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Hegel for non-Hegelians: The System of Philosophy (DATE TBD)

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Hegel for non-Hegelians: The System of Philosophy (DATE TBD)



Hegel—250th Anniversary lecture
Presented by Dr. Justin Burke

Bertrand Russell described Hegel as “the hardest to understand of all the great philosophers.” Schopenhauer called him “an unparalleled scribbler of nonsense” (and worse). For a third opinion, the Seattle Analytic Philosophy Club welcomes local Hegelian, Dr. Justin Burke, for a (mostly) jargon-free and (hopefully) demystifying discussion of the thought of G.W.F. Hegel (1770–1831).

Hegel has a reputation for being difficult, but Dr. Burke believes the problem lies not so much with his philosophy, as with the way it’s approached, which is usually through brief introductions and poorly-sourced summaries that often attempt to discuss Hegel’s thought in utterly unHegelian terms.

The desire to simplify Hegel, however, is understandable. He wrote: “the true is the whole”, and the whole, in his sense, is staggering in both size & scope—seeking nothing less than the attainment of “absolute knowing”. In short: for Hegel, the subject-matter of philosophy is, in some sense, everything.

Making matters worse, Hegel did not engage in isolated fields of enquiry (such as aesthetics, logic, moral philosophy, philosophy of mind, etc.), but instead believed that “scientific knowledge” is possible only in the form of an all-encompassing system of philosophy. “The true shape in which truth exists”, he wrote, “can only be the scientific system of that truth.”

Those wishing to familiarize themselves with this system, however, do not have an easy job, as it appears in full in only one place (but not in one book). Instead, Hegel sketched it out in a series of textbooks he wrote as an aid for students attending his lectures titled: The Encyclopedia of the Philosophical Sciences in Outline. As the only source for the form & content of Hegel’s thought as a whole, it is his philosophical Encyclopedia—including the Science of Logic, the Philosophy of Nature & Philosophy of Spirit—that will be the subject of this meeting of the Seattle Analytic Philosophy Club.

No prior knowledge of Hegel’s philosophy is required, and there will be time following the presentation for questions and discussion. Those interested in a preparatory reading will find a link to the introduction to Hegel’s Encyclopedia below:

About the Presenter: Justin Burke, MA, DPhil, studied philosophy in the United Kingdom at the University of St Andrews in Scotland, and completed his doctoral research on Hegel at the University of Oxford in England. In addition to Hegel, his current philosophical interests include dialectic, aesthetics, critical theory, and existentialism. He is also engaged in an ongoing collaboration with palliative care physician, BJ Miller, MD, of the UCSF School of Medicine, with whom he has written & presented on a subject they call “Palliative Aesthetics”, as well as the issue of existential suffering in the context of end-of-life care.
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