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Hegel's Absolute

An Introduction to Reading the Phenomenology of Spirit

Donald Phillip Verene

Publication Year: 2007

Reputed to be one of the most difficult yet rewarding works of philosophical literature, Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit has long been in need of an introduction for English readers. Without using jargon or technical terms, Donald Phillip Verene provides that introduction, guiding the reader through Hegel’s text as a whole and offering a way to grasp the major insights and sections of Hegel’s text without oversimplifying its narrative. A glossary of sixty of Hegel’s terms, discussed in both their original German and English equivalents, is included.

Published by: State University of New York Press

Series: SUNY series in Hegelian Studies (discontinued)


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pp. ix-xv

Hegel’s texts make unusual demands on the reader. This is especially true of the Phenomenology of Spirit, commonly regarded as the most difficult text in the history of philosophy. What Hegel intends cannot be presented as a summary of the results of his investigations. The course of spirit’s development in all its...

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1. Hegel’s Preface: Reflection versus Speculation

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pp. 1-11

Hegel wrote his preface to the Phenomenology after the work was finished. It is a general statement of his system, not simply an opening to the Phenomenology. The preface is a whole, a statement of the nature of true philosophy that compresses in one narrative more themes than a single set of remarks can...

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2. Hegel’s “Introduction”: The Double Ansich

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pp. 13-23

Hegel did not give a title to the approximately one dozen pages now called the “Introduction” to the Phenomenology. In the original they stand as simply some opening pages, and near their end Hegel says the Phenomenology is the “science of the experience of consciousness” (par. 88). The science proper...

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3. Hegel’s Reason: A Digression

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pp. 25-30

According to Hegel, philosophical thought can engage in either reason or understanding. Understanding is essentially an activity of making distinctions and labeling. It is Hegel’s contents-mentality— experience as a skeleton with tickets stuck all over it. Reason is the process of speculation; it occurs through the...

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4. Hegel’s System: Dialectic of “Andness”

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pp. 31-39

Hegel published four books, and posthumously there appeared the volumes of lectures on the philosophy of history, the history of philosophy, philosophy of art, and philosophy of religion. In addition there are early and miscellaneous writings. These make up Hegel’s corpus. In the lectures, Hegel is inventing...

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5. The Beginning of the Phenomenology

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pp. 41-48

What is the beginning of the Phenomenology? Hegel says “our object cannot be anything else but immediate knowledge itself, a knowledge of the immediate or of what simply is” (par. 90). He says it is “sense-certainty” (Die sinnliche Gewissheit). What kind of certainty is it? It is certainty of...

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6. Force, Understanding, and the Inverted World

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pp. 49-54

The section on “Force and the Understanding” is one of the most difficult in the Phenomenology. In his foreword to the Miller translation, Findlay claims that, try as he will, he has never grasped all of its dialectic (p. xiii). It may simply be impenetrable in regard to all its specifics. It is a crucial section, since, as we have seen from...

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7. Self-Consciousness of Masterhood and Servitude

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pp. 55-62

The section on “Lordship and Bondsman” or “master-servant,” as it is often called, is perhaps the easiest to read and understand in the whole of the Phenomenology. Everyone has something to say about it. We are very familiar with the kind of struggle of selves of which Hegel speaks, from Marxism, on...

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8. Unhappy Consciousness

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pp. 63-69

Through work, Hegel says, the servant acquires a “mind of his own.” He says, “having ‘a mind of one’s own’ is self-will” (par. 196). The servant, through his work, not only acquires skills and practical knowledge to supply his own needs and wants, which for the master can be supplied only by the servant; the...

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9. On Reading the Second “Half” of the Phenomenology: An Overview of Reason and Spirit

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pp. 71-90

The Phenomenology is divided into three parts: A. Consciousness, B. Self-consciousness, and C., which has no title independent of its internal divisions. A and B make up a unit in that they mirror the two moments of Hegel’s dialectic of consciousness in-itself and consciousness for-itself. They are the first...

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10. Absolute Knowing

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pp. 91-98

On each stage of the Phenomenology, consciousness has the illusion that it has discovered the absolute, that it has found the way to unify the two moments of itself and make itself whole. But as each stage elaborates itself it discovers that it is only another signpost on the highway of despair. Consciousness...

Appendix. Hegel’s Terminology

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pp. 99-121

Works Cited

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pp. 123-128


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pp. 129-131

E-ISBN-13: 9780791480724
Print-ISBN-13: 9780791469637
Print-ISBN-10: 0791469638

Page Count: 147
Publication Year: 2007

Series Title: SUNY series in Hegelian Studies (discontinued)
Series Editor Byline: Quentin Lauer See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 123233885
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Hegel's Absolute

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Subject Headings

  • Truth.
  • Phenomenology.
  • Spirit.
  • Consciousness.
  • Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich, 1770-1831. Phänomenologie des Geistes.
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