4. “The Role of the Missing Reason”: The Search for a Stratum-Specific Form of Determination in Nicolai Hartmann’s Theory of Life

In Keith R. Peterson & Roberto Poli (eds.), New Research on the Philosophy of Nicolai Hartmann. Berlin, Germany: De Gruyter. pp. 65-80 (2016)
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Abstract

The problem of teleology is one of the major challenges for theoretical biology and, in general, for every philosophy of life. The debate about the nature of the organism and its difference from inorganic matter cannot come to terms with, at one point or another, the problem that arises from the unavoidable impression of teleology exhibited by the living itself. In this respect, the advantages that a systematic thinker such as Hartmann can offer to the philosophical analysis of life are remarkable. The first discussion by Hartmann on the problem of causality can be found in Philosophische Grundfragen der Biologie (1912), a work which, however accurate, takes a predominantly Kantian and neo-Kantian approach, and cannot rely on the original and fecund tools of Hartmann’s mature stratified ontology. Therefore, the present contribution will focus on Hartmann’s ontological works, in particular his Philosophie der Natur: Abriss der speziellen Kategorienlehre (1950), in order to highlight and discuss the theoretical advantages they present. In particular, the validity of Hartmann’s ontological approach will be revealed by three key points: 1) a careful categorial distinction between different forms of determination, and even of causality, present in nature; 2) the refusal of vitalism, with the resolute limitation of finality in the proper sense to human conscious action; and 3) a great openness to the possibility that the living could be a third realm, governed by an autonomous modality of determination whose nature has yet to be discovered.

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