Published in 1807, Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit is one of the most important and famous works in the Western philosophical tradition, containing many different memorable analyses, from Sophocles’ Antigone to the French Revolution, which has exercised considerable influence on subsequent thinkers from Feuerbach and Marx to Heidegger, Kojève, Adorno and Derrida among others.
Often studied together with a secondary text, commentary usually explores its historical background and philosophical relevance, while the attempt here is to present in detail and as clearly as possible how its inner continuous logical argument proceeds and why it might be deemed successful.
Specific criticisms of Hegel’s ideas and other interpretations of his work have not been covered and only the accounts of the first four chapters of the book are given, setting up the stage all the way up to consciousness and self-consciousness, including the parts on sense-certainty, the master-slave relation and the unhappy consciousness.
Although the remaining chapters on reason, spirit, religion and absolute knowing are important, the presentation of the first four chapters should be enough to make headway in Hegel’s text by one’s own, while engaging in the effort of filling in the missing details from chapters five to eight by themselves.
Stephen Houlgate is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Warwick and is the author of several works on Hegel including An Introduction to Hegel’s Philosophy and The Opening of Hegel’s Logic. He has served as the President of the Hegel Society of Great Britain since 2011 and has been teaching Hegel’s Logic for over 30 years.