‘G. W. F. Hegel: An Introduction to the Science of Wisdom’ by Stanley Rosen

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel was born in 1770 and died in 1831. He was educated at Tübingen, in theology and philosophy, and spent the greater part of his life as a teacher, primarily as a professor of philosophy at the University of Berlin, although he held a variety of other positions, including posts at the universities of Jena and Heidelberg. Much has been made of Hegel’s personal life, although it consists largely in study and writing, or, as he would himself have added, in fulfilling his duties as a civil servant under the Prussian government. One might venture to say that few philosophers have been subjected to so minute a documentation, ranging from close analysis of his schoolboy notebooks to every draft of his unpublished university lectures. There can be no doubt that the careful editing of Hegel’s unpublished manuscripts of his mature years, starting perhaps with the Jena writings, has added an essential dimension to our understanding of his thought. I am considerably more skeptical about the results of the exhaustive study of his youthful notes and essays. We have been told by students of extreme competence and industry that the young Hegel was a pious Christian, an atheist, a Greek humanist, a citizen of the Enlightenment, a violent partisan of the French Revolution, and a putative arch-conservative. Of course, the same quarrels exist with respect to Hegel’s mature writings. But since the earlier material is as ambiguous as the later, its imperfect form and the youth of the author argue strongly against our placing too much confidence in its hermeneutic illumination. Therefore I have chosen to pass on to the Hegel of 1801 and thereafter…

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