Perhaps one of the most revolutionary works of philosophy ever presented, The Phenomenology of Spirit is Hegel’s 1807 work that is in numerous ways extraordinary.
It begins with a Preface, created after the rest of the manuscript was completed, that explains the core of his method and what sets it apart from any preceding philosophy. The Introduction, written before the rest of the work, summarizes and completes Kant’s ideas on skepticism by rendering it moot and encouraging idealism and self-realization. The body of the work is divided into six sections of varying length, entitled “Consciousness”, “Self-Consciousness”, “Reason”, “Spirit”, “Religion”, and “Absolute Knowledge”.
A myriad of topics are discussed, and explained in such a harmoniously complex way that the method has been termed Hegelian dialectic. Ultimately, the work as a whole is a remarkable study of the mind’s growth from its direct awareness to scientific philosophy, proving to be a difficult yet highly influential and enduring work.
“Hegel’s deadline for submitting the manuscript was October 18, 1806. Shipping the text from Jena to Bamberg would take five days, so October 13 was his last day to take the package to the post office. On October 8 and 10, Hegel sent the bulk of the manuscript to Bamberg. On October 9, war broke out between France and Prussia. Hegel still had to send the concluding part of the book, but the postal service was no longer functioning. On the morning of October 13, French troops occupied Jena. “The hour of fear”—that’s what Hegel called this moment. Soldiers burst into Hegel’s house. He tried to be friendly, inviting them for a glass of wine, but he soon had to flee—with the remaining parts of the manuscript stuffed in his pockets. In another house where he took refuge, he spent a few hours organizing these papers and putting the finishing touches on the manuscript. Only on October 20 was he able to send it to the publisher, who, in spite of this delay, paid him what was due, as Hegel was broke and his house plundered.
This is the story of how Phenomenology of Spirit, one of the most difficult philosophical books ever written, came into the world.”
—Oxana Timofeeva, Now is Night