Objectless activity: Marx's 'theses on Feuerbach'

Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 28 (1-4):75 – 86 (1985)
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Abstract

According to Friedrich Engels (Ludwig Feuerbach and the end of classical German philosophy) the so?called ?Thesen über Feuerbach? are ?the brilliant germ of the new world conception?. For Karl Korsch ('Review of Vernon Venable?, Journal of Philosophy 42 [1945], no. 26) there are ?magnificently summed up? in them the ?texts of Marx and Engels's first (Hegelian and post?Hegelian) period?. Even given the important distinction between the ?young? and the ?mature? Marx these two opinions are not incompatible. The present paper's concern, however, is with the relationship of the ?Thesen? to the materialist conception of history. Once the ?Thesen? are read as a consistent whole it is clear that they are incompatible with any non?social (non?human) nature; hence with the ontological independence of nature from man; hence with any materialism, historical or otherwise. Furthermore, taken as a whole the ?Thesen? form an attempted solution to the problem of the justification of ideals, a solution both activist and dogmatist. Since the attitude expressed in the ?Thesen? underlies both Marx's ?theory of alienation? and his ?critique of political economy? neither of these can lay claim to the status of knowledge

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