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Phenomenology of Spirit by G. W. F. Hegel
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Phenomenology of Spirit (original 1807; edition 1979)

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

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

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

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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. ( )
2 vote sacredheart25 | Feb 28, 2012 |
So the story goes: I was talking about this critical theory reading group we started with this professor in my department, Alex Dick, and he said something like "well, of course you can't understand Deleuze without reading Hegel" and I happen to have read a little Hegel and said so in an I-resent-the-imputation voice, and he was all "You've read The Phenomenology of Spirit?" And I guess I thought of The Philosophy of History, which I have read--maybe because they both begin with "ph"--and I was all "oh, yeah" and realized my error a second later but did not correct myself. And as part of a general life programme of scrupulous honesty, to punish myself for saying the thing that was not I actually went out and bought The Phenomenology of (in my copy) Mind and settled in to read it as a self-flagellation thing.

And flagellation it was. The Philosophy of History had its moments, and if many of them were unintentional comic high art, like his description of Chinese and Indian civilizations, the grim hierarchy and the teeming masses, others had undeniable value. The dialectic, the zeitgeist, world-historical peoples. Even if you think it's a pile of shit the way Hegel expresses these ideas, you can't deny their importance--and I have mellowed a bit as regard the expression, because he was dealing with Plato's problem--trying to come up with analytical language of a sort which did not yet exist.

But as for the present volume, I can't see that there's much to love for utility, or that anyone else has tried to love with the exception of some other philosophers of latter but equal obscurity. And what there might be is totally obscured by this problem of language. We are looking at a hypothetical interplay between two ways of realizing concepts or conceptualizing entities--one potential, unsaturated, a priori, progressive, simple, naive, grounded in (without getting into the subject/object problem) itself; the other actual, overdetermined, realized, complete, complex, ideological, representing itself to itself and the world. That much I get. Discard any terms you find unhelpful. But to tack onto this already overabstracted structure the labels "an sich" and "fuer sich", opaque as anything, and translate each of them with a million different terms and individual terms with both of them in different contexts is just risible, caricature-ready.

The other day I failed to finish my first book, a volume of Hegel criticism. This is not as bad as that; Hegel can put together a sentence, even if you have no idea what it means. But its great project is either almost entirely worthless in itself or is made worthless by presentation (and take a look through my LibraryThing; I have some, though not infinite, tolerance for philosophese and theorese). And there are light moments, like the 25-page digression contra phrenology (Hegel using Hegelian philosophy to combat phrenology is almost too delightful as unintentional self-parody) or the liturgical quality, the hermetic meaninglessness to the incantatory end section on religion and art (although the "Oriental Light" thing will always more make me think of Pynchon's "Kirghiz Light" as, in my paraphrase of Hegel, a transcendent enjoyment of the mysteries of being. But they are too few. I didn't "not finish" this--that is, I looked at every page, and usually even started again after the first time my eyes glazed over (though not usually the second).

Overall, my standing commission of $40 or all the beer you can drink to whoever can make me an ASCII graphic of me giving Hegel the finger still stands, waiting to be claimed. ( )
3 vote MeditationesMartini | Dec 10, 2009 |
Since I am not finished with the book it would not be proper for me to comment on it in its entirety, but I must say that, thus far, J.N. Findlay's "Analysis of The Text" is as often confusing (yes, more so than Hegel himself) as it is helpful.
  iwpoe | Feb 24, 2008 |
The Gathering Storm over the "New' in Philosophy:, November 20, 2004

Will Phenomenology and Logic ever agree?

Hegel has many a story to tell in this most amazing book. The most important, at least for our era, is the story of a final and complete reconciliation between all members of the human family. How could that, given the almost countless differences between myriad human groups, ever be achieved? Hegel achieves it by arguing (and dialectically showing) that everything partial, ambiguous and irrational in history is burned away in the process of that history until ...what? Until all that remains is all that could possibly (Hegel means theoretically and practically, logically and existentially) remain. There are, as you might guess, several non-trivial difficulties with a position as profound as this.

To begin, until the promised 'utopian' end-state finally and completely arrives different people interpret this end state differently. This is why Hegel reminds us that philosophy can only equal Science (of Wisdom) at the end of this phenomenal and historical process. Until then, and this is important, each and every understanding of Hegel necessarily remains mired in partiality, ambiguity and irrationality. (- This is also true, I would argue, of the ones that base themselves on (Hegel's) Logic.) But this, the ambiguity of speculative or dialectical Logic & Phenomenology, leads to other difficulties. For instance, this end state has been taken by `Hegelians' in either a religious or atheistic manner. But until world history catches up to the `necessities' of the Logic, whatever they may be, even something as fundamental as this necessarily remains ambiguous. Another problem, is Hegel himself at the end of this process (at least as far as Logic/System are concerned) or is he the beginning of the end of this process?

In fact, one can say, with perhaps only a little exaggeration, that the Logic itself waits, or seems to wait, on human history to turn the final page. But that is the problem with this `biography of Spirit' - does the hand that turns the page also write `new' pages? Is the Logic (and System, the full account of reality) changed too by the (seemingly endless) `phenomenological' ruses of human history? For if the `new' occurs in this sense (Logically) then there is no System at all. If you object that the Logic (or the Hegelian System) forbids the new (at least in Logic & System) then you will find yourself in the uncomfortable position of explaining how Hegel himself could introduce a new operator (the speculative or, if you prefer, the dialectic) into Logic.

For, while the `new' in history can be explained (or so Hegelians maintain) by the Logic, by the self-contained Circularity of the System, all this collapses, or so one suspects, if the new can also happen in the Logic. ...How does (or could) one explain, from within the System, the irruption of the new within the Logic? One cannot. This is why Kojeve (correctly and, from his point of view, necessarily) reminded us, in his great commentary on the Phenomenology, that Hegel "definitely reconciles himself with all that is and has been, by declaring that there will never more be anything new on earth." It is this `declaration' by Hegel that is the great stumbling block of the System. Did the new come to an end in Jena almost 200 years ago? Is the Logic the only thing that no longer develops in the Hegelian System? We all need to read the Phenomenology and the Logic together, each in the light of the other, again.

To reiterate all this in a different manner; for Hegel, one can indeed say that the System never encounters anything new. There is indeed only this great circularity of the Concept. But this is only correct from the standpoint of the Logic. From the standpoint of the Phenomenology (and History) the new does indeed emerge out of the ruins of the old. The `new' can perhaps be best understood as what's left after as much of the superfluous (the partial and ambiguous) and the unreasonable are subtracted (or burned away in the Golgotha of Spirit, the hell of history) as possible. It is only at the end of this process, the beginning of that end is the publication of the Phenomenology, that Logic and Being are precisely the same. Or, to put it yet another way, the only thing that doesn't change in Hegel is the System. Everything else, possibly even the Logic understood as the schematics of Spirit, moves. For Kojeve (and possibly Hegel) when movement finally stops (the End of History) one has the System entire. ...This is perhaps why Merleau-Ponty, in the Adventures of the Dialectic, calls this position of Kojeve an `idealization of death.'

As an aside I want to point out that the earlier mention of Kojeve should remind us of his great sparring partner, Leo Strauss, the great explicator of the esoteric. The political esoteric he writes about (and demonstrates in his commentaries on Plato, Al-Farabi, Maimonides, Machiavelli, Hobbes, Spinoza, Nietzsche) is the only real methodological rival of Dialectics, at least for political philosophy. By way of comparison I will briefly say that Esotericism excludes nothing; everything comes back. There is no progress or change, not even through some exclusion of the negated. There is, of course, the hidden - but the hidden always returns, as the greatest modern esotericism, the one we find in Nietzsche, affirms. In esotericism the 'negated' (or hidden) remains, indeed, if it didn't remain esotericism would have no reason for continuing in its esoteric manner. This esoteric says there never was anything fundamentally new while the Hegelian Dialectic teaches that the new emerges until, and only until, Logic and Phenomenology are exactly the same. All that the esoteric requires is (exoteric) myth; all that the dialectical requires is Science. Each particular myth dies, but the necessity of myth is unending; while Science (in the Hegelian sense) seemingly can never reach birth. ...This is the impasse that the great methodological war of our time has brought us to: undying myths vs. unreachable Science.

There is so much more to say about this book and the vistas it has opened to philosophy. I will say only this, the Phenomenology is easily one of the most important texts in the history of philosophy; read it at your peril. ( )
1 vote pomonomo2003 | Nov 30, 2006 |
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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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