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08/02/2012

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Thomas

Robert Brandom's wonderfully anachronistic review of Hegel's Phenomenology comes to mind (Topoi, 27 (1) 2008). Here's an excerpt:

"The Phenomenology of Spirit is an odd, Janus-faced amalgam, looking forward and backward at the same time. It develops a constellation of ideas consonant with the very latest philosophical trends (pursued at least in some rarified circles) [...] The author has not, for whatever reasons or causes, explicitly acknowledged the evident affiliations with contemporary philosophical views that make his claims so resonant and suggestive—indeed, provocative and stimulating. Yet he has not hesitated to present this up-to-the-minute content in the form of a grand, systematic all-encompassing metaphysical metanarrative of a sort that is decidedly out of fashion these days. The tone, too, is oddly out of step with today’s intellectual sensibilities. For although imbued throughout with an appreciation of the tragic aspects of modern existence, it exudes a sunny, optimistic faith that conflict, failure and error are the engines of progress, that there is a kind of philosophically achievable rational self-understanding that when suitably internalized as a form of self-consciousness and externalized as culture can decisively overcome the systemic alienation characteristic of modern selves and their institutions.
This enigmatic combination of ideas and attitudes (think of Dewey as a logical, linguistic rationalist) is too important and suggestive, and bears on too many issues of substantial contemporary significance, for us to ignore simply because of the admitted idiosyncrasies and diffi- culties of reference and expression that permeate this fabulous, intimidating masterpiece."

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