Marx's Attempt to Leave Philosophy

Marx's Attempt to Leave Philosophy

Marx's Attempt to Leave Philosophy

Marx's Attempt to Leave Philosophy


Daniel Brudney traces the development of post-Hegelian thought from Ludwig Feuerbach and Bruno Bauer to Karl Marx's work of 1844 and his "Theses on Feuerbach," and concludes with an examination of "The German Ideology." Brudney focuses on the transmutations of a set of ideas about human nature, the good life, and our relation to the world and to others; about how we end up with false beliefs about these matters; about whether one can, in a capitalist society, know the truth about these matters; and about the critique of capitalism which would flow from such knowledge.

Brudney shows how Marx, following Feuerbach, attempted to reveal humanity's nature and what would count as the good life, while eschewing and indeed polemicizing against "philosophy"--against any concern with metaphysics and epistemology. Marx attempted to avoid philosophy as early as 1844, and the central aims of his texts are the same right through "The German Ideology." There is thus no break between an early and a late Marx; moreover, there is no "materialist" Marx, no Marx who subscribes to a metaphysical view, even in "The German Ideology," the text canonically taken as the origin of Marxist materialism. Rather, in all the texts of this period Marx tries to mount a compelling critique of the present while altogether avoiding the dilemmas central to philosophy in the modern era.


This book BEGINS with Ludwig Feuerbach The Essence of Christianity (1841) and Principles of the Philosophy of the Future (1843), moves to the journalistic and polemical works of Bruno Bauer in 1841- 43, on to Karl Marx's 1844 writings, and up through his Theses on Feuerbach (1845) and The German Ideology (1845-46). It is about the transmutations of a set of ideas. These ideas concern human nature, the good life for human beings, and the human relation to the world and to other human beings. They concern how one ends up with false beliefs about these matters, and whether one can--in a capitalist society-- know the truth about them; they also concern the critique of capitalism that would flow from knowing the truth.

This five-year stretch in the Germany of the 1840s is a hot-house period, a time of ferment in which positions are staked out, attacked, defended, and changed at a breakneck pace. The Zeitgeist is thought to be in rapid flux. "A work which in 1841 was a noteworthy phenomenon," Bauer declares, cannot in 1845 "still have value" for the age (CLF 126). In this period one finds the most important works of Feuerbach, and the works of his and of Bauer's that most importantly influence Marx, as well as Marx's own works most central to his different normative visions and to the different critiques of capitalism based on them.

A more exhaustive account would start further back, with David Friedrich Strauss's Life of Jesus (1835) and Bauer Kritik der evangelischen Geschichte der Synoptiker . . .

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