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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The cup of spirit overflows, 20 July 2011
This review is from: The Phenomenology of Mind (Dover Philosophical Classics) (Paperback)
This is the first English translation of Hegel's classic text the Phenomenology of Mind (1806) that appeared just before the first world war. There's a later translation titled Phenomenology of Spirit (Galaxy Books) by AV Millar, the German 'Geist' covering both English terms. Baillie's translation is more colloquial than Millar's and has helpful contextualising references to world literature, where Millar has a paraphrase by JN Findlay. Both are usable.

The Phenomenology was intended to be an introduction to a System of Science comprising a Logic of metaphysical ideas; followed by philosophies of Nature and Mind/Spirit. It expounds the progress from everyday consciousness to the standpoint of philosophical 'science'. It does this in eight chapters, starting from 'consciousness' (1-3) through self-consciousness to reason, spirit, religion and a brief chapter on 'absolute knowledge'. The later chapters add more concrete ideas and content illuminated by glancing references to historical events and literature that locate the ideas being developed. The system was eventually published as the Encyclopaedia (1817) with a new introduction in the early chapters of the Encyclopaedia Logic.

Hegel often begins chapters with a section bristling with impenetrable abstractions and it is only when the 'dialectic' (argument) starts that the chapter becomes easier to follow. The concluding transitions, being at times arbitrary, are again often obscure. The abstract parts jostle with wonderful lyrical metaphors. One very famous passage is the dialectic of master and slave in which the labour of the slave benefits him more than the freedom of the master. This influenced many Left writers from the Young Hegelians on. The famous Preface summarises Hegel's entire thought.

The Phenomenology is a heart and soul engagement with life and culture. I have read it several times and I would say in criticism only that there is a tendency to read the nature of God back from created minds that depends on the idea, derived partly I think from Jacob Boehme's mysticism and Spinoza, that God had to create the world. If the world is an act of divine love (rather than necessity), this is harder to maintain and even the best of life only hints at the goodness and mercy of God. That said, there is a lot of secular truth here and a deep sense of the wholeness and significance of experience. Alexandre Kojève's Introduction to the Reading of Hegel is a classic commentary though there are many more and there are free discussions on the hegel-yahoo email lists.
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