Hegel: Part the First

The intelligent question here is: Why would anyone voluntarily read Hegel? Here’s why:

30+ years ago, I was supposed to have read a bunch of Hegel in school. At the time – 2nd semester senior year – we had just finished reading a bunch of Kant, worked through Einstein’s Special Theory, and done other intellectually hard things that I’ve purged from my mind as a sanity-preserving precaution. After having worked diligently through Kant’s Prolegemena to Any Future Metaphysics, and plowed less diligently through Practical and Pure Reason, I kinda sorta got burned out – and so made only the feeblest attempt at Hegel. It didn’t help that, about 10 pages in, I decided (like many philosophy students before me) that I hated Hegel with the burning passion of a thousand lighter-fluid-soaked copies of the Philosophy of History. While Kant is difficult because he is a bad writer, Hegel is difficult because, frankly, he chooses to be difficult. There’s no reason to use words like concrete, abstract, subjective, objective, content and so on in ways that are so different from and sometimes the virtual opposite of the way everybody else uses those terms.  And simple declarative sentences worked OK for Aristotle, Thomas and even, occasionally, Kant – there’s nothing about your ideas, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich, that couldn’t, at least once in a while, make use of them. So I’m in the awkward and intellectually untenable position of hating Hegel without ever having read him.

So: Guilt. I’m reading Hegel now out of guilt. I went to the bookcases (we own a lot of bookcases) to see what Hegel we had on hand, and the first thing I found was an old cloth-bound Everyman edition called something like Introduction to Hegel – Selected Writings (don’t have it in front of me at the moment). Normally, I don’t read selections or abridgments, but I had to start somewhere and this one seemed OK, and I’m sure we have the full texts someplace for later.

So: starts with a 150 page selection from the Philosophy of History. Part the Second will reveal what I found. Stay tuned.