December 15, 2009 @ 2:52 pm
It is a personal quest of mine – albeit a long-term, low-flame quest – to learn more Hegel. In one sense this will not be hard since I know so very little Hegel now. At a delightful, intimate dinner party a few days ago, I met UCLA Hegel scholar John McCumber and worked up the courage to ask the canonical question of a tyro:
Where should I start to learn more Hegel?
Often the best answer is to jump right in with the original source. Accept No Substitutes! But my German is not strong enough to bear reading philosophy at any length. So at the very least I need to choose an English translation. (This worked for me with Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason. I just jumped into the best English translation. For motivation, I met up with a buddy to discuss what we read, sort of like a work-out partner.)
I have been warned by other Hegelian friends that it is nigh impossible to make proper sense of Hegel without a thorough understanding of the philosophical milieu in greater Germania during Hegel’s time. Their warnings had the effect of turning the already low flame of my Hegel quest even lower. It’s still a burning desire in the back of my mind, but the flame is small, bluish, and flickering.
Asking philosophers questions at parties. As I was gathering up the heart to ask John about Hegel, my mind was still churning on a bit of advice from my friend Gianfranccesco Zanetti, scholar of philosophy and law in Bologna, Italy. Gianfranccesco’s advice was kindly, by way of anecdote:
“I hate it when people ask me about philosophy at parties!”
(Ouch! I thought. That’s me!)
Philosophy is my profession. I read it and write it and teach it all day, just about every day of the week. I have nothing to say about it at a cocktail party.
John McCumber and Terry Pinkard’s generosity of spirit. And so it was with some timidness that I turned to John and asked where to start with Hegel. John could easily have referred me to his own respected books and articles on the subject, but instead he kindly and patiently turned me onto a terrific resource, Terry Pinkard who has freely offered to the world the entire text of his German-to-English translation of Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit in side-by-side, English-only, and chapter-by-chapter versions.