There seem to be quite a few different versions of Hegel's Lectures on the History of Philosophy floating around. What gives?


Background on "Lectures on X"

Nearly every "Hegel's lectures on X" faces two issues. First, Hegel lectured on most topics multiple times in versions that were minutely distinct. Second, most of the "lectures on X" are cribbed from a combination of his students notes and his comments.

For the History of Philosophy, both Hegel and his students thought these were vitally important lectures, and he lectured in Jena, Heidelberg, and Berlin several times on it.

19th Century Issues

For "Lectures on the History of Philosophy," there is a problem in the German scholarship that is echoed in the English scholarship. As such, there have been two complete translations of things called Hegel's "Lectures on the History of Philosophy."

One of the first people involved was Karl Ludwig Michelet. From 1833-1836, He compiled a version of Hegel's "Lectures on the History of Philosophy" and published it by meshing together many different sets of lecture notes (meaning from different times Hegel had lectured over the years) and student notes (from students who had heard different versions). This work got a bad reputation as cobbled together and hard to read.

Michelet responded by smoothing it out even more in a revised edition from 1840-1844. The second edition of Michelet is in some respects worse than the first because it blends and changes things even more to make a smooth single coherent document.

Both versions suffer from issues which make it hard to detangle Michelet's editing from originals. While this doesn't meet the standards of contemporary text work, this sort of thing was quite common historically.

A second muddling complication is that Hegel authorized Eduard Gans (1837) and Karl Regel (1840) to lecture from his 1822/23 and 1830/31 editions (from the "Einleitung" to Hoffmeister's translation).

E.S. Haldane translated Michelet's second edition in 1896 or so. You can buy a published version from the University of Nebraska press with an introduction by Frederick Beiser or download it for free from a variety of sources.

20th Century Issues

In 1917-1918, Georg Lasson produced a critical edition that separated out lectures from 1822/23, 1824/25, 1826/27, 1828/29 und 1830/31. This provides four different lecture versions.

This enabled Hoffmeister tried to build a better German edition that of the lecture based in part on a handwritten set of notes from Hegel dated November 8, 1830 (but many other sources used by Michelet were by this time lost) [from Hoffmeister's "Einleitung"). The version split the text Hegel had and the amendments Lasson made using different type faces (italics and straight text respectively). Hoffmeister claimed that Michelet both (a) tried to produce a scholarly critical edition and that he (b) failed to produce one.

In 1971, Quentin Lauer translated just the introduction of Hoffmeister's edition in Hegel's Idea of Philosophy and also readable at marxists.org.

21st Century Issues

Around the same time, German scholarship started working on a new critical edition of Hegel's lectures. This was published as G. W. F. Hegel: Vorlesungen über die Geschichte der Philosophie by Felix Meiner Verlag (1994) edited by Pierre Gamiron and Walter Jaeschke. This versionprovides the 1825-1826 lecture as its template and also supplies alternate introductions from different years.

In 2009, Robert F. Brown did a translation of the most recent German scholarship that works primarily from the Berlin lectures for Oxford University Press.


  1. https://ndpr.nd.edu/news/lectures-on-the-history-of-philosophy-1825-6-volume-i-introduction-and-oriental-philosophy/
  2. Quentin Lauer
  3. Brown's translation and introduction
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    Nothing to add regarding English sources. One should be careful to distinguish Hegel's lectures on the history of philosophy and Gans's lectures about (aspects of) Hegel's history of philosophy from the same time and authorised by Hegel. Materially, I might leave the comment that one of the most insightful (and most ignored) scholars and commentators on the history of thought and thought about history from Hegel to Nietzsche and Heidegger is Karl Löwith. This is probably one of the places where interested students that might make use of that knowledge will find it easier than elsewhere.
    – Philip Klöcking
    Jan 21 '19 at 12:23
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    Interesting and insightful! I hadn't run across the issue of Gans's lectures. It's definitely a hornet's nest of annoyance and complexity. Fortunately, for my current project, I don't need such great precision as to which lecture it's coming from since the point I'm using it for is more generalized and about Hegel's treatment of Chinese philosophy in it.
    – virmaior
    Jan 21 '19 at 12:27
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    Sounds interesting! Guess you stumbled across this relevant answer and its sources then? Best of luck for your research!
    – Philip Klöcking
    Jan 21 '19 at 12:33
  • 1
    I've spent hours reading about * Confucius Sinarum Philosophus* and several Mungello articles. He's one of the best sources for this. There's also a bit of Jonathan Israel and the Rede of Wolff, especially the Einleitung of the more recent German translation, which was impeccably sourced.
    – virmaior
    Jan 21 '19 at 12:42
  • @PhilipKlöcking. I, too, had missed the Gans issue. Thanks.
    – Geoffrey Thomas
    Jan 29 '19 at 9:28

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