Importance of Hegel?

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Reply Tue 21 Jul, 2009 07:35 am
I'm currently slogging through Hegel's Phenomenology of Mind and can't help but dislike it. I'm trying hard to suspend any such judgment to stop myself from simply hating something just because I don't understand it. He doesn't seem to be a very popular philosopher. Mentions of him here for example are rare and he lacks his own subforum (I realize this is of limited importance).

I guess my main question would be...should I be worried if I'm understanding about 10% (this is most likely a generous estimate) of the Hegel I'm reading? I was planning on going through his Philosophy of History and Introductory Aesthetics also, and I've heard these should be much easier than Mind. Is it a good idea to get a supplementary resource (if so, what's a good one?) or just take in what I can and move on? I know this is bad but I feel that he's just "in my way" until I get through him and get to Kierkegaard.
 
richrf
 
Reply Tue 21 Jul, 2009 08:11 am
@Labyrinth,
Well, I hate to say it, but I also find Hegel quite long-winded. As best as I can make out, and I am reading translations and interpretations, he is essentially saying the same thing Heraclitus said 2000 years previously:

1) Everything exists in polarities (thesis and antithesis)
2) There is conflict between these polarities (dialectic)
3) And the result of this conflict a new position arises - there is flow and change in the universe.

Similarly, he embraces the concepts of soul and spirit as did Heraclitus.

I realize that there is much more that he wrote, but for me these are the central ideas that seem to affect other philosophers that came after him. BTW, Eastern Daoism embraces similar thoughts.

Rich
 
jgweed
 
Reply Tue 21 Jul, 2009 08:25 am
@Labyrinth,
I would almost recommend reading his Philosophy of History before continuing Phenomenology---which is tough reading even if you have some idea (from class or secondary sources) of what he is attempting to do. A friend of mine once said he didn't "get it" until he reached almost the end.
Especially with important philosophers, I always encourage (and myself practice) reading secondary sources or commentaries, but not taking any of them as completely accurate.
For a general overview, the chapters in the Seventh Volume of Copleston's History of Philosophy could be a good place to start, and I remember that Findlay's Hegel: an Re-examination (1958) helped me. Bibliographies in both of these could lead to other souces. The problem with Hegel interpretation is that much of it is encumbered by the author's position on its later use by Marx and subsequent development along that genealogical tree.
 
ltdaleadergt
 
Reply Tue 21 Jul, 2009 08:32 am
@Labyrinth,
Hegel, much like Kants, is like one those philosophers that you get to love it you READ ABOUT his work, than straight fortward jump into doing his readings. Try anywork Kojeve lectures about Hegel, I am sure it well help Smile
 
Theages
 
Reply Tue 21 Jul, 2009 09:05 am
@Labyrinth,
Labyrinth;78588 wrote:
He doesn't seem to be a very popular philosopher. Mentions of him here for example are rare and he lacks his own subforum (I realize this is of limited importance).

This forum is generally representative of a specific strand of philosophy, and that strand is not the only one. In Europe, Hegel is immensely important. There are only a handful of French or German thinkers since Hegel who didn't react against him in some way.
 
jgweed
 
Reply Tue 21 Jul, 2009 09:17 am
@Labyrinth,
Any Member can request the addition of a philosopher to the section:
Request a Philosopher - Philosophy Forum

I certainly agree that Hegel's historical importance to the tradition has often been overlooked.
 
Baal
 
Reply Tue 21 Jul, 2009 11:19 am
@jgweed,
The so-called long-windedness of Hegel's work is precisely the most important aspect of it. Of course the "Triadic" model, as some refer to it, can be abstracted, but this does not explain hegel, that is more Lenin than Hegel.. and more of a marxist oversimlification than a true understanding of what Hegel means when he speaks about Spirit.

Hegel does involve many veiled esoteric concepts in his phenomenology, and as such it will not be properly understood unless one cares to take attention to detail. Hegel is not easy reading as such, simply because the logic that flows in his book does not follow aritotlean logic or even socratic dialectic.

More important than the Triad (thesis, antithesis, synthesis) is the notion of how the thesis becomes an antithesis, how the antithesis becomes a synthesis etc. e.g. it is not necessarily the Conclusion at which one arrives, but rather the seamlessness at which such comes about; it is both violent and peaceful at once, and is thus merely a very description of the fabric of any discourse and the dance between it and its metadiscourse which is the Spirit.

Hegel's history is more of a storyline to his phenomenology. The phenomenology was his first work.. all his other works revolve around different mutations and notions of the Spirit. His History (while being racist at times) still holds true in respect to the different perspectives and approaches (although the value-judgements placed come from a German-Protestant point of view). It is worth reading in its own right, buut in my opinion, will not make the phenomenology any easier to understand.
 
Labyrinth
 
Reply Tue 21 Jul, 2009 06:53 pm
@Baal,
Thanks everyone for the helpful replies. Looks like I'm sticking with it (always planned to anyway). Might check out that Findlay. It might take me a while to put together the 8(?) volumes of Copleston.
 
Baal
 
Reply Tue 21 Jul, 2009 07:04 pm
@Labyrinth,
Oh, I do think that the Miller translation with Findlay's(sp?) notes would be helpful too.
 
jgweed
 
Reply Tue 21 Jul, 2009 09:36 pm
@Labyrinth,
Copleston's magisterial History of Philosophy is available in paperback in different volume-configurations depending on date and publisher, so you can just buy the volume you need (Seven is Fichte to Nietzsche, with Hegel just about in the middle).
 
rhinogrey
 
Reply Wed 22 Jul, 2009 06:29 pm
@Labyrinth,
Labyrinth;78588 wrote:
I'm currently slogging through Hegel's Phenomenology of Mind and can't help but dislike it. I'm trying hard to suspend any such judgment to stop myself from simply hating something just because I don't understand it. He doesn't seem to be a very popular philosopher. Mentions of him here for example are rare and he lacks his own subforum (I realize this is of limited importance).

I guess my main question would be...should I be worried if I'm understanding about 10% (this is most likely a generous estimate) of the Hegel I'm reading? I was planning on going through his Philosophy of History and Introductory Aesthetics also, and I've heard these should be much easier than Mind. Is it a good idea to get a supplementary resource (if so, what's a good one?) or just take in what I can and move on? I know this is bad but I feel that he's just "in my way" until I get through him and get to Kierkegaard.


Life's short. If you aren't digging on a philosopher skip him and find something you enjoy.
 
Theages
 
Reply Wed 22 Jul, 2009 06:47 pm
@Labyrinth,
Labyrinth;78588 wrote:
Phenomenology of Mind

Incidentally, you might want to consider a different translation. The Baillie one is a little out of date. The most recent one is by A.V. Miller and is called Phenomenology of Spirit.
 
Labyrinth
 
Reply Wed 22 Jul, 2009 11:00 pm
@Theages,
Well, it is getting better. :Glasses:

I just read his Master/bondsman & Stoicism/Scepticism chapters tonight, and I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed them. Guess I spoke too soon...
 
RDanneskjld
 
Reply Sat 29 Aug, 2009 06:30 pm
@Labyrinth,
I pity anyone who attempts to read Hegel. The only importance I can see Hegel being of is a purely historical one, in the History of Ideas. Sure after learning about Hegel I could see how his idea's influenced many of the time & I certainly felt clearer about some of the in Marx, but I would never want to do battle with one of Hegels books and I would reccomend those who dont need to know Hegel first hand stick to Secondary texts. I agree with the sentiments of Bertrand Russell when he said of Hegel 'The worse your logic, the more interesting the consequences to which it gives rise.'
 
Shostakovich phil
 
Reply Sat 29 Aug, 2009 06:43 pm
@jgweed,
Hegel's 'Pheno ...' and his 'Science of Logic,' are his answer to the challenge of Immanuel Kant. Hegel tackles Kant's first antinomy in his 'Science of Logic,' wherein he postulates that the void at the beginning of all things, is the 'simple immediate' which he also calls 'the absolute' and this he also equates with 'God.' He mentions that the most logical beginning (to all things that now exist) should be made with God, and his Phenomenology attempts an explanation as to how this is so. But Hegel fell short of satisfying Kant's critical demand for a science of metaphysics, grounded upon pure reason alone ... and did not show how his ultimate beginning, led, necessarily, to the universe of the present. His 'Phenomenolgy' would be judged by Kant as pure conjecture, for it has no a priori proof as one means of validation. The other validation Kant would have required of Hegel is how does his explanation provide a rational account of our everday experience? Does it help to explain the world of our everyday experience? If not, what use is it?

What I do find interesting in Hegel is where he mentions that the beginning is both 'not-being' and 'being' and that the 'not-being' at the beginning, flies from itself ... towards 'being' as its objective. The rhetoric here I think is useful, as a refutation of the presumption that nothing only gives rise to nothing. Hegel dismisses this common sensed presumption, and this is what Kant's first antinomy is grounded upon. This is the only place where I find the writings that were compiled by his students (Hegel I understand, did not actually write anything ... his works are collected bodies of his essays, etc., that were put together by his admiring students) useful.
 
Labyrinth
 
Reply Sat 29 Aug, 2009 07:52 pm
@Shostakovich phil,
Got a chuckle from the Bertrand Russell quote. I haven't read him yet, but I've heard Schopenhauer wasn't too kind to Hegel in his writings either. But its a good point to remember that these were students' compilations (even Phenomenology? thought that was during his lifetime), so we shouldn't be too hard on him, I guess. I remember reading much more bewildering books. Memories of my abortive attempt through 4 of 6 of Plotinus' Enneads still give me the shudders.

Interesting comment on Hegel's attempt at the first Kantian antinomy. I didn't think Kant meant to challenge anyone to attempt to figure them out as they are outside our bounds. I totally missed that Hegel was going for it (shows you how much I understood what I was reading, huh? :whistling:).

Philosophy of History is an alright read for me so far (4th and last part). I'm wondering if he inspired the "group mind" studies which were en vogue in the early 1900's in which Freud dabbled in his Group Psychology and Analysis of the Ego. I'm happy to be able to honestly say I don't dislike Hegel (but I can't say I like him either). I can see how he would be a greatly important philosopher, but my understanding of his material isn't good enough to allow me to appreciate it as much as I feel I should.
 
RDanneskjld
 
Reply Sun 30 Aug, 2009 05:45 am
@Labyrinth,
Labyrinth;86765 wrote:
Got a chuckle from the Bertrand Russell quote. I haven't read him yet, but I've heard Schopenhauer wasn't too kind to Hegel in his writings either.

There have been lots of vocal critics of Hegel throughout the History of Modern Philosophy, this list includes names such as Schopenhauer, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Russell, G.E. Moore, Karl Popper & A.J Ayer. Criticism of Hegel has been limited to those in the field of Philosophy, even Carl Jung accussed Hegel of being mad 'The peculiar, high-flown language Hegel uses bears out this view - it is reminiscent of the megalomaniac language of schizophrenics, who use terrific, spellbinding words to reduce the transcendent to subjective form, to give banalities the charm of novelty, or pass off commonplaces as searching wisdom'. Im not sure I agree with Jung and his criticism of Hegel, but many others have made what I believe to be good and accurate critiscisms of Hegel & his Philosophy, and this is part of the reason why Hegel has very little influence within modern academic Philosophy departments in USA & the UK.
 
bait bludgeon
 
Reply Wed 30 Sep, 2009 12:17 pm
@RDanneskjld,
I think Kierkegaard wrote some books in regards to Hegel as well. In fact I think some of his major works criticize Hegelian philosophy. Kierkegaard originally was Hegelian in his beliefs but broke off from Hegelian thought and that is what lead to his pseudo-existentialism. Im not entirely certain though if my knowledge is correct you might have to look around.

-I actually tried reading Phenomenology of Spirit. I read the first chapter and I died (the paramedics had to stick a syringe full of adrenaline into my body in order to bring me back), but then again Im new to philosophy so it might not be as bad a few years down the line. If im not mistaken the seniors at St. Johns College in Annapolis actually read Phenomenology of Spirit in about a month.
 
Theaetetus
 
Reply Thu 1 Oct, 2009 09:34 am
@Labyrinth,
If you want to torture yourself, I couldn't think of much better than reading Hegel.
 
rhinogrey
 
Reply Thu 1 Oct, 2009 11:24 am
@Labyrinth,
He's awesome if you read it in the original German.
 
 

 
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