How to Understand Hegel’s Philosophy

A step by step guide.

It’s a bit of an exaggeration to say that in the last 100 or so years there has been a war in philosophy. But if we can describe the long “analytical/continental” divide in philosophy as a war, Hegel is at the foundation of one side of it. Hegel produced an all-encompassing system that still incites passion among philosophers, some of whom lack a thorough understanding of Hegel. 

To call someone a “Hegelian” is, depending on who is saying it, high praise or an insult. Few, if any, today are true followers of Hegel’s system, but his philosophy has influenced much of what is called “continental” philosophy. Understanding Hegel helps understand some of the issues in continental philosophy that developed in response to Hegel.

Hegel was a Prussian philosopher who followed in the footsteps of Kant but took Kant in a different direction. Here are two thoughts that can help you begin the long road in understanding Hegel: 

  • The first part is understanding Hegel’s philosophy as a system to understand human freedom in terms of history and the political state.
  •  The second part is his theory of interpersonal relations, centered around the concept of recognition.

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