Cover of Hegel by Klaus Vieweg
The Philosopher of Freedom
Klaus Vieweg


December 2023
488 pages.

Hardcover ISBN: 9781503630574
Ebook ISBN: 9781503635678

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Gold Medal in the Biography Category for the 2024 Independent Publisher Book Awards (IPPYs).

A monumental new biography of a pivotal yet poorly understood pioneer in modern philosophy.

When a painter once told Goethe that he wanted to paint the most celebrated man of the age, Goethe directed him to Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel. Hegel worked from the credo: To philosophize is to learn to live freely. While he was slow and cautious in the development of his philosophy, his intellectual growth was like an odyssey of the mind, and, contrary to popular belief, his life was full of twists and turns, suspense and even danger.

In this landmark biography, the philosopher Klaus Vieweg paints a new picture of the life and work of the most important representative of German idealism. His vivid portrait provides readers an intimate account of Hegel's times and the milieu in which he developed his thought, along with detailed, clear-sighted analyses of Hegel's four major works. What results is a new interpretation of Hegel through the lens of reason and freedom.

Vieweg draws on extensive archival research that has brought to light a wealth of hitherto undiscovered documents and handwritten notes relating to Hegel's work, touching on Hegel's engagement with the leading thinkers and writers of his age: Kant, Fichte, Schelling, Hölderlin, and others. Combatting clichés and misunderstandings about Hegel, Vieweg also offers a sustained defense of the philosopher's more progressive impulses. Highly praised upon its release in Germany as having set the new biographical standard, this monumental work emphasizes Hegel's relevance for today, depicting him as a vital figure in the history of philosophy.

About the author

Klaus Vieweg is Professor of Classical German Philosophy at the Friedrich Schiller University, Jena and one of the world's leading Hegel experts. Vieweg has authored or edited over two dozen books, with translations appearing in Italian, Spanish, Chinese and English, among other languages.

"Vieweg's biography of Hegel is more than the best work in its field—it sets new standards for a book on Hegel and for a philosopher's biography as such. It magically unites a detailed knowledge about Hegel's life and work with a deep engagement in today's emancipatory struggle. It is not a historicist account of Hegel's work as the result of its time; it makes Hegel our own contemporary."

—Slavoj Žižek, author of Hegel in A Wired Brain

"This is a landmark in the 200-year literature on Hegel. Skillfully uncovering the complex strands of ideas and influences that the philosopher weaves together, Vieweg takes Hegel seriously as a living presence in our efforts to understand the world today."

—James J. Sheehan, author of Where Have All the Soldiers Gone?

"In a crystal clear and vivid style, as far as its subject matter allows, one can trace the development of Hegel's thinking, its roots and influences, but also its originality and, above all, its enduring political relevance."

—Richard Kämmerlings, Die Welt

"An extensive biography of Hegel has been missing for many decades. Thankfully, Klaus Vieweg now offers one that will be standard for years to come."


"The indisputable value of Vieweg's treatment of Hegel is the paraphrastic intellectual history, his 'walk-throughs' of the main works. Each is a tour de force. For the student of any of these Hegelian works, Vieweg provides a reliable and focused guide."

—Russell Berman, author of Fiction Sets You Free

"In a clever and vivid way, Vieweg combines biographical and anecdotal elements... with systematic considerations, which however always follow Hegel's way of thinking."

—Micha Brumlik, Die Tageszeitung

"Vieweg's opulent biography sets standards and may remain unmatched for years to come."

—Otto A. Böhmer, Frankfurter Rundschau

"A great, often surprising biography."

—Jens Bisky, Süddeutsche Zeitung

"Klaus Vieweg's outstanding biography, based on original research and written with verve and imagination, rightly places freedom and reason at the center of Hegel's thought. It paints an engaging and colorful picture of one of the world's greatest thinkers."

—Stephen Houlgate, author of Hegel on Being

"Vieweg's new biography makes us understand how, paradoxically and dialectically, Hegel's personal experience of the frustrated early attempts at founding a German Republic can account for a philosophy enabling and encouraging life in freedom, independently of place and time."

—Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht, author of Prose of the World

"In a bravura weaving together of a richly textured narrative of Hegel's incident-packed life, the tumultuous socio-political world in which he lived, and exuberant reconstructions of the four foundational works, Vieweg has produced an all but unanswerable case that Hegel was, from his youth until his last days, a philosopher of the French Revolution, forever loyal to its ideals and promises, and his system, then and now, the most compelling philosophy of freedom, social freedom, we possess. Scintillating and irreplaceable."

—Jay Bernstein, author of Political Concepts

"To trace the life of someone of Hegel's profound and varied attainments and historical moment requires sensitivity and range.... Sympathetic and well researched, The Philosopher of Freedom achieves its biographical aims."

—Max Carter, Air Mail

"This English translation of Vieweg's magisterial work... is a major contribution to the available literature and indispensable for anglophone readers."

—David P. Goldman, First Things

"In this outstanding biography, Vieweg shows the falsity of the belief that Hegel championed freedom as a young man but later supported the reactionary Prussian state.... Highly recommended."

—J. M. Fritzman, CHOICE