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Journal of Philosophy: A Cross-Disciplinary Inquiry

Volume 7, Issue 16, Fall 2011

Darrell Arnold
Pages 53-64

Hegel and Ecologically Oriented System Theory

Building on the views of Kant and early nineteenth century life scientists, Hegel develops a view of systems that is a clear precursor to the developments in Ludwig von Bertalanffy’s general system theory, as well as the thinking of the ecologically minded system thinkers that built upon the foundation Bertalanffy laid. Hegel describes systems as organic wholes in which the parts respectively serve as means and ends. Further, in the Encyclopedia version of the logic Hegel notes that such systems are comprised of three processes: gestalt, the process of assimilation, and regeneration. In Hegel’s texts, he describes both natural and social systems as organic wholes with such systematic processes. In this paper, these processes and systems are described and it is argued that Hegel quite consistently applies views developed in the logic when describing systems. The paper shows how this parallels later developments in systems theory and goes on to show some distinctions between Hegel’s view of systems and that of later ecologically minded system thinkers.

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