Breaking Free from Material Terrestrial Contingency

The Path of the Hegelian Spirit towards Absolute Freedom


  • Oriane Elsa Marina Petteni ULG


Hegel, Philosophy of Nature, Absolute Spirit, Artificial Life, Negarestani



This article explores Hegel's Philosophy of Nature in the light of his Philosophy of Mind. It claims that the Absolute Spirit (or Mind) should be understood as the ultimate stage of the series teleologically driving the gradual scale of the natural products. Looking closely at the articulation between the second and third tome of the Encyclopaedia of the Philosophical Sciences, the paper shows that the natural products are hierarchized according to their vicinity with the main features of the Absolute Spirit, namely inner centration and self-referentiality. Those two properties, according to Hegel, grant the Spirit access to absolute freedom. As a consequence, inorganic exteriority – or what we call the initial universal environment from which natural products, including the human organism, originate – should be understood as representing the lowest point of the graduated path toward absolute freedom. I thus  propose to understand the movement of disentanglement of Idea from nature, namely its alien medium, as a progressive emancipation from terrestrial contingency via a process of artificialization. Consequently, we make the suggestion that the notion of Life closely associated to the notion of the Concept throughout Hegel's work should be understood less in reference to carbon-based/organic life – that is, the form taken by life under contingent terrestrial conditions – than as a general, logical and relational movement, characterized by absolute self-organization, self-referentiality and self-closure. This broad understanding of the concept of Life, I argue, is closely related to contemporary forms taken by artificial life, which actualizes the life process in an ever-lasting computational medium.   


Author Biography

Oriane Elsa Marina Petteni, ULG

Oriane Petteni has completed a PhD at Liège University entitled "The Semiotic Cut and the Representation Crisis: three answers from Classical German Philosophy: Hegel-Goethe-Schelling”. She has dealt extensively with German Naturphilosophie, French Philosophy of the second half of the XXth Century and contemporary continental philosophy, including Speculative Realism. She has published on related issues in numerous international journals. She has held a visiting position at the University of the West of England, Bristol and she is currently a visiting scholar at the University of Fribourg, Switzerland. 



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How to Cite

Petteni, O. E. M. (2021). Breaking Free from Material Terrestrial Contingency: The Path of the Hegelian Spirit towards Absolute Freedom. Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy, 17(3), 224–249. Retrieved from