Marx's Attempt to Leave Philosophy

By Daniel Brudney | Go to book overview

10 The German Ideology III: The Critique of Morality (and a Return to Philosophy)

IN THE PENULTIMATE SECTION of this chapter I return to the issue of justifying Marx's normative critique of capitalism (not necessarily the same critique as in 1844). We need first, however, to examine The German Ideology's attack on morality. The Young Hegelians, Marx jeers, "end in moral philosophy, where the various heroes squabble about true morals" (DI 349/366). Despite the fact that it contains its own picture of the good life, The German Ideology is deeply hostile to something called "morality." 1 Yet the specific content of that hostility-- its targets and its underlying impulse--is obscure. The first three sections of this chapter try to make it clear.

Recently there has been a thriving debate about Marx and morality. This chapter is an indirect contribution to that debate. It is indirect for two reasons. First, I am dealing only with The German Ideology, and the debate concerns Marx's overall views. Second, although to some extent the issues I address do track those in the wider debate, they also differ. In §§ 1-3 my focus is on what the Marx of The German Ideology thinks is wrong with moral judgments. I conclude, perhaps unsurprisingly, that Marx has not shown that one cannot have warranted confidence in such judgments. In §5 I conclude, perhaps equally unsurprisingly, that, while remaining consistent with his other views, the Marx of The German Ideology (once again) cannot justify the condemnation of capitalism so clearly there.

These conclusions are not new. I hope, however, that the steps to

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