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Hegel In France

From its very inception, existentialism has been in an intense dialogue with Hegel's heritage. Kierkegaard, for example, considered his own thought as a rebellion against the effacement of individuality in Hegel's grand system. Twentieth-century French existentialism was much more sympathetic to Hegel. The crucial event in the development of twentieth-century French reception of Hegel was a series of lectures on Hegel's Phenomenology given by the Russian émigré, Alexandre Kojève, at the École Pratique des Hautes Études between 1933 and 1939 (the lectures were edited and published in 1947). Among the participants in these seminars were Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Simone de Beauvoir, Jean-Paul Sartre, Georges Battaille, Alexandre Koyré, Emmanuel Levinas, Eric Weil, and Jacques Lacan. Through this extraordinary group of intellectuals Kojève's reading of Hegel became extremely influential.

For Kojève, the key text for understanding the Phenomenology was the famous dialectic of master and slave. Kojève's reading, which is significantly indebted to both Marx and Heidegger, centers upon the human struggle for recognition by the other and the emergence of human culture [ Bildung ] from the life and consciousness of the slave. Another influential interpretation of Hegel was suggested by Jean Hyppolite, who attempted to reconcile the humanistic spirit of the Phenomenology with the rigorous and individual-effacing Logic.

Postmodern French philosophy engaged with Hegel and his grand logical and historical narratives as part of the main stream of Western metaphysics, whose undermining was one of the main aims of deconstructionist thought. In contemporary French thought, Jean-Luc Nancy seems to present the most interesting attempt to revive the philosophical dialogue with Hegel.

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Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Habit memory: to HeterodontHegelianism - Marxist Hegelianism, Hegel In France, Hegel And Anglo-american Philosophy, Bibliography