Focusing on topics in metaphysics , epistemology , physics , ethics , history , religion , perception , consciousness , and political philosophy , it is where Hegel develops his concepts of dialectic including the master—slave dialectic , absolute idealism , ethical life , and Aufhebung. It had a profound effect in Western philosophy , and "has been praised and blamed for the development of existentialism , communism , fascism , death of God theology , and historicist nihilism. Hegel was putting the finishing touches to this book as Napoleon engaged Prussian troops on October 14, , in the Battle of Jena on a plateau outside the city.
On the day before the battle, Napoleon entered the city of Jena. Later that same day Hegel wrote a letter to his friend the theologian Friedrich Immanuel Niethammer:. I saw the Emperor — this world-soul — riding out of the city on reconnaissance. It is indeed a wonderful sensation to see such an individual, who, concentrated here at a single point, astride a horse, reaches out over the world and masters it. Terry Pinkard notes that Hegel's comment to Niethammer "is all the more striking since at that point he had already composed the crucial section of the Phenomenology in which he remarked that the Revolution had now officially passed to another land Germany that would complete 'in thought' what the Revolution had only partially accomplished in practice.
The Encyclopedia of the Philosophical Sciences , in its third section Philosophy of Spirit , contains a second subsection The Encyclopedia Phenomenology that recounts in briefer and somewhat altered form the major themes of the original Phenomenology. The book consists of a Preface written after the rest was completed , an Introduction, and six major divisions of greatly varying size: Most of these have further hierarchical subdivisions, and some versions of the book's table of contents also group the last four together as a single section on a level with the first two.
Due to its obscure nature and the many works by Hegel that followed its publication, even the structure or core theme of the book itself remains contested. First, Hegel wrote the book under close time constraints with little chance for revision individual chapters were sent to the publisher before others were written. Furthermore, according to some readers, Hegel may have changed his conception of the project over the course of the writing.
Secondly, the book abounds with both highly technical argument in philosophical language, and concrete examples, either imaginary or historical, of developments by people through different states of consciousness. The relationship between these is disputed: Jean Hyppolite famously interpreted the work as a Bildungsroman that follows the progression of its protagonist, Spirit, through the history of consciousness,  a characterization that remains prevalent among literary theorists.
However, others contest this literary interpretation and instead read the work as a "self-conscious reflective account"  that a society must give of itself in order to understand itself and therefore become reflective. The Preface to the text is a preamble to the scientific system and cognition in general. This involves an exposition on the content and standpoint of philosophy, i.
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The Hegelian method consists of actually examining consciousness' experience of both itself and of its objects and eliciting the contradictions and dynamic movement that come to light in looking at this experience. Hegel uses the phrase "pure looking at" reines Zusehen to describe this method.
If consciousness just pays attention to what is actually present in itself and its relation to its objects, it will see that what looks like stable and fixed forms dissolve into a dialectical movement. Thus, philosophy, according to Hegel, cannot just set out arguments based on a flow of deductive reasoning. Rather, it must look at actual consciousness, as it really exists. Hegel also argues strongly against the epistemological emphasis of modern philosophy from Descartes through Kant, which he describes as having to first establish the nature and criteria of knowledge prior to actually knowing anything, because this would imply an infinite regress , a foundationalism that Hegel maintains is self-contradictory and impossible.
Rather, he maintains, we must examine actual knowing as it occurs in real knowledge processes. This is why Hegel uses the term " phenomenology ". In Hegel's dynamic system, it is the study of the successive appearances of the mind to itself, because on examination each one dissolves into a later, more comprehensive and integrated form or structure of mind. Whereas the Preface was written after Hegel completed the Phenomenology , the Introduction was written beforehand.
It covers much of the same ground, but from a somewhat different perspective. In the Introduction, Hegel addresses the seeming paradox that we cannot evaluate our faculty of knowledge in terms of its ability to know the Absolute without first having a criterion for what the Absolute is, one that is superior to our knowledge of the Absolute. Yet, we could only have such a criterion if we already had the improved knowledge that we seek.
To resolve this paradox, Hegel adopts a method whereby the knowing that is characteristic of a particular stage of consciousness is evaluated using the criterion presupposed by consciousness itself. At each stage, consciousness knows something, and at the same time distinguishes the object of that knowledge as different from what it knows.
Hegel and his readers will simply "look on" while consciousness compares its actual knowledge of the object—what the object is "for consciousness"—with its criterion for what the object must be "in itself". One would expect that, when consciousness finds that its knowledge does not agree with its object, consciousness would adjust its knowledge to conform to its object.
However, in a characteristic reversal, Hegel explains that under his method, the opposite occurs. As just noted, consciousness' criterion for what the object should be is not supplied externally, rather it is supplied by consciousness itself. Therefore, like its knowledge, the "object" that consciousness distinguishes from its knowledge is really just the object "for consciousness" - it is the object as envisioned by that stage of consciousness.
Thus, in attempting to resolve the discord between knowledge and object, consciousness inevitably alters the object as well. In fact, the new "object" for consciousness is developed from consciousness' inadequate knowledge of the previous "object. Then the cycle begins anew as consciousness attempts to examine what it knows about this new "object". The reason for this reversal is that, for Hegel, the separation between consciousness and its object is no more real than consciousness' inadequate knowledge of that object. The knowledge is inadequate only because of that separation.
At the end of the process, when the object has been fully "spiritualized" by successive cycles of consciousness' experience, consciousness will fully know the object and at the same time fully recognize that the object is none other than itself. At each stage of development, Hegel, adds, "we" Hegel and his readers see this development of the new object out of the knowledge of the previous one, but the consciousness that we are observing does not.
As far as it is concerned, it experiences the dissolution of its knowledge in a mass of contradictions, and the emergence of a new object for knowledge, without understanding how that new object has been born. Consciousness is divided into three chapters: This dialogue, though occurring in history, is itself not doomed to absolute contingency and subjective relativity. In every historical moment the philosopher arises as the one who grasps the peaks of the rational in their society.
This peak is nothing merely historical, but instead is the eternally necessary in the evanescent and contingent finite. Philosophy strives for a complete system which determines this life world, for an absolute, and it does not cease until satisfied. Each system of philosophy captures its own world in the grasp of a conceptual absolute which, though it may be true, has not yet captured the complete truth and therefore is not absolute.
Philosophy in this manner, according to Hegel, is developed as systems which do not simply refute each other, but build upon each other and take in the truth of logically prior systems. Hegel claims that his system is the final system, yet how can this be? Even if he managed to subsume all prior systems and can explain all prior philosophy as a progression of learning which leads to his own system he cannot possibly anticipate the entire future of all possible systems and concepts to come, and he indeed did not.
The Hegelian, however, is a master of death through their logical methodology and as such always holds in their hand the elixir of life: Every killing blow only reinvigorates the Hegelian system, for every successful attack is like a spark which lights the phoenix aflame only to leave ashes from which it is reborn. Hegelianism accounts for its own overcoming and transforms it into a mere self-overcoming in retrospect, whether one recognizes it or not. This method is not without possibility of error, however, far from it.
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The possibility of failure and incompleteness is actually immanent to the method itself: Insofar as this experience reveals incompleteness we become aware of the limits of our accounts, however, because it is a rational account of experience it cannot fail insofar as it grasps the true movement of this experience. Thus, there is a trick: In the relentless desire for absoluteness he sought logical structures and links which themselves could not move when forced onto natural existence.
Though some correctly claim this is partly defensible because there was no intelligible evidence for evolution, Hegel nonetheless must be held to account for not withholding judgment and instead assuming the matter was possible to rationally settle with what was already known. As with the forms of consciousness in the Phenomenology, logical excess is the hallmark of incompleteness with anything we deal with.
If Nature did not show logics we could not account for we would be right to assume our accounts were complete if we managed the logical closure necessary, but when this is not the case we must stand back and rethink relations and orders, or perhaps we should be humble and admit we cannot make a proper judgment with what we know.
Half Hour Hegel: The Complete Phenomenology of Spirit
In any case, we are put in a position to learn from these experiences. The world of reason is the world of a priori concepts, but these concepts come to be known a posteriori. We come to know what is rational in the act of thinking and recollecting, observing in this recollection what we do in thinking rather than what we believe we do. As can be seen from sense certainty in the Phenomenology and the development of Being in the Logic, we are always carrying out a process of learning from and about ourselves in concrete and abstract forms.
Reason as such does and does not have a history. We must first experience reason to know it, but we can only know it because it has always been at work. Philosophy is only ever possible after the fact that the deed is done and history is in this sense over and at its end. In order to re-collect anything, that which is to be recollected must already be collected here and there in the lived experience of humanity as collective and individual.
Many things have been developed as well as discovered, things which have come down to us in the form of a cultural heritage of concepts and memories. This tunic of Spirit, however magnificent, is in its detail a rough patchwork with its loosely stitched seams hardly concealed from the eye that looks intently. These patches are our concepts of the world.
At best they come to us in a contingent unity, they also come to us torn and connected by the ghost of a thread. It is the work of the scientific philosopher at the end of history, i. In this unity, however, not all patches that come in the rough work are used in the masterpiece, for only what is true remains and endures in logical history. Science, to paraphrase Hegel from the Preface of the Phenomenology of Spirit , is the crowning glory of Spirit. Science has its place, they claim, but it is ultimately subordinate to a higher science, the science of science itself: There we are treated to the diametric practical and theoretical approaches of empirical science, of which neither is fit for genuine necessary and universal, i.
The question of empirical science and its methodology for Hegel is not a question to ever be answered on any common empirical ground, that is, no experience of what is sensuously out there. Such a science presupposes much whether it deem itself primarily empirical and practical, or rationalist and model making. Empirical science recollects experience, but it does so uncritically in taking its concepts of objects and theory as given. The seeming connections which we find in empirical experience are irrelevant to Hegel, for only a pure a priori conception can give proper and certain development and connection to our knowledge of things.
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Empirical sciences provide us with concepts and phenomena which we are to bring into rational form and order, a rational form and order only known through the experience of reasoning through the concept of the object. However, empirical science is not to be subservient to philosophy any more than philosophy is to be subservient to empirical science. The spirit of free inquiry which empirical science ideally offers is a necessary element in the production of new determinations of the understanding, determinations which are themselves necessary elements for the systematic unification of philosophic science.
The work of empirical science is a semi-chaotic process of determining worldly distinctions, the work of philosophical science is a rational process of the determination of conceptual distinctions and immanent systematic relations. When philosophy attempts to speculate beyond the distinctions made apparent by empirical science, it blunders in vague thoughts and figments of imagination. When empirical science attempts to speculate beyond rational conceptual distinctions it blunders in vague concepts and figments of imagination.
This blundering of empirical science is often disguised and hidden from the understanding under a veneer of semi-intelligible mathematics and the dizzying effects of practical results. Empirical science, however, is not the only part of the social world which offers new distinctions for philosophy to consider.
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Every single sphere of life can come to offer concepts for philosophical reflection. New modes of art can arise, new ways of living, new technologies, new ways of experiencing, et cetera, and all force philosophy to recollect them in a rational manner, whether this recollection be negative or positive.
In all that we do, in all that we know, the only reality to the knowledge we have is the reality we recollect. We learn only insofar as new things are recollected, insofar as new things are experienced, insofar as there is anything genuinely new. It demands openness, intellectual honesty, and the fearlessness to grasp the world in our reasoning. We only know what we rationally experience, i. Such a philosophy is worthy of the modern world in which dogma as such is unacceptable, and in which the demand to be free in thought and action put us on the forefront of coming to grips with what is on the edge of conceivability.
The Science of Logic. Cambridge University Press, Elements of The Philosophy of Right.
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Hegel: Philosophy in an Hour
The Owl At Dusk: Anyone who in our times labors at erecting anew an independent edifice of philosophical sciences may be reminded, thinking of how Plato expounded his, of the story that he reworked his Republic seven times over. A work which, as belonging to the modern world, is confronted by a profounder principle, a more difficult subject matter and a material of greater compass, the unfettered leisure had been afforded of reworking it seven and seventy times over. But the author, in face of the magnitude of the task, had to content himself with what could be made of it in circumstances of external necessity, of the inevitable distraction caused by the magnitude and multitude of contemporary interests.
Learning By Experience How do we learn?
The Completion of Knowledge Some of the attacks leveled at Hegel focus on his claim to have finished philosophy. The Error of False Completeness This method is not without possibility of error, however, far from it. As it is our procedure to ask how the thought which has been established as a necessity by means of the Notion looks in our sensuous intuition. Even if we should deceive ourselves in this respect, this would in no way effect the truth of our thought. A Posteriori A Priori: When philosophy paints it grey in grey, a shape of life has grown old, and it cannot be rejuvenated, but only recognized, by the grey in grey of philosophy; the owl of Minerva begins its flight only with the onset of dusk.
It is not only that philosophy must accord with the experience nature gives rise to; in its formation and in its development, philosophic science presupposes and is conditioned by empirical physics. The procedure involved in the formation and preliminaries of a science is not the same as the science itself however, for in this latter case it is no longer experience, but rather the necessity of the Notion, which must emerge as the foundation.
It has already been pointed out that in the procedure of philosophic cognition, the object has not only to be presented in its Notional determination, the empirical appearance corresponding to this determination also has to be specified, and it has to be shown that the appearance does in fact correspond to its Notion. This is not however an appeal to experience in regard to the necessity of the content, and an appeal to what has been called intuition, which was usually nothing more than a purveyance of random concepts by means of fanciful and even fantastic analogies, is even less admissible here.
These analogies may have a certain value, but they can only impose determinations and schemata on the objects in an external manner. Crooks, Elitists, and the Progress of Philosophy: