Talk:Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel

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Kaufmann/Nietzsche on Hegel's language and style[edit]

I have copied and pasted it here in case an editor deletes it from the criticism section. Hopefully we can find a place for this bit here -- since many have called Hegel's language many things but none have really explained why it is that he wrote the way he did.

Walter Kaufmann has argued that as unlikely as it may sound, it is not the case that Hegel was unable to write clearly, but that Hegel felt that "he must and should not write in the way in which he was gifted."[1] The only person who saw this clearly and stated it beautifully was Nietzsche according to Kaufmann. Though Nietzsche was not a Hegel scholar, Kaufmann, quotes Nietzsche from the Dawn Esprit and Morality:

"The Germans, who have mastered the secret of being boring with esprit, knowledge and feeling, and who have accustomed themselves to experience boredom as something moral, are afraid of French esprit because it might prick out the eyes of morality - and yet this dread is fused with tempation, as in the bird faced by the rattlesnake. Perhaps none of the famous Germans had more esprit than Hegel; but he also felt such a great German dread of it that this created his peculiar bad style. For the essence of this style is that a core is enveloped, and enveloped once more and again, until it scarcley peeks out, bashful and curious - as 'young women peek out of their veils', to speak with the old woman-hater Aeschylus. But this core is a witty, often saucy idea about the most intellectual matters, a subtle and daring connecting of words, such as belongs in the company of thinkers, as a side dish of science - but in these wrappings it presents itself as abstruse science itself and by all means as supremely moral boredom. Thus the Germans had a form of esprit permitted to them, and they enjoyed it with such extravagant delight that Schopenhauer's good, very good intelligence came to a halt confronted with it: his life long, he blustered against the spectacle the Germans offered him, but he never was able to explain it to himself." [2]

Reading Hegel[edit]

I have added the following under the reading hegel section. My intention is not to overload the article with references to Kaufmann. I feel he has unique insights and comments that are not expressed anywhere else. Hopefully we can find a place for the following if not under the reading hegel section.


According to Kaufmann, the basic idea of Hegel's works, especially the Phenomenology of the Spirit is that a philosopher should not "confine him or herself to views that have been held but penetrate these to the human reality they reflect." In other words, it is not enough to consider propositions, or even the content of consciousness; "it is worthwhile to ask in every instance what kind of spirit would entertain such propositions, hold such views, and have such a consciousness. Every outlook in other words, is to be studied not merely as an academic possibility but as an existential reality."[3]

Hegel is fascinated by the sequence Kaufmann writes:

How would a human being come to see the world this way or that? And to what extent does the road on which a point of view is reached color the view? Moreover, it should be possible to show how every single view in turn is one-sided and therefore untenable as soon as it is embraced consistently. Each must therefore give way to another, until finally the last and most comprehensive vision is attained in which all previous views are integrated. That way the reader would be compelled – not by rhetoric or by talk of compelling him, but by the successive examination of forms of consciousness – to rise from the lowest and least sophisticated level to the highest and most philosophical; and on the way he would recognize stoicism and skepticism, Christianity, and Enlightenment, Sophocles and Kant.[4]

Many sympathetic commentators have argued that this is surely one of the most imaginative and poetic conceptions ever to have occurred to any philosopher. Kaufmann even argues that the parallel between Hegel's Phenomenology and Dante's journey "through hell and purgatory to the blessed vision meets the eye." He also makes a comparison with Goethe's Faust claiming that "two quotations from ‘The First Part of the Tragedy’ could have served Hegel as mottoes." The first of these passages (lines 1770-75) Kaufmann argues Hegel knew from Faust: A Fragment (1790)": "And what is portioned out to all mankind, I shall enjoy deep in myself, contain; Within my spirit summit and abyss, Pile on my breast their agony and bliss, And thus let my own self grow into theirs, unfettered.[5]

These lines express much of the spirit of the book Kaufmann writes: "Hegel is not treating us to a spectacle, letting various forms of consciousness pass in review before our eyes to entertain us as he considers it necessary to re-experience what the human spirit has gone through in history and he challenges the reader to join him in this Faustian undertaking." [6] Hegel asks readers not merely to read about such possibilities but according to Kaufmann, to "identify with each in turn until their own self has grown to the point where it is contemporary with world spirit. The reader, like the author, is meant to suffer through each position, and to be changed as he/she proceeds from one to the other. Mea res agitur: my own self is at stake. Or, as Rilke put it definitively in the last line of his great sonnet on an “Archaic Torso of Apollo”: du must dein Leben andern – you must change your life.” [7]

Hegel's writing style and language has also been a source of criticism.Schopenhauer for example, called Hegel "this Caliban of the spirit." [8] He also spoke of "Hegel's philosophy of absolute nonsense." [9] Abserwitzig meaning insane is a word that recurs frequently in Schopenhauer's remarks about Hegel, along with the claims that Hegel had no Geist at all.[10]

Kaufmann claims that while it is "widely considered bad form to speak irreverently about Kant, disrespect for Hegel is still good form. Many writers and lecturers enjoy making scurrilous remarks about Hegel while others -- and sometimes actually the very same people -- make use of his ideas without giving credit to him."[11] — Preceding unsigned comment added by Ditc (talkcontribs) 17:40, 27 May 2014 (UTC)

Hegel's Aesthetics?[edit]

I think it might be helpful to include something about Hegel's aesthetics, specifically content from Lectures on Aesthetics, under the "Thought" section. What do other people think? — Preceding unsigned comment added by Tiberius Aurelius (talkcontribs) 14:02, 5 December 2014 (UTC)

PatrickJWelsh (talk) 20:12, 13 December 2014 (UTC) I agree wholeheartedly (I am writing a dissertation on the topic!). Time permitting, I will pull something together for the site. Honestly though, the whole "Thought" section could use an overhaul. Not that there is anything egregiously wrong with it, but it's weirdly selective in its treatment (my main objection) and sometimes lapses into jargon without adequately adumbrating the terms. Do any others feel this way?

Secondary literature[edit]

Hello everyone. I recently added an extensive Hegel bibliography to the external links section. It is much more comprehensive than what is listed on this page and has the additional merit of singling out certain works as either introductory or especially recommended. To me, what is listed on this page is rather useless. The best case scenario, I believe would be to replace it with a selective annotated bibliography of only introductory-level works. For example, H.S. Harris's two-volume Hegel's Development is the most comprehensive account of Hegel's development leading up the PhS, perhaps in any language. But who coming to Wikipedia to learn about Hegel is going to take that on? Let alone technical works in German or French about specific aspects of his philosophy. People coming to this page should be assumed to have a very low level of acquaintance with Hegel. What would be useful to this audience is just a short list of useful introductions with a few words explaining their strengths, weakness, possible biases, etc.

Do others agree? I do not want to presume to delete the whole thing to replace it with a short list entirely of my own devising. I usually recommend Houlgate's intro or Pinkard's intellectual biography to people looking for a general intro. Reason and Revolution may also belong on the list, as it provides a summary of much of Hegel's thought (albeit rather too simplistically for my taste) and situates it in the Marxist tradition, which many will be interested in. I have not read it, but I've heard Rosen's intro highly praised by a scholar hyper-critical of what seems like just about everything written about Hegel in the English language. Apparently it does an especially good job of illustrating the Aristotelean underpinning of so much of Hegel's thought. I could list a few more, but will leave it here for now so that others may weigh in.

Thanks for your consideration. PJ — Preceding unsigned comment added by PatrickJWelsh (talkcontribs) 20:01, 13 December 2014 (UTC)

Overhaul of “Thought” Section?[edit]

Okay, so I have no idea whether I’m actually willing to do such an overhaul, but it might be a good exercise for me. And I think I could be successful in soliciting further improvements from other Hegel scholars. If, however, this is just going to outrage everyone who contributed to the current version and be immediately taken down, I definitely will not waste my time.

What I have in mind is something like this:

Hegel’s Idealism

  • clarify Hegel’s general idealistic thesis as articulated in the Phenomenology and Logic, i.e., explain what he means by "absolute knowing" and the claim that "substance is essentially subject"
  • maybe cite one of Pinkard or Pippin’s single-paragraph attempts at a summary of the PhS (which has its own page, but is totally useless)
  • explain what the logic is, why there is so much confusion about this (reference to “metaphysical,” “non-metaphysical, “revised metaphysical” accounts)
  • cite recent scholarship articulating and defending revisionary metaphysical reading
  • elucidate distinction between scientific portion of Hegel’s philosophy (the PhS in its capacity as a “science of experience” and the logic) and the Realphilosophie, which is “its own time comprehended in thought—and so needs to be read and assessed quite differently

Hegel’s System

The Philosophy of Nature

  • pretty much just that it exists and is a presupposition of spirit
  • the reasons few take it seriously anymore, but noting that some still do


The Philosophy of Spirit

  • distinction between subjective, objective, and abs spirit


Subjective Spirit

  • very brief description of subjective spirit


Objective Spirit

  • Hegel's concept of freedom and how it achieves actuality in Ethical Life
  • the doctrine of world history and its problems


Absolute Spirit

  • present the concept of the beautiful ideal, why Greek sculpture is most perfectly beautiful art
  • explain infamous claim about “passing away” of art to clarify that Hegel does indeed secure an ongoing place for art in the modern world
  • present concept of religion
  • brief explication of Hegel’s interpretation of Lutheranism as “consummate religion” in which spirit, knowing itself, knows god
  • logic as mode of spirit most at one with itself, but entirely in thought—hence ongoing need for art and religion


Sections on his intellectual context and his pre-Jena writing would also be valuable, but I am not in the position to write them without reviewing more material than I have time for.

Do people like this idea? Is there anything conspicuously missing? I can provide citations to primary sources and recent scholarship to establish that I am not doing “original research.” There's no question that this is how the system is organized, and broad scholarly consensus about what he took himself to accomplish (albeit, of course, massive disagreement about the extent which he actually succeeded). — Preceding unsigned comment added by PatrickJWelsh (talkcontribs) 20:54, 13 December 2014 (UTC)

Why multiple template boxes?[edit]

These seem redundant. I think the list of influences and people influenced should be updated on the top box to match my updates of the lists below (probably with some further edits from others), and then we should delete the bottom one. It contains nothing not already in the above or prominently presented in the article. — Preceding unsigned comment added by PatrickJWelsh (talkcontribs) 15:55, 14 December 2014 (UTC)


Also, I moved the external links up above the notes because I feel they are more important and of greater use and interest to readers. Crucial to have the notes, obviously, but most folks are going to access them via mouse hover-over in the body. Only someone familiar with the current state of Hegel scholarship would have any reason to give it direct attention. I also moved the "See also" to the bottom and unless someone wants to update this, I really think it should just be deleted. The principle of selection is utterly unclear, and the listed links seem to me of little value. — Preceding unsigned comment added by PatrickJWelsh (talkcontribs) 16:23, 14 December 2014 (UTC)

Astronomy[edit]

Hegel's contribution to astronomy and the discovery of Ceres seem to have vanished from the article. See his 1800 effort. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 85.195.22.114 (talk) 14:12, 30 January 2015 (UTC)

  1. ^ Kaufmann, 1966, Hegel: A Reinterpretation, p.99
  2. ^ Nietzsche, Dawn,p.193
  3. ^ Kaufmann, Hegel: A Reinterpretation, Anchor, p.115
  4. ^ Ibid., p.116
  5. ^ Faust cited in Kaufmann, Hegel: A Reinterpretation, Anchor Books, p.118
  6. ^ Kaufmann, p.119
  7. ^ Kaufmann, p.119
  8. ^ Diesen geistigen Kaliban in the Preface to the second ed. of Die Welt alt Wille und Vorstellung
  9. ^ In the Introduction to Uber den Willen in der Natur
  10. ^ Kaufmann, Discovery of the Mind Goethe, Kant, and Hegel, p.199
  11. ^ Ibid., p.200