Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy, Vol 11, No 1 (2015)

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The Notion of "Aether": Hegel versus Contemporary Physics

Stefan Gruner, Matthias Bartelmann

Abstract


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Hegel's transient notion of "Aether", developed and finally abandoned again during his short period of time at the University of Jena in the early years of the 19th century, has received comparatively little attention so far – much less than, for example, his Phenomenology of Spirit, or his later systematic works which he published after his departure from Jena. In modern and contemporary physics, on the other hand, novel notions comparable to Hegel's "aether" have become interesting again with the rise of quantum physics. In this essay we recapitulate and explain the notion of "Aether" in Hegel's works and compare it to novel aether concepts which might be appropriate in the context of contemporary quantum physics. Such a juxtaposition would well have matched Hegel's own intentions, since he had always been a keen observer of the latest developments in the natural sciences during his own lifetime. In conclusion we can say that, in spite of a number of differences, both notions of aether can be speculatively characterised by the paradoxical term "reality of possibility".


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