CFP: “Hegel and the Philosophy of Biology. The Dialectic of Life, Past and Present” (Hegel-Bulletin 2020)

We gladly announce that a call for papers has been opened for the special issue of the Hegel-Bulletin 2020, which will be devoted to the following topic: Hegel and the Philosophy of Biology. The Dialectic of Life, Past and Present.

Please find the text of the call below:


Hegel and the Philosophy of Biology

The Dialectic of Life, Past and Present

Special Issue of the Hegel-Bulletin

Guest Editors: Andrea Gambarotto & Luca Illetterati


In recent years, an intense debate in biology and philosophy of biology has focused on the role of organisms in our explanations of biological phenomena, even though classical evolutionary biology focuses on the variations of gene frequency and molecular biology on DNA, RNA and nucleotides. Biology is currently undergoing a crucial transition toward less “reductionist” approaches in favor of a generally “organicist” view of living systems (Pigliucci & Müller 2010; Laland et al. 2014; Huneman & Walsh 2017). A central implication of this transition is a reappraisal of the very idea of “organism,” which had been set aside with the establishment of molecular biology and the modern evolutionary synthesis in the 1940s.

In this context, the reference to frameworks and concepts elaborated by authors belonging to the post-Kantian tradition is strikingly frequent. Famously, Stephen Jay Gould and Richard Lewontin borrowed the concept of Bauplan in order to criticize the adaptationist programme of the modern evolutionary synthesis in light of then recent findings (Gould & Lewontin 1979). Recently, Scott Gilbert and Sahotra Sarkar have argued that Kant’s view of organisms was a fundamental precondition of developmental biology (Gilbert & Sarkar 2000). Stuart Kauffman has even portrayed Kant’s understanding of organized beings as a template for self-organization theory (Kauffman 2000). As a consequence, extensive literature has been recently devoted to Kant’s philosophy of biology (Löw 1980; Lenoir 1982; Zumbach 1984; McLaughlin 1990; Huneman 2007, 2008; Goy & Watkins 2014; Van den Berg 2014).

While the Critique of the Power of Judgment is largely considered as a fundamental turning point, the work of Hegel on this topic remains largely unexplored. This is due to a long-lasting preconception against his philosophy of nature, a preconception which originated in the nineteenth century and still reigns today.

The recent “Hegel-renaissance” in the English-speaking world has so far not yet extended to a revision of this negative view. At present, few studies have examined Hegel’s philosophy of nature (Illetterati 1995; Houlgate 1999; Renault 2002; Stone 2004, Bouton & Vieillard-Baron 2009), with only a few of these addressing his philosophy of biology directly (Breidbach 1982; Spahn 2007; Michelini 2011). These works are valuable, but often fail to undermine the reigning prejudice against Hegel’s philosophy of nature and to convey its relevance for contemporary debates. The aim of this special issue is to do just that.

The issue aims to address Hegel’s philosophy biology in relation to its historical context, as well as to its possible relation with more recent perspectives, such as (among others) the phenomenological tradition, the theory of autopoiesis, dialectical biology, enactivism and other contemporary developments, both in philosophy and biology, which focus on the dialectical relation between the “whole” and the “parts” of living systems.

The issue is set to address (among others) the following questions:

  1. Can Hegel’s “philosophy of biology” be understood as prefiguring the philosophy of biology as currently defined?
  2. What does Hegel’s “organic physics” tell us with regards to the ontological nature of biological organization, the role of teleology in biological explanation, and/or the relation between life and cognition?
  3. In which ways can Hegel’s “philosophy of biology” be deemed relevant today in the context of recent challenges to the neo-Darwinian synthesis?

Authors should follow the style guide at

– they should submit their articles by email directly to the guest editors (;

– articles should be prepared for double blind review, as for regular issues of the journal

– there is a word limit of 8,000 words including references

– submission deadline is 1st June 2019

– print publication will be in 2020, but articles will first appear online

– expressions of interest and/or enquiries about the special issue can be directed to the guest editors

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