Starting and ending with Hegel

Luka asked:

What is or where is the best place to start with Hegel?

Answer by Martin Jenkins

I would start with Hegel’s ‘Lectures on the Philosophy of History’ — especially the Introduction. This gives a general overview of Hegel’s Philosophy as Human History being the progress of the consciousness of Freedom, culminating in Reason realising itself in the Rationally ordered state.

I also think that the three books constituting the ‘Encyclopedia of the Philosophical Sciences’ (Logic, Nature and Geist (Mind)) are much easier (though by no means without problem) to understand than the larger works such as the ‘Science of Logic’, ‘Philosophy of Law’ and ‘The Phenomenology of Spirit’.

The first book of the Encyclopedia ‘Logic’ contains a shorter version of the ‘Science of Logic’.

In it, Hegel explains how the Mind of the Universe/ Nous/ God realises its thinking self from the immediacy of Being to a full, substantive understanding of itself and how it got there, in the Absolute Idea. Thus the foundational, epistemic and ontological certainty craved by Idealists, is arrived at. In ‘Encyclopedia Nature’, the Absolute Idea externalises itself in nature, making the processes of Nature intelligible. Finally, the externalised Absolute Idea, dialectically recovers itself in the ‘Encyclopedia Mind’. Here, Reason realises itself through human beings becoming conscious of themselves (in Geist or Thinking Thought/ Collective human consciousness) and in the construction of a Rational social order. The latter book can be described as a much briefer (and in my opinion, easier) account of themes contained in ‘The Phenomenology of Spirit’.

Hegel described his Absolute Idealism as a ‘circle of circles’, so that when the end is reached, (i.e. a reading and understanding of his Philosophy of course!), the mundane beginning presents itself — whether everyday Being-now rationally understood and operating or, as living by Laws expressing Freedom in the good society as constituted by and arrived at in Mind Absolute.

Good luck Luka.

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