By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon

We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

´╗┐Title: Feuerbach: The roots of the socialist philosophy
Author: Engels, Friedrich, 1820-1895
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Feuerbach: The roots of the socialist philosophy" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.

(This file was produced from images generously made

|Transcriber's note:                               |
|                                                  |
|Obvious typographical errors have been corrected. |
|                                                  |






Copyright, 1903



This work takes us back nearly sixty years, to a time when what is now a
movement of universal significance was in its infancy. Hegel and the
Revolution of 1848; these are the points of departure. To the former, we
owe the philosophic form of the socialist doctrine, to the latter, its
practical activity as a movement.

In the midst of the turmoil and strife and apparent defeat of those days
two men, Marx and Engels, exiled and without influence, betook
themselves to their books and began laboriously to fashion the form and
doctrine of the most powerful intellectual and political movement of all
time. To the task they brought genius, scholarship, and a capacity for
hard work and patient research. In each of these qualities they were
supreme. Marx possessed a colossal mind; no thinker upon social
subjects, not even Herbert Spencer, has been his superior, for the
lonely socialist could claim a comprehensiveness, a grasp of relations
and a power of generalization, together with a boldness of conception,
which place him in a class by himself. Engels was the able co-adjutor
and co-worker with Marx. He was a deep and acute thinker, a most patient
investigator, a careful writer. More practical than his friend, he was
better able to cope with material problems, and his advice and his purse
were always at the disposal of Marx.

The latter could hardly have worked under more discouraging conditions.
Poverty, inadequate opportunities, lack of stimulating companionship,
and the complete absence of any kind of encouragement and such sympathy
as a man of his affectionate temperament craved fell to his lot. His
most learned works were written for groups of workingmen, his most
laborious efforts were made without the slightest hope of recognition
from the learned and the powerful.

All through these years Engels remained his faithful friend, and helped
him over many hard places when family troubles and straitened
circumstances pressed upon the old revolutionist.

This work is Engels' testimony with regard to the method employed by
them in arriving at their philosophical conclusions. It is the statement
of the philosophical foundations of modern socialism by one who helped
to lay them; it is an old man's account of the case upon the preparation
of which he has spent his entire life, for, this work, short as it is,
represents the results of forty years of toil and persevering effort.

As the "Communist Manifesto" was a gage flung with all the impetuosity
of youthful impatience into the face of constituted authority, so this
is the deliberate statement of the veteran, who has learned the game too
well to leave any openings, and proceeds to the demolition of pet
opinions in a quiet, deadly and deliberate fashion.

Step by step, the argument is built up. The ghosts of old controversies
long since buried are raised, to show how the doctrine imperishably
associated with the names of Marx and Engels came into existence; the
"Young Hegelians," the "Tuebingen School," and finally Feuerbach himself
are summoned from the grave to which the Revolution of 1848 had
consigned them. Still, ancient history as these controversies are from
the German standpoint, such is the backwardness of philosophy among
English-speaking peoples, that we find Engels exposing again and again
fallacies which persist even in our time, and ridiculing sentiments
which we receive with approbation in our political assemblies, and with
mute approval in our churches and conventicles.

The anti-religious note is noticeable throughout, in itself an echo of
controversies long past, when the arguments of the critics of the Bible
were creating now fury, now dismay, throughout Christendom, before the
Higher Criticism had become respected, and before soi-disant sceptics
could continue to go solemnly to church.

Moreover, the work was written in German for German workmen for whom
religion has not the same significance as it apparently still continues
to possess for the English-speaking people, whose sensitiveness upon the
subject appears to have outlived their faith. However that may be,
religious bodies possess a curious and perhaps satisfactory faculty of
absorbing the truths of science, and still continuing to exist, and even
to thrive, upon what the inexperienced might easily mistake for a deadly

Under the circumstances there is no reason why Engels' remarks should
affect even the timorous, although it must be remembered that a very
able English socialist philosopher is reputed to have damaged his
chances irretrievably by an ill-judged quotation from Mr. Swinburne.

It must be confessed that the occasional bitterness in which Engels
indulges is to be deplored, in a work of so essentially intellectual a
character, but it is little to be wondered at. His contempt for
university professors and the pretentious cultivated classes, who claim
so much upon such slight grounds, is not strange, when we consider the
honest labors of himself and his colleagues and the superficial
place-hunting of the recognized savants. He loves learning for its own
sake, for the sake of truth and scientific accuracy, and he cannot feel
anything but scorn for those who use it as a means to lull the
consciences of the rich, and to gain place and power for themselves. The
degradation of German philosophy affects him with a real sorrow; the
scholar is outraged at the mockery. "Sterility," "eclecticism," these
are the terms in which he sums up the teachings of the official
professors, and they are almost too gentle to be applied to the
dispiriting and disheartening doctrines which are taught to the
English-speaking student of to-day under the name of economics or

In the first part of his pamphlet, for it is little more in size, Engels
gives a short and concise account of the work of Hegel and the later
Hegelian School. He shows how the philosophy of Hegel has both a
conservative and a radical side and how conservatives and radicals alike
might, (as a matter of fact they did), each derive support from his
teachings, according to the amount of stress laid respectively upon the
great divisions of his work, the "System" and the "Dialectic."

The Extreme Left developed through the application of the dialectic,
and applied the philosophic doctrine thus derived to the criticism of
existing political and religious institutions. This resulted in the
gradual throwing away of the abstract part of the Hegelian philosophy,
and in the study of facts and phenomena to an ever-increasing degree.

Marx had, in his youth, allied himself with the "Young Hegelians," as
this school was called, and this fact had no slight influence upon his
subsequent career. His critics lay the blame for much of the obscurity
of language from which "Capital" in particular suffers, at the door of
this training. His painful elaboration of thesis, antithesis, and
synthesis, his insistence upon the dialectic, and his continual use of
the Hegelian philosophical expressions are due to his earlier
controversial experiences. Still, on the other hand, his patient
investigation of actual facts, his insistence on the value of positive
knowledge as compared with abstract theory, and his diligent and
persistent use of blue-books and statistics, were in a great measure
results of the same training.

Now and again, we find Engels in this work displaying remarkable
controversial acumen, as in his discussion of the phrase, "All that is
real is reasonable, and all that is reasonable is real" (Alles was
wirklich ist, ist vernuenftig, und alles was vernuenftig ist, ist
wirklich). From this expression, by the development of the Hegelian
argument, he arrives at the conclusion involved in the statement that
the value of a social or political phenomenon is its transitoriness, the
necessity of its disappearance. Hence the abolition of dogmatic
statement and mere subjective reasoning in the realm of philosophy, the
destruction of the old school of which Kant was the chief exponent, and
the creation of a new school the most advanced teachers of which were,
as they still are, the materialistic socialists, of whom Engels and Marx
are the chief.

The object of this historical sketch is to show the origin of
Feuerbach's philosophy as well as of that of Marx and Engels. As the
fight between the Young Hegelians and the conservatives grew hotter,
the radicals were driven back upon the English-French materialism of the
preceding century. This was embarrassing for followers of Hegel, who had
been taught to regard the material as the mere expression of the Idea.
Feuerbach relieved them from the contradiction. He grasped the question
boldly and threw the Hegelian abstraction completely to one side. His
book, "Wesen des Christenthums," in which his ideas were set forth,
became immediately popular, and an English translation, which was widely
read, was made of it by George Eliot under the title of "Essence of

Engels is by no means grudging of expressions of appreciation with
regard to this work, and its effects both upon himself and the educated
world in general. This "unendurable debt of honor" paid, however, he
proceeds to attack the idealistic humanitarianism which Feuerbach had
made the basis and sanction of his ethical theories.

Although Feuerbach had arrived at the materialistic conclusion, he
expressed himself as unable to accept materialism as a doctrine. He
says that as far as the past is concerned he is a materialist, but, for
the future, he is not so--"Backward I am in agreement with the
materialists, forward not"--a statement which impels Engels to examine
the materialism of the eighteenth century, which he finds purely
mechanical, without any conception of the universe as a process, and
therefore utterly inadequate for the philosophic needs of the period at
which Feuerbach wrote; for by that time the advance of science, and the
greater powers of generalization, arising from patient experimentation,
and the development of the evolutionary theory, had rendered the
eighteenth century views evidently absurd.

The "vulgarising peddlers" (vulgarisirenden Hausirer) come in for a
great deal of contempt at the hands of Engels. These were the popular
materialists--"the blatant atheists," who, without scientific knowledge
and gifted with mere oratory or a popular style of writing, used every
advance of science as a weapon of attack upon the Creator and popular
religion. Engels sneers at these as not being scientists at all, but
mere tradesmen dealing in pseudo-scientific wares. He calls their
occupation a trade, a business (Geschaeft). Of the same class was that
host of secularist lecturers who at one time thronged the lecture
platforms of the English-speaking countries and of whom Bradlaugh and
Ingersoll were in every way the best representatives. These secularists
have now ceased to exercise any influence, and the Freethought
societies, at one time so numerous, have now practically disappeared. In
accordance with the theories as set forth by Engels they were bound to
disappear; their teachings had no real bearing upon social progress,
they contributed nothing of any scientific value to modern thought, and
as Engels carefully shows, the reading of history by these lecturers was
vitiated by a lack of scientific grasp, and inability to take a rational
view of the great principles of historical development.

In the third part of this little book Engels deals with a very
interesting question which still disturbs the minds of philosophers, and
concerning which much discussion goes on even among the materialists;
that is the question as to the effect of religion upon social progress.
Feuerbach had made the statement that periods of social progress are
marked by religious changes. He uses religion as a synonym for human
love, forcing the meaning of the word religion from the Latin
"religare," "to tie," in order to give it an etymological and derivative
meaning in support of his statement, a controversial trick for which he
is rebuked by Engels. The declaration that great historical revolutions
are accompanied by religious changes is declared by Engels not to be
true, except in a limited degree as regards the three great
world-religions--Christianity, Mahommedanism and Buddhism.

Engels declared that the change in religion simultaneous with economic
and political revolution stopped short with the bourgeois revolt which
was made without any appeal to religion whatsoever. It is evident that
this is not entirely true, for in the English-speaking countries, at all
events, not only the bourgeois but frequently also the proletarian
movements attempt to justify themselves from Scripture. The teachings of
the Bible and the Sermon on the Mount are frequently called to the aid
of the revolutionary party; Christian Socialists, in the English and
American, not the continental sense of the term, as such are admitted to
the International Congresses; and other evidences of the compatibility
of religion with the proletarian movement can be traced.

But in the broader sense of his statement Engels is undoubtedly correct.
The proletarian movement, unlike that of the bourgeois, has produced no
definite religious school, it has not claimed any particular set of
religious doctrines as its own. As a matter of fact, there appears to be
an ever-widening chasm between the Church and the laborer, a condition
of affairs which is frequently deplored in religious papers. The famous
Papal Encyclical on Labor was certainly intended to retain the masses in
the Church, and the formation of trades unions under the influence of
the priests was a logical conclusion from the teachings of the Papal
Encyclical. But such religious movements are in no sense representative
of the working-class movement; in fact they are resented and antagonized
by the regular proletarian movement which proceeds under the leadership
of the Socialists.

Feuerbach's exaltation of humanitarianism, as a religion, is derided by
Engels in a semi-jocular, semi-serious manner, for his statement that
Feuerbach's ideals can be completely realized on the Bourse, cannot be
taken seriously. Engels' clear-sightedness with regard to the
ineffectiveness of a purely humanitarian religion is very remarkable,
although the forty years' additional experience which he had over
Feuerbach was a great advantage to him in estimating the actual value of
humanitarian religion as an influence in human affairs. Since the time
of Feuerbach various experiments in the direction of a religion based
entirely on Love have been tried, and none of them has succeeded.
Positivism or its religious side has been a failure. It has appealed to
a small set of men, some of whom are possessed of great ability and
have accomplished much, but as a religion in any adequate sense of the
word positivism will be admitted a failure by its most sincere
adherents. Brotherhood Churches, the Church of Humanity, the People's
Church, and other like organizations have been formed having the same
humanitarian basis, professing to cultivate a maximum of love with a
minimum of faith, and have failed to impress ordinary men and women.
Theosophy, a system of oriental mysticism based on an abstract
conception of the brotherhood of man, has also put forth its claims to
notice, on the grounds of its broad humanitarianism. None of these
humanitarian religions, however, appear to satisfy the needs of the
times, which do not seem to demand any humanitarian teachings. The only
religions which evidently persist are the dogmatic, those appealing
undisguisedly to faith, and even these do not maintain their proletarian

Engels' remarks appear to be more than justified by the facts of to-day,
for so far from the proletarian forming a new religion representing his
needs on the "ideological" field, he appears to be increasingly
desirous of releasing himself from the bands of any religion whatever,
and substituting in place of it practical ethics and the teachings of
science. Thus we are informed that five out of six of the working
classes of Berlin, who attend any Sunday meetings whatever, are to be
found in the halls of the Social Democratic Party, listening to the
lectures provided by that organization.

The revolutionary character of Feuerbach's philosophy is not maintained
in his ethic, which Engels declares with much truth to be no better than
that of his predecessors, as the basis on which it stands is no more
substantial. Feuerbach fails as a teacher of practical ethics; he is
smothered in abstraction and cannot attain to any reality.

With the last part of the work Engels abandons the task of criticising
Feuerbach, and proceeds to expound his own philosophy.

With absolute candor and modesty he gives Marx credit for the theory of
the materialistic conception of history, upon the enunciation and proof
of which he had himself worked almost incessantly ever since the first
idea of the theory had occurred to them, forty years prior to the time
when he wrote this work. The footnote to the first page of the fourth
part is the testimony of a collaborator to the genius of his
fellow-workman, an example of appreciation and modest self-effacement
which it would not be easy to match, and to which literary men who work
together are not over-prone. Nothing else could bear more eloquent
testimony to the loftiness of character and sincerity of purpose of
these two exiles.

The Marxian philosophy of history is clearly stated, and so fully
explained by Engels that there is no need to go over the ground again,
and there only remains to call attention to some of the modern
developments in the direction of rigidity of interpretation, and to the
exaggeration of the broad theory of the predominance of the economic
factor into a hard and fast doctrine of economic determinism.

When we examine the claims of Engels on behalf of the materialistic
doctrine it will be found that they are not by any means of such a
nature as to warrant the extreme conclusions of subsequent socialist
publicists and leaders. It must be remembered that the subject of the
influence of economic conditions on religious and political phenomena
has been closely examined of late years and continual and accumulating
evidence has been forthcoming respecting the remarkable influence of
economic facts upon all other manifestations of social activity. It is
very probable that the successful investigations in this new field have
led, temporarily, to the formation of exaggerated ideas as to the actual
value of the economic factor.

Marx, in one of his short critical notes on Feuerbach, says: "The
materialistic doctrine that men are products of conditions and
education, different men therefore products of other conditions, and a
different kind of education, forgets that circumstances may be altered
by man and that the educator has himself to be educated." In other
words, the problem, like all problems, possesses at least two
quantities; it is not a question solely of conditions, economic or
otherwise; it is a question of man and conditions, for the man is never
dissolved in the conditions, but exists as a separate entity, and these
two elements, man and conditions, act and react the one upon the other.

This is quite a different position from that taken by Lafargue in his
fight with Jaures. Lafargue there argued that economic development is
the sole determinant of progress, and pronounces in favor of economic
determinism, thus reducing the whole of history and, consequently, the
dominating human motives to but one elementary motive. Belfort Bax, the
well-known English socialist writer, makes a very clever argument
against the determinist position by comparing it with the attempts of
the pre-Socratic Greek philosophers to reduce nature to one element. His
remarks are so pertinent that a brief abstract of his argument is here
quoted in his own language. He says in "Outlooks from a New Standpoint":

"The endeavor to reduce the whole of Human life to one element alone, to
reconstruct all history on the basis of Economics, as already said,
ignores the fact that every concrete reality must have a material and a
formal side,--that is, it must have at least two ultimate elements--all
reality as opposed to abstraction consisting in a synthesis. The attempt
to evolve the many-sidedness of Human life out of one of its factors, no
matter how important that factor may be, reminds one of the attempts of
the early pre-Socratic Greeks to reduce nature to one element, such as
water, air, fire, etc."

And again:

"The precise form a movement takes, be it intellectual, ethical or
artistic, I fully admit, is determined by the material circumstances of
the society in which it acquires form and shape, but it is also
determined by those fundamental psychological tendencies which have
given it birth."

Enrico Ferri, the famous Italian member of the Chamber of Deputies and
criminologist, appears to be at one with Bax in this matter. He says,
quoting from a recent translation of his "Socialism and Modern Science":
"It is perfectly true that every phenomenon as well as every
institution--moral, juridicial or political--is simply the result of
the economic phenomena and the conditions of the transitory, physical
and historical environments. But as a consequence of that law of natural
causality which tells us that every effect is always the resultant of
numerous concurrent causes, and not of one cause alone, and that every
effect becomes in its turn a cause of other phenomena, it is necessary
to amend and complete the too rigid form that has been given to this
true idea.

"Just as all psychical manifestations of the individual are the result
of the organic conditions (temperament) and of the environment in which
he lives, in the same way, all the social manifestations of a people are
the resultant of their organic conditions (race) and of the environment,
as these are the determining causes of the given economic organization
which is the physical basis of life."

These may be said to be fairly representative of the views of the
opposition to the extreme of economic determinism.

The whole controversy has spread over a tremendous amount of ground and
involves much reading. Some of the chief results have lately been
summarized by Professor Seligman in his "Economic Interpretation of
History." (Macmillan, 1902.) His written views show a closer
approximation to and understanding of the teachings of the socialist
philosophy on this subject than we have been accustomed to receive at
the hands of official savants, so that it would seem as if the value of
Marx's work was at last beginning to be appreciated even in the foggy
studies of the professors. Two extracts from the writings of Engels are
quoted by Professor Seligman. These extracts apparently go to prove that
Engels by no means contemplated the extreme construction which has been
placed upon the doctrine, and that he would find such a construction
inconsistent with his general views.

These extracts are quoted here for the purpose of further elucidating
the views of Engels and as further explanatory of the position assumed
by him in the last part of the work under consideration.

They form part of a series of articles written for the "Sozialistische
Akademiker" in 1890, and are as follows:

"Marx and I are partly responsible for the fact that the younger men
have sometimes laid more stress on the economic side than it deserves.
In meeting the attacks of our opponents it was necessary for us to
emphasize the dominant principle denied by them, and we did not always
have the time, place, or opportunity to let the other factors which were
concerned in the mutual action and reaction get their deserts."

And in another letter to the same magazine he says: "According to the
materialistic view of history, the factor which is, in last instance,
decisive in history is the production and reproduction of actual life.
More than this neither Marx nor I have ever asserted. But when anyone
distorts this so as to read that the economic factor is the sole element
he converts the statement into a meaningless, abstract, absurd phrase.
The economic condition is the basis, but the various elements of the
superstructure--the political forms of the class-contests, and their
results, the constitutions--the legal forms and also all the reflexes of
these actual contests in the brains of the participants, the political,
legal, philosophical theories, the religions views--all these exert an
influence on the development of the historical struggles, and in many
instances determine their form."

Here we may leave this much disputed matter for the present, as any
involved discussion of controversial questions would be out of place
here. The question in its ultimate form is merely scholastic, for not
even the most extreme determinist would hold that only the economic
argument must be relied upon by the orators and the press of the
proletarian movement. Any one, however, who wishes to pursue the subject
farther can find abundant material in the already great and growing
amount of literature in connection with it.

There is no doubt that the ideas of Marx respecting the basis of
historical progress have already revolutionized the teaching of history
in the universities, although but few professors have been honest enough
to give him credit for it. The economic factor continually acquires
greater importance in the eyes of the student of history, but the
practical discoverer of this factor is still slighted and the results of
his labors are assimilated with a self-satisfied hypocrisy which is,
unfortunately, characteristic of the colleges of the English-speaking

The bourgeois writers upon socialism generally content themselves with
the bold statement that Marx employs the dialectic method of
investigation and statement. This is so much Greek to the ordinary
reader, and the subject of the dialectic as used by socialist writers
requires a few words of explanation.

The first part of this work is very valuable, therefore, as showing what
Marx and Engels meant when they used the expression, and as declaring
their estimation of that method compared with that in general use in
their day, and always, prior to their time, employed in philosophy,
history and economics.

A fuller and more detailed definition of the dialectic as applied by
Engels is given by that philosopher in his famous reply to Eugene
Duhring known as the "Umwaelzung der Wissenschaft." In that work a more
thorough and patient investigation is made into the sources of
materialistic philosophy of the socialist movement, for the reputation
of his antagonist appears to have acted as a spur to Engels' faculties
which certainly never showed to better advantage than in that work. A
portion of the argument, in fact an abstract of the general train of
reasoning, with the omission of the more obviously controversial parts,
has been reprinted under the title of "Socialism from Utopia to
Science." The following quotation is taken from the translation prepared
for the "People" in 1892:

"We also find, upon a closer enquiry, that the two poles of an
antithesis, such as positive and negative, are as inseparable from as
they are opposed to each other, and that, despite their antagonism, they
mutually pervade each other; and in the same way we find cause and
effect to be conceptions whose force exists only when applied to a
single instance, but which, soon as we consider that instance in its
connection with the cosmos, run into each other and dissolve in the
contemplation of that universal action and reaction where cause and
effect constantly change places--that which is effect, now and here,
becoming, then and yonder, cause, and vice versa.

"None of these processes and methods of reasoning fits in the
metaphysical framework of thought. To dialectics, however, which takes
in the objects and their conceivable images above all in their
connections, their sequence, their motion, their rise and decline,
processes like the above are so many attestations of its own method of
procedure. Nature furnishes the test to dialectics, and this much we
must say for modern natural science, that it has contributed towards
this test an extremely rich and daily increasing material, whereby it
has demonstrated that, in the last instance, nature proceeds upon
dialectical, not upon metaphysical methods, that it does not move upon
the eternal sameness of a perpetually recurring circle, but that it goes
through an actual historic evolution.

"This new German philosophy culminated in the system of Hegel. There
for the first time--and herein consists its merit--the whole natural,
historic, and intellectual world was presented as a process, i. e.,
engaged in perpetual motion, change, transformation and development.
Viewed from this standpoint, the history of mankind no longer appeared
as a wild tangle of senseless deeds of violence, all equally to be
rejected by a ripened philosophic judgment, and which it were best to
forget as soon as possible, but as the process of the development of
mankind itself--a development whose gradual march, through all its stray
paths, and its eternal law, through all its seeming fortuitousness, it
now became the task of the intellect to trace and to discover."

Kirkup, in his "History of Socialism," has this to say upon the
dialectic method of investigation as used by Marx: "In the system of
Marx, it means that the business of enquiry is to trace the connection
and concatenation in the links that make up the process of historic
evolution, to investigate how one stage succeeds another in the
development of society, the facts and forms of human life and history
not being stable and stereotyped things, but the ever-changing
manifestations of the fluent and unresting real, the course of which it
is the duty of science to reveal."

The translator has endeavored to render the meaning of the original in
as simple an English form as possible, and to, generally speaking, avoid
technical terms.



In the preface of the "Critique of Political Economy," published at
Berlin, in 1859, Marx explained how we two, in 1845, in Brussels,
intended to work out together the antagonism of our views--that is, the
materialistic philosophy of history, as developed by Marx--to the
ideological German philosophy, and, in fact, to compare it with our
present philosophic knowledge. The design was carried out in the form of
a criticism of post-Hegelian philosophy. The manuscript, two big octavo
volumes, had long been at its intended place of publication in
Westphalia, when we received the news that altered circumstances did not
permit of its being printed. We postponed the publication of the
manuscript indefinitely, all the more willingly, as we had attained our
main object, an understanding of our own position.

Since then more than forty years have elapsed, and Marx has died
without either of us having had an opportunity of coming back to the
antithesis. As regards our position with reference to Hegel, we have
explained that, as occasion has arisen, but, nowhere, as a whole. We
never came back to Feuerbach, who occupies an intermediate position
between the philosophy of Hegel and our own.

In the meantime the Marxian philosophy has found champions beyond the
boundaries of Germany and of Europe, and in all the languages of the
civilized world. On the other hand, the classic German philosophy has
had a sort of new-birth abroad, particularly in England and Scandinavia,
and even in Germany they appear to be substituting the thin soup of
eclecticism which seems to flow from the universities under the name of

Under these circumstances a short, compact explanation of our relations
to the Hegelian philosophy, of our going forth and departure from it,
appears to me to be more and more required. And just in the same way a
full recognition of the influence which Feuerbach, more than all the
other post-Hegelian philosophers, had over us, during the period of our
youthful enthusiasm, presents itself to me as an unendurable debt of
honor. I also seize the opportunity the more readily since the editor of
the "Neue Zeit" has asked me for a critical discussion of Starcke's book
on Feuerbach. My work was published in the fourth and fifth volumes of
1886 of that publication and here appears in a revised special edition.

Before sending this manuscript to press I once again hunted up and
examined the old manuscript of 1845-6. The part of it dealing with
Feuerbach is not complete. The portion completed consists in an
exposition of the materialistic view of history and only proves how
incomplete at that time was our knowledge of economic history. The
criticism of Feuerbach's doctrine is not given in it. It was therefore
unsuitable for our purpose. On the other hand, I have found in an old
volume of Marx the eleven essays on Feuerbach printed here as an
appendix. These are notes hurriedly scribbled in for later elaboration,
not in the least degree prepared for the press, but invaluable, as the
first written form, in which is planted the genial germ of the new


London, 21 February, 1888.



The volume before us brings us at once to a period which, in the matter
of time, lies a full generation behind us, but which is as foreign to
the present generation in Germany as if it were quite a century old.
And, still, it was the period of the preparation of Germany for the
revolution of 1848, and all that has happened to us since is only a
continuation of 1848, only a carrying out of the last will and testament
of the revolution.

Just as in France in the eighteenth, so in Germany in the nineteenth
century, revolutionary philosophic conceptions introduced a breaking up
of existing political conditions. But how different the two appear! The
French were engaged in open fight with all recognized science, with the
Church, frequently also with the State, their writings were published
beyond the frontiers in Holland or in England, and they themselves were
frequently imprisoned in the Bastile. The Germans, on the contrary, were
professors, appointed instructors of youth by the State, their writings,
recognized text-books, and their definite system of universal progress,
the Hegelian, raised, as it were, to the rank of a royal Prussian
philosophy of government. And behind these professors, behind their
pedantically obscure utterances, in their heavy wearisome periods, was
it possible that the revolution could conceal itself? Were not just the
people who were looked upon at that time as the leaders of the
revolution, the Liberals, the bitterest opponents of the brain-turning
philosophy? But what neither the Governmentalists nor the Liberals saw,
that saw, at least one man, and that man was Heinrich Heine.

Let us take an example. No philosophic statement has so invited the
thanks of narrow-minded governments and the anger of the equally narrow
Liberals as the famous statement of Hegel: "All that is real is
reasonable, and all that is reasonable is real." This was essentially
the blessing of all that is, the philosophical benediction of despotism,
police-government, star-chamber justice and the censorship. So Frederick
William III and his subjects understood it; but, according to Hegel, not
everything which exists is, without exception, real. The attribute of
reality belongs only to that which is at the same time necessary.
Reality proves itself in the course of its development as necessity. Any
governmental act--Hegel himself instances the example of a certain "tax
law"--by no means strikes him as real in the absence of other qualities.
But what is necessary proves itself in the last instance as reasonable
also, and applied to the Prussian government, the Hegel doctrine,
therefore, only means, this state is reasonable, corresponding with
reason, as long as it is necessary, and if it appear to us an evil, but
in spite of the evil still continues to exist, the evil of the
government finds its justification and its explanation in the
corresponding evil of the subjects. The Prussians of that day had the
government which they deserved.

But reality, according to Hegel, is by no means an attribute which
belongs to a given social or political condition, under all
circumstances and at all times. Quite the contrary. The Roman Republic
was real, but the Roman Empire which replaced it was also real. The
French Monarchy had become unreal in 1789, that is, it had lost all the
quality of necessity, and was so contrary to reason that it had to be
destroyed by the Great Revolution, of which Hegel always speaks with the
greatest enthusiasm. Here, therefore, the monarchy was the unreal, the
revolution the real. So in the course of progress all earlier reality
becomes unreality, loses its necessity, its right of existence, its
rationality; in place of the dying reality comes a new vital reality,
peaceable when the old is sufficiently sensible to go to its death
without a struggle, forcible when it strives against this necessity. And
so the Hegelian statement through the Hegelian dialectic turns to its
opposite--all that is real in the course of human history becomes in the
process of time irrational and is, therefore, according to its destiny,
irrational, and has from the beginning inherited want of rationality,
and everything which is reasonable in the minds of men is destined to
become real, however much it may contradict the apparent reality of
existing conditions. The statement of the rationality of everything real
dissolves itself, according to the Hegelian mode of thought, in the
other, "All that stands has ultimately only so much worth that it must

But just there lay the true significance and the revolutionary character
of the Hegelian philosophy (to which, as the conclusion of all progress
since Kant, we must here limit ourselves) in that it, once and for all,
gave the coup de grace to finiteness of results of human thought and
action. Truth, which it is the province of philosophy to recognize, was
no longer, according to Hegel, a collection of ready-made dogmatic
statements, which once discovered must only be thoroughly learned; truth
lay now in the process of knowledge itself, in the long historical
development of learning, which climbs from lower to ever higher heights
of knowledge, without ever reaching the point of so-called absolute
truth, where it can go no further, where it has nothing more to look
forward to, except to fold its hands in its lap and contemplate the
absolute truth already gained. And just as it is in the realm of
philosophic knowledge, so is it with every other kind of knowledge, even
with that of practical commerce. And just as little as knowledge can
history find a conclusion, complete in one completed ideal condition of
humanity, a completed society, a perfect state, are things which can
only exist as phantasies, on the contrary, all successive historical
conditions are only places of pilgrimage in the endless evolutionary
progress of human society from the lower to the higher. Every step is
necessary and useful for the time and circumstances to which it owes its
origin, but it becomes weak and without justification under the newer
and higher conditions which develop little by little in its own womb, it
must give way to the higher form, which in turn comes to decay and
defeat. As the bourgeoisie through the greater industry, competition,
and the world market destroyed the practical value of all stable and
anciently honored institutions, so this dialectic philosophy destroyed
all theories of absolute truth, and of an absolute state of humanity
corresponding with them. In face of it nothing final, absolute or sacred
exists, it assigns mortality indiscriminately, and nothing can exist
before it save the unbroken process of coming into existence and passing
away, the endless passing from the lower to the higher, the mere
reflection of which in the brain of the thinker it is itself. It has
indeed also a conservative side, it recognizes the suitability of a
given condition of knowledge and society for its time and conditions,
but only so far. This conservatism of this philosophical view is
relative, its revolutionary character is absolute, the only absolute
which it allows to exist.

We do not, at this point, need to go into the question whether this
philosophy is consistent throughout with the present position of natural
science which predicts for the earth a possible end and for its
inhabitability, a fairly certain one; which, therefore, also recognizes
that in human history there is not only an upshooting but also a
down-growing branch. We find ourselves, at any rate, still a
considerable distance from the turning point, where the history of
society begins to descend, and we cannot expect the Hegelian philosophy
to meddle with a subject which at that time science had not yet placed
upon the order of the day.

What must, indeed, be said is this, that the Hegelian development does
not, according to Hegel, show itself so clearly. It is a necessary
consequence of his method which he himself has never drawn with this
explicitness. And for this simple reason, because he was compelled to
make a system, and a system of philosophy must, in accordance with all
its understood pretensions, close somewhere with a definition of
absolute truth. So Hegel, therefore, in his logic, urged that this
eternal truth is nothing else but the logical, that is, the historical
process itself; yet in spite of this he finds himself compelled to place
an end to this process, since he must come to an end with his system
somewhere or other. He can make this end a beginning again in logic,
since here the point of conclusion--the absolute idea, which is only
absolute in so far as he has nothing clear to say about it--divests
itself in nature, that is, becomes transformed, and later on, in
spirit, that is, in thought and in history, comes to itself again. But
in the last philosophical analysis, a return to the beginning is only
possible in one way, namely, if one place the end of history in this
fact, that mankind comes to a knowledge of the absolute idea, and
explain that this knowledge of the absolute idea is obtained in the
Hegelian philosophy. But in this way the whole dogmatic content of the
Hegelian philosophy in the matter of absolute truth is explained in
contradiction to his dialectic, the cutting loose from all dogmatic
methods, and thereby the revolutionary side becomes smothered under the
dominating conservative. And what can be said of philosophical knowledge
can also be said of historical practice. Mankind, that is, in the person
of Hegel, has arrived at the point of working out the absolute idea, and
must also practically have arrived so far as to make the absolute idea a
reality. The practical political demands of the abstract idea upon his
contemporaries cannot, therefore, be stretched too far. And so we find
as the conclusion of the philosophy of Rights that the absolute idea
shall realize itself in that limited monarchy which William III. so
persistently, vainly promised to his subjects; therefore, in a limited,
moderate, indirect control of the possessing classes, suitable to the
dominating small bourgeois class in Germany whereby, in addition, the
necessity to us of the existence of the nobility is shown in a
speculative fashion.

The essential usefulness of the system is sufficient to explain the
manufacture of a very tame political conclusion by means of a thoroughly
revolutionary method of reasoning. The special form of this conclusion
springs from this, as a matter of fact, that Hegel was a German, and, as
in the case of his contemporary Goethe, he was somewhat of a philistine.
Goethe and Hegel, each of them was an Olympian Zeus in his own sphere,
but they were neither of them quite free from German philistinism.

But all this does not hinder the Hegelian system from playing an
incomparably greater role than any earlier system and by virtue of this
role developing riches of thought which are astounding even to-day.
Phenomenology of the mind (which one may parallel with embryology and
palaeontology of the mind), an evolution of the individual
consciousness, through its different steps, expressed as a brief
reproduction of the steps through which the consciousness of man has
historically passed, logic, natural philosophy, mental philosophy, and
the latter worked out separately in its detailed historical
subdivisions, philosophy of history, of jurisprudence, of religion,
history of philosophy, esthetics, etc. Hegel labored in all these
different historical fields to discover and prove the thread of
evolution, and as he was not only a creative genius, but also a man of
encyclopedic learning, he was thus, from every point of view, the maker
of an epoch. It is self-evident that by virtue of the necessities of the
"System" he must very often take refuge in certain forced constructions,
about which his pigmy opponents make such an ado even at the present
time. But these constructions are only the frames and scaffoldings of
his work; if one does not stop unnecessarily at these but presses on
further into the building one will find uncounted treasures which hold
their full value to-day. As regards all philosophers, their system is
doomed to perish and for this reason, because it emanates from an
imperishable desire of the human soul, the desire to abolish all
contradictions. But if all contradictions are once and for all disposed
of, we have arrived at the so-called absolute truth, history is at an
end, and yet it will continue to go on, although there is nothing
further left for it to do--thus a newer and more insoluble
contradiction. So soon as we have once perceived--and to this perception
no one has helped us more than Hegel himself--that the task thus imposed
upon philosophy signifies nothing different than the task that a single
philosopher shall accomplish what it is only possible for the entire
human race to accomplish, in the course of its progressive
development--as soon as we understand that, it is all over with
philosophy in the present sense of the word. In this way one discards
the absolute truth, unattainable for the individual, and follows instead
the relative truths attainable by way of the positive sciences, and the
collection of their results by means of the dialectic mode of thought.
With Hegel universal philosophy comes to an end, on the one hand,
because he comprehended in his system its entire development on the
greatest possible scale; on the other hand, because he showed us the
way, even if he did not know it himself, out of this labyrinth of
systems, to a real positive knowledge of the world.

One may imagine what an immense effect the Hegelian philosophy produced
in the philosophy-dyed atmosphere of Germany. The triumph lasted for ten
years and by no means subsided with the death of Hegel. On the contrary,
from 1830 to 1840 Hegelianism was exclusively supreme and had fastened
itself upon its opponents to a greater or less degree. During this
period Hegel's views, consciously or unconsciously, penetrated the
different sciences, and saturated popular literature and the daily press
from which the ordinary so-called cultured classes derive their mental
pabulum. But this victory down the whole line was only preliminary to a
conflict within its own ranks.

The entire doctrine of Hegel left, as we have seen, plenty of room for
the bringing under it the most diverse practical opinions, and the
practical, in the then theoretic Germany, consisted in only two
things--religion and politics. He who laid the greatest stress upon the
Hegelian system, might be moderately conservative in both these
respects, while he who considered the dialectic method of the greatest
importance could belong to the extreme left in religious and political
affairs. Hegel himself, in spite of the frequent outbursts of
revolutionary wrath in his books, was inclined, on the whole, to the
conservative side. His system, rather than his method, had cost him the
hard thinking. At the end of the thirties, the division in the school
grew greater and greater. The left wing, the so-called Young Hegelians,
in their fight with the pious orthodox, abandoned little by little, that
marked philosophical reserve regarding the burning questions of the day,
which had up to that time secured for their teachings State toleration
and even protection, and as in 1840 orthodox pietism and absolutist
feudal reaction ascended the throne with Frederick William IV., open
partisanship became unavoidable. The fight was still maintained with
philosophical weapons, but no longer along abstract philosophical lines;
they went straight to deny the dominant religion and the existing state,
and although in the "Deutschen Jahrbuechern" the practical aims were
still put forward clothed in philosophical phraseology, the younger
Hegelian school threw off disguise in the "Rheinische Zeitung," as the
exponents of the philosophy of the struggling radicals, and used the
cloak of philosophy only to deceive the censorship.

But politics were at that time a very thorny field, and so the main
fight was directed against religion. But this was also, particularly
since 1840, indirectly a political fight. Strauss' "Leben Jesu,"
published in 1835, had given the first cause of offense. The theory
therein developed regarding the origin of the gospel myths Bruno Bauer
later dealt with, adding the additional proof that a whole series of
evangelical stories had been invented by their authors. The fight
between these two was carried on under a philosophical disguise, as a
battle of mind with matter; the question whether the marvellous stories
of the gospel came into being through an unconscious myth-creation in
the womb of society, or whether they were individually invented by the
evangelists broadened into the question whether in the history of the
race, mind or matter carried the real weight, and lastly came Stirner,
the prophet of modern anarchism--Bakunine has taken very much from
him--and overtopped the sovereign power of consciousness with his
sovereign power of the individual.

We do not follow the decomposition of the Hegelian school on this side
any further. What is more important for us is this: The mass of the most
decided young Hegelians were driven back upon English-French materialism
through the necessities of their fight against positive religion. Here
they came into conflict with their school system. According to
materialism, nature exists as the sole reality, it exists in the
Hegelian system only as the alienation of the absolute Idea, as it were
a degradation of the Idea; under all circumstances, thought, and its
thought-product, the Idea, according to this view, appears as the
original, nature, which only exists through the condescension of the
Idea as the derived, and in this contradiction they got along as well or
as ill as they might.

Then came Feuerbach's "Wesen des Christenthums." With one blow it cut
the contradiction, in that it placed materialism on the throne again
without any circumlocution. Nature exists independently of all
philosophies. It is the foundation upon which we, ourselves products of
nature, are built. Outside man and nature nothing exists, and the higher
beings which our religious phantasies have created are only the
fantastic reflections of our individuality. The cord was broken, the
system was scattered and destroyed, the contradiction, since it only
existed in the imagination, was solved. One must himself have
experienced the delivering power of this book to get a clear idea of it.
The enthusiasm was universal, we were all for the moment followers of
Feuerbach. How enthusiastically Marx greeted the new idea and how much
he was influenced by it, in spite of all his critical reservations, one
may read in the "Holy Family."

The very faults of the book contributed to its momentary effect. The
literary, impressive, even bombastic style secured for it a very large
public and was a constant relief after the long years of abstract and
abstruse Hegelianism. The same result also proceeded from the
extravagant glorification of love, which in comparison with the
insufferable sovereignty of pure reason, found an excuse, if not a
justification. What we must not forget is, that just on these two
weaknesses of Feuerbach "true Socialism" in educated Germany fastened
itself like a spreading plague since 1844, and set literary phrases in
the place of scientific knowledge, the freeing of mankind by means of
love in place of the emancipation of the proletariat, through the
economic transformation of production, in short lost itself in nauseous
fine writing and in sickly sentimentality, of the type of which class of
writers was Herr Karl Gruen.

We must furthermore not forget that though the Hegelian school was
destroyed the Hegelian philosophy was not critically vanquished. Strauss
and Bauer took each a side and engaged in polemics. Feuerbach broke
through the system and threw it as a whole aside. But one has not
finished with a philosophy by simply declaring it to be false, and so
enormous a work as the Hegelian philosophy which has had so tremendous
an influence upon the mental development of the nation did not allow
itself to be put aside peremptorily. It had to be destroyed in its own
way, which means in the way that critically destroys its form but saves
the new acquisitions to knowledge won by it. How this was brought about
we shall see below.

But for the moment, the Revolution of 1848 put aside all philosophical
discussion just as unceremoniously as Feuerbach laid aside Hegel. And
then Feuerbach was himself crowded out.


The great foundation question of all, especially new, philosophies is
connected with the relation between thinking and being. Since very early
times when men, being in complete ignorance respecting their own bodies,
and stirred by apparitions,[1] arrived at the idea that thought and
sensation were not acts of their own bodies, but of a special soul
dwelling in the body and deserting it at death, ever since then they
have been obliged to give thought to the relations of this soul to the
outside world. If it betook itself from the body and lived on, there was
no reason to invent another death for it; thus arose the conception of
their immortality, which, at that evolutionary stage, did not appear as
a consolation, but as fate, against which a man cannot strive, and often
enough, as among the Greeks, as a positive misfortune. Not religious
desire for consolation but uncertainty arising from a similar universal
ignorance of what to associate with the soul when once it was
acknowledged, after the death of the body, led universally to the
tedious idea of personal immortality. Just in a similar fashion the
first gods arose, through the personification of the forces of nature,
and these in the further development of the religions acquired greater
and greater supernatural force, until by a natural process of
abstraction, I might say of distillation, from the many more or less
limited and mutually limiting gods, in the course of spiritual
development, at last the idea of the one all embracing god of the
monotheistic religions took its place in the minds of men.

The question of the relation of thinking to being, of the relation of
the spirit to nature, the highest question of universal philosophy, has
therefore, no less than all religion, its roots in the limited and
ignorant ideas of the condition of savagery. It could first be
understood, and its full significance could first be grasped, when
mankind awoke from the long winter sleep of Christian Middle Ages. The
question of the relation of thought to existence, a question which had
also played a great role in the scholasticism of the Middle Ages, the
question what is at the beginning spirit or nature, this question was in
spite of the church now cut down to this: "Has God made the world or is
the world from eternity?"

As this question was answered this way or that the philosophers were
divided into two great camps. The one party which placed the origin of
the spirit before that of nature, and therefore in the last instance
accepted creation, in some form or other--and this creation, is often
according to the philosophers, according to Hegel for example, still
more odd and impossible than in Christianity--made the camp of idealism.
The others, who recognized nature as the source, belong to the various
schools of materialism.

The two expressions signify something different from this. Idealism and
materialism, originally not used in any other sense, are not here
employed in any other sense. We shall see what confusion arises when one
tries to force another signification into them.

The question of the relationship of thinking and being has another
side; in what relation do our thoughts with regard to the world
surrounding us stand to this world itself? Is our thought in a position
to recognize the real world? Can we, in our ideas and notion of the real
world, produce a correct reflection of the reality? This question is
called in philosophical language the question of the identity of
thinking and being, and is affirmed by the great majority of
philosophers. According to Hegel, for example, its affirmation is
self-evident, for that which we know in the actual world is its content,
according to our thought, that which compels the world to a progressive
realization as it were of the absolute Idea, which absolute idea has
existed somewhere, unattached from the world and before the world; and
that thought can recognize a content which is already a thought content
herein, from the beginning, appears self-evident. It is also evident
that what is here to be proved is already hidden in the hypothesis. But
that does not hinder Hegel, by any means, from drawing the further
conclusion from his proof of the identity of thought and existence that
his philosophy, because correct for his thought, is, therefore, the only
correct one, and that the identity of thought and existence must show
itself in this, that mankind should forthwith translate his philosophy
from theory to practice and the whole world shift itself to a Hegelian
base. This is an illusion which he shares alike with all philosophers.

In addition there is still another class of philosophers, those who
dispute the possibility of a perception of the universe or at least of
an exhaustive perception. To them belong, among the moderns, Hume and
Kant, and they have played a very distinguished role in the evolution of
philosophy. This point of view has been now refuted by Hegel, as far as
possible, from the idealistic standpoint. The materialistic additions
made by Feuerbach are more ingenious than deep. The most destructive
refutation of this as of all other fixed philosophic ideas is actual
result, namely experiment and industry. If we can prove the correctness
of our idea of an actual occurrence by experiencing it ourselves and
producing it from its constituent elements, and using it for our own
purposes into the bargain, the Kantian phrase "Ding an Sich" (thing in
itself) ceases to have any meaning. The chemical substances which go to
form the bodies of plants and animals remained just such "Dinge an Sich"
until organic chemistry undertook to show them one after the other,
whereupon the thing in itself became a thing for us, as the coloring
matter in the roots of madder, alizarin, which we no longer allow to
grow in the roots of the madder in the field, but make much more cheaply
and simply from coal tar. The Copernican system was for three hundred
years a hypothesis, with a hundred, a thousand, or ten thousand chances
in its favor, but still a hypothesis. But when Leverrier by means of the
data of this system not only discovered the existence of a certain
unknown planet, but even calculated the position in the heavens which
this planet must necessarily occupy, and when Galles really found this
planet, then the Copernican system was proved. If, nevertheless, the
resurrection of the Kantian idea in Germany is being tried by the
Neo-Kantians, and of that of Hume in England (where they never died),
by the agnostics, that is, in the face of the long past theoretical and
practical refutation of these doctrines, scientifically, a step
backwards, and practically, merely the acceptance of materialism in a
shame-faced way, clandestinely, and the denial of it before the world.

But the philosophers were during this long period from Descartes to
Hegel and from Hobbes to Feuerbach by no means, as they thought,
impelled solely by the force of pure reason. On the contrary, what
really impelled them was, in particular, the strong and ever quicker
conquering step of natural science and industry. Among the materialists
this very quickly showed itself on the surface, but the idealistic
systems filled themselves more and more with materialistic content and
sought to reconcile the antagonism between spirit and matter by means of
pantheism, so that finally the Hegelian system represented merely a
materialism turned upside down, according to idealistic method and

Of course Starcke in his "Characteristics of Feuerbach" enquired into
the fundamental question of the relations of thinking and being. After
a short introduction in which the ideas of preceding philosophers,
particularly since Kant, are portrayed in unnecessarily heavy
philosophical language and in which Hegel, owing to a too formal
insistence on certain parts of his work does not receive due credit,
there follows a copious description of the development of the
metaphysics of Feuerbach, as shown in the course of the recognized
writings of this philosopher. This description is industriously and
carefully elaborated, and, like the whole book, is overballasted with,
not always unavoidable, philosophical expressions, which is all the more
annoying in that the writer does not hold to the vocabulary of one and
the same school nor even of Feuerbach himself, but mixes up expressions
of very different schools, and especially of the present epidemic of
schools calling themselves philosophical.

The evolution of Feuerbach is that of a Hegelian to materialism--not of
an orthodox Hegelian, indeed--an evolution which from a definite point
makes a complete breach with the idealistic system of his predecessor.
With irresistible force he brings himself to the view that the Hegelian
idea of the existence of the absolute idea before the world, the
pre-existence of the logical categories before the universe came into
being, is nothing else than the fantastical survival of the belief in
the existence of an extra-mundane creator; that the material, sensible,
actual world, to which we ourselves belong, is the only reality, and
that our consciousness and thought, however supernatural they may seem,
are only evidences of a material bodily organ, the brain. Matter is not
a product of mind, but mind itself is only the highest product of
matter. This is, of course, pure materialism. When he reached this point
Feuerbach came to a standstill. He cannot overcome ordinary
philosophical prejudice, prejudice not against the thing, but against
the name materialism. He says "Materialism is for me the foundation of
the building of the being and knowledge of man, but it is not for me
what it is for the physiologists in the narrow sense, as Moleschott, for
example, since necessarily from their standpoint it is the building
itself. Backwards, I am in accord with the materialists but not

Feuerbach here confuses materialism, which is a philosophy of the
universe dependent upon a certain comprehension of the relations between
matter and spirit, with the special forms in which this philosophy
appeared at a certain historical stage--namely in the eighteenth
century. More than that he confuses it with the shallow and vulgarized
form in which the materialism of the eighteenth century exists today, in
the minds of naturalists and physicians, and was popularized during a
period of fifty years in the writings of Buechner, Vogt and Moleschott.
But as idealism has passed through a series of evolutionary
developments, so also has materialism--with each epoch-making discovery
in the department of natural science it has been obliged to change its
form; since then, history also, being subjected to the materialistic
method of treatment, shows itself as a new road of progress.

The materialism of the preceding century was overwhelmingly mechanical,
because at that time of all the natural sciences, mechanics, and indeed,
only the mechanics of the celestial and terrestrial fixed bodies, the
mechanics of gravity, in short, had reached any definite conclusions.
Chemistry existed at first only in a childish, phlogistic form. Biology
still lay in swaddling clothes; the organism of plants and animals was
examined only in a very cursory manner, and was explained upon purely
mechanical grounds; just as an animal was to Descartes nothing but a
machine, so was man to the materialists of the eighteenth century. The
exclusive application of the measure of mechanics to processes which are
of chemical and organic nature and by which, it is true, the laws of
mechanics are also manifested, but are pushed into the background by
other higher laws, this application is the cause of the peculiar, but,
considering the times, unavoidable, narrowmindedness of the French

The second special limitation of this materialism lies in its incapacity
to represent the universe as a process, as one form of matter assumed in
the course of evolutionary development. This limitation corresponded
with the natural science of the time and the metaphysic coincident
therewith, that is the anti-dialectic methods of the philosophers.
Nature, as was known, was in constant motion, but this motion, according
to the universally accepted ideas, turned eternally in a circle, and
therefore never moved from the spot, and produced the same results over
and over again. This idea was at that time inevitable. The Kantian
theory of the origin of the solar system was at first exhibited and
considered as a mere curiosity. The history of the development of the
earth-geology was still unknown, and the idea that the living natural
objects of to-day are the result of a long process of development from
the simple to the complex could not be scientifically established at
that time. This anti-historical comprehension of nature was, therefore,
inevitable. We cannot reproach the philosophers of the eighteenth
century with this, as the same thing is also found in Hegel. According
to him, nature is the mere outward form of the Idea, capable of no
progress as regards time, but merely of an extension of its manifoldness
in space, so that it displays all the stages of development comprised in
it at one and the same time together, and is condemned to a repetition
of the same processes. And this absurdity of a progress in space but
outside of time--the fundamental condition of all progress--Hegel loads
upon nature, just at the very time when geology, embryology, the
physiology of plants and animals, and inorganic chemistry, were being
built up, and when above all genial prophecies of the later evolution
theory appeared at the very threshold of these new sciences (e. g.,
Goethe and Lamark), but the system so required it, and the method, for
love of the system, had to prove untrue to itself.

This unhistoric conception had its effects also in the domain of
history. Here the fight against the remnants of the Middle Ages kept the
outlook limited. The Middle Ages were reckoned as a mere interruption of
history by a thousand years of barbarism. The great advances of the
Middle Ages--the broadening of European learning, the bringing into
existence of great nations, which arose, one after the other, and
finally the enormous technical advances of the fourteenth and fifteenth
centuries--all this no one saw. Consequently a rational view of the
great historic development was rendered impossible, and history served
principally as a collection of examples and illustrations for the use
of philosophers.

The vulgarizing peddlers who during the fifties occupied themselves with
materialism in Germany did not by any means escape the limitations of
their doctrine. All the advances made in science served them only as new
grounds of proof against the existence of the Creator, and indeed it was
far beyond their trade to develop the theory any further. Idealism was
at the end of its tether and was smitten with death by the Revolution of
1848. Yet it had the satisfaction that materialism sank still lower.
Feuerbach was decidedly right when he refused to take the responsibility
of this materialism, only he had no business to confound the teachings
of the itinerant spouters with materialism in general.

However, we must here remark two different things. During the life of
Feuerbach science was still in that state of violent fermentation which
has only comparatively cleared during the last fifteen years; new
material of knowledge was furnished in a hitherto unheard of measure but
the fixing of interrelations, and therewith of order, in the chaos of
overwhelming discoveries was rendered possible quite lately for the
first time. True, Feuerbach had lived to see the three distinctive
discoveries--that of the cell, the transformation of energy and the
evolution theory acknowledged since the time of Darwin. But how could
the solitary country-dwelling philosopher appreciate at their full value
discoveries which naturalists themselves at that time in part contested
and partly did not understand how to avail themselves of sufficiently?
The disgrace falls solely upon the miserable conditions in Germany owing
to which the chairs of philosophy were filled by pettifogging eclectic
pedants, while Feuerbach, who towered high above them all, had to
rusticate and grow sour in a little village. It is therefore no shame to
Feuerbach that he never grasped the natural evolutionary philosophy
which became possible with the passing away of the partial views of
French materialism.

In the second place, Feuerbach held quite correctly that scientific
materialism is the foundation of the building of human knowledge but it
is not the building itself. For we live not only in nature but in human
society, and this has its theory of development and its science no less
than nature. It was necessary, therefore, to bring the science of
society, that is the so-called historical and philosophical sciences,
into harmony with the materialistic foundations and to rebuild upon
them. But this was not granted to Feuerbach. Here he stuck, in spite of
the "foundations," held in the confining bonds of idealism, and to this
he testified in the words "Backwards I am with the materialists, but not
forwards." But Feuerbach himself did not go forward in his views of
human society from his standpoint of 1840 and 1844, chiefly owing to
that loneliness which compelled him to think everything out by himself,
instead of in friendly and hostile conflict with other men of his
calibre, although of all philosophers he was the fondest of intercourse
with his fellows. We shall see later on how he thus remained an
idealist. Here we can only call attention to the fact that Starcke
sought the idealism of Feuerbach in the wrong place. "Feuerbach is an
idealist; he believes in the advance of mankind" (p. 19). "The
foundations, the underpinning of the whole, is therefore nothing less
than idealism. Realism is for us nothing more than a protection against
error while we follow our own idealistic tendencies. Are not compassion,
love and enthusiasm for truth and justice ideal forces?"

In the first place, idealism is here defined as nothing but the
following of ideal aims. But these have necessarily to do principally
with the idealism of Kant and his "Categorical Imperative." But Kant
himself called his philosophy "transcendental idealism," by no means
because he deals therein with moral ideals, but on quite other grounds,
as Starcke will remember.

The superstition that philosophical idealism pivots around a belief in
moral, that is in social ideals, arose with the German non-philosophical
Philistine, who commits to memory the few philosophical morsels which he
finds in Schiller's poems. Nobody has criticised more severely the
feeble Categorical Imperative of Kant--feeble because it demands the
impossible and therefore never attains to any reality--nobody has
ridiculed more cruelly the Philistine sentimentality imparted by
Schiller, because of its unrealizable ideals, than just the idealist par
excellence, Hegel. (See e. g. Phenomenology.)

In the second place, it cannot be avoided that all human sensations pass
through the brain--even eating and drinking which are commenced
consequent upon hunger and thirst felt by the brain and ended in
consequence of sensations of satisfaction similarly experienced by the
brain. The realities of the outer world impress themselves upon the
brain of man, reflect themselves there, as feelings, thoughts, impulses,
volitions, in short, as ideal tendencies, and in this form become ideal
forces. If the circumstance that this man follows ideal tendencies at
all, and admits that ideal forces exercise an influence over him, if
this makes an idealist of him, every normally developed man is in some
sense a born idealist, and under such circumstances how can materialists

In the third place, the conviction that humanity, at least at present,
as a whole, progresses, has absolutely nothing to do with the antagonism
between materialism and idealism. The French materialists had this
conviction, to a fanatical degree, no less than the deists, Voltaire and
Rousseau, and made the greatest personal sacrifices for it. If anybody
ever concentrated his whole life to the enthusiasm for truth and
justice, taking the words in a moral sense, it was Diderot, for example.
Therefore, since Starcke has explained all this as idealism, it simply
proves that the word materialism has lost all significance for him, as
has also the antagonism between the aims of the two.

The fact is that Starcke here makes an unpardonable concession to the
prejudices of the Philistines caused by the long continued slanders of
the clergy against the word materialism, even if without consciously
doing so. The Philistine understands by the word materialism, gluttony,
drunkenness, carnal lust, and fraudulent speculation, in short all the
enormous vices to which he himself is secretly addicted, and by the word
idealism he understands the belief in virtue, universal humanitarianism,
and a better world as a whole, of which he boasts before others, and in
which he himself at the very most believes, only as long as he must
endure the blues which follow necessarily from his customary
"materialistic" excesses, and so sings his favorite song--"What is
man?--Half beast, half angel."

As for the rest, Starcke takes great pains to defend Feuerbach against
the attacks and doctrines of those collegians who plume themselves in
Germany as philosophers now-a-days. It is true that this is a matter of
importance to those people who take an interest in the afterbirth of the
German classic philosophy, to Starcke himself this might appear
necessary. We spare the reader this, however.


[1] To this very day the idea is prevalent among savages and barbarians
that the human forms appearing in our dreams are souls which temporarily
leave the body, and that, therefore, the real man becomes liable for the
deeds done to the dreamer by his dream appearance. So Imthurm, for
example, found it in 1884 among the Indians in Guiana.


The distinct idealism of Feuerbach is evident directly we come to his
philosophy of religion and ethics. He does not wish to abolish religion
by any means; he wants to perfect it. Philosophy itself will be absorbed
in religion. "The periods of human progress are only distinguishable by
religious changes. There is only a real historical progress where it
enters the hearts of men. The heart is not a place for religion, so that
it should be in the heart, it is the very being of religion." Religion
is, according to Feuerbach, a matter of the feelings--the feelings of
love between man and man which up to now sought its realization in the
fantastic reflected image of the reality--in the interposition through
one or more gods of the fantastic reflections of human qualities--but
now by means of love between "ego" and "tu" finds itself directly and
without any intermediary. According to Feuerbach love between the sexes
is, if not the highest form, at least one of the highest forms, of the
practice of his new religion.

Now, feelings of affection between man and man, and particularly
between members of the two sexes, have existed as long as mankind has.
Love between the sexes has been cultivated especially during the last
eighteen hundred years and has won a place which has made it, in this
period, a compulsory motive for all poetry. The existing positive
religions have limited themselves in this matter to the bestowal of
complete consecration upon the State regulation of sexual love, and
might completely disappear tomorrow without the least difference taking
place in the matter of love and friendship. Thus the Christian religion
in France was, as a matter of fact, so completely overthrown between the
years 1793 and 1798, that Napoleon himself could not re-introduce it
without opposition and difficulty, without, in the interval, any desire
for a substitute, in Feuerbach's sense, making itself felt.

Feuerbach's idealism consists in this, that he does not simply take for
granted the mutual and reciprocal feelings of men for one another such
as sexual love, friendship, compassion, self-sacrifice, etc., but
declares that they would come to their full realization for the first
time as soon as they were consecrated under the name of religion. The
main fact for him is not that these purely human relations exist, but
that they will be conceived of as the new true religion. They will be
fully realized for the first time if they are stamped as religions.
Religion is derived from "religare" and means originally "fastening."
Therefore, every bond between men is religion. Such etymological
artifices are the last resort of the idealistic philosophy. Not what the
word means according to the historical development of its true
significance, but what it should mean according to its derivation is
what counts, and so sex-love and the intercourse between the sexes is
consecrated as a "religion" only so that the word religion, which is
dear to the mind of the idealist, shall not vanish from the language.
The Parisian reformer of the stripe of Louis Blanc used to speak just in
the same way in the forties, for they could only conceive of a man
without religion as a monster, and used to say to us "Atheism, then, is
your religion."

If Feuerbach wants to place true religion upon the basis of real
materialistic philosophy, that would be just the same as conceiving of
modern chemistry as true alchemy. If religion can exist without its God
then alchemy can exist without its philosopher's stone. There exists, by
the way, a very close connection between alchemy and religion. The
philosopher's stone has many properties of the old gods, and the
Egyptian-Greek alchemists of the first two centuries of our era have had
their hands in the development of Christian doctrines, as Kopp and
Berthelot prove.

Feuerbach's declaration that the periods of man's development are only
differentiated through changes in religion is false. Great historical
points of departure are coincident with religious changes only as far as
the three world-religions which exist up to the present are
concerned--Buddhism, Christianity and Islam. The old tribal and national
religions originating in nature were not propagandist and lost all power
of resistance as soon as the independence of the tribe and people was
destroyed. Among the Germans simple contact with the decaying Roman
Empire and the Christian world-religion springing from it and suitable
to its economic, political and ideal circumstances, was sufficient. In
the first place, as regards these more or less artificial
world-religions, particularly in the cases of Christianity and
Mohammedanism, we find that the more universal historical movements will
take on a religious stamp, and as far as concerns Christianity in
particular, the stamp of the religion affecting revolutionary movements
of universal significance stopped short at the commencement of the fight
of the bourgeois for emancipation from the thirteenth to the seventeenth
century, and showed itself not as Feuerbach declares in the hearts of
men and the thirst for religion, but in the entire earlier history of
the Middle Ages which knew no other form of idealism than religion and
theology. But as the bourgeoisie in the eighteenth century was
sufficiently strong to have its own ideology suitable to its own
standpoint, it forthwith made its great and final revolution, the
French, by means of an appeal exclusively to juristic and political
ideals, and troubled itself with religion only so far as it stood in its
way. It never occurred to it to establish a new religion in place of
the old one; everybody knows what a mess Robespierre made of the

The possibility of a purely humane sentiment in intercourse with other
men is with us today exceedingly impeded through the society founded on
class antagonism and class supremacy in which we must move. We have no
need to trouble ourselves about sanctifying these sentiments by means of
a new religion. And just as the circumstances of the great historical
class-fight have been obscured by the current historians, particularly
in Germany, so in the same way the understanding of the great historical
class-conflicts is sufficiently obscured by the present-day manner of
writing history, without our needing to change these conflicts into a
mere appendix of ecclesiastical history. Here it is evident how far we
in our day are away from Feuerbach. His most beautiful passages in
praise of the new religion of love are today unreadable.

The only religion which Feuerbach examined closely is Christianity, the
universal religion of the western world which is founded upon
monotheism. He proves that the Christian God is only the fantastic
reflection, the reflected image of man. But that God is himself the
product of a lengthy process of abstraction, the concentrated
quintessence of the earlier tribal and national gods. And man also whose
reflection that God is, is not a real man, but is likewise the
quintessence of many real men, the abstract human, and therefore himself
again the creature of thought. The same Feuerbach who on each page
preaches sensation, diving into the concrete, the real, becomes
thoroughly abstract as soon as he begins to talk of more than mere
sensual intercourse between human beings.

Of this relationship only one side appeals to him, the moral, and
Feuerbach's astonishing lack of resources as compared with Hegel is
striking. The ethic or rather moral doctrine of the latter, is the
Philosophy of Right and embraces: 1, Abstract Right; 2, Morality; 3,
Moral Conduct, under which are again comprised: the family, bourgeois,
society, and the State. As the form is here idealistic, the content is
realistic. The entire scope of law, economy, politics, is therein,
besides ethics. With Feuerbach, it is just the reverse. He is realistic
in form; he begins with man, but the discussion has absolutely nothing
to do with the world in which this man lives, and so, instead of the
man, stands an abstract man, who preaches sermons concerning the
philosophy of religion. This man is not even the son of a mother; he has
developed from the God of the monotheistic religions. He does not live
in real historic conditions and the world of history. He comes into
relationship with other men, but each of the others is just as much an
abstraction as he himself is. In the "philosophy of religion" we had
still men and women, but in the "ethic" this final distinction vanishes.
At long intervals Feuerbach makes such statements as: "A man thinks
differently in a palace than in a hut." "When you have nothing in your
body to ward off hunger and misery, you have nothing in your head, mind
and heart for morality." "Politics must be our religion," etc. But
Feuerbach was absolutely incapable of extracting any meaning from these
remarks; they remain purely literary expressions, and Starcke himself is
obliged to admit that the science of politics was an insuperable
obstacle to Feuerbach and the science of society, sociology, for him a
terra incognita.

He appears just as uninspired in comparison with Hegel in his treatment
of the antithesis of good and evil. "One thinks he is saying something
great," Hegel remarks "if one says that mankind is by nature good, but
it is forgotten that one says something far greater in the words 'man is
by nature evil.'" According to Hegel, evil is the form in which the
mechanical power of evolution shows itself, and indeed in this lies the
double idea that each new step forward appears as an outrage against a
sacred thing, as rebellion against the old, dying, but through custom,
sanctified, circumstances, and on the other hand that since the rising
of class antagonism, the evil passions of men, greed and imperiousness
serve as the levers of historical progress, of which, for example, the
history of feudalism and the bourgeoisie affords a conspicuous proof.
But Feuerbach does not trouble himself to examine the role of moral
evil. History is to him a particularly barren and unwonted field. Even
his statement, "Man as he sprang from nature originally was only a mere
creature, not a man." "Man is a product of human society, of education,
and of history." Even this statement remains from his standpoint
absolutely unproductive.

What Feuerbach communicates to us respecting morals must therefore be
exceedingly narrow. The desire for happiness is born within man and must
hence be the foundation of all morality. But the desire for happiness is
limited in two ways; first, through the natural results of our acts;
after the dissipation comes the headache, as a result of habitual
excess, sickness; in the second place, through its results upon society,
if we do not respect the similar desire for happiness on the part of
other people, they resist us and spoil our pursuit of happiness. It
follows, therefore, that in order to enjoy our pursuit of happiness, the
result of our acts must be rightly appreciated, and, on the other hand,
must allow of the carrying out of the same acts on the part of others.
Practical self-control with regard to ourselves and love, always love,
in our intercourse with others are therefore the foundation rules of
Feuerbach's morality, from which all others lead, and neither the
enthusiastic periods of Feuerbach nor the loud praises of Starcke can
set off the thinness and flatness of this pair of utterances.

The desire for happiness contents itself only very exceptionally, and by
no means to the profit of one's self or other people with self. But it
requires the outside world--means of satisfying itself--therefore means
of subsistence, an individual of the other sex, books, convention,
argument, activity, these means and matters of satisfaction are matters
of utility and labor. Feuerbach's system of morality either predicates
that these means and matters of satisfaction are given to every man _per
se_, or, since it gives him only unpractical advice, is not worth a jot
to the people who are without these means. And this Feuerbach himself
shows clearly in forcible words, "One thinks differently in a palace
than in a hut." "Where owing to misery and hunger you have no material
in your body, you have also no material in your head, mind and heart for

Are matters any better with the equal right of another to the pursuit of
happiness? Feuerbach set this statement out as absolute, as applicable
to all times and circumstances. But since when has it been true? Was
there in the olden time between slave and master or in the Middle Ages
between serf and baron any talk about equal rights to the pursuit of
happiness? Was not the right to the pursuit of happiness of the subject
class sacrificed to the dominant class regardlessly and by means of
law?--nay, that was immoral, but still equality of rights is recognized
now-a-days--recognized in words merely since the bourgeoisie in its
fight against feudalism and in the institution of capitalistic
production, was compelled to abolish all existing exclusive, that is,
personal, privileges, and for the first time to introduce the right of
the private individual, then also gradually the right of the State, and
equality before law. But the pursuit of happiness consists for the least
part only in ideal rights, and lies, for the most part, in means of
material satisfaction takes care that only enough for bare subsistence
falls to the great majority of those persons with equal rights, and
therefore regards the equality of right to the pursuit of happiness
hardly better than slavery or serfdom did. And are we better off as
regards mental means of happiness--means of education? Is not the
schoolmaster of Sadowa a mythical person?

Further, according to the ethical theory of Feuerbach, the Bourse is the
highest temple of morality, only provided that one speculate rightly. If
my pursuit of happiness leads me to the Bourse, and I, in following my
business, manage so well that only what is agreeable and nothing
detrimental comes to me, that is that I win steadily, Feuerbach's
precept is carried out. In this way I do not interfere with the similar
pursuit of happiness of anyone else, since the other man goes on the
Bourse just as voluntarily as I do, and at the conclusion of his affairs
a sentimental expression, for each finds in the other the satisfaction
of his pursuit of happiness which it is just the business of love to
bring about, and which it here practically accomplishes. And since I
carry on my operations with more exact prudence and therefore with
greater success I fulfill the strongest maxims of the Feuerbach moral
philosophy and become a rich man into the bargain. In other words,
Feuerbach's morality is hewn out of the capitalistic system of today,
little as he might wish or think it to be.

But love, yes love, is particularly and eternally the magical god who,
according to Feuerbach, surmounts all the difficulties of practical life
and that in a society which is divided into classes with diametrically
opposing interests. The last remnant of its revolutionary character is
thus taken from his philosophy, and there remains the old cant--"love
one another"--fall into each other's arms without regard to any
impediment of sex or position--universal intoxication of reconciliation.

In a word, the moral theories of Feuerbach turn out to be the same as
those of all of his predecessors. It is a hodge-podge of all times, all
people, and all conditions, and for this occasion is applicable to no
time and place, and as regards the actual world is as powerless as
Kant's "Categorical Imperative." As a matter of fact, every class, as
well as every profession, has its own system of morals and breaks even
this when it can do it without punishment, and love, which is to unite
all, appears today in wars, controversies, lawsuits, domestic broils and
as far as possible mutual plunder.

But how was it possible that the powerful impetus given by Feuerbach
turned out so unprofitable to Feuerbach himself. Simply in this way,
because Feuerbach could not find his way out of the abstraction, which
he hated with a deadly hatred, to living reality. He clutches hard at
Nature and Humanity, but "Nature" and "Humanity" remain empty words with
him. He does not know how to tell us anything positive about real nature
and real men. We can only reach living men from the abstract men of
Feuerbach if we regard them as active historical agents. Feuerbach
strove against that, hence the year 1848, which, he did not understand,
signified for him merely the final break with the real world, retirement
into solitude. German conditions must for the most part bear the guilt
of allowing him to starve miserably.

But the step which Feuerbach did not make had not yet been made. The
cultus of man in the abstract which was the kernel of Feuerbach's
religion must be replaced by the knowledge of real men and their
historical development. This advance of Feuerbach's view beyond
Feuerbach himself was published in 1845 by Marx in the "Holy Family."


Strauss, Bauer, Stirner, Feuerbach, these were the minor representatives
of the Hegelian philosophy, so far as they did not abandon the field of
philosophy. Strauss has, in addition to the "Life of Jesus" and
"Dogmatics," only produced philosophical and ecclesiastical historical
work of a literary character, after the fashion of Renan; Bauer has
merely done something in the department of primitive Christianity, but
that significant; Stirner remained a "freak" even after Bakunine had
mixed him with Proudhon and designated his amalgamation "Anarchism."
Feuerbach alone possessed any significance as a philosopher; but not
only did philosophy remain for him the vaunted superior of all other
sciences, the quintessence of all science, an impassable limitation, the
untouchable holy thing, he stood as a composite philosopher; the under
half of him was materialist, the upper half idealist. He was not an apt
critic of Hegel but simply put him aside as of no account, while he
himself, in comparison with the encyclopedic wealth of the Hegelian
system, contributed nothing of any positive value, except a bombastic
religion of love and a thin, impotent system of ethics.

But from the breaking up of the Hegelian school there proceeded another,
the only one which has borne real fruit, and this tendency is coupled
with the name of Marx.[2]

In this case the separation from the Hegelian philosophy occurred by
means of a return to the materialistic standpoint, that is to say, a
determination to comprehend the actual world--nature and history--as it
presents itself to each one of us, without any preconceived idealistic
balderdash interfering; it was resolved to pitilessly sacrifice any
idealistic preconceived notion which could not be brought into harmony
with facts actually discovered in their mutual relations, and without
any visionary notions. And materialism in general claims no more. Only
here, for the first time in the history of the materialistic philosophy,
was an earnest endeavor made to carry its results to all questions
arising in the realm of knowledge, at least in its characteristic

Hegel was not merely put on one side, the school attached itself on the
contrary to his openly revolutionary side, the dialectic method. But
this method was of no service in its Hegelian form. According to Hegel
the dialectic is the self-development of the Idea. The Absolute Idea
does not only exist from eternity, but it is also the actual living soul
of the whole existing world. It develops from itself to itself through
all the preliminary stages which are treated of at large in "Logic," and
which are all included in it. Then it steps outside of itself, changing
with nature itself, where it, without self-consciousness, is disguised
as a necessity of nature, goes through a new development, and, finally,
in man himself, becomes self-consciousness. This self-consciousness now
works itself out into the higher stages from the lower forms of matter,
until finally the Absolute Idea is again realized in the Hegelian
philosophy. According to Hegel, the dialectic development apparent in
nature and history, that is a causative, connected progression from the
lower to the higher, in spite of all zig-zag movements and momentary
setbacks, is only the stereotype of the self-progression of the Idea
from eternity, whither one does not know, but independent at all events
of the thought of any human brain. This topsy-turvy ideology had to be
put aside. We conceived of ideas as materialistic, as pictures of real
things, instead of real things as pictures of this or that stage of the
Absolute Idea. Thereupon, the dialectic became reduced to knowledge of
the universal laws of motion--as well of the outer world as of the
thought of man--two sets of laws which are identical as far as matter is
concerned but which differ as regards expression, in so far as the mind
of man can employ them consciously, while, in nature, and up to now, in
human history, for the most part they accomplish themselves,
unconsciously in the form of external necessity, through an endless
succession of apparent accidents. Hereupon the dialectic of the Idea
became itself merely the conscious reflex of the dialectic evolution of
the real world, and therefore, the dialectic of Hegel was turned upside
down or rather it was placed upon its feet instead of on its head, where
it was standing before. And this materialistic dialectic which since
that time has been our best tool and our sharpest weapon was discovered,
not by us alone, but by a German workman, Joseph Dietzgen, in a
remarkable manner and utterly independent of us.

But just here the revolutionary side of Hegel's philosophy was again
taken up, and at the same time freed from the idealistic frippery which
had in Hegel's hands interfered with its necessary conclusions. The
great fundamental thought, namely, that the world is not to be
considered as a complexity of ready-made things, but as a complexity
made up of processes in which the apparently stable things, no less than
the thought pictures in the brain--the idea, cause an unbroken chain of
coming into being and passing away, in which, by means of all sorts of
seeming accidents, and in spite of all momentary setbacks, there is
carried out in the end a progressive development--this great foundation
thought has, particularly since the time of Hegel, so dominated the
thoughts of the mass of men that, generally speaking, it is now hardly
denied. But to acknowledge it in phrases, and to apply it in reality to
each particular set of conditions which come up for examination, are two
different matters. But if one proceeds steadily in his investigations
from this historic point, then a stop is put, once and for all, to the
demand for final solutions and for eternal truths; one is firmly
conscious of the necessary limitations of all acquired knowledge, of its
hypothetical nature, owing to the circumstances under which it has been
gained. One cannot be imposed upon any longer by the inflated
insubstantial antitheses of the older metaphysics of true and false,
good and evil, identical and differentiated, necessary and accidental;
one knows that these antitheses have only a relative significance, that
that which is recognized as true now, has its concealed and
later-developing false side, just as that which is recognized as false,
its true side, by virtue of which it can later on prevail as the truth;
that so-called necessity is made up of the merely accidental, and that
the acknowledged accidental is the form behind which necessity conceals
itself and so on.

The old methods of enquiry and thought which Hegel terms metaphysics,
which by preference busied themselves by enquiring into things as given
and established quantities, and the vestiges of which still buzz in the
heads of people, had at that time great historical justification. Things
had first to be examined, before it was possible to examine processes;
man must first know what a thing was before he could examine the
preceding changes in it. And so it was with natural science. The old
metaphysic which comprehended things as stable came from a philosophy
which enquired into dead and living things as things comprehended as
stable. But when this enquiry had so far progressed that the decisive
step was possible, namely, the systematic examination of the preceding
changes in those things going on in nature itself, then occurred the
death-blow of the old metaphysics in the realm of philosophy. And, in
fact, if science to the end of the last century was chiefly a collecting
of knowledge, the science of actual things, so is science in our day
pre-eminently an arranging of knowledge, the science of changes, of the
origin and progress of things, and the mutual connection which binds
these changes in nature into one great whole. Physiology, which examines
the earlier forms of plant and animal organisms; embryology, which deals
with the development of the elementary organism from germ to maturity;
geology, which investigates the gradual formation of the earth's crust,
are all the products of our century.

But, first of all, there are three great discoveries which have caused
our knowledge of the interdependence of the processes of nature to
progress by leaps and bounds. In the first place, the discovery of the
cell, as the unit, from the multiplication and differentiation of
which, the whole of plant and animal substance develop so that not only
the growth and development of all higher classes of all higher organisms
is recognized as following a universal law, but the very path is shown
in the capacity for differentiation in the cell, by which organisms are
enabled to change their forms and make thereby a more individual
development. Secondly, the metamorphosis of energy which has shown us
that all the so-called real forces in inorganic nature, the mechanical
forces and their complements, the so-called potential energies, heat,
radiation (light, radiating heat), electricity, magnetism, chemical
energy, are different forms of universal motion, which pass, under
certain conditions, the one into the other, so that in place of those of
the one which disappear, a certain number of the other appear, so that
the whole movement of nature is reduced to this perpetual process of
transformation from one into the other. Finally, the proof first
developed logically by Darwin, that the organic products of nature about
us, including man, are the result of a long process of evolution, from
a few original single cells, and these again, by virtue of chemical
processes, have proceeded from protoplasm or white of egg.

Thanks to these three great discoveries and the resultant powerful
advance of science, we have now arrived at a point where we can show the
connection between changes in nature, not only in specific cases, but
also in the relation of the specific cases to the whole and so give a
bird's eye view of the interrelation of nature in an approximately
scientific form by means of the facts shown by empirical science itself.
To furnish this complete picture was formerly the task of the so-called
philosophy of nature. It could then only do this by substituting ideal
and imaginary hypotheses for the unknown real interconnection, by
filling out the missing facts with mind-pictures and by bridging the
chasms by empty imaginings. It had many happy thoughts in these
transports (of imagination), it anticipated many later discoveries, but
it also caused the survival of considerable nonsense up to the present
time which could not otherwise have been possible. At present, when the
results of the investigation of nature need only be conceived of
dialectically, that is in the sense of their mutual interconnection, to
arrive at a system of nature sufficient for our time, when the
dialectical character of this interconnection forces itself into the
metaphysically trained minds of experimental scientists, against their
will, today a philosophy of nature is finally disposed of, every attempt
at its resurrection would not only be superfluous, it would even be a
step backwards.

But what is true of nature, which is hereby recognized as an historical
process, is true also of the history of society in all its branches, and
of the totality of all sciences which occupy themselves with things
human and divine. Here also the philosophy of jurisprudence, of history,
of religion, etc., consisted in this, that in place of the true
interconnection of events, one originating in the mind of the
philosopher was substituted; that history, in its totality as in its
parts, was comprehended as the gradual realization of ideas, but, of
course, always of the pet idea of the philosopher himself.

History worked up to now, unconsciously but necessarily, towards a
certain predetermined, fixed, ideal goal, as for example in the case of
Hegel, towards the realization of his Absolute Idea, and the unalterable
trend towards this Absolute Idea constituted the inward connection of
historic facts. In the place of the real, and up to this time unknown,
interrelation, man set a new mysterious destiny, unconscious or
gradually coming into consciousness. It was necessary in this case,
therefore, just as in the realm of nature, to set aside these artificial
interrelations by the discovery of the real, a task which finally
culminated in the discovery of the universal laws of progress, which
established themselves as the dominating ones in the history of human

The history of the growth of society appears, however, in one respect
entirely different from that of nature. In nature are to be found as far
as we leave the reaction of man upon nature out of sight--mere
unconscious blind agents which act one upon another, and in their
interplay the universal law realizes itself. From all that happens,
whether from the innumerable apparent accidents which appear upon the
surface, or from the final results flowing from these accidental
occurrences, nothing occurs as a desired conscious end. On the contrary,
in the history of society the mere actors are all endowed with
consciousness; they are agents imbued with deliberation or passion, men
working towards an appointed end; nothing appears without an intentional
purpose, without an end desired. But this distinction, important as it
is for historical examination, particularly of single epochs and events,
can make no difference to the fact that the course of history is
governed by inner universal laws. Here also, in spite of the wished for
aims of all the separate individuals, accident for the most part is
apparent on the surface. That which is willed but rarely happens. In the
majority of instances the numerous desired ends cross and interfere with
each other, and either these ends are utterly incapable of realization,
or the means are ineffectual. So, the innumerable conflicts of
individual wills and individual agents in the realm of history reach a
conclusion which is on the whole analogous to that in the realm of
nature, which is without definite purpose. The ends of the actions are
intended, but the results which follow from the actions are not
intended, or in so far as they appear to correspond with the end
desired, in their final results are quite different from the conclusion
wished. Historical events in their entirety therefore appear to be
likewise controlled by chance. But even where according to superficial
observation, accident plays a part, it is, as a matter of fact,
consistently governed by unseen, internal laws, and the only question
remaining, therefore, is to discover these laws.

Men make their own history in that each follows his own desired ends
independent of results, and the results of these many wills acting in
different directions and their manifold effects upon the world
constitute history. It depends, therefore, upon what the great majority
of individuals intend. The will is determined by passion or reflection,
but the levers which passion or reflection immediately apply are of very
different kinds. Sometimes it may be external circumstances, sometimes
ideal motives, zeal for honor, enthusiasm for truth and justice,
personal hate, or even purely individual peculiar ideas of all kinds.
But on the one hand, we have seen in history that the results of many
individual wills produce effects, for the most part quite other than
what is wished--often, in fact, the very opposite--their motives of
action, likewise, are only of subordinate significance with regard to
the universal result. On the other hand, the question arises: What
driving forces stand in turn behind these motives of action; what are
the historical causes which transform themselves into motives of action
in the brains of the agents?

The old materialism never set this question before itself. Its
philosophy of history, as far as it ever had one in particular, is hence
essentially pragmatic; it judges everything from the standpoint of the
immediate motive; it divides historical agents into good and bad and
finds as a whole that the good are defrauded and the bad are victorious,
whence it follows that, as far as the old materialism is concerned,
there is nothing edifying that can be obtained from a study of history,
and for us, that in the realm of history the old materialism is proved
to be false, since it fixes active ideal impulses as final causes
instead of seeking that which lies behind them, that which is the
impulse of these impulses. The lack of logical conclusion does not lie
in the fact that ideal impulses are recognized, but in this, that there
is no further examination into the more remote causes of their activity.
The philosophy of history, on the contrary, particularly as it was
treated by Hegel, recognizes that the ostensible and even the real
motives of the men who figure in history, are by no means the final
causes of historical events, that behind these events stand other moving
forces which must be discovered; but it seeks these forces not in
history itself, it imports them mostly from the outside, from
philosophical ideology, into history. Instead of explaining the history
of ancient Greece from its own inner connection, Hegel, for example,
explains it solely as if it were nothing but the working out of a
beautiful individuality, the realization of art, as such. He says much
about the old Greeks that is fine and profound, but this does not
prevent our dissatisfaction, now-a-days, with such an explanation, which
is mere phraseology.

If, therefore, we set out to discover the impelling forces, which,
acknowledged, or unacknowledged, and for the most part unacknowledged,
stand behind historical figures, and constitute the true final impulses
of history, we cannot consider so much the motives of single
individuals, however pre-eminent, as those which set in motion great
masses, entire nations, and again, whole classes of people in each
nation, and this, too, not in a momentarily flaring and quickly dying
flame, but to enduring action culminating in a great historical change.
To establish the great impelling forces which play upon the brains of
the acting masses and their leaders, the so-called great men, as
conscious motives, clear or unclear, directly or ideologically or even
in a supernatural form, that is the only method which can place us on
the track of the law controlling history as a whole, as well as at
particular periods and in individual lands. All that sets men in motion
must act upon their minds, but the force which acts upon the brain
depends very largely upon circumstances. The workers have by no means
become reconciled to the machine power of the capitalists although they
no longer break the machines to pieces as they did on the Rhine in

But while the discovery of these impelling forces of history was
entirely impossible in all other periods, on account of the complicated
and hidden interrelations with their effects, our present period has so
far simplified these relations that the problem can be solved. Since the
establishment of the great industry, at least since the peace of Europe
in 1815, it has been no longer a secret to anyone in England that the
whole political fight has been for supremacy between two classes, the
landed aristocracy and the middle-class. In France, with the return of
the Bourbons, the same fact was perceived; the writers of history, from
Thierry to Guizot, Mignet, and Thiers in particular, pronounce it as a
key to an understanding of French history, especially since the Middle
Ages. And since 1830 the working class, the proletariat, has been
recognized as the third competitor for mastery in both countries.
Circumstances had become so simplified that one would have had to close
his eyes not to see in the fight of these three classes and in the
conflict of their interests, the moving forces of modern history, at
least in the two most advanced countries.

But how came these classes into existence? If the great feudal ancient
property in land can have its origin ascribed to political causes
through forcible seizure of territories, this could not be done as
regards the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. There are in this case
clearly exposed the origin and progress of two great economic classes
from plain and evident economic causes. And it was just as clear that in
the fight between the landholding class and the bourgeoisie, no less
than in that between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, economic
interests were the most important, and that political force served only
as a mere means of furthering these.

The bourgeoisie and the proletariat both arose as results of a change in
economic conditions, or, strictly speaking, in methods of production.
The transition, first from hand labor, controlled by the gilds, to
manufacture and thence from manufacture to the greater industry, with
steam and machine force, has developed these two classes. At a certain
stage new forces of production were set in motion by the bourgeoisie,
following upon the division of labor and the union of many different
kinds of labor in one united manufacture, and the methods of exchange
and requirements of exchange developed by their means, were incompatible
with the existing historical surviving methods of production consecrated
by the law, that is to say the gilds and the innumerable personal and
other privileges (which for the unprivileged were only so many fetters)
of the feudal social organization. The forces of production brought into
being by the bourgeoisie rebelled against the methods of production
originated by the gildmasters and the feudal landlords; the result is
known; the feudal fetters were struck off, in England gradually, in
France at one blow; in Germany the process is not yet quite complete. As
manufacture came into conflict at a certain stage of progress with
feudal methods of production, so has the greater industry now joined
battle with the bourgeois organization of industry established in their
place. Bound by this system, owing to the narrow limits of the
capitalistic methods of production, there occurs on the one hand an
ever increasing conversion of the mass of the people into proletarians,
and on the other hand an ever increasing amount of products which cannot
be disposed of. Over-production, and suffering on the part of the
masses, the one the cause of the other, that is the absurd contradiction
in which it runs its course, and which of necessity requires a control
of the forces of production, through a change in the methods of

In modern history, at least, it is therefore proved that all political
contests are class contests and that all fights of classes for
emancipation, in spite of their necessarily political form (for every
class struggle is a political struggle), finally, are directed towards
economic emancipation. Here, at least, therefore, the State, the
political arrangement is the subordinate, bourgeois society, the rule of
economic relations, the deciding element. The old fashioned philosophy
which even Hegel respected saw in the State the determining element and
in bourgeois society the element determined by it. Appearances
corresponded with this idea. As all the impulses of each single agent
pass through his individual brain and must transform themselves into
motives of his will in order to set him to work, so must also the
desires of bourgeois society, no matter which class happens to be
dominant, penetrate the will of the state in order to secure universal
validity in the form of laws. That is the formal side of the matter
which is self evident, the question only is what content has this merely
formal will--of the individual as well as of the State--and whence comes
this content--why is just this desired and nothing else? And if we
enquire into this we discover that in modern history the will of the
State, as a whole, is declared through the changing needs of bourgeois
society, through the domination of this or that class, in the last
instance through the development of the forces of production and the
conditions of exchange.

But if in our modern times, with their gigantic methods of production
and commerce, the State is not an independent affair with an independent
development, but its existence as well as its evolution is to be
explained in the last resort from the economic conditions of the life
of society, so much the more must the same thing be true of all earlier
times when the production of the necessities of existence was not
furthered by these extensive aids, where, therefore, the necessities of
this production must exercise a greater control over men. If the State
is today, at the time of the great industries and steam railways,
merely, as a whole, the summarized, reflected form of the economic
desires of the class which controls production, it must, therefore, have
been still more so at a period when a generation of men must spend the
greater portion of their united life-time in the satisfaction of their
material needs, and man was, therefore, much more dependent on them than
we are today. The examination of the earlier epochs of history, as far
as it is earnestly conducted in this direction, establishes this
abundantly, but manifestly this cannot here be taken in hand.

If the State and public law are the creatures of economic conditions,
so, obviously, is private law, which only sanctions relations between
individuals under given normal economic circumstances. The form in
which this appears may, however, vary considerably. One can, as happened
in England in accordance with the whole national development, retain,
for the most part, the forms of the old feudal law, and give them a
middle-class content, even read a middle-class meaning into the feudal
names, but one may also, as in the western part of the European
continent, use as a foundation the first general law of a society
producing commodities, the Roman, with its unsurpassably keen
elaboration, of all the legal relations of possessions of commodities
(sellers and buyers, creditors and debtors, contracts, obligations,
etc.), by which we can bring it down as common-law to the use and
benefit of a still small bourgeois and half feudal society; or, with the
help of pseudo-enlightened and moralizing jurists, a code (which is bad
from a legal point of view) can be worked out suitable to the conditions
of the particular society (as the Prussian land law). And, still again,
after a great bourgeois revolution, a classical code for bourgeois
society, such as the French "Code Civil," may be worked out. If,
therefore, the bourgeois laws only declare the economic circumstances
of society, these may be good or bad according to conditions.

In the State appears the first ideological force over men. Society
shapes for itself an organ for the protection of its general interests
against attack from the outside or inside. This organ is the force of
the State. Hardly did it come into being before this organ dominated
society, and as a matter of fact, in proportion as it becomes the organ
of a particular class, it brings into existence the supremacy of that
class. The fight of the subject against the dominant class becomes of
necessity political, a fight in the next place against the political
control of this latter class. This consciousness of the connection of
the political fight with its underlying economic causes becomes more and
more obscure and may be altogether lost. Where this is not altogether
the case with the combatants it becomes nearly altogether so with the
historians. Of the ancient sources of history with regard to the contest
within the Roman Republic, Appian alone gives us plain and clear
information respecting its final cause, which was property in land. But
the State, once become an independent power over society, forthwith
displayed a further ideology. Among the practical politicians and the
theorists in jurisprudence, and among the jurists in particular, this
fact is first completely lost sight of. Since in each single instance
the economic facts must take the form of juristic motives so as to be
sanctioned in the form of law, and since, therefore, a backward view
must be taken over the whole existing system of law, it follows
therefrom that the juristic form appears to be the whole and the
economic content nothing at all. Public and private law are considered
as independent realms which have their own independent historic
evolution, which are considered capable of a systematic representation,
and stand in need of it through persistent elimination of all inner

Still higher ideological conceptions, i. e., still further removed from
the economic foundations, take the form of philosophy and religion.
Here, the connection of the ideas with the material conditions of
existence become more and more complicated and obscured by reason of the
increasing number of links between them, but it exists. As the whole
Rennaissance from the middle of the fifteenth century was an actual
product of the city, and therefore of the bourgeois domination, so was
also the philosophy, since that time newly awakened. Its content was
actually only the philosophical expression of the thoughts corresponding
with the development of the small and middle bourgeois into the great
bourgeois. Among the English and French of the preceding century, who
were for the most part as good political economists as they were
philosophers, this is quite evident, and we have proofs on its very
face, as regards the Hegelian school.

Let us now give a slight glance at religion since it appears to stand
furthest away from and to be most foreign to material life. Religion
arose at a very remote period of human development, in the savage state,
from certain erroneous and barbaric conceptions of men with regard to
themselves and the outside world of nature around them. Every
ideological notion develops, however, when once it has arisen; it grows
by additions to the given idea, and develops it further, otherwise
there would be no ideology, that is, no occupation with thoughts as with
independent thought-existence, developing independently and subject only
to its own laws. That the material conditions of life of the men within
whose heads this thought force is at work finally determine the course
of this thought-process necessarily remains still unknown to these men,
otherwise there would be an entire end of the ideology. These original
religious notions, therefore, which are for the most part common to each
kindred group of peoples, develop after the separation of the group in a
special manner peculiar to each tribe, according to its particular
conditions of existence, and this process is for a class of groups of
people, and particularly for the Aryans (Indo-Europeans) shown
individually by comparative mythology. The gods developed by each tribe
were national gods, whose power extended no further than to protect the
national territory; beyond the frontier other gods held undisputed sway.
They could only be conceived of as existing as long as the nation
existed. They fell with its decline. This doctrine of the old
nationalities brought about the Roman Empire, whose economic conditions
we do not need to examine just now. The old national gods fell, as those
of the Romans did also, which were only attached to the narrow limits of
the city of Rome. The desire to make the empire a world-empire, by means
of a world-wide religion, is clearly shown in the attempts to provide
recognition and altars in Rome for all the respectable foreign gods,
next to the indigenous ones. But a new world-religion was not to be made
in this fashion by imperial decrees. The new world-religion,
Christianity, had already arisen in secret by a mixture of combined
oriental religions, Jewish theology and popularized Greek philosophy and
particularly Stoic philosophy. We must first be at the pains to discover
how it originally made its appearance, since its official form as it has
come to us is merely that of a State religion, and this end was achieved
through the Council of Nice. Enough, the fact that after two hundred and
fifty years it was a state religion shows that it was a religion
answering to the circumstances of the times. In the Middle Ages it
showed itself clearly. In proportion as feudalism developed it grew into
a religion corresponding with it, with a hierarchy corresponding to the
feudal. And when the rule of the bourgeois came in, it developed into
Protestant heresy in antagonism to feudal Catholicism, at first in the
South of France, among the Albigenses at the time of the highest growth
of the free cities. The Middle Ages had annexed all the surviving forms
of ideology, philosophy, politics and jurisprudence, to theology as
subordinate parts of theology. It constrained, therefore, all social and
political movement to assume a theological form; finally, to the minds
of the masses stuffed with religion it was necessary to show their
interests in religious guise, in order to raise a tremendous storm. And
as the rule of the bourgeois from the beginning brought into being an
appendage of propertyless plebeians, with day laborers and servants of
all sorts, without any recognized position in their cities, the
forerunners of the later proletarians, so the heresy was very early
subdivided into a moderate one, on the part of the citizens, and a
plebeian revolutionary one, which was an abomination to the bourgeois

The failure to exterminate the protestant heresy corresponded with the
invincibility of the rising power of the bourgeois of that time; as this
power grew, the fight with the feudal nobles, at first pre-eminently
local, began to assume national proportions. The first great conflict
occurred in Germany, the so-called Reformation. The power of the
bourgeois was neither sufficiently strong nor sufficiently developed for
an open rebellious stand, by uniting under the standard of revolt the
city plebeians, the smaller nobility, and the peasants of the country
districts. The nobility was struck first, the peasants took up a
position which was the high-water mark of the entire revolution, the
cities left them in the lurch, and so the revolution was left to the
leaders of the country gentry who gathered the whole victory to
themselves. Thenceforth for three hundred years Germany disappeared from
the ranks of independent, energetic progressive countries. But after the
German Luther, arose the French Calvin. With natural French acuteness he
showed the bourgeois character of the revolution in the Church,
republicanised and democratised. While the Lutheran Reformation fell in
Germany and Germany declined, the Calvinistic served as a standard to
the republicans in Geneva, in Holland, in Scotland, freed Holland from
German and Spanish domination, and gave an ideological dress to the
second act of the bourgeois revolution which proceeded in England. Here
Calvinism proved itself to be the natural religious garb of the
interests of the existing rule of the bourgeois and was not realised any
further than that the revolution of 1689 was completed by a compromise
between a portion of the nobility and the middle-class. The English
Established Church was restored, but not in its earlier form with the
king for Pope, but was strongly infused with Calvinism. The
old-established Church had kept up the merry Catholic Sunday and fought
against the tedious Calvinistic one, the new bourgeois Church introduced
the latter and added thereby to the charms of England.

In France the Calvinistic minority was subdued in 1685, either made
Catholic or hunted out of the country. But what was the good? Directly
after that the free thinker Pierre Bayle was at work, and in 1694
Voltaire was born. The tyrannical rule of Louis XIV. only made it easier
for the French bourgeoisie to be able to make its revolution in the
political form finally suitable to the progressive atheistic
bourgeoisie. Instead of Protestants, free-thinkers took their seats in
the National Assembly. Thereby Christianity entered upon the last lap of
the race. It had become incapable of serving a progressive class any
further as the ideological clothing of its efforts, it became more and
more the exclusive possession of the dominant classes, and these used it
merely as a simple means of government to keep the lower classes in
subjection. So then each one of the different classes employed its own
suitable religion, the landholding squires catholic jesuitism or
protestant orthodoxy, the liberal and radical bourgeois rationalism, and
it makes no difference therefore whether people themselves believe in
their respective religions or not.

Thus we see religion once arisen contains material of tradition, hence
in all ideological matters religion is a great conservative force. But
the changes which take place in this material spring from
class-conditions, that is from the economic circumstances of the men who
take these changes in hand. And that is enough on this part of the

It is only possible at this time to give a general sketch of the Marxian
philosophy of history, and particularly as regards illustrations of it.
The proof is to be discovered in history itself, and in this regard I
may say plainly that it has been sufficiently furnished in other
writings. This philosophy, however, makes an end of philosophy in the
realm of history, just as the dialectic philosophy of nature renders
every philosophy of nature useless or impossible. Practically there is
no further need to devise interrelations but to discover them in facts
rather. Instead of a philosophy forced from nature and history there
remains then only the realm of pure thought--as far as any is left--the
teaching of the laws of the thinking process itself, logic and the

With the Revolution of 1848 "educated" Germany delivered the challenge
to theory and proceeded to action. Hand-labor dependent upon small
production and manufacture was done away with by the great
industry--Germany again appeared in the world-market. The new
particularistic Germany, at all events did away with the most crying
anomalies, which the rule of the petty states, the remnants of feudalism
and the bureaucratic economy, had placed in the way of their
development, but just in proportion as speculation abandoned the studies
of philosophers to attain its temple in the Bourse, that great theoretic
thought which had been the glory of Germany in the period of its deepest
political humiliation, the zeal for pure scientific progress,
irrespective of practical, profitable results, and of the disapproval of
the police, became lost in educated Germany. It is true that the German
official natural science maintained its position, particularly in the
field of individual discovery, at the head of its time, but now the
American journal "Science" justly remarks that the decisive advances in
the matter of the broadest inclusive statement of the relations between
single facts, and the harmonising of them with law, are making the
greater headway in England, instead of, as earlier, in Germany. And with
regard to the sciences of history, philosophy included, with the
classical philosophy, the old theoretical spirit, with its carelessness
of personal results, first completely disappeared. Thoughtless
eclecticism, eager backward glances at a career, and income down to the
meanest sycophancy occupy their places. The official representatives of
this sort of science have become the open ideologists of the bourgeoisie
and the existing state, but at a time when they both stand in open
antagonism to the working classes.

Only among the working classes does the German devotion to abstract
thought steadily continue to exist. Here it cannot be got rid of. Here
we find no backward glances at a career, at profit making, at kindly
protection from the upper classes, but on the contrary the more
independent and unrestricted the path of science, just so much the more
does it find itself in accord with the interests and endeavors of the
working class. The new tendency, which in the history of the development
of labor made known the key to the understanding of the universal
history of society addressed itself in the first place to the working
class and found in them the ready acceptance which it neither sought nor
expected from official science. The German working-class movement is the
heir of the German classical philosophy.


[2] It is incumbent upon me to make a personal explanation at this
place. People have lately referred to my share in this theory, and so I
can hardly refrain from saying a few words here in settlement of that
particular matter. I cannot deny that I had before and during my forty
years' collaboration with Marx a certain independent share not only in
laying out the foundations, but more particularly in working out the
theory. But the greatest part of the leading essential thinking,
particularly in the realm of economics, and especially its final sharp
statement, belongs to Marx alone. What I contributed Marx could quite
readily have carried out without me with the exception of a pair of
special applications. What Marx supplied, I could not have readily
brought. Marx stood higher, saw further, took a wider, clearer, quicker
survey than all of us. Marx was a genius, we others, at the best,
talented. Without him the theory would not be what it is today, by a
long way. It therefore rightly bears his name.



(_Jotted down in Brussels in the spring of 1845._)


The chief lack of all materialistic philosophy up to the present,
including that of Feuerbach, is that the thing, the reality, sensation
is only conceived of under the form of the object which is presented to
the eye, but not as human sense-activity, "praxis," not subjectively. It
therefore came about that the active side in opposition to materialism
was developed from idealism, but only abstractly; this was natural,
since idealism does not recognize real tangible facts as such. Feuerbach
is willing, it is true, to distinguish objects of sensation from objects
existing in thought, but he conceives of human activity itself not as
objective activity. He, therefore, in the "Wesen des Christenthums,"
regards only theoretical activity as generally human, while the "praxis"
is conceived and fixed only in its disgusting form.


The question if objective truth is possible to human thought is not a
theoretical but a practical question. In practice man must prove the
truth, that is the reality and force in his actual thoughts. The dispute
as to the reality or non-reality of thought which separates itself, "the
praxis," is a purely scholastic question.


The materialistic doctrine that men are the products of conditions and
education, different men therefore the products of other conditions and
changed education, forgets that circumstances may be altered by men and
that the educator has himself to be educated. It necessarily happens
therefore that society is divided into two parts, of which one is
elevated above society (Robert Owen for example).

The occurrence simultaneously of a change in conditions and human
activity can only be comprehended and rationally understood as a
revolutionary fact.


Feuerbach proceeds from a religious self-alienation, the duplication of
the world into a religious, imaginary, and a real world. His work
consists in the discovery of the material foundations of the religious
world. He overlooked the fact that after carrying this to completion the
important matter still remains unaccomplished. The fact that the
material foundation annuls itself and establishes for itself a realm in
the clouds can only be explained from the heterogeneity and
self-contradiction of the material foundation. This itself must first
become understood in its contradictions and so become thoroughly
revolutionized by the elimination of the contradiction. After the
earthly family has been discovered as the secret of the Holy Family, one
must have theoretically criticised and theoretically revolutionised it


Feuerbach, not satisfied with abstract thought, invokes impressions
produced by the senses, but does not comprehend sensation as practical
sensory activities.


Feuerbach dissolves religion in humanity. But humanity is not an
abstraction dwelling in each individual. In its reality it is the
ensemble of the conditions of society.

Feuerbach, who does not enquire into this fact, is therefore compelled:

1. To abstract religious sentiment from the course of history, to place
it by itself, and to pre-suppose an abstract, isolated, human

2. Humanity is therefore only comprehended by him as a species, as a
hidden sort of merely natural identity of qualities in which many
individuals are embraced.


Therefore Feuerbach does not see that religious feeling is itself a
product of society, and that the abstract individual which he analyses
belongs in reality to a certain form of society.


The life of society is essentially practical. All the mysteries which
seduce speculative thought into mysticism find their solution in human
practice and in concepts of this practice.


The highest point to which materialism attains, that is the materialism
which comprehends sensation, not as a practical fact, is the point of
view of the single individual in bourgeois society.


The standpoint of the old materialism is "bourgeois" society; the
standpoint of the new, human society, or associated humanity.


Philosophers have only interpreted the world differently, but the point
is to change it.

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Feuerbach: The roots of the socialist philosophy" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.