hard books

Right now I’m engaged with a colleague in a slow and intense study of Hegel’s Science of Logic. Embarrassingly enough, I’ve never really spent that much time on Hegel, and have been content with the crude (and incorrect) ‘thesis-antithesis-synthesis’ version of his system that has been handed down through generations of laziness. The only real Hegel study I’ve done before this has been selections from the Phenomenology, read alongside Kojeve’s lectures.  I’m now starting to get why someone like Badiou holds such contempt for the influence of Kojeve’s reading of the Phenomenology on the French reception of Hegel, and while the Science of Logic is a much more difficult work, it is infinitely more rewarding as an attempt to think through systematic metaphysics. The intensity of this work seems to be obvious when looking for secondary work on the Science of Logic, as thus far I’ve seen only two book length studies which seem decent, and this is compared to the countless studies of the Phenomenology of Spirit.

Well, as I’m sure none of this is news to anyone else, feel free to share what the hardest book you’ve ever come across is, I’m always into stories of intellectual self harm of this extent. Or, if anyone has any recommendations for any secondary sources that deal with the Logic, that’d be nice too.

5 thoughts on “hard books

  1. Nick Srnicek says:

    Science of Logic is by far the hardest thing I’ve read too. It’s a monster, but infinitely fascinating for that.

    As some help for it, this book looks to be great, massive, and expensive. Not sure if there’s any PDFs of it floating around…


  2. michaeloneillburns says:

    Thanks for that link, I may see if I can get a loan copy through another library. I think Houlgate has a commentary on the Logic as well, but it falls in a similar price bracket.

  3. kvond says:

    The “hardest” book I have worked through, and still worked through, is Spinoza’s “Ethics”. What is hard about it is that because Spinoza is trying to be so explicitly clear there are infinite number of resting places, (each proposition in fact), where “well, that is clear enough” seems to be the order of the day. But due to its very intricate, cross-referenced structure, and the way that Spinoza is ever qualifying or bridging classic dichtomies in perhaps very subtle ways, the entire work (or its part) keeps sliding under your feet. And when it does the “well that’s clear enough” proposition, or cluster of propositions suddenly becomes decentered and out of focus. One teeters between a sometimes self-satisfied critical position “Well, Spinoza’s argument is clearly insufficient” (usually aided by the authority some worked out conclusion from a commentator who seems to have found the same deficiency), to a…”My goodness, he really has done something incredible here”.

    What is hard about it is to not get too comfortable with your reading of it, to not surrender its truth to the tedium of its repetitions. Adamantine.

  4. michaeloneillburns says:

    Yes, I’ve only studied the Ethics once, but to be honest really didn’t know what the hell was going on. I’ll likely go back to it at some point though. This work seems to break the mold of some of the historically ‘hard books’ (Being and Time, Science of Logic, anything Sartre wrote, Capital) in that it’s quite concise, which makes it even more intense.

    I enjoyed your recent spinoza post though, and look forward to more.

  5. kvond says:

    MOB: “Yes, I’ve only studied the Ethics once, but to be honest really didn’t know what the hell was going on.”

    Kvond: This makes me laugh and smile to myself (even as I type). I’m like, “yeah, what the hell!?”

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