Marx's Attempt to Leave Philosophy

By Daniel Brudney | Go to book overview

. . . . 1 Feuerbach's Critique of Christianity

COMMENTATORS ON Feuerbach always seem uneasy about his work, eagerly acknowledging his philosophical faults before going on to expound on his virtues, as if preserving their integrity as commentators requires an initial ritual criticism of their subject. Here is Friedrich Lange in his History of Materialism: "To a clear logic Feuerbach never attained. The nerve of his philosophizing remained, as everywhere in the idealistic epoch, divination. A 'consequently' [folglich] in Feuerbach does not . . . carry the force of a real, or at least intended, inference of the understanding, but it means . . . a leap to be taken in thought." And so, Lange concludes, Feuerbach's work "floats in a mystic gloom." 1 Or take Eugene Kamenka, who, before acknowledging "the importance and fruitfulness of a great deal that Feuerbach is saying," feels called upon to stress the "literary imprecision and hyperbole" that were "fatal," he says, "to any ambition that [ Feuerbach] may have had of becoming a philosopher of the first rank." 2

Feuerbach is in fact hardly a paragon of logic and precision, but there is more to his "consequently's" than his critics have seen. Feuerbach's goal is not the elaboration and justification of a general theory. His aim is less intellectual assent than spiritual transformation, and his rhetorical strategy is shaped accordingly. He seeks to get the reader to view herself, the world, and her relation to the world in a new way. At the end of his Lectures on the Essence of Religion, Feuerbach says that his wish has been "to transform friends of God into friends of humanity,

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