Date: Tue, 28 Apr 98

From: (Mr C Smith)

Hegel and development in nature.

Dear Andy,

'No development in nature was known to natural science until after Hegel's death.' [A Blunden.]

Hegel was familiar with most of the natural science of his time, and that included all those who studied the development of life. He quotes Lamark in particular, who had a developed theory of evolution. I don't know if he knew Erasmus Darwin, grandfather of Charles, and author of a long poem about the development of life, but it wouldn't surprise me. Of course, there was no theory of natural selection, but that's another matter. (By the way, Charles Darwin's idea of inheritance was not very different from Lamark's, whatever the textbooks say.) And what about Kant's theory of the origin of the solar system?

We have enough troubles in this discussion without inventing new ones!

I'll come back later on more important issues. In the meantime, will somebody just tell me what this 'dialectic' thing is? Whether it is or isn't 'in' nature is secondary to that, I should think.

Best wishes,


PS Hegel also knew some mathematics, teaching it for a time when he was a headmaster. Marx's calculus was entirely coincident with that of Hegel in 1807, and so about seventy-five years out of date. Engels, on the other hand, quotes a textbook (Bossuet) which was first published before the French Revolution!!! He never took the trouble to find out what had been going on during the nineteenth century.

Nature's production.

Another small point, before we get serious. David and I seem to be on the same wavelength - although I can't understand everything he wrote - but there is one thing I should like to clarify. Does nature produce a thinking being? I don't believe this statement is right, unless we qualify it.

Do you remember in Grundrisse:

'Nature does not construct machines, locomotives, railways, electric telegraphs, self-acting mules, etc. They are products of human industry; natural material, transformed into organs of man's will over nature, or of man's activity in nature. They are organs of the human mind which are created by the human hand, the objectified power of knowledge'.

Of course, humans are part of evolving nature. But they are produced within nature only by their own social activity. That is what humanity means: the socially self-creating part of nature. By the way, that includes their biological evolution. If you say nature produced them, forgetting the mediation of human purposive activity, you land up with a load of socio-biological Scheisse, brains which are genetically predisposed to think in a certain way, and so on. This is precisely the expression of the inhuman way that humans live, their domination by the inhuman relations of fetishised private property.