, for they have not yet been completely imbued with the principle constituting their opposition. This is because they are not completely pervaded by this principle, which is not a universal moment of the entire individual, but a separated part of it, and because it is in accordance with this alone that both individuals relate themselves to one another. The opposed moments of the sexual relationship proper must consist of whole individuals, the completely intro-reflected determinatenesses of which are diffused throughout their entirety. The entire disposition of the individual must be bound up with its sex. It is only when the inner generative forces have completely penetrated and saturated individuality that the impulse is present in the individual, and the sexual relationship is established. The original sexuality of the animal merely develops into a force and an impulse, but this is not the external production which in the plant constitutes the formative principle of its organs’.

- ‘Philosophy of Nature’

On the one hand the genus-process of the plant in its positive significance is the plant’s positing of its parts as separate existences and the plant’s subsequent actualization of these abstract moments of the plant in an internal process by which the plant posits these parts as a unity again through contact of the anthers and the pistil in fertilization, while on the other hand the genus-process in plants is superfluous to need since the process of formation and assimilation is itself already reproduction as production of fresh individuals raising questions about sexual difference in plants, notorious questions amongst his botanist contemporaries, whether there is in actual fact sexual difference in plants and if so in what sense, whether impregnation occurs in plants, and if impregnation takes place in plants whether impregnation is necessary.

‘As the sexual parts of the plant are not an integral part of its individuality, but form a distinct and closed sphere, the plant is sexless. This is true even of Dioecia. On the one side we have the filaments and anthers, which constitute the male sexual parts, and on the other the ovary and pistil, which constitute the female sexual parts. Link describes them as follows (‘Principles’ pp. 2I5–2I8, 220), ‘I have never found vessels in the anther, which consists for the most part of large, round, and angular cells. These cells are only longer and narrower where nerves’ (?) ‘are to be found. It is in the anther that the pollen occurs. This is usually loose, and consists of tiny globes, which are very occasionally attached to minute threadlets; in some plants it is resinous substance, in others an animal substance consisting of phosphate of lime and phosphate of magnesia. In their exterior form, and in the regular arrangement of leaves around them, the anthers of Bryophates bear a close resemblance to stamens. The vascular fascicles never run from the pedicel or the middle of the ovary straight into the pistil, but inosculate into it from the outer opercula of the fruit, or the surrounding fruits. That is why the base of the pistil sometimes appears to be hollow, and a strong and delicate strip of cellular tissue runs through the middle of the pistillary cord. There is no other canal running from the stigma by means of which the seeds are fertilized.’ (Does this mean that this cellular tissue does not actually reach the seeds?) ‘These vessels often stop short of the stigma, or run from the stigma, past the seed, to the fruit outside, and from there to the pedicel’.

- ‘Philosophy of Nature’

To the first question the response is that the difference to which the plant attains exists only as an analogue of the sexual relationship — Die Differenz, zu der es die Pflanze bringt, von einem vegetativen Selbst zu einem vegetativen Selbst, so daß jedes den Trieb habe, sich mit dem anderen zu identifizieren, — diese Bestimmung ist nur wie ein Analogon des Geschlechtsverhältnisses vorhanden — since the sides of the relation are not two individuals.

__________________________________________

THE END BEGINS

When a day that you happen to know is Wednesday starts off by sounding like Sunday, there is something seriously wrong somewhere.

I felt that from the moment I woke. And yet, when I started functioning a little more smartly, I became doubtful. After all, the odds were that it was I who was wrong, and not everyone else-though I did not see how that could be. I went on waiting, tinged with doubt. But presently I had my first bit of objective evidence -a distant clock stuck what sounded to me just like eight. I listened hard and suspiciously. Soon another clock began, on a hard, decisive note. In a leisurely fashion it gave an indisputable eight. Then I knew things were awry.

…..

It was not vapor. It was a cloud of seeds, floating, so infinitely light they were, even in the rarefied air. Millions of gossamer-slung triffid seeds, free now to drift wherever the winds of the world should take them.

It might be weeks, perhaps months, before they would sink to Earth at last, many of them thousands of miles from their starting place.

That is, I repeat, conjecture. But I cannot see a more probable way in which that plant, intended to be kept secret, could come, quite suddenly, to be found in almost every part of the world.

…..

The weakness lay in the triffids’ apparent ability to learn, in at least a limited way, from experience. We found, for instance, that they grew accustomed to our practice of charging the wire for a while night and morning. We began to notice that they were usually clear of the wire at our customary time for starting the engine, and they started to close in again soon after it had stopped. Whether they actually associated the charged condition of the wire with the sound of the engine was impossible to say then, but later we had little doubt that they did.

It was easy enough to make our running times erratic, but Susan, for whom they were continually a source of inimical study, soon began to maintain that the period for which the shock kept them clear was growing steadily shorter. Nevertheless, the electrified wire and occasional attacks upon them in the sections where they were densest kept us free of incursions for over a year, and of those that occurred later we had warning enough to stop them being more than a minor nuisance.

Within the safety of our compound we continued to learn about agriculture, and life settled gradually into a routine.

- John Wyndham, (1903–1969), ‘The Day of the Triffids’

__________________________________________

Initially this appears to suggest is that sexual difference is not a determination that is distributed between two distinct plants, there are no male plants and there are no female plants, the difference which is a mere analogue of the sexual difference exhibited between animals is a difference within the plant itself and not a difference between two truly separate plant organisms. Hegel anticipates a possible objection ostensibly coming from the botanists’ camp to this contention, the class of plants which are called Dioecia are plants in which the difference of sex occurs in such a manner that the separate sexes are distributed in two separate and distinct plants. Plants like palm, hemp, and hops seem to differentiate themselves into male plants and female plants, but even dioecious plants do not exhibit sexual difference in the strictest sense for while these plants are still growing a plant will show, for example, an early disposition to be female and yet subsequently become male. It could equally happen that a plant displays an early disposition to be male and yet subsequently become female and in either case a dioecious plant’s sex is not fixed since its sexual growth is ambiguous and this supposedly sexual difference in plants Hegel says is only a quite partial one, only a quite partial difference, hence the different individuals cannot be regarded as of different sexes because they have not been completely imbued with the principle of their opposition, because this does not completely pervade them, is not a universal moment of the entire individual, but is a separated part of it, and the two enter into relation with each other only in respect of this part.

__________________________________________

‘Warm afternoon’, 1910, Guy Rose

‘The plant’s lack of sensibility may also be attributed to the coincidence between its subjective unity and its quality and particularization; unlike that of the animal, its being-within-self is not yet a nervous system which is independent of external being. Only that which has the faculty of sense can endure itself as other, assimilate this opposition by the resilience of its individuality, and venture into conflict with other individualities. The plant is the immediate organic individuality, in which the genus preponderates, and reflection is not individual. The individual plant does not return into itself as such, it is an other, and it therefore lacks sentience. The sensitivity of certain plants is merely a mechanical elasticity. It is not an example of sentience, and resembles the dormant state of plants, in which the relationship to light is the active principle’.

- ‘Philosophy of Nature’

‘The Sensitive Plant’ (excerpt)

by Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792–1822)

Whether the Sensitive Plant, or that

Which within its boughs like a Spirit sat,

Ere its outward form had known decay,

Now felt this change, I cannot say.

Whether that Lady’s gentle mind,

No longer with the form combined

Which scattered love, as stars do light,

Found sadness, where it left delight,

I dare not guess; but in this life

Of error, ignorance, and strife,

Where nothing is, but all things seem,

And we the shadows of the dream,

It is a modest creed, and yet

Pleasant if one considers it,

To own that death itself must be,

Like all the rest, a mockery.

That garden sweet, that lady fair,

And all sweet shapes and odours there,

In truth have never passed away:

’Tis we, ’tis ours, are changed; not they.

For love, and beauty, and delight,

There is no death nor change: their might

Exceeds our organs, which endure

No light, being themselves obscure.

__________________________________________

Even the dioecious plants are not thoroughly imbued with the principle of sexual difference because it is possible for such a plant to develop as if it were a plant of the opposite sex, to speak as if a plant had a genuine sex, and genuine sexual difference entails that an organism’s development will happen strictly in accordance with the principle of its (adult, mature) sex, there must be, as there is with the animal, something which is sexual right from the beginning, a principle directing sexual development in accordance with one and only one of two alternatives (male, female).

‘All organic being differentiates itself within itself, and maintains the unity of multiplicity. Animal life is the truth of organic being however, and as such advances to a higher determinate difference, of which the difference pervaded by substantial form is merely one aspect, the other being the self-subsistent substantial form, which is distinguished from this submergence. Consequently, the animal feels. The plant has not yet advanced to this internal difference however; if it had, the unifying point of selfhood and the organic crystal would already constitute the two aspects of its life. The vital principle of the animal is its soul, but the vital principle of the plant is still submerged in a process of mutual externality. In the animal on the contrary, there is one animation, and it is present in a dual manner (a) as an indwelling vitalization, and (b) as the incomposite existence of the unity of selfhood. It is true that both moments, as well as their relation, also have to be present in the plant; one part of this difference falls outside its existence however, while animal being has sentience, which is the absolute return of living being into itself. A plant existence on the contrary, is merely the one bodily organism, within which the pure unity of self-identity is still not of a real nature, but because it has not yet become objective, is only present in the Notion. Consequently, the articulated body of the plant is not yet the objectivity of the soul; the plant is not yet objective to itself. The unity here is therefore external to the plant, and resembles the process of the terrestrial organism, which falls outside the Earth. Light is the external physical self of the plant, towards which it strives in the same way as the lonely person seeks company. The plant has an essential and infinite relationship with light, but like weighted matter, it is primarily searching for its self’.

- ‘Philosophy of Nature’

Infant males grow up to be adult males and infant females grow up to be adult females, the twin goals of sexed organic development and because it is not right from the beginning subordinated to a principle which will determine the trajectory and end of the plant as either male or female the plant’s sexual development is not true sexual development. Remembering the Logic one can phrase it as that any sexual relation that does not manifest the logical determination of the genus-process is only an approximation of that relation and in its mere approximation, lacking full rationality and justification. The sexual relationship proper must have for its opposed moments entire individuals whose determinateness, completely reflected into itself, spreads through the whole individual. The entire habit (habitus) of the individual must be bound up with its sex

‘’It is well known that botanists find a great deal of the specific difference between plants in the formation of their leaves. On examining the leaves of the Sorbus hybrida, one discovers that some of them are still almost completely anastomosed; it is only the somewhat deeper incisions of the dentate margin, between the lateral costae, which indicate that nature is here striving towards a more marked separation. In other leaves, these incisions become deeper, mainly at the base and on the lower half of the leaf It is quite evident that each lateral costa is meant to become the midrib of a separate leaflet. In other leaves, the lowest lateral costae are already separated into distinct leaflets. The lateral costae which follow have already developed the deepest incisions; it is clear that a freer impulse towards ramification would have overcome the anastomosis. This is accomplished in other leaves, in which two, three, or four pairs of lateral costae are detached from below upwards, and the original midrib pushes the leaflets apart by growing more rapidly. Consequently, this leaf is half pinnate, and still semi-anastomosed. The predominance of breaking apart into ramification, or of anastomosis, changes in accordance with the age of the tree and its condition, and even in accordance with the nature of the year. I have in my possession leaves which are almost entirely pinnate. If we now consider the Sorbus aucuparia, it becomes evident that this species is only a continuation of the evolutionary history of the Sorbus hybrida, and that these two species are only distinguished from one another by the fact that the Sorbus hybrida has a disposition towards a greater compactness of tissue, while the Sorbus aucuparia attempts to reproduce itself more easily’.’

- ‘Philosophy of Nature’

This passage is a quote from Franz Joseph Schelver, (1778–1832), ‘Critique of the doctrine of sex in plants. First continuation’, 1814.

While in ‘Philosophy of Nature’ the individual animal’s habit is completely bound up with its sex, it is either male, or it is female, always already, right from the beginning”), it is the ‘Philosophy of Mind’ and ‘Philosophy of Right’ that ostensibly demonstrate the fullest expression of sexual difference distributing itself between two individuals pervaded by the principle of this difference, man and woman, so in these later works lies the fullest expression of this difference because in ‘Philosophy of Mind’ and ‘Philosophy of Right’ habit or habitus attain spiritual significance, habit is no longer mere nature but becomes second nature. And so in the ‘Philosophy of Mind’ and the ‘Philosophy of Right’ one might expect a human expression of sexual difference, in marriage, that manifests the logical relation of sexual difference and which culminates the natural instantiation of that relation in the animal organism, but as a matter of fact we find that marriage reflects the relationship between animal and plant which is not even a relationship between the sexes neither logically nor naturally speaking.

Does copulation occur in plants? Yes, says Hegel, is answered succinctly in the affirmative by Hegel, who cites a botanical study by Carl Ludwig Willdenow, (1765–1812), in support of his response.

‘The branches grow from buds (gemmulae). Willdenow (loc. cit., p.393) quotes Aubert du Petit Thouars, ‘Vessels elongate themselves from each bud, and pass down through the plant; strictly speaking, the wood is therefore a product of the root fibres of all the buds, and the ligneous plant is an aggregate of a number of growths.’ Willdenow then continues, ‘If a grafted tree is opened up at the side of the graft, it will also be quite apparent, that fibres from a graft run for a short distance into the main stem. Link has noticed this, as I have.’ On pages 486–487 he has more to say about this bud grafting. ‘We know that a bud from a shrub or a tree will grow when it is grafted on to another stem, and that it is to be regarded as a distinct plant. There is no change at all in its nature, as it continues to grow as if it were situated in the earth. Agricola and Barnes were even more fortunate with this kind of propagation; they simply set the buds straight in the earth, and raised perfect plants from them. A noteworthy feature of this kind of artificial propagation is that if the branches or eyes (gemmae) are made into fresh plants by setting, grafting or bud grafting, or in any other way, the plant from which they were taken reproduces itself not (only), as a species, but also as a subvariety. The seed only reproduces the species, which can grow forth from it as a subvariety in sundry variants. Consequently, while grafting and bud grafting will produce no modification in the Borsdorfer apple, quite distinct subvarieties are to be obtained from its seed.’ These buds retain their individuality to such a degree when they form the branch of another tree, that a dozen varieties of pear may be grown on a single tree for example’.

- ‘Philosophy of Nature’

Hegel’s response to the third question, whether copulation is necessary in plants, is that the production of a new individual through the union of the two sexes, generation, is a play, a luxury, a superfluity for propagation, for the preservation of the plant is itself only a multiplication of itself and fertilization by sexual union is not necessary because the plant organism since it is the whole individuality is already fertilized on its own account even without being touched by another plant.

‘Consequently, the plant now brings forth its light from itself, as its own self. It does this in the blossom, in which the chromatic neutrality of green is specifically determined for the first time. The generic process is the relationship of the individual self to the self, and as a return into itself, it checks the growth of sprouting from bud to bud, which is for itself unlimited. The plant does not attain to a relationship between individuals as such however; it merely attains to a difference, the sides of which do not in themselves, and at the same time, constitute the complete individuals, and are not determinative of the whole individuality. Consequently, this difference is also no more than a beginning and intimation of the generic process. The germ is to be regarded here as one and the same individual, the vitality of which runs through this process, and which, by returning into itself, has not only advanced to the maturity of a seed, but has likewise preserved itself. This progression is on the whole superfluous however, for in its producing of fresh individuaIs, the process of formation and assimilation is itself already a reproduction’.

— ‘Philosophy of Nature’

‘(b) The controversy concerning the presence of true sexual organs in the plant, leads on to the question of the occurrence of copulation as such. The following account, which is well known in Berlin, proves that actual fructification does occur: ‘In the Berlin botanical garden, there is a female Chaemerops humilis, which had borne flowers for thirty years prior to I749, but never any ripe fruit. In that year Gleditsch fertilized it with the pollen of the male plant, which had been sent to him from the Bosian garden at Leipzig, and obtained ripe seeds. In the spring of I767, Kolreuter sent some of the pollen of the Chaemerops hwnilis gathered in the Karlsruhe botanical garden to Gleditsch at Berlin, and the rest to EcklebeH, the head gardener at St. Petersburg. In both cases, the pollination of the female palm was successful. The palm at St. Petersburg was already a hundred years old, and its blossoming had been consistently sterile’.’

- ‘Philosophy of Nature’

Hegel’s contention recall is that plants grow by way of the production of new individuals which are at the same time the plant’s parts and the genus-process is already bound up and is in many ways indistinct from the formation and growth of the plant.

So, now a fourth question arises in the second moment in his account of the genus-process. How ought the genus-process to be understood since it is not necessary for the ripening of the seed and also whether it is to be taken as the complete analogue of the genus-process in the animal?

‘Animation is a process, and to the same extent as it is singleness, this process has to explicate itself into the triad of processes (§ 217- 10 220). Addition. The process of the plant falls into three syllogisms. As has already been indicated (§ 342 Add.), the first of these is the universal process, the process of the vegetable organism within itself, the relation of the individual to itself. In this process, which is that of formation, the individual destroys itself, converts itself into its inorganic nature, and by means of this destruction, brings itself forth from itself. In the second process, living being does not contain its other, but faces it as an external independence; it does not constitute its own inorganic nature, but meets it as an object, which it encounters through an apparent contingency. This is the process which is specified in the face of an external nature. The third process is that of the genus, and unites the first two. This is the process of the individuals with themselves as genus, or the production and preservation of the genus. In it, the genus is preserved by the destruction of individuals, as the production of another individual. Inorganic nature consists here of the individual itself, while the nature of the individual is its genus. This genus is also distinct from the individual however, and constitutes its objective nature. In the plant, these processes coincide, and are not so distinct as they are in the animal. It is precisely this which constitutes the difficulty one encounters in expounding the nature of the vegetable organism’.

- ‘Philosophy of Nature’

The genus-process in plants is to be understood as a merely formal process because by the previous two processes the plant already reproduces itself, and further the plant’s reproductive process is doubly a digestive process. Digestion by itself is production of the individual but the plant grows by multiplying itself into more individuals, which are likewise the parts of the plant; this is what Hegel calls the immediate digestion of growth, this being the process of bud-formation” and, consequently, in a certain respect, it is already the genus-process.

‘Where sexual differentiation and the generic process are present, the further question of how this process is to be regarded now presents itself, for it is not necessary for the ripening of the seed. Should it be regarded as completely analogous to the generic process in animal being? (a) In plants, the generic process is formal, and it is only in the animal organism that it assumes its true significance. In the generic process of animal being, the genus is the negative power of the individual, and as such realizes itself by sacrificing the individual, and setting another in its place. In the plant however, this positive side of the process is already present in the first two processes, for relatedness to the outer world is already a reproduction of the plant itself, and so coincides with the generic process. Strictly speaking therefore, the relationship of the sexes should be regarded as being to an equal extent, or even predominantly a digestive process. At this juncture, digestion and procreation are the same. In the animal, digestion fashions and develops the individual itself; in the plant however, it is another individual which comes into being here, the precise equivalent of this in the immediate digestion of growth being nodulation. All that is necessary for the production and maturing of buds, is the checking of the rampant growth. It is by means of this checking that the whole plant recapitulates itself in buds and fruit, and disperses into a multitude of grains, all of which are capable of existing by themselves. Consequently, the generic process is of no importance to the nature of the plant. It shows that the reproduction of the individual takes place in a mediated manner, and is even an entire process. In the plant however, the whole of this sexual differentiation and production of seeds is also an immediate generation of individuals’.

- ‘Philosophy of Nature’

For the buds of the plant to develop and ripen, all that is needed is the arrest of luxuriant growth for instance through the pruning of the plant.

‘The final act of the plant is the opening of the blossom. By this the plant makes itself objective, assimilates light, and produces this externality as its own. That is why Oken says (‘Text-book of the Philosophy of Nature’, vol. II, p. II2) that the blossom is the brain of the plant. However, others of the same school were of the opinion that the plant has its brain, the root, in the ground, while its sexual organs face the sky. The blossom is the culmination of the plant’s subjectivity, it is the resumption of the whole as an individual, having its opposition within itself, and with itself. This opposition also faces itself as an externality however, for this unfolding of inflorescence is itself a further succession. ‘The stem blossoms earlier than the branches, the branch earlier than the collateral branches, and so on. On one and the same branch the lower blossoms break out before those above.’ Yet as the plant preserves itself at the same time as it produces other individuals, the significance of this productiveness is not merely that the plant transcends itself by constant nodulation, but rather that the condition of this productiveness is the cessation of growth, and the arrest of this sprouting. If this negation of the plant’s coming out of itself is now to attain existence, this means no more than that the independent individuality of the plant, which for itself is substantial form, which constitutes the Notion of the plant, and which for itself is present in the whole of it,-that this idea matrix of the plant becomes isolated. It is true that this isolation merely brings forth another fresh individual, but it is precisely because this individual checks multiplication, that it merely constitutes a differentiation within itself. It is this that one finds taking place in the plant if one considers the fate of its sexual parts. As with generation in general, there is no point here in investigating the content of the unfertilized seed, and what is added to it by fertilization. Crude chemical interpretations will miss the point here, because they kill living being, and are only able to grasp that which is dead, not that which has life. The fertilization of the plant consists solely of its ranging its moments in this abstraction of separated determinate being, and of positing their unity once again by means of contiguity. This movement, as a movement between abstract, differentiated, activated, but existent moments, and because these moments are abstract, constitutes the plant’s actualization, which it displays upon itself’.

— ‘Philosophy of Nature’

And by this means the plant returns into itself. Fertilization itself on the other hand is not necessary to the nature of the plant or for the production and ripening of buds, all that is necessary for the production of individuals is merely the negation of growth. (See above). In contrast, with the animal, negation is necessary but insufficient to its life. With the animal, each sex negates its being-for-self, and posits itself as identical with the other.

‘… the generic process is of no importance to the nature of the plant. It shows that the reproduction of the individual takes place in a mediated manner, and is even an entire process. In the plant however, the whole of this sexual differentiation and production of seeds is also an immediate generation of individuals. (b) What happens when actual contiguity occurs however? The anther opens, and the pollen escapes and touches the pistillary stigma. After this release the pistil withers, and the receptacle, the seed and its integument, swell up. All that is necessary for the generation of individuals is however that the growth should be negated; even the fate of the sexual parts is merely a checking, a negation, a pulverization, a withering away. Checking or negation is also necessary in animal life. Each sex negates its being-for-self, and posits its identity with the other. It is not through this negation alone that this living unity is posited in the animal however, for the affirmative positing of the identity of both individuals, which is mediated by this negation, also belongs here. This is accomplished impregnation, the germ, that which is engendered. Only negation is necessary in the plant however, for as each part of the plant is immediately an individual, so that the plant constitutes the original element of identity, the affirmative identity of individuality, which is the germ or idea matrix, is itself already immediately and implicitly present throughout it. In the animal however, the negation of the independence of the individuals also becomes an affirmation as a feeling of unity. It is merely the negative side which is present in the plant, and its precise occurrence is in the pulverization of the pollen, which involves the withering of the pistil’.

- ‘Philosophy of Nature’

The animal accomplishes its identification with the other through the product of the copulation of the male and the female but this affirmative identity in difference is not necessary to the plant; the plant only requires the negation. The affirmative identity is not necessary because in the plant the germ or product is already everywhere in principle in the plant itself. The plant’s identity is merely immediate or original and it need not and indeed could not recognize itself in its sexual other through its offspring because plants are not genuinely sexed beings and have no true sexual others.

‘Although this compels us to admit that an actual fertilization takes place, the third question, that of its necessity, still remains open. As buds are complete individuals, plants propagate themselves by stolons, and leaves and twigs merely have to come into contact with the earth in order to possess a distinct fertility as independent individuals (§ 345. Add. III. 57, 12), the plant’s production of a new individual by means of procreation, or the synthesis of the sexes, is a game and a luxury, and is not essential to propagation. The conservation of the plant is itself merely a self-multiplication. Impregnation by means of sexual union is not necessary, for the form of the plant is its entire individuality, and this for itself is already fertilized, even when it is untouched by another individual. Thus many plants have fertilizing organs, while their seeds are sterile, ‘Many Mosses can have stamens without needing them for reproduction, as they have sufficient means of propagation in gemmation. If plants remain unfertilized however, at least for several generations, should they not also be able to bear germinating seeds, as do Aphides? Spallanzani’s experiments seem to prove that they are able to’.

- ‘Philosophy of Nature’

What is this negative side of the genus-process which is necessary and sufficient to plant nature? Hegel identifies it as the turning to dust of the pollen which goes together with the withering of the pistil or as botanists like Schelver have conceived it, the negative side of the (merely formal) genus-process in plants is actually a poisoning of the pistil.

‘Schelver has even regarded this negative aspect as a poisoning of the pistil. He says, ‘If one removes the anthers from Tulips, they produce neither capsule nor seeds, and remain infertile. However, it still does not follow, from the fact that the anthers are necessary to the perfection of the plant’s fruit, and ought not to be removed,’ (this in itself is certainly not always so, as we have seen, III. 95, 31) ‘that they constitute the fertilizing sex. Even if they did not serve the purpose of fertilization, this would not make them a superfluous part which might be removed or damaged without harming the life of the plant. The removal of the petals and other parts can also harm the development of the fruit, but we do not say on this account that their removal entails the eradication of the fertilizing sex of the fruit. May not the excretion of the pollen also be a necessary prerequisite of the ripe germ? On the other hand, anyone who examines the matter impartially, will probably discover that although in general the removal of the stamina from plants will have a harmful effect upon their fertilization, in some climates there are also plants whose fertilization benefits from this operation. What is more, sterile plants can often be made fertile if their roots and branches are pruned, incisions are made in their bark, or they are tapped of nutritive material etc. However, Spallanzani has also removed the male flowers from monoecious plants such as the clypeiform Musk-Melon and Water Melon, without any detrimental effect, for from the non-pollinated fruits he obtained ripe seeds which generated again’.’

- ‘Philosophy of Nature’

However it is conceived the result is the culminating moment of the plant, the fruit, which benefits from injury to itself, for example, its injury in caprification, and its ripening and this is also its downfall, plants which don’t produce fruit and seeds articulate the genus-process otherwise, with the digestive growth of the previous two processes.

And finally, with the maturation of the fruit comes the transition to the animal organism, the truth of the philosophy of nature and mature’s own transition to spirit. The following passage depicts the former transition:

‘The plant is a subordinate organism, destined to tender itself to its organic superior and be consumed by it. The light in the plant’s colour is a being-for-other, and the aerial form of the plant itself constitutes odour-for-other. Similarly, the etheric oil of the fruit concentrates itself into the combustible granularity of sugar, and becomes a fermented liquid. At this juncture the plant reveals itself as the Notion, which has materialized the principle of light, and converted the aqueous element into the essence of fire. The plant itself is the movement of the igneous element within itself, and passes over into fermentation. The heat which it gives out is not its blood however, but its destruction. This animal process is higher than the nature of the plant, and constitutes its destruction. As the stage of flower-life is merely that of an external relationship, while life consists of a self-related distinctness, the contiguity within the flower, whereby the plant posits its individuality, constitutes its death, for it violates the principle of the plant. This contiguity is a positing of individual being; it posits the singular as being identical with the universal. In this way the singular is degraded however, no longer immediately, but merely through the negation of its proper immediacy. It is thus that it is raised into the genus, which now comes into existence within it. With this however, we have reached the higher Notion of the animal organism’.

- ‘Philosophy of Nature’

The plant is a subordinate organism whose destiny it is to sacrifice itself to the higher organism and to be consumed by it and in the same way that light in the plant’s colour is a being-for-other and the plant in its airy form is an odour-for-other so the fruit as etheric oil concentrates itself into the combustible salt of sugar and becomes a fermented liquid and the plant now reveals itself here as the Notion which has materialized the light-principle and converted the watery nature into a fiery one, proceeds to ferment but the heat which it gives out from itself is not its blood but its destruction and this animal process which is higher than that of the plant is its ruin. Here the notional transition from plant to animal being displays a curious twofold character for on the one hand, Hegel demonstrates the notional necessity of this transition while on the other hand the transition seems reminiscent of Immanuel Kant’s account of means-end relationships in his discussion of external teleology in the third Critique:

‘… the external purposiveness of natural things affords no sufficient warrant for using them as purposes of nature in order to explain their presence, and for regarding their contingently purposive effects as the grounds of their presence according to the principle of final causes. Thus we cannot take for natural purposes, rivers because they promote intercourse among inland peoples, mountains because they contain the sources of the rivers and for their maintenance in rainless seasons have a store of snow, or the slope of the land which carries away the water and leaves the country dry; because although this shape of the earth’s surface be very necessary for the origin and maintenance of the vegetable and animal kingdoms, it has nothing in itself for the possibility of which we are forced to assume a causality according to purposes. The same is true of plants which man uses for his needs or his pleasures; of beasts, the camel, the ox, the horse, dog, etc., which are indispensable to him as well for food as because they are used in his service in many different ways. In the case of things which we have no reason for regarding in themselves as purposes, such external relation can only be hypothetically judged as purposive’.

- ‘Critique of Judgement’

Given Hegel’s impassioned critique of Kant’s conception of external teleology it appears that what Hegel hopes to accomplish is to amend Kant’s account by giving it necessary,notional grounding. The transition consists in the plant’s sacrifice of itself to the animal in consumption and the consumptive relationship between the superior animal and the subordinate plant thus appears as a means-end relationship, but dialectical, notional transitions are necessary not merely contingent as are means-end relationships. Hegel goes on to present an account of the transition from the plant to the animal by which he hopes to avoid recourse and reduction to external teleology. The etheric oil of the plant is a further development of the light-principle, previously mentioned developments include the plant’s colour and odour, by which the plant unfolds its being as essentially a being-for-other, so in its culmination the plant has prepared itself for consumption by the animal to which it is subordinate in the context of the animal’s environment and to which it is in an inferior position in respect to the ‘Philosophy of Nature’ itself.

Regarding the genus process in the animal organism the important connection for Hegel is between logical sexual difference, natural sexual difference in the animal, and spiritual sexual difference in marriage but animal sexual difference in the genus process is worth some attention. The genus-process is the third moment of the animal organism, it is itself differentiated into three moments, the first of which is the sex relation (Geschlechtsverhältnis), and differentiated into three processes that don’t quite form a unity the animal genus process in one way or another ends in the death of the animal which is itself the immediate harbinger of the advent of spirit,

‘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’.

- ‘Philosophy of Nature’

The description of the animal sex-relation is similar to its logical counterpart whereby this first diremption of the genus into species and the further determination of these to the point of immediate, exclusive being-for-self of singularity, is only a negative and hostile attitude towards others but the genus is also an essentially affirmative relation of the singularity to itself in it so that while the latter, as an individual, excludes another individual, it continues itself in this other and in this other feels its own self, and this relationship is 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, hence it has the feeling of this defect. The genus is thus present in the individual as a straining against the inadequacy of its single actuality, as the urge to obtain its self-feeling in the other of its genus, to integrate itself through union with it and through this mediation to close the genus with itself and bring it into existence, that is to say, copulation.

‘Maria Ilegint’, 1924, Marian Espinal i Armengol

‘The product is the negative identity of differentiated singularities, and as a resultant genus, an asexual life. In its natural aspect, it is merely the implicitness of this product which constitutes this genus however. This differs from the singular beings whose differentiation has subsided in to it, and is itself an immediate singular, although it has the determination of developing itself into the same natural individuality, and into a corresponding sexual differentiation and transience. This process of propagation issues forth into the progress of the spurious infinite. The genus preserves itself only through the perishing of the individuals, which fulfil their determination in the process of generation, and in so far as they have no higher determination than this, pass on to death’.

- ‘Philosophy of Nature’

The first diremption of the genus-process, the sex-relation, presupposes the rational supersession of the animal individual’s instinctive and needful relationship to inorganic nature, the preceding moment. Hegel gives a description of the three moments of the sex relation, one hostile and negative, one affirmative and positive, the third copulative. The first moment emphasizes the being-for-self of either side of the determination, this is the moment of self-absorbed opposition. The male and female animals as individuals are different. But the second moment emphasizes the feeling of one individual self in the other individual self and the feeling of the other individual self in the one. The one feels his universality in the other, and she feels her universality in the one. The male and female animals though individuals are the same but the difficulty is that each individual animal lacks the feeling of the universal genus by him or herself and this is a problem of need and is solved in copulation, (doesn’t it solve all problems?) that is, an effort to actualize the genus merely felt in the unity of the male and female animal, and as with logical copulation (yes truly though some may baulk at my playing fast and loose with language here) natural animal copulation fails in the end (if I may so put it) because the product or offspring is also another individual with the same problem.

Not to mention post-coital tristesse.

As explained by Baruch Spinoza, (1632–1677):

‘For as far as sensual pleasure is concerned, the mind is so caught up in it, as if at peace in a [true] good, that it is quite prevented from thinking of anything else. But after the enjoyment of sensual pleasure is passed, the greatest sadness follows. If this does not completely engross, still it thoroughly confuses and dulls the mind’.

- ‘Tractatus de Intellectus Emendatione’

And Arthur Schopenhauer, (1788–1860):

‘If in conceiving of the world one starts from the thing in itself, the will to life, then as its kernel, as its greatest concentration, one finds the act of generation; this manifests itself then as the first thing, as the point of departure; it is the leaping point of the world egg [punctum saliens des Welteies] and the main thing. But what a contrast on the other hand if one starts from the empirical world given as appearance, from the world as representation! For here that act manifests itself as something quite singular and special, of subordinate importance, indeed, as a concealed and hidden secondary matter that merely sneaks in, a paradoxical anomaly that provides abundant material for laughter. However, it might also seem to us that the devil only wanted to hide his game, for intercourse is his earnest money and the world his kingdom. For have we not noticed how immediately after coitus one hears the pealing laughter of the devil? [illico post coitum cachinnus auditur Diaboli] a which, seriously speaking, is based on the fact that sexual lust is the quintessence of the whole fraud of this noble world, especially when it is concentrated into falling in love through fixation on a particular woman. For it promises so unspeakably, infinitely and extravagantly much and then delivers so pitifully little’.

- ‘Additional Remarks on the Doctrine of the Affirmation and Denial of the Will-to-Live’

The sex relation is a relationship between two different but equal individuals. The one would not be able to feel the genus or the universal in the other unless they were two beings of the same kind but while Hegel describes the sex relation between animals in this passage as a relationship between two equals in the texts on spirit this notion of two different but equal individuals in the sex relationship seems absent albeit this different but equal relationship is what the concept rationally demands. And even if it is the case that the logic of the sex relation calls for an instantiated relationship between two equal but different beings the question arises how Hegelian philosophy with its ultimate reduction of the other to the self can even momentarily sustain such a moment as the sex relation.

For recall Hegel’s allusion to Adam and Eve at the beginning of the Nature,

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

- ‘Philosophy of Nature’

A passage brought up by Stone naturally given that it suggests a more accurate representation of Hegel’s de facto view on the relationship between the sexes which is not one of equality for Hegel recalls Adam (the man, Spirit) looking upon Eve (the bride, Nature) and saying ‘This is flesh of my flesh, and bone of my bone’ and besides the fact that Adam is the one speaking and looking, without reciprocation by Eve, the relationship expressed by Adam appears to describe an equal one. Eve is flesh, Adam is flesh, Eve is bone, Adam is bone, and according to the Biblical narrative:

‘And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; And the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh. And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed’.

- ‘Genesis’ 2. 21–25

Eve is derivative of Adam, woman derivative of man,

Although:

‘And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them’.

- ‘Genesis’ 1. 26–27

Furthermore in the Logic the other individual in the sex relation emerges from the particularization of the first, universal individual, and so the logical account of sexual difference appears to be a conceptual rendering of the Adam and Eve story.

The ‘Philosophy of Nature’ concludes with the death of the animal in the third moment of the genus process, the actualization of the genus frustrated, while spirit rises like a phoenix from the ashes of the animal and in emerging from nature, spirit reveals itself as always having been prior to nature.

‘The identity with the universal which is achieved here is the sublation of the formal opposition between the individuality in its immediate singularity and in its universality; it is however the death of natural being, which is only one side, and moreover the abstract side of this sublation. In the Idea of life however, subjectivity is the Notion, and implicitly therefore, it constitutes the absolute being-in-self of actuality, as well as concrete universality. Through this sublation of the immediacy of its reality, subjectivity has coincided with itself. The last self-externality of nature is sublated, so that the Notion, which in nature merely has implicit being, has become for itself. — With this, nature has passed over into its truth, into the subjectivity of the Notion, whose objectivity is itself the sublated immediacy of singularity, i.e. concrete universality. Consequendy, this Notion is posited as having the reality which corresponds to it, i.e. the Notion, as its determinate being. This is spirit’.

- ‘Philosophy of Nature’

Spirit just because it is the goal of nature is prior to it, nature has proceeded from spirit, not empirically, however, but in such a manner that spirit is already from the very first implicitly present in nature which is spirit’s own presupposition. And it will be up to the ‘Philosophy of Mind’ to let spirit, mind, Geist, recognize itself not in the medium of natural externality but rather in the medium of thought made existent in the world. There may be issues with rationally justifying the determinations of the ‘Philosophy of Nature’ in particular the determinations of the ‘Organics section’ but the discussion of sexual difference is illuminating. The plant nature does not display the logical sex relation deduced in texts on logic since the sex relation rationally calls for two individuals and the plant nature has not yet achieved individuality. On the other hand the animal organism shows the logical sex relation which ends in copulation. So, In the ‘Philosophy of Mind’ one might anticipate finding the spiritual actualization of the animal genus process because it is in the animal genus process that sexual difference expresses sexual difference as a thought determination and not in the plant. One might expect to find the spiritual account of what was previously animal sexual relationship in the discussion of marriage and the family. What we do find however is that the relationship between man and woman in marriage is not like that between a male animal and a female animal but rather more like that between plant and animal.

‘Fantastical composition’, 1924, Kazimierz Stabrowski

Dedicated to the One 💮under the dome the white jasmine ah! calling us together … forever💮

Sous le dôme épais Où le blanc jasmin À la rose s’assemble Sur la rive en fleurs, Riant au matin Viens, descendons ensemble.

Doucement glissons de son flot charmant Suivons le courant fuyant Dans l’onde frémissante D’une main nonchalante Viens, gagnons le bord, Où la source dort et L’oiseau, l’oiseau chante.

Sous le dôme épais Où le blanc jasmin, Ah! descendons Ensemble!

Sous le dôme épais Où le blanc jasmin À la rose s’assemble Sur la rive en fleurs, Riant au matin Viens, descendons ensemble.

Doucement glissons de son flot charmant Suivons le courant fuyant Dans l’onde frémissante D’une main nonchalante Viens, gagnons le bord, Où la source dort et L’oiseau, l’oiseau chante.

Sous le dôme épais Où le blanc jasmin, Ah! descendons Ensemble!

Under the thick dome where the white jasmine With the roses entwined together On the river bank covered with flowers laughing in the morning Let us descend together!

Gently floating on its charming risings, On the river’s current On the shining waves, One hand reaches, Reaches for the bank, Where the spring sleeps, And the bird, the bird sings.

Under the thick dome where the white jasmine Ah! calling us Together!

Under the thick dome where white jasmine With the roses entwined together On the river bank covered with flowers laughing in the morning Let us descend together!

Gently floating on its charming risings, On the river’s current On the shining waves, One hand reaches, Reaches for the bank, Where the spring sleeps, And the bird, the bird sings.

Under the thick dome where the white jasmine Ah! calling us Together!

+++

Clément Philibert Léo Delibes (1836–1891), ‘Sous le dôme épais’:

Coming up next:

Animal sex.

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.