The Problem of Mass in Hegel

In Michael J. Petry (ed.), Hegel and Newtonianism. Dordrecht: Kluwer. pp. 249–265 (1993)
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Since there is no really elaborated theory of the dialectic of nature, it is not only desirable but necessary to take a look at some of Hegel's original intuitions, which in many cases lost their distinctness in his later works, or fell victim to the exigencies of his system. Philosophy makes use not only of reasoning but also of intuition. In respect of the mass which offers persistent resistance to a notional solution, it is important to find a suitable image for developing a first approximation to the understanding of the question. According to Hegel, the metaphors of circular and gyratory motion are well-suited for this. Here it is essential to clarify what we can gain by a structural interpretation of such ideas. I think that an attempt has to be made to bring out the contemporary relevance of the topic. Doing so is always a delicate matter, but it is a must if undertakings of the present kind are to be anything more than philological expositions of Hegel's philosophy, if they are to make a real contribution to reflection on the foundations of physics. I shall first give a brief review of the arguments put forward in the Encyclopedia; then I shall analyse Hegel's interpretation of circular and gyratory motion and discuss the possibility of bringing out the relevance of his ideas; finally, I shall draw certain conclusions in respect of the principles involved in comprehending the divisibility of matter, and in putting forward a philosophical interpretation of the theory of relativity.
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