In what order should I read these Hegel writings?
August 3, 2006 4:08 PM   Subscribe

In what order should I read these writings by Hegel?

I bought my books for next semester and want to get a jump start on my reading. I know which class I want to work on, but I don't know what order to read the books in. I've emailed the professor, but I know he's on vacation, so I'm not expecting a reply (at least not a quick one). Here are the four books:

Elements of the Philosophy of Right
Phenomenology of Spirit
Hegel's Philosophy of Mind
Introductionto the Philosophy of History

Also, I've had a little difficulty with Hegel in the past, so if there's a good introduction/study aid that's not on this list, feel free to suggest it.
posted by chndrcks to Religion & Philosophy (9 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
chronological? it can be instructive to see how someone's thinking evolves over time.

phenomenology of spirit (1807)
philosophy of mind (part 3 of encyclopedia of philosophical sciences) (1817)
philosophy of right (1822)

dates via wikipedia

introduction to philosophy of history was compiled and published posthumously from his lecture notes, so i can't say where it should go.
posted by sergeant sandwich at 4:46 PM on August 3, 2006

Best answer: In order to gain a basic familiarity with Hegel's principal themes and terminology, I would begin by reading the Preface to the Phenomenology of Spirit along with this commentary, and then Introduction to the Philosophy of History.

Of course, secondary sources are no substitute for careful reading of the primary texts, but this is a good critical interpretation of the entire Hegelian system. It would certainly work as an introduction to Hegel, but it is a difficult book in its own right - by no means a 'study aid' or 'philosophy for dummies' -type intro.
posted by Urban Hermit at 4:50 PM on August 3, 2006

Sorry - this should be the second link.
posted by Urban Hermit at 4:53 PM on August 3, 2006

History, Right, Spirit, Mind. History is the easiest to understand.
posted by Ironmouth at 5:39 PM on August 3, 2006

"Also, I've had a little difficulty with Hegel in the past..."
posted by chndrcks to religion & philosophy

"... The difficulty in reading Hegel was perceived in Hegel's own day, and persists into the 21st century. To understand Hegel fully requires paying attention to his critique of standard logic, such as the law of contradiction and the law of the excluded middle, and, whether one accepts or rejects it, at least taking it seriously. ..."
- from Wikipedia's main page for Hegel

Relax, Hegel is supposed to be difficult, bordering on incomprehensible. Well, not really, and I suppose if you could ask him, he'd claim he was doing everything he could to be rigourously systemic, while remaining approachable. Perhaps, but his interests greatly favored the "systemic" to the approachable. And he lacked the benefit of Gödel's insight. As far as Hegel was concerned, explaining the whole of rationality was fair game for a philosopher, and he aimed to be reckoned as such, if not the best.

If you are taking all this as a semester's study, you are reading for survey, in works whose sentences flow like bricks "flow" to make a grand edifice. Brick by brick, by interminable brick, is how you read Hegel, and never know, until much later, whether you were mason in construction of a cathedral or a whorehouse. History was, at least, intended as a college textbook, but good luck with that.

sargeant sandwich's plan is as good as any.
posted by paulsc at 5:44 PM on August 3, 2006

The best book I've ever read on Hegel is Charles Taylor's Hegel. I'd suggest reading it before all others. It's very readable and clear.
posted by dhoe at 11:38 PM on August 3, 2006

A few further things to keep in mind:

The Phenomenology of Spirit, the earliest work by Hegel on your list, takes a different approach to the problems of Geist and knowledge than the later, more systematic and encyclopedic works on the syllabus. Loosely speaking, it approaches these problems following an 'ordo cognoscendi,' that is, according to the way we first experience and encounter these problems, rather than following an ordo essendi, that is, starting from first principles. So your survey actually has two parts, comprising the earlier and later Hegel.

This contrast would come out most clearly if you were to read the Phenomenology of Spirit and 'Hegel's Philosophy of Mind' (part three of the Encyclopedia) back to back. Good times!

Also, secondary literature like Taylor's emphasizes one or other predominant form of a metaphysical reading of Hegel. Where Geist or spirit is understand as some sort of absolute substance. Another important, 'non-metaphysical' trend in Hegel interpretation, as was done by Klaus Hartmann, is to see Hegel as a sort of 'absolute Kantian,' where Geist is merely about answering 'what are the conditions of possibility of knowing 'x'?'

For an excellent guide to The Phenomenology of Spirit, see H.S. Harris's compact 'Phenomenology and System.'
posted by rudster at 2:07 AM on August 4, 2006

Routledge has a couple of books on phenomenology written by members of my alma mater's philosophy department.

Introduction to Phenomenology covers the basics, but it's a bit of a doorstopper, and it's also more of a history book/contextualiser than a nitty-gritty study guide, so I didn't read it much. (A caveat: though he knows his stuff, the man who compiled it was one of the most boring lecturers I've ever had; I only attended four of my 12 phenomenology classes that semester, and I was scrambling to cram for the exam the following summer.) You might have more milage, though.

The Phenomenology Reader, however, is supposed to be much better as an overview of what each thinker is actually trying to convey, and it would be a great place to start especially for those who can find themselves lost in a bigger text with no other points of reference. It came out after I finished my degree, but I would have devoured this. (And if it has the hand of that class act Tim Mooney on it, it can't be bad.)
posted by macdara at 3:36 AM on August 4, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks for all the good suggestions. I decided to try Urban Hermit's order, so I marked it as best. For any interested, I'll post the order we do it in class, whenever the professor emails me back.
posted by chndrcks at 5:18 AM on August 4, 2006

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