Well I feel like I am starting to crack through the hard shell I describe below. I feel like I am able to read the Preface at this point pretty coherently.
To be more specific about the things that are frustrating: I like many of the general ideas I find in this book, (thanks both to secondary sources and the sentences that I find more clear in the work itself) but it's the arguments that I find so frustrating. I think part of it is just a large cultural gap. Hegel was writing in a very different and rich philosophical context that is quite foreign to the one I've been trained in. This means that his terminology for one is quite different and he doesn't define his terms except implicitly. But his style of argument itself is unique, and difficult for me to grasp. Alot of it has to do with seeing the flip side of propositions. What he often describes as negation. He tends to remain very abstract in his manner of speaking and so it is hard to grasp what exactly he means.
I have tried to read this book so many times and can get nowhere with it. I have tried reading it forward and backward (literally). I've tried searching for easier parts. I have read multiple commentaries on Hegel's work in general and this book in particular, including what is considered the ultimate on the Phenomenology, Harris' "Hegel's Ladder". I took a class on 19th century German philosophy where we covered selections from this work. I have spent days on a single paragraph.
While I am fascinated by everything I have read that Hegel is supposed to have said, I can extract almost nothing from the text itself. The few enticing glimmers I find are immediately lost in a stream of abstruse terms and movements of thought that leave me absolutely baffled.
I seem to be strangely obsessed though. I keep coming back to him. No matter how many times I banish him to the closet or threaten to sell him off, he always worms his way back into my good graces.
Some day, some day...