In his section on Force and the "inverted world" in "Phenomenology of Spirit," Hegel provides a dialectical account of Newtonian physics and gravity that I find very interesting, if characterisitcally dense.

Of course, Hegel was writing before the development of thermodynamics, Maxwell's equations, and particle physics. But I keep thinking that his keen sense of paradox would be well suited to puzzles in today's cosmology or quantum physics. Are there any philosophers who pursued a similar dialectical, or even explicitly Hegelian, account of more recent physics?

In this case, I think I'd prefer idealism to material-dialectical writings on science by Engels or other Marxists. Perhaps works by Greene, Bradley, or McTaggert? I'm not really familiar with the British idealists. Or maybe some contemporary, off-the-reservation physicist. Any suggestions welcome.

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    specifically, which puzzles in cosmology and quantum physics are you talking about? and specifically, in what manner would Hegel's keen sense of paradox be well suited to solving those puzzles? – niels nielsen Feb 5 at 21:46
  • I'm probably not knowledgeable enough to be "specific." That's why I'm looking for reference works. But issues like entanglement or black holes or anthropic principle always have a "Hegelian" flavor to me. For example, Hegel points out the seeming contradictions in the idea of gravity, then, as a "universal attraction." To what? Or the idea of "matter," in those days, defined as a kind of mutual externality of substance but also as mutually attracting from a mathematical "center" point or ideal "interiority." For the amateur like me these can be evocative ways to think about it. – Nelson Alexander Feb 5 at 22:31
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    Well then, I suggest you post this on the physics SE- but be warned, the folks over there are not generally receptive to efforts to recast physics in philosophical terms, since from the standpoint of working physicists, the field of philosophy has nothing to add or contribute to it. But if there is anyone at all who can comment on the applicability of Hegelian thought to physics, the physics SE is most likely where you will find them. – niels nielsen Feb 5 at 22:39
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    Are you familiar with DeLanda's interpretation of Deleuze's philosophy of physics (which is more accessible than the source), in Intensive Science and Virtual Philosophy? Deleuze is technically a materialist, but continental, plenty dialectical and no Marxist. See also Deleuze and Science volume, which includes Plotnitsky's piece on Deleuzian view of QFT. – Conifold Feb 5 at 22:59
  • @neils. I agree with you about the likely reception of the question at physics SE. – Nelson Alexander Feb 6 at 0:13

A cursory search hints that Matthias Bartelmann is a serious researcher and he is coauthor of The Notion of Aether: Hegel versus contemporary physics, in Cosmos and History, 2015, vol. 11, no. 1, p.41-69, not a very serious journal, but the paper seems to be worth looking, at least for interested readers.

Btw Hegel wrote a (youthful) dissertation on the Titus-Bode law, Dissertatio philosophica de orbitiis planetarum, also available online.


Ooh yes there is. The idea to formalize Hegelian philosophy was proposed by William Lawvere, a reknown mathematician. You can find a partial formalization of Hegelian philosophy here. Unified theories of physics are derived from the progressive sequence of unity of opposites with stuff like fermions, bosons, pauli exclusion and gravity appearing there. Actually fermions is the opposite moment to bosons, matter is the unity between space and time, all this not arbitrary but mathematically derived. Deeper questions now arise can Hegelian philosophy provide for a circular foundation of mathematics. Is mathematics equal to physics literally ? In my opinion, the answers to this questions will be affirmative.

  • Thanks! The link looks quite interesting and all new to me. – Nelson Alexander Feb 5 at 20:12
  • Welcome. It's a website for some quite sophisticated mathematics, it maybe hard to grasp the details – Kori Peter Feb 5 at 20:26
  • but it is worth it – Kori Peter Feb 5 at 20:42
  • For a definitive answer to this question, you should post it on the physics stack exchange. – niels nielsen Feb 5 at 22:00
  • @Kori Peter, yes, it looks a bit steep for me, but maybe I can get something out of it. – Nelson Alexander Feb 5 at 22:33

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