The Philosophy of Hegel

The Philosophy of Hegel

The Philosophy of Hegel

The Philosophy of Hegel

Synopsis

Few philosophers can induce as much puzzlement among students as Hegel. His works are notoriously dense and make very few concessions for a readership unfamiliar with his systematic view of the world. Allen Speight's introduction to Hegel's philosophy takes a chronological perspective on the development of Hegel's system. In this way, some of the most important questions in Hegelian scholarship are illuminated by examining in their respective contexts works such as the "Phenomenology and the Logic". Speight begins with the young Hegel and his writings prior to the "Phenomenology" focusing on the notion of positivity and how Hegel's social, economic and religious concerns became linked to systematic and logical ones. He then examines the "Phenomenology" in detail, including its treatment of scepticism, the problem of immediacy, the transition from "consciousness" to "self-consciousness", and the emergence of the social and historical category of "Spirit". The following chapter explores the Logic, paying particular attention to a number of vexed issues associated with Hegel's claims to systematicity and the relation between the categories of Hegel's logic and nature or spirit (Geist). The final chapters discuss Hegel's ethical and political thought and the three elements of his notion of "absolute spirit": art, religion and philosophy, as well as the importance of history to his philosophical approach as a whole.

Excerpt

Hegel is the first great philosopher to make modernity – in all its historical, cultural and philosophical complexity – his subject. And on whatever lines that modernity is to be explored by our own present generation – as a project that has failed, is discernible only in traces, or that has come to fruition in some ways crucial for our practices and commitments – the Hegelian construal of it remains essential for coming to terms with how we understand ourselves, as agents in and contemplators of a world with a number of characteristics that Hegel was either the first or the most articulate in calling attention to. The sort of characteristics I have in mind are some rather resilient facets of a world that can be said to embrace both Hegel’s day and our own, a world where the self and its awareness of its freedom is construed as an achievement, where the modern religious sense of a “death of God” has left a not entirely complete secularism and a seemingly irreducible plurality of religious perspectives in its wake, where the development of ethical and political institutions that “we” can in some sense be aware of “making” are nonetheless also subject to historical shifts and constraints, and where the realm of artistic expression has taken bold and inherently self-referential turns.

The account of modernity that Hegel opens up in these areas is, so I shall make the case, neither a triumphalist recognition and extension of Enlightenment values into the present time nor a philosophical act of mourning for the contradictions of a world that is in decline. Hegel’s perspective – whether one looks at his ethics, politics, art, religion or philosophy – is one that is resolutely embracing of modernity in its oppositions, a stance that makes him neither Romantic, Enlightenment rationalist nor (I shall claim) any merely hybrid combination of the two.

To cast an introduction to Hegel’s thought in terms of his interest in the problem of modernity is not immediately to take sides on what remains a contentious point at the moment among his most skilled and creative . . .

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