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Hegel and Naturalism

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  22 April 2013

Alexis Papazoglou*
Affiliation:
University of Cambridge, ajp83@cam.ac.uk
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Abstract

In the recent Hegel literature there has been an effort to portray Hegel's philosophy as compatible with naturalism, or even as a form of naturalism (see for example Pippin 2008 and Pinkard 2012). Despite the attractions of such a project, there is, it seems to me, another, and potentially more interesting way of looking at the relationship of Hegel to naturalism. Instead of showing how Hegel's philosophy can be compatible with naturalism, I propose to show how Hegel's philosophy offers a challenge to naturalism. Naturalism has become the dominant ideology in much of contemporary analytic philosophy (Kim 2003: 84), but also within other disciplines. Evolutionary psychology and behavioral genetics, which attract a lot of media attention, attempt to explain the human mind and human behavior in purely naturalistic terms, usually in terms of the biological past and makeup of humans (Pinker 2002). Philosophy's task is, among other things, to examine the assumptions of human practices including its own. In that vein I am interested in showing how Hegel can be seen as someone offering a challenge to our contemporary philosophical culture and its underlying naturalist premise.

Of course that Hegel never explicitly talks about naturalism in his writings already presents us with the problem of risking anachronism. The other great problem is the fact that naturalism is an elusive philosophical position. There are a few different versions of the key theses of naturalism, so that if our aim is to diagnose Hegel's philosophy as naturalist or anti-naturalist it would seem we have to pick which version of naturalism we are going to work with.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © The Hegel Society of Great Britain 2012

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