School of Religion
Philosophy and Religion: Philosophy
Primary Subject Area
G. W. F. Hegel, The Philosophy of History, methodology
Hegel's Lectures on the Philosophy of History (hereafter LPH) has been often hailed as his most accessible work. I wish to argue that, even if it were at one point in time the best entrée to Hegel's thought, it is no longer. More specifically, I argue that the claim that it is still his most accessible work needs retooling. To do this, I have set up three criteria for what it means for a work to be accessible: authenticity, self-containedness, and navigability. The criterion of authenticity simply states that the more authorial integrity a work has, the more accessible it is; that of self-containedness demands that a work be relatively understandable in itself; and that of navigability demands that an accessible work help the reader navigate in further studies of the same author.
The argumentative section of the paper is structured according to these criteria. The first section considers the text of the LPH itself and the criterion of authenticity. Here we see that the text of the LPH has a peculiar, varied textual tradition, both in its German and English editions. The second section considers the secondary literature on the LPH and the criterion of self-containedness. Here we find that the commentators regularly feel the need to go outside the LPH to make even the basic content of the LPH understandable. The final section considers the wider corpus of Hegel scholarship, specifically his metaphysics, and the criterion of navigability. Does the LPH help us resolve, or even slightly clarify, perennially thorny tensions in Hegel scholarship like his metaphysics? I will argue that this is unlikely. Thus overall we conclude that the claim that the LPH is Hegel's most accessible work is indeed in need of qualification.