Published online by Cambridge University Press: 28 July 2009
The inherent problem with any philosophy which claims to be systematic is as easy to pose as it is troublesome to solve; namely, how do the parts of the system hang together? Of all the great systems in the history of philosophy, perhaps none has been subject to as much criticism as Hegel's. One author baldly claims that it makes sense to dismiss Hegel entirely “if one emphasizes the Logic and Hegel's rhetoric about 'system' and 'Wissenschaft.'” Likewise, as John Dewey, a great admirer of Hegel, writes, “The form, the schematism, of his [sc. Hegel's] system now seems to me artificial to the last degree.” The tendency to shy away from Hegel's own statements about the systematic nature of his philosophy is doubtless due to the complexity and opacity of the Hegelian system which have baffled scholars since Hegel's own time. A common reaction to these problems has been simply to abandon any attempt to understand Hegel's philosophy as a systematic whole.
Due to these problems and despite Hegel's own statements to the contrary, the Phenomenology of Spirit has often been criticized as an unsystematic text. In the words of one scholar:
The Phenomenology is indeed a movement, or rather a set of movements, an odyssey, as Hegel later said it was, a wandering, like Faust, with skips and jumps and slow meanderings. Those who take Hegel at his word and look for a “ladder” or a path or yellow brick road to the Absolute are bound to be disappointed. The Phenomenology is a conceptual landscape, through which Hegel leads us somewhat at his whim