Originally published in MIND Vol. XI - 1886
HEGEL'S CONCEPTION OF NATURE
[Read before the Aristotelian Society on 25th Jan, 1886
By S. ALEXANDER
HEGEL's Philosophy of Nature forms the second part of his great Encyclopedia, lying between the science of Logic and the science of the Spirit. In nature, according to Hegel's system, the notion of which Logic treats flies apart into points of matter, held together still, like the rings thrown off from the planet Saturn, by allegiance to their origin. In spirit the notion is real and complete: nature at best is life, the disjecta membra of the Idea; but spirit is life and notion too, or the living notion which we call mind.
The Philosophy of Nature, as we have it in the Encyclopedia
[Hegel's Werke, Bd. vii. 1, Naturphilosophi. Where only the page is quoted, reference is made throughout the paper to this volume.] contains, besides the originally published treatise, supplements derived from his lectures, which often illustrate the severe thought of the text by lively and brilliant ideas struck out in the heat of delivery. Besides this volume we have the early system written at Frankfort,[Described in Rosenkranz, Hegel's Leben, pp. 99 ff. The section on Nature is pp. 112-123.]the greater part of which is occupied by Nature; and in the Propaedeutic,[Hegel's Werke, xviii, pp. 169-178.] which Hegel wrote for his boys at Nurnberg, some pages are devoted to the same subject. It would be an interesting task to compare these three different forms of the philosophy with one another and note their points of difference; but they are in the main identical, and the phenomenology of Hegel's own mind may be neglected in a paper which pretends to give only a sketch of Hegel's general position as a philosopher of nature.
The Philosophy of Nature is certainly one of the most suggestive, and just as certainly the most perplexing of Hegel's works. It is nearly always mentioned with an apology. Though it was founded on the best knowledge of the time, how small that knowledge seems to be! and then again it is so fantastic and so poetical that it may often be thought not to be serious. For instance, when it is said (p. 151) that the tides are caused by the longing of the moon's parched and lifeless crystal for our sea, by which to allay its thirst, who can help feeling that they are much more intelligible in the ordinary theory of attraction? And yet is not this very ‘attraction’ full of poetry, and actually transferred from human interests to natural facts? And is not the history of evolution itself a great epic, not without its tragic side—the march of destiny in the natural world, and not without its touches of epic irony—the great universal battle of frogs and mice? Wherever science appears to be largest and truest it appears most poetical and most philosophical However, I do not mean to apologize for Hegel or to defend him: my object is to represent his view of nature as simply as I can and, where I can do so, in my own way, without much use of Hegel's technicalities; and secondly, I wish to point out some of his merits and defects, and to show what bearing his conception may have on some current ideas.
The Relation of Philosophy of Nature to Physics or Natural Science. [Einleitung pp. 7 ff. ]Physics, i.e.. Natural Science, and the Philosophy of Nature deal with the same subject; they differ only in their mode of thought. Science thinks nature, philosophy comprehends it; science casts nature in the forms of the understanding, to philosophy nature is presented in the form of the Idea or Notion: hence the former is said to be a denkende, the latter a begreifende, Betrachtung of nature. It is the outcome of physics, the mode of thinking which the mind is compelled to adopt by science itself. It can only begin when science has already achieved certain results: experience must have been collected and laws discovered before philosophy begins, and it can continue only when checked by experience. The express declaration of Hegel to this effect [Wallace's Logic of Hegel, pp. 15 ff ; cp, Werke, vi, pp. 18 ff.] is sufficient to show the absurdity of supposing that his Philosophy of Nature is an d priori construction of experience : it is only experience of nature transformed into thought, and therefore independent of merely .individual experience.
This relation of natural philosophy to natural science is repeated in all special philosophies, and in philosophy or metaphysics in general. They are often thought otiose because they do not precede but follow actual achievement. The philosophy of history requires to be preceded by an intelligent account of men and movements, which it uses as material for discovering how the idea of the state develops. A metaphysic of ethics presupposes a scientifically arranged description of the facts of ethics. Metaphysics itself must be preceded by the reflection performed by the understanding upon the ordinary facts of knowledge. Science provides everywhere the material of philosophy. To quote a sentence of Hegel which has often been quoted, "The philosophical method is not a mere whim, of walking once m a way for a change upon your head, when you are tired of walking on your legs, or of painting up for once your everyday face. It is because the method of natural science does not satisfy the Notion that the step to philosophy is taken" (p. 18).
Let us then explain how it is that science leads on to the philosophy of nature.[Phenomenologie (Werke, ii.) pp.184 ff.] We begin the study of nature with (1) Observation. Guided by the instinct that the world is rational, observation transforms the isolated individuals into universals, by discovering their marks or general character. On this process are founded the classificatory sciences. The next step is (2) the Discovery of Laws, which is the business of rational natural science. Observation leaves objects in their repose, with permanent general characteristics which distinguish them from other objects: science takes account of the inner negation of things by which they violate this illusory quiescence, negate themselves and other things and place themselves in a process of restless connection with one another. In discovering what are these active relations science rises a step further above sense, for the sensible facts are transformed into vehicles of a law in which their sensuous character is obliterated, or, as Hegel puts it, "Sense is not in and for itself, but for the law".[Werke ii, p. 189].
In neither of these processes is there a blind subservience to nature, but a mutual helpfulness of nature and spirit which is a prescience of their affinity. It is through this instinct of reason that these laws are regarded as true: not until their defects are observed do we hesitate and regard them as merely probable. Thus science thinks nature, permeates it with reason, epitomizes nature by thought, which is the great epitomizer. [Cp. Werke, ix., p. 8 ((Philosophie der Geshicte).]
It thinks nature even in the distinction which m observation it draws between essential and unessential marks: still more in the notion of law. The physicists often imagine they do but follow nature, but they are letter than they imagine (p. 6): if they were not, Hegel says, the beasts would be the better physicists, for they devour nature and turn it to their own purposes (p. 16).
But though science thinks nature it is imperfect (p. 19), for in the first place its universals are left abstract or formal: they are taken from facts as we find them, abstracted from. them, and therefore seem to exist apart from the actual thing. The conception of specific heat, for instance, is. derived from observing certain sets of facts, which are generalized under a common name; it is not shown why there should exist particular facts of this quality. That the angles of incidence and reflection are equal is a general law, common to all instances of light impinging on a mirror; but this law gives only a common quality without assigning its secret.
And with this is intimately connected a second defect,. at bottom identical with the former. The content of the natural facts is in the scientific law dissected, and falls into separate parts. Just as a flower is said to consist of various-parts, or a body is regarded as a combination of many qualities, strung together by help of the connecting particle ‘and’ (compare Phenomenologie, pp. 84 ff.): so in the law that bodies fall through spaces which vary as the square of the time, body and fall and space and time are unconnected. The content is thus not a complete and concrete whole whose behavior is the necessity of its nature: for philosophy the law of fall must be shown to follow from the very conception or constitution of matter; it will then be exhibited as a law of distance and time.
It is these imperfections of physics that render a philosophy of nature possible and necessary, the office of which is to exhibit the whole world of nature as a system of ideas, each of its ideas being contained in the supreme and concrete idea of nature.
What then is Nature? The question can be answered. properly only in the complete elaboration of the Philosophy of Nature. But in the abstract there are two ways in which Hegel answers the question; the one answer places-nature in connection with the logical Idea, the other in connection with the idea of Spirit. According to the former, Nature is the self-liberation or the self-alienation, or the otherness, of the Idea; according to the latter. Nature is that which is transcended so as to become Spirit.
(1) The Idea or Notion, Nature and Spirit are the names of the triad which makes up the whole of reality: the last is the complete expression of the former two in their combination, and it is implicit in each of them. In each of the triad the other two are in fact implied in different ways, and when the Idea is spoken of for itself it is always through reference to Spirit that it has a meaning, and that in fact its process can be discovered. The logical Idea is the whole world of natural and intelligible things in its abstract form, but it is no mere reposeful conception; it is a process, the process of dialectic. It is not merely a process for us, with our habits of learning, but in itself a process, and therefore. like the Platonic dialectic after which it is named, identical with its method. Hence in its beginning its end is contained: the bare category of Being is full of the negativity which is the secret of the Notion, the final result.
The office of Logic is to show how simpler and more abstract forms of the Idea are absorbed into the end or total Idea. This Idea is not mere immediateness, such as is imaged by existing things (Sein), nor relation, such as is repeated in nature in the causal connection of things (Wesen), but it is self-determination, such as again is imaged in the will (Begriff). As thus complete within itself, turning round upon its own axis, and maintaining its cohesion through its very tendency to fly apart, "returning out of its negativity into itself," it is once more immediate, exists then and there, but it is enriched by all the distractions, all the divisions within itself, all the struggles to rise above itself through which it has passed. This metaphorical language, however, does not mean that the Idea undergoes a process in tune: it is a timeless process by which one idea is contained in a higher, which therefore develops out of it: it exists as a whole.
The logical Idea, then, is absolute knowledge, or that which is self-centered. "What corresponds to it in religions language is the conception of God the Father. But it is still abstract, purely thought; though defined as the union of thought and reality, and therefore concrete in character. it is out of its own imperfection as thought that it has returned into repose. So far it is subjective and needs realization in another sphere. God the Father must appear as God the Son. The Idea having traversed all its stages has returned to its beginning, to Being, and as such it is that which is, it is Nature. This is no new determination beyond the Idea, which needs not to pass beyond the circle in which it turns, but is the whole Idea as real. It is the Idea as other which is contained in the Idea, and therefore described by Hegel as the self-liberation, or self-alienation and self-resolving of the Idea: not beyond the Idea, but the Idea itself as really being. [In expounding the first element in the notion of Nature as the immediateness of the Idea, its otherness as merely being, I am following the transition at the end of the larger Logic.—Werke,v, pp. 352-3.]
This transition is very obscure, and perhaps impossible;
but if we may in an account of Hegel permit ourselves the language of mere conception (Vorstellung), we may think of the Idea as the complete law of the universe. In this completeness, needing no aid from other laws, it is itself something; it is, as it were, condensed into points which we recognize as nature. For things are actually made by the laws which are the relations between them. Hence a perfect law is a perfect system of nature which is its bearer or expression.
Nature is in this way the otherness or the self-liberation of the Idea, and yet permeated or interpenetrated with it, so as to be transparent to it. In his earlier school-lectures [Rosenkranz’s Preface to Propadeutik (Werke, xvii.), p. xvii.] Hegel described it as the copy of the Idea, but neither this nor the description I have given is to be understood as equivalent to the common saying that nature is the mirror of God. Hegel might say that such metaphors were true, but insufficient for the abstract nature of thought: they did not explain the real connection of thought with nature. Still less would he admit that in being transparent to thought nature was in fact a system of spiritual atoms; his coarse common sense would have rejected the vague mystery of such a conception.
But this does not exhaust the logical character of Nature. We have recognized it only as the Idea in the form of immediateness, of existence then and there, in virtue of its being the self-liberation or otherness of the Idea. But being the otherness of the Idea, of that which is always one and single and self-contained, it is the other as such, or it contains in itself the principle of otherness.[Einleitung, pp. 23 ff.] It therefore falls apart into a multitude of isolated parts or characters, all external to each other; and in its first or immediate form it is Space, the very abstract idea of self-externality, in which every part is indifferent to every other. Hence the accidentality and the blind necessity which constitute nature: it is accidental because of the indifference of its parts; it is subject to necessity because in their indifference they are yet constrained within the unity of nature as a whole (p. 30). This necessary connection between two different things which yet form a. unity is expressed by the scientific conception of polarity.
Nature reveals the difference inherent in its conception as an actual separation of two things: it is the other as other; and Hegel, with a quaint reminiscence of Plato, sees in this the secret of the recurrence in nature of the number four, in four elements, four colors, or even five: one for the notion, two for its difference, one for its return out of difference (p. 31). The accidentality or indifference of nature is thus of its essence, and is exhibited to us in the wild confusion of its forms. Though transparent to Spirit, it is like a magic beryl, full of wild, fantastic shapes: it is a ‘Bacchantic god’ (p. 24): it cannot preserve the outlines and limits of ideas and types, but in its profusion of forms, and in the monstrosities of organic life (p. 651), it varies from them indefinitely. This unity which we so much admire in nature Hegel regards. not as its glory, but as its weakness (Ohnmacht), its inadequacy. Hegel never could be induced to admire mere variety or multiplicity: with the true instinct of the philosopher he sought relief from the broken lights of the Idea in the self-sufficiency of the Idea itself; the starry heavens bored him. To him, though its otherness was Nature's law, it was its primal vice or defect, out of which arose its effort to become what it implicitly is - Spirit.
(2) We have traced the connection of Nature with the logical Idea: we have to show its relation to Spirit. Spirit (Geist) is the truth of Nature, which therefore presents itself as a series of stages which lead up to the notion of Spirit. [Einleitung, pp. 32-39.] It begins with Space and Time, the bare notion of self-externality, and it ends with organic life, in which nature, though not yet spirit, yet shows that self-concentration, or inward reflection (recognized in its simplest form in the process of assimilation and conservation), which is the prelude to the life of spirit. As the spirit in the forms of Religion is the Holy Ghost as it exists in the minds of the community, the natural man informed with the Idea, which is God, through the medium of the Son, so the Spirit or Thought is the Idea completely realized, a return from its own externality as Nature into itself as Spirit. "The end of nature is to destroy itself, to break through its immediate sensible covering, and like the phoenix from its flames to arise from this externality new-born as spirit" (p. 695).
"This liberation from nature and her necessity is the notion of the philosophy of nature." But once more it is necessary to follow Hegel in emphasizing that these stages are not stages of actual natural development, which occurred in fact and were open to the observation of whatever minds may have lived in the past. They are stages in logical development, they grow out of each other by logical necessity: "the forms of Nature are forms of the Notion, though in the element of externality". Each stage is not the historical outcome of the preceding, as we might say that the existing horse with one toe is the outcome of the Pliocene horse with five, but its truth, which was contained in it and is evolved from it by the inner necessity of the notion of nature. The theory of evolution is a theory of the history of nature, and whether it be true or false it is a series of events in time; but the Hegelian development is an eternal process, which is present m its totality at any one moment of nature's existence. It is nature in the form of thought, and a process as thought is. Thus spirit is not a natural product which grows out of nature, but is a conception present throughout nature, higher than nature, and therefore the ground of the possibility of nature.
This development of conceptions may be described as a progressively definite assertion of what is contained in the notion of nature: in each new stage characters which were latent in the preceding come to overt existence (p. 38). The process has therefore a double appearance. On the one and the more the different parts into which in nature the Idea falls receive a definite character, the more completely is the Idea externalized and explicated, the more does it go out of itself. At first it is like a mist, self-external, but homogeneous, the protoplasm of externality; by and by it forms into definite characters, and ultimately it is organic. But on the other hand the Notion is always present m its external forms, and holds them together into unity; they may resist our understandings, but they cannot ultimately resist the Spirit: and therefore from this side the process is one of ever greater inwardness; "the evolution is also involution," until in life the notion is dear and evident.
Divisions of Nature. The different stages of conception which nature exhibits form the bulk of Hegel's Philosophy of Nature. It would be impossible to describe them all, even if I could be sure that I entered fully into the meaning of all of Hegel's distinctions. I shall therefore describe only the main divisions of the subject, and shall then illustrate by a few examples the minuter elaboration of Hegel's view.
Nature falls into three great stages, each higher than the preceding, the subject of three departments of Natural Philosophy—Mechanics, Physics, Organics.
(1) Mechanics. In mechanics Nature is regarded in the abstract, in the simplest and vaguest form of its idea—that of externality: its parts are relieved out of their total indifference to each other by a unity which is merely ideal or potential, not yet so realized in each of the parts as to give them character or individuality one against the other. Mechanics deals therefore with Matter, but as formless: its unity is outside it, in that simple tendency to a center which we know by the name of gravity. This unity is but an aspiration, an unrealized ideal, a Sollen. Hegel calls it. Beyond this attractiveness by virtue of which it is in perpetual self-repulsion matter has no other quality (pp. 67-70).
However, matter is not that which comes first in the logical order of mechanical nature. That beginning is the complete and soulless self-indifference of nature which is Space (pp. 44 ff.). Space and Time together are abstract self-externality. They involve each other and combine to produce Motion, the soul of the world, which precipitates matter in its process, in a way which will demand a fuller attention later. Matter and the motion or fall by which it manifests the elements in its nature are the sphere of finite mechanics.
There is a third sphere of mechanics, the mechanics of matter in its conception or notion, the mechanics of motion which is not, as in the case of fall, only relatively free, determined by the accidental distance of a body from its center, but is free absolutely or immanent in matter itself. This is the free circling motion of the heavenly bodies round their central sun (pp. 94 ff.), the system of minor centers which maintain their individuality by their free relation to a greater center: an image of that restraint and conservation of free individuals which in the sphere of spirit is realized in the state.[Logic, iii. (Werke,v.) p. 197.] The special laws of motion, which are known as Kepler's laws, follow from the conception of this system as such.
(2) Physics. In all the three portions of mechanical nature it is quantity and quantity only that is exhibited, and all its characters and relations are quantitative. But already in the final form, the free movement of the heavenly system, there is attained by means of a totality or system of motions a unity which is beyond the mere aspiration of matter itself. In physics (pp. 127 ff.) this unity has advanced one step farther, and has become a form or quality. The matter of which physics treats is individual or qualified, or has its center within itself. The characters of the Idea becoming more definite in their externality, nature takes a further step in self-reflection, and appears as actually ideal. It is but a little way to that highest self-reflection which exists as the human spirit turning the outer world to its own uses. And the first adumbration in nature of this higher ideality is already the counterpart of the Ego: it is Light, which is matter qualified as pure identity, the self of matter (pp. 130 ff.). Only it differs from the self of spirit because it is quite abstract, bare pellucid identity, undimmed by difference, while the Ego or person is an identity which is maintained through difference, and lives by subduing antagonism; or, as Hegel puts it, "Light is manifestation of itself, not for itself, but only for other" (p. 182). Light spreads through space, but the Ego is a point of unity. Light, then, is the first manifestation of what Hegel calls Universal Individuality, the simplest universal quality of nature. It has its negation in the Dark (p. 142), the limit against which it can differentiate itself from its mere identity and be seen as light For light as such is invisible.
Still more complex are the natures of the four elements. Air, Fire, Water, Earth, which with the meteorological process of the elements complete the stages of universal individuality, the abstract determinations of nature in the large. But physics has to deal with more concrete ideas than this: first of all with matter determined in its material form, in which the form is only spatial (physics of special individuality, of which I shall speak presently), and lastly with what Hegel calls total individuality, where the form is immanent and there is some approach to a truer unity. But it is still only struggling and is expressed still as a relation between two things: it is conditioned and requires another. It appears first as Magnetism, which Hegel regards as the principle upon which figure is formed —a natural syllogism which holds together two sundered points (p. 246). Hence too its law, for, being notional and yet in nature and spatial, it negatives the identical, or repels it. In its highest form this unity appears as Chemical Process (pp. 360 ff.), which destroys the indifference of bodies.
(3) Organics. Chemism prepares the way for the final stage of Organics, where Nature first acquires the character of subject, with the power which a subject has of gathering up all its parts or differences under its own control. In the organism we have no longer a mere relation between bodies, rising at times to a furtively ideal character, but a negative unity which maintains itself by existing in different parts. Such a unity is Life. But as vegetable life (p. 470) it is still simple and immediate, not yet fully expressed, and it therefore returns to its old form of self-externality: its members are a repetition of itself, it is composed of buds and branches, each of which is the whole plant; it is rather the soil in which many individuals grow than a single organized subject. Its parts are not really different, but, according to Goethe's famous theory of metamorphosis, they pass into one another. It never gathers itself together for the collective act of feeling.
But, in the animal, life exists not merely potentially as subjective, but really; the external form is so idealized as to become limbs or members of a whole, and the organism in its process towards without retains its own individual unity (p. 549): it lives by reaction and by assimilation. Its voice, its motion, its warmth are evidences of the freedom of total life to which all its members contribute. And in its feeling it reaches the highest expression of self-contained unity which Nature can hope to attain.
In a philosophy of organic life you would expect to begin with life; and though this part of Hegel's Philosophy of Nature is perhaps the most valuable, yet it is one of the most puzzling things in the whole work to find him speaking of the Earth geologically considered as the first form of life, in which subjectivity is identical with the outward organism. The Earth is a system of geological members, the corpse of the life-process by which they were engendered; but though itself the source of all life, its own life is extinguished and is a thing of the past (p. 430).
Before we proceed to some minuter examples of Hegel's method let us note that these divisions of the philosophy of nature correspond to the divisions of Logic and Psychology. The three parts of Logic are the Idea as immediate or Being, the Idea as in relation or Essence, the Idea as returned into itself or Notion. Correspondingly, Mechanics is Nature as it exists immediately, then and there, in Being; Physics is Nature in relation, separate bodies or characters in connection; Organics is Nature in notional unity. In like manner the science of Spirit treats first of man as natural (Anthropology and Psychology); secondly, of man under relations of law and necessity, which for him are the expression of a world of freedom (Objective Spirit or Morality); lastly, of the forms of the Absolute Spirit (Art, Religion, and Philosophy), in which his complete notion is attained. If each of the three—Idea and Nature and Spirit—shines in reality through the other two, it is plain that a correspondence of this kind is to he expected. It points to the truth that Idea and Nature are each of them abstractly what Spirit is concretely or realized, and that Spirit is its own recovery from Nature. It is a truth which in reading Hegel we are apt to lose sight of, being misled by the delusive appearance of a regular progress from Logic to Nature and thence to Spirit. In reality they are parallel developments, not, however, separate, but mutually involved.
I will exemplify Hegel's method in detail from each of the three great divisions of Natural Philosophy. These examples will illustrate both the ideal character of facts which in our ordinary experience we learn mainly through our senses and without reflection, and the process of dialectic by which one ideal character is absorbed and held in solution in a higher and more definite one.
(1) Space and Time. Space is the first or simplest and most abstract form in which the Idea appeals as Nature. It is not, as in Kant's view, something subjective, a form of the mind, for Hegel's philosophy does not deal with the elements of knowledge as they are contained in the mind or the consciousness, but with knowledge as such, which in our consciousness we only recover. We think of matter as something solid and substantial, different altogether from space and time, and we ascribe to it a reality which we deny to them. This is a mistake: space and time are in the world as much as matter, which is, as it were, a condensation of them, much in the same way as in the old Ionic philosophies the whole world was derived from the abstract idea of an element by condensation and rarefaction, that is, by positive and negative movement. Space (pp. 44-5), then, is Nature, but Nature as totally indifferent—it is juxtaposition pure and simple without a break: it is the natural form of the logical idea of quantity, the essence of which is its continuousness and its indifference; no matter where you stop in measuring a thing you still have mere quantity, and you leave the quality unaffected. However, space is not motionless—it would not in that case be transparent to the idea—it has within it the beginning of life or negation; but its life is a weary round which never gets beyond itself: every moment is absolutely identical with every other, and that is the defect of space.
The negation of space is the point, but each point is equally every other, and generates therefore a line and line a surface (pp. 48-9). The point is only the beginning of the line: it is a limit which directs you to go beyond, and yet you are always where you were before. Space is such an eternal monotony as we may figure the life of Mr. Spencer's Unknowable, only unconscious of its own ennui. But this negativity of space by which it is for ever negating itself while it yet remains identical is exhibited in nature definitely as negation in the form of time (p. 52). Such phrases as ‘a point of time,’ or ‘an hour's distance from here to there’ are testimony that space and time are inseparable. Time is the negative unity of externality; it is continuous or self-external, but it is perpetually self-destructive. It is while it is not, and is not while it is; "Chronos devouring his own children," Hegel says (p. 54). It is not made up of moments any more than space of points; but it is an eternal present in which two things are combined, being and not being. Regarded as being which A is not, it is the past; regarded as not-being which is, it is the future (pp. 57 ff., especially p. 60). Hence, we may say for Hegel, the justice of the trite comparison of time with a river: only while Heraclitus declared you can never bathe twice in the same stream, we shall have to say you can never bathe twice in a different stream.
For Heraclitus was thinking not of time, but of something more definite, viz.. Motion, the logical genesis of which is this: Time though negative is still indifferent, every present is a past; here it combines with space, and the result of their combination is place, a spatial now (p. 62). Place is different from point, for a point is anywhere, but place is only one: it is a point of space fixed in time. But place regarded as space is indifferent; it cannot be thought without some other place, to which it moves. Of this process of motion matter is the precipitate, it is motion as it were arrested, the limit of motion, the union of time and space. Hence matter and space and motion are interchangeable; on the lever a greater distance acts in place of mass (p. 63 ad fin.), or a falling stone may be fatal in virtue of its rapidity—"a man may be killed by space and time " (p. 64).
(2) In Physics the theory of Special Individuality affords an excellent illustration of Hegel's method. Special individuality is distinguished from the universal individuality of the elements and their process by its specific character; it is distinguished from magnetism and chemism and electricity, which are stages of total individuality, by its want of self-completeness. It is as yet not a totality or a system, and therefore it is in form a mere relation between different bodies or parts of a body (p. 188). Matter as specified, in the simplest way is specific gravity : it thereby holds a place and character of its own as compared with the general filling of space by abstract matter (p. 190). Bat since matter is essentially self-external, this relation or specification appears further as the definite connection of material parts in a body, or cohesion (pp. 195-205). Such cohesion is of different kinds: it may be simple adhesion, i.e., quite indeterminate cohesion, or it may be the coherence (p. 205) of matter with itself, its character of yielding to outward force, while in the very act of yielding it preserves its own mode of composition, as, e.g., brittle glass when struck will break up into pieces, but resists extension; or thirdly, it may be elasticity, which is cohesion exhibited in motion, the body giving way and yet maintaining itself This ideality of matter which exists m elasticity is still more visible in sound (p. 205). If cohesion was material space, sound is material time. In sound the indifference or externality of the parts of a body is denied and the body vibrates; the particles oscillate or momentarily move from their places, but yet they are constrained within the unity of the body and their places restored. "It is the cry of the Ideal under foreign power, but withal its triumph over this power " (p. 209).
It is but a step from here to the nature of heat. "It is not only the musician who plays, but the instrument which sounds, that grows hot" (p. 223). Heat is not like sound a mere ideal destruction of cohesion, accompanied by restoration of it, but a real destruction; and the body under heat expands. In sound the external force of the blow is repelled, in heat the body yields and becomes fluid. "This fluidity of body (i.e.its real ideality) is the birthplace of heat, in which sound dies" (p. 224).
(3) Hegel's treatment of the idea of animal life is perhaps the most interesting and profitable part of his philosophy of nature, and would well bear a more detailed reproduction than can be given it here. The idea of animal fife takes a triple form: it exists first of all as the process in which the organism is self-related, its active unity by which it gathers together the many threads of its organs into one. This process Hegel calls the process of figuration (p. 559). This process too is threefold in character, and, as one of the most suggestive results of Hegel's work, deserves a short description. It is often recurring in Hegel, and plainly it was to him a fascinating thought. These three elements are sensibility, irritability and reproduction. In sensibility the animal is receptive; the suggestions that come from each part are transformed by the identity of the subject, it is the universal suffusion of the whole animal as a unity. Its irritability is its reaction against external stimuli, whereby its special character is maintained. In reproduction or self-preservation we have the combination of this universal sensibility and this particular reactiveness to form the individuality of the organism: the animal through feeling and reaction reproduces and preserves itself.
The second stage of the idea is the process of assimilation (p. 595), arising from the antagonism of the animal to inorganic nature, which it therefore turns to its own uses, renders subservient to its own unity, assimilates: theoretically through the medium of such senses as sight and hearing, practically through other senses. What is here to be enforced is that the relation of the organism to its environment is not one of causality, but is a life-process in which the result is determined by what the organism is to be. Not in its past only, but in its future also lies the secret of selection. The environment is assimilated only so far as it has in it what is needful for attaining the end of the organism.
Lastly comes the relation of the individual organism to its genus (p. 640), and this too has different stages. The individual is after all only an individual, inadequate to express the universal character of the genus. Alone, he imperfectly attains the end of the genus, and this imperfection implies that the feeling of self be realized by union with another individual, as it is in the relation of the sexes (p. 642). But the result of the union is still simply to perpetuate the genus in individual form at the cost of the lives of the parents. The genus is still unrealized. But the sexual relation is the defect of the individual, because he represents one side, and one only, of the generic idea. In its highest form, however, the relation of genus and individual is exhibited in natural death (p. 691). This is due to the disproportion of what the individual is and his real self or genus, what he is trying to be. He carries within him from his birth the seed of death, which when it comes is the victory of the type over the individual From this death of nature arises Spirit.
Hegel's Totality of view. It will be through some failure in the execution if the foregoing account has not made two things clear: (1) However abstract and difficult the process is, and however unacceptable particular conclusions may be, yet Hegel's Philosophy of Nature is an attempt to understand the forms of nature as they really are apart from the ordinary prejudices with which we approach the study of them. It is so difficult just because it demands the effort of following- the order of thinking instead of the order of experience. And (2) that its distinguishing feature and merit lies in Hegel's sense of concreteness and totality, his habit of regarding things as a whole, according to the place they occupy in the system of nature. Hence it is he separates many things which are usually put together. He will not regard the four elements as chemical compounds because their function is not chemical (p. 159); though he knows of the equivalence of electricity and magnetism and heat, he refuses to identify them (p. 260). He separates color from light, and the sensible qualities of objects from the senses of animals.
The whole of the system may be described in fact as an attempt to arrange natural facts according to their logical function in the economy of nature. Here indeed, as elsewhere, the dialectical process seems to be guided by a sense of logical propriety, an instinctive presentiment of what must come next in the order. Experience is always suggesting its facts, and it is only because it is kept in the background that the dialectic seems to have prepared for us, after many anxieties of abstract thought, the surprise of a familiar face. It is a logical re-arrangement of experience, and logical because instead of regarding experience from many different points of view, or in abstraction, like the special sciences, Hegel treats it as a whole, in the concrete. Hegel's abstract thought is for ever battling against abstraction. It is this concreteness or totality of view, the philosophical counterpart of common sense, that determines Hegel’s attitude both to previous philosophy and to the methods of science.
(1) Hegel's relation to previous Philosophy of Nature. It is no part of the present article to trace the connection of Hegel's philosophy of nature with Kant's and Schelling's. To Kant, especially in his conception of organic life (Critique of Judgment), Hegel's debt was immense. The amount of his indebtedness to Schelling I am not able to measure. It is in his attitude to Kant's conception of matter that Hegel's totality of view is plainest. In the Metaphysical Elements of Natural Science Kant had given a 'construction' of matter, an account of the conditions of its possibility. He resolved matter into two fundamental forces, one of repulsion, the other of attraction. The force of attraction was, according to Kant, the force by which matter ‘occupied’ space, that of repulsion the force by which it ‘filled’ space: the former was a penetrative force which could act at a distance, the latter acted as a surface-force between two parts in contact. Without the combination of these two independent forces matter was impossible; but while repulsion was of the very inner essence of matter, attraction, though necessary to it, was not contained in it. The value of such a conception was vast; it attributed to matter in itself, to the very nature of matter, forces which had been regarded as the accidental properties of bodies in their relation to each other. Yet it was still, Hegel thought, a one-sided conception, an abstraction; [ Hegel's brilliant criticism of Kant's construction of matter is to be found in Logic, i. (Werke, iii), pp. 200-208.] it was in fact a formulation of the elements contained in the popular notion of matter. The force of repulsion corresponded to the resistance offered, by bodies, the force of attraction to their consistence or cohesion; and the former being the more obvious and striking received the first position. These two forces were then left apart in independence of each other, in order to render matter possible by their combination. But Kant's argument was transparent enough to show the real connection of the two. He proves the necessity of attraction because repulsion alone would expand matter beyond measure.[ Kant, Met. Auf. d. Naturwiss. (Ed. Rosenkranz), p. 359.]
Such an expansive force of repulsion would act at a distance and. therefore be attraction. This identity of attraction and repulsion in matter is in fact the truth of the conception of matter. Attraction is the secret of the coherence with one another of the units, which, for their independence, require other units to repel. The parts of matter are like the members of society, who are finked to each other and attracted by moral and social laws, which assign to each his different position in the system. Like such persons they might say to each other in familiar language, ‘I love you, therefore keep your distance,’ or, more abstractly, ‘we repel each other and are different, the better to show our identity’.
(2) Hegel’s relation to Science. "Where Hegel comes into conflict with contemporary science, it is because of its want of that ideal concreteness of which Goethe had taught him the value. Instead of seeing things as wholes, it saw special characters and converted them into realities. It is thus he rejects the notion of pores and atoms. The idea of pores (p. 190) was invented to explain the different specific gravities of different things occupying the same volumes. It was supposed that though the particles were alike in all bodies there were fewer particles and more pores in the lighter body. In the phenomenon of elasticity where the particles seemed to penetrate each other, it was supposed the body was compressed by the restriction of its pores. In asserting this negative element of pores, science, Hegel saw, was betraying its sense of the negativity inherent in matter; but instead of being the negation of matter involved in the nature of matter, these pores were a negative set up as a real existence beside matter, as actually existing where matter is not (p. 203). The same metaphysical assumption vitiated the conception of the atoms and the void. The atoms are not separate material existences; whenever we speak of material parts, we mean only Quantitative differences, which not only do not preclude continuity but require it (p. 202). In elasticity, where the particles seem to take each others' place, we have exhibited m matter only the same contradiction of continuousness and punctuality which constitute motion. Elasticity as we saw is cohesion in motion. If then we regard atoms as individual things apart from their continuity, that is, their ideal character, it must be from motives of convenience. And here we find Hegel in agreement with a great modem exponent of the atomic doctrine, Lotze. In just the same way Hegel refuses to hear of the separation of light into pencils. They are a convenient supposition; to regard them as real would be as if we were to separate time into parts because we can speak of ‘Caesar's time’ or ‘my time’(pp. 140-1).
This metaphysic of independence, which science, with all its professed allegiance to experience, assumes without warranty from experience, had run to greater lengths in Hegel's day than in our own. In Hegel's time (if Hegel will forgive us the expression) they talked of caloric, the substance of heat, of latent caloric for specific heat, and of the electric fluid. We have given up, partly, this way of thinking; but in judging Hegel it is fair to remember that he helped to release science from the metaphysical superstitions which retarded its progress. By so doing, he was among those who gave science security for its advance. Even now it needs again and again to be reminded of the warning which he gave so forcibly against its ingrained habit of hypostatising qualities:
"Donec longa dies, perfecto temporis orbe Concretam exemit labem."
Hegel and Newton. The noise of Hegel's attack upon "Newton, once very audible, has been almost smiled away; yet the opposition rests exactly on the same grounds. Hegel is on the side of totality, Newton on the side of distinction and analysis. The world has taken the side of Newton and declared for analysis.
Let us begin with the theory of Color (pp. 298 ff.). Color appeared to Hegel (following what he called Goethe's great sense of nature) to be, in its real place in the world, the union of two things, the abstract identity of light, and the principle of darkness which is embodied in solid or coherent matter. There is therefore a real light and a real dark, which generate color by their blending. Color then is a later stage of nature than light, for it is possible only when matter is specified out of its abstract self, which is light, into its difference, so as to have specific gravity and cohesion. Color then is the obscuration of light by the dark, and it is seen in experience only when there is an interruption of transparency. The prismatic colors are upon this theory caused by bringing light over the dark prism, which limits or interrupts the light, partly by its edges, partly by its varying thickness. Here again Hegel will have facts as they are as a whole. Color is not an element in light as it is on Newton's theory; color is, as everyone knows, darker than light. How should light be composed of many darknesses? But wherever there is a difference of light and dark, there is the specification of light as color, as round the edges of a candle-flame in the day-light. Newton, on the other hand, finding that light has broken through the prism into a spectrum of colors, declares these colors to be the components of light. In thus analyzing light, he seemed to Hegel to be inverting the real order. He did not take into account the whole phenomenon. He neglected the existence of the prism itself, which, by its presence, conditioned the color. The prism itself was the dark which imparted difference to this abstract light and colored it.
But it was in the field of Mechanics that the chief assault took place. Hegel's complaint against the mathematicians was that they converted distinctions made for the purposes of analysis into existing facts. With this weapon he attacks first the proof of the law of fall, and then, with all the violence which he employed against those who differed from him, the Newtonian theory of the movements of the heavenly bodies. The law of falling bodies, to take the simpler case first, is that the distance traversed varies as the square of the time, s = ½ gt2 where g is the acceleration, ½g the distance traversed in the first unit of time. So far as this can be proved mathematically, apart from experience, it most be as follows: that in uniformly accelerated motion velocity varies as the time, v:t ; substitute for v, s/t and therefore s:t2 .But this purely mathematical substitution of s/t for v is converted into the assumption that there are two forces acting upon the body, one of acceleration, which at each moment gives a new and equal impulse, the other a force of inertia of which the motion persists through one unit of time with the velocity with which it begins it. But in reality, in Hegel's view, fall is the motion which is immanent in body in virtue of its central tendency; being therefore free motion it must exhibit the character of the notion or idea of motion. Its components, therefore, space and time, must be not indifferent to each other, but so determined as to be identical. In ordinary uniform motion, which requires an external force to start it and then depends upon the inertia of the body, space and time have no real relation to each other: if time is to have such a real relation, then it must negate or destroy its own punctuality; only so can it become comparable with the indifference or externality of space. Time, then, must acquire the quality which it obtains by squaring,[Compare Logic i. (Werke, ii.), p. 389 (Das Potenzenverhaltniss), and pp. 334 ff.] by being reflected back on to itself, and so translated into externality. The space traversed, therefore, being proved. to vary as the square of the time, the other factor in the formula, is discovered by actual trial.
Hegel's attack on Newton's theory of the heavenly motions (pp. 97 ff.) is of the same character. Newton explained the heavenly motions by the combination of two separate forces, one an impressed centrifugal, the other an attractive or centripetal force. Hegel's objection to this separation of them is no less great than to Kant's assertion of the distinct independence of repulsion and attraction. Hegel does not deny the convenience of the distinction, but he accuses Newton of mistaking the directions into which the motion is resolved for real and actual forces, independent of each other (p. 102). But these two forces are not different and independent, but identical in the same way as repulsion and attraction, two elements of the total motion which involve each other: they are not combined externally, but exist only in their union.
The laws of Kepler must therefore follow from the conception of the heavenly system as a whole. It would be too long to follow Hegel's proof of all three laws. The proof of the third law, that the squares of the times are proportional to the cubes of the mean distances, is at once the most difficult and most interesting by its contrast with the proof of the law of falling bodies. In the relatively free motion of fall, time and space were related as square and radix; but the heavenly motions are completely free, the image of the notion in the mechanical world. Each element is therefore itself a totality, and there is no accidentality in either. But time in the first power is a .mere abstract number, so many minutes or seconds or years: to have quality it must be self-related, must be taken in the second power. Space on the other hand—in this case the linear radius vector of the planet, which is a measure of the arc traversed—must attain the dimensions which are adequate to the notion and be taken as a whole or in the third dimension, and therefore as the cube of the linear distance.
What a waste of ingenuity it seems, and with what naive effrontery Hegel attacks ways of thinking the most familiar to the human understanding! How, we are inclined to say, would Hegel have discovered the necessary determinations of space and time except he already knew what they were to be? The answer would be: It would certainly be impossible; but it was by actual experience that the philosophic notion of space and the planetary system was suggested. Kepler discovered the laws of the planetary motions and Newton subjected them to mathematical treatment. These distinctions have their value in mathematical analysis. It is for philosophy, Hegel might say, to accept these results, only to see them in a new way—whence Plato called philosophy a turning round to the light. It has to dear up the categories used in the sciences and to found its treatment upon the notion of the thing as it really is. And strange as Hegel's method of proof may seem, we cannot help seeing the value of his totality of view: he will not dissect nature, but will in each conception take it as a whole.. How this may. illumine familiar facts we can conclude from his treatment of the First Law of Motion. The motion contemplated by that law is not the motion of fall, but ordinary impressed motion, and it asserts that a body will persist in motion or rest till altered by some external cause. This is nothing but motion and rest regarded in their identity ; if a body moves it moves, and if it rests it rests (p. 78). What if after all the sciences should turn out to be only provisional, partial aspects of the troth, needing to be combined by philosophy as in a stereoscope, to give them solidity and reality?
After so much said in praise of Hegel, it is time to recur to a subject which was mentioned at the opening of the paper, and to indicate where Hegel has failed and what remains to do. Grant Hegel his initial abstract conception of nature, and his elaboration of it in detail, though it is full of difficulties, and often merely fantastic, yet is suggestive and luminous to a great degree. The difficulty lies m conceding the beginning. The central question which Natural Philosophy has to solve is the question, how does there come to be such a thing as nature, or in Hegel's own language, why did God determine to create the world? This question Hegel converted into the only form in which it is subject for philosophy. What is implied in the notion of nature, and what is its connection with the divine idea? Whatever value be attached to Hegel's answer, he has done this great service, of indicating to what point the effort of philosophy must be directed. His own answer we have had already: nature is the Idea in its otherness, and therefore external to itself; and from this a step further is made to the complete indifference of nature and to its confusion of forms, its inability to preserve its types.
This solution of the ultimate problem is plainly insufficient: the transition is unclear from the Idea to nature. Perhaps he was led to make it by his theological studies, and the profound impression which the conception of the Trinity left upon him. And certainly as illustrated by reference to the religious consciousness it receives a remarkable accession of clearness; even then it seems hardly more than the formulation of a fact, without a reason for it. And the illustration is not available for those who, skeptical as to the notion of the Trinity, wish to be shown the logical necessity of nature in its own right. Moreover, there is in Hegel's account of the relation of Idea and nature an ambiguity of language of which he sometimes seems to take advantage: the ambiguity of nature in the form of otherness, which may mean simply nature as other than the Idea, or nature as the Idea itself displaying otherness. The latter is certainly Hegel's real intention (cp. p. 23), but to the former is to be attributed something of the satisfaction we experience in reading Hegel, that though nature is transparent to the Idea it is different from it.
But it is in its failure to explain the variety of nature that the chief defect of Hegel's conception consists. From the self-externality of nature we can conclude its falling asunder into characters which "give the appearance of independent individuals"; but what reason is there that these individuals should vary from the common type? Hegel would answer that the confusion is of the essence of nature, and that philosophy has done its work when it has explained the existence of variety in general, and it is not called upon to deduce any individual thing, like the "pen of Herr Krug". And doubtless this answer would be sufficient if only from self-extemality confusion could be inferred, but it is this which is in question. Hegel admits that every now and then nature in her wildest freaks surprises us with a glimpse of the Notion, but is not this intermingling of notional and accidental a fact to be explained? The economists of the older Ricardian school, who held that the laws of their science were abstract laws, were ready enough to modify them when a body of actual, complicated facts presented itself which allowed of scientific treatment. May it not be that the inability of philosophy to understand the great body of facts familiar to us as variety, modification, multiplicity, accident, is not due to the weakness of nature, but suggests a problem for philosophy itself?
Modern Theories. Perhaps it will help to enlighten Hegel's conception of nature if we consider it very briefly in its. bearing upon some modem theories, which we may discuss in the spirit of Hegel when we cannot be guided by his actual words. Two views have been mentioned in the preceding pages, the doctrine of evolution and the various theories which endow the atoms and molecules with souls or mind.
(1) .Evolution. The belief in special acts of creation which evolution has driven from the field would not have delayed Hegel long. Such a belief implies the merely mechanical conception of a God existing outside a world which also exists as an eternal uncreate. But nature is not external to the idea, but involved in it. If then it is taken as a whole, it is not created by a definite act before which it did not exist, for it shares the eternity of the idea and is timeless. Regarded as the process in time by which nature maintains its character, it is for ever created, or is a perpetual creation.[Cp. Einleitung, pp. 25-26.]If it is taken in its parts, these certainly do begin to appear, but they are no more special creations for that than if they could be shown to have descended from one original stock by gradual descent.
On the other hand, between the doctrine of evolution and Hegel's theory, how great the likeness seems to be! When Hegel speaks of nature as a process in which, with ever increasing specification of external characters, there is an ever completer involution or reflection of these parts to a center, we seem to anticipate the law of progress from indefinite incoherent homogeneity to definite coherent heterogeneity. Hegel's philosophy is in fact an evolution, called by the name of dialectic, which is the counterpart in philosophy of what evolution is in science. That theory he knew in the form which was given it by Treviranns and Lamarck, and he speaks of it slightingly. "This is called explaining and comprehending nature," he says, and he contrasts it unfavorably with the ancient doctrine of emanation, which had the merit of interpreting the less perfect forms of nature by the higher out of which they arose (pp. 34-5). We have already seen how different the two theories really are. Evolution is a history of how things in nature come to pass; dialectic is the process by which one idea logically leads on to the higher idea which is implicit in it and is its truth. Evolution is a history of a process in time; dialectic is a history of ideas which form a process not in time.
In the systematic theory of evolution it is sought to derive all existence by gradual steps from the two elements of matter and force, and though no proof has yet been given of the continuity of the process between inorganic and organic fife, the theory is verified by the discovery of first principles common to mechanics, to physics, and to organic fife. Hegel would have granted that similar laws do indeed bold in all departments of nature; but he would have called such a discovery an external generalization of reflection, and he might have added what he says of the doctrine of metamorphosis, "It is important to maintain identity, but equally important to maintain difference" (p. 35). The forms which realize these laws perform a different function, and it is this difference of function which philosophy has to explain. Life may be shown to be a complicated mechanism, yet it has a different function from mechanism, and it is therefore distinguished in idea and called by a different name. It is this difference of function which is the secret of the repugnance of the ordinary mind to accept the derivation of organic from inorganic nature.
The less comprehensive system deals with life only, and it may assert, as Prof. Huxley once did, that all forms of life are derivable from protoplasm, or it may, like Darwin, simply show how various species are all derived by a process of selection from some few great types of ancestors. There would be something to say from Hegel's point of view to both these theories alike. But in regard to the first he would have a special complaint. To show that protoplasm is the basis of all life is not to show that life begins with formless or inorganic protoplasm. Such a view would confuse an element in the notion of life (perhaps he might have called protoplasm the substance or the element of self-identity in organisms) with the beginning of the history of life. To trace all animals from protozoa is intelligible; but in the protozoon the protoplasm is already an animal, and its nature can be understood or interpreted by the higher form of developed animal life. [For the suibstance of this paragraph I am indebted to Dr. J. H. Stirling's admirable pamphlet, As Regards Protoplasm.]
Some of the difficulties felt nowadays would not trouble Hegel. For instance, the impossibility of distinguishing plants and animals he would with his cool assumption have put down to the weakness of nature. He would rightly maintain that the functions of animal and vegetable life are different, add perhaps we might add for him, that even from the view of evolution the matter was of no great importance, for it is not at the summit of vegetable and the base of animal life that there is this coalescence of forms, but at the bases of both. But taking the case of animals only, he would maintain that there was only one type of animal, the notion of which philosophy had to explain, and the forms of animal life were but stages in which the type or idea of animal was realized to greater perfection (p. 653). This would be asserting that the nature (the logical or metaphysical nature) of animals was different from their history or genesis. And from this point of view he could perhaps enlighten the process of natural selection and regard it as the struggle of the idea of animal life with the externality or accidentality of its realization in nature, and this is really his account of the relation between species and genus—the fundamental conception of zoology: the effort of the species to maintain their type appears in nature as their internecine struggle (p. 649).
By such a view, the history of evolution would be maintained but with two advantages. In the first place the variations which in the doctrine of descent are so perplexing, at one time seeming required as the conditions of the selective process, at another depending for their existence on this process, would be explained as due to the accidentah'ty of the genus as existing in nature. How insufficient such an explanation at present is, has been already indicated. But in the second place there would be a reason assigned for the survival of the fittest: a variety would survive and drive all its competitors from the field, because it was the vehicle of the animal type. Because of its future it would be able to enter into that reciprocal action of organism and environment, called adaptation, which is as much a selection by the former of the conditions under which it can develop, as the dictate of the latter which organisms it will suffer to develop.
A remark which Hegel makes in another connection might be useful to some forms of the theory of evolution in the way of a caution. Hegel, in explaining his own conception of nature as that of a series of stages, adds that these stages are conceptions, and the progress is not therefore supposed to have occurred in nature m the actual history of development: because one animal has one chamber and its descendant two chambers in the heart, it is not to be supposed that the former actually acquired an extra chamber in addition to its original one (p. 34). What Hegel means by this is that«a new idea or new realization of an idea is a new fact, and it is not necessary that nature should go through the tedious process of gradual deviation from the older and approximation to the newer type, anymore than it follows, because the larger idea of freedom under which we live in England is the outcome of the Greek idea of freedom, that the Greeks actually turned into Englishmen. This may or may not be true as a fact of natural history; but the habit of turning a logical category into a fact of existence seems to be the defect of that form of evolution which maintains that the surviving variation was that lucky guess out of a number of other varieties which happened to suit its surroundings. Why should the lucky survivor have been among me guesses of nature at all? Can we believe that if it had not been so some other stronger member would have survived and the new species changed its character: or must we suppose that the varieties would have exterminated each other in internecine struggle until a fresh set of varieties could be tried? Finally, what guarantee have we that all possible varieties have been tried?
The fact before our view is that a species has been modified in some particular way, the rock pigeon into our domestic pigeon. Two interpretations of this fact are possible: we may describe the process as above (and doubtless we shall find in many cases that the struggle actually has taken place); or we may say that the existence of a new species is the logical exclusion of all others that might have existed. This logical fact may have had its counterpart in many cases in the history of evolution, but not necessarily; just as to do a good act implies logically the rejection of a bad act, though the idea of actually doing the evil may never have entered the agent's mind. And moreover we shall ask for a reason why this particular modification should survive, for to say that it survived because it drove its competitors from the field is only to say that it survived because it survived. In the derivation of the pouter from the common pigeon a reason is to hand in the design of the breeder, in a conception of his mind. May the new species have survived because it was the bearer of a conception also, that conception which I have described as its function in the progressive order of nature?
(2) Theories of the Animation of Matter. There is a way of thinking very prevalent at the present day among eminent men of science who speculate upon the real character of the distinction of mind and matter: in one form or another they endeavor to animate nature with souls. We seem to be returning to the days of Thales, who believed that the world was full of gods. At one time it is the atoms which have souls, at another it is the cells (Haeckel). A very remarkable theory of the late Prof. Clifford regarded the molecules as possessed of mind-stun, which when present in sufficient complexity, as in man, became consciousness. Hegel's assertion that nature is in reality Spirit, or that it is the Idea in the form of otherness, might seem to have a superficial likeness to such theories, but is in reality whole worlds apart. It is difficult to know exactly how Hegel would have treated these theories, for they were unknown to him. He was familiar, of course, with the doctrine of Leibniz, that matter was composed of substances called monads, possessing consciousness, each isolated from the rest, but by a marvelous pre-existing harmony reflecting the whole. But such a theory was a purely metaphysical one, and he treats it on logical grounds, finding in it the opposite and complementary defect to Spinoza's [Logik, ii. (Werke,iv.) pp. 197-9.] that it laid out the Absolute into isolated centers of individuality which could only be connected arbitrarily.
In his theory of atoms endowed with souls Lotze corrected the mechanical character of Leibniz's theory, for the life of the atoms concentrated into what he called their souls was essentially a me of behavior to one another, they existed only in their interconnections. But this theory which Lotze put forward in the Microcosmos he never perhaps really maintained as an atomic theory, and in his later system the atoms have ceased to he animated and have become in reality a metaphysical explanation of matter, centers of force, or rather points of intersection of the forces which constitute the relations between so-called ‘atoms’. It is mentioned here, however, because it is a theory which naturally occurs to many minds. One objection Hegel would have had to it, that it erected mere conveniences of thinking into real existences, would be avoided by the doctrine that the cells or the molecules have souls, for their existence is beyond doubt.
Clifford's theory of mind-stuff is a different one, and has difficulties of its own. Its merit is that it retains a distinction between organic nature and inorganic things whose mind-stuff neither feels nor thinks; and the same merit belongs to the view of Schopenhauer, the progenitor of many of these theories, who regards the different stages of nature as different ways in which the will objectifies itself. But the distinction, in the theory of mind-stuff, is not drawn out or regarded as anything more than a matter of complexity, and we need to be shown how a difference in degree of complexity can produce a difference of quality. Moreover, if mind-stuff neither feels nor thinks, it is difficult to see why it should be called mind-stuff, or how it can have anything to do with mind, and such an inference does certainly not follow from Prof. Clifford's premises. This is pointed out in a new version of the animate theory of nature (that of Mr. Romanes in his Rede Lecture [Contemporary Review, July, 1885], which very reasonably identifies matter (i.e., motion) and mind, absolutely, and regards them as only different ways in which we conceive the same ultimate reality of mind. Subtle as this theory is, it is almost impossible to understand how if mind and matter are only 'relative to our modes of apprehension' the ultimate reality of mind should be apprehended by one of the modes in which it is apprehended.
What would have made all these theories repugnant to Hegel would probably be their mystical character; for mysticism is that mood in which the mind is lost in the bare contemplation of a unity into which all differences are submerged; and Hegel with his common sense would have been quick to see that, in their yearning to find a single explanation of the world and, if possible, to give it the elevation of the spirit, these theories were guilty of the overhastiness of thought which is the first symptom of mysticism. If he had been writing upon them, he would not have been content to enumerate, them as I have done, but would have shown their origin in some logical secret of the mind, which he would have expressed in a peculiar language that might have required the study of all three volumes of the Logic to understand. But in lecture he might have added, through much nervous coughing, a commentary something like this:— "We recognize what is of value in this way of thinking, that the spirit is at one with nature in spite of its apparent antagonism. The spirit must retain in its outside-of-itselfness its at-home-with-itselfness (muss in seinem Aussersichseyn sein Beisichseyn erhalten).
But such theories wipe out (verwischen) all distinctions by identifying the lower with the higher. They thus commit the opposite mistake to those who treating mind like a machine, interpret the higher by the lower. Hence the greater attractiveness of the former theory to the metaphysical instinct, since its measure is the spirit. It has the attractive force of innocence, for it does not perceive that it evades the very problem to be solved. The office of the philosophy of nature is to explain how it is that nature, which is penetrated by the spirit, can in the first place be different from spirit and next is by insensible stages overcome so as to be spirit. The spirit must come forth out of that which is not spirit. It is the mysticism of the reflective understanding to cut the knot by identifying spirit straight away with that which it is not' And then with the harshness with which he often treated views that he did not like, he might have added:— "The understanding, unaware of the difference of the Idea, and finding nature rebellious against the spirit (wiederspenstig gegen den Geist), must needs people it with ghosts".