In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel: Metaphysics

  • Introduction
  • Introductory Works
  • Dictionaries and Handbooks
  • Synoptic and Comprehensive Interpretations of Hegel’s Metaphysics
  • Logic and Metaphysics
  • Theology and Metaphysics
  • Hegel and Ancient Metaphysics
  • Hegel and Early Modern Rationalist Metaphysics
  • Hegel and Kant’s Critique of Metaphysics
  • Hegel and the Metaphysics of Theoretical Cognition
  • Hegel and the Metaphysics of Practical Cognition
  • Hegel and the Sciences
  • Early Analytic Philosophical Critiques of Hegel’s Metaphysics
  • Hegel’s Metaphysics in Relation to Recent Analytic Philosophy
  • Hegel’s Metaphysics from the Perspective of Continental European Philosophy
  • Hegel’s Metaphysics from the Perspective of French Philosophy

Philosophy Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel: Metaphysics
Paul Redding
  • LAST REVIEWED: 17 October 2022
  • LAST MODIFIED: 31 August 2015
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195396577-0287


No scholarly consensus exists about the nature and evaluation of Hegel’s “metaphysics.” There is a commonplace view, prevalent since the 19th century, in which Hegel is understood as proposing an “extravagant” God-centered ontology, and while some contemporary Hegel interpreters endorse accounts along these general lines, it is now commonly contested by many specialists in the field. In this traditional view, humans are singled out from the rest of nature in terms of their possession of “spirit” (Geist)—a notion understood as a terminological variant of the concept of God, although a somewhat unorthodox and pantheistic-leaning one. Stressing God’s immanence in the world, this concept becomes linked to a Eurocentric triumphalist account of history, with God’s increasing presence in the world being identified with the ways “reason” and “freedom” had purportedly developed in the practices and institutions of European society. Understood along such lines Hegel’s metaphysics is seldom thought to be of relevance to contemporary philosophy. However, in terms of capturing the central features of Hegel’s philosophy, the traditional interpretation had been challenged from the decades after Hegel’s death, and, similarly, nontraditional approaches have from time to time linked Hegel to movements critical of traditional metaphysics, such as existentialism, phenomenology, philosophical hermeneutics, and American pragmatism. Recently a variety of nontraditional views have been gaining strength within academic philosophical interpretations of Hegel, generating debates over the nature of Hegel’s metaphysical commitments.

Introductory Works

Hegel is a notoriously difficult philosopher to approach for the first time. Introductions, such as Beiser 2005 and Houlgate 2005, have to walk the fine line between merely reproducing Hegel’s difficult and idiosyncratic terminology and rendering his ideas in a language that does not do justice to his ideas. The following offer a variety of different routes into Hegel’s thought.

  • Beiser, Frederick. Hegel. New York: Routledge, 2005.

    A clearly written introduction. Rejects many elements of the traditional view, interpreting Hegel as a conceptual realist. Concepts are not mental representations but features of worldly things responsible for their being the sorts of things they are. He is critical of approaches that overassimilate Hegel’s idealism to Kant’s transcendental idealism.

  • Houlgate, Stephen. An Introduction to Hegel: Freedom, Truth and History. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2005.

    A second edition of the earlier Freedom, Truth and History (New York: Routledge, 1991). A clear and comprehensive account by a major contemporary interpreter of Hegel. The centrality of religion to Hegel’s approach is defended but Hegel is freed from many of the extravagances of traditional interpretations.

  • Pinkard, Terry. Hegel: A Biography. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2000.

    Much more than a biography, the main features of Hegel’s works are presented clearly and systematically in the context of their time and within a very readable account of Hegel’s life and career.

  • Redding, Paul. “Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel.” In The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Edited by Edward N. Zalta. Stanford, CA: Stanford University, 2014.

    Central areas of Hegel’s work presented in an introductory way and alternative interpretative frameworks surveyed.

back to top

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.

How to Subscribe

Oxford Bibliographies Online is available by subscription and perpetual access to institutions. For more information or to contact an Oxford Sales Representative click here.