Fichte, Marx, and the German Philosophical Tradition

Fichte, Marx, and the German Philosophical Tradition

Fichte, Marx, and the German Philosophical Tradition

Fichte, Marx, and the German Philosophical Tradition


A systematic and historical study of the relation of the positions of Fichte and Marx within the context of nineteenth-century German philosophy as well as the wider history of philosophy.

Rockmore's thesis is that there is a little noticed, less often studied, but nevertheless profound structural parallel between the two positions that can be shown to be mediated through the development of the nineteenth-century German philosophical tradition. Both positions understand man in anti-Cartesian fashion, not as a spectator, but as an active being. Rockmore demonstrates that there is similarity of the two views of activity in terms of the Aristotelian concept (energeia),then indicates the further parallel between the respective concepts of man that follow from Fichte's and Marx's views of activity.

Turning to the history of philosophy, Rockmore directs the reader to solid textual evidence supporting the influence of Fichte, not only on Marx's Young Hegelian contemporaries but on Marx as well. He argues that the Hegelian impact on the interpretation of the nineteenth-century philosophical tradition has served to obscure the parallel between the positions of Fichte and Marx, but that the concept of man as an active being can be used to reinterpret this segment of the history of philosophy and to modify the frequently held view of the classical German tradition as a collection of rather disparate thinkers. Finally, he provides a discussion of the intrinsic value of the anti-Cartesian approach to man as such.


Mir hilft der Geist! Auf einmal seh ' ich Rat. Und schreibe getrost: im Anfang war die Tat.

Goethe, Faust I

Tätig zu sein, sagte er, ist des Menschen erste Bestimmung, und alle Zwischenzeiten, in denen er auszuruhen genötigt ist, sollte er anwenden, eine deutliche Erkenntnis der äusserlichen Dinge zu erlangen, die ihm in der Folge abermals seine Tätigkeit erleichtert.

Goethe, Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre, bk. 6

My intention in this book is to compare aspects in the positions of Fichte and Marx, two thinkers often but mistakenly viewed at opposite ends of the intellectual spectrum, in order to disclose an important and largely unsuspected parallel. the discussion of this parallel will develop in two ways, thematically in terms of analysis of several related concepts in the two positions, and historically with respect to the genesis of the parallel in the wider context of the nineteenth-century German tradition.

The presence of a relation between the two positions is by no means obvious. Fichte was a professional philosopher, writing in the Kantian tradition, and interested in the epistemological concerns which constitute a major strand of the modern philosophical tradition. Although Marx received extensive philosophical training, he was not a professional philosopher. His thought cannot be labeled as philosophy without further qualification, since after an early brush with Hegelianism he professed to abandon the realm of abstract thought for the more concrete terrain of political economy. It further seems difficult to relate Fichte and Marx in terms . . .

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