Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Alznauer, Mark. "Review of Allen Speight's THE PHILOSOPHY OF HEGEL." NDPR (August 2008).

Speight, Allen. The Philosophy of Hegel. Chesham: Acumen, 2008. The late Brand Blanshard, a philosopher by no means unsympathetic to Hegelian thought, devised a system to rank clarity in writing which he illustrated with the following example: "Swift, Macaulay, and Shaw would say that André was hanged. Bradley would say that he was killed. Bosanquet would say that he died. Kant would say that his mortal existence reached its termination. Hegel would say that a finite determination of infinity had been further determined by its own negation" (On Philosophical Style, Indiana University Press, 1954, p. 31). Only someone entirely unfamiliar with Hegel's prose could mistake this for an unfair exaggeration. Given Hegel's notorious obscurity, both substantive and stylistic, some sort of general introduction to his philosophic thought is almost indispensable. At present, the interested reader is faced with an array of options, to which Allen Speight's The Philosophy of Hegel is the most recent addition. Speight himself mentions several other contemporary introductions to Hegel, including Peter Singer's A Very Short Introduction to Hegel and longer works by accomplished Hegel scholars like Frederick Beiser and Stephen Houlgate. Still others, like David James' Hegel: A Guide for the Perplexed, appear to have been published in the meantime. Like those by Singer and James, Speight's book is a short read and comes as part of a series of commissioned works on major philosophers -- in this case, Acumen's Continental European Philosophy series. With so much of quality already to choose from, one might suspect that another introduction to Hegel would be superfluous. But Speight's book sets itself apart in an ingenious way by proceeding with an unusually self-conscious attention to its own place within the existing literature on Hegel. Rather than offering a standard overview of the basics of Hegelian thought, or giving a controversial interpretation of Hegel that would need more defense than the space a short book would allow, Speight focuses on those passages and themes which have loomed large in the reception history of Hegelian philosophy, deftly identifying rival interpretations and occasionally pointing to possible directions for future scholarship. Instead of providing a didactic summary, he has chosen to introduce the reader to the vigorous, ongoing conversation about Hegel that has continued, almost without interruption, since his death in 1831. . . . Read the rest here: http://ndpr.nd.edu/review.cfm?id=13906.

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