Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel
Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (August 27, 1770 – November 14, 1831) was a German philosopher who is considered the last great German idealist. He made his impact on leftist theory mainly through his influence on the Young Hegelians, among which Karl Marx is the most prominent figure. Marx's theories can generally be understood with just an overview of Hegel's, but as Vladimir Lenin states:
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!!
And of course, understanding the philosophical aspects of Marx's work requires understanding Hegel first.
Hegel's philosophy is notoriously difficult to get a handle on, partially because of his insistence to show how thoughts move by themselves, apart from the subjective considerations of the thinker. This method he called objective logic, opposed to the merely subjective logic that thinkers like Aristotle had developed before him, and that after him became mathematically formalised. (More recently, attempts have been made to make sense of Hegelian logic within the framework of modern mathematics. This is done mainly through the application of category theory, another notoriously difficult and abstract field of study.)
Further complicating things is Hegel's insistence that philosophy has to be understood as a whole. To understand a philosophical work one cannot focus merely on the starting point, the method, or the results, since it is exactly the unfolding of an argument that contains the meat of it. Similarly, while Hegel is arguably the first great historicist thinker, he warns us that you cannot simply compare and contrast different philosophical works, but have to understand how they all fit together into a historical unfolding of truth.
His method is regularly said to propagate according to a thesis-antithesis-synthesis triad. While triads are ubiquitous throughout Hegel's system, barely any instances of this formula can be found. They certainly aren't terms Hegel proposed himself, and are rather to be found in Fichte's philosophy. In fact, Hegel was critical of any attempt to reduce reason to the mere application of abstract formulas, saying,
"If the knowing subject carries round everywhere the one inert abstract form, taking up in external fashion whatever material comes his way, and dipping it into this element, then this comes about as near to fulfilling what is wanted – viz. a self-origination of the wealth of detail, and a self-determining distinction of shapes and forms – as any chance fancies about the content in question. It is rather a monochrome formalism, which only arrives at distinction in the matter it has to deal with, because this is already prepared and well known."
Anyone with the facts of history in front of them could write a book describing the alleged "thesis-antithesis-synthesis" patterns in it, but this person wouldn't be making new discoveries, and it would get boring very fast to any critical-minded person.
This is not to say that triadic movement is absent from Hegel, not at all. Many reputable Hegelians have considered his work in such terms.
German idealism was a German philosophical movement that originated with the system proposed by Immanuel Kant. After Kant, it comprises three great philosophers, Johann Gottlieb Fichte, Friedrich Schelling and Hegel.
- Wikipedia article on Hegel
- Works by and on Hegel on the Marxist Internet Archive
- Article on Hegel in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (also: Hegel's Dialectics, Hegel's Aesthetics)
- "Hegel: Social and Political Thought" on the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy
- hegel.net: Site with in-depth overview of Hegel's system. Also has an illustrated biography.
- The Empyrean Trial: Blog on Hegel by amateur philosopher Antonio Wolf including clarifications of Hegel's Logic.
- On Contradiction, Mao Zedong. Good explanation of how Hegelian dialectics relates to Marxism without requiring a deep interest or aptitude for Hegel's works.
- Introductory material:
- Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion (Advanced)
- On dialectics:
- Marxism for Newbies: Dialectical Materialism
- Dialectics of Nature, Friedrich Engels
- Anti-Dühring, Friedrich Engels
- Lectures by Dr. Taimur Rahman:
- Hegel: The Emancipation of Appearance: Examines dialectics
- Half-Hour Hegel video series by Gregory B. Sadler: Goes through the Phenomenology paragraph by paragraph. (YouTube playlist)
- Seminar in Political Philosophy: Hegel’s The Philosophy of History: 1965 Seminar by Leo Strauss.
- Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit: 2006 course by J.M. Bernstein
- Lecture courses by Richard Dien Winfield: Including three on Hegel.
- Over nine hours of lectures on Hegel by Slavoj Žižek