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Regions of the body or reasons of the spirit? The relevance of Hegelian criticism of physiognomy and craniology

Caterina Maurer


This work investigates Hegel’s objections to J.K. Lavater’s physiognomic theory and F.J. Gall’s organology as cause for reflection on the reductionist and deterministic outcomes of some contemporary neuroscientists and philosophers of the mind that believe “we are our body” and, in particular, our brain. According to the philosopher, physiognomy and craniology represent the extreme outcome of the so-called observational method, which fails to understand the psychic complexity of the subject and does not give a full account of free will. Even though Hegel always put in relation his theory of mind with the empirical data of the natural sciences, his remarks on this subject may assume a theoretical relevance for the contemporary debate in terms of highlighting that experimental data on brain functioning, although essential, do not fully account for the structure of subjectivity as an activity of self-determination.


Hegel; Physiognomy; Craniology; Embodiment; Free will

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