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[I have seen the master composing with obscure and intricate signs, so that they could not be easily deciphered.] I often used to see him looking around anxiously as if in fear he might be understood. He was very fond of me, for he was sure I would never betray him. As a matter of fact, I then thought that he was very obsequious. Once, when I grew impatient with him for saying: 'All that is, is rational', he smiled strangely and remarked, 'it may also be said that all that is rational must be'. Then he looked about him hastily; but he was speedily reassured, for only Heinrich Beer had heard his words. (Heinrich Heine, cited in

McCarney, J: Hegel on History, ISBN 0-415-11695-3)

Hegel has become notorious for the incredible obscurity of his writing. I am reading the back cover of Peter Singer's introduction to Hegel, where one can find a typical description of the non-specialist's impression.

Hegel has become a stock example of an obscure philosopher - a name to conjure with, but not someone whose work can be read and understood. Yet his importance is universally acknowledged, and we are still living in an intellectual climate decisively influenced by his ideas. (ISBN 0-19-287564-7)

However, it is probably best to read something written by Hegel to form your own opinion about his prose. A good place to start is the first couple of pages of the Introduction in the Phenomenology of Spirit.

Those who are not intimidated by the text face a further difficulty: the public reception of Hegel's philosophy is full of misconceptions and misleading stereotypes. These prejudices can contribute to blur the understanding of Hegel's works.

Essential reading

The Hegel Myths and Legends (Jon Stewart, 1996). You can find this article at hegel.net and at marxists.org.


Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel

Please read one of the following articles:

The Phenomenology of Spirit[edit]

The Phenomenology of Spirit (also translated as the Phenomenology of Mind) is widely acknowledged as one of Hegel's most significant contributions to philosophy (perhaps his most important work). It is a very interesting and complex book. The 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica article on Hegel included a heroic attempt to summarize the Phenomenology which gives an idea of the far reaching implications of the work, from metaphysics to ethics and political philosophy.


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