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Hegel (The Routledge Philosophers) [Paperback]

Frederick Beiser
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
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Book Description

19 April 2005 The Routledge Philosophers

Hegel (1770-1831) is one of the major philosophers of the nineteenth century. Many of the major philosophical movements of the twentieth century - from existentialism to analytic philosophy - grew out of reactions against Hegel. He is also one of the hardest philosophers to understand and his complex ideas, though rewarding, are often misunderstood.

In this magisterial and lucid introduction, Frederick Beiser covers every major aspect of Hegel's thought. He places Hegel in the historical context of nineteenth-century Germany whilst clarifying the deep insights and originality of Hegel's philosophy.

A masterpiece of clarity and scholarship, Hegel is both the ideal starting point for those coming to Hegel for the first time and essential reading for any student or scholar of nineteenth century philosophy.

Additional features:

  • glossary
  • chapter summaries
  • chronology
  • annotated further reading.

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Hegel (The Routledge Philosophers) + Hegel's 'Phenomenology of Spirit': A Reader's Guide (Reader's Guides) + Phenomenology of Spirit (Galaxy Books)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge; New Ed edition (19 April 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0415312086
  • ISBN-13: 978-0415312080
  • Product Dimensions: 22 x 14 x 3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 179,915 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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'Beiser ... wants to provide not so much exegesis as a comprehensive overview aimed primarily at the first-time reader. The result is in my judgment little short of a triumph. In 350 pages Beiser manages to suggest much of the sweep and challenge of Hegel's thought, in direct and straightforward prose, yet without shirking the procedural difficulties of Hegel's arguments and positions. ' - Martin Donougho, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews

'An impressive achievement - I have no doubt students will find it very useful, and that it will be widely adopted as a teaching text: it is written in a clear and accessible manner; it covers the right topics to the right level; it engages with a wide range of Hegel's works; it is critical, while also being sympathetic; and it deals authoritatively with various matters of scholarship.' - Robert Stern, University of Sheffield

'The best available account in the English language of the whole sweep of Hegel's philosophy. It will be a valuable resource for students encountering Hegel for the first time. It also makes a significant and important contribution to the interpretation and discussion of Hegel's philosophy.' - Sean Sayers, University of Kent

'A very clear introduction - its greatest strengths consist in its clarity and its ability to contextualize Hegel's philosophy ... masterfully done ... the presentation is clear and engaging.'
- Paul Redding, University of Sydney

About the Author

Frederick Beiser is Professor of Philosophy at Syracuse University. He is author of The Fate of Reason: German Philosophy from Kant to Fichte and editor of the Cambridge Companion to Hegel.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
The 1790s in Germany, the decade when Hegel and the romantic generation came of age, was a time of extraordinary intellectual upheaval and ferment. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent introduction to Hegel 19 Dec 2005
Beiser's "Hegel" provides a highly accessible and readable introduction to one of the most notoriously difficult thinkers of all time. The book covers an extraordinary range of subjects including Hegel's metaphysics, political philosophy, aesthetics and philosophy of religion. Furthermore, it does a superb job at situating such topics within their intellectual and historical context.
Beiser treads a path between "inflationary" and "deflationary" accounts of Hegel. Whilst the former tend to treat Hegel as a anachronistic metaphysician, the latter attempt to "do Hegel without the Metaphysics" - a tendency which Beiser thinks not only makes Hegel quite uninteresting but also begs more questions that it thinks it resolves. Beiser sees a Hegel as a product of his times but sees the sort of problems he is engaged with (e.g. the relationship between individual and community or the impossibility of entirely extirpating metaphysical questions) as having an enduring relevance.
Beiser's specialism as a scholar of German romanticism shines through in the book, drawing out many continuities between Hegel and the romantics - particularly in terms of Hegel’s organicism and naturphilosophie. Likewise, the lengthy discussion of Hegel's early theological writings provides a great deal of fresh insight into his thought and its evolution. As such, the work is of interest not only to those approaching Hegel for the first time, but also to Hegel specialists and is highly recommended.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars first class introduction 24 Mar 2008
By selimou
I'm a bit ashamed to say that but this book was quite exciting!
I had no previous knowledge of Hegel's philosophy (apart from the good old "thesis, antithesis, synthesis" which, by the way, turned out to be, at best, a oversimplification), yet Beiser clear writing style and historical approach does perfectly the trick.

Each chapter is written as an inquiry of the successive critical appraisal of Hegel's philosophy, and Beiser first demonstrate why they are innacurate or incomplete in order for you to have a good grasp of his own thesis on the matter.

Beiser manages to defend Hegel on some important points but does not hesitates to emphasise some weak points in Hegel system.

However, I would advise the reader to read a bit about Kant before starting to read this book, since Hegel deals with him a lot. I did not have this problem since I had just finished Wood's excellent introduction but I regretted not to have known a bit more about Aristotle and Spinoza. Beiser does explain what you need to know satisfactorily but I felt I could have got more out of it.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a good historically informed introduction 12 Sep 2010
Beiser's book fulfills the aim of the Routledge series of providing contextually informed introductions to the great philosophers (it does this better than the books on Kant and Schopenhauer). In situating Hegel so well in his intellectual context, an approach which is of course fitting considering the importance of wider culture and society to Hegel's thought, he helps the reader have some sympathy with the ideas. I didn't agree with all of Hegel's speculations, but Beiser succeeds in making them never seem pointless.

Beiser sets up his detailed discussion of Hegel's arguments very well with the introductory chapters. Beiser, like most Hegel scholars, describes Hegel's motivation as the attempt to overcome the frustrations of Kantian thinking and the disappointments of the Enlightenment. Beiser does this better than most by showing how interlinked these two concerns were in the mind of a young Hegel first turning to philosophy. Hegel first aimed to be a pamphleteer for Enlightenment, Kantian values, but in the face of events like the Revolutionary Terror thought that Kant left much philosophical work undone.

The subsequent chapters fill out this programme, with Beiser always grounding the grand speculations in the concerns of Hegel's time. Beiser even makes the vaulting ideas about Geist less daunting and alien. Apparently he first developed the concept when discussing the mindset of lovers: like Geist they go outside themselves and realise themselves in another.

Beiser's excellent study is itself a persuasive case for his way of writing commentary, namely part intellectual history, part exposition of the arguments. Philosophy students will need to go on to more focussed books (Houlgate is good for the next level), but this is a rich, interesting study that you'll wish other scholars emulated.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars 3 July 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Very good book. Like Westphal Beiser rescues Hegel from his own incomprehensibility.
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Amazon.com: 3.1 out of 5 stars  7 reviews
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Expertly written - a great resource 12 Jun 2007
By Steward Willons - Published on Amazon.com
Beiser does an excellent job here giving the reading a comprehensive overview of Hegel's life, work, and major concepts. This is definitely the best introduction to Hegel that I've yet read. As you'll see if you try to read plain ol' Hegel himself, his prose is unwieldy and his translations are even worse (with a few exceptions). Simply put, a secondary source is definitely the way to approach Hegel if you're new to the field, or if life is just too short to wade through, say, his multi-volume work on aesthetics!

Beiser writes in an authoritative, but inviting voice. While he could doubtlessly run circles around readers, he choses to place emphasis on communication. That is not to say that he presents a dumbed-down version of Hegel. Just that he doesn't needlessly complicate ideas that are themselves complicated. In fact, he does a markable job untangling some of Hegel's more difficult and widely misunderstood concepts.

Beiser handles his topic in the best way possible. While adapting Hegel to current times would make him easily applicable to modern times, Beiser chooses not to put words in Hegels mouth, but to let him speak in the way that he did and on the topics that he covered. This more historical approach will require a little more effort on the part of the reader, but it is ultimately more useful.

While this book will be useful to a wide range of people, it's almost definitely not the only Hegel book you'll ever need. If you get serious, naturally you'll want to read some Hegel for yourself. Even if you intend to read Hegel directly, this is still a worthwhile purchase. I've always found reading easier if I had some idea what to look for. This introduction will allow you to key in on the important areas of Hegel while helping you avoid getting trapped in the difficult or overly wordy sections.

If you want more depth on certain issues (in my case it was Hegel's aesthetics) without necessarily reading a lot of Hegel yourself, Beiser provides plenty of references to excellent secondary sources. This is perhaps one of the best reasons to buy the book - Beiser has clearly read not only all of Hegel, but a wide range of secondary and tertiary material on Hegel.

Rather than attempt to summarize Beiser's views or, worse yet, attempt to summarize Hegel's views, I'll let you discover it for yourself. Hegel is well worth reading and this is an informative way to start.
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent place to begin by an extremely clear writer. 9 May 2006
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
I am still not finished with the book (I am reading it out of order and at a leisurely pace), but I am also familiar with Beiser from his book, _The Fate of Reason_. Beiser's main virtue is clarity. He says what he wants to say in a clear, straightforward manner, with no wasted flourishes, no distracting jargon, no self-important bombast. In other words, precisely what a beginner needs. Even if one comes from a different perspective than Beiser's, one knows where he stands--and he seems to have read everything, and I mean everything--so that one can make one's judgments about his position without any guesswork as to what it is. Beiser is not interested in impressing or mystifying his reader, but rather in helping his reader. Given that Hegel himself is often so difficult to read (in whatever language), Beiser's orientation to Hegel's thought as a whole (taking into account the development of that thought) is a great service. His main goal seems to be to prevent the reader from wasting their time following long-ago superseded misconceptions about Hegel (such as the shopworn "thesis, antithesis, synthesis" idea of the dialectic, or the idea of intellectual intuition, etc.).
49 of 62 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Grotesque 9 July 2006
By Beach Guy - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book is an unmitigated disaster, and Harper Torchbooks should be ashamed of themselves for foisting it onto an unsuspecting public. The principle difficulty arises from the fact that it is impossible to distinguish the words of Hegel from those of Weiss, the editor. No reliable visual cue is provided for the reader, who sometimes finds he has plowed through 5 pages of "Hegel", only to discover they were actually 5 pages of Weiss! To make matters, worse, sections begin and end in an arbitrary fashion that is completely disorienting. In some cases, it genuinely seems pages have been inadvertently omitted! As a result, this "book" is unreadable. This is particularly annoying, since even when Hegel is presented clearly, he is challenging. For Harper Torchbooks to have mutilated his work in this grotesquely ill-designed book is a kind of intellectual crime. If you value your time and money, avoid this book!
34 of 47 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The Wrong Premise 4 May 2002
By Z. Liu - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The introduction claims that to get a picture of any philosopher's thoughts, it is usually best to approach him from a single representative work, but that Hegel is an exception.
That premise is rather shaky at best, most of Hegel's influence has come from his Phenomenology of Spirit, and while some still claim that it is an immature work which he later abandoned, it still makes for a better introduction than this volume.
And then there's the selections. for The Phenomenology, the editors chose to use the Baille translation, which is quite unfortunate. English usage has shifted dramatically form its stilted 1931 usage, and even so, it is full of inconsistencies, so that Hegel's technical use of the German is lost.
The inclusion of the Logic defies it. While reading The Phenomenology may, like Ulysses, require a guide, The Logic is more like Finnegan's wake--completely intractable. Especially to introductory students to which this volume is obviously aimed.
If your interest is Philosophy, read The Phenomenology. If your interest is Politics, read Philosophy of Right. If you're ambitious, and have a lot of time on your hands, read both.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Some Hegelian codes cracked. 20 Mar 2009
By chainlink - Published on Amazon.com
"Hegel is difficult enough to read that any attempt to make sense of him can earn the gratitude of someone interested in him. Charles Taylor's work has been particularly useful to me in this. Beiser has here written the clearest exposition of a handful of Hegel's most characteristic themes that I have (in my rather limited exposure to the Hegel literature) encountered. His forte is the placing of Hegel (and other German Idealists) into the context of their immediate intellectual environment, from Kant through many now forgotten Kantians and post-Kantians and anti-Kantians through the German Romantics to the Idealists. This is enormously informative, and he succeeds in cracking the codelike references in Hegel's work to the ideas of his predecessors and contemporaries.

What Beiser doesn't do, though, that Taylor does, is to argue in what respects Hegel is relevant now--in fact, he does rather the opposite, leaving the reader at the end of his book with a much better sense of how Hegel fits into intellectual history, but wondering why this knowledge should matter."
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