The Struggle for Recognition : On Animal Rights — part eight

David Proud
60 min readSep 2, 2022

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

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

- Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, (1877–1831), ‘The Animal Organism’, in ‘Philosophy of Nature’

‘Spirit is the truth of nature’.

- Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, ‘Jenaer Realphilosophie: lectures on the philosophy of nature and of the spirit’, 1805/06

‘The unconditional lover’, Vittorio Reggianini, (1858–1939)

Since René Descartes, (1596–1650), there has been something of a trend in philosophy to establish that animals have no feelings. ‘One cannot conceive anything so strange and so implausible that it has not already been said by one philosopher or another’. Who was it who said that? Well, it was Descartes actually. ‘On ne sauroit rien imaginer de si étranger et si peu croyable, qu’il n’ait été dit par quelqu’un des philosophes’, (‘Le Discours de la Méthode’). Or to put it another way: ‘Nihil tam absurde dici potest, quod non dicatur ab aliquo philosophorum’. — Marcus Tullius Cicero, (106–43 BC). ‘There is nothing so absurd that it has not been said by some philosopher’. (‘De Divinatione’).

Well we can let Descartes off the hook, maybe, to see what he actually said about animals see my article The Struggle for Recognition: On Animal Rights — part two. Descartes anyway did not start off by searching for reasons not to attribute feelings or sensations he was rather compelled into that position by other rather pressing philosophic problems he was dealing with. His reflections upon consciousness guided him towards the conclusion that the thinking mind and the external world are two completely separate realms of being and upon such an assumption sensations and feelings have no place to be other than in the thinking mind and the capacity to think depend upon the ability to use language. Hence the Cartesian move against animals, for given that animals lack language they therefore cannot think, and given that they cannot think they therefore cannot feel, and given that they cannot feel they therefore cannot have any sensations, even pain apparently. Even the higher animals other than of course human animals are automata whose movements, cries, and gestures are merely the automatic responses of a machine. We can therefore use them without concern about any pain we might be causing them, and for Descartes and in particular for his putative scientifically minded adherents one could experiment on animals with justification while ignoring their cries for they are not really feeling anything.

As for dualism, the complete separation of soul and body, mind and reality, there may be billions in the world who believe it, that is what there religions teach after all, while natural science rejects, and most modern philosophers two aside from some brave attempts to keep it going, see ‘The Self and Its Brain: An Argument for Interactionism’, 1977, by Karl Popper, (1902–1994), and John Eccles, (1903–1997). If our mind and our body are so completely separated how can we, albeit higher animals that we are, have any knowledge at all of the external world? And given that all of our sensations and images originate in the mind it appears that a dualist theory of mind makes all contact with the world impossible and within the framework of Cartesian dualism some rather odd theories emerged to account for it, occasionalism, for instance, proposed by Arnold Geulincx, (1624–1669), and Nicolas Malebranche, (1638–1715), two of Descartes’s early followers. Occasionalism, all events are caused directly by God, the gap between the human mind and external reality is directly and immediately bridged by intervening acts of God. After having had a dump in the toilet and needing to wipe my bottom God having divined my intention uses that state of affairs as an occasion to move my hand to carry out what needs to be done. One would have thought having to reach for solutions so desperate a better option would be admit that animals do have the ability to feel after all. Although of course religious ideology is exerting its influence here too, Descartes being a Catholic could not admit that non-human animals may go to heaven along with human animals which would follow from his dualism if indeed animals had consciousness.

St Thomas Aquinas, (1225–1274), and other scholastic philosophers however took animal souls to be sub-rational and irredeemable and hence animals having psyches and being conscious was not considered to be in conflict with official Catholic doctrine, whereas Cartesian radical dualism leaves no room for intermediate sub-rational psyches, for every soul if it exists at all has to be of the same order, so that either all of them are fit and properly chosen for a life after death or none none. Cartesian dualism as has already been noted has long since been abandoned or greatly modified in science and philosophy, the gap it opens up between mind and world is far too great to be amenable to any explanation that is in any way intelligible and all the empirical evidence and all the scientific findings of biology speak against it, I might add so does common sense but then to quote Descartes again: ‘Common sense is the most fairly distributed thing in the world, for each one thinks he is so well-endowed with it that even those who are hardest to satisfy in all other matters are not in the habit of desiring more of it than they already have’. The quite evident structural similarity between non-human animals and human animals renders ascribing uselessness to their sensory faculties blatantly absurd not to mention that in the absence of real experiences of pain, pleasure, and reproductive desire, the entire evolutionary process becomes inexplicable.

However, such ideas do have a rather odd persistence, in modern times there has been something of a neo-Cartesian revival in which what is in essence Cartesian outcome, that is to say, that animals feel no pain, is attained, albeit by alternative and and not quite so irrational means, even though it is without the excuse of serious philosophical necessity, but they fail miserably anyway. Let us look into four instance of neo-Cartesian arguments. First, Raymond G. Frey, (1941–2012), a critic of animal rights, (author of ‘Interests and Rights: The Case Against Animals’), and hence looking for a justification for such a position. He has of course to concede that animals are conscious, who would take him seriously otherwise? Not that we take him seriously anyway. But he denies that they can have desires and beliefs. Desires, he asserts, presuppose beliefs, one cannot desire something unless one has an idea of what one is after and believe that it will satisfy some interest of mine, but one cannot have a belief without language, it is only with language that we can frame a sentence that we can believe is true or false, from which Frey proceeds to perfect his entire case against animals having proven that they do not have desires (this is how shallow philosophising operates, I cannot stress enough that to do philosophy properly one needs to go in deep and deeper still).

‘The messenger of love’, Leonard Straszyński, (1827–1879)

Animal rights as argued for by Tom Regan, (1938–2017), would lose all sense if animals have no desires, since in order to have a right to something one has to have an interest in it, and Frey believes he has demonstrated that animals can have no interest in anything because they cannot desire anything, and this is the principle part of his case against animals. Once that is demonstrated he appears willing to concede that animals might feel very simple pains. Frey, like Peter Singer, (1946 — ), is a utilitarian, (which explains a lot), so the pain of animals would have to be reckoned before we are free to make any given use of them, but according to Frey the losses human animals would suffer if they went down the way of vegetarianism would evidently offset the pain undergone by non-human animals. Frey does not offer us with any figures on the comparative harms and pleasures and it is rather doubtful that he could do so given the countless number of animals brutally (well perhaps not the best choice of word given its etymology) butchered every year by human animals and we are therefore at liberty to dispense with this part of his case as happily attributing reality to what he wishes were true rather than to what really is true. What we are concerned with now is whether or not animals can have desires and beliefs.

Frey presents a hypothetical case to illustrate his reasoning:

‘Suppose I am a collector of rare books and desire to own a Gutenberg Bible: my desire to own this volume is to be traced to my belief that I do not now own such a work and that my collection is deficient in this regard. By ‘to be traced’ here, what I mean is this: if someone were to ask how my belief that my collection lacks a Gutenberg Bible is connected with my desire to own such a Bible, what better or more direct reply could be given than that, without this belief, I would not have had this desire? For if I believed that my collection did contain a Gutenberg Bible and so was complete in this sense, then I would not desire such a Bible in order to make up what I now believe to be a notable deficiency in my collection. (Of course, I might desire to own more than one such Bible, but this contingency is not what is at issue here)’.

- ‘Interests and Rights: The Case Against Animals’

He then proceeds to the conclusion: ‘If what is believed is that a certain sentence is true, then no creature which lacks language can have beliefs; and without beliefs, a creature cannot have desires’. There is an easily discernible problem here though, in that belief is required not merely for rare book collectors who want a Gutenberg Bible but even for the simplest desires. I notice a tingling sensation in my loins and I have this feeling of desire for something soft and warm and fleshy to enfold myself about, I know what it is I want, I know what is lacking though I would be hard pressed to articulate it, and what I desire may not be at hand, or maybe it is, let us suppose that it is, this is my fantasy after all, I believe that what I desire is there to be had, lying in wait for me over there on the couch, that will quench my longing, I better get this counter-example to Frey over with quickly before this academic, supposedly, article turns into a different kind of genre … anyway, my dog if I had one could not be aware that she lacks a Gutenberg Bible but she can believe that she is lacking fleshly satisfaction and seeks out a leg to rub against. Frey is dismissive of such sort of simple desires, (I wonder how Mrs Frey felt about that poor woman), to which we say petitio principii, begging the question, assuming the conclusion, he is merely putting out of consideration those beliefs of non-human animals or human animals that do not fit his hypothesis that animals have no desires, so much for his case against animals indeed, animals have no desire for sex? Did he never have a pet, not even in childhood?.

Such a response to Frey does technically depend upon showing that desires can exist without beliefs that depend upon the ability to think through sentences. Steve Frederic Sapontzis, (1945 — ), in ‘Morals, Reason, and Animals’, offers such a critique, indeed never mind beliefs and desires, being rational is not what should grant moral consideration either, for we find a common defence of the moral priority granted to human animals over other sentient beings is that humans have higher cognitive abilities, but having a certain intelligence may mean that in certain cases we can suffer harm if something happens that causes us significant psychological suffering, for instance in the above example she tells me she has a headache and I suffer from being prevented from satisfying my desire, or something may cause me to suffer in certain circumstances if I anticipate that I are going to experience some harm, but having such cognitive capacities is not what makes me able to suffer, sentience is, and in many other circumstances all this is irrelevant, if I step barefoot on a drawing pin the pain I endure is no greater just because of my greater intelligence, and furthermore in other cases having such capacities can make me suffer less, if someone kidnaps me and tortures me I would suffer even more not understanding what is going on. Sentience, rather than reason, or beliefs, or desires, is what matters with giving someone respect.

For Frey one cannot have the simplest desire without belief and if animals cannot have beliefs we almost return to Descartes, Frey would grant them consciousness but it turns out to be virtually empty. How can a being have a pain without desiring to get rid of it? If desire depends upon belief, how can a being without language want to get rid of a pain at all? Regan refutes Frey with a different take and proceeds to take on Stephen Stich, (1943 — ), who contends that animals have beliefs but that we cannot not know what they are which is open to a theoretical challenge though not quite so relevant to the issue of animal rights. If my dog likes a certain kind of food for dinner and is clearly appeased in her desire when I feed her that food I need not worry whether her idea of food and mine are the same albeit we may assume quite a lot of similarity.

Peter Harrison, (1955 — ), wishes ‘to show that Descartes’s view of animal pain can seriously be entertained without the necessity of subscribing to Descartes’s unfortunate ontology’. (‘Theodicy and Animal Pain’). He sets things moving with the idea that human animals most assuredly feel more pain than non-human animals because human animals are more highly evolved and more sensitive on several different levels, and from this he proceeds to the claim that animals do not feel pain at all. Wildebeests make no sound when being torn apart by predators hence there is no reason to believe any animal feels pain when being injured, their cries and gestures notwithstanding, (oh this is dismal stuff, don’t worry I get back to Hegel below. Anyway, not my area of expertise but human animals that have been mauled by lions or whatever or have suffered other terrible injuries often report that it was not painful at the time because adrenaline has an anaesthetic effect, the pain might kick in around twenty minutes later by which time the prey animal is dead. All of which makes sense from an evolutionary perspective, we wouldn’t want to be handicapped or distracted by pain while we are fighting for your lives yet if we survive then the pain kicks in to tell us to keep ourselves still while our injuries heal).

Anyway, back to Harrison, (I am not sure about his beliefs but he writes on theology so maybe he is motivated into this nonsense for similar reasons to Descartes), there is no biological reason why animals need pain, for instance chimpanzees require help from other chimpanzees when hurt, (oh really? Doesn’t that require a bit of empathy?), and that rather than pain may be why they cry out. A hot iron causes a reflex of withdrawal when we put our finger on it, and the pain comes only afterward. Who needs the pain, then? Only humans do, asserts Harrison, we are higher animals, free to act against our reflexes, therefore we need a little pain here and there to warn us against being so free with that freedom that we will badly burn ourselves. Even so pain is not after all neural but rather psychic and a highly conscious human-style ego is needed to feel it. How, then, can non-animals have pain and not have it at the same time? Harrison takes the view that animals do have pain but immediately forget it (how can he know that?) for there is no continuing identity in animals that allows them to be conscious of it, and, Harrison asks, how can animals learn if they forget all pains? The answer is to be found in the simple protozoa who learn albeit they have no nervous system. ‘I am not claiming here’, Harrison claims, ‘that all learning processes work in the same way as those of the Protozoa, but simply making the point that learning can take place without the requirement of consciousness’.

So where does evolution fit into all of this? What exactly has evolution bequeathed to us human animals, the highest of all creatures and the only one capable of feeling pain? It is pain, and pain alone, that gives us dignity according to Harrison (I am losing the will to live here … being in constant pain and crippled by arthritis gives us dignity. ‘It is our capacity for pain which has given rise to those uniquely human attributes of courage, resignation, self-control, perseverance, endurance, and their opposites’, happily asserts Harrison. He should watch some of the many animal videos on YouTube for evidence of such virtues among non-human animals. Harrison is not, however, one to jump to hasty conclusions and so he does warns us that it is not yet (!) certain that we may beat our young children and our pets with a clear conscience: ‘It should not be thought that I am advocating that we beat our infants and pets. There are other moral considerations which show this kind of behaviour to be wrong irrespective of what patients feel’.

‘Allegory of music: Erato’, 1500, Filippino Lippi

Peter Carruthers, (1952 — ), has noted that he can drive his car and steer it correctly to his destination with his mind taken up by other things, (‘Brute Experience’), his absorption elsewhere at times going so deep that he does not remember and cannot recall how he drove and is thereby persuaded that there can be unconscious experiences, albeit for humans animals only some experiences are unconscious but Carruthers takes the plunge and suggests that all animal experiences are unfelt and unrecalled. and this seemingly opens the way to the contention that animals do not feel pain. But surely what he reports while driving is only the case when for instance going for a spin down route 66 but what about when the road is dangerous and unfamiliar? Indeed whatever the nature of this unconscious or rather semi-conscious trance he falls into it is like the more dangerous effect of falling asleep at the wheel whereby the most likely cause is the monotonous repetition of the easy and the familiar, and from that we are supposed to assume that all animals are in some sort of unconscious or semi-conscious trance.

Well, Carruthers does proceed to a consideration of the phenomenon of blindsight whereby people who have suffered lesions in the striate cortex report that they cannot see and do not experience the sensation of vision and yet they discern objects in their visual field, as if the visual field is not being reported to the brain, which leads Carruthers to wonder whether or not non-human animals can have vision that goes unreported for lack of consciousness. And then the argument proceeds to further neurological reflections when Carruthers expresses his belief that ‘a conscious experience is a state whose content is available to be consciously thought about (that is, which is available for description in acts of thinking which are themselves available to further acts of thinking)’. Hence what is required to experience an experience is thus a second-order spontaneous consciousness of that experience and that does not always happen. It did not happen when he drove his car and so it remained a non-conscious experience and non-human animals have no second-order consciousness and so they do not think. Carruthers tentatively suggests that the reason they do not think is that they do not have language and cannot form sentences, but in any any event pain is an experience that like any other has to be available to a second-order consciousness in order to be experienced. Hence a new difficulty emerges, if the second-order consciousness, if one is to be conscious of that consciousness, must be available to a yet higher order of consciousness, and so on if we are to be conscious of that consciousness, but unless we keep on going up in levels how will we ever have an idea of the thing that’s out there that started the whole chain of second-order effects? Maybe to close the gap we must invoke the spirit Malebranche and allow God the task of bestowing a final consciousness of consciousness albeit on human animals only which He does every time we remember that we drove a car or that we wiped our bottom.

Carruthers is content with his case so far as human animals are concerned and as for non-human animals:

‘Similarly then in the case of brutes: since their experiences, including their pains, are nonconscious ones, their pains are of no immediate moral concern. Indeed, since all the mental states of brutes are nonconscious, their injuries are lacking even in indirect moral concern. Since the disappointments caused to a dog through possession of a broken leg are themselves nonconscious in their turn, they too are not appropriate objects of our sympathy. Hence, neither the pain of the broken leg itself, nor its further effects on the life of the dog, have any rational claim upon our sympathy’.

- ‘Brute Experience’

Hence animals should not evoke our sympathy, a waste of effort better spent elsewhere. But what of babies? Well here his response is quite telling, he can arrive at non-sensical conclusions about non-human animals but then when it comes to human infants he could hardly reach the same conclusion. Christian apologist William Lane Craig, (1949), when presenting his moral argument for God, (if no God then no objective moral values and duties, but there are objective moral values and duties, therefore God exists), likes to back it up with the claim that someone who thinks it is ok to torture babies for fun (note that ‘for fun’) is just as wrong as someone who thinks 2 + 2 = 5. Of course he has to go for something so extreme for which he expects universal agreement, who would want to excuse it by suggesting the mental states of babies are non-conscious? But for Carruthers as it happens babies do lack conscious pain yet for some reason that he feels he need give no explanation for the pains of which they are unconscious have an effect on the life of which they will become conscious later on and so it is important that

‘ … they should continue to evoke our sympathy. For a baby’s pains and injuries [which, of course, they cannot feel and will never be able to recall], are likely to have a significant effect upon the person the baby will one day become’.

- ‘Brute Experience’

The problem of animal pain presents difficult theological issues though there is a minority tradition in Christianity that envisages the resurrection of animals), but according to Stephen H. Webb, (1961–2016):

‘That animals are morally innocent does not mean that they do not need redemption, if redemption means deliverance from suffering. Only if the afterlife is imagined solely as a place of judgment does moral capability play such a determining role. What if heaven is not about reward and punishment but rather redemption and consolation? What if heaven allows for the completion of what is left incomplete in this life? Keith Ward has spoken eloquently about animal afterlife. ‘If there is any sentient being which suffers pain, that being — whatever it is and however it is manifested — must find that pain transfigured by a greater joy’. Indeed, that justice demands an afterlife for those unable to make the best of their situation is the best reason to believe in an afterlife for humans as well’.

- ‘On God and Dogs’

Of course there are some rather awkward zoological problems with this point of view. As C.S. Lewis, (1898–1963), wrote:

‘The real difficulty about supposing most animals to be immortal is that immortality has almost no meaning for a creature which is not ‘conscious’ in the sense explained above. If the life of a newt is merely a succession of sensations, what should we mean by saying that God may recall to life the newt that died today? It would not recognise itself as the same newt; the pleasant sensations of any other newt that lived after its death would be just as much, or just as little, a recompense for its earthly sufferings (if any) as those of it’s resurrected — I was going to say ‘self’, but the whole point is that the newt probably has no self’.

- ‘The Problem of Pain’

Would you believe it he wondered whether non-human animal resurrection ws a coherent idea? Which of course it is for human animals. He was doubtful of the capacity of animals to experience genuine suffering and concluded that they do not have by nature a sufficient consciousness of self to benefit from resurrection. And so a newt can feel pain but cannot be said to suffer because it cannot remember former pain or anticipate a future pain hence they do not have the kind of memory of their experiences that would enable them to profit from redemption, they would not recognize a resurrected self as their own. Lewis was agnostic about self-consciousness even in higher animals. Elephants even in the wild presumably have some form of self-consciousness and so a rudimentary individuality but for the most part Lewis limited resurrection to those higher animals who have been tamed and loved by humans animals. the ideal example here would be the faithful and well-treated sheepdog, such animals acquiring a sense of identity from their quasi-membership in a family.

Such a position does not deny that animals feel pain, but only that most of them lack a sufficient sense of identity to be recompensed for pain by resurrection. Does this effectively deliver up to theology an acceptable theodicy of animal pain? Does it explain how a loving God can have created sentient beings who suffer pain and death without possibility of compensation? I will leave Christian apologists to sort all that out. For now the concern is with what Lewis is saying with regard to non-human animal identity. How can we know that very simple forms of life such as newts can lack all memory of the sensations that occur in them? Can you imagine any biological function of pain or pleasure without it being remembered even for a short time? Is it not pain and pleasure that guides even the simplest of sentient creatures? If these sensations are completely without function are we not back once more with Descartes’s paradoxes? Would not even Lewis concur that non-human animals if they can remember sensations at all must have some sort of self?

Let us rather enter into the spiritual animal kingdom. According to Robert Pippin, (1948 — ), Hegel conceived of human animals as both natural and spirited, natural like non-human animals from an ontological point of view, spirited by means of social-historical achievement. An interpretation that is open to challenge. Spirit is the truth of nature. Human spirit is the truth of the animal. Spirit’s self-production is not an achievement that an animal confers upon itself but the realization of what the human spirit is, and if we also bring in some Aristotelian considerations, Hegel was after all influenced by Aristotle, (384–322 BC), we will shed some light on the spiritual animal kingdom. This is so much more fruitful and philosophically robust than speculating upon whether a newt has a sense of self, or upon what a newt might be thinking or feeling, or upon whether or not newts go to heaven.

Spirit is the truth of nature. Nature passes over into its truth, into the subjectivity of the Notion whose objectivity is itself the sublated immediacy of singularity, it is concrete universality, whereby Notion is posited that has for its determinate being [Dasein] the actuality that corresponds to it, that is to say, the Notion, that is, Spirit. Spirit has nature as its presupposition whose, that is nature’s truth and therewith its absolute first it that is Spirit is. Spirit is the truth of nature, this encapsulates the relationship between nature and Spirit that is at once a continuity and a discontinuity. In one sense Spirit is to be understood as still natural, in another as transcending or going beyond nature. Spirit thereby proceeds from nature, and the goal of nature is to destroy itself and to break through its husk of immediacy and sensuousness, to consume itself like the phoenix in order to come forth from this externality rejuvenated as spirit:

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

- ‘Philosophy of Nature’

The imagery is of bursting forth but by entering the realm of Spirit are not entering a non-natural realm. Recall Hegel’s discussion of the natural soul:

‘The soul is at first: (a) in its immediate natural determinacy- the natural soul, which only is; (b) as individual, it enters into relationship with its immediate being, and, in the determinacies of that being, is abstractly for itself-feeling soul; © its immediate being, as its bodiliness, is moulded into it, and the soul is thus actual soul’.


‘The universal soul must not be fixed, in the form of a world-soul, as a sort of subject; for the universal soul is only the universal substance, which has its actual truth only as individuality, subjectivity. Thus it presents itself as an individual soul, but immediately only as a soul which j ust is, with natural determinacies in it. These determinacies have, so to speak, behind their ideality a free existence: i.e. they are natural objects for consciousness, though the soul as such does not respond to them as external objects. Rather, these determinations are natural qualities which it has in itself’.

- ‘Philosophy of Spirit’

The philosophy of subjective Spirit begins with Spirit still in the grip of nature. How are we to understand the continuity and the discontinuity between nature and Spirit? It is revealing to consider what is said concerning logical life:

‘In spirit, however, life appears both as opposed to it and as posited as at one with it, in a unity reborn as the pure product of spirit. For life is here to be taken generally in its proper sense as natural life, for what is called the life of spirit as spirit, is spirit’s own peculiar nature that stands opposed to mere life; just as we speak of the nature of spirit, even though spirit is nothing natural but stands rather in opposition to nature. Thus life as such is for spirit in one respect a means, and then spirit holds it over against itself; in another respect, spirit is an individual, and then life is its body; in yet another respect, this unity of spirit and its living corporeality is born of spirit into ideality. None of these connections of life to spirit concerns logical life, and life is to be considered here neither as the instrument of a spirit, nor as a living body, nor again as a moment of the ideal and of beauty. — In both cases, as natural life and as referring to spirit, life obtains a determinateness from its externality, in one case through its presuppositions, such as are other formations of nature, and in the other case through the purposes and the activity of spirit. The idea of life by itself is free from both the conditioning objectivity presupposed in the first case and the reference to subjectivity of the second case’.

- ‘Science of Logic’

Natural life and the life of Spirit are both at one with and opposed to each other. A principle component Hegel’s account is an Aristotelian understanding of the relations between a succession of life forms making up a scala naturae, great chain of being, a hierarchical structure of all matter and life. Pippin on the other hand takes the continuity to be ontological whereby spirited beings are ontologically natural beings and he proceeds to set this ontological continuity alongside a discontinuity which he regards as being introduced by spirited beings’ self-creation of the normative realm that they inhabit, a self-creation Pippin refers to as a social and historical achievement. Spirit’s self-creation understood thus leads to an understanding of Spirit as an achievement by creatures that albeit achieving what they achieve remain ontologically natural, rather, being alive in the human way marks a specific form of being alive related to non-human animal such ways by being the truth of non-human animal forms of life. Hence we are already, so to speak, in virtue of being human animals, beings that are subject to the kind of normativity that is characteristic of Geist. The culmination of the ‘Philosophy of Nature’ already brings the geistig animal organism onto the stage, an animal organism that is the completion or perfection of the animal organism in that it is both in and for itself its genus [Gattung], which is to say we as the perfect animals in which the ‘Philosophy of Nature’ culminates are in and for ourselves our Gattung, which is to recognise that we can say I whereby we manifest at once our universality and our self-consciousness.

Upon such recognition the distinctive normativity to which we are subject is brought into view without the need to be constructed. Spirited animality. Whatever you think of the ideas and arguments here you see how thinking in terms of a spiritual animal kind make the discussion with which I opened, the analytical philosopher’s take on animal consciousness seem so, well, not so much shallow as just dumb. Do newts have an after-life indeed. Lord preserve us. Nor is sentience the principle factor in determining animal rights, it is spirit. Spirit is the truth of nature. The animal kingdom is spiritual. And not in any supernatural sense. We are not talking about pantheism or panentheism. Although pantheism like occasionalism does deal with an otherwise intractable problem. Where did mind come from? Well, according to the pantheist is was there all along, neat, alas we have no reason to suppose it to be true. But Spirit was there all along and to be human is already to be subject to normativity which the ‘Philosophy of Spirit’ will spell out rather than showing its construction at the hands of human animals. And non-human animal life is therefore normative too, which I will take up in more detail in the next part of this series. But if we were to insist upon reading the self-production of Spirit in terms of an achievement performed by beings who are ontologically natural would bar such an interpretation, and then of course questions of essentialism and constructionism arise, is Hegel’s contention that human beings are essentially historically constituted self-producing beings problematically essentialist? Must there be a dichotomy between constructionist and essentialist readings of Hegel in any case?

‘Esméralda’, 1839, Antoine Joseph Wiertz

According to Pippin Spirit is an achievement, a collective achievement through which is brought into being the normativity to which we are subject or by which we come to stand in the ‘space of reasons; as Pippin puts it, an achievement that is the outcome of a collective act of self-legislation through which those who perform it bind themselves to the normativity that results, and the achievement takes place in historical time and it might not have occurred, the creatures that perform it might have failed to do so, hence those who achieve it do not thereby alter ontologically what they are for ontologically they are still the same natural creatures as before thus something radically new has come into being, that is to say, a space of reasons within which these creatures now stand. And yet at the same time there is an underlying continuity whereby ontologically those creatures are still merely natural beings, a picture also found in writings of Terry Pinkard, (1947 — ):

‘For Hegel, agency itself is a kind of norm, something that is socially and historically instituted, not some metaphysical or natural fact. Our independence from nature, that is, is a normative historical and social achievement, not a fact (metaphysical or natural) about ourselves that we have only recently discovered. […] [W]e establish or institute our freedom from nature by virtue of a complex historical process in which we have come to see nature as inadequate to agency’s (that is, Geist’s) interests […]. Our freedom […] is itself an achievement […], and it is bound up with the achievement of our normative independence from nature’.

- ‘Speculative Naturphilosophie and the Development of the Empirical Sciences: Hegel’s Perspective’

‘We are self-conscious, self-interpreting animals, natural creatures whose ‘non-naturalness’is not a metaphysical difference (as that, say, between spiritual and physical ‘stuff’) or the exercise of a special form of causality. Rather, our status as geistig, as ‘minded’ creatures is a status that we ‘give’ to ourselves in the sense that it is a practical achievement’.

- ‘Hegel’s Naturalism’

Pippin observes something in Hegel’s account that needs addressing, that we must not end up with a picture of Spirit as totally detached from nature. Furthermore, human subjectivity is intersubjectivity. But Pippin contends that there are natural creatures who bring into being a normative realm through a collective act of self-legislation but where one might reasonably ask do the creatures find the resources for bringing into being the space of reasons in which they thereby come to stand? Possibly the natural creatures engage in a process of trying out various things that as natural non-normative beings they are capable of, thereby establishing the hold of the norms they subject themselves to as they go long. But a principal factor in Pippin’s account is that the achievement gets accomplished in history whereby Spirit is ‘an historically achieved status’ and should be thought of ‘in terms of achieved capacities and practices that natural organisms can be said to have made over historical time’. But albeit we can envisage how human beings can make the practices they engage in over time it is by no means clear what is meant by saying that they make the capacities involved in their subjecting themselves to the normativity they end up subject to, for it is not just instances of sets of moves in the space of reasons that Pippin believes we make but the very capacity to operate in such a space. That is to say for Pippin it is a kind of beings that is already engaged in history, that has have already left the non-historical realm in which non-human species reside, that self-legislate their normativity.

For Pippin such self-legislation is not a one-off event but rather a long-drawn-out process and one perhaps still in progress a picture exemplifying his adherence to a gradualism about agency whereby different human beings at different times are more or less fully agents and ‘genuine agency is the collective historical product of earlier, only partially realized attempts at the actualization of such agency’, but the gradualness of the achievement when allis said and done is of no consequence. But what gets human normativity into the picture? For Pippin it is Hegel’s view that ‘spirit is supposed to become spirit by virtue of the efforts of some organisms over time to ‘make’ […] an effective ‘space of reasons’.’ That is, human beings do not just get to make moves within the space of reasons they get to instigate the game itself, which appears to mean that there are beings who do not yet subject themselves to norms who subsequently get to bring the required norms into being where the relevant non-normative beings are something like pre-historical human beings who thereby get to bring human history into being. This apparently happens gradually but we are asked to conceive of human beings that are neither fully pre-historical nor fully historical, a kind of beings that stand with one foot in history and the other foot outside it.

There must indeed be a tale to tell regarding the beginnings of human history that involves a transition from one kind of proto-human primate life to another kind of human primate life but recall Hegel’s critique of the importation of evolutionary accounts into philosophy. ‘It is a completely empty thought to represent species as developing successively, one after the other, in time. Chronological difference has no interest whatever for thought’, said Hegel, the point being not that there is no natural evolutionary tale to be told but that it does not afford philosophical comprehension to give a merely descriptive account that does not at the same time offer to explain how for instance normativity could arise among non-normative creatures, for to offer such an explanation would involve specifying what it is about the pre-normative creatures such that normativity could break out or emerge among them through pre-normative carrying on.

Pippin takes on the notion of beings standing with one foot in history, the other foot outside it, because of a commitment to the claim that the creatures who bring the space of reasons into being remain ontologically the merely natural beings that they were prior to this act as attested by the idea that spirit is the truth of nature according to which ‘since spirit is said to be the ‘truth’ of nature, it [spirit] is founded on or emerges from a kind of natural complexity’. And granted this ‘everything about spirit is embodied in[,] and expressed in, nature, and in no sense can ever be considered supernatural’. Spirit is the truth of nature. Well that can be understood in another way. But how can Spirit’s being natural involve Spirit’s being able to be squeezed back into the realm of nature as Hegel explains when he says that nature has disappeared as Spirit presents itself as the Idea that has accomplished its being-for-self? For spirit to be the truth of nature involves that we have left behind the conception of nature that the ‘Philosophy of Nature’ spells out, and Hegel’s picture of the relation between Spirit and nature is not that Spirit belongs within nature but that nature is an inadequate realization of the Idea whose adequate realization is Spirit.

Pippin rests much of his case upon passages in which Hegel speaks of spirit ‘producing itself’, interpreting them in the light of his idea of Spirit as an achievement. Hegel may well regards Spirit as self-produced and Pippin’s language of achievement may well be an appropriate metaphor for this self-production and not to be read literally as though the achievement were from scratch. Yet Pippin’s readings of the self-production idea commit him to the dubious notion of an achievement that ontologically merely natural beings confer upon themselves while already, at least with one foot in history, and furthermore the passages which he cites in order to support his reading decisively point away from this reading and towards a notion of self-production that requires the normativity characteristic of Spirit to be on the scene as soon as Spirit is. Spirit for Hegel is such as to produce itself but such production is not something that an ontologically merely natural being achieves for such self-production eludes the powers of such merely natural beings.

‘The Prayer without End’, 1656, Nicolaes Maes

In support of the claim that according to Hegel ‘spirit must be conceived […] as some sort of collectively achieved, normative human mindedness if it is to be properly rendered intelligible’ Pippin quotes from Karl Gustav Julius von Griesheim’s, (1798–1854), notes on the ‘Philosophy of Mind’ to bring to the fore a confessedly unusual conception of Spirit that this requires through trading upon the notion that Spirit has made itself into what it is and yet the kind of self-making refers to here does not reflect Pippin’s notion of collectively achieved, normative human mindedness for Griesheim reports Hegel as saying that ‘it is of the very nature of spirit to be this absolute liveliness, this process, to proceed forth from naturality, immediacy, to sublate, to quit its naturality, and to come to itself, and to free itself, it being itself only as it comes to itself as such a product of itself; its actuality being merely that it has made itself into what it is’. Hegel is saying that Spirit is inherently productiv, and only fully realizes itself through what it produces, but this is something it does as Spirit, it is not a feature of an ostensible transition by which human animals get from standing outside history to being in it. The self-production alluded to here is said to be ‘of the very nature of spirit’ without any mention being made of something that Spirit must achieve in order for this to become true of it.

To support the notion that human beings remain the ‘bits of matter’ in Pippin’s words, which is to say that they ontologically are all through the achievement by which they create for themselves the space of reasons Pippin says, drawing from Ludwig Boumann, (1801–1871): ‘Thus the unique capacity of spirit, its freedom, ‘does not occur as an immediate characteristic of spirit [nicht etwas unmittelbar im Geist Seiendes], but is something to be brought about through its own activity’, and yet once again the contrast in play here is precisely between what Spirit is potentially and what it is in actuality and only through its own activity does Spirit make itself what it implicitly or potentially or already is, and to quote more fully the passage reads ‘In its immediacy, spirit is […] only free implicitly, in accordance not with actuality but with the concept or possibility. Consequently, actual freedom is not something which occurs within Spirit as an immediacy but is to be brought forth through the activity of spirit’. So implicitly or in potentiality Spirit is still natural and not free, in its actuality Spirit is free, it is actual only through its own activity, and this does not depend upon Pippin’s notion that Spirit even while it gives itself its freedom remains ontologically fettered within the bounds of a nature conceived as what it belonged to before the achievement it allegedly had to perform in order to become Spirit.

According to Hegel:

‘Mind, developing in its ideality, is mind as cognitive. Cognition, however, is conceived here not merely as a determinacy of the logical Idea (§223), but in the way in which the concrete mind determines itself to cognition.

Subjective mind is:

(A) In itself or immediate: a soul or natural mind- the theme of Anthropology.

(B) For itself or mediated: still as identical reflection into itself and into the other: mind in relationship or particularization: consciousness- the theme of the Phenomenology of Mind.

© Mind determining itself in itself, as a subject for itself-the theme of Psychology.

In the soul consciousness awakes: consciousness posits itself as reason, which has immediately awoken to become self-knowing reason; and by its activity reason emancipates itself to objectivity, to consciousness of its concept.


We must, however, distinguish and exclude from the progression to be studied here what is in fact cultivation and education. The sphere of education is concerned only with individual subjects as such: its aim is to bring the universal mind to existence in them. In the philosophical view of the mind as such, the mind itself is regarded as educating and instructing itself in accordance with its concept; and its expressions are seen as moments of its bringing-itself-forth-to-itself, of its joining-together-with-itself, whereby it first becomes actual mind’.

- ‘Philosophy of Spirit’

To which Pippin responds (referring to a different translation from the one I am using so I know this can get a bit confusing):

‘In distinguishing his approach from all empirical and philosophical psychologies, Hegel insists again that the former are misleading because they try to say [‘] what spirit or soul is, what happens to it, what it does, presupposing it to be a ready-made subject within which such determinations appear only as expressions.[’] The contrasting view which Hegel wishes to defend is that spirit ‘posits for itself the expression of what it is’, that all ‘expressions’ (Äusserungen) of itself are ‘moments of its bringing itself forth to itself, of its agreement with itself whereby it first becomes actual spirit’. As we have seen so often: spirit is a product of itself, only what it takes itself to be’.

- ‘Hegel’s Practical Philosophy’

As we can see however in the passage that Pippin cites, Hegel is making explicit that Spirit is not ready-made because it is not merely) natural but is self-productive, but Pippin’s reading does not follow from what Hegel has been saying, that Spirit is self-produced does not entail that Spirit is only what it takes itself to be, it means that Spirit is the self-agreement of the Notion, and ir is particularly noteworthy that here Hegel has been contrasting the philosophical treatment of spirit with ‘what constitutes instruction and education. In instruction and education [Bildung und Erziehung] various stages have to be gone through in time, whereas the philosophical treatment of Spirit by contrast considers Spirit ‘as instructing and educating itself within the concept’. To say it does so within the Notion (or concept) is to indicate a logical unfolding and not something that human creatures do albeit such logical unfolding will have historical, temporal manifestations and the tracing of such manifestations is a quite important part of Hegel’s philosophical endeavours.

Nevertheless the logical unfolding is significantly prior to the historical unfolding for a historical process cannot so to speak reach down into a deeper level and itself effect the logical unfolding. Accordint to Pippin:

‘Spirit is supposed to become spirit by virtue of the efforts of some organisms over time to ‘make’, let us say, an effective ‘space of reasons’. We don’t inherit such a domain for free, just by showing up as the kind of beings we are’.

- ‘Hegel’s Practical Philosophy’

Well there is no such thing as a free lunch so maybe we don’t inherit such a domain for free if by this is meant that Spirit rather than being self-produced is just a mere nature that governs us whether we know about it or not, however, on the other hand and in another sense we do precisely inherit such a domain for free, just by showing up as the kind of beings we are, for we do stand in normative relations to each other, we participate in our distinctive sociality, just by being human beings, and for Pippin, it is important that sociality is not already contained in the idea of the human being for he believes that Hegel’s philosophy of subjective Spirit proceeds through various stages of logical development and he outlines these stages of logical development thus:

‘There is first a form of mindedness, habituated dispositions oriented from some considerations about normative appropriateness, still deeply embodied in and deeply influenced by the natural world’.

- ‘Hegel’s Practical Philosophy’

Note that the temporal language is there to pick out a logical development not an ostensibly historical one, it is only at the next stage that sociality comes into the picture:

‘There is next an account of forms of social mindedness, subjects in relation to each other (or the achievement of successful forms of like-mindedness or ‘objective spirit’) …’

- ‘Hegel’s Practical Philosophy’

It is mistaken however to suppose that sociality is not already there in the very notion of the human being that closes with in the ‘Philosophy of Nature’ and opens with in the ‘Philosophy of Spirit’. ‘Holding individuals responsible as we do is a distinctly modern achievement’, says Pippin, (I’ll have to think about that one), ‘requiring a complex set of social presuppositions, and not a modern discovery of what could have been the truth of the matter all along’. Well it may be the case that the normativity of modern society is something formed in history and not something discovered and speaking more generally the normativity to which we are subject is not something we could simply discover in the sense that it could be unknown to us, working in a manner of speaking behind our backs. Nonetheless the sociality of the human being that is most fully articulated in modern society is something that was for Hegel ‘the truth of the matter all along’.

‘Before the first date’, 1760, Alexander Roslin

Spirit comes to an ever fuller realization of what it truly is and hence of what has been the truth all along. But did not Hegel believe that Spirit is in a manner of speaking historically constituted? Well, he makes a couple of points. What spirit is can be stated ahead of considering its realization in history and yet that what it is to specify this is to articulate its historical self-development. Pinkard, in discussing Hegel’s philosophy of history, wrote

‘What Hegel calls ‘philosophical history’ takes its subject matter, as he puts it, to be ‘the spirit which is eternally present to itself and for which there is no past’. This is, as he notes, something that looks itself like a contradiction: ‘How can what is outside history, since it is not subject to change, still have a history?’’

- ‘Does History Make Sense? Hegel on the Historical Shapes of Justice’

The challenge here is to understand how it is that Spirit is both eternal (which, in case you haven’t picked up on this, or you think I have forgotten that I am supposed to be discussing animal rights, is the whole of the case I am presenting here in defence of rights for animals as members of a spiritual animal kingdom and Spirit is eternal) and historical. To reiterate, what spirit is can be stated ahead of considering its realization in history and yet that what it is to specify this is to articulate its historical self-development. This could be read as marking out a specific difference obtaining between the human form of life and the non-human forms of life but Spirit is the truth of nature and Spirit is eternal, albeit rationality brings with it historical self-shaping in a way that for example perception does not, but is that even so? There is no history of bat perception, bat perception is not self-shaped, it may be said, but see my article The Struggle for Recognition: On Animal Rights — part six.

One wonders why Pippin upon recognising that Spirit is in some sense (yes I know when you see that phrase it makes you want to ask in what sense?) self-produced in human animal spirit in a way it is not in non-human animal spirit that he did not then recognise a bar his particular reading puts upon an important insight, that is to say, with the entrance of the human animal upon the stage so too enters along with it a distinctively social normativity to which we are subject, we are social apes that love getting social albeit non-human animals do too and perhaps do it better, (without the judging and gossiping and back-biting and so on, still, how can we ever really know, despite the claims given above from analytical philosophers, what is really going on in the non-human animal world other than for all of us Spirit is our truth?), and hence talking of being from an ontological point of view mere animals is no longer applicable. So should not Pippin agree about what he in fact denies, namely that we were subject to our distinctive normativity or have stood in the space of reasons all along.

Let us look into Hegel’s account of the human animal further. Hegel, pace Pippin, presents a picture of the human being that contains human normativity from the start, a picture of the animal organism brought to perfection and while may baulk at the word perfection the point to note is the unbroken line in terms of Spirit from non-human animal to human animal. Spirit is our shared truth. In the picture of living organisms contained within the ‘Philosophy of Nature’ there ascends an Aristotelian scala naturae, plant, animal, rational animal.8

‘Animation is a process, and to the same extent as it is singleness, this process has to explicate itself into the triad of processes’


‘As it accords with the simple nature of vegetativeness itself, the inner process of the plant’s relation to itselfis at the same time a relation to externality, and an externalization. One side of this process is its substantiality, itis animmediate transformation, s partly of the nutritive infIuxions into the specific nature of the plant species, and partly of the internally transformed fluidity of the vital sap into formations. The other side of the process is its selfmediation. This begins (a) with the simultaneously outward direction of the diremption into root and leaf, and with the inner abstract diremption of the general cellular tissue into wood-fibre and life-vessels. The wood-fibre also relates itself externally, and the life-vessels contain the internal circulation. The selfmediating preservation which occurs here is (b) growth as a production of the new formations. It is diremption into abstract self-relation, into the induration of wood (which reaches petrifaction in tabashir and suchlike formations) and of other parts, and into the permanent foliaceousness of the bark. © The gathering of self-preservation into unity is not unification of the individual with itself, but the production of a new plant-individual, the bud’.

- ‘Philosophy of Nature’

Each of these kinds of organism realizes the life process or process which is vitality in a different way,distinctive of the kind of organism that it is and the life process is in turn the unity of a triad of processes, the process of formation (the coming-to-be and growth of the organism), the process of assimilation (by which the organism appropriates or consumes the environment), and the genus-process (Gattungsprozess, which could be translated as species-process except that Hegel reserves Gattung for genus and Art for species) through which the organism engenders further instances of its kind. The Gattungsprozess does not fully come into its own in the plant since plant reproduction is not restricted to producing discrete individuals of its own kind, it may happen through the grafting together of mere plant parts, so in plants we get no more than a beginning and an adumbration of the genus-process:

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

- ‘Philosophy of Nature’

In the plant the Gattungsprozess is, on the whole, superfluous since the process of formation and assimilation is itself already reproduction as production of fresh individuals which is not to say that the Gattungsprozess fails to be instantiated in plants but it is instantiated in reproduction through the dispersal of seeds and so reproduction in plants is not confined to the Gattungsprozess, so that the Gattungsprozess is not properly distinct from the process of formation and assimilation, it is in the animal that reproduction is restricted as is proper to the generation of new individuals:

‘Organic individuality exists as subjectivity in so far as the externality proper to shape is idealized into members, and in its process outwards, the organism preserves within itself the unity of selfhood. This constitutes the nature of the animal, in which the actuality and externality of immediate singularity is countered by the intra-reflected self of singularity or the subjective universality which is within itself’.

- ‘Philosophy of Nature’

Such individuals are governed by a life of self-feeling, they are subjects over against an external world (but not subjects for-themselves (I could say something here about Lewis and his newts but I won’t put myself through that again).

In the human [geistig] animal, the life of self-feeling is overcome and the subject becomes for-itself:

‘For this reason formally the essence of mind is freedom, the concept’s absolute negativity as identity with itself. In accordance with this formal determination, the mind can abstract from everything external and from its own externality, from its very life; it can endure the negation of its individual immediacy, infinite pain, i.e. it can maintain itself affirmatively in this negativity and be identical for itself. This possibility is its intrinsic abstract universality, a universality that is for itself’.

- ‘Philosophy of Spirit’

Spirit can abstract from everything external and from its own externality, from its very life. This is effectively the full resolution of the Gattungsprozess. With the emergence of geistig life:

‘By moving from one place to another, the animal has certainly released itself completely from gravity; it is aware of itself in sensation and hears itself in voice; the genus exists in the generic process, but also only as a singular. Now as this existence is still inadequate to the universality of the Idea, the Idea has to break out of this sphere, and draw breath by shattering this inadequate existence. Consequently, instead of the third moment of the generic process lapsing again into singularity, the other side, which is death, constitutes the sublation of the singular, and is therefore the proceeding forth of the genus, of spirit. This is so because the negation of the immediate singularity of natural being consists in the positing of the universality of the genus, and moreover in the form of the genus. In spiritual individuality, this movement of the two sides is the selfsublating progression which results in consciousness, i.e. the unity which is in and for itself the unity of both, and which is this as self, not merely as genus in the inner Notion of the singular. It is in this way that the Idea exists in the independent subject, which as an organ of the Notion, finds everything to be fluid and of an ideal nature, i.e. it thinks, appropriates to itself all that is spatial and temporal, and so contains universality, i.e. itself. As the universal now has being for the universal, the Notion is for itself’. — ‘Philosophy of Nature’

Human animals are the Gattungswesen as such, the Gattung that does not lose itself in the individuals that it gives rise to, but is the universal individual. Hegel does not use the term Gattungswesen, yet the concept as appropriated from him by Ludwig Andreas von Feuerbach, (1804–1872), and then Karl Marx, (1818–1883), features in his discussion when he talks of Wesen that are in and for themselves their Gattung. Note that we are this is already established by the end of the ‘Philosophy of Nature’, that is, it gets established as part of Hegel’s treatment of the animal as such and not in the treatment of spirit that follows upon it! Karen Ng and Catherine Malabou, (1959 — ), have noted that the ‘Philosophy of Spirit’ picks up where the ‘Philosophy of Nature’ left off without any need for an intervening ‘transition’. ‘The transition to Geist already takes place in the concluding paragraph of [the Philosophy of Nature’, wrote Ng. ‘The transition between the two [the Philosophy of Nature and the Philosophy of Spirit] poses a genuine problem because it concerns the only moment of Hegel’s philosophy where the same term plays the role both of result and of origin. The Philosophy of Nature ends with the study of the soul and its functions; the Philosophy of Spirit begins with the study of the soul and its functions’, wrote Malabou.

Hence in line with such observations as these we may suppose Hegel had the human being already in the picture when he speaks of das vollkommene Tier at the end of the ‘Philosophy of Nature’. The human being may well be a distinctive kind of animal but sois the newt, just as the transformation in the gear change from plant life to animal life brings with it a distinctive repertoire of further capacities so too with the gear change from non-human animal life to human animal life, and what opens up this distinctive repertoire is the characteristic of the human that can be described in two ways, as self-consciousness or as universality. It is as the animal that can say I, that is to say, as a self-conscious, which is to say universal, being, which was already there in inchoate form in the newt, (Gott segne den Molch! that I stand in a new relation to my psychical life, and such brings with it an extensive psychical repertoire notably including habit which serves both to liberate and to regularize our behaviour (not always a good thing especially when engaging in philosophy. And non-human animals of course have their habits. Animals, said Hegel, ‘bring about [their] own destruction’ through ‘the inertia of habit’. But habit of a kind that has the dual function of mechanizing and liberating the behaviour of its possessors is proper to the human animal as dealt with in the ‘Philosophy of Spirit’). It also makes us self-consciousnesses for each other, and thereby recognitive beings, as well as for non-human animals for the quality of recognitiveness as a quality of Spirit was in there from the very start.

‘La mauvaise nouvelle’, 1804, Marguerite Gérard

Finally, a consideration of species-being and the concrete universal. The Pippinian notion of a collective self-imposition of normativity having been abandoned what of Hegel’s conception of how we as normative beings have a normativity internal to the kind of animal beings we are, that is, self-conscious, universal animal beings? What is it about conceiving us as the self-conscious, universal kind of animal that means that the normativity to which we are subject is contained in what we are? Hegel presents human beings as the animal beings that are Gattungswesen so as to bring out the logical structure of human individuals’ relationship to their Gattung the contention being that there is a contrast between those non-human animals in whom the Gattungsprozess is not fully resolved and human animals in whom it is fully resolved, non-human animals in some sense endeavour to be their Gattung. There is such important points here relevant to the issue of human rights, notice how different this is from the anthropocentrism of the analytical philosophers above who have no sense of Gattungsprozess, who judge of non-human animals that they lack something that human animals have and on that basise should be denied rights

An individual horse for instance endeavours attempts to be the horse-kind or the horse-species through reproducing itself yet only succeeds through reproduction to give rise to further individuals that, like it, fall short to be for-themselves their Gattung and non-human animals are deficient in falling short of being fully, their concept, each horse is deficient in virtue of it falling short of being the horse-kind while human animals manage through the way the Gattungsprozess functions in their case to be Gattungswesen whereby human individuals which is all of us succeed in being our Gattung in- and for-ourselves, we have a special relationship to our Gattung that non-geistig animals have not. But such relationship, the way in which we are individuals conforming to or falling under a Gattung or kind, accords us what Hegel designates concrete universality. We are universal, but one must be careful of the perceived contrast human animals and non-human animals, a contrast brought out by considering our capacity to say I or equivalently our self-consciousness, for universality and self-consciousness are to sides of the same coin.

‘First of all, we say that man thinks, but, at the same time, we say too that he intuits, wills, etc. Man thinks and is something universal, but he thinks only insofar as the universal is [present) for him. The animal is also in-itself something universal, but the universal as such is not [present) for it; instead only the singular is ever [there) for it. The animal sees something singular, for instance, its food, a man, etc. But all these are only something singular for it. In the same way our sense experience always has to do only with something singular (this pain, this pleasant taste, etc. ) . Nature does not bring the nous to consciousness for itself; only man reduplicates himself in such a way that he is the universal that is [present) for the universal. This is the case for the first time when man knows himself to be an ‘I’. When I say ‘I’, I mean myself as this Singular, quite determinate person. But when I say ‘I], I do not in fact express anything particular about myself. Anyone else is also ‘I’, and although in calling myself ‘1’, I certainly mean me, this single [person), what I say is still something completely universal’.

- ‘The Encyclopedia Logic’

The human animal makes itself double so as to be a universal for a universal which first happens when the human animal knows it is an I by which term it means itself as an altogether determinate person while uttering nothing peculiar to itself for every one else is an I the I abstracting not just from the particularities of what confronts it but also from its own particularities and in thus abstracting away from its own particularities it is speaking of a universal, the I that every other human animal can also enunciate. The universality of Geistigkeit is concrete universality. In the ‘Science of Logic’ the concrete universal represents a kind of falling under a predicate through a series of types of judgement,through which we discern a connection between subject and predicate becoming in a manner of speaking ever tighter. In a judgement, ‘we expect to see one and the same object double, once in its singular actuality, and again in its essential identity or in its concept’ yet this desideratum is not yet satisfied in ‘judgements of existence’ such as ‘the rose is red’. Here there is as Robert Stern, (1962 — ), explains: ‘at best a superficial relation between individual and universal, as the latter forms an accidental property of the former’. Redness does not get us to the essence of this rose, we make some progress on this score as we advance through judgements of reflection and judgements of necessity but it is only in judgements of the notion that its, i.e. the subject matter’s, connection with the Notion is to be found: ‘The concept is at the basis of this judgement, and it is there with reference to the subject matter, as an ought to which reality may or may not conform’.

One way to characterizes the manner in which the predicate reaches all the way down into the essence of the subject is in terms of concrete universality:

‘The subject of the apodictic judgment (‘the house, as so and so constituted, is good’, ‘the action, as so and so constituted, is right’) includes, first, the universal, or what it ought to be; second, its constitution; the latter contains the ground why a predicate of the judgment of the concept does or does not pertain to it, that is, whether the subject corresponds to its concept or not. This judgment is now truly objective; or it is the truth of the judgment in general. Subject and predicate correspond to each other, and have the same concept, and this content is itself posited concrete universality; that is to say, it contains the two moments, the objective universal or the genus and the singularized universal. Here we have, therefore, the universal that is itself and continues through its opposite, and is a universal only in unity with the latter. — Such a universal, like ‘good’, ‘fitting’, ‘right’, etc., has an ought for its ground, and contains at the same time the correspondence of existence; it is not the ought or the genus by itself, but this correspondence which is the universality that constitutes the predicate of the apodictic judgment’.

- ‘Science of Logic’

Subject and predicate correspond to each other and have the same concept and this content is itself posited concrete universality which is to say it contains the two moments, the objective universal or the genus [Gattung] and the singularized universal. The human animal is considered by Hegel to be a paradigm case of concrete universality, that is a community of mutual recognition or of Spirit is a paradigmatic example of concrete universality. In the perfect animal, the geistig animal) nature:

‘… has passed over […] into the subjectivity of the concept whose objectivity is itself the sublated mmediacy of singularity, is concrete universality’.

- ‘Philosophy of Nature’

Each individual human animal in the capacity human or geistig animal is fully its Gattung whereas with non-human animals who are incapable of ‘perfect exemplification of the genus’ it is the case that ‘the genus genuinely actualizes itself, on the other hand, in spirit, in thinking, in this element which is homogeneous with the genus. A human being is at once individual and universal, just as what it is: ‘We have the tremendous diremption of spirit into different selves which are, both in and for themselves and for one another, completely free, independent, absolutely obdurate, resistant — and yet at the same time identical with one another, hence not self-subsistent, not impenetrable, but, as it were, fused together [zusammengeflossen]’. (Philosophy of Mind’). and further: ‘It is the universality concrete in character and thus for-itself universal which is the substance of self-consciousness, the immanent genus [Gattung], or immanent Idea, of self-consciousness’. (‘Philosophy of Right’).

We now have in play the idea of normativity as being internal to the individual human animal in the capacity of Gattungswesen albeit non-human animals are subject to norms in the own way. ‘Four legs good, two legs bad’ is a condensation of the ‘Seven Commandments of Animalism’ given by Snowball the intelligent pig (as real pigs are as it happens) in George Orwell’s, (1903–1950), ‘Animal Farm’.

And a three-legged pig is a defective pig it is the norm that they have four legs. Now note this: the full-fledged normativity that Pippin explains through a social-historical act is already contained in Hegel’s very conception of the human animal! The norms to which the human animal is subject and our being self-conscious implies that these are social norms are contained in the very idea of the human. It may be objected that it is only some way into his treatment of the human that Hegel brings in recognition through the life-and-death struggle. Does it matter that Hegel does not speak of recognition before this point? Well, there is no indication from Hegel that such development or unfolding as he presents is incompatible with the idea that what comes to light in the unfolding is already contained in the conception of the human animal in Hegel’s anthropology for self-consciousness is already contained in consciousness as its truth and that self-consciousness is essentially recognizant self-consciousness, and nothing needs to occur to perceive all this other than our looking on at the unfolding of the concept. When Hegel critiques those who look for temporal development instead of the development of the concept (as in the ‘Philosophy of Right’) this point has application quite generally across Hegel’s project within which the ‘Philosophy of Right’ is incorporated.

‘La mauvaise nouvelle’, 1804, Marguerite Gérard

In the ‘Phenomenology of Spirit’ wherein Hegel’s account of recognition is elaborated there is also an account of universal self-consciousness, the human animal is the universal being:

‘Universal self-consciousness is the affirmative awareness of oneself in the other self. Each self as free individuality has absolute independence, but in virtue of the negation of its immediacy or desire it does not distinguish itself from the other; it is universal and objective; and it has real universality in the form of reciprocity, in that it is aware of its recognition in the free other, and is aware of this in so far as it recognizes the other and is aware that it is free’.


‘The result of the struggle for recognition, brought about by the concept of mind, is universal self-consciousness, which forms the third stage in this sphere, i.e. that free self-consciousness for which its object, the other self-consciousness, is no longer, as in the second stage, an unfree but an equally independent self-consciousness. At this standpoint, therefore, the mutually related self-conscious subjects, by sublation of their unequal particular individuality, have risen to the consciousness of their real universality, of their freedom befitting all, and hence to the intuition of their determinate identity with each other’.

- ‘Philosophy of Spirit’

A being that fully realizes the Gattungsprozess, a being that is truly for itself its own Gattung, a being that in its self-consciousness knows itself to be universal, its self-consciousness meaning that it holds itself to account, and non-human animals are subject to standards such as the standard for pigs to have four legs and do not hold themselves to these standards while the human animal thinks of itself as subject to norms, its universality means that all instances of it are held to account, and since the Gattung is split into individuals each individual, each of which is universal, holds each other individual to account, and the norms for human animals are must be social, for another I shows up for me in its otherness, as you and I show up as you for that other I, a social relation is built into the very notion of the universality that all the I’s share with one another since for them to be I’s is for them to understand themselves as the you to another I and vice versa, this is mutual recognition Hegel’s account of which does not bring in anything that leaves the natural lives of such individuals behind and in the description of the life-and-death struggle what is being articulated and made vivid is already contained in the idea of the Gattungswesen. The life-and-death struggle can be recognized as taking place in history, giving a historical account of the life-and-death struggle highlights how difficult mutual recognition is to attain, but what the very idea of the life-and-death struggle articulates is that spirited beings are free beings in whose nature it is to recognize each other as such. The articulation is of what was true of human animals all along and we owe it all to non-human animals, the logic of Spirit manifests itself in history including natural history for Spirit is the truth of nature albeit logic is prior to the history, and such processes as the life-and-death struggle are to be understood as working towards the realization of what Spirit is, what we are as human beings without us having had to achieve anything because of being part of thw spiritual animal kingdom.

Spirit is the truth of nature. This does not just mean that Spirit is still natural. It means that nature is gives way to Spirit and that in Spirit nature’s deficiencies are remediedand in remedying nature’s deficiencies Spirit does not leave nature behind but realizes that which nature only attempts to be. Spirited beings realizing the truth of nature are not ontologically natural as Pippin would have it but are natural in a new way.

Hegel takes over from Aristotle a hierarchical account of living beings and in his rendering of the Aristotelian hierarchy the transition from each form of soul to the next is a dialectical one so that each higher form involves the sublation of that immediately below it. Furthermore Hegel discerns in Aristotle the notion that the truth of nature is spirit and that is the notion that the self-conscious, rational form of life is the truth of animal life in which nature culminates. Normativity rather than being explicable through a social-historical act is already contained in the very conception of the human animal. Normativity is at the foundation of rights. To deny rights to animals is an injustice against the truth of nature, (natural rights are not ‘nonsense upon stilts’ as Jeremy Bentham, (1748–1747), would have it, but one needs to go in deep to find out why, the whole issue of animal rights is so poorly served like much of philosophy in general by philosophers being lazy and just not digging deep enough).

The nature/spirit relation is a transition from one form of life to another though forms of life is another issue but maybe there is something to be said for Matthew Boyle’s transformative theory of rationality as opposed to additive theories. Transformativism, additivism, which to go for? Well, consider some capacity shared by non-rational and rational animals, perception, for instance, maybe we may get something sensible going here as opposed to what Carruther has to say (see above). According to additive theories the difference made by the addition of rationality in rational animals is that a further capacity governs or monitors the capacity of perception in some way, perception remaining unchanged as it does so. According to transformative theories on the other hand the difference made is not mere addition, but a transformation of the capacity of perception, and as a consequence transformativists contend that rationality reaches down into perception such that rational animals have perception in a different way from the way non-rational animals do so. Human perception is itself conceptually structured. Transformativism can be presented in terms of an Aristotelian picture of capacities, as we progress through the Aristotelian hierarchy of nutritive, sensitive and rational soul we do not merely add capacities as if building a layer-cake bu rather the addition of capacities as we rise up the hierarchy brings with it the transformation of the capacities that have been previously accumulated. Is Hegel’s conception of the relation of nature to Spirit transformativist? Does he for instance provide a transformative account of the lower capacities in his anthropology? Hegel does appear to believe that perception stands transformed once we enter the realm of Spirit bringing with it a distinctive normativity characteristic of a rational form of life analogous to rationality as it figures in Boyle’s account.

The transformative picture cannot endorse the kind of commitments I have been discussing however, albeit such commitments supply deficiencies in the transformative picture. Thomas Khurana, (1975 — ), contends that Spirit itself does transformative work on nature in spirited animals. But transformativism leaves us with a duplication of the concept animal and perhaps with a duplication of the concept nature there are mere animals and there are rational animals and how are we to understand how to link the two kinds of animal to each other, the very thing i have been pushing for here. How are we to understand their both being animals? Is it that I possess the power of perception in a different way from the manner in which a wildebeest does? But how does such a transformed capacity for perception as rational animals possess relate to the non-transformed capacity for perception that non-rational animals possess? Just like occasionalism transformativism substitutes one mystery with another (philosophical -isms have a habit of doing that). We were asking how could my rationality possibly have purchase on, or govern or monitor, my capacity of perception? Now we are asking how can I understand that what the wildebeest and I are doing are both acts of perceiving now that I understand my own acts of perception as inherently rationally modulated?

Spirit is the truth of nature. Transformativism refrains from any systematic commitment to spelling out the nature/spirit relation, but upon the thesis that spirit is the truth of nature coming into play it might be possible to give an account of the relation between non-transformed animals and transformed animals whereby non-transformed animals are a less full realization of the animal than are transformed animals a transformed animal being a spirited animal and the spirited animal is the truth of the non-spirited animal and so non-spirited animals are deficient with respect to the concept animal in a way that spirited animals are not. Does that fit in with transformativism? At least I can rest easy concerning my grasp of the wildebeest’s perception oh happy days given that such perception is now understood to be deficient in just such away that my failure to grasp it is not a mystery but what I should expect.

Oh well no need to get bogged down with all that, nor with going further into Hegel’s Aristotelian conception of nature and its significance for his philosophy of Spirit and his re-workin of Aristotle’s hierarchical conception of soul in terms of the sublation of each form by the next highest one, so that the higher one is always the truth of the immediately lower, nor into how spirited animals can have all the trappings of geistig self-determination. I think I have made my case in this article in defence of animal rights robustly enough. Hegel ends the ‘Philosophy of Nature with this:

‘The aim of these lectures is to convey an image of nature, in order to subdue this Proteus: to find in this externality only the mirror of ourselves, to see in nature a free reflection of spirit: to understand God, not in the contemplation of spirit, but in this His immediate existence’.

God, or Spirit. Spirit is the truth of nature. All animals, human or non-human, dwell in the spiritual animal. It is the nature of the animal to have a subjective universality within itself. To deny rights to an animal, human or non-human, is a universal injustice.

‘The Escaped Bird’, 1867, Willem van Mieris

To be continued …



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.