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Phenomenology of Spirit by G. W. F. Hegel

Phenomenology of Spirit (original 1807; edition 1979)

by G. W. F. Hegel, A. V. Miller (Translator), J. N. Findlay (Foreword)

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1,89993,611 (3.7)14
Title:Phenomenology of Spirit
Authors:G. W. F. Hegel
Other authors:A. V. Miller (Translator), J. N. Findlay (Foreword)
Info:Oxford University Press, USA (1979), Paperback, 595 pages
Collections:Your library, To read
Tags:german, philosophy, phenomenology

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Phenomenology of Spirit by G. W. F. Hegel (1807)


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Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
I had started this book some time ago and put it down and didn't pick it back up until recently. I decided to start it over from the beginning since it had been a while since I had picked it up. Also, since I had just gone through most of the primary works of Fichte and Schelling, I thought I would be in a better position to gauge the merits of the work in the greater context of German Idealism.
This book was supposed to be an introduction to Hegel's system as a whole, and as such, it is often discursive; covering a number of facets of his system throughout. I really didn't find the work that difficult to understand. Hegel has a tendency to reiterate the main features of his system regularly; even to the point of redundancy. His system owes much to Fichte, just as Schelling's did. Not all points are analogous to the Wissenschaftslehre, but the overall groundwork is definitely Fichtean. As I said in the reviews of Schelling, Fichte is the true originator of German Idealism. Fichte's dependence on Kant was largely negative; meaning, it is almost a response against Kantianism -as Kant clearly understood, as gauged by his critique of the Wissenschaftslehre. Schelling and Hegel's dependence on Fichte, however, is largely positive; meaning, much of their thought stemmed directly from Fichte's system. One could use an analogy such as all three systems shared the same tree trunk, although the branches may be disparate between them.
Hegel, like Fichte, starts with the notion of the absolute I, or self. It is related, though distinct, from the conscious I/self. The conscious self remains alienated from the absolute self. Only through a particular process of the unfolding of spirit/mind does the conscious self come to be acquainted with the absolute self. These aspects of the absolute self's posited existence are occasionally termed "moments" in this translation, but also seem to be analogous to all facets of conscious subjective experience. One could liken Hegel's system of phenomenology to digital snapshots that together form a continuous whole. His absolute self, occasionally doubles as "wesen" (a very complicated German term), which acts as a kind of substrate. The substrate, or "wesen", would be the medium all the snapshots are found in. Spirit/mind is the very process of movement through these snapshots that characterize their unfolding and manifested content. This process reads as a sort of ontological ambivalence between subjectivity/objectivity, individuality/universality etc, where various aspects are posited, unfolded and transcended in various ways. According to Hegel, distinctions in the process of phenomenology are canceled and/or transcended. It is interesting that Hegel criticized Schelling for doing away with distinctions in his system, when clearly the ultimate end of distinctions in Hegel's system are to be canceled as well, or at least completely sublimated, which would mean the same thing. It seems that Hegel sees his difference from Schelling in the fact that they are canceled through process. I think it makes no difference in the end, however.
There is definitely some aspects of Hegel's system I find interesting, although one must admit that much of it was found either implicitly or explicitly in works published before him. One of the major issues with the work is the ambiguity of certain German terms. The most notable is the German term "geist", which can either be translated as "spirit" or "mind". Hegel purposefully utilizes the ambiguity in order to impart both religious and philosophical meaning to his system. It's not hard to see what Kierkegaard disliked about Hegel. I share much of Kierkegaard's antipathy towards certain aspects of Hegel's system. There is no question that as a whole Hegel promotes a kind of collectivism. Individuality and subjectivity are seen as the ground of evil in the world and exist only to be sublimated into a kind of objective universalism. While Hegel occasionally attempts to keep both subjectivity and individuality as important "moments" in his system, they are ultimately to be canceled and done away with. It's hardly any wonder that Kierkegaard emphasized the two things that Hegel worked so hard to de-emphasize. Also, Hegel's system is gnostic in the most literal sense of the word. His notion of spirit is essentially conflated with his notion of absolute knowledge (erkennen). Knowledge is emphasized throughout, faith hardly at all. The indifference to faith was shared by Fichte as well. Both mention it in passing but it is certainly not an essential part of their pseudo-religious philosophy; it is simply one very inconsequential aspect in their respective systems. It's also not hard to see how one can go from a philosophy that doubles as religious ideology, to a theosophy that doubles as philosophy (e.g. Steiner and Anthroposophy). Kierkegaard saw the dangers in over-intellectualizing matters of faith. I indeed agree with him that Hegelianism is more an exercise in thought than an exercise in spirit. As philosophy it's interesting, as theology it's flawed. Much of his system that may have been inspired by religious ideas originally, could be easily reworked for things that have nothing to do with faith at all. Certainly, many new Hegelians (e.g. Marx) saw the potential in Hegelian dialectic for purely atheistic and secular ends. One must intuit that the system itself is not overly dependent on Christianity or theism as such. It should be noted as well that just as in Fichte, Hegel blurs the lines between his notion of absolute self and God. There is nothing that suggests that they are essentially different, or at least, not enough in the system itself to prevent them from being conflated easily. One could substitute the absolute self for God, just as one can substitute mind for spirit in Hegel's system. I seriously doubt that Hegel would intend this as such, but it seems very possible to do without it affecting the system itself in any profound way.
This translation was by J.B. Baillie, an English idealist. He attempted to present the phenomenology as a system compatible with the Christian faith, which I am sure Hegel wouldn't have been opposed to, although, there are glaring discrepancies between the two. I am glad that I read Baillie's translation rather than a newer one. This book, as an early 20th century English translation, is entirely relevant for understanding English Idealism, which makes it far more appropriate for someone who is interested in the history and progression of philosophy in general and idealism in particular. The book that I have has regular typos that are rather annoying in some parts. ( )
  Erick_M | Jun 4, 2016 |
My rating for this book is both more and less than it deserves. To start, Hegel is probably the most difficult of all philosophers to read/understand. I’ve had professors say that Hegel’s Phenomenology is like a phone book from Mars. His influence though as one of the last Western metaphysicians is not to be overlooked, for philosophy is moving in what I would call a backwards progression today. Metaphysics is seeing a resurgence, which is often the result of epistemological dead-lock, and so Hegel offers some warning to that backwards slide. If one takes Wittgenstein’s critique of that which can be conceived from the perspective of language/logic, Hegel is nipped from the very first section in his preliminary discussion of Universals.

His is an interesting and insightful piece though – both philosophically and culturally. Though his dialectical method is dubious at best in certain sections (though I am not by far claiming to fully comprehend everything that he speaks of), he has exerted a great influence in social thought. He not only was the springboard for Marx and Engels, but also provided the necessary sociological insights that led to fascist ideology and organicist ideals. As a matter of fact, in social philosophy WWII is sometimes referred to as the war between left wing and right wing Hegelians. I think that there is a rather simple explanation for this. Due to his dialectical method, anyone can so choose to pick the sections which they find support their position, all the while ignoring the evolutionary character of Hegel’s project. The most intimidating section, on lordship and bondage, can be taken in many ways. The part that is often ignored though is its progression into the moral consciousness that was what Hegel supported: the sublation between the opposing moments that find their particular actualization in the individual who confronts absolute Spirit.

Rather than continue on with a cultural analysis here though, my biggest distrust of the Phenomenology of Spirit lies in its lack of determination. Hegel’s goal was essentially to prove that the Kantian noumena and phenomena could in fact co-exist, that we were not separate from the world in-and-of-itself, i.e. that we are not confined to phenomenal reality alone. Yet, given the cultural and individualistic importance/role in the realization of Spirit, we are given very little to go buy in realizing this. It is presented merely as a progression that Spirit alone knows and will find its justification only in its end. He resorts back to an intuitive justification within the moral individual. Granted, Hegel does not claim to know what this end is himself, he is not presenting a theology and does not try to place himself over and above the Historicity of his philosophy, nevertheless it places a tenuous hole in which the future misapplications of his philosophy have placed themselves. In end of fact, Hegel gives us almost nothing. It’s a project that leads to no further understanding of the Kantian noumenal/phenomenal division that he set forth to dirempt. So far as one wishes to read a philosophy which could justify a secularized vision of religion/morality in the conjunction of universal and particular re-interpretations of what it means to have a “soul,” Hegel gives you just that, but it is no less vulnerable to the theological criticisms, and if one is looking for such a philosophy you would be best suited to read Kierkegaard.
( )
  PhilSroka | Apr 12, 2016 |
It is finished. ( )
  DavidCLDriedger | Apr 22, 2015 |
This is probably the hardest book I've ever read. Only after reading pieces of several other of Hegel's works and talking extensively with a professor did I feel like I understood what Hegel was getting at. Once I did, I was pretty excited by it. Hegel's attempt to fit literally EVERYTHING into a single unifying paradigm is probably futile, but nevertheless incredibly cool. ( )
  Audacity88 | Feb 16, 2013 |
This is one of the high points of German Idealism and western philosophy in general. The book draws on Plato and Aristotle from Spirit’s sense certainty and culminates in the Spirit’s absolute knowing. Historically, Hegel was hastily read by Marx in the latter’s own development of dialectic materialism. The Phenomenology of Spirit is a philosophical phenomenology but it takes the ‘Spirit’ as the life of God itself evolving in the conscious world of humanity. Although Hegel, and his legacy of philosophical thought, has been largely ignored since the advent of Deconstructionist thought, he is still one of the West’s greatest systematicians. This dense and massive work lays out only the broadest outlines of his philosophical achievement. ( )
3 vote sacredheart25 | Feb 28, 2012 |
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Omtale :

Boken er den første komplette norske utgave av Hegels hovedverk. Den fremstiller menneskeåndens utvikling og historie som en lang rekke erfaringer, eventyr eller episoder, i et forsøk på å finne seg selv, og erkjenne verden og sin plass i den ved å utprøve muligheter og høste nederlag, etterfulgt av... Les mer

Boken er den første komplette norske utgave av Hegels hovedverk. Den fremstiller menneskeåndens utvikling og historie som en lang rekke erfaringer, eventyr eller episoder, i et forsøk på å finne seg selv, og erkjenne verden og sin plass i den ved å utprøve muligheter og høste nederlag, etterfulgt av nye erfaringer og nye erkjennelser.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0198245971, Paperback)

This brilliant study of the stages in the mind's necessary progress from immediate sense-consciousness to the position of a scientific philosophy includes an introductory essay and a paragraph-by-paragraph analysis of the text to help the reader understand this most difficult and most influential of Hegel's works.

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