Argumenta – Journal of Analytic Philosophy

Hegel’s Naturalism, the Negative and the First Person Standpoint [Special Issue]

Topics: History of Analytic Philosophy, Metaphysics
Keywords: autonomy, First-person Standpoint, Hegel, McDowell, Naturalism, Negativity


In this paper I attempt to move the discussion of Hegel’s naturalism past what I present as an impasse between the soft naturalist interpretation of Hegel’s notion of Geist, in which Geist is continuous with nature, and the opposing claim that Geist is essentially normative and self-legislating. In order to do so I suggest we look to the question of value which underlies this dispute. While soft naturalists seek to make sense of value as arising from material nature, those who support the autonomy thesis propose that value is something inherent to human spiritual activity. Following McDowell’s suggestion that value as neither inhering or supervening on nature, but is rather something we have been estranged from and hence something to be recovered, I suggested that we adopt the first person perspective as the starting point for an examination of the relation between nature and value. The first person perspective is to be understood as a position within value which imbues value to what it encounters and hence is a process of the reenchantment of nature. Seeing things from this perspective allows us to place the question of nature as external materiality (which both the soft naturalist and autonomy view seem to share) in its proper context as something which develops as the result of the self-unfolding activity of consciousness as it encounters nature as negativity. Understanding Geist in this way allows us to see value as inherent in nature.

In this paper I’d like to consider the question of Hegel’s naturalism not just against the larger question of the relation between mind and nature but also by considering the perspective from which Hegel thought it proper to do philosophy.


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