This page contains a list of the nine best books on or by Hegel. Finding good introductory philosophy books can be difficult for two reasons. First, searching google for recommendations usually doesn’t bring up anything useful. Second, phrases like “best books on Hegel” are ambiguous. One person may be looking for a short, beginner friendly introduction, someone else may want a comprehensive academic overview, a third person may be looking for classic works by Hegel. This list tries to account for this ambiguity by recommending different types of books on Hegel. Here are the best books on Hegel in no particular order:
An Introduction to Hegel: Freedom, Truth and History – Stephen Houlgate
Publisher description: This classic introduction to one of the most influential modern thinkers, G.W.F. Hegel (1770-1831) has been made even more comprehensive through the addition of four new chapters.
- New edition of a classic introduction to Hegel.
- Enables students to engage with many aspects of Hegel’s philosophy.
- Covers the whole range of Hegel’s mature thought.
- Relates Hegel’s ideas to other thinkers, such as Luther, Descartes and Kant.
- Offers a distinctive and challenging interpretation of Hegel’s work.
Hegel – Frederick Beiser
Publisher description: Hegel (1770-1831) is one of the major philosophers of the nineteenth century. Many of the major philosophical movements of the twentieth century – from existentialism to analytic philosophy – grew out of reactions against Hegel. He is also one of the hardest philosophers to understand and his complex ideas, though rewarding, are often misunderstood.
In this magisterial and lucid introduction, Frederick Beiser covers every major aspect of Hegel’s thought. He places Hegel in the historical context of nineteenth-century Germany whilst clarifying the deep insights and originality of Hegel’s philosophy.
A masterpiece of clarity and scholarship, Hegel is both the ideal starting point for those coming to Hegel for the first time and essential reading for any student or scholar of nineteenth century philosophy.
Hegel: A Biography – Terry Pinkard
Publisher description: One of the founders of modern philosophical thought Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770-1831) has gained the reputation of being one of the most abstruse and impenetrable of thinkers. This first major biography of Hegel in English offers not only a complete, up-to-date account of the life, but also an overview of the key philosophical concepts in Hegel’s work in an accessible style. Terry Pinkard situates Hegel firmly in the historical context of his times. The story of that life is of an ambitious, powerful thinker living in a period of great tumult dominated by the figure of Napolean. Pinkard explores Hegel’s interactions with some of the great minds of this period: Hölderlin, Goethe, Humboldt, Schelling, Novalis, the Schlegels, Mendelssohn, and others.
The Cambridge Companion to Hegel – Frederick C. Beiser
Publisher description: Few thinkers are more controversial in the history of philosophy than Hegel. He has been dismissed as a charlatan and obscurantist, but also praised as one of the greatest thinkers in modern philosophy. No one interested in philosophy can afford to ignore him. This volume considers all the major aspects of Hegel’s work: epistemology, logic, ethics, political philosophy, aesthetics, philosophy of history, philosophy of religion. Special attention is devoted to problems in the interpretation of Hegel: the unity of the Phenomenology of Spirit; the value of the dialectical method; the status of his logic; the nature of his politics. A final group of chapters treats Hegel’s complex historical legacy: the development of Hegelianism and its growth into a left and right wing school; the relation of Hegel and Marx; and the subtle connections between Hegel and contemporary analytic philosophy.
The Hegel Reader – Stephen Houlgate
Publisher description: The Hegel Reader is the most comprehensive collection of Hegel’s writings currently available in English. Stephen Houlgate is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Warwick. He is the author of Hegel, Nietzsche and the Criticism of Metaphysics (1986) and Freedom, Truth and History: An Introduction to Hegel’s Philosophy (1991), and is the editor of Hegel and the Philosophy of Nature (1997).
Phenomenology of Spirit – G. W. F. Hegel
Publisher description: This brilliant study of the stages in the mind’s necessary progress from immediate sense-consciousness to the position of a scientific philosophy includes an introductory essay and a paragraph-by-paragraph analysis of the text to help the reader understand this most difficult and most influential of Hegel’s works.
The Science of Logic – G. W. F. Hegel
Publisher description: This new translation of The Science of Logic (also known as ‘Greater Logic’) includes the revised Book I (1832), Book II (1813), and Book III (1816). Recent research has given us a detailed picture of the process that led Hegel to his final conception of the System and of the place of the Logic within it. We now understand how and why Hegel distanced himself from Schelling, how radical this break with his early mentor was, and to what extent it entailed a return (but with a difference) to Fichte and Kant. In the introduction to the volume, George di Giovanni presents in synoptic form the results of recent scholarship on the subject, and, while recognizing the fault lines in Hegel’s System that allow opposite interpretations, argues that the Logic marks the end of classical metaphysics. The translation is accompanied by a full apparatus of historical and explanatory notes.
Elements of the Philosophy of Right – G. W. F. Hegel
Publisher description: This book is a translation of a classic work of modern social and political thought. Elements of the Philosophy of Right, Hegel’s last major published work, is an attempt to systematize ethical theory, natural right, the philosophy of law, political theory, and the sociology of the modern state into the framework of Hegel’s philosophy of history. Hegel’s work has been interpreted in radically different ways, influencing many political movements from far right to far left, and is widely perceived as central to the communitarian tradition in modern ethical, social, and political thought. This edition includes extensive editorial material informing the reader of the historical background of Hegel’s text, and explaining his allusions to Roman law and other sources, making use of lecture materials which have only recently become available. The new translation is literal, readable, and consistent, and will be informative and scholarly enough to serve the needs of students and specialists alike.
Introduction to the Philosophy of History – G. W. F. Hegel
Publisher description: . . . eminently readable . . . admirably picks up the spirit of what Hegel is saying. . . . more readable and accurate than Hartmann’s, and it translates a more readable text than does Nisbet’s. It includes (as Hartmann’s does not) an excerpt, which serves as chapter five, from ‘The Geographical Basis of History’ (particularly interesting for what it says of America), and a brief chapter six, entitled ‘The Division of History.’ The volume closes with an appendix, translating §§341–360 of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right and deals directly with the very concept of ‘World History.’ It constitutes a big help in coming to grips with what Hegel means by ‘Spirit.’ –Quentin Lauer, SJ, Fordham University, in International Philosophical Quarterly
This list was created by following a method that I’ve found to be useful when searching for introductory philosophy books. It involves:
- browsing required reading lists on university course syllabi
- searching for books using the Open Syllabus Project
- browsing the bibliographies of articles on the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy and Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy
- searching for recommendations on philosophy forums
The following sources were used to build this list:
University Course Syllabi:
If you’d like to learn more about Hegel, check out this collection of beginner friendly resources on Hegel.
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