Are there some writings that I should make myself familiar with beforehand, in order to rightly understand Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit?
I am thinking of works like

  • Spinoza's Ethics
  • German Idealism
    • Kant's Critique of Pure Reason
    • Fichte's, Schelling's main works

Or, I should go straightforward to the Phenomenology of Spirit?

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    Just out of curiosity (and since I've read some bits of it), what is your motivation to read it?
    – Lukas
    Dec 3, 2014 at 11:29
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    Well, mostly, because of Rudolf Steiner's view of Hegel. For instance see this lecture and this one.
    – DrKaoliN
    Dec 3, 2014 at 11:53
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    And I also believe that by reading this book I will have built the grounds for reading Spengler's Decline of the West and Heidegger's Being and Time.
    – DrKaoliN
    Dec 3, 2014 at 12:04
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    I found Pippin's book useful as a gateway to Hegel books.google.com/books/about/…. He introduces his ideas genetically through Kant, Fichte and Schelling building a ladder to Hegel so to speak. Here is an interview with Pippin to get the taste nonsite.org/editorial/….
    – Conifold
    Dec 3, 2014 at 19:54
  • forgive the crazy question, but what do you want to understand about it?
    – user34654
    Aug 25, 2018 at 22:23

6 Answers 6


It's nearly impossible to decipher Hegel even with that sort of background without a teacher. While I think knowledge of Kant and Spinoza is helpful, you should also be read up on your Plato and Aristotle.

I would recommend reading some secondary literature alongside it. I recommend Lauer's Hegel's idea of philosophy and Frederick Baser's Hegel.

I would not recommend Kojeve, Sartre, Marx, or any other hyper famous philosopher's work on Hegel as an interpretive aid. They usually have their own strong agenda as to what they are doing with it.

  • I have read about 20 paragraphs (from 90 - 110) in the Phenomenology, and I have understood about 80% of it, then I verified my understanding with the help of Gregory Sadler's youtube series and I got most of that (about 60 - 70%) right. Is it that the real difficult stuff comes after the first chapter or do you think that it is safe to continue this way while checking my understanding from time to time?
    – SmootQ
    Jun 14, 2019 at 15:11
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    Hard to say, I don't know what you background is, but if it's making sense, then by all means carry on. To really check your understanding, look at some secondary literature and find out whether they agree with your reading.
    – virmaior
    Jun 15, 2019 at 0:03
  • Thank you, I will continue then. Best ! As for my background in philosophy, I am just a hobbyist, but I do read and think about philosophical questions in different topics at least 2 - 3 hours a day (when in a bus for work)
    – SmootQ
    Jun 15, 2019 at 9:23

I agree with @virmaior that finding a knowledgeable teacher, friend, or a class on "The Phenomenology" is really important in order to get the most out of the text. A basic understanding of Kant is absolutely necessary since Hegel is directly in conversation with the methodology of Kant in the work, particularly in the first half. Also, don't read the introduction until you finish the rest of the book!

As far as secondary sources, I found "German Philosophy 1760-1860" by Terry Pinkard really helpful in understanding some of the history of German Idealism and the context in which Hegel was working. The Pinkard and the text "Hegel and the Phenomenology of the Spirit" by Robert Stern were both recommended for a class I took on TPOTS and both of those texts were put under the heading "Beginning Hegel" or something similar. Since I was (and still am) "Beginning Hegel" I'll say that I found both those texts very useful in the class.

If you can't find a class or a teacher near you, then I would recommend at least reading it along with someone else and listening to J.M. Bernstein’s lectures on Hegel and Kant.


I agree with all of the above. You could, of course, start with some Kant and Spinoza. But all philosophers are bottomless, and assuming you have only one lifetime, you might as well just jump into the "hermeneutic circle," in keeping with Hegel's own method. There is no ideal starting point. You will need secondary literature, but not necessarily a classroom teacher. I'd recommend "An Introduction to Hegel" by Houlgate, and a general overview of German Idealism, just to get your historical bearings. There are any number of companion texts to the Phenomenology. Though I otherwise agree with virmaior I'd say Kojeve is worth reading, since his lectures were very influential in terms of Hegel's modern relevance. As an aside, tt is sometimes said that Hegel is easier to grasp if you dip into his earlier theological writings.


In Jacques Derrida's 1982 book Margins of Philosophy there is an essay (apparently written in 1968) called "The Pit and the Pyramid: Introduction to Hegel's Semiology", which is a very lucid summary of Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit.


There is a very long series on youtube by a philosophy professor called "half hour hegel". It goes through, skipping nothing, section by section of this text. It seems very good. I bought a copy to follow along with his lectures. I was wondering about pre-requisites as well.

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    Hello and welcome to Philosophy.SE. This would be better added as a comment, rather than an answer. Please review the tour page to help familiarize yourself with the forum, including how to improve answers and guidelines for comments. Enjoy the site! Jun 22, 2017 at 4:06

In response to your initial question, I would recommend Allen Scott's prize winning Hollywood ...he avoids a Lynchian PoMo. Interpretation as well as Jean Paul's existentialism. But as in his myriad other books, he is Hegel's dialectics at its best.

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