H.S. Harris' Commentary on Hegel's Phenomenology: A Review

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Cambridge University Press

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Bulletin of the Hegel Society of Great Britain

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Like Henry Harris, I began doing intensive research on Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit in the mid-sixties. I recall going through all the chapters as a graduate student during one academic year, and looking around for commentaries. The only English-language commentary available was Loewenberg's Hegel's Phenomenology: Dialogues in the Life of Mind, which was suggestive of the dialectic taking place in the book, but not much help in getting over the “rough spots”. This gave me an incentive to work through Jean Hyppolite's commentary, not yet translated into English, with my basic reading-knowledge of French. My 1976 Hegel's Phenomenology, Part I: Analysis and Commentary was one of the first in a long line of Anglophone commentaries. Harris in his introduction to Vol. I. mentions this effort at “analysis”, along with Findlay's “analysis” accompanying the 1977 Miller translation of the Phenomenology, as incentives for the inclusion of his own improved running analysis in the present commentary.

I have included discussions of numerous partial or complete commentaries on Hegel's Phenomenology in review articles published in 1971 in the American Philosophical Quarterly and (in Spanish) Teorema, in 1979 in the American Philosophical Quarterly, and in 1981 in Hegel-Studien. Harris has the advantage of producing the most recent of all these commentaries, and in a way offers us a compendium of everything that has been done on the Phenomenology. His analysis and commentary includes a survey of the literature, in which almost all previous laborers in the field can find themselves commended or criticized in the endnotes. Thus I find comments like “Kainz has completely misunderstood the argument here” (I, 312), “This is a point which Kainz has grasped more definitely than most commentators” (I, 315), “[Kainz] does not deserve the brickbat Flay hurls at him” (I, 613), and so forth. Other commentators, living and dead – Flay, Pöggeler, Navickas, Kenneth and Merold Westphal, Heidegger, Lauer, Werner Becker, Kojève, Wahl, Hyppolite, Labarrière, Bonsiepen, Forster, Shklar, Solomon, Werner Marx, and Robert Williams (to name just a few!) — are similarly discussed and critiqued. For some of us Anglophone commentators, such remarks may seem like red marks on essays from a patient professor. But certainly no one will mind, since Harris has spent more time and energy on this very specialized project than any of us. In fact, some former commentators almost have a “conflict of interest” in reviewing Harris' work, since so many of us have benefited at various points in our research from Harris' personal support and criticism. But in academics, as in life, mentors cannot always be assured of loyalty.


Bulletin of the Hegel Society of Great Britain, Vol. 22, Nos. 1-2 (January 2001): 44-51. DOI.