My Interpretation of Hegel’s #3 in his Preface to Phenomenology of Spirit

Charles Lincon
2 min readSep 12, 2022


“”Hegel and Napoleon in Jena” (illustration from Harper’s Magazine, 1895), whose meeting became proverbial due to Hegel’s notable use of Weltseele (“world-soul”) in reference to Napoleon (“the world-soul on horseback”, die Weltseele zu Pferde).” Image and description from Wikipedia. I clai no ownership.

Hegel writes:

“The demand for such explanations, as also the attempts to satisfy this demand, very easily pass for the essential business philosophy has to undertake. Where could the inmost truth of a philosophical work be found better expressed than in its purposes and results? and in what way could these be more definitely known than through their distinction from what is produced during the same period by others working in the same field? If, however, such procedure is to pass for more than the beginning of knowledge, if it is to pass for actually knowing, then we must, in point of fact, look on it as a device for avoiding the real business at issue, an attempt to combine the appearance of being in earnest and taking trouble about the subject with an actual neglect of the subject altogether. For the real subject-matter is not exhausted in its purpose, but in working the matter out”

  • Hegel, Preface to the Phenomenology of Spirit, #3

One could read this as a categorical opposition to summaries and “gists” — that is to say, Hegel opposes summarizing anything. (Certainly, one could read such opposition in Nietzsche’s writings as well).

I read that intro more as stating that “gists” and summaries can be helpful but only if we acknowledge that they are superficial. Moreover, they can be a starting point. But I read, that Hegel is stating the results without the method to which those results emerged is a skeleton of the system.

This is not a disagreement entirely from Hegel completely opposing summaries — but a differentiation.

I don’t see him as “opposed” per se, but that “gists” are not everything and you’re missing a lot if you only get a “gist” — because the system to which and how results emerge is important.

This notion that the system for how we reach results is important in Hegel’s thought. The idea of reaching a result through a system — and acknowledging this early Hegel’s Phenomenology — serves an important purpose to outline Hegel’s thought.

© Charles Edward Andrew Lincoln IV



Charles Lincon

Renaissance literature, Shakespeare, Hegelian dialectics, Attic Greek, masters University of Amsterdam.