Volume 22, Issue 1, Fall 2017
Idioms of Ethical Life
Shannon M. Mussett
Death and Sacrifice in Hegel’s Philosophy of Nature
This paper explores a dimension of the contemporary western understanding of nature as it has been shaped by the thought of Hegel. Emblematic of a tradition that struggles to think nature on its own terms but which, more often than not, formulates it as the ground upon which human progress is built, Hegel’s philosophy sacrifices nature to spiritual progress. Orienting this study through Dennis J. Schmidt’s work on death and sacrifice in the dialectic, I trace Hegel’s formulation of the natural to show how the denigration of nature plays into a larger pattern evident in the western tradition, one that that positions the natural as somehow “outside” the political and spiritual, thereby subjecting it to mischaracterization and misuse. I conclude with a call for a post-sacrificial understanding of the natural world in an effort to help challenge the destructive force inherited by this tradition.