Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit has acquired a paradoxical reputation as one the most important and most impenetrable and inconsistent philosophical works. In Hegel's Idea of a Phenomenology of Spirit, Michael N. Forster advances an original reading of the work. His approach differs from that of previous scholars in two crucial ways: he reads the work, first, as a whole—not piecemeal, as it has usually been analyzed—and second, within the context of Hegel's broader corpus and the works of other philosophers.
The Phenomenology of Spirit emerges as an extraordinarily coherent work with a rich array of important and original ideas. These include a diagnosis of the ills of modernity in terms of its commitment to a series of dualisms, and a project for overcoming them; a sweeping naturalism; a deep rethinking of and response to problems of skepticism; subtle arguments for social theories of meaning and truth; and ideas based on the insight that human thought changes in fundamental ways over the course of history. Forster's unique and compelling reading unlocks the mysteries of Hegel's seminal work.