Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit
It is difficult to imagine a more ambitious or even hubristic philosophy than that of G.W.F. Hegel. Even Hegel’s most contemptuous critics agreed with his faithful disciples on one count: he simply could not be ignored. It is hardly an exaggeration to say that much of 19th Century European intellectual history is a story about those who were with and against Hegel’s “Absolute Idealism,” grounded in a logic he called “dialectics.” Marxism, the Kierkegaardian and Nietzschean versions of existentialism, phenomenology, the rise of scientific positivism, and materialism are all, in an important sense, transformations of, reactions to, or attempts to get free of Hegel’s all-encompassing system.
This class will focus largely on a close reading of Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit and a few supplementary texts. The Phenomenology is a kind of dialectical Bildungsroman in which the protagonist is Reason itself. It traces Reason’s life from its first infantile and naïve attempts to grasp the world directly through the senses, through its increasingly mature and self-aware stages—science, morality and religion, communal life and the state—until it reaches final apotheosis in “absolute knowing.” We’ll make our way slowly through key sections of this fascinating, unusual, and challenging work in an attempt to understand the structure of Hegel’s dialectical method and the core claims of his system alongside his distinctive views on epistemology, metaphysics, morality, and political life.
Course ScheduleTuesday, 6:30-9:30pm ET
March 05 — March 26, 2024