Introduction to the Reading of Hegel: Lectures on the Phenomenology of Spirit is a book about Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel by Alexandre Kojève. Alexandre Kojève was a Russian-born French philosopher and statesman whose philosophical Some of Kojève’s more important lectures on Hegel have been published in English in the now classic Introduction to the Reading of Hegel. Jan 14, Introhution n rte Reading of Hegel: Lecttres on rle Phenomenology of Spirig . KojEve is the most thoughtful, the most learned, the most pro-.
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Search the history of over billion web pages on the Internet. Based on the major work by Kojeve, this collection of lectures was chosen by Bloom to show the intensity of Kojeve s study and thought and the depth of his insight into Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit.
More important, for Kojeve was above all a philosopher and not an ide- ologue, this profound and venturesome work on Hegel will expose the readers to the excitement of discovering a great mind in all its force and power. Alexandre Kojeve was born in Russia and educated in Berlin. He is the editor of Politics and the Arts: Allan Bloom Plato ‘s Dialogue on Friendship: Published in French under the title Introduction a la Lecture de Hegel 2d ed.
Gallimard, English translation first published by Basic Books, Inc. Except for brief quotations in a review, this book, or parts thereof, must not be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the publisher.
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For further information, visit our website at www. We find ourselves in an important ep- och, in a fermentation, in which Spirit has made a leap forward, has gone beyond its previous con- crete form and acquired a new one. The whole mass of ideas and concepts that have been current until now, the very bonds of the world, are dis- solved and collapsing into themselves like a vision in a dream.
A new emergence of Spirit is at hand; philosophy must be the first to hail its appearance and recognize it, while others, resisting impotently, adhere to the past, and the majority unconsciously constitute the matter in which it makes its appear- ance.
But philosophy, in recognizing it as what is eternal, must pay homage to it. Hegel, Lectures at Jena offinal speech The courage of truth, faith in the power of Spirit, are the first condition of philosophy. Man, because he is Spirit, can and must consider himself worthy of everything that is most sublime.
He can never overestimate the greatness and power of his spirit. And if he has this faith, nothing will be so recal- citrant and hard as not to reveal itself to him.
History and Desire in Kojève
A hostile critic has given an accurate assessment of Kojeve’s influence: Kojeve is the unknown Superior whose dogma is revered, often unawares, by that important subdivision of the “animal kingdom of the spirit” in the contemporary world — the progressivist intellec- tuals.
In the years preceding the second world war in France, hfgel transmission was effected by means of oral initiation to a group of persons who in turn took the responsibility of instructing others, and so kojve. It was only in that by the efforts of Raymond Queneau, the classes on the Phenomenology of Spirit taught by Alexandre Kojeve at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes from were published under the title, Introduction to the Reading of Hegel.
This teaching was prior to the philosophico-political specula- tions of J. Merleau-Ponty, to the publication of les Kojsve modernes and the new orientation of Esprit, reviews which were the most important vehicles for the dissemination of progressivist ideology in France after the liberation.
From that time on we have hegep Kojeve’s teaching with the air of the times. Kokeve is, so far as we know, the first Although he made no effort at publicizing his reflections, the superior force of his interpretations imposed them willy-nilly on those who heard him. For this reason, anyone who wishes to understand the sense of that mixture of Marxism and Existentialism which characterizes contemporary radicalism must turn to Kojeve.
Introduction to the Reading of Hegel, Lectures on the ‘Phenomenology of Spirit’
From him one can learn both the implications and the necessary presuppositions of historicist philosophy; he elaborates what the world must be heegl if terms such as lojeve, work, and creativity are to have a rational content and be parts of a coherent under- standing.
It would, then, behoove any follower of the new version of the left who wishes to think through the meaning of his own action to study that thinker who is at its origin. However, Kojeve is above all a philosopher — which, at the least, means that he is primarily interested in the truth, the comprehen- sive truth.
His passion for clarity is more powerful than his passion for changing the world. The charm of political solutions does not cause him to forget the need to present an adequate account of the rational basis of those solutions, and this negel him from the al- ways distorted atmosphere of active commitment.
Introduction to the Reading of Hegel
He despises those intellectuals who respond to the demands of the contemporary audience and give the appearance of philosophic seriousness with- out raising the kinds of questions which would bore that audience or be repugnant to it. A certain sense of the inevitability of this kind hegdl abuse — of the conversion of philosophy into ideology — is, perhaps, at the root of his distaste for publication.
His work has been private and has, in large measure, been communicated only to friends. And the core of that work is the careful and scholarly study of Hegel.
Because he is a serious man, Kojeve has never sought to be orig- inal, and his originality has consisted in his search for the truth in the thought of wise men of the past. His interpretation has made Hegel an important alternative again, and showed how much we have to learn from him at a time when he seemed no longer of living significance.
Kojeve accomplished this revival of interest in Hegel not by adapting him to make him relevant, but by showing viii Editor’s Introduction that contemporary concerns are best understood in the permanent light of Hegel’s teaching. Koj eve’s book is a model of textual in- terpretation; the book is suffused with the awareness that it is of pressing concern to find out precisely what such a thinker meant, for he may well know much more than we do about the things that we need to know.
Here scholarship is in the service of philos- ophy, and Koj eve gives us a glimpse of the power of great minds and respect for the humble and unfashionable business of spending years studying an old book. His own teaching is but the distillation of more than six years devoted to nothing but reading a single book, line by line. Introduction to the Reading of Hegel con- stitutes the most authoritative interpretation of Hegel. Such a careful and comprehensive study which makes sense of Hegel’s very difficult texts will be of great value in America where, though his influence has been great and is ever greater, very few people read, let alone understand, him.
He has regularly been ig- nored by academic positivists who are put off by his language and are unaware of the problems involved in their own understanding of science and the relation of science to the world of human con- ‘ cern.
Hegel is now becoming popular in literary and artistic circles, but in a superficial form adapted to please dilettantes and other seekers after the sense of depth who wish to use him rather than understand him.
Kojeve presents Hegel’s teaching with a force and rigor which should counterpoise both tendencies. What distinguishes Koj eve’s treatment of Hegel is the recogni- tion that for Hegel the primary concern is not the knowledge of anything outside himself — be it of nature or history — but knowl- edge of himself, that is, kkojeve of what the philosopher is and how he can know what he knows.
Hegell world known by philosophy must be such that it supports philosophy and makes the philosopher the highest or most complete kind of human oojeve. The man who seeks any other form of knowledge, who cannot explain his own doings, cannot be called a philosopher. Kojevf of the rational state is only a corollary of the proof that the world can be known or is rational. Kojeve insists that Hegel is the only man who suc- ceeded in yegel this proof, and his interpretation of the Phenom- enology expands and clarifies Hegel’s assertion that reality is ra- tional and hence justifies rational discourse about it.
According to Kojeve, Hegel is the fulfillment of what Plato and Aristotle could only pray for; he is the modern Aristotle who kojvee to — or, I better, incorporated — the objections made to Aristotelian philoso- phy by modern natural and human science. It may indeed be doubted whether Kojeve is fully persuasive to the modern consciousness, particularly since he finds himself com- pelled to abandon Hegel’s philosophy of nature as indefensible and suggests that Heidegger’s meditation on being may provide a substitute for it.
The abandoned philosophy of nature may well be a necessary cosmic support for Hegel’s human, historical teach- ing. One might ask whether Kojeve is not really somewhere be- tween Hegel and Heidegger, but it should be added that Kojeve himself leads the reader to this question, which is a proper theme of philosophical reflection. Kojeve describes the character of wis- dom even if he does not prove it has been actualized. Now, the most striking feature of Kojeve’s thought is his in- sistence — fully oojeve — that for Hegel, and for all followers of Hegel, history is completed, that nothing really new can again happen H the world.
To most of us, such a position seems utterly paradoxical and wildly implausible. But Kojeve easily shows the ineluctable necessity of this consequence for anyone who under- stands human life to be historically determined, for anyone who believes that thought is relative to time — that is, for most modern “V men.
Lojeve elaborates the meaning of this logical necessity throughout the course of the book and attempts to indicate how a sensible man could accept it and interpret the x Editor’s Introduction world in accordance with it. It is precisely Marx’s failure to think j through the meaning of his own historical thought that proves his philosophical inadequacy and compels us to turn to the pro-: The Hegelian solution, accepted by Kojeve, is that this has indeed happened and that the enunciation of the universal, rational princi-j pies of the rights of man in the French Revolution marked hegrl be-i ginning of the end of history.
Thereafter, these are kojrve only accept-] able, viable principles of the state. The dignity of man has been recognized, and all men are understood to participate in it; all that remains to do is, at most, to realize the state grounded on these principles all kojjeve the world; no hrgel can undermine this syn- thesis, which contains within itself all the valid possibilities.
In this perspective Kojeve interprets our situation; he paints a powerful picture of our problems as those of post-historical man with none of the classic tasks of history to perform, living in a universal, homogeneous state where there is virtual agreement on all the fundamental principles of science, hevel, and religion.
He char- acterizes the life of the man who is free, who has no work, who has no worlds to conquer, states to found, gods to revere, or truths to discover. In so doing, Kojeve gives an example of what it means to follow out the necessity of one’s position manfully and philo- sophically.
If Kojeve is wrong, if his world does not correspond to the real one, we learn at least that either one must abandon reason — and this includes all science — or one must abandon historicism.
More common-sensical but less intransigent writers would not teach us nearly so much. Kojeve presents the essential outlines of historical thought; and, to repeat, historical thought, in one form or another, is at the root of almost all modern human science. It is concerning the characterization of man at the end of history that one of the most intriguing difficulties in Kojeve’s teaching arises. As is only to be expected, his honesty and clarity lead him to pose the difficulty himself.
But looking around us, Kojeve, like every other pene- trating observer, sees that the completion of the human task may very well coincide with the decay of humanity, the rebarbarization or even reanimalization of man. He addresses this problem particu- larly in the note on Japan added to the second edition pp.
After reading it, one wonders whether the citizen of the I universal homogeneous state is not identical to Nietzsche’s Last! Man, and whether Hegel’s historicism does not by an inevitable dialectic force us to a more somber and more radical historicism which rejects reason.
We are led to a confrontation between Hegel and Nietzsche and perhaps, even further, toward a reconsideration of the classical philosophy of Plato and Aristotle, who rejected his- toricism before the fact and whom Hegel believed he had sur- passed. It is the special merit of Kojeve to be one of the very few sure guides to the contemplation of the fundamental alternatives.
Its first chapter and the first in this translation was written by Kojeve and published in the January 14,issue of Mesures. The present translation includes slightly under one half of the original volume: The selections for this edition were made with two goals in mind: The translation tries to preserve as much as possible of Kojeve’s style and terminology, which are determined at least in part by his careful attempt to preserve and explain the meaning of Hegel’s own precise terminology.
Some of the oddities consequently pres- ent in the translation should perhaps be mentioned. Many of Kojeve’s translations of Hegelian terms are not the customary ones, but represent his interpretation of their meaning.
Introduction to the Reading of Hegel by Alexandre Kojeve
For exam- ple, he renders Moment, Sein in one of its meaningsand Wesen as ilement-constitutif, itre-donne, and realite-essentielle; these interpretations are maintained in the English as “constituent-ele- ment,” “given-being,” and “essential-reality.
Kojeve’s use of capitalization has been preserved throughout. Kojeve has also invented several French words, thus making it necessary to invent some English ones, such as “thingness” for ziii Translator’s Note chosite for Dingheit and “nihilate” for neantir. Of course, it is often impossible to use consistently one translation for each French term. To give two of many examples: Citations of other works of Hegel are from the Lasson- Hoffmeister edition Leipzig: Felix Meiner Verlag, I should like to express my thanks to Kenley and Christa Dove, who kindly made available for this edition their translation of Kojeve’s “Structure of the Phenomenology of Spirit” and their correlation of the page and line references to J.
Mac- millan, 12nd ed. I am obliged to the Danforth Foundation for a summer grant that enabled me to complete the revision of the translation.