The Stubbornness of Nature in Art: A Reading of §§556, 558 and 560 of Hegel's Encyclopedia

In Joshua Wretzel & Sebastian Stein (eds.), Hegel’s Encyclopedia of the Philosophical Sciences: A Critical Guide. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 232-250 (2021)
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Speight has recently raised the question, which he himself leaves unanswered, how naturalism relates to spirit in Hegel’s philosophy of art. ‘Naturalism’ denotes an explanation that invokes aspects of nature that are (allegedly) irreducible or resistant to thought. I call nature ‘stubborn’ insofar as it evinces resistance to its being formed by thought and hence to its being united with it. This paper argues that §§556, 558 and 560 of Hegel’s Encyclopedia answer Speight’s question by specifying three elements of nature that, first, are present in art and, second, are resistant to thought. These are materiality, natural form, and genius. They exhibit nature’s stubbornness in art. This stubbornness, I argue, is what justifies Hegel’s claim that art is absolute spirt only implicitly (§556), which leads to the claim that art needs to be superseded by religion and philosophy. In this way, Speight’s question receives a precise answer.

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Ioannis Trisokkas
National and Kapodistrian University of Athens


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