Having read many commentaries on and interpretations of Hegel's Phenomenology, I've found Alexandre Kojève's Introduction to the Reading of Hegel: Lectures on the Phenomenology of Spiritto be the best written and most helpful. The language is terse, direct, powerful, fresh, and compelling. It's always struck me as an example of how philosophy ought to be articulated, and I return to it often for inspiration.
In this book Kojève gives the most convincing argument as to Hegel's basic rightness in his grasp and description of "the Concept," i.e., the concept of concepts. (He Capitalizes the big concepts a lot, but it's not so obnoxious in context.) Kojève argues that Hegel is the first to understand that the Concept = Time itself. Human Reason or thinking itself, "the Concept," is the concrete location where Time becomes capable of grasping itself, where Existence grasps its own Temporality.
Things are not in time as if inside a spatial container (as in the Newtonian concept of an independent void space, opposed from its beginning by Leibniz), but rather things are modes of concrete time itself since all concrete things are temporal in themselves. Such metaphysical talk would be empty if it did not explain the appearance of Human Reality, though. In Nature, there is extension and change but not Progress as such, which requires the normative judgment of "good, better than before" (we shouldn't underestimate how stubbornly oblivious a committed naturalist or physicist can become to this normative foundation of their own sciences and technologies).
Kojève argues that the self-grasping of Temporality in us ("time held in thought" in Hegel's phrase) enables part of Nature -- negated and mediated by the conflicts, labor, and Desires in Human History -- to eventually become Freedom in the shape of the modern Human World, i.e., the World of "Spirit". And this humanizing process is articulated by Kojève's Hegel in such a way as to bring satisfaction and closure to many riddles contained within Western metaphysics and politics from Parmenides and Plato up to today.
Kojève was a Marxist turned philosopher, but the admiring introduction to this book is given by arch American conservative Allan Bloom.
The book records Kojève's 1930s lectures in France on Hegel, which were attended by Sartre and Merleau-Ponty, among others. These lectures were a huge influence on 20th-century French philosophy -- all that crazy phenomenological, existential, and post-structuralist theory which later invaded the American humanities and continues to hold sway there. Kojève is also the Hegel interpreter behind Francis Fukuyama's infamous 1992 book The End of History and the Last Man,which -- like or dislike -- brought Hegel roaring back into mainstream philosophical and political debate.
Tom, continuing to work my way through PofS. I wouldn’t even attempt it if it were not for the podcasts. They help a lot and they inspire to go back and read the text when I know I wouldn’t do it otherwise. I ordered the Kojeve book from Amazon and am hoping it will help. I read the Fukuyama book years ago and liked it a lot but knew very little about Hegel.
Thanks for taking the time to help out those of us having difficulty sublating. Looking forward to hearing the latest podcast and checking out Kojeve. Wasn’t he in a police drama back in the 70’s? 🙂
Tom McDonald says
Thanks for the note Russ. Would love to hear more about how its going and what you think of the Kojève book when you receive it. You mean this guy? http://slowpencil.net/menutron/inventory/vinyl/random/n_03.php
Daniel Horne says
Who sublates ya, baby?
Tootsie pops, baby.
david jose says
1. i believe merleau-ponty wasnt one of the usuals in the kojeve’s classes (i didnt spent time checking this)
2. Look at the french edition (which is complete, unlike the english one) and you will probably change your mind about this: “the best written and most helpful”