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Introducing Hegel by Lloyd Spencer

Introducing Hegel (edition 2012)

by Lloyd Spencer

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Illustrated guide to the hugely influential German thinker
Title:Introducing Hegel
Authors:Lloyd Spencer
Info:Icon Books (2012), Edition: Fourth Edition, Paperback, 176 pages
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Introducing Hegel by Lloyd Spencer


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Some of Hegel's main ideas are relatively complicated, and so an introduction, or beginners' guide is a very useful thing. Hegel is perhaps best known for his philosophy of "Dialectical Materialism" , which went on to influence many later philosophers and other thinkers. However he also wrote inter-related works on logic and politics etc, which are included here among the progress of his thought throughout life, together with many biographical details.
Any introduction or discussion of Hegel's central philosophy of course introduces Kant's ideas first, as Hegel's thought is in large part intended as a response to Kant's revolution in philosophy. In what is known as his philosophy of Transcendental Idealism, Kant sought to show that we have in-built subjective but necessarily existing categories of thought (such as space and time, colour, number etc), through which our perception of the things around us are mediated. These things around us exist as things-in-themselves (noumena), but are unknowable directly and only through the senses etc as phenomena. This bridged the two general dominant schools of thought at the time: either that we cannot prove otherwise that reality is immaterial and exists solely in the mind (Idealism), or alternatively that what we perceive around us is an accurate representation of the objects that have independent reality to ourselves (Realism). Kant's aim in doing this was to remove the wooly metaphysics from philosophy, making way for scientific understanding. It was known as the Copernican Revolution in philosophy because it switched how we understood the mind as passively being imprinted by the world outside, to the mind ordering how the world around is perceived.
Hegel, following Fichte and Schelling, attempts to convert Kant's system from relying on the subjective categories and to provide an objective basis for the mediation between the sensory perceptions and the world. How he attempts to do this, is to use a different system of logic to Kant (who quite justifiably followed Aristotle's Law of Non-contradiction). Hegel's new logic relies on a triadic structure incorporating a thesis, its antithesis (ie its contradiction), then a synthesis that incorporates both of these. From this stage, the process then repeats with another antithesis etc, with what has often been described as a fractal structure. This is the core of Hegel's Dialectic, and is seen as a temporal process occurring throughout the history of the world, as well as through the development of mind. Hegel therefore claims that his system incorporates all previous systems, and in what seems to be a self-contradiction, to be the correct system (which could obviously not be the case if his system followed the rules that it sets out). Hegel applies his logic with interesting effect to various areas, including Art, Politics, History, and Science etc. At the end, this book also introduces some of the more recent thinkers that have been heavily inspired by Hegel, including Marx, Adorno (and the rest of the Frankfurt School), various Existentialists, Derrida, and Fukuyama.
While Hegel's response to Kant's system is fundamentally flawed, is a return to mystical metaphysics, and lacking very much the consistency with modern scientific understanding that Kant had, his influence on posterity has been enormous. For this reason, this book is very much worth reading, in order to understand his ideas and their involvement in so many areas. While it is not possible to get a complete grasp on his ideas without reading the original works, this book does provide a good overview, and so I would recommend this book to anyone interested in better understanding either Hegel himself, German Idealism in general, or any of the subsequent thinkers that Hegel has inspired. ( )
  P_S_Patrick | Apr 5, 2017 |
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