Life, Logic, and the Pursuit of Purity

Hegel-Studien 50:63-95 (2016)
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Abstract

In the *Science of Logic*, Hegel states unequivocally that the category of “life” is a strictly logical, or pure, form of thinking. His treatment of actual life – i.e., that which empirically constitutes nature – arises first in his *Philosophy of Nature* when the logic is applied under the conditions of space and time. Nevertheless, many commentators find Hegel’s development of this category as a purely logical one especially difficult to accept. Indeed, they find this development only comprehensible as long as one simultaneously assumes that Hegel breaks his promise to let the logic do the leading. However, if Hegel were to in fact allow the logical development to be led by biological analogies at this point, problems would ensue. Not only would it contradict his own speculative method, which should secure the necessity of the categories, but it would also endanger the ontological generality of the category of life itself. Beyond undermining his method and the logical integrity of the category, however, I will argue that such a reading makes the transition to the next category of “cognition” unintelligible and problematic. My aim in the first part of this paper is to argue how logical life can be read as a pure category. I then argue in the second part how my reconstruction makes the transition to cognition intelligible without resorting to profane or supernatural interpretations.

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Alexander T. Englert
Institute for Advanced Study

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