Chris's Reviews > Hegel

Hegel by Charles Taylor
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Jun 29, 12

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Read from June 22 to 29, 2012

What exactly was Charles Taylor’s goal in this book? Chronologically this is a book that introduces the environment Hegel was born in, then discusses the philosophy of Hegel, in order of publication, and concludes with the typical chapter asking how Hegel is important today.

As far as placing Hegel in his setting, Taylor does a great job. Kant was the German zenith of Enlightenment philosophy, and many philosophers slightly before and after him attempted to wrestle against pure reason in a Romantic movement. Others held a philosophy of Expressivism, as Taylor dubs it. And, to contrary opinion, Taylor sees Hegel as a philosopher who is trying to systemically embolden the Enlightenment: everything is rational is Kant’s clarion call squared.

It’s the squaring that Taylor flubs on. If this book is supposed to serve as a clearer expression to Hegel, than Hegel himself provides, that’s dubious. Like Hegel, Taylor will draw out a single point over and over again, until we reach some kind of vague conclusion, and then start afresh with the vague conclusion, and the single point, repeating the process. This classic dialectic, often longwinded, can be found in almost every chapter Hegel writes, or Marx’s chapter on the commodity. This dialectic is fine for the two master dialecticians, but not for someone attempting to clear up a philosophy.

Also, although Taylor covers Hegel’s books, in chronological order, his own book cannot serve as a source book, nor a guide to Hegel’s works. Taylor categorically omits whole chapters and sections, deeming some outside the scope his book – the scope of his book weighing in at 600 pages, makes the claim rather dubious – but delves into others. For instance, the first chapter on sense certainty of the Phenomenology of Spirit is as long as the actual chapter, if not longer, in Hegel’s. Yet the following two chapters of the PoS are written off as unnecessary.

He follows this same pattern throughout the PoS, and in both of Hegel’s logics. Again, if he’s trying to clear up Hegel, he’s not, and if he’s trying to offer a reference tome, or work to guide Hegelian travelers through the mired waters of Hegel’s prose, he’s not doing that either. I can think of a number of superior authors that cover both paths.

Nonetheless, the book is still good Philosophy. Taylor does ‘know’ his subject, and he makes the reader wrestle with serious issues, sometimes cogent philosophy and he at least gave the reader the intellectual background to understand the who-what-where’s-and whys of Hegel’s goals. This can be missed when someone just cracks open a book by Hegel, without any historical or biographical knowledge regarding Hegel’s MO. Philosopher’s do not write in vacuums, albeit Hegel wants you to believe he’s mastered the universe as Spirits embodied Philosopher King.
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06/22/2012 page 80
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message 1: by Jesse (new)

Jesse Desperate for guidance in the Phenomenology?

Chris Can one really receive too much Hegel guidance?

Actually back when I was writing my thesis, a professor recommended this book to me several times. On amazon it's anywhere from $30-70, so I kept putting it off. A few days ago in Chamblins I ran across it for $18, and having over $100 in credit I decided to finally read it.

Chris I've been reading the logic too, which I find much more comprehensible, and relevant. Your criticisms of Hegel's master slave dialectic are spot on, it's an all around reprehensible chapter. And his dismissal of Skepticism, while ultimately true, is painfully petulant.

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