How to start reading Hegel

How to start reading Hegel September 18, 2020

Let me be clear about this up front: reading Hegel is not for the faint of heart, the lazy, or those without extended time for reading built into their day. Even reading about Hegel can be a challenge, but good books about Hegel can open up the ideas of a difficult thinker to a wider audience. To that end, Shao Kai Tseng’s book in P&R’s “Great Thinkers” series G.W.F. Hegel is a useful place to start.

Image: P&R

The first part of this book explores Hegel’s importance today; the second summarizes Hegel’s thought; and the third reflects on Hegel’s thought from a Reformed perspective. The first section is going to be the most accessible for most readers, but the second and third are still manageable with patience and effort. Tseng carefully walks us through difficult German terms and and even more difficult philosophical and theological ideas. I won’t try to dig into the weeds of Hegel–if you want that you can read the book.

Instead, I’ll just point out that Hegel is important to read both because of his importance as a philosopher, but also because of his indirect impact on theology and the modern world. Hegel, whatever else he has done, is a major source of modern theological liberalism. This is a challenge for me as a political conservative, since Hegel is also a major source of modern theological conservatism. This isn’t terribly uncommon–I tell my students that if you are conservative, you need to be ready to dig in to a tradition where the major intellectual figures are either Roman Catholic or theologically liberal. It is a tough field in which to be an Evangelical Protestant, and one where there are no major figures from our particular tradition.

Which doesn’t negate Hegel’s value. If anything it makes him more important to understand, given how wide and broad his influence has been. That, in turn, makes this volume in the Great Thinkers series all the more useful and worth your time.


Dr. Coyle Neal is co-host of the City of Man Podcast and an Associate Professor of Political Science at Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, MO

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