'Phenomenology of Spirit'
By G. W. F. Hegel (Author), A. V. Miller (Translator), J. N. Findlay (Foreword)
Perhaps one of the most revolutionary works of philosophy ever written, "The Phenomenology of Spirit" is Hegel's 1807 work that is in numerous ways extraordinary. It begins with a Preface, written 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, the father of German Idealism, developed what is called dialectical philosophy, that is, a philosophy that is based on a dialectical movement from thesis to its antithesis and then the synthesis of the thesis and the antithesis. This dialectical flow of ideas became the foundation of Hegelianism. Although influenced by Kant, Hegel did not accept the limitation placed by Kant upon reason and wrote his own work entitled The Phenomenology of the Mind in order to show the possibility for the mind to know reality. His dialectical logic is developed in Science of Logic which is one of the fundamental works of Hegelian philosophy.
Hegel also wrote extensively on the philosophy of history, which he considered to be an important branch of philosophy itself, as well as on law and aesthetics. He believed that philosophy should deal with the whole rather than starting with parts and it should be based on the process of dialectic as a result of which higher entities grow out of the conflict of lower ones leading finally to the Absolute Idea. This process of the manifestation of the Absolute in history can be seen in the movement from tribal organizations to the fully rational state. The whole of reality in fact is rational and can be known rationally.
Hegel applied his dialectic to every realm from religion to politics, from art to history and created one of the most comprehensive philosophical systems that the West has ever known. His idea of the manifestation of the Absolute in history must not, however, be confused with the traditional ideas of either revelation or the appearance of the Universal Man associated in Islamic esoterism with the inner Reality of Mulammad ﷺ, as has been done by some modern Muslim and Western scholars and thinkers.
After Hegel, many of his followers considered him to be a Protestant Christian and supporter of the Prussian state. However, his influence is to be seen among both the so called leftist Hegelians such as Feuerbach, who gave an atheistic interpretation of Hegelianism and who was closely associated with Marxism, as well as with rightist Hegelians who were closely related to religious circles in Germany. Hegelianism was also influential in England, America and Italy where many philosophers were attracted to the holistic and idealistic aspects of Hegel, such men as J.E. Moore in England, J. Royce in America, and B. Croce in Italy. Although Hegel was eclipsed by the rise of positivism in the late thirteenth/nine- teenth and early fourteenth/twentieth centuries, he has again begun to attract a great deal of attention during the last few decades in both Europe and America.
(Seyyed Hossein Nasr)