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

David Proud
24 min readOct 19, 2023

‘Cease, anxious world’

by George Etheredge (1635? — 1691)

Cease, anxious world, your fruitless pain,

To grasp forbidden store;

Your studied labours shall prove vain,

Your Alchemy unblest,

While seeds of far more precious ore

Are ripen’d in my breast.

My breast, the forge of happier love,

Where my Lucinda lives;

And the rich stock does so improve,

As she her art employs,

That ev’ry smile and touch she gives

Turns all to golden joys.

Since then we can such treasures raise

Let’s no expense refuse;

In love let’s lay out all our days,

How can we e’er be poor

When ev’ry blessing that we use

Begets a thousand more?


‘Portrait of a Lady in a Green Dress’, 1530, Bartolomeo Veneto

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


The chemical process proper has a tripartite syllogistic structure in which the mediating term consists of the elements of air or water and in the process itself the moments characteristically undergo either combination (Vereinigung) or separation (Scheidung) while the process as a whole involves both these moments hence as a totality the general nature of the chemical process is that of the double activity of parting, and of the reduction of that which is parted to unity.

‘As a totality, the general nature of the chemical process is that of the double activity of parting, and of the reduction of that which is parted to unity. Since the shaped bodies which enter into the process have to come into contact with one another as totalities, so that their essential determinateness is contiguous (which is not possible in mere friction, when in a state of indifference they merely submit one another to force, as they do in the superficial electrical process), they must coincide in indifferent being, which as it constitutes their lack of differentiation, is an abstract physical element. This is water as the affirmative principle, and air as the principle fire, of being-for-self and negation. The elements which form this middle term enter into the process, and determine themselves as differentials. Similarly, they fuse themselves together again into the physical elements. Consequently, the elementary principle here is either the active principle in which the individual bodies first display their activity with regard to one another, or it appears as passive determinateness through its being transformed into abstract forms. The extremes are either bound to the middle, or they are neutrals like salts, and are therefore decomposed into extremes. The chemical process is therefore a syllogism, and it is not only its beginning, but also its entire course which is syllogistic; for it requires three terms, the two independent extremes, and a middle in which its determinateness meets and the terms differentiate themselves. In the formal chemical process (see prec. §), we only made use of two terms however. Fully concentrated acid contains no water, and when it is poured on metal, it either fails to dissolve it, or only makes a feeble attack upon it. If it is diluted with water however, it makes a vigorous attack upon the metal, simply because the third term is then present. It is the same with air. Trommsdorff says, ‘Lead soon tarnishes, even in dry air, but when the air is humid, the process is even quicker. Pure water has no effect upon lead if the air is excluded, so that if a piece of freshly melted lead, which is still very bright, is dropped into a retort filled with freshly distilled water, and the retort is then sealed, the lead will remain completely unchanged. On the other hand, lead immersed in water which is standing in an open container, and so has many points of contact with the air, soon tarnishes.’ Iron reacts in the same way, so that rust only occurs when the air is humid; if the air is dry and warm, iron will remain unchanged’.

- ‘Philosophy of Nature’

And compare:

‘The dissolution of the neutral body initiates the reversion to + the particular chemical form, i.e. through a series of partly particular processes, to the form of undifferentiated bodies. On the other hand, each and every separation of this kind is itself inseparably linked with a combination, while the processes classified as involved in the course of combination also contain the other moment of separation (§ 328). In order to assign each particular form of the process and each specific product to its proper place, it is necessary to consider the concrete agents, as well as the concrete products of the processes. Abstract processes in which the agents are abstract, such as the action of nothing but water on metal; or purely gaseous interactions etc., certainly contain the totality of the process in an implicit manner, but they do not make an explicit display of its moments’.

-’Philosophy of Nature’

The chemical process thus involves an oscillation between unity and difference as some substances are analysed into a plurality while others are synthesized into a unified neutrality and as a consequence the process as a whole reflects the dialectical tension between these two categories, and the continual transition between these two states of being:

‘The moments of the developed totality of individuality are themselves determined as individual totalities, as wholly particular bodies, and are at the same time only moments, related to one another as differentials. As the identity of non-identical independent bodies, this relation is a contradiction. It is therefore essentially a process, the determination of which conforms to the Notion, in that it posits that which is different as identical and undifferentiated, and that which is identical as differentiated, activated and separated’.

- ‘Philosophy of Nature’

The first chemical process considered is galvanism which provides a good transitional step from electricity to chemistry given that it involves both electrical and chemical episodes, hence while on the one hand Hegel continues to explain the production of electric shocks and sparks in terms of a tension between the metal ends of the pile on the other hand he explains the electrical tension by pointing to the chemical reaction that occurs between the metal plates and the mediating element of water in the pile and by contending that the operation of the pile depends upon the chemical interaction between the plates and the moist electrolyte, this is to set himself against the contact theory of Alessandro Volta and concurring with the chemical theory of Humphrey Davy and J. W. Ritter.

According to Volta’s contact theory the source of the electric force lies solely in the contact of the two metals in the cell and not from any chemical reaction of these with the moist electrolyte between them and as explained by Volta, the only role of the electrolyte is hence as a conductor to connect the metal plates and ‘to impel the electric fluid in one direction, and to make this connection so that there shall be no action in a contrary direction’. But as early as 1796 Giovanni Fabroni had observed that chemical changes do occur in the pile and in 1800 Davy demonstrated that the electrical effects of the pile depend upon the oxidizing of the zinc plates and although Davy later attempted a compromise between the contact and chemical theories, the chemical theory of the pile was supported by William Hyde Wollaston and William Nicholson and in addition by the Naturphilosoph Ritter.

An important feature of Hegel’s discussion of galvanism is his account of the differentiation of water into hydrogen and oxygen that occurs in the pile and he contends that this differentiation is not simply the breaking up of an externally related compound and he rejects the analytical view of the chemist according to which water is simply the external combination of these two self-subsistent component parts, rather he suggests that prior to the chemical reaction in the pile water is simply a homogeneous substance which is undifferentiated until oxygen and hydrogen come into being and is not just a compound made up of these distinct elements.

;An outstanding example of the ignoring of facts in this field is the conception of water as consisting of oxygen and hydrogen. When water is submitted to the active current of a pile, oxygen appears at one of its poles and hydrogen at the other. This is taken as evidence of decomposition.’

- ‘Philosophy of Nature’

Hegel calls this theory ‘intrinsically indefensible’.

And he rebuffs any conception of a material substance as simply a compound of pre-existing elements that are ontologically independent of each other and the whole rather a substance like water cannot be such an external unity but must constitute a totality in which no parts can be isolated until it undergoes a process of separation or division. This is an account of the structure of chemical compounds and of importance is in his demonstrating how he thought his model of substances might differ from the reductionist and atomistic accounts implied by the new French chemistry.

‘The process of fire is associated with the production of acidity and alkalinity. The activity of the preceding process was only implicit within the differentiated determinateness of the metals brought into relation there. When this activity is posited as existing for itself, it is fire. It is by means of fire that that which is implicitly combustible, the third kind of corporeality, such as sulphur, is kindled into flame. In general, it is therefore by means of fire that that which is still in a state of neutrality, of torpid and indifferent differentiation, is activated into the chemical opposition of acid and caustic alkali. As these opposites cannot exist for themselves, this opposition comes into being merely as the posited corporeal moments of a third form, as a kind of corporeality with a real nature of its own’.

- ‘Philosophy of Nature’

We now pass on to a discussion of neutralization or salt formation whereby the only method of salt formation that he analyses is that in which a base is neutralized by an acid and here the two sides are posited in opposition and each wants to overcome the difference of the other in neutralization and the result of the chemical combination of acid and base is a neutral salt, which is the topic of the next section. As neutral bodies salts do not immediately fall into a chemical process, but must be mediated by some other substance, such as water. Salts mainly enter into a process of elective affinity (Wahlverwandtschaften), a process that interested Goethe enough to inspire him to use it as a model for human relations in his Novelle of the same name and which I have discussed before, in double affinity two salts exchange radicals so that the original two salts give rise to two new salts.

‘The immediate self-integration of acid and alkaline opposites into a neutral substance, is not a process. The salt which is produced has no process, and so resembles the adherence of a magnet to the north and south poles, or the spark of an electric discharge. In order that the process may be continued, the salts must be brought into an external relation once again, for they are indifferent and self-sufficient. They are not active in themselves, and only become so when they are submitted to accidental circumstances. That which is indifferent may only be brought into contact through a third term, which in this case is water once again. It is principally at this juncture that figuration and crystallization occur. In general, the process consists of the sublation of one neutrality, and of its replacement by another neutrality. Consequently, neutrality is here engaged in a conflict with itself, for the neutrality which constitutes the product is mediated by the negation of neutrality. The neutralities of certain 35 acids and bases are therefore in conflict with one another. The affinity of an acid with a base is negated, and the negation of this affinity is itself the relation of an acid to a base. This negation is also an affinity therefore, and this affinity is that of the acid of the second salt with the base of the first, as much as it is that of the base of the second salt with the acid of the first’.

- ‘Philosophy of Nature’

With this process, the two reacting salts achieve a more stable form, and we return to the kind of undifferentiated substance we had in the metal poles of the galvanic process. and hence we have traced a sequence of combination and separation, whereby difference gives rise to unity and unity gives way to difference but the chemical outlook retains a conception of the object according to which it is no more than a compound of self-subsistent elements which are ontologically prior to and independent of the substances in which they are combined. Though Hegel objects that even at this level this outlook is mistaken, it is only really at the level of organic being that this merely synthetic view of unity is transcended.

‘Empirical chemistry is mainly concerned with the particularity of substances and products, and as it groups these in accordance with superficial and abstract determinations, their particularity remains disordered. In this grouping, it brings together metals, oxygen, hydrogen etc., metalloids, which were formerly known as earths, sulphur, and phosphorus, and places them on the same level as simple chemical bodies. The great physical diversity of these bodies immediately gives rise to the incongruities of this sort of classification however, and their chemical origin, or the process by which they are produced, displays a similar lack of homogeneity. A similar chaos reigns where processes are assigned to a certain stage regardless of their degree of abstraction or concreteness. If scientific form is to predominate here, each product has to be assessed according to that stage of the concrete and fully developed process which essentially gives rise to it, and from which it derives its particular significance. In order to do this, it is equally essential to distinguish between the various stages of abstraction or reality within the process. Animal and vegetable substances belong moreover to quite another natural order; the chemical process is so inadequate an expression of their nature, that it tends mainly to destroy it, and can merely make intelligible their relapse into death. These substances should principally serve to counteract the sort of metaphysics which prevails in both chemistry and physics however, and which employs thoughts or rather confused concepts such as the immutability of substances in all circumstances, and categories such as composition and subsistence, on the strength of which bodies are supposed to be formed from such substances. It is generally admitted that when chemical substances combine, they lose the properties which they have in separation. Yet it is also generally asserted that they are the same things with or without these properties, so that both the things and the properties are not primarily the product of a process. A metal is an undifferentiated body, and its affirmative determination is so constituted physically, that it displays its properties in an immediate manner. Bodies which are further differentiated may not be presupposed in this way however, and one is therefore unable to see how they comport themselves within a process, for it is only from their place within the chemical process as a whole, that they derive their primary and essential determination. The empirical and completely specific particularity of a body may also be determined by means of its relation with all other particular bodies, but this knowledge may only be obtained by reiterating the entire litany of the body’s relation to all agents’.

- ‘Philosophy of Nature’


‘My love bound me with a kiss’

by Anonymous

My love bound me with a kiss

That I should no longer stay;

When I felt so sweet a bliss

I had less power to part away:

Alas, that women doth not know

Kisses make men loath to go.

Yes, she knows it but too well,

For I heard when Venus’ dove

In her ear did softly tell

That kisses were the seals of love:

O muse not then though it be so,

Kisses make men loath to go.

Wherefore did she thus inflame

My desires heat my blood,

Instantly to quench the same

And starve whom she had given food?

I the common sense can show,

Kisses make men loath to go.

Had she bid me go at first

It would ne’er have grieved my heart,

Hope delayed had been the worst;

But ah to kiss and then to part!

How deep it struck, speak, gods, you know

Kisses make men loath to go.


‘Portrait of a Woman’, c. 1565, Paolo Veronese

Hence with organic being nature finally attains a form of existence that corresponds to Hegel’s notional model of unity and his holistic account of the structure of the object is finally rendered more evident.

Addendum: Unity and structure in Hegel’s Philosophy of Nature — part one.

In the ‘Science of Logic’ (on which see my sixty articles) Hegel adopts an ontological model of concrete individuals which treats them as indivisible primary substances by virtue of exemplifying a substance-universal that cannot be reduced to a plurality of attributes, hence is defended a metaphysical account of things which is undeniably holistic and a rejection of the model adopted by the empiricists and by Immanuel Kant who had treated the object as a plurality of property-universals, intuitions, or simple ideas, and thus reduced the object to a manifold of ontologically self-subsistent elements that can exist outside and prior to their instantiation in the whole. The contention is that since individuals exemplify a substance-universal they must be treated as irreducible wholes or substantial unities which kicks into touch the empiricist reduction of things to a plurality for it is a mistake to treat the object in this atomistic way.

It may be objected that a difficulty for Hegel’s model of the object, which besets any account that endeavours to treat the individual as an irreducible unity on the grounds that it exemplifies a substance-universal, those entities that we want to treat as unified substances are all material things and so must be divisible into the kinds of atomistic entity which the physicist tells us are constituents of any ordinary object. Hence it appears that the individuals which exist must be taken as mere complexes after all at this physical level which perhaps suggests that it is the ontological model of the object put forward by Kant and the empiricists that best fits this picture offered to us by science of the way things are and that Hegel’s account runs counter to this valuable explanation of the nature of reality as the complex unity of atomistic elements.

Hegel was aware of the difficulty and in the ‘Philosophy of Nature’ set out to answer it by setting up limits to this atomistic picture of the world put forward by Newtonian science and by endeavouring to demonstrate how nature overcomes its asunderness.

‘… animal magnetism has played a part in ousting the untrue, finite, merely intellectual conception of mind. That remarkable state has had this effect especially with regard to the treatment of the natural aspect of the mind. If the other states and natural determinations of mind, as well as its conscious activities, can be understood, at least externally, by the intellect, and if the intellect is able to grasp the external connection of cause and effect obtaining both within itself and in finite things, the so-called natural course of things, yet, on the other hand, intellect shows itself incapable of even just believing in the phenomena of animal magnetism, because in these the bondage of mind to place and time-which in the opinion of the intellect is thoroughly fixed-and to the intellectual interconnexion of cause and effect, loses its meaning, and the elevation of mind above asunderness and above its external connexions, which to the intellect remains an unbelievable miracle, comes to light within sensory reality itself. Now although it would be very foolish to see in the phenomena of animal magnetism an elevation of mind above even its conceptual reason, and to expect from this state higher disclosures about the eternal than those granted by philosophy, although the magnetic state must be declared a disease and a decline of mind itself below ordinary consciousness, in so far as in that state the mind surrenders its thinking, the thinking that proceeds in determinate distinctions and contrasts itself with nature, yet, on the other hand, in the visible liberation of mind in those magnetic phenomena from the limitations of space and time and from all finite connexions, there is something that has an affinity to philosophy, something that, with all the brutality of an established fact, defies the scepticism of the intellect and so necessitates the advance from ordinary psychology to the conceptual cognition of speculative philosophy, for which alone animal magnetism is not an incomprehensible miracle’.

- ‘Philosophy of Mind’

In so far as his metaphysical model of the object is holistic and anti-reductionist as a result of his conception of the substance-universal so he aspires to demonstrate in the ‘Philosophy of Nature’ that the material world has a unity that makes it possible to treat certain entities as irreducible substances in line with his metaphysical model of things. In the introduction to the ‘Philosophy of Nature’ he makes clear that this model alone will save us from falling for a bogus atomism and reductionism in our scientific inquiries.

‘The inadequacy of the thought-determinations used in physics may be traced to two very closely connected points, (a) The universal of physics is abstract or simply formal; its determination is not immanent within it, and does not pass over into particularity, (b) This is precisely the reason why its determinate content is external to the universal, and is therefore split up, dismembered, particularized, separated and lacking in any necessary connection within itself; why it is in fact merely finite. Take a flower, for example. The understanding can note its particular qualities, and chemistry can break it down and analyse it. Its colour, the shape of its leaves, citric acid, volatile oil, carbon, hydrogen etc., can be distinguished; and we then say that the flower is made up of all these parts . . . . [But] Intuition has to be submitted to thought, so that what has been dismembered may be restored to simple universality through thought. This contemplated unity is the Notion, which contains the determinate differences simply as an immanent and self-moving unity. Philosophic universality is not indifferent to the determinations; it is the self-fulfilling universality, the diamantine identity, which at the same time holds difference within itself’.

- ‘Philosophy of Nature’

Compare also:

‘It is easy to understand something, to get an idea of it. Red, for example, is an abstract idea of our sense-perception, and when in ordinary parlance we talk of ‘red’ we do not mean we are dealing with an abstraction; but a rose which is red is a concrete red, it is a unity of leaves, shape, colour, smell, something living, growing; in it in many ways something abstract can be distinguished and isolated, which can be destroyed and rent apart and yet in the multiplicity of its parts it is still one subject, one Idea. Thus the pure abstract Idea is not itself an abstraction, an empty simplicity like red, but a flower, something inherently concrete’.

- ‘Lectures on the Philosophy of History’

The empiricist conception of the object as a collection of particular qualities and the scientific conception of the object as a plurality of chemical and physical parts are two sides of the same coin and Hegel’s holistic and anti-reductionist model of the object means that he can accept neither and we can inquire into the ‘Philosophy of Nature’ in this light to demonstrate how it should be read as an attempted vindication of his metaphysics from a scientific perspective aimed at defeating those who might support their atomistic and reductionist ontology by adopting just such an atomistic and reductionist picture of the natural world.

‘If in pursuance of the foregoing remarks we consider Logic to be the system of the pure types of thought, we find that the other philosophical sciences, the Philosophy of Nature and the Philosophy of Mind, take the place, as it were, of an Applied Logic, and that Logic is the soul which animates them both’.

- ‘Philosophy of Nature’

Hence the move from the abstract metaphysics of the’Science of Logic’ to the ‘Philosophy of Nature’.

Nature and Objectivity. Hegel’s philosophy develops a model of unity using the metaphysical categories of the Notion and uses this model as the background to his account of various natural phenomena and one might expect to Hegel move straight from his discussion of the formal Notion as it appears in the Logic to an account of how this model is realized in nature but this he does not do, rather he interposes two further sections, which he entitles ‘The Object’ (Das Objekt) and ‘The Idea’ (Die Idee). However in these sections we are given a general account of how the categories of the Notion apply to the natural world albeit at the abstract level of the Logic which is to say there is no descent from the metaphysical abstractness of the Notion to the concrete realities of nature at once but rather provides a reinterpretation of the formal Notion in terms of the less formal categories of nature while none the less remaining at the abstract level of the Logic. Thee sections on the Object and the Idea can thus be seen as important transitional passages from the purely metaphysical categories of the subjective Notion to the objective categories that apply to the concrete reality of nature which allows Hegel to demonstrate how the formal Notion can provide a basis for these objective categories without as yet having to deal with the empirical detail that we find in the full account as given in the ‘Philosophy of Nature’.

Much of the philosophical substance of Hegel’s discussion of nature is hence prefigured in his analysis of Mechanism, Chemism, Teleology, and Life, as given in the Logic. Teleology, and Life I will get onto once we move on to the ‘Organics’ section. As we have seen the complaint against mechanism is that the object considered mechanically lacks any intrinsic unity in so far as each part of the object is only externally related to each other part and the mechanical object is therefore characterized as having no real substantial form, for its unity is only that of an external aggregation:

‘The determinatenesses, therefore, that [the mechanical object] contains, do indeed belong to it, but the form that constitutes their difference and combines them into a unity is an external, indifferent one; whether it be a mixture, or again an order, a certain arrangement of parts and sides, all these are combinations that are indifferent to what is so related’.

- ‘Science of Logic’


‘The object (1) in its immediacy is the notion only potentially; the notion as subjective is primarily outside it; and all its specific character is imposed from without. As a unity of differents, therefore, it is a composite, an aggregate; and its capacity of acting on anything else continues to be an external relation’

- ‘Encyclopedia Logic’

We can accepts that in the case of certain natural phenomena the mechanical way of viewing things is absolutely justified but it would be a mistake to extend the categories of mechanics to the investigation of more intrinsically unified phenomena such as the soul which should not be regarded as

‘… a mere group of forces and faculties, subsisting independently side by side’.

-Encyclopedia Logic’

And furthermore:

‘A favourite reflectional form is that of powers and faculties of soul, intelligence or mind. . . . In this lies the want of organic unity which by this reflectional form, treating mind as a ‘lot’ of forces, is brought into mind, as it is by the same method brought into nature. Any aspect which can be distinguished in mental action is stereotyped as an independent entity, and the mind thus made a skeleton-like mechanical collection’.

- ‘Philosophy of Mind’

Hegel treats the soul as a substance-universal which cannot be reduced to a plurality of self-subsistent parts in the way that mechanistic thinking prescribes and not only is the structure of the mechanical object itself a merely external unity mechanics also views the relation between objects as equally external so that they form an ununified plurality:

‘In so far as [objectivity] has the Notion immanent in it, it contains the difference of the Notion, but on account of the objective totality, the differentiated moments are complete and self-subsistent objects which consequently, even in their relation, stand to one another only as self-subsistent things and remain external to one another in every combination. This is what constitutes the character of mechanism, namely, that whatever relation obtains between the things combined, their nature is one extraneous to them that does not concern their nature at all, and even if it is accompanied by a semblance of unity it remains nothing more than composition, mixture, aggregation and the like’.

- ‘Science of Logic’

A. N. Whitehead has pointed out: ‘Newtonian physics is based upon the independent individuality of each bit of matter’, and it is precisely this external relatedness that Hegel identifies as characteristic of mechanism. Only in Absolute Mechanics as realized in the solar system is matter bound together in a way that represents a more genuine unity, based on the unifying function of the central body, which constitutes ‘the permanently underlying universal substance’ (‘Encyclopedia Logic’) through which the various bodies in the solar system are brought together:

‘Its determinateness is essentially different from a mere order or arrangement and external connexion of parts; as determinateness in and for itself it is an immanent form, a self-determining principle in which the objects inhere and by which they are bound together into a genuine One’.

- ‘Science of Logic’

By treating the central body of the solar system as a universal and by identifying it as the ground of unity for the planetary bodies Hegel is here referring us back to his account of the universal in the Logic and using this to explain the unity of the system as a whole.

‘Portrait of a Venetian Woman: La Belle Nani’, c. 1560, Paolo Veronese


‘The Awakening’

by Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872–1906)

I did not know that life could be so sweet,

I did not know the hours could speed so fleet,

Till I knew you, and life was sweet again.

The days grew brief with love and lack of pain —

I was a slave a few short days ago,

The powers of Kings and Princes now I know;

I would not be again in bondage,

save I had your smile, the liberty I crave.


However, although the solar system constitutes a totality, still masses do not really combine, and the world considered mechanically remains an aggregate of independent elements. Hegel therefore passes on to the level of chemism, where objects, far from being indifferent to one another, are related by virtue of their own intrinsic qualities:

‘The chemical object is distinguished from the mechanical by the fact that the latter is a totality indifferent to determinateness, whereas in the case of the chemical object the determinateness, and consequently the relation to other and the kind and manner of this relation, belong to its nature’

- ‘Science of Logic’

The phenomenon of chemical combination clearly impressed Hegel on the grounds that such an affinity between material substances was an indication of the evolving unity of the natural world. The explanation Hegel offers of the chemical process is that different substances are one-sided particularizations of the same universal, and therefore combine together in order to overcome this one-sidedness, and realize the universal as a whole:

‘[The chemical process] begins with the presupposition that the objects in tension, tensed as they are against themselves, are in the first instance by that very fact just as much tensed against one another — a relationship that is called their affinity. Since each through its Notion stands in contradiction to the one-sidedness of its own existence and consequently strives to sublate it, there is immediately posited in this fact the striving to sublate the one-sidedness of the other object; and through this reciprocal adjustment and combination to posit a reality conformable to the Notion, which contains both moments’.

- ‘Science of Logic’

What is undergone here is taking the explanation of affinity offered by Schelling and other Naturphilosophen who talked in terms of a polarity of forces that are reconciled through combination and transposing this explanation into his own metaphysical terminology. Hence where Schelling had explained chemical affinity through the chemical equilibrium of opposed forces that are encompassed in an original One so Hegel explains this phenomenon by treating the chemical objects as opposed particularizations of the same universal, in which their difference from one another is overcome:

‘The relationship of the objects, as a mere communication in this element, is on the one hand a quiescent coming-together, but on the other hand it is no less a negative bearing of each to the other; for in combination the concrete Notion which is their nature is posited as a reality, with the result that the real differences of the object are reduced to its unity. Their previous self-subsistent determinateness is thus sublated in the union that conforms to the Notion, which is one and the same in both, and thereby their opposition and tension are weakened, with the result that in this reciprocal integration the striving reaches its quiescent neutrality’.

- ‘Science of Logic’

What is being demonstrated here is how chemical combination represents a partial overcoming of the external relatedness of mechanism and it reveals the intrinsic overarching unity of the universal form inherent in each of the chemical substances. Chemism is also flawed however for though the differentiated moments in a chemical reaction come to form a unity in the neutral product with this neutral product the process comes to an end, chemical substances do not undergo a continuous movement of integration and the unity that was implicit in this process is made explicit at the next level, of Teleology. This account of mechanism and chemism is designed to demonstrate how nature displays a greater degree of unity and integration as it advances through these levels and that this should be remembered as providing the background to the treatment of mechanism and chemism in the ‘Philosophy of Nature’ which I have looked at in previous articles.

‘Flora’, Domenico Tintoretto, (1560–1635)

For my sweet sweet love, we are forever bound together … 💕

Sweet love, sweet love, trapped in your love I’ve opened up, unsure I can trust My heart and I were buried in dust Free me, free us

You’re all I need when I’m holding you tight If you walk away, I will suffer tonight

I found a man I can trust And boy, I believe in us I am terrified to love for the first time Can’t you see that I’m bound in chains? I’ve finally found my way I am bound to you I am bound to you

So much, so young, I’ve faced on my own Walls I built up became my home I’m strong, and I’m sure there’s a fire in us Sweet love, so pure

I catch my breath with just one beating heart And I brace myself, please don’t tear this apart

I found a man I can trust and boy, I believe in us I am terrified to love for the first time Can’t you see that I’m bound in chains? I’ve finally found my way I am bound to you I am bound to you

Suddenly the moment’s here I embrace my fears All that I have been carrying all these years Do I risk it all? Come this far just to fall? Fall

I can trust and boy, I believe in us I am terrified to love for the first time Can’t you see that I’m bound in chains? And finally found my way I am bound to you I am, ooh, I am I’m bound to you

Christina Aguilera — ‘Bound to You


Coming up next:

The end of the ‘Physics’ section and onward into ‘Organics’

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.