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The World’s Most Difficult Philosopher

September 7, 2017

There is very little about Hegel that I find amusing–certainly not reading him. Even less amusing are those pontificateurs who pretend to understand him and are prepared to defend him. I’ve never read a thing about Hegel that proved to be even mildly amusing.

Until now.

Roger Kimball takes Hegel and his interpreters to task in the New Criterion, and he does a masterfully amusing job of it.

What should we think of this argument? Badly, anyway. It threatens to destabilize the meaning of some perfectly good words by, so to speak, falsely existentializing them. If at noontime someone said to Hegel, “George, bring me that book now,” and he waited until night to do it because, after all, that was when he had inscribed the word “now” on a piece of paper, we wouldn’t think him clever. Part of learning language is learning the limits of language: grasping what it cannot tell us as well as what it can. On my desk at the moment is Big and Little: A Book of Opposites by Richard Scarry, a very different sort of philosopher from Hegel. It recounts in vivid detail the doings of Hilda the hippo, Squeaky the mouse, and many others. Our son, aetat. two, has absorbed the difference between big and little, up and down, now and then, this and that without once positing the negative or mediating the immediate. I asked him about what Hegel said and he just laughed. Whom would you trust?

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