Please Enter a Search Term

Philosophy 3860: Hegel

Memorial University of Newfoundland

Class Time and Location: TTH 1030-1145hrs.
Dr. James Scott Johnston (, 864-6924.
Office Hours:
TTH 930-1030hrs, 1200-1300hrs, or, if necessary, by special appointment.
Phil 1200 or Permission of Instructor.

Theme: Hegel’s System

Together with Kant, Hegel is the most important philosopher of the past 250 years. He has touched almost every continental thinker who follows him, and many Anglo-American philosophers as well. In addition to Continental Philosophy, Hegel has influenced Classical Pragmatism, Process Philosophy, neo-Pragmatism, and post-Analytic thought.
Hegel is most notable for his method. Sometimes referred to as dialectical, Hegel’s method has its roots in Fichte and Schelling, and the central insight that concepts must grasp their instances and be grasped in turn if legitimate advances in philosophical thought are to take place. It is this method that gives rise to Hegel’s most famous declarations—the importance of mutual recognition, the unity of freedom and history, the backwards-looking nature of philosophy, and the actuality of an Absolute.
This course introduces Hegel’s system. In 1817, Hegel released for publication an outline of his system, which he titled The Encyclopedia of Philosophical Sciences in Outline. This became the basis for Hegel’s lectures at the University of Berlin. Subsequent editions of the Encyclopedia were published, together with lecture notes (Zusätze) of Hegel and Hegel’s students that add flesh to the bones of Hegel’s outline.
We will undertake an examination of the first part of his system (his logic), a glimpse at the second part (his philosophy of nature), and proceed to a detailed examination of the final part (the philosophy of mind). Along the way, we will read Hegel’s preface to the Phenomenology of Spirit (1807). The questions we will ask are historical and philosophical. What was Hegel responding to in writing his system? What did Hegel have to say that was different than his predecessors, esp. Kant, Fichte, and Schelling? What sort of metaphysics does Hegel hold? What sort of method does Hegel have? What is the Absolute? And why can’t we get Hegel interpretation right? Along the way, we will examine Hegel’s claims for logic, theory of knowledge, nature, ethics, right, justice, and the state.

Required Reading:

Hegel’s Encyclopedia of the Philosophical Sciences in Outline, edited by E. Behler. New York: Continuum Press, 1997. (In bookstore).

Lecture Notes on the Encyclopedia—these I will supply at various points in the course.

Recommended Reading:

Terry Pinkard, German Philosophy 1760-1860: the Legacy of Idealism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002. (In bookstore).

Additional Resources:

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Jim Pryor Guide to Writing a Philosophy Paper)


There are three assignments for this class. The assignments consist in three papers of approximately 4-5 pages each, double-spaced. The topics of the assignments are negotiable; however, it is expected that each student cover at least two of the main sections of the Encyclopedia. If this is your first time with Hegel, I strongly recommend that your paper be expository and exegetical rather than argumentative; an attempt to understand the various positions discussed rather than an argument for or against this or that position.


A Excellent 80-100%
B Good 65-79%
C Satisfactory 55-64%
D Minimally Acceptable 50-54%
F Failing below 50%

Note on Marking Papers: As much attention as possible will be devoted to marking papers for form as well as content (indeed, form and content are not properly separable, and clear development of a thesis depends on a sound and effective writing style.) I will use a rubric, which will be made available before the third stage of the writing assignment.

Use of Recording Devices in the Classroom:

I am open to students using recording devices provided they clear their use with me beforehand.

Intellectual Honesty:

Students are reminded of the University policy on intellectual honesty, especially that part which pertains to plagiarism and self-plagiarism (see the Memorial University Calendar p. 63). Plagiarism and self-plagiarism are forms of academic fraud; complaints or allegations of such are subject to the adjudication of the Senate Discipline Committee.

Statement on Students with Disabilities: Students with permanent or temporary disabilities who would like to discuss classroom accommodations are asked to see the instructor as soon as possible.


Introduction (Weeks 1-2)
-Background: German Idealism
-Problems of Transcendental Idealism (the thing-in-itself; Freedom)
-Problems of Romanticism (Der Schoenen Seele; Intellectual Intuition)
-Fichte and Schelling on dialectic, recognition, and self-positing
-How to Read Hegel

Preface to Phenomenology of Spirit (Week 3)

The Preface and Introduction to the Encyclopedia (week 4)

The Encyclopedia Logic (Weeks 4-6)
-paper 1 due end of week 5

Introduction to the Philosophy of Nature and selections from the Lecture Notes (Weeks 7-8)

The Encyclopedia Philosophy of Mind/Spirit (Weeks 9-12)
-paper 2 due end of week 9
-paper 3 due end of week 12

Detailed Rubric and Worksheet for Grading:

University Standards Grade Work that Receives this Grade
“A” indicates excellent performance with clear evidence of: comprehensive knowledge of the subject matter and principles treated in the course; a high degree of originality and independence of thought; a superior ability to organize and analyze ideas; and an outstanding ability to communicate







Exceptional work showing exceptional effort; no problems at all, either in form or content; well-organized; written assignments and papers have theses unless otherwise indicated; the thesis is developed well and thoroughly throughout the paper; it is supported throughout by evidence and argument; arguments are well-developed and well-connected throughout; evidence throughout of original and critical thinking; thorough knowledge and understanding of textual material; excellent use of textual material; textual arguments interpreted carefully and creatively; excellent and compelling writing throughout; this work is also very sensitive to issues raised in class.
  A- Excellent work; no major problems; few or no minor problems; well-organized; written assignments and papers have theses; thesis is well-developed and supported by evidence and argument; arguments are usually developed well and well-connected; evidence of original and critical thinking; very good knowledge, understanding, and use of textual material; good interpretation of textual material; very good writing; sensitive to issues raised in class.
“B” indicates good performance with evidence of: substantial knowledge of the subject-matter, a moderate degree of originality and thought; a good ability to organize and analyze ideas, and an ability to communicate clearly and fluently.






Very good work; no major problems; some minor problems; organized; thesis in written assignments and papers; thesis developed and supported by evidence and argument; arguments developed and connected, though usually needing more connection and more creative synthesizing; sometimes more reflection on the material; some creative or critical thinking; good knowledge, understanding, and use of textual material; good writing; good awareness of issues raised in class.
  B- Good work but usually a major problem plus minor problems; organization can be weak; theses in written assignments and papers; thesis not developed or supported enough by evidence and argument; not good enough development or connection of arguments; often some very good ideas but weakly supported; satisfactory knowledge and understanding of textual material and OK use of textual material; writing OK but needs improvement; awareness of issues raised in class; THIS IS OFTEN A ROUGH DRAFT.
“C” indicates satisfactory performance with evidence of: an acceptable grasp of the subject-matter; some ability to organize and analyze ideas; and an ability to communicate adequately.






Some good work and often interesting ideas; major problems; many minor problems; vague or undeveloped theses; not much evidence or argument for thesis; some satisfactory knowledge or understanding of textual material; some OK use of textual material; writing is sometimes OK but often vague or confusing; many generalizations without specific argument; some awareness of issues raised in class.
  C- Interesting ideas; many major problems; many minor problems; vague or undeveloped theses; not much evidence or argument for thesis; some satisfactory knowledge or understanding of textual material; some OK use of textual material; writing is sometimes OK but often vague or confusing; many generalizations without specific argument; some awareness of issues raised in class.
“D” indicates minimally acceptable performance with evidence of: rudimentary knowledge of the subject-matter; some evidence that organizational and analytical skills have been developed, but with significant weaknesses in some areas, and a significant weakness in the ability to communicate






Many major and minor problems; virtually no thesis, argument, or evidence; only a passing acquaintance with textual material; poor use of it; writing frequently vague or confusing; topic, assignment, or question very poorly addressed; rudimentary awareness of issues raised in class.
F” indicates the student has handed in an incomplete assignment; plagiarized and/or attempted to pass off another’s assignment as one’s own; or did not hand in the assignment.
(Below 50%)
F For plagiarism, F = Zero. For partially completed assignments, or (very) late assignments, the grade will be dependent upon final completion and submission. You will still get points (below 50%) if you turn in a very late or incomplete assignment by the end of term.


Assignment Worksheet

Part 1: Content (MOST IMPORTANT)
Does the paper:
Have a clearly defined thesis?
Support the thesis throughout the paper by providing evidence, examples, and arguments?
Contain a good deal of textual work?
Consider and respond to possible objections to the thesis?
Contain rigorous argument, discussion, and engagement with the text(s)?
Express your ideas in your words?
Clearly distinguish your ideas and words from those of any other authors you use?

Part II: Structure
Does the paper have:
A thesis statement in the opening paragraph?
A formal introduction or introductory paragraph which tells the reader exactly what the layout of the paper will be? In other words:
Could the reader use the formal introduction as an outline for the paper, classifying each and every paragraph of the body of the paper under some part of the formal introduction? (except for the conclusion, which is not the same as the body of the paper?)
Clear conceptual divisions that correspond to what you have promised to do in the formal introduction? (Recommendation: make this clear to the reader and yourself by using subheadings in the paper to convey the divisions).
A conclusion which sums up what you have done and then ties it together in some way that goes beyond the overview of the introduction?

Part III: Process, Communication, and Polish
In preparing the final draft, have you:
Inspected each paragraph to make sure it is actually doing work in the paper? Each paragraph should contribute to the clear conceptual division it falls under (see previous checkpoint).
Revised any sentences which are confusing or redundant? Ask yourself, when in doubt, “what is this sentence doing here?” Does it: explain, clarify, illustrate, help to provide an example, etc.
Edited the paper for grammar, spelling, diction, and general clarity? Remember, what you want to say must be communicated—grammar, spelling, etc., are necessary parts of such communication.
The length of the paper is limited to whatever the limit is? (or to the absolute max). If the paper exceeds the absolute maximum, cut it down—you will find sentences (perhaps even paragraphs) that are unnecessary. If you cannot, consult me.

Part IV: Logistics
Before handing the paper in have you made sure that:
You have properly acknowledged all uses of an author’s ideas, whether in his/her own words or in yours, in the text? This applies to any scholarly material as well.
All quotations and uses of an author’s ideas are properly cited and formatted?
You have a proper Works Cited page? These would be the readings you have used in the paper; see any manual of style for this.
The paper is properly typed (or prepared with a word processor)? You have proof-read it carefully for typing and other errors.
Double-spacing is used throughout (except perhaps, for footnotes and endnotes)?
The paper is stapled?
The paper has a title and your name on the page?

Other recommendations for your Paper:
Pick (or craft) a topic which genuinely interests you
Highlight or emphasize central words in your paper topic such as ‘compare,’ ‘explain,’ ‘support,’ and others like these.
Brainstorm or write freely in order to get the draft going
Use an OUTLINE, even if you do not like to; but remember, it is a tool, not a stone tablet
Write a rough draft of the paper (this is different from the first draft)
Revise this draft into the first draft
Keep using your outline (which is not carved in stone—revise the outline if the paper changes)
Keep using your outline throughout your drafting by comparing what you have written with the requirements of the outline (which is not carved in stone—revise the outline if the paper changes)
Consult me at any time in the process of preparing the paper—that’s what I’m here for
Use the resources of the WRITING CENTRE, located in SN 2053 (the science bldg.), 737-3168, email: (Bring any assignment sheet with you, including this one).
Use standard formats for citation and other stylistic issues: which format you use is up to you (MLA, APA, Chicago/Turabian, etc.) but it should be clear in the paper.