Reading Hegel himself
As even great secondary literature on Hegel often includes some
problematic parts (and by far the most part of the Hegel related
secondary literature introduces more problems to the reader than it helps
to solve), it is highly recommended that you do not rely on such literature
but read Hegel himself. This will also help you to better judge the secondary
literature (including our own work at Hegel.Net).
For a first introduction, we recommend that you read Hegel's own introductions
to his lectures: the introductions to his lectures on History of Philosophy
(start with that one), Philosophy of Religion, Aestetics, and Philosophy
of History (most of these are available online,
but there also exists a useful reader of all these introductions in one
In a second step, read Hegel's lectures. See to it that you do not
stick only to some one or two books of Hegel (especialy when you mainly
focus on Hegel's Phenomenology and/or his Philosophy of History, together
with his Philosophy of Right, you will get a wrong picture for sure,
as you are missing the systematic background. Unfortunately, this seems to be
the major way of Hegel reception in the English world, causing several
Instead, make sure that you read the Encyclopedia, the book which Hegel
himself used to teach and explain his system in his mature years in Berlin,
which includes a brief exposition of the complete system, including an
abbreviated version of his Science of Logic. No Hegel understanding can
be complete without understanding Hegel's Logic and the overall architecture
of his system.
Jon Stewart: The Hegel Myths and Legends
A wonderful book that any Hegel scholar would have liked to have written
himself. A collection of superb articles dedicated to combat typical Hegel
Anyone today has heard one Hegel myth or the other. The result is often
that either people are scared away from Hegel at all, based on
that misinformations, or even when they read Hegel, they misread
him by reading the Hegel myths into him. So unlearning such Hegel myths
is a must for any successul understanding of Hegel.
So this book is very useful, both for teaching Hegel as well as to unlearn those
myths of Hegel that hinder readers seeing what he really said.
Michael Inwood: Hegel Dictionary
Hegel often uses his terminology in a different way than it is used
today, so understanding his key terminology is crucial for understanding him.
Inwood discusses important Hegel terms, including their use in the
time of Hegel and before him. While a good deal away from being perfect,
the book helps to avoid a naive reading of Hegel and to better understand
some possible backgrounds of Hegel's use of terms.
General and Bibliographical:
A first biographical background information can be accecced via
our illustrated Hegel.Net Hegel biography.
In case you want to read more, it is recommended that you do not
read only one but at least two of the following books, to better judge
their limitations and strengths:
Howard Kainz: G.W.F. Hegel
Quite a new book, focusing mainly on the Phenomenology.
More a collection of specialist articles / studies on
Hegel's Philosophy than a systematic exposition, so probably
better suited for the one who has already read and understood
some Hegel than for the absolute beginner.
Lot of material is taken from Vittorio Hösle's important book:
'Hegels System' (only available in German).
Kaufmann: Hegel - a reinterpretation
This book, written by Nietzsche expert Kaufmann, has been
said to have done a tremendous service to Hegel, by explaining
him in understandable words. Walter Kaufmann's book is probably
"not too Hegelian", but it is one of the most precise and entertaining
books we have ever read on Hegel, and it helps understanding him a lot.
We would certainly advise it, only it needs to be corrected with
the reading of some other stuff.
Amazon has some sample pages (if that deep link doesn't work any more,
try to use the amazon search option to search for "Kaufmann Hegel")
Terry Pinkard: Hegel Biography
The most recent Hegel biography, accords with modern research, including
lots of information about Hegel's Philosophy and his time. It is not
always clear where he used new material and where he makes an educated
guess. While very new, and probably the best Hegel biography available
in English, he seems to have overlooked some important new sources
(including Bondeli's books on Hegel in Switzerland)
See a sample chapter at Cambridge press.
Charles Taylor: Hegel
This is the classic text of 1970 (so also a bit outdated, as the last 25
years have seen a tremendous advance in Hegel studies). Lots of background
information about Hegel's time. Like most Hegel literature in the English
world, lays a lot emphasis on the Phenomenology, the Objective Spirit and
the Philosophy of History. The rest of the system is handled rather briefly.
On Objective Spirit / Philosophy of Right:
Allen Woods: Hegel's ethical thought
Some people wrongly think that Hegel offered no Science of Ethics. At
Hegel.Net, we believe that Hegel's complete system can be read as his
Science of Ethics, with the foundation in his Logic, including his
subjective spirit, the complete objective spirit and absolute spirit. Woods
takes a kind of middle position, as he only explores Hegel's ethical
concepts within Hegel's Philosophy of Right. These are examined also in
comparison to Hegel's contempories and Hegel's own development, so this
book has a good reputation in the English speaking world. But with Wood's
approach of ignoring Hegel's Logic (e.g. Hegel's logic is dead, we must
recover from the debris what is worthwhile, etc.) and of ignoring the connections
to the other parts of Hegel's System, the systematic whole is missing. However,
as an introduction to Hegel's Philosophy of Right it is passable.
Steven B. Smith: Hegel's Critique of Liberalism, Rights in Context
(1989,1991 in Paperback of the University of Chicago Press)
Based on Hegel's political philosophy it is an
attempt to grasp the tradition of liberalism and its various historical
alternatives on the one side and to defend a doctrine of liberalism
between the neo-Kantian paradigm of excessive abstractness and the
community model of misplaced and parochial concreteness on the other side.
Hegel and Marx:
Many people coming to Hegel have some kind of marxist background.
To them, the Canadian professor and well known Hegel researcher David MacGregor
is probably the best source for investigating the Hegel-Marx relation,
for former unnoticed influences, parallels and differences, beyond the
usual prejudgments, thus enabling a very fruitful dialogue and offering
a fresh reading both of Marx as well as of Hegel.
David MacGregor: Hegel, Marx after the Fall of Communism
His latest (and, as some say: greatest) book. A review disclosing
the content of the book, by hegel.Net member Paul Trejo, can be found at
U. of Wales
David MacGregor: Hegel, Marx and the English State
His second book, some people even prefer this to his latest.
Many interesting researches on Hegel.
David MacGregor: The Communist Ideal in Hegel and Marx
MacGregor's first book. The title was not his title, but the publisher's
title. It was ahead of its time in its own day, correcting several errors
about the usual view of Hegel, especially from Marxists. Unfortunately however,
it introduced several errors itself, which make it more
difficult for the beginner to find the golden eggs inside. So while this
is the book of MacGregor which can be found in many used book stores, we
suggest that the reader use his later books (this first book is sold for some reasons).
The reviews above are based on comments from Maurizio Canfora, Beat Greuter,
Kai Froeb and Paul Trejo (in alphabetical order). However, the merger of these
(sometimes differing) reviews has been done by Kai Froeb and so none of the reviews
above may necessarily represent the views of these individuals.
Hegel.Net is a joint effort of Hegelians worldwide. So, as always, your
corrections, comments and additions to the above reviews,
as well as reviews on any other Hegel related book, are most welcome. Please
contact us by email (firstname.lastname@example.org).