- Paperback: 669 pages
- Publisher: University of Chicago Press; 1 edition (May 13, 1998)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0226257428
- ISBN-13: 978-0226257426
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.6 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 2.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #624,302 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Hegel's Idea of a Phenomenology of Spirit 1st Edition
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The project of the book is to clarify the project of the Phenomenology, its relation to Hegel's systematic philosophy as a whole and its abiding relevance today. Forster meticulously lays out the various different "official" and unofficial projects that Hegel set for himself in writing the Phenomenology of Spirit, and the ways in which these projects have been construed and misconstrued both by Hegel's contemporaries and by subsequent scholars. Throughout, his aim is not to demonstrate that Hegel's book fulfilled each of these tasks, but to show that the tasks make sense, that they are not in an essential conflict with each other, that they have historical precedents, that a case can be made for Hegel's having fulfilled these tasks, and that his various remarks about these tasks are both reasonable and coherent. His strategy here is a good one, since while it may be easy to pick holes in a particular interpretation of Hegel's text, it is hard to dispute Forster's demonstration that Hegel's various claims about the book are not obviously wrong or incoherent -- and that those commentators who have claimed they are have been unable to produce a convincing case for their contentions. The outcome of Forster's book is to pave the way for a new generation of scholars to approach Hegel's text charitably as at least potentially fulfilling the tasks that Hegel outlined for it. (I was surprised, for example, to find myself convinced by Forster's demonstration that a plausible case can be made for taking seriously Hegel's various suggestions that the first five chapters from sense-certainty to reason can be read as a roughly chronological history of the epistemology of consciousness -- from ancient Persian and Egyptian religious "epistemology" to German idealism -- in addition to their logical role in accounting with increasing sophistication for what actually takes place in cognition and experience).
Perhaps most importantly, he makes a strong case that while some of these tasks are relative to the period of time in which Hegel was writing (which explains why even Hegel himself put less emphasis on the importance of the work as he came to believe that some of its aims had already been fulfilled), at least one central project of the work remains a viable and important philosophical project even today: the task of demonstrating the viability of a Hegelian approach to systematic philosophy by demonstrating such an approach to emerge naturally from the contradictions implicit in alternative and natural but non-systematic approaches to understanding the world.
This is not the book to turn to as a newcomer to Hegel -- there are better introductions to Hegel (see Houlgate's Introduction to Hegel and Russon's Reading Hegel's Phenomenology), and in general the best place to start is in a class with an instructor who is generally sympathetic to Hegel and can talk you through some of the difficulties. Still, it might not be a bad place to start for an advanced student of philosophy whose reluctance to take Hegel seriously (or take a seminar on Hegel) stems from an inheritance of myths and prejudices that Forster helpfully analyses and challenges. It is, however, an enormously important contribution to Hegel scholarship that, along with many other recent works on Hegel that have helped create a "renaissance" of Hegel studies in the last twenty years or so, should help to lay to rest a number of artificial concerns and misconceptions about Hegel's project that stand in the way of a proper grasp of what is probably the most important and perennially relevant works of one of the most important and influential thinkers.