Why is Hegel accused of being “unreadable”?

Thanks to Encyclopedias and other secondary sources through which we may know what Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel was saying. His original writings are almost not readable.

My assessment is that Hegel does not expect anything from or care anything for the reader. He is himself expert of Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Spinoza, Locke, Leibniz, Hume and Kant etc. and he is talking to himself. He is not even trying to explain his points to readers. His context is his own mind and only he knows where he is talking from. It seems like he was writing diaries for record of himself alone and then published those diaries.

Off course it may be possible to reach to his context by first becoming expert of all those Philosophers as stated above. It also may be equally correct to say that he is writing only for top experts of the field or for advanced students. But he himself does not state this ambition. Based on my attempt of reading him from translation of original writings coupled with what secondary sources inform us about him, my understanding is that he is idealist and talks in terms of universals. His dynamics are dynamics of ideas alone. Progress in ideas has nothing to do with observation of Phenomena though title of one of his books is “Phenomenology of Spirit”. Progress in ideas takes place only due to internal conflicts of ideas. Sometimes it seems that he also favors empirical approach and talks about real things that exist around us, but a closer look may reveal that he talks about them in the sense of “universals”.

Hegel’s Dialectic is a closed Rationalist Idealism. There is already an idea, a ‘thesis’ (thesis_anti-thesis are perhaps interpretations to be found only in secondary sources but do offer convenient approach for describing what Hegel was actually saying). Progress in ideas will come from within this thesis as the same thesis will give rise to anti-thesis. This is closed system because there is no role of outsider fresh information in the process of up-gradation of ideas. There is no role of phenomena as well. This is Idealism because ideas alone give rise to further ideas and there is no role of material world. It is Rationalism because only an internal logic of ideas i.e. meta-logic determines the direction of ideas. This is extreme Rationalism like of World of Ideas or Universalization that of Plato.

2 thoughts on “Why is Hegel accused of being “unreadable”?

  1. I remember thinking of Kant as unreadable, obfuscating, deliberately undervaluing clarity without regard for the reader. I ended up reading the Critique of Judgment backwards — trying to read it too fast, I’d get to page 20, realize I had no clue, go back to page 19 so I could understand page 20, then go back to 18 so I could understant 19…. Somewhere along the way, I realized that what makes Kant unreadable is not a neglect for clarity but an absolute obsession with clarity. The assumptions behind every claim, and all the assumptions behind each of those assumptions, are worked out with fanatical precision. After that epiphany, I could feel my way through Kant’s labyrinth of ideas with more pleasure and more awareness of what was going on around me. Maybe it’s the same with Hegel 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *