Hegel's Idea of Life in Logic and Nature
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Hegel offers an original theory of life that does justice both to the purposive subjectivity and to the self-organizing objectivity of living things, and which demonstrates that these are not incompatible. This dissertation provides a comprehensive and critical commentary on Hegel’s theory of life, and aims to show that it is not only an outstanding attempt at a philosophical comprehension of life but also a serious challenge to accounts that conflate life with what it enables or what it requires. The first part focuses on Hegel’s logical categorization of life in the Science of Logic, which explicates the Idea of life as a logical category that is laid out irrespective of the kinds of living things there actually are. It first shows why the living individual is irreducible to mechanical and chemical processes, distinguishable from artifacts, and intelligible without bringing in any alien principle. Next, it elaborates on how the living individual as an internally purposive, self-sustaining, and self-driven process develops and maintains the collective unity of its objectivity, sustains and regenerates itself in the face of its other, and, through reproduction, raises its universal identity beyond its particular existence. The first part also investigates the extent to which Hegel’s characterization of the fundamental features of life allows for a distinction between merely organic unity and truly subjective unity that exhibits inner determinacy. The second part of the dissertation explores Hegel’s treatment of life in his Philosophy of Nature. In this work, he explicates plant and animal life as the two universal forms of life, whose universal features are enabled by similarly universal structures and processes of nature. In parallel with the three moments of the logical categorization of life, this part compares the organic unity, metabolism, and reproduction of the plant and the animal. It discusses the extent to which these forms reflect the logical categorization, and explains how the animal’s centralized sensitivity and responsiveness, along with its capacity for inner determinacy, affect the nature of its life processes in such a way that the animal realizes subjectivity, individuality, and self-determination at a higher level than does the plant.