What's Wrong with Rex? Hegel on Animal Defect and Individuality



In his Logic, Hegel argues that evaluative judgments are comparisons between the reality of an individual object and the standard for that reality found in the object's own concept. Understood in this way, an object is bad (ugly, etc.) insofar as it fails to be what it is according to its concept. In his recent Life and Action, Michael Thompson has suggested that we can understand various kinds of natural defect (i.e., defects in living things) in a similar way, and that if we do, we can helpfully see intellectual and moral badness—irrationality and vice—as themselves varieties of natural defect. In this paper, I argue that Hegel's position on animal individuality denies the claim that irrationality and vice are forms of natural defect. Hegel's account of the individuality proper to the animal organism in the Philosophy of Nature clearly disallows evaluative judgments about animals and thereby establishes a well-defined conceptual distinction between natural defect and intellectual or ethical—i.e., broadly spiritual or geistliche—defect. Hegel thus provides a way of maintaining the difference between nature and spirit within his broader commitment to a post-Kantian conception of substantial form.