Introductions to Hegel

In one of the comments threads below, Marc Mulholland asks:

“I’m trying to swot up on Hegel a wee bit. Is there any ‘Hegel for Dummies’ text you’d recommend? I’m particularly interested about all this business regarding self-conscious subjectivities meeting with each other etc.”

Someone asked me if I had a recommendation for an introduction to Hegel’s social philosophy last year, and this is what I wrote then (edited slightly):

It’s Hegel and the Philosophy of Right in the Routledge Philosophy GuideBooks series (red covers) by Dudley Knowles, published a couple of years ago, and it’s really very good indeed: highly intelligent, genuinely introductory, and saying all the right things to help beginning students get to grips with the rather forbidding text of the Philosophy of Right.The only problem with this recommendation is that it’s very much a book by a moral philosopher, so the material in the first two chapters gets dealt with at greater length than the material in the third chapter, on Ethical Life, where most of the “social philosophy” gets discussed. So for something more specifically focused on that, there’s Charles Taylor’s Hegel and Modern Society (from 1979, I think, pub. by Cambridge), which is good, and, as I recall, fairly wide-ranging.

More advanced are Michael Hardimon’s Hegel’s Social Philosophy: The Project of Reconciliation, which is good (though I haven’t read it all the way through); Allen Wood, Hegel’s Ethical Thought, which offers a good analytical discussion of the Philosophy of Right; or Shlomo Avineri, Hegel’s Theory of the Modern State.

The best book of all on Hegel’s social theory in English (I don’t know the German literature at all), but a book that is – like Hegel – a tough read even for very advanced undergraduates is Frederick Neuhouser, Foundations of Hegel’s Social Theory: Actualizing Freedom, which is one of the best philosophical books I’ve read in the last decade.

But for an introductory text, though, Knowles’s book is exemplary…

I think that’s still what I think, but that may not be helpful for Marc, who mentions “self-conscious subjectivities meeting with each other”, which makes it sound to me as if he’s more interested in the Phenomenology of Mind than in the Philosophy of Right – and I just don’t know the P of M literature at all. So if there are any Hegelians out there, can we have comments on these recommendations, additional bibliography for readers-approaching-Hegel and, in particular, suggestions for getting started with the Phenomenology?

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