“Darwin Rocks Hegel: Does Nature Have a History?” (David Kolb)


Here is a nice essay on Hegel and Darwin (obviously Hegel died long before The Origin of Species, but I always wondered about possible connections):

The way current debates get publicised, there appear to be two extreme positions. The first is a reductionist materialism: all complex systems are describable purely in terms of the qualities of their most basic components, and the systems themselves result from Darwinian selection. No teleological concepts at all need be applied. At the other extreme is total teleology; all systems and their interactions and development are the result of preconceived conscious purposeful design by a powerful designer. The ontological status of the designer is usually filled out with theological notions.

Here is a section from Stephen Houlgate’s An Introduction to Hegel, Freedom, Truth and History where he presents Hegel’s anti-evolutionary positions (Hegel would have been familiar with Lamarck’s theory):

Given Hegel’s commitment to a synchronic rather than diachronic understanding of nature and life, it is clear that he would have had no greater interest in the Darwinian theory of evolution than in the Lamarckian theory. Pace Findlay, Hegel in the Philosophy of Nature is not ‘a philosopher of evolution’. There is a difference, however, between a lack of interest in something and outright hostility to it, and I see nothing in the very idea of speculative philosophy that justifies Hegel in rejecting, rather than simply beingindifferent to, the idea of the evolution of species. It is quite possible to focus one’s own philosophical attention on the logical, structural differences between species, but also to allow other scientists to study the process whereby such species emerged in time (just as it is possible to let scientists study the origins of the solar system and of life). In my view, therefore, Hegel’s philosophy of nature is not in principle incompatible with either the general idea of the evolution of species or Darwin’s particular theory of evolution by natural selection.

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