I read The Phenomenology of Spirit like 10 years ago, but I felt like it was very vague and abstract. Hegel seemed to have been describing the development of human thought with respect to the absolute truth, but I didn't know if it was a historical development, the natural human development of the mind from an individual perspective or whatnot, and the whole process seemed to be very vague and too abstract to me.

What would you recommend someone to do to fully understand it? I remember there was a dictionary for the book, which was as thick as the book itself and I thought it was ridiculous. How did people like Marx came to understand the book? Did they just understand it by reading it? I feel it's impossible to understand the book fully by merely reading it.

  • 2
    Marx had the advantage of attending lectures, and mingling with, Hegel's students in person (Gans, Feuerbach, Bauer), and many attest that Hegel himself was a spellbinding lecturer (indeed, it explains how he managed to inspire so many people given the way his works are written). Don't worry, nobody knows precisely what Hegel has in mind there, hence anyone can read in what suits them best (as did Marx), which has its own benefits. If you want an aid you can peruse a commentary, e.g. Findlay's, Siep's or Stern's, free electronic versions of each come up upon googling.
    – Conifold
    Commented Feb 20, 2019 at 0:59
  • 3
    @conifold many attest that Hegel himself was a spellbinding lecturer <-- this seems to be the opposite of what the editors of the lecture series (e.g. Hodgson's 2006 and 2007 introductions to Hegel's Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion). Do you have citation for Hegel being a good lecturer?
    – virmaior
    Commented Feb 20, 2019 at 1:31
  • 4
    @repomonster my sense as a Hegel scholar is that Marx does not have a good grasp of Hegel. There's (and I speak glibly) an inverse fame rule: the more famous the commentator is independently the more likely the reading is not good or faithful.
    – virmaior
    Commented Feb 20, 2019 at 1:33
  • 2
    Robert C. Solomon authored In the Spirit of Hegel, which is a study of Phenomenology of Spirit.
    – Bread
    Commented Feb 20, 2019 at 1:49
  • 2
    More practical items: Q. Lauer amazon.com/Reading-Hegels-Phenomenology-Spirit/dp/0823213552 Findlay (not a Marxist as far as I know) but commentary on the Phenomenology marxists.org/reference/archive/hegel/help/findlay.htm
    – Gordon
    Commented Feb 20, 2019 at 8:39

1 Answer 1


To understand the first three chapters of The Phenomenology of Spirit, it is important to keep in mind that Hegel is primarily concerned with the development of human thought. This development is not simply a historical or chronological process, but rather a dialectical one. In other words, it is a process in which each stage emerges out of and negates the previous one.

The first chapter, "Sense-Certainty," deals with our most immediate and basic form of knowledge, which is based on the senses. This form of knowledge is limited, because it is only concerned with the particular and the here and now. It cannot grasp concepts or universals.

The second chapter, "Perception," deals with a more sophisticated form of knowledge, in which we not only take account of the particular objects around us, but also begin to see them in relation to one another and to universals. This form of knowledge is still limited, because it is based on the external world of appearances.

The third chapter, "Force and the Understanding," introduces us to the world of thought, where we move beyond the limitations of sense-certainty and perception. In this chapter, Hegel discusses the concept of "force" (or "strength"), which he sees as the fundamental principle underlying all reality. He also introduces the idea of "the understanding," which is our capacity to reason.

The first three chapters of The Phenomenology of Spirit are difficult, but they are essential to understanding Hegel's thought. By working through these chapters carefully, we can begin to see how human thought develops and how it is dialectically related to the absolute truth.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .