Understanding as Translation: How to read Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit

Pirmin Stekeler-Weithofer

University of Leipzig


Questions of translations and interpretation of a philosophical author cannot be separated from question concerning the main topics and aims, the overall structure and the path of the argument(s). With respect to Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit, this seems even more true than with most other texts in the history of philosophy. For here we have to grasp the idea of the book as a whole: Is it a kind of story about the (ontogenetic and or phylogenetic) development of human sapience and the modern, self-conscious intellect, as many people following Marx, Lukacs, Kojčve down to the Frankfurt school openly or implicitly assume? Or is it rather a series of deconstruction, namely of wrong, but widespread, ideas about ourselves, our knowledge of and practical reference to things, our knowledge of and practical attitudes to ourselves, the individual and social, or rather institutional, status of understanding, reason, intelligence, and ‘spirit’?


Pirmin Stekeler-Weithofer is Professor for Philosophy at the University of Leipzig. He was a visiting Professor in Swansea (University of Wales, 1997/98), New York (New School University, 2002), and Pittsburgh (2006/7). Since 2008 he is the President of the Saxonian Academy of Science. His areas of research are philosophical logic, philosophy of language, philosophy of mathematics, and Plato, Kant, Hegel, and Wittgenstein. Publications include Hegels Ana­lytische Philo­sophie; Philosophie des Selbstbewusstseins. Hegels System als Formanalyse von Wissen und Autonomie; Sprachphilosophie (together with F. Kambartel); Philosophiegeschichte, and The Pragmatics of Making it Explicit. On Robert B. Brandom (ed.).