Forms of Naturalism: McDowell and Hegel on the Meanings of Nature, Mind, and Spirit

  • Pirmin Stekeler-WeithoferEmail author
Part of the Studies in German Idealism book series (SIGI, volume 20)


The word “nature,” like its Greek successor “physis,” has meanings that are easily confused. In its wide sense, “phyein” means “to be”—and everything is natural. To defend “naturalism” thus just means to stick to what there is. More to the point is already the enterprise of fighting superstitious spiritualism by a logical understanding of formal “entities” like “the mind” resp. “spirit” as constituted by verbal abstractions in order to reflect on mental faculties resp. joint understandings. However, nature also contrasts to culture and action. It is the domain of events that happen all by themselves without human interference. As a result, the topic of the natural sciences is not the whole world; and science is not the measure of all things, pace Sellars . Programs of naturalizing human epistemology, especially when “reducing” the mind to neuro-physiologically governed behavior are therefore misleading. Even though McDowell might agree so far, it is already a concession to philosophical Zeitgeist to bring personal intellectual faculties under the label “second nature,” which stands since Aristotle only for “habits” and “costume,” viewed in the way of methodical individualism. Instead, there is a need of renewing Geisteswissenschaften in the sense of canonized knowledge about spirit as the system of instituted forms of cooperation and communication, as already Hegel has seen.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of LeipzigLeipzigGermany

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