Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich
Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel 1770-1831
The following entry presents criticism of Hegel from 1971 through 2002. For additional information on Hegel's life and career, see NCLC, Volume 46.
One of the foremost philosophers of the nineteenth century, Hegel is best known for his attempt to elaborate a systematic account of reality. Hegel called this reality the Absolute Spirit, and he explored it in his best-known works, Die Phänomenologie des Geistes (1807; The Phenomenology of Spirit), Wissenschaft der Logik (1812-16; The Science of Logic), and Grundlinien der Philosophie des Rechts, oder Naturrecht und Staatswissenschaft im Grundrisse (1820; The Philosophy of Right). Hegel is also known for his thought on historical progress, which Karl Marx transformed into his materialist theory of history. Although Hegel's stature has declined significantly, his works continue to be read for their historical importance and the influence they had on some of the great thinkers and intellectual movements of the twentieth century, including Jean-Paul Sartre and the critical school of deconstructionism.
Born in Stuttgart, Germany, in 1770, Hegel was the eldest son of a revenue officer. As a child, he was taught at home by his mother, a pious Protestant who died when he was eleven. After her death Hegel attended the Stuttgart Gymnasium, a preparatory school where he became acquainted with the Greek and Roman classics as well as German literature and science. Upon graduation, he entered the Tübingen Stift, a Protestant seminary attached to the university in Württemberg, where he studied philosophy and theology. He befriended Friedrich Wilhelm Josef von Schelling, who later gained renown as a philosopher, and Friedrich Hölderlin, who would become one of the great poets of the German Romantic movement. Both men would have a profound effect on Hegel's intellectual development. While at Tübingen Hegel became interested in the works of the philosophers Baruch Spinoza, Immanuel Kant, and Jean Jacques Rousseau. Inspired by Hölderlin, he also developed a deep interest in Greek literature and philosophy. He was profoundly affected by the French Revolution, which was occurring at the time, and he participated in a group formed at the seminary in support of it. After completing his course at Tübingen, Hegel decided not to enter the ministry, and in 1793 he began work as a private tutor in Berne, Switzerland, and then in Frankfurt. For four years, while tutoring for several families, he continued to read widely and develop his own ideas on religion, philosophy, politics, and education. In 1799, his father left him a modest income, and Hegel abandoned tutoring in order to pursue his own work—including a study of Kant and his pupil Johann Fichte—in the hope of securing a university position.
In 1801, Hegel moved to the University of Jena, where Schelling was teaching and had earned a reputation as the most innovative of the Kantian philosophers, especially for his reworking of the ideas of Fichte. In 1801, Hegel published Differenz des Fichte'schen und Schelling'schen Systems der Philosophie, in Beziehung auf Reinholds Beiträge zur leichteren Übersicht des Zustandes der Philosophie zu Anfang des neunzehnten Jahrhunderts (The Difference between Fichte's and Schelling's System of Philosophy), earning himself a reputation as a disciple of Schelling. Hegel worked closely with Schelling, co-editing a philosophy journal with him until Schelling's departure from Jena in 1803. In 1807, Hegel was completing the manuscript of his first major work, The Phenomenology of Spirit, as Napoleon's troops began to burn down his house. After Napoleon's troops occupied Jena and the university was closed, Hegel left the city.
After the Phenomenology was published in 1807, Schelling took offense at some critical remarks in the work's preface, believing they were aimed at him, and he and Hegel broke off their long friendship. Hegel worked for a short time as an editor of a newspaper in Bamberg before accepting a job in 1808 as the headmaster and philosophy teacher at a preparatory school in Nuremberg. In 1810, at the age of forty, Hegel married twenty-year-old Marie von Tucher, with whom he had three children. He also had a son with the wife of his former landlord in Jena. In Nuremberg, Hegel continued his philosophical writing, publishing most of his Wissenschaft der Logik while teaching at the school. In 1816, on the basis of this work, he was appointed to a chair in philosophy at the University of Heidelberg. His reputation quickly grew, and he was soon regarded by many to be the most important philosopher in Germany. Two years later, he accepted the prestigious Chair of Philosophy at the University of Berlin, which he would hold until his death. Hegel continued to write prolifically and enjoyed considerable celebrity. He died during a cholera epidemic in Berlin on November 14, 1831.
Hegel's first and most important major work is The Phenomenology of Spirit. It is an unprecedented work and regarded by many as one of the most difficult books of philosophy ever written. In the most general terms, it is a study of the history of the development of the human mind or consciousness at both the individual and collective level, tracing a path from individuals' basic states of mind to the vantage point of systematic, scientific thinking. Hegel's idealist position in the work is evident in his criticism of the traditional empiricist distinction used in earlier theories of knowledge between the objective and the subjective, offering a mind-centered model of the evolution of consciousness. The Phenomenology asks how consciousness can conceive of itself and of the world—that is, why humans encounter reality as they do. In the process, Hegel criticizes philosophies emphasizing experience and lays out an idealist system of metaphysics, ethics, and political philosophy. The Phenomenology also goes into a vast number of seemingly unrelated topics and uses its own invented terminology to explain the author's ideas about politics, religion, knowledge, psychology, logic, moral philosophy, and history.
The idealist system set out in the Phenomenology is developed in The Science of Logic, a three-volume work that attempts to systematize all the categories and patterns of human reasoning by the means of self-reflecting thought. The work attributes the unfolding of concepts of reality in terms of the model of dialectical reasoning. According to this system, a thesis is put forward that is subsequently opposed by a contradictory antithesis, and out of their opposition comes a synthesis that embraces both positions. Although Hegel never used the terms “thesis, antithesis, and synthesis” to summarize his view of dialectics, they have become standard tools in the resulting critical dialogue to illustrate the essence of his method. Hegel argued in The Science of Logic that this system of reasoning was the only method of progress in human thought. Hegel's three-part Encyclopädie der philosophischen Wissenschaften im Grundrisse (1817-30; Encyclopedia of the Philosophical Sciences) is an outline of his entire philosophy and describes the application of his dialectic to all areas of human knowledge. The collection is made up of Vorlesungen über die Naturphilosophie (Philosophy of Nature), Die Logik (Logic), and Die Philosophie des Geistes (The Philosophy of Spirit).
The last full-length work Hegel saw published in his lifetime was the Grundlinien der Philosophie des Rechts, oder Naturrecht und Staatswissenschaft im Grundrisse (The Philosophy of Right), a work that attempts to account for human life in all its political and social dimensions. Hegel wrote in the introduction that “the history of the world is none other than the progress of the consciousness of freedom,” and the rest of the work serves to illustrate this point. He presents an outline of world history from ancient China, India, and Persia to nineteenth-century Europe in order to show how history displays a rational process of development that can help humans understand their nature and place in the world.
After Hegel's death, a number of other works were compiled from his students' lecture notes and published posthumously. These are Vorlesungen über die Philosophie der Religion (1832; Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion), Vorlesungen über die Geschichte der Philosophie (1833-36; Lectures on the History of Philosophy), Vorlesungen über die Ästhetik (1835-38; Lectures on Aesthetics), and Vorlesungen über die Philosophie der Weltgeschichte (1837; Lectures on the Philosophy of History). These volumes elaborate on the basic ideas pervading all of Hegel's philosophy. Hegel believed that only by interacting with other individuals, objects in the concrete world, or ideas in the world of the spirit could the individual reach a higher order of existence and achieve true freedom. Hegel's philosophy tries to make sense of the whole realm of human experience by understanding it as the manifestation of what he calls the Absolute Spirit, which is the ultimate reality. Hegel's lectures on the philosophy of religion make the point that the philosopher can study religion and see that it is the highest non-rational manifestation of the Absolute Spirit. In his lectures on philosophy and the philosophy of history, he argues that the history of philosophy reveals the development of the Absolute Spirit.
By the end of his life, Hegel was the most important philosopher in Germany. His reputation far eclipsed that of his friend Schelling, and throughout the nineteenth century he was regarded as the greatest and most original thinker since Kant. His view that history was guided by the Absolute Spirit, which revealed itself through the dialectic process, had an immense influence on nineteenth-century continental philosophers. After his death, his followers divided into two camps. The Right Hegelians advocated evangelical orthodoxy and political conservatism, and the Left Hegelians, or Young Hegelians, advocated atheism and liberal democracy. The most famous Young Hegelian was Marx, who adopted Hegel's ideas about dialectic as the basis of his philosophy of dialectical materialism, which in turn became the philosophical underpinning of communism. Hegel also influenced other philosophical schools such as post-Hegelian idealism, existentialism, and philosophical instrumentalism. One of England's most famous moral philosophers, F. W. Bradley, was a Hegelian, and the American philosopher John Dewey was also inspired by him.
In the twentieth century, interest in Hegel among philosophers waned, most notably in the English-speaking world. The enormous influence of the British empiricists Bertrand Russell and G. E. Moore from the 1930s to the 1960s and the subsequent establishment of their brand of analytic philosophy served to discredit the basic Hegelian metaphysical claims of the interconnection between all particulars into one ideal substance. Hegel still had some champions, and thinkers such as Herbert Marcuse, Theodor Adorno, and other members of the Frankfurt School found his ideas about the dialectical tension between individuals and society relevant to their own social theory. Since then, commentators have traced Hegel's influence on the critical school of deconstructionism, attempted to understand his views on history, explored his aesthetic principles, and discussed his ideas on language and writing. They have also likened his philosophical principles with those of Friedrich Nietzsche and pointed out his influence on other existentialist thinkers such as Sartre. Scholars have also compared Hegel's philosophy of history with concepts advanced by the modern French philosopher and historian of thought Michel Foucault. While Hegel is no longer considered a philosopher of towering importance, his work continues to interest scholars for its parallels to later developments in philosophy and other areas of critical thought.
Vertrauliche Briefe über das vormalige staatsrechtliche Verhältnis des Waadtlandes zur Stadt Bern: Aus dem Franz. eines verstorbenen Schweizers (philosophy) 1798
Differenz des Fichte'schen und Schelling'schen Systems der Philosophie, in Beziehung auf Reinholds Beiträge zur leichteren Übersicht des Zustandes der Philosophie zu Anfang des neunzehnten Jahrhunderts [The Difference between Fichte's and Schelling's System of Philosophy] (philosophy) 1801
Die Phänomenologie des Geistes [The Phenomenology of Spirit] (philosophy) 1807
Wissenschaft der Logik. 3 vols. [The Science of Logic] (philosophy) 1812-16
Encyclopädie der philosophischen Wissenschaften im Grundrisse. [Encyclopedia of the Philosophical Sciences] (philosophy) 1817-30
Grundlinien der Philosophie des Rechts, oder Naturrecht und Staatswissenschaft im Grundrisse [The Philosophy of Right] (philosophy) 1820
Vorlesungen über die Philosophie der Religion [Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion] (philosophy) 1832
*Werke. Vollständige Ausgabe durch einen Verein von Freunden des Verewigten. 18 vols. (philosophy) 1832-45
Vorlesungen über die Geschichte der Philosophie [Lectures on the History of Philosophy] (philosophy) 1833-36
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SOURCE: Lauer, Quentin. “The Hegelian System.” In Hegel's Idea of Philosophy, pp. 1-14. New York: Fordham University Press, 1971.
[In the following essay, Lauer outlines Hegel's philosophical system and provides an overview of his works.]
The Introduction to the Lectures on the History of Philosophy is particularly significant, as we have already noted in our Preface, because of the place which it holds in the overall “system” which Hegel's philosophy purports to be. What that place is can be clarified in an attempt to sketch the system as a whole, which is at once Hegel's philosophy and his reply to those who would discredit the whole metaphysical endeavor.
In an attempt to overcome the abstract speculations of both traditional Scholasticism and continental rationalism, the British empiricists in general, and Hume in particular, insisted on the primacy of the immediate presence of reality in sensation. In this context, then, thinking—as opposed to sensation—is a movement away from reality; thought is a progressive abstraction from the full, rich content immediately given in sensation. The empiricists would, of course, have been contradicting a constant in human experience did they not see a definite usefulness in this process—if nothing else, it simplified reality to the point of making it more manipulable. Still, they felt that in thought there was a definite loss...
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SOURCE: Doull, James A. “Hegel's Philosophy of Nature.” Dialogue 11, no. 3 (1972): 379-99.
[In the following essay, Doull reviews two translations of The Philosophy of Nature that were published in 1970.]
Two translations into English of Hegel's Philosophy of Nature1,2 have appeared in the same year a century after the other parts of the Encyclopaedia—the Logic and the Philosophy of Mind—had been translated. The Victorian translator passed by the Philosophy of Nature, unconscious that to omit the middle part of a systematic work must certainly conceal the sense of the whole. He finds it a sufficient explanation that “for nearly half a century the study of nature has passed almost completely out of the hands of the philosophers into the care of the specialists of science.” Revived for a few years by Schelling and then Hegel, Philosophy of Nature only recalled “a time of hasty enthusiasms and over-grasping ambition of thought which, in its eagerness to understand the mystery of the universe, jumped to conclusions on insufficient grounds, trusted to bold but fantastic analogies, and lavished an unwise contempt on the plodding industry of the mere hodman of facts and experiments.” This modest retreat of philosophy before the specialists is not thought to need explanation, even though it was...
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SOURCE: Berry, Christopher J. “Hegel on the World-Historical.” History of European Ideas 2, no. 2 (1981): 155-62.
[In the following essay, Berry focuses on illuminating the sense in which Hegel's used the term “world-historical.”]
Hegel's notion of a world-historical individual has always been troublesome. This is exemplified by two of his most recent commentators in English. Shlomo Avineri, on the one hand, regards Hegel's various pronouncements as inconsistent, since, in one place, the world-historical individual is said to be wholly conscious of the idea of history and its development, in another place, is said to be instinctively conscious of it and in yet another place is said to be totally unaware of it.1 Whereas Charles Taylor, on the other hand, noting Avineri's discussion, remarks that these positions all come from lectures, and not from a work Hegel himself published, so that (it is seemingly held to be inferable) they can be reconciled ‘around the notion that world-historical individuals have a sense of the higher truth they serve, but they see it through a glass darkly’.2 The aim of this brief notice is to look at this troublesome notion in the light of what Hegel means more broadly by the term ‘world-historical’. This perspective, it is hoped, will show that although Taylor's formulation is faulty and misleading the thrust of his comment on Avineri is...
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SOURCE: Taylor, Mark C. “Aesthetic Therapy: Hegel and Kierkegaard.” In Kierkegaard's Truth: The Disclosure of the Self, edited by Joseph H. Smith, pp. 343-80. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1981.
[In the following essay, Taylor compares the works of Søren Kierkegaard and Hegel, particularly in the area of psychology, to highlight what he views as their common purpose of educating readers and encouraging them to cultivate themselves spiritually.]
Few thinkers have contributed more to shaping the modern sense of self than the German philosopher G. W. F. Hegel and the Danish philosopher-theologian Søren Kierkegaard. In areas as diverse as theology, philosophy, psychology, sociology, literature, and art, the insights originally articulated by Hegel and Kierkegaard have been critically examined, imaginatively elaborated, and eagerly appropriated. Nor has their influence been restricted to that rarefied atmosphere of academic reflection and discussion removed from the confusion and vitality of everyday experience. Hegelian and Kierkegaardian categories permeate our thought and language and condition the way in which many of us understand ourselves and experience our world. Yet despite the lasting importance of the ideas of Hegel and Kierkegaard, the relationship between their contrasting points of view has only rarely been the subject of careful and thorough discussion. As a result of this oversight,...
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SOURCE: Desmond, William. “Hegel, Dialectic, and Deconstruction.” Philosophy and Rhetoric 18, no. 4 (1985): 244-63.
[In the following essay, Desmond contends that, despite their differences, Hegel's dialectic is an important precursor to the theory of deconstructionism.]
The topic of deconstruction is one of the most controversial, if not the most controversial issue, in recent literary theory. A measure of this controversy is the manner in which advocates of deconstruction and its antagonists tend to square off against one another, each confronting his opposite with highly combative rhetoric. The very term “deconstruction” itself carries something of this agonistic spirit. Traditionalists, non-deconstructionists, tend to respond with a matching animus. Yet what is at stake in the controversy is not always adequately spelled out. The deconstructionists do not always present a clear account of the character of their critical strategies. The traditionalists, themselves not always sure of the precise principles of deconstruction, grow uneasy with the practice of the deconstructors. Whatever else is obscure, one thing seems clear on both sides: theory has invaded the sphere of critical practice, in a manner which demarcates this forking of the ways: some exult in the new theoretical liberation; others groan under an excess of theory that they claim carries them from a...
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SOURCE: Kain, Philip J. “Hegel's Political Theory and Philosophy of History.” CLIO 17, no. 4 (summer 1988): 345-68.
[In the following essay, Kain assesses Hegel's indebtedness to the ideas of Jean Jacques Rousseau and Immanuel Kant for his own theories of politics and history. The critic explains Hegel's concept of spirit, and elaborates on why this theory is fundamental to the philosopher's views on the ideal state in the modern world.]
Hegel's historical and political thought can best be understood if we understand its relationship to Rousseau's political theory and Kant's philosophy of history.
Hegel's conception of the modern state closely resembles Rousseau's ideal community which was based upon rational freedom realized through a general will and reinforced by custom and tradition which shaped the character and interests of the citizens. However, Rousseau's community was utopian—it could not be realized in the modern world. It was incompatible with commerce and trade which promote particular interest and thus corrupt custom and erode the general will. These matters will be discussed in Section III.
To explain the possibility of the ideal state in the modern world, Hegel turns to Kant's philosophy of history where commerce, trade, and conflicting particular interests themselves lead to what morality—the categorical imperative or...
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SOURCE: Menke, Christoph. “The Dissolution of the Beautiful: Hegel's Theory of Drama.”1L'Esprit Créateur 35, no. 3 (fall 1995): 19-36.
[In the following essay, Menke analyzes Hegel's aesthetics, focusing on his theory of drama and his views about the purpose and ethical dimensions of art.]
1. THE END OF ART IN DRAMA
Hegel's thesis of the end of art says that “art, considered in its highest determination, is a thing of the past for us,” and that, therefore, “it has lost for us genuine truth and life.”2 As Paul De Man points out, this “has usually been interpreted or criticized or, in some rare instances, praised as a historical diagnosis disproven or borne out by history”; hence it has been interpreted as a reference to the historicity of art.3 Accordingly, art belongs in another, a past, historical epoch; only in that epoch “is there [“gibt es”] art as a distinct yet undetachable moment of the epoch in its totality. At the same time, however, Hegel stresses that this historical belonging is valid for art only in its “highest determination.” Indeed, according to De Man's reading, Hegel's Aesthetics must be understood to mean that it is art itself which makes its “highest determination,” into something “past.”
De Man thus has understood Hegel's thesis as referring to the...
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SOURCE: Kain, Philip J. “Hegel's Critique of Kantian Practical Reason.” Canadian Journal of Philosophy 28, no. 3 (September 1998): 367-412.
[In the following essay, Kain contends that in Phenomenology of Spirit Hegel offers a thorough critique of Kant's ethical thought.]
While many philosophers have found Hegel's critique of Kantian ethics to be interesting in certain respects, overall most tend to find it rather shallow and to think that Hegel either misunderstands Kant's thought or has a rather crude understanding of it. For example, in examining the last two sections of Chapter V of the Phenomenology—‘Reason as Lawgiver’ and ‘Reason as Testing Laws’ (where we get an extended critique of the categorical imperative)—Lauer finds Hegel's treatment to be truncated and inadequate.1 The only trouble, though, is that like most other readers of the Phenomenology, Lauer does not recognize that Hegel had been examining and criticizing Kantian ethics throughout a much greater part of—indeed, more than half of—Chapter V. Once we do understand this, I think we must concede that Hegel's treatment is hardly truncated and that it cannot be described as shallow or inadequate. I will try to show that Hegel demonstrates a rather sophisticated understanding of, and gives a serious and thorough critique of, Kantian practical reason.
A good part of the...
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SOURCE: Ware, Robert Bruce. “Hegel's Metaphilosophy and Historical Metamorphosis.” In Hegel: The Logic of Self-consciousness and the Legacy of Subjective Freedom, pp. 7-32. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1999.
[In the following essay, Ware addresses misperceptions of Hegel's views of philosophy and the philosophy of history.]
Hegel is commonly understood to have required that the philosophy of history must be retrospective and therefore fundamentally conservative. Yet at the same time he is thought to have claimed that his system involved an absolute truth beyond which no philosophy could advance, and that it therefore marked the end of the history of philosophy. The two claims are evidently inconsistent, since a history of philosophy, which must be bound by constraints on the philosophy of history, could not legitimately comment on philosophy's future. If this is the result of Hegel's metaphilosophy then he has contributed at least this much to his reputation for presumption and incoherence.
However, I shall argue that both claims are based upon misinterpretations that follow from inattention to Hegel's ontology, and that his metaphilosophy is more subtle and more critical than most interpreters have allowed. Though Hegel clearly requires that a philosophy draw its content from its time, he regards it as historically transcendent in its form, and as consequently playing a...
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SOURCE: Jurist, Elliot L. “Introduction.” In Beyond Hegel and Nietzsche: Philosophy, Culture, and Agency, pp. 1-13. Cambridge, Mass.: The MIT Press, 2000.
[In the following introduction to his comparative study of Nietzsche and Hegel, Jurist outlines the main points of his book, which generally argues that there are important areas of agreement between the ideas of the two philosophers.]
From the perspective of mainstream philosophical culture, Hegel and Nietzsche both exemplify the superfluousness of nineteenth-century philosophy. Within the Continental tradition, on the other hand, Hegel and Nietzsche are typically juxtaposed as opposites in terms of their basic philosophical commitments, their styles, and even their life experiences. Indeed, one could argue that Hegel and Nietzsche are the two foundational figures of Continental philosophy, and, furthermore, that their legacy endures in that twentieth-century Continental philosophers can be classified, more or less, as Hegelians or Nietzscheans.1
One can discern the opposition between Hegelians and Nietzscheans by comparing critical theory, which has a strong Hegelian influence, and poststructuralism, which has a strong Nietzschean influence. Critical theorists and poststructuralists alike, however, affirm the juxtaposition of Hegel and Nietzsche as philosophical opposites. For instance, Habermas (1987, p. 120) claims...
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SOURCE: McCumber, John. “Writing Down (Up) the Truth: Hegel and Schiller at the End of the Phenomenology of Spirit.” In Essays on Jewish and German Literature and Thought in Honor of Géza von Molnár: “The Spirit of Poesy,” edited by Richard Block and Peter Fenves, pp. 47-59. Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 2000.
[In the following essay, McCumber maintains that Hegel's emendations to a poem by Friedrich Schiller at the end of Phenomenology of Spirit were made to fit in with the philosophical message of his book.]
The Phenomenology of Spirit seems to end with the words of Friedrich Schiller, not of its author:
aus dem Kelche dieses Geisterreiches schäumt ihm seine Unendlichkeit(1)
From the chalice of this realm of spirits Foams forth to him his infinitude
But only seems to. The quotation is from the first stanza of Schiller's “Die Freundschaft.” But as it stands here, it is perhaps as much Hegel's as Schiller's. Here is Schiller's original version:
Freundlos war der große Weltenmeister Fühlte sich allein—darum schuf er Geister Sel'ge Spiegel seiner Seligkeit! Fand das höchste Wesen schon kein Gleiches, Aus dem Kelch des ganzen Schattenreiches Schäumt ihm—die Unendlichkeit.(2)
Friendless was the great master of worlds, Felt himself alone—and so created spirits, Blessed...
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SOURCE: De Boer, Karin. “The Infinite Movement of Self-Conception and Its Inconceivable Finitude: Hegel on Logos and Language.” Dialogue 40, no. 1 (winter 2001): 75-97.
[In the following essay, De Boer explores the relation between thought and language in the Science of Logic.]
Language intrudes into everything that we make our own by representing it, Hegel remarks in the Science of Logic.1 Language is also the element which allows human beings to come into their own themselves: Hegel calls language the existence of the pure self as self. For whereas the self which manifests itself in deeds and physiognomic expressions never coincides with these one-sided manifestations and, withdrawing from them, deprives them of their soul, language is such that it allows human beings to express what they are, to be present at their expressions and share themselves with others.2 Since, according to Hegel, language constitutes the most spiritual externalization of spirit and as such the only element in which philosophy can accomplish itself, it seems obvious even for Hegel that no philosophical self-reflection can turn away from the question concerning the relation between language and conceptuality. Now twentieth-century philosophy has been largely determined by a turn from thought to language, that is to say, by a growing awareness of the...
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SOURCE: Buckley, Michael. “Irony and the ‘We’ in Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit.” CLIO 31, no. 3 (spring 2002): 279-300.
[In the following essay, Buckley surveys the use of “we” in The Phenomenology of Spirit and claims that Hegel employs the term as an ironic component of his portrayal of consciousness in the work.]
Although all readers of the Phenomenology of Spirit are familiar with Hegel's device of the “we” (wir) that is employed throughout it, very little commentary exists on the meaning of the “we.” None of this commentary has noted the connection between this device and the trope of irony, a trope that since Socrates has been associated closely with philosophical modes of experience and thought. In this essay, I will consider what has been said about the “we” and suggest that irony is the best way for comprehending how the “we” ultimately functions in Hegel's portrait of consciousness.
When a person reads the Phenomenology of Spirit, he or she takes a journey through the history of consciousness itself. It is a long and difficult journey because the truths discovered on it dissolve into falsehoods, and then reappear as truths in a higher form through a dialectic of consciousness that refuses to stand still. This history of consciousness is in fact “the detailed history of the education of consciousness...
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SOURCE: Gagan, Rebecca. “Hegel Beside Himself: Unworking the Intellectual Community.” European Romantic Review 13, no. 2 (June 2002): 139-45.
[In the following essay, Gagan maintains that passages in The Phenomenology of Spirit make important points about the act of scholarly production and the work habits of academia.]
1 ACADEMIA FOR DUMMIES
There are undoubtedly some who would see a comparison of a section of Hegel's The Phenomenology of Spirit with any book with the words “for Dummies” in the title as crude and objectionable. Indeed, in 1969 Allan Bloom declared: “Hegel is now becoming so popular in literary and artistic circles, but in a superficial form adapted to please dilettantes and other seekers after depth who wish to use him rather than understand him” (ix). Bloom's comments, which beg the questions, who owns Hegel? who owns philosophy? and even more generally, who owns thought?, are questions which, ironically enough, inform much of Hegel's work and to which Hegel—unlike Bloom—offers no easy answers. The section of the Phenomenology entitled “The Spiritual Animal Kingdom and deceit, or the ‘matter in hand itself” does, I suggest, function as a kind of insider's guide to the academic community—a what to expect while expecting scholarly production condensed into a few brief pages. It is here that Hegel attempts to...
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Pinkard, Terry. Hegel: A Biography. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000, 780 p.
Provides a biographical and critical study that attempts to clear up misconceptions of Hegel's life and philosophy.
Bernasconi, Robert. “With What Must the Philosophy of World History Begin? On the Racial Basis of Hegel's Eurocentrism.” Nineteenth-Century Contexts 22, no. 2 (2000): 171-202.
Examines Hegel's treatment of non-Western cultures in his Philosophy of History.
Bozzetti, Mauro. “Hegel on Trial: Adorno's Critique of Philosophical Systems.” In Adorno: A Critical Reader, edited by Nigel Gibson and Andrew Rubin, pp. 292-311. Malden, Mass.: Blackwell Publishers, 2002.
Assesses Theodor Adorno's criticism of Hegel's thought, particularly his views on Hegel's doctrine of the world-spirit and its command over world history.
Breazeale, Daniel. “The Hegel-Nietzsche Problem.” Nietzsche-Studien 4 (1975): 146-64.
Attempts to reconcile the seeming differences between Hegel and Friedrich Nietzsche.
Clifford, Michael. “Hegel and Foucault: Toward a History without Man.” CLIO 29, no. 1 (fall 1999): 1-22.
Examines the connection between Hegel's view of history and the...
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