Marx: Karl Marx and Theses on Feuerbach Essay

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THESES ON FEUERBACH From Frederick Engels,
Ludwig Feuerbach and the
End of Classical German Philosophy
First Edition 1976 pp. 61-65.
" . . . a translation . . . of the text of the German edition of 1888. . . ."
Prepared © for the Internet by David J. Romagnolo, (January 1998) page 61
The chief defect of all hitherto existing materialism -- that of Feuerbach included -- is that the thing [Gegenstand ], reality, sensuousness, is conceived only in the form of the object [Objekt ] or of intuition [Anschauung ],* but not as human sensuous activity, practice, not subjectively. Hence it happened that the active side, in contradistinction 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, really distinct from the objects of thought, but he does not conceive human activity itself as objective [gegenständliche ] activity. Hence, in the Essence of Christianity, he regards the theoreti- * Anschauung -- in Kant and Hegel means awareness, or direct knowledge, through the senses, and is translated as intuition in English versions of Kant and Hegel. It is in this sense that Marx uses Anschauung and not in the sense of contemplation, which is how it has usually and incorrectly been translated. --Ed. page 62 cal attitude as the only genuinely human attitude, while practice is conceived and fixed only in its dirty Jewish manifestation. Hence he does not grasp the significance of
"revolutionary," of "practical-critical," activity.
Marx, Theses on Feuerbach (1845), p.2 of 3 2
The question whether objective [gegenständliche ] truth can be attained by human thinking is not a question of theory but is a practical question. It is in practice that man must prove the truth, that is, the reality and power, the this-sidedness [Diesseitigkeit ] of his thinking. The dispute over the reality or unreality 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 other circumstances and changed upbringing, forgets that men themselves change circumstances and that the educator himself must be educated. Hence, this doctrine necessarily arrives at dividing society into two parts, of which one is superior to society (in Robert Owen, for example).
The coincidence of the changing of circumstances and of human activity can be conceived and rationally understood only as revolutionizing practice.
Feuerbach starts out from the fact of religious self-alienation, the duplication of the world into a religious, imagined page 62 world and a real one. His work consists in the dissolution of 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 foundation detaches itself from itself and establishes itself in the clouds as an independent realm is precisely only to be explained by the very self-dismemberment and self-contradictoriness of this secular basis. The latter itself must, therefore, first be understood in its contradiction and then revolutionized in practice by the elimination of the