modernization and freedom for his native Germany, which was hisconcern.The Holy Roman Empire was brought to a close in 1815, justas the last volume of the
Science of Logic
went to press. And at theCongress of Vienna, in the aftermath of Napoleon’s eventualmilitary defeat, the German Federation was created with just 38components. This situation suited Hegel, and generally speaking,the most creative period of Hegel’s life was the period of theNapoleonic Wars, 1804-1815.We should also remember that Hegel never knew Darwin.
Origin of Species
was published almost thirty years after he died. Buthe was familiar with the theory of Lamarck, and he positivelyrejected the idea that human beings had evolved out of animals. Heknew of Lyell’s theory of geological formation and accepted thatthe continents were products of a process of formation. But heinsisted that there was change but no development in Nature. Heactually knew nothing of the pre-history of humanity and assurprising as it may seem for the historical thinker
, heclaimed that:
“even if the earth was once in a state where it had no livingthings but only the chemical process, and so on, yet the momentthe lightning of life strikes into matter, at once there is present adeterminate, complete creature, as Minerva fully armed springsforth from the head of Jupiter.... Man has not developed himself out of the animal, nor the animal out of the plant; each is at asingle stroke what it is.”
At the time, natural science offered no rational explanation forthe appearance of organic life out of inorganic life or of the originsof the human form, language and human history. It is to Hegel’scredit that he did not try to resolve the problem of what he knewlittle about by appealing to what no-one knew absolutely anythingabout. He relied almost entirely on the
intelligibility of human life
as itcould be observed: no foundation myths or appeals to a naturalorder beyond human society or appeals to Eternal Reason or Lawsof Nature. In that sense, Hegel’s is a supremely rational philosophy.