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

David Proud
41 min readNov 14, 2023


by Louisa Siefert (1845–1877)

I cannot help but feel a wistful, quiet woe

As a leaf gently falls — as the day, fading, ends.

More than pride, more than pain, at this moment I know

The part of me that dreams will break unless it bends.

The falling leaf, so soon forgotten by the tree

From which it was wrested by the breath of a breeze;

Day, already half dead, struggling, doomed to be

Unheard by the heavens, like an exile’s pleas —

All of it saddens me: day and leaf intertwined,

Waning, dead, forgotten. There’s a voice in my mind

That tells me winter’s come; it heralds fall of night.

The woods will see new growth; the sun will grace the sky;

But neither fallen leaves nor the hour that’s gone by

Shall hear tell of springtime or of dawn’s tender light.


Je ne puis résister à la mélancolie

De la feuille qui tombe et du jour qui s’en va ;

À ce moment, en moi quelque chose se plie,

Quelque chose de fier qui souffrit et rêva.

Cette feuille qui tombe et qu’à jamais oublie

L’arbre, auquel tout à l’heure un souffle l’enleva,

Ce jour déjà mourant qui lutte et s’humilie

Comme un proscrit blessé que le ciel réprouva,

Cette feuille, ce jour, cet oubli, tout m’attriste.

Une seule pensée en mon esprit subsiste,

Qui me dit : c’est l’hiver ! qui me dit : c’est la nuit !

Demain, cieux et forêts rajeuniront encore…

Mais à la feuille morte, à l’heure qui s’enfuit,

Hélas ! qui parlera de printemps ou d’aurore ?…

Eno — ‘Spirits Drifting’ -


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


Hegel defines Spirit or Geist as among other possible descriptions an activity of ideality, Idealität, or idealization, Idealisierung.

‘This sublation of externality belonging to the concept of mind, is what we have called the ideality of mind. All activities of mind are nothing but various ways ofreducing what is external to the inwardness which mind itself is, and it is only by this reduction, by this idealization or assimilation of the external that mind becomes and is mind.- If we consider mind more closely, we find that the first and simplest determination of it is that it is I. I is something perfectly simple, universal. When we say I, we indeed mean an individual; but since everyone is I, we thereby say only something entirely universal. The universality of the I enables it to abstract from everything, even from its life. But the mind is not merely this abstractly simple counterpart to light, which is how it was regarded when they talked about the simplicity of the soul in contrast to the complexity of the body; on the contrary, in spite of its simplicity the mind is differentiated within itself, for I posits itself over against itself, makes itself its own object and returns from this difference, which is, of course, at first abstract, not yet concrete difference, to unity with itself. This being-together-with-itself of the I in its differentiation is the infinity or ideality of the I. But this ideality authenticates itself only in the relation of the I to the infinitely manifold material confronting it. When the I grasps it, this material is at once poisoned and transfigured by the universality of the I, loses its individualized, independent subsistence and receives a spiritual reality. The mind is therefore far from being forced out of its simplicity, its being-together-with-itself, by the infinite multiplicity of its representations, into a spatial asunderness; on the contrary, its simple self, in undimmed clarity, pervades this multiplicity through and through and does not let it reach an independent subsistence’.

- ‘Philosophy of Nature’

Anthropologically it is this definition that is the most important.

‘Nowhere else is it of such essential importance for our understanding to keep hold of the determination of ideality as it is in the case of the soul and still more of the mind. Ideality is the negation of the real, but the real is also stored up, virtually retained, although it does not exist. It is this determination that we have before us in respect of representations, memory. Every individual is an infinite treasury of sensation-determinations, representations, information, thoughts, etc.; yet I am for all that an entirely simple entity, -a cavern without determinations, in which all this is stored up, without existing. It is only when I recall one representation, that I bring it out of that interior to existence, before consciousness. Sometimes, in sickness, representations or information, supposed to have been forgotten years ago, because for all that time they have not been brought into consciousness, once more come to light. They were not in our possession, nor perhaps by such reproduction as occurs in sickness do they for the future come into our possession; and yet they were in us and remain in us from now on. Thus a person can never know how much information he really has in him, even if he has forgotten it. It belongs not to his actuality, not to his subjectivity as such, but only to his implicit being. The individuality is and remains this simple inwardness, amidst all the determinacy and mediation of consciousness that is later installed in it. Here we must keep in mind that the soul to which this simplicity belongs is at first the feeling soul, in which bodiliness is contained, and we must resist the idea suggested by consciousness and the intellect, that this bodiliness is a materiality outside the soul and with its parts external to each other. Just as the number and variety of representations does not establish an asunderness and real plurality in the I, so the real apartness of bodiliness has no truth for the feeling soul. As sentient, the soul is determined immediately, and so in a natural and bodily way, but this asunderness and sensory multiplicity of the bodily does not count for the soul, any more than it does for the concept, as anything real, or therefore as a barrier. The soul is the existent concept, the existence of the speculative. Thus in the bodily the soul is simple, omnipresent unity. For representation the body is one representation, and the infinite variety of its material structure and organization has won through to the simplicity of a determinate concept; similarly in the feeling soul, bodiliness, and all the asunderness that belongs to its sphere, is reduced to ideality, to the truth of the natural multiplicity. The soul is in itself the totality of nature, as an individual soul it is a monad; it is itself the posited totality of its particular world, so that this world is included in it, its fulfilment; in relating to this world it relates only to itself’.

- ‘Philosophy of Mind’

Hence it turns out that the entire logic of the anthropology from the world soul and natural soul to the actual soul and the transition to consciousness turns out to be a logic of idealization and upon hearing the word idealization we are inclined to associate it with something abstract or incorporeal nonetheless that would be the opposite of what Hegel means by the term as for him idealization starts once there is a body singled out from the flesh of the world, negation, continues to operate around, in the milieu of, assimilation, from within (Verleiblichung), and into the body (Erinnerung), and leads to an individual embodied world, individuation, a spiritually structured body that is the anthropological subject, subjectivation.

Hegel plays upon the German word Erinnerung usually translated as recollection breaking it down into Er-innerung, internalization. In this Er-innerung the particular sensation in question is negated so that according to the way Hegel wants us to understand negation it is virtually preserved or virtually retained even if it does not exist. It is virtually preserved in the sense that there is always a virtual possibility that it might be produced again, it has become assimilated and therefore no longer exists independently other than inside the soul or on the contrary it is yet to exist, to be brought forth from within the soul.

At the culmination of the Logic stands the notion of habit or second nature logically followed by the birth of consciousness and the external nature which Spirit begins to cognize and this will turn out to be instrumental in the anthropology’s importance for Naturphilosophie.

The anthropological logic may be briefly outlined thus. It is the assimilatory aspect of idealization that is the most significant, idealization as Spirit’s revolt against the immobility of the Earth is simultaneously a transformation of the earth and all idealization starts off as a saltus, an emergence on the surface of the world body which immediately begins assimilating the area that surrounds it, constructing itself as it endeavours to retain itself so as not to get lost within the flesh of the world again and even place itself at the centre. It is in this sense that one speaks of idealization or assimilation (Idealisierung oder Assimilation). Nonetheless this is not an assimilation to anything pre-determined rather it is a transformation that determines the form as well as the content of its operative agent itself, a construction of a new world that is simultaneously a self-formation towards a new kind of subjectivity.

Neither is it a purely metaphorical assimilation but it is on the contrary the agent’s body and its material power that allows it to appropriate and construct its surroundings and whatever a newborn soul touches becomes part of itself, and vice versa, it defines its individuality by the totality, Totalität, of the things it touches or digests, the things it fills itself with (Erfüllung made actual, posited as a process of subjectivity — ‘Es ist darum zu tun, daß es seine Substantialität, die nur an sich seiende Erfüllung als Subjektivität setzt’.

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

- ‘Philosophy of Mind’

The soul does not simply consume what it is offered, it is always in the process of re-producing its own world, the positing of nature as its, that is, Geist’s, own world.

‘Revelation, as the revelation of the abstract Idea, is the unmediated transition, the becoming, of nature. As the revelation of mind, which is free, it is the positing of nature as its world; but because this positing is reflection, it is at the same time the presupposition of the world as independent nature. Revelation in the concept is creation of nature as its being, in which the mind procures the affirmation and truth of its freedom’.

- ‘Philosophy of Mind’

Sundered from the world body a soul has to construct for itself an individual world, individuelle Welt.

‘All the same, the concrete self-feeling of even the strongest natures requires a certain range of external relationships, an adequate piece, so to speak, of universe; for without such an individual world the human soul, as we have said, would have no actuality at all, would not attain to a determinately distinct individuality.? But the human soul does not merely have natural differences, it differentiates itself within itself, separates its substantial totality, its individual world, from itself, sets this over against itself as the subjective. Its aim here is that what the mind is in itself should become for the soul or for the mind,- that the cosmos contained, in itself, within the mind should enter into mind’s consciousness. But as we have likewise already noted, at the standpoint of soul, of the not yet free mind, there is no place for objective consciousness, for awareness of the world as a world actually projected out of myself. The feeling soul communes merely with its internal determinations. The opposition between itself and that which is for it, remains still enclosed within it. Only when the soul has negatively posited the manifold, immediate content of its individual world, made it into a simple entity, into an abstract universal, hence only when a pure universal is for the universality of the soul and the soul has in this way developed into the I that is for itself, its own object, into this self-related perfect universal (a development which the soul as such still lacks) , only then, after reaching this goal, does the soul emerge from its subjective feeling to genuinely objective consciousness; for it is only the I that is for itself, liberated, at least in an abstract way initially, from immediate material, that also allows the material the freedom of subsistence outside the I. What we have therefore to consider up to the attainment of this goal, is the struggle for liberation which the soul has to wage against the immediacy of its substantial content in order to become completely in control of itself and corresponding to its concept, — to make itself into what it is in itself or by its concept, namely, into that self-related, simple subjectivity existing in the I. The elevation to this level of development displays a sequence of three stages which can here be indicated schematically in advance’.

- ‘Philosophy of Mind’

An individual world constructed by means of the double movement of idealization in which it appropriates and assembles itself from just as it gives itself away to and imposes itself on the surroundings and in this manner idealization as assimilation defines itself as sensation, Empfindung. Idealization is an exchange between the soul-body and its environment in which an inner space of the individual world is being constructed and the exteriority of the originary real is being sublated, sublation here being another term for assimilation.

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

- ‘Philosophy of Mind’

This exchange goes both ways from within the soul-body as well as towards and into it, designated as Verleiblichung and Erinnerung respectively.

‘What the sentient soul finds within itself is, on the one hand, the natural and immediate, as within the soul ideally and made its own. On the other hand, and conversely, what originally belongs to being-for-self (i.e. to what is, when further deepened and absorbed in itself, free mind and the I of consciousness) is determined to natural bodiliness, and is thus sensed. In this way two distinct spheres of sensation emerge. One type of sensation is at first a determination of bodiliness (e.g. of the eye or of any physical part whatever), which becomes sensation by being driven inward, recollected in the soul’s being-for-self. The other is the sphere of determinacies originating in the mind and belonging to it, which, in order to be sensed, in order to be as if found, become embodied. Thus the determinacy is posited in the subject, namely in the soul. The subdivision into species of the first type of sensation is seen in the system of the senses. The other, inwardly originated, determinacies of sensation necessarily also form a system; and their embodiment, as posited in the living, concretely developed natural structure, takes place in a particular system or organ of the body, corresponding to the particular content of the mental determination’.

- ‘Philosophy of Mind’

‘Memories’, 1891, Erik Theodor Werenskiold

On the one hand the soul can reach out to and idealize that is, negate or retain a particular immediate, that is, given sensation, relate it to itself and make it internal (innerlich gemacht), place it inside itself (Erinnerung) as yet another building block of its inner world while on the other the soul can reach inside its Fürsichsein, the soul’s innerness, always under construction, for a particular feeling, a memory of or a reaction to a sensation including such reactions as anger, shame, laughter or tears, that it produces and enacts in its body or surroundings (Verleiblichung). ‘Pure corporeality is not sensation; it must erinnern itself, and vice versa, the purely inner must verleiblichen itself’, Hegel said in the ‘Lectures on the Philosophy of Spirit’. Whatever comes from within the soul must be verleiblicht so that the soul can sense or discover it ‘in order to be sensed, this content must be verleiblicht’, it must become a part of the soul-body and its surroundings that are thereby influenced and transformed and this transformation goes both ways because not just Verleiblichung but Erinnerung also involves an appropriation of the natural aspect of the soul’s environment in order that the inner becomes the outer and the outer becomes the inner in a circular dynamic of their mutual constitution and in the double movement of Verleiblichung and Erinnerung, the natural is idealized towards the posited totality of its, that is, the soul’s particular world that includes both the inner world of the soul’s being-for-itself (Fürsichsein) and the outer world of its surroundings so that the soul does not distinguish what rises from within itself and what comes to it from without ‘so that we have the unity of the inner and the outer, i.e. sensation’. (Lectures’).

‘The soul is the existent concept, the existence of the speculative. Thus in the bodily the soul is simple, omnipresent unity. For representation the body is one representation, and the infinite variety of its material structure and organization has won through to the simplicity of a determinate concept; similarly in the feeling soul, bodiliness, and all the asunderness that belongs to its sphere, is reduced to ideality, to the truth of the natural multiplicity. The soul is in itself the totality of nature, as an individual soul it is a monad; it is itself the posited totality of its particular world, so that this world is included in it, its fulfilment; in relating to this world it relates only to itself’.

- ‘Philosophy of Mind’

Both belong equally to the world that spirit feels is its own and the movement of constant repetition and reaffirmation of the soul, the reciprocal constitution of the individual world, does not as yet create a distinction between subject and object, between the inner world and the external world of nature, which first appears in consciousness. ‘It should be noted that there is yet no distinction between subject and object in sensation, which first has its place in consciousness’. (‘Lectures’). At most, it may be said to draw a conceptual line between the form of the soul’s activity as subjectivity of sensation and the content of the individual world that this activity constructs which however bodily coincide, the activity in question is the process of sensation or feeling which can only be bodily) and co-constitute each other.

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

- ‘Philosophy of Mind’

We can identify within the logic of the anthropological idealization the constitution of individuality and the constitution of subjectivity and the idealization at work in Hegelian anthropology produces by virtue of its very structure an individual world to which the soul-body relates as to its own. Anthropologically idealization is at the same time individuation that starts at the very beginning of the anthropology, it is our body that makes us individual right from the outset, even logically prior to the activity of sensation, and unfolds until its very end up to the actual soul as ‘das bei sich festgewordene Individuum’ and it is only through such an individuation that Geist becomes for itself and the originary real becomes idealized …….

‘But in truth, the finitude of mind must not be regarded as a fixed determination, but must be recognized as a mere moment; for as we have already said, mind is essentially the Idea in the form of ideality, i.e. in the form of the negatedness of the finite. In mind, therefore, the finite has only the meaning of something sublated, not of a being. Accordingly, the authentic quality of the mind is rather genuine infinity, that is, the infinity which does not one-sidedly stand over against the finite but contains the finite within itself as a moment. It is, therefore, an empty expression, if one says: ‘There are finite minds.’ Mind as mind is not finite, it has finitude within itself, but only as a finitude which is to be, and has been, sublated.6 The genuine definition of finitude-this is not the place for a more detailed discussion of it-must be stated thus: the finite is a reality that is not adequate to its concept. Thus the sun is a finite entity, for it cannot be thought without an Other, since the reality of its concept comprises not merely the sun itself but the entire solar system. Indeed, the whole solar system is a finite entity, because every heavenly body in it has the semblance of independence of the others; consequently this whole reality does not as yet correspond to it􀅌 concept, does not yet exhibit the same ideality which is the essence of the concept. It is only the reality of mind that is itself ideality, only in mind therefore does absolute unity of concept and reality occur, and hence genuine infinity.? The very fact that we are aware of a limitation is proof that we are beyond it, proof of our unlimitedness’.

- ‘Philosophy of Mind’

… and it is this process that Hegel has in mind so to speak when speaking of the soul as a microcosm into which the macrocosm of nature is contracted (compressed, zusammendrängt), thereby losing its exteriority.

‘The soul, when contrasted with the macrocosm of nature a s a whole, can be described as the microcosm into which the macrocosm compresses itself and thereby sublates its asunderness. Accordingly the same determinations which in outer nature appear as freely disengaged spheres, as a series of independent shapes, are in the soul demoted to mere qualities. The soul stands midway between the nature which lies behind it, on the one hand, and the world of ethical freedom which extricates itself from natural mind, on the other hand. The simple determinations of soul-life have their dispersed counterpart in the universal life of nature; similarly, that which in the individual man has the form of subjectivity, of a particular urge, and is within him unconsciously, as simply something he is, unfolds in the political state into a system of distinct spheres of freedom, into a world created by self-conscious human reason’.

- ‘Philosophy of Mind’

By virtue of this contraction carried out by the activity of sensation a soul appropriates the nature that surrounds it into its own individual world while at the same time the cycle of idealization as Verleiblichung and Erinnerung also leads to the emergence of a distinct type of subjectivity proper to this anthropological individuality, the ‘Subjektivität des Empfindens’ (see above). the subjectivity of self-feeling.

‘The feeling totality, as individuality, is essentially this: distinguishing itself within itself, and awakening to the judgement within itself, in virtue of which it has particular feelings and stands as a subject in respect of these determinations of itself. The subject as such posits them within itself as its feelings. It is immersed in this particularity of sensations, and at the same time, through the ideality of the particular, in them it joins together with itself as a subjective unit. In this way it is self-feeling, -and yet it is this only in the particular feeling’.

- ‘Philosophy of Mind’

The more a soul-body initially just a singular area of the world body a non-natural body captivated by the natural world appropriates its environment and bodily operations the more it at once gathers itself focusing itself into a simple point from which it can reach the entire circumference of its individual world and which contains, in a wrapped up (eingehüllte — Lectures) or virtual manner, as the subject and central point (Mittelpunkt) of all determinations of content the totality of the world that it has sensed and thereby idealized.

‘… we must note that the distinction between external and internal sensations … is only for us, i.e., is for the reflecting consciousness, and is definitely not for the soul itself. The simple unity of the soul, its serene ideality, does not yet grasp itself in its distinction from an external reality. But though the soul has not yet any consciousness of this its ideal nature, it is none the less the ideality or negativity of all the various kinds of sensations, each of which in the soul seems to be for itself and indifferent to the others. Just as objectivity displays itself to our intuition not as something separated out into different aspects, but as a concrete divided into distinct objects, each of which is in turn for itself a concrete, a complex of the most diverse determinations, so the soul itself is a totality of infinitely many distinct determinacies which in the soul unite into one, so that in them the soul remains, in itself, infinite being-for-itself. In this totality or ideality, in the timeless, undifferentiated interior of the soul, the sensations which crowd each other out do not, however, vanish absolutely without trace, but remain in the soul as sublated, obtain in it their subsistence, as an initially merely possible content, which only advances from its possibility to actuality by becoming for the soul or by the soul’s becoming for itself in it. Thus the soul retains the content of sensation, even if not for itself, yet within itself’.

- ‘Philosophy of mind’

It is this subjectivity that transforms the dark primordial flesh of the world or the elusive nature-as-it-is into something structured and spiritual at the same time idealization is also a progress of the subject’s power over the world body and therefore the continuation of the original revolutionary struggle. ‘The individual takes his sensation back to himself’ (‘Lectures’) gathers it into himself as the point of self-feeling that exists in itself and in every singular sensation alike and being a subjectivity self-feeling must also have a form of knowledge appropriate to itself and this form of knowledge is sensation. Geist is knowledge in all its various forms and the soul is a form of Geist and in sensation the soul advances to the actual singularity that is for itself ( für sich).

‘Soul has thus progressed from merely universal individuality, which is only in itself, to actual individuality that is for itself; and in doing this it has progressed to sensation. Initially, we have to deal here only with the form of sensing. What the soul senses is to be specified only in the second part of Anthropology. The transition to this part is formed by the expansion of sensation within itself to the boding soul’.

- ‘Philosophy of Mind’

That is to say, in sensation the soul advances to knowledge which is the foundation of all further conscious knowledge and the soul is and will remain individuality throughout the entire determination and mediation of consciousness which will be later posited within it.

‘… a person can never know how much information he really has in him, even if he has forgotten it. It belongs not to his actuality, not to his subjectivity as such, but only to his implicit being. The individuality is and remains this simple inwardness, amidst all the determinacy and mediation of consciousness that is later installed in it. Here we must keep in mind that the soul to which this simplicity belongs is at first the feeling soul, in which bodiliness is contained, and we must resist the idea suggested by consciousness and the intellect, that this bodiliness is a materiality outside the soul and with its parts external to each other. Just as the number and variety of representations does not establish an asunderness and real plurality in the I, so the real apartness of bodiliness has no truth for the feeling soul. As sentient, the soul is determined immediately, and so in a natural and bodily way, but this asunderness and sensory multiplicity of the bodily does not count for the soul, any more than it does for the concept, as anything real, or therefore as a barrier. The soul is the existent concept, the existence of the speculative. Thus in the bodily the soul is simple, omnipresent unity. For representation the body is one representation, and the infinite variety of its material structure and organization has won through to the simplicity of a determinate concept; similarly in the feeling soul, bodiliness, and all the asunderness that belongs to its sphere, is reduced to ideality, to the truth of the natural multiplicity. The soul is in itself the totality of nature, as an individual soul it is a monad; it is itself the posited totality of its particular world, so that this world is included in it, its fulfilment; in relating to this world it relates only to itself’.

- ‘Philosophy of Mind’

Of course, this knowledge is not yet Wissen, scientific knowledge, and the kind of familiarity with nature that it gives is not yet conceptually structured nonetheless it is significant that the knowledge produced by sensation is already mediated not immediate, as well as that, as a subjectivity, the soul feels not only the individual but also the universal, that is, the unified totality of the idealized world. The knowledge that corresponds to this (active, not passive) subjectivity is mediated through the structure of sensation as Verleiblichung-Erinnerung. Hence the knowledge proper to the non-subject of Selbstgefül is not dependent on the immediate sensuous present.

‘… what is sensed has essentially the form of immediacy, of a mere being, no matter whether it stems from the free mind or from the sensory world. The idealization that the things of external nature undergo in being sensed is a still entirely superficial idealization, far removed from the complete sublation of the immediacy of this content. But the mental material, in itself opposed to this content that just is, becomes in the sentient soul an existent in the mode of immediacy. Now since what is unmediated is an individualized item, everything sensed has the form of individualization’.

- ‘Philosophy of Mind’

However in contrast to the knowledge proper to consciousness the subject of sensation never separates itself from what it feels, it is the kind of knowledge that never loses contact with what it knows, being the determinacy of my entire Fürsichsein.

‘Everything is in sensation, and, if you like, everything that emerges in the conscious mind and in reason has its source and origin in sensation; for source and origin just mean the first, most immediate manner in which something appears. It is not enough, they say, to have principles, religion, etc. only in the head: they must also be in the heart, in sentiment. In fact, what we thus have in the head is in consciousness in general and the content is an object of consciousness. So that although the content is posited in me, in the abstract I, it can equally be kept at a distance from me, from my concrete subjectivity. In sentiment, by contrast, such a content is determinacy of my entire being-for-self, dull as it is in such a form; it is thus posited as something of my very own. What is my own is something unseparated from the actual concrete I, and this immediate unity of the soul with its substance and with the determinate content of the substance is just this unseparatedness, in so far as it is not determined as far as the I of consciousness, still less to the freedom of the mind’s rationality’.

- ‘Philosophy of Mind’

Consequently sensation cannot serve as the basis for the philosophy of Nature whereas consciousness as it happens can.

Omnibus (erinnerung). Omnibus (memory). Adolph Friedrich Erdmann von Menzel

It seems to be a contradiction that the universal can be sensed and this contradiction is however resolved by the fact that this kind of felt universal has the kind of content that has not yet been developed by the subject to the point of division between the universal and the singular, the subjective and the objective and from this standpoint, I am what I sense, and I sense what I am.

‘Now the soul that feels or glimpses itself in its totality and universality and which we have now to consider in the second pan of Anthropology, stands in the middle between representing consciousness on the one hand, and immediate sensation on the other. That the universal is sensed seems a contradiction; for sensation as such has, as we know, only what is individual for its content. But this contradiction does not affect what we call the feeling soul; for this is neither involved in immediate sensory sensation and dependent on immediate, sensory presence, nor, conversely, is it related to the pure universal which is to be grasped only through the mediation of pure thinking, but rather has a content that has not yet developed as far as the separation of the universal and the individual, the subjective and the objective. At this standpoint, what I sense, I am, and what I am, I sense. I am here immediately present in the content, which only subsequently, when I become objective consciousness, appears to me as a self-dependent world confronting me. This content is still related to the feeling soul as accidents to substance; the soul still appears as the subject and centre of all determinations of content, as the power which in an immediate way reigns over the world of feeling’.

- ‘Philosophy of Mind’

Nature at this juncture is already indistinguishable from Spirit and understanding sensation as an active and not just passive form of knowledge with a distinct kind of structure and a distinct kind of subjectivity is not just another radical anthropological undergone by Hegel’s part but rather it in addition proves significant for the possibility of Naturphilosophie, that is to say, it renders evident that even the first form of spirit’s knowledge, that is, sensation, produces not knowledge of nature as it is but nature as cognized by this pre-reflective form of Spirit. Even in sensation which already implies a structured subjectivity access is blocked to the originary nature from which Spirit rebels at the beginning of the anthropology and that is why the anthropology not only fills but also maintains the revolutionary gap between Nature and Spirit.

Two natures. The anthropological process of idealization culminates for Hegel in two things, habit and consciousness whereby habit is its logical conclusion, idealization as developed to the fullest, while consciousness is its telos and both are the highest pinnacle of Spirit’s abstraction from Nature leading in its turn to spirit’s abstraction from itself. Habit is corporeity reduced to its pure ideality.

‘This abstract being-for-self of the soul in its bodiliness is not yet I, not the existence of the universal that is for the universal. It is bodiliness reduced to its pure ideality, and bodiliness thus pertains to the soul as such. That is, just as space and time as abstract asunderness, as, therefore, empty space and empty time, are only subjective forms, pure intuition; so that pure being, which, owing to the sublation in it of the particularity of bodiliness, i.e. of immediate bodiliness as such, is being-for-self, is the entirely pure intuition, unconscious, but the foundation of consciousness. It proceeds within itself to consciousness, since it has sublated within itself the bodiliness, of which it is the subjective substance, and which is still for it and constitutes a barrier. And thus it is posited as a subject for itself’.

- ‘Philosophy of Mind’

In habit the soul is in possession of its content and contains it within itself in such a way that within these determinations of content it does not act as sensing, does not distinguish itself from them in relation to them nor is engulfed in them, but moves freely within them. Habit makes the soul indifferent to these determinations and therefore free of them ….

‘That the soul thus makes itself into abstract universal being, and reduces the particularity of feelings (of consciousness too) to a determination in it that just is, is habit. In this way the soul has the content in possession, and contains it in such a way that in such determinations it is not actually sentient, it does not stand in relationship to them by distinguishing itself from them, nor is it absorbed in them, but it has them in itself and moves in them, without sensation or consciousness. The soul is free of them, in so far as it is not interested in or occupied with them; while it exists in these forms as its possessions, it is at the same time open to other activity and occupations, in the sphere of sensation and the mind’s consciousness in general. This self-incorporation of the particularity or bodiliness of the determinations of feeling into the being of the soul appears as a repetition of them, and the production of habit appears as practice. For, since this being is, in relation to the natural-particular material that is put into this form, abstract universality, it is universality of reflexion (§ 175): one and the same item, as an external plurality of sensation, is reduced to its unity, and this abstract unity is posited’.

- ‘Philosophy of Mind’

… so that the anthropological subject does not get stuck in any particular determination anymore. Just like the subjectivity of Selbstgefühl, habit has the structure of a repetition it comes as no surprise then that Hegel calls habit the mechanism of self-feeling (I don’t mind indulging in a bit of self-feeling myself when the need takes me though I try not to make a habit of it).

‘Habit, like memory, is a hard point in organization of the mind; habit is the mechanism of self-feeling, as memory is the mechanism of intelligence. The natural qualities and alterations of age, of sleeping and waking, are immediately natural; habit is the determinacy of feeling (as well as of intelligence, will, etc., in so far as they belong to self-feeling) made into something that is natural, mechanical. Habit has rightly been called a second nature: nature, because it is an immediate being of the soul, a second nature, because it is an immediacy posited by the soul, incorporating and moulding the bodiliness that pertains to the determinations of feeling as such and to the determinacies of representation and of the will in so far as they are embodied (§401 )’.

- ‘Philosophy of Mind’

Whereas the repetition characteristic of Selbstgefühl consisted in the structured re-production of individuality and the individual world habit is the next step in this anthropological idealization an anti-individual repetition intended to eliminate all possibility of self-feeling getting lost in anything particular and to open it up to a universal spiritual world, and here the transformation of the world body into spiritual subjectivity has reached the point of indifference towards the real in contrast to the initial revolt against it. Instead of ‘cultivating the real so that it is once more able to enter into a relation of indifference with the ideal’, as Daniel Whistler put it, 2013, 219), as Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling, (1775–1854), does, Hegel opts for cultivation of the revolutionary ideal to a point of its becoming indifferent to the originary real not only in habit but also in the subject-object structure of consciousness and in the philosophy of nature which builds upon the former.

It is owing to habit that the soul is open for further activity and engagement, open for sensation as well as for consciousness. Somewhat paradoxically this universalization goes through the anthropological individualization, both encompassed under the term idealization, an assimilation of the world which leads to its spiritualization so that it may be cognizable and the highest form of this spiritualization is the actual soul, the fully formed individual subject ready to become the subject of knowledge and in habit, spirit establishes a second nature ….

‘In habit man’s mode o f existence i s natural, and for that reason h e is unfree in it; but he is free in so far as the natural determinacy of sensation is by habit reduced to his mere being, he is no longer different from it, is indifferent to it, and so no longer interested, engaged, or dependent with respect to it. The unfreedom in habit is partly just formal, pertaining only to the being of the soul; partly only relative, in so far as it really arises only in the case of bad habits, or in so far as a habit is opposed by another purpose; the habit of right in general, of the ethical, has the content of freedom’.

- ‘Philosophy of Mind’

… a second nature that has fully separated itself from and against the world body that we may designate the first nature from which the anthropology rebelled and this separation of second nature from the first continues in the transition from soul to consciousness, that is to say from the anthropology to the phenomenology. And the next step after idealizing the body is to idealize the soul, that is to say negate it or abstract from it and in this idealization consciousness begins relating to the world that the soul has idealized as to something external, the I excludes the totality of the soul and turns it into an object that it relates to as to an external” world asserting itself as an empty and pure subject.

‘In itse[f matter has no truth within the soul; the soul, since it is for itself, cuts itself off from its immediate being, and places this being over against itself as bodiliness, which can offer no resistance to the soul’s incorporation into it. The soul, which has set its being in opposition to itself, sublated it and determined it as its own, has lost the meaning of souL, of the immediacy of mind. The actual soul in the habit of sensation and of its concrete self-feeling is in itself the ideality of its determinacies, an ideality that is for itself; in its externality it is recollected into itself, and is infinite relation to itself. This being-for-self of free universality is the soul’s higher awakening to the I, to abstract universality in so far as it is for abstract universality, which is thus thinking and subject for itself, and in fact determinately subject of its judgement in which the I excludes from itself the natural totality of its determinations as an object, as a world external to it, and relates itself to that world so that in it it is immediately reflected into itself: conciousness’.

- ‘Philosophy of Mind’

The pure abstract freedom for itself releases its determinacy the natural life of the soul, as similarly free, as an independent object, and it is this object as external to it that the I knows in the first place, thereby becoming consciousness. In the anthropology Spirit was as one with its world, assimilated it without differentiating between the inside and the outside, in the phenomenology Spirit separates the anthropologically idealized world from itself becoming a subject which has the external world of nature as its object.

‘Consciousness constitutes the stage of the mind’s reflexion or relationship, of mind as appearance. I is the infinite relation of mind to itself, but as subjective relation, as certainty of itself, the immediate identity of the natural soul has been raised to this pure ideal self-identity; the content of the natural soul is object for this reflection that is for itself. Pure abstract freedom for itself discharges from itself its determinacy, the soul’s natural life, to an equal freedom as an independent object. It is of this object, as external to it, that I is initially aware, and is thus consciousness. I, as this absolute negativity, is implicitly identity in otherness; I is itself and extends over the object as an object implicitly sublated, I is one side of the relationship and the whole relationship- the light, that manifests itself and an Other too’.

- ‘Philosophy of Mind’

Whereas the anthropological logic of idealization was that of internalization the phenomenology starts off on the contrary with an act of externalization and consciousness is born as soon as the soul begins to consider the content of sensation as something belonging not to itself but to a nature that is outside and other to spirit. Formerly Geist was sightless and lacking in capability of separating itself from its world: ‘I am what I sense, and I sense what I am’ and now it can distance itself from the natural world and hence can start to think it through. The natural world it can cognize from this point is not nonetheless nature-as-it-is but nature-as-spirit, the phenomenological division proceeds from within the soul and thereby from the idealized spiritual nature, the second nature that has arrived at its pinnacle in habit. As a for-itself the anthropological subjectivity having started from immediacy and indistinction now ‘exists for itself in distinction from other [things that surround it’ (‘Lectures’), it is on this that the phenomenology builds and from a metaphorical point of view this process is described in terms of the soul excluding its own content, that is to say, the felt world of the anthropology, and positing it outside itself, transforming it into an external world and thereby becoming the I of consciousness, and it is here that cognizability has finally been attained and now Spirit can approach its own world conceptually that forms the basis for the philosophy of Nature (yes I haven’t forgotten that that is my theme, I will get on to the philosophy of Mind once I am done with the philosophy of Nature). ‘[The soul] freely releases its immediacy from within itself…and this excluded external is in its totality the world’, (‘Lectures’) and it is for that reason that the transition from the anthropology to the phenomenology is designated an ‘act of creation’ (‘Lectures’), it creates the external nature as cognized by Spirit, the spiritual nature as distinct from the primordial nature-as-the-real from out of the depths of which the human soul emerged.

Klaus Schulze — ‘Dreams:


‘This totality — the soul — is the content of that which is contained in the consciousness of the I’ (‘Lectures’). Spirit is capable of immanently loving nature approaching it geistig liebend since the Nature that it loves is already immanently defined by Spirit in the course of the anthropology and the Naturphilosophie being already grounded in the philosophy of Spirit has the third volume of the Encyclopedia for its presupposition for there can be no philosophy of Nature prior to that moment albeit there can be a nature without the human but not a philosophy of Nature. The nature-as-we-know-it is the human soul brought outside itself so that our relation to nature is in its origin our relation to our own soul. And the natural ‘is external, but on the other hand I am it’ (‘Lectures’). In fact there are not merely two but three natures, the first being nature as the world body from which Spirit rebels, the second being human nature culminating in habit, the third whereby Nature is the subject matter of the ‘Philosophy of Nature’ that has its origin in the transition from the anthropology to the phenomenology.

To put it another way the spiritual nature is sundered into two, into human nature and external nature as cognized by consciousness, and as the development from habit to consciousness in the philosophy of subjective Spirit shows these two natures are continuous between themselves but not with the Nature from which Geist proceeds in the revolutionary saltus. Nature-as-it-is cannot as such serve as proper subject for the philosophy of Nature since the latter deals only with nature-as-it-is-explicated-by-Spirit. And that is the reason for after the suggestion that a true philosophy of Nature would approach Nature geistig liebend Hegel adds that ‘the highest foundation of such a study of nature lies within the human’, (‘Lectures’).

Which is to say that the philosophy of Nature’s nature is that which consciousness sees or creates when it looks back at its own origin but Spirit loves Nature not as the origin from which it comes but as the revolutionary reshaping of the origin that it undertakes so that Nature’s otherness becomes here its otherness to itself, a gap between the two natures, the nature-as-origin and the nature-as-Spirit, the latter posited as the new” world of nature (new creation) which displaces the old and traditionally Nature’s otherness-to-itself in Hegel has been understood to mean its scatteredness and blind contingency which is not wrong yet there is also a deeper meaning to it, Nature’s otherness to itself, its alienation from itself points to the gap between nature-as-origin and nature-as-spirit and this otherness is not a beyond it is an immanent endeavour by Spirit to reconstruct its own origin.

Therefore the two natures and not merely one, and therefore why the relationship between these two natures is not a dualism in the traditional sense, not a dualism within the system at least and mayhap not even a dualism at all and at the same time because there is no dualism between them this is also why the overcoming of the Cartesian subject-object divide in the phenomenology is highly significantly for the possibility of the true philosophy of Nature. The transition from soul to consciousness indicates the commencement of Naturphilosophie yet at the same time it is merely that, a start, the phenomenological consciousness, the I, is at first completely abstract, the soul has transformed itself by means of abstracting from itself and hence cannot yet approach nature spiritually in the complete sense. Consciousness does not yet know that the object is in itself identical to spirit and it is only through a self-division of spirit that it is seen as fully independent.

‘The negativity which the wholly abstract I, or mere consciousness, exerts on its Other is a still thoroughly indeterminate, superficial, not an absolute negativity. Consequently, at this standpoint there arises the contradiction that the object is, on the one hand, within me, and on the other hand, has an independent status outside me, like the darkness outside the light. To consciousness the object appears not as an object posited by the I, but as an immediate, given object that just is; for consciousness does not yet know that the object is in itself identical with the mind and is released to seemingly complete independence only by a self-division of the mind. That this is so, only we know, we who have got as far as the Idea of mind and have therefore risen above the abstract, formal identity of the l’.

- ‘Philosophy of Mind’

The second nature is born first in habit and then in the transition from the anthropology to the phenomenology coinciding with the birth of consciousness but in order for nature’s otherness to be overcome the subject-object divide must be overcome also and the logic of the phenomenology is nothing other than that of spirit’s progressive knowledge of the external world and the latter’s transformation into something philosophical, and logically prior to the phenomenology however no philosophy of Nature is possible and in a particular onto-anthropological sense the human does not proceed from the natural but rather the natural proceeds from the human and there can be no philosophical knowledge of nature-in- the-first-instance or nature-as-origin but only nature-in-the-last-instance or nature-as-Spirit.

‘Childhood Memory’, 1892, Edvard Munch

And so to the idealizational climax. Owing to the anthropological idealization Spirit has its own assimilated world or even a multitude of such worlds just as there are a multitude of individual souls and it is not merely that Spirit does not require the first nature, the world body, anymore, for to say so would simplify the logic that results from such an anthropological reading of Hegel’s philosophy of Nature. Spirit has no need to go back to the world body if it wants to have a valid Naturphilosophie but it does so in a rather peculiar way which is to say that the Schellingian real is rendered redundant since the soul splits up from the world body as part of the world body and the anthropological idealization rebels against the real by transforming it from the inside, this is ‘freedom from and within the natural’, (‘Lectures’), and this rebellion establishes the anthropology’s importance as both the point of contact with the world body and that of its assimilation by the soul’s being-for-itself and as consequence the soul still bears the real inside itself even as it revolutionarily transforms it and most significantly it is hence only with itself and not with the originary real that it feels bound to join back.

Even the materiality of Nature is only cognizable hence through the materiality of Geist, that is to say sensation as property of the soul-body, and so the stress upon gnōthi seauton. Γνῶθι σαυτόν. know thyself, that is there throughout Hegel’s philosophy and so in addition the significant idealized character of the philosophy of Spirit and as a consequence Hegel’s philosophy of Nature too. The conceptual genesis of the Absolute in the Encyclopedia necessitates the reverse movement of the real from the third volume of the Encyclopedia to the second, and in a significant sense the philosophy of Spirit starts from nowhere, nature-as-it-is remains a non-place within the system, one from which the human rebels and which it no longer theorizes as such.

The entirety of the anthropology and the phenomenology is Spirit’s endeavour to idealize or assimilate the originary non-place to come to grips and join back with the real not the real as it is but the real as already assimilated by Spirit. Catherine Malabou has spoken of, in a somewhat different sense, of Spirit’s reduplication of Nature in Hegel’s anthropology and what is at stake here is something more than a reduplication; it is in essence a joining back as a replacement. With regard to the gap between Nature and Spirit albeit the logic of the philosophy of Nature presents an endeavour to lead up to the human through the animal soul it never in actual fact achieves that goal, the animal soul is entirely ensnared in the endless digestive-reproductive cycle, the animal’s unity with the genus being the highest that is available to it.

‘In that it is alive, the shape is essentially a process. As such it is indeed abstract, and is the process of formation within itself, in which the organism converts its own members into its inorganic nature, or into means, consuming itself, and producing itself as precisely this totality of members. In this process each member is interchangeably both end and means, and maintains itself by virtue of the other members, and in opposition to them. The result of this process is simple and immediate sentience’.

- ‘Philosophy of Nature’

‘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’

Considered as reduplication it is not so much as Malabou contends Spirit that reduplicates nature, it is the philosophy of Nature’s nature that is a reduplication of Spirit and as Spirit and Geist strives to replace the first-order idealization of the real with a new spiritual nature and to take it under control but because the first nature remains non-theorizable as such the gap cannot be fully closed and Spirit’s rebellious project itself remains an idealization. This sort of idealized character of the system also implicates significant political and theological consequences as it happens. And so the philosophy of Nature cannot be laid out as if observed through the eyes of the pre-Incarnational God which is to say prior to the human and the anthropological endowing additional meaning to the characterization of Nature as other to the Logic, that is to say to God the Father.

Within this this perspective the philosophy of Spirit may be seen as an endeavour to cross the rebellious chasm through the construction of a spiritual no-where, a second-order ideal world, on top of the no-where of the real, the first-order ideal world, that starts from from the anthropological revolution, the anthropological point, the intensive form of individuality…

‘The totality of feeling has for its self a different subjectivity, which, in the aforementioned form of immediate existence of this life of feeling, is also another individual confronting it. But the totality of feeling is destined to elevate its being-for-self out of itself to subjectivity in one and the same individuality; this subjectivity is then its indwelling consciousness, sober, intelligent, and rational. For such a consciousness the life of feeling is the substantial and merely implicit material, whose rational, self-conscious, determining genius has become sober subjectivity. But this nucleus, this being of feeling, contains not only the intrinsically unconscious predisposition, temperament, etc. but it also receives into its enveloping simplicity (in habit, see below) all further ties and essential relationships, fortunes, principles- in general everything belonging to the character, and in whose elaboration self-conscious activity has played its most important pan. The being of feeling is thus intrinsically a completely determinate soul. The totality of the individual in this compressed form is distinct from the existing unfolding of its consciousness, its view of the world, developed interests, inclinations, etc. In contrast to this mediated asunderness this intensive form of individuality has been called the genius, which has the final determination in the show of mediations, intentions, reasons, in which the developed consciousness indulges. This concentrated individuality also makes an appearance in the form of what is called the heart or breast. A man is said to be heartless when he thinks and acts with sober consciousness in accordance with his determinate purposes, whether they be great substantial aims or petty and unjust interests; a good-hearted man means rather one who gives free rein to the individuality of his feeling, even if it is restricted in scope, and throws himself with his whole individuality into its particularities and is completely fulfilled by them. But of such a good nature it may be said that it is not so much the genius itself as the policy of indulgere genio’.

- ‘Philosophy of Mind’

… the intensive form of individuality which is pre-reflective and yet already spiritual and the rupture with the natural that institutes Hegelian anthropology is already an event of Geist albeit it is not yet the event not yet the universal actuality of the kingdom of Spirit. The rebellious power of the origin dictates that the old, that is, Nature, proceeds from the new, that is, Spirit) and follows from the fact of the new and not the other way around and from the point of view of the past there are no conditions for a true philosophy of Nature hence Nature’s past is forever written from the point of view of Spirit’s future and it is the concrete actuality of Geist that unfolds back into the philosophy of Nature, it is the actuality of the new that retroactively unfolds into the past and the nature of the philosophy of Nature is post-thinkable but not pre-thinkable and such post-thinkability merely comes onto the scene in the wake of the rebellion that initially renders the immanent construction of the Nature narrative a possibility possible, the event of the new that gives birth to a philosophical Nature.

‘Reverie’, 1860–1865. Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot, 1860–65

Dedicated to my lovely One my darling habit by far my best habit …. let us swing together forever ….

Every kiss, every hug Seems to act just like a drug You’re getting to be a habit with me

Let me stay in your arms I’m addicted to your charms You’re getting to be a habit with me

I used to think your love was something That I could take or leave alone But now I couldn’t do without my supply I need you for my own

Oh, I can’t break away I must have you everyday As regularly as coffee or tea You’ve got me in your clutches and I can’t break free You’re getting to be a habit with me

Oh, I can’t break away I must have you everyday As regularly as coffee or tea You’ve got me in your clutches and I can’t get free You’re getting to be a habit with me You’re getting to be a habit with me

Frank Sinatra — ‘You’re getting to be a habit with me’: -

Coming up next:

Naturalism. Not to be confused with naturism (it is winter-time and too cold for that)

It may stop but it never ends.



David Proud

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