The Concept of Space in Hegel:The Early Jena Years

Giuseppe Cantillo


The last two decades of the Twentieth Century marked an ever-growing interest in philosophy of nature within the Hegel-Forschung. The essay outlines a renewed appraisal of the systematic form, which affords a better reckoning of the anti-mechanistic quality of Hegel’s philosophy of nature. This concerns, primarily, the progressive movement from externality to internality, then from the objectivity of nature to the subjectivity of the spirit, and hence the transition from mechanism to life as the most direct expression of the idea. It is from within the framework of such a general speculative perspective that we must consider the concept of space, and engage with Hegel’s 1801 work, Dissertatio de orbitis planetarum. The focus will then shift to how Hegel’s system was first traced out in Jena between 1803-1805, before the break with Schelling, and the “phenomenological crisis of the system”. The climax of this recognition may be identified in Hegel’s exposition of 1804-1805 in which he validates the theory of ideality – or abstractness – of space and time as separate forms, i.e. considered per se. The reality of space-time becomes the being of time in space and the being of space in time, and the “real union” of the two is “the real infinity of the ether”, of absolute matter, which he terms motion.

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