Hegel-by-HyperText Resources

How to Use this Site to Understand Hegel

Unfortunately, Lenin's famous aphorism: “It is impossible completely to understand Marx's Capital, and especially its first chapter, without having thoroughly studied and understood the whole of Hegel's Logic. Consequently, half a century later none of the Marxists understood Marx!!” is more true today and more pressing in its significance than when it was written 80 years ago.

Most Marxists will tell you that Hegel invented dialectics and that he was an ‘objective idealist’, but very, very few have actually read Hegel. However, Marx and Engels wrote very little by way of explaining Hegel’s ideas (Engels’ Socialism: Utopian& Scientific, § II and § I of Ludwig Feuerbach & the End of Classical German Philosophy are the best general introductions available), but we know from Marx’s 1843 Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right and his 1844 Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy in General that Marx formed his own view by way of a critique of Hegel, and the 1859 Grundrisse, Marx’s preparatory notes for Capital make it clear that the critique of Hegel was central to his thinking throughout his life.

There is no short-cut to understanding Hegel other than reading him in the original or in translation. This site offers you a number of different ways to “get into” Hegel:

Engels’ Explanations:

Socialism: Utopian& Scientific, § II and
§ I of Ludwig Feuerbach & the End of Classical German Philosophy.

Both these books are excellent short introductions to Marxism and the sections referred to deal with dialectics and the historical origins of dialectical thinking. The main menu above allows you to view a range of Marx/Engels writings on Hegel; some of Engels’s other writings on dialectics are too simplistic for someone who intends to read Hegel, and most of Marx’s references are best returned to after you have familiarised yourself with some of Hegel’s writing, except for the short pieces on the Method of Political Economy and on the Method of Presentation

Reading Hegel from the top

The main menu above allows you to view list of Hegel’s main works, all of which are available on this site

As a result of Lenin’s study of the Logic, many Marxists are already somewhat familar with aspects of Hegel’s Logic, and this is a good route into reading Hegel.
Hegel gives you the Logic in three steps:

The file structure of my transcription of the logic invites you to read through, skipping over a lot of detail taken up in files accessed via links and all the passages quoted by Lenin, and endlessly recycled by other Marxists, and all the other frequently cited passages, with hypertext links to the relevant Marxist commentary, are found on this "main road" through the Logic, which include the last few sections in full.

Alternatively, you might like to start with Hegel's defence of constiutional monarchy, The Philosophy of Right, if you prefer to read about people and social issues, rather than “logic”.

The Philosophy of Right is Hegel’s theory on law, politics and political economy. The Introduction to this work is possibly one of the best introductions to Hegel's philosophy for the modern reader. Hegel thought that if a social system was ‘unreasonable’, then it would be bound to come into crisis. So history was itself a working out of Reason in the World. Marx's earliest writing (after his doctoral thesis which criticised Hegel by way of a study of the materialist philosophers of ancient Greece), was his Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right. In the Philosophy of Right, Hegel’s views are quite explicit as regards political, history, political economy, social justice, the State, and so on, and is really the logical starting point for any socialist wanting to understand Hegel. For Hegel, the principles manifested in the Objective Spirit are already fully explained in the Logic which should be read first, but really, it is Hegel's early political criticism which makes his Logic comprehensible!

The Phenomenology is Hegel’s first complete publication and contains everything that is found in his later works. The Phenomenology is particularly important to the French Hegelians and those who are interested in Hegel's aesthetics, and contains the famous passage on the Master-Slave dialectic. It is a very difficult work and very large, but the Introduction is very readable and a good introduction to Hegel’s philosophy in itself. Many readers will want to go straight to the The Master-Slave Dialectic, but it is important in reading this passage to understand what Hegel means by “subject,” and it is recommended to read the early System of Ethical Life first.

The Outline of the Phenomenology is Hegel’s short synopsis of the Phenomenology.

Finally, the lesser known Philosophy of Nature is included for the avid student!

Remember, whenever you are reading Hegel, after orienting yourself by reading the Preliminary paragraphs in each work, browse through the whole book to identify the principal triads of which the whole book is constructed. Hegel cannot really be read straight through like other writers.

Modern Introductions

The site offers a number of introductions to Hegel by contemporary writers of varying degrees of difficulty, viz. in approximate order:

and others as listed in the Other writers Index, including critiques by Marxists such as Kojeve, Marcuse, Tony Smith, etc., etc.

Glossary & other Resources

The site provides a substantial glossary of terms and people and you will find a lot of hyper-links leading from passages in Hegel's works to places where relevant concepts are discussed or explained, and from other writers to the passages in Hegel's works which are being referred to.

Apart from providing on-line help, these resources make quite good browsing in their own right, and you can navigate through a particular subject or theme, moving from Hegel to Glossaries to other writers and back again, using HyperText. These resources, listed in the Resources Menu, include:

Hegel’s Influence

Hegel’ Critics provides the crucial works from each of the principal figures in the development of Marxism, and some others, which allows the reader to follow how Hegel has been understood and misunderstood from 1841 up to the present day.

The following summaries of dialectics may suit your particular viewpoint:

I'd be delighted to for any feed-back so: mail me with your comments.

Happy reading! .. You might like to start your reading of Hegel with this excerpt from the Introduction to the Shorter Logic:

from the Introduction to The Shorter Logic, by Hegel

§ 6

... Philosophy should understand that its content is no other than actuality, that core of truth which originally produced and producing itself within the precincts of the mental life, has become the world, the inward and outward world, of consciousness. At first we become aware of these contents in what we call Experience. But even Experience, as it surveys the wide range of inward and outward existence, has sense enough to distinguish the mere appearance, which is transient and meaningless, from what in itself really deserves the name of actuality.

As it is only in form that philosophy is distinguished from other modes of attaining an acquaintance with this same sum of being, it must necessarily be in harmony with actuality and experience. In fact, this harmony may be viewed as at least an extrinsic means of testing the truth of a philosophy. Similarly it may be held the highest and final aim of philosophic science to bring about, through the ascertainment of this harmony, a reconciliation of the self-conscious reason which is in the world - in other words, with actuality.

In the Preface to my Philosophy of Law, p xix, are found the propositions:

What is rational is actual.
What is actual is rational.

These simple statements have given rise to expressions of surprise and hostility, even in quarters where it would be reckoned an insult to presume absence of philosophy, and still more of religion. Religion at least need not be brought in evidence; its doctrines of the divine governments of the world affirm these propositions too decidedly. For their philosophic sense, we must presuppose intelligence enough to know, not only that God is actual, that He is the supreme actuality, that He alone is truly actual; but also, as regards the logical bearings of the question, that existence is in part mere appearance, and only in part actuality.

In common life, any freak of fancy, any error, evil and everything of the nature of evil, as well as every degenerate and transitory existence whatever, gets in a casual way the name of actuality. But even our ordinary feelings are enough to forbid a casual (fortuitous) existence getting the emphatic name of an actual; for by fortuitous we mean an existence which has no greater value than that of something possible, which may as well not be as be.

As for the term Actuality, these critics would have done well to consider the sense in which I employ it. In a detailed Logic I had treated among other things of actuality, and accurately distinguished it not only from the fortuitous, which, after all, has existence, but even from the cognate categories of existence and the other modifications of being.

The actuality of the rational stands opposed by the popular fancy that Idea and ideals are nothing but chimeras, and philosophy a mere system of such phantasms. It is also opposed by the very different fancy that Ideas and ideals are something far too excellent to have actuality, or something too impotent to procure it for themselves. This divorce between idea and reality is especially dear to the analytic understanding which looks upon its own abstractions, dreams though they are, as something true and real, and prides itself on the imperative 'ought', which it takes especial pleasure in prescribing even on the field of politics. As if the world had waited on it to learn how it ought to be, and was not! For, if it were as it ought to be, what would come of the precocious wisdom of that 'ought'?

When understanding turns this 'ought' against trivial external and transitory objects, against social regulations or conditions, which very likely possess a great relative importance for a certain time and special circles, it may often be right. In such a case the intelligent observer may meet much that fails to satisfy the general requirements of right; for who is not acute enough to see a great deal in his own surroundings which is really far from being as it ought to be? But such acuteness is mistaken in the conceit that, when it examines these objects and pronounces what they ought to be, it is dealing with questions of philosophic science.

The object of philosophy is the Idea: and the Idea is not so impotent as merely to have a right or an obligation to exist without actually existing. The object of philosophy is an actuality of which those objects, social regulations and conditions, are only the superficial outside.

Andy Blunden