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Lucidly written introduction to a complex philosopher
on 15 January 2012
Singer's contribution to this series is a deft piece of exposition, especially given the complexity of the subject matter. Hegel is often said to be the most obscure philosopher in the Western canon, but this guide elucidates his main ideas and is not even too difficult for the philosophical tyro, and as such is an exceptionally accessible read. Some of the other guides in this series take less complex subjects but do not give a clear outline of the main points - the VSI to Existentialism being the one that springs to mind. Here we have a logical presentation of Hegel's oeuvre, starting with a bit of background history, with biographical details and relationship to other philosophers, notably the reaction of Hegel and Schiller to Kant. Then we are introduced to the conception of history as the narrative towards human freedom, in the Philosophy of History, before moving to the more complex domain of the Phenomenology of Spirit, the concept of Geist and finally a brief outline of the Science of Logic, which is as fine a summation of the dialectical process as I have read. The Logic is not featured in great detail because it is, to Singer, too complex a work to be appreciated in a short volume, and the author recommends familiarising oneself with the earlier Hegel before anything as abstract as the Logic can be understood.
I would recommend this as essential to students of the humanities in general - let alone philosophy - given Hegel's influence on Marx, and those interested in the western philosophical tradition. Hegel is up there with Kant and Descartes in his influence, and should be regarded as an indispensable contributor to European thought.