"Marxist" philosophy without theses ? Without theory ?


Theses On Feuerbach

The main defect of all hitherto-existing materialism — that of
Feuerbach included — is that the Object [der Gegenstand], actuality,
sensuousness, are conceived only in the form of the object [Objekts],
or of contemplation [Anschauung], but not as human sensuous activity,
practice [Praxis], not subjectively. Hence it happened that the active
side, in opposition to materialism, was developed by idealism — but
only abstractly, since, of course, idealism does not know real,
sensuous activity as such. Feuerbach wants sensuous objects [Objekte],
differentiated from thought-objects, but he does not conceive human
activity itself as objective [gegenständliche] activity. In The
Essence of Christianity [Das Wesen des Christenthums], he therefore
regards the theoretical attitude as the only genuinely human attitude,
while practice is conceived and defined only in its dirty-Jewish form
of appearance [Erscheinungsform][1]. Hence he does not grasp the
significance of ‘revolutionary’, of ‘practical-critical’, activity.

The question whether objective truth can be attributed to human
thinking is not a question of theory but is a practical question. Man
must prove the truth, i.e., the reality and power, the this-sidedness
[Diesseitigkeit] of his thinking, in practice. The dispute over the
reality or non-reality of thinking which is isolated from practice is
a purely scholastic question.

The materialist doctrine that men are products of circumstances and
upbringing, and that, therefore, changed men are products of changed
circumstances and changed upbringing, forgets that it is men who
change circumstances and that the educator must himself be educated.
Hence this doctrine is bound to divide society into two parts, one of
which is superior to society. The coincidence of the changing of
circumstances and of human activity or self-change [Selbstveränderung]
can be conceived and rationally understood only as revolutionary

Feuerbach starts off from the fact of religious self-estrangement
[Selbstentfremdung], of the duplication of the world into a religious,
imaginary world, and a secular [weltliche] one. His work consists in
resolving the religious world into its secular basis. He overlooks the
fact that after completing this work, the chief thing still remains to
be done. For the fact that the secular basis lifts off from itself and
establishes itself in the clouds as an independent realm can only be
explained by the inner strife and intrinsic contradictoriness of this
secular basis. The latter must itself be understood in its
contradiction and then, by the removal of the contradiction,
revolutionised. Thus, for instance, once the earthly family is
discovered to be the secret of the holy family, the former must itself
be annihilated [vernichtet] theoretically and practically.

Feuerbach, not satisfied with abstract thinking, wants sensuous
contemplation [Anschauung]; but he does not conceive sensuousness as
practical, human-sensuous activity.

Feuerbach resolves the essence of religion into the essence of man
[menschliche Wesen = ‘human nature’]. But the essence of man is no
abstraction inherent in each single individual. In reality, it is the
ensemble of the social relations. Feuerbach, who does not enter upon a
criticism of this real essence is hence obliged:

1. To abstract from the historical process and to define the religious
sentiment regarded by itself, and to presuppose an abstract — isolated
- human individual.

2. The essence therefore can by him only be regarded as ‘species’, as
an inner ‘dumb’ generality which unites many individuals only in a
natural way.

Feuerbach consequently does not see that the ‘religious sentiment’ is
itself a social product, and that the abstract individual that he
analyses belongs in reality to a particular social form.

All social life is essentially practical. All mysteries which lead
theory to mysticism find their rational solution in human practice and
in the comprehension of this practice.

The highest point reached by contemplative [anschauende] materialism,
that is, materialism which does not comprehend sensuousness as
practical activity, is the contemplation of single individuals and of
civil society [bürgerlichen Gesellschaft].

The standpoint of the old materialism is civil society; the standpoint
of the new is human society or social humanity.


Philosophers have hitherto only interpreted the world in various ways;
the point is to change it.

1. “Dirty-Jewish” — according to Marhsall Berman, this is an allusion
to the Jewish God of the Old Testament, who had to ‘get his hands
dirty’ making the world, tied up with a symbolic contrast between the
Christian God of the Word, and the God of the Deed, symbolising
practical life. See The Significance of the Creation in Judaism,
Essence of Christianity 1841

Written: by Marx in Brussels in the spring of 1845, under the title
“1) ad Feuerbach”;
Marx’s original text was first published in 1924, in German and in
Russian translation, by the Institute of Marxism-Leninism in
Marx-Engels Archives, Book I, Moscow. The English translation was
first published in the Lawrence and Wishart edition of The German
Ideology in 1938. The most widely known version of the “Theses” is
that based on Engels’ edited version, published as an appendix to his
Ludwig Feuerbach in 1888, where he gave it the title Theses on
Translated: by Cyril Smith 2002, based on work done jointly with Don Cuckson.

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