Hegel is great. But then I usually read about
him. Kojeve's book is one of the best philosophical books I've ever laid hands on.
I read mavericks like Nietzsche and Schopenhauer first. But Hegel offers something they don't. His dialectic, for instance, and (related) his historicism.
Hegel tells the story of God Waking Up, and this God is Man. Hegel presents an immanent theology. Contrast Hegel's edifice with Nietzsche's (half-ironic) edifice.
The Will-to-Power is a rather lazy transformation of the Will-to-Live. And yet Nietzsche is so valuable as an entry to philosophy as something relevant to life
Nietzsche and Schopenhauer appeal especially to youthful angst -- note that both of them were bachelors. N and S both moved away from the dialectic (one could argue) toward the direction of naked myth.
Nietzsche more and more relied on mythological references to describe himself.
This is fine, of course, and philosophy is indeed the White Mythology (I prefer "Transparent Mythology"), but Hegel stayed the course and did more work with Concept. He kept his myth more transparent (invisible, implicit) and therefore more truly philosophical.
For Hegel the Truth was the Whole. "All is One and One is All."
Hegel turned this sublime mystical intuition into a grand conceptual nexus which is in some ways obsolete but in others still morning-dew fresh.
---------- Post added 11-24-2009 at 09:11 PM ----------
I put off reading Hegel because of Schopenhauer and Russell, etc.
I regret that now. Hegel is sublime.
Russell, on the other hand, is one more jackass terrified of metaphor, for metaphor demands interpretation rather than calculation.
Philosophy is a body of metaphor and sophisticated myth. Men like Russell don't understand that. They want something hard and phallic, like logic or math. They want something smaller than the human mind, a method that can be mastered.
They would like reality to be a machine, rather than something messy and continually evolving like an organism.
Russell and Frege and early Wittgenstein -- they are all daddy's boys. Whereas the Hegels and Heideggers and Nietzsches are momma's boys. You have the geometers versus the poets, and the poets are better, for philosophy is poetry (in the loose sense) for philosophy is made of concepts and concepts are born as metaphors.
The reductionist temptation is always with us.
How did a linguistic philosopher like Wittgenstein FAIL TO SEE how metaphorical and mythological human beings are? His engineering prejudices BLINDED him to organic human reality -- the reality that Hegel specializes in. And that Hegel is wrong here or there is beside the point. His method is sublime.