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Ludwig Feuerbach
Full name Ludwig Feuerbach
Born July 28, 1804
Landshut, Germany
Died September 13, 1872
Rechenberg near Nuremberg, Germany
Era 19th-century philosophy
Region Western Philosophy
School Young Hegelians
Main interests Religion
Notable ideas Religion as the outward projection of man's inner nature

Ludwig Andreas von Feuerbach (July 28, 1804 – September 13, 1872) was a German philosopher and anthropologist. He was the fourth son of the eminent jurist Paul Johann Anselm Ritter von Feuerbach. His thought was influential in the development of Marxist dialectic.[1]

Contents

Biography

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Education

Feuerbach matriculated in the University of Heidelberg with the intention of pursuing a career in the Church. Through the influence of Prof. Karl Daub he was led to an interest in the then predominant philosophy of Hegel and, in spite of his father's opposition, enrolled in the University of Berlin, in order to study under the master himself. After twenty two years, the Hegelian influence began to slacken. Feuerbach became associated with a group known as the Young Hegelians, alternately known as the Left Hegelians, who synthesized a radical offshoot of Hegelian philosophy, interpreting Hegel’s dialectic march of spirit through history to mean that existing Western culture and institutional forms—and, in particular, Christianity—would be superseded. "Theology," he wrote to a friend, "I can bring myself to study no more. I long to take nature to my heart, that nature before whose depth the faint-hearted theologian shrinks back; and with nature man, man in his entire quality." These words are a key to Feuerbach's development. He completed his education at Erlangen, at the Friedrich-Alexander-University, Erlangen-Nuremberg with the study of natural science.

Early writings

His first book, published anonymously, Gedanken über Tod und Unsterblichkeit (1830), contains an attack on personal immortality and an advocacy of the Spinozistic immortality of reabsorption in nature. These principles, combined with his embarrassed manner of public speaking, debarred him from academic advancement. After some years of struggling, during which he published his Geschichte der neueren Philosophie (2 vols., 1833-1837, 2nd ed. 1844), and Abelard und Heloise (1834, 3rd ed. 1877), he married in 1837 and lived a rural existence at Bruckberg near Nuremberg, supported by his wife's share in a small porcelain factory.

In two works of this period, Pierre Bayle (1838) and Philosophie und Christentum (1839), which deal largely with theology, he held that he had proven "that Christianity has in fact long vanished not only from the reason but from the life of mankind, that it is nothing more than a fixed idea."

Das Wesen des Christentums (The Essence of Christianity)

This attack is followed up in his most important work, Das Wesen des Christentums (1841), which was translated by George Eliot into English as The Essence of Christianity. "In the consciousness of the infinite, the conscious subject has for his object the infinity of his own nature."

Feuerbach's theme was a derivation of Hegel's speculative theology in which the Creation remains a part of the Creator, while the Creator remains greater than the Creation. When the student Feuerbach presented his own theory to professor Hegel, Hegel refused to reply positively to it.

In part I of his book Feuerbach developed what he calls the "true or anthropological essence of religion." Treating of God in his various aspects "as a being of the understanding," "as a moral being or law," "as love" and so on. Feuerbach talks of how man is equally a conscious being, more so than God because man has placed upon God the ability of understanding. Man contemplates many things and in doing so he becomes acquainted with himself. Feuerbach shows that in every aspect God corresponds to some feature or need of human nature. "If man is to find contentment in God," he claims, "he must find himself in God."

Thus God is nothing else than man: he is, so to speak, the outward projection of man's inward nature. This projection is dubbed as a chimaera by Feuerbach, that God and the idea of a higher being is dependent upon the aspect of benevolence. Feuerbach states that, “a God who is not benevolent, not just, not wise, is no God,” and continues to say that qualities are not suddenly denoted as divine because of their godly association. The qualities themselves are divine therefore making God divine, indicating that man is capable of understanding and applying meanings of divinity to religion and not that religion makes a man divine.

The force of this attraction to religion though, giving divinity to a figure like God, is explained by Feuerbach as God is a being that acts throughout man in all forms. God, “is the principle of [man's] salvation, of [man's] good dispositions and actions, consequently [man's] own good principle and nature.” It appeals to man to give qualities to the idol of their religion because without these qualities a figure such as God would become merely an object, its importance would become obsolete, there would no longer be a feeling of an existence for God. Therefore, Feuerbach says, when man removes all qualities from God, “God is no longer anything more to him than a negative being.” Additionally, because man is imaginative, God is given traits and there holds the appeal. God is a part of man through the invention of a God. Equally though, man is repulsed by God because, “God alone is the being who acts of himself.”

In part 2 he discusses the "false or theological essence of religion," i.e. the view which regards God as having a separate existence over against man. Hence arise various mistaken beliefs, such as the belief in revelation which he believes not only injures the moral sense, but also "poisons, nay destroys, the divinest feeling in man, the sense of truth," and the belief in sacraments such as the Lord's Supper, which is to him a piece of religious materialism of which "the necessary consequences are superstition and immorality."

Part 2 comes to a crux though by seemingly retracting previous statements. Feuerbach claims that God's only action is, “the moral and eternal salvation of man: thus man has in fact no other aim than himself,” because man's actions are placed upon God. Feuerbach also contradicts himself by claiming that man gives up his personality and places it upon God who in turn is a selfish being. This selfishness turns onto man and projects man to be wicked and corrupt, that they are, “incapable of good,” and it is only God that is good, “the Good Being.” In this way Feuerbach detracts from many of his earlier assertions while showing the alienation that takes place in man by worshipping God. Feuerbach affirms that goodness is, “personified as God,” turning God into an object because if God was anything but an object nothing would need to be personified on him. The aspect of objects having previously been discussed; in that man contemplates objects and that objects themselves give conception of what externalizes man. Therefore if God is good so then should be man because God is merely an externalization of man because God is an object. However religion would show that man is inherently corrupt. Feuerbach tries to lessen his inconsistency by asking if it were possible if, “I could perceive the beauty of a fine picture if my mind were aesthetically an absolute piece of perversion?” Through Feuerbach’s reasoning it would not be possible, but it is possible, and he later states that man is capable of finding beauty.

A caustic criticism of Feuerbach was delivered in 1844 by Max Stirner. In his book Der Einzige und sein Eigentum (The Ego and His Own) he attacked Feuerbach as inconsistent in his atheism. The pertinent portions of the books, Feuerbach's reply, and Stirner's counter-reply form an instructive polemics. (see External Links)

After "1848"

During the troubles of 1848-1849 Feuerbach's attack upon orthodoxy made him something of a hero with the revolutionary party; but he never threw himself into the political movement, and indeed lacked the qualities of a popular leader. During the period of the Frankfurt Congress he had given public lectures on religion at Heidelberg. When the diet closed he withdrew to Bruckberg and occupied himself partly with scientific study, partly with the composition of his Theogonie (1857).

In 1860 he was compelled by the failure of the porcelain factory to leave Bruckberg, and he would have suffered the extremity of want but for the assistance of friends supplemented by a public subscription. His last book, Gottheit, Freiheit und Unsterblichkeit, appeared in 1866 (2nd ed., 1890). After a long period of decline, he died on September 13, 1872. He is buried in Johannis-Friedhof Cemetery in Nuremberg, which is also where the artist Albrecht Dürer is interred.

Philosophy

Essentially the thought of Feuerbach consisted in a new interpretation of religion's phenomena, giving an anthropological explanation. Following Schleiermacher’s theses, Feuerbach thought religion was principally a matter of feeling in its unrestricted subjectivity. So the feeling breaks through all the limits of understanding and manifests itself in several religious beliefs. But, beyond the feeling, is the fancy, the true maker of projections of "Gods" and of the sacred in general.

Influence

Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels were strongly influenced by Feuerbach's atheism, though they criticised him for his inconsistent espousal of materialism. [1]

Works

See also

References

  1. ^ a b Feuerbach, Ludwig at marxists.org Glossary. Accessed October 2007.
  • See also Van A. Harvey, et al. Feuerbach and the Interpretation of Religion (Studies in Religion and Critical Thought), 1997.
  • Marxism explained: materialism John Minns at Socialist Alternative. looks at Feuerbach's influence on Marx and Engels. Accessed October 2007
  • Ludwig Feuerbach, “The Essence of Christianity” in Religion and Liberal Culture, ed. Keith Michael Baker, vol. 8 of University of Chicago Readings in Western Civilization, ed. John W. Boyer and Julius Kirshner (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987), 323-336.

External links


Quotes

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Ludwig Andreas Feuerbach, German philosopher

Ludwig Andreas Feuerbach (July 28, 1804September 13, 1872) was a German philosopher.

Contents

Sourced

The Essence of Christianity (1841)

  • If therefore my work is negative, irreligious, atheistic, let it be remembered that atheism—at least in the sense of this work—is the secret of religion itself; that religion itself, not indeed on the surface, but fundamentally, not in intention or according to its own supposition, but in its heart, in its essence, believes in nothing else than the truth and divinity of human nature.
    • Preface
  • I have always taken as the standard of the mode of teaching and writing, not the abstract, particular, professional philosopher, but universal man, that I have regarded man as the criterion of truth, and not this or that founder of a system, and have from the first placed the highest excellence of the philosopher in this, that he abstains, both as a man and as an author, from the ostentation of philosophy, i.e., that he is a philosopher only in reality, not formally, that he is a quiet philosopher, not a loud and still less a brawling one.
    • Preface to Second Edition (1843)
  • The present age ... prefers the sign to the thing signified, the copy to the original, fancy to reality, the appearance to the essence ... for in these days illusion only is sacred, truth profane.
    • Preface to Second Edition (1843)
  • Religion is the dream of the human mind. But even in dreams we do not find ourselves in emptiness or in heaven, but on earth, in the realm of reality; we only see real things in the entrancing splendor of imagination and caprice, instead of in the simple daylight of reality and necessity.
    • Preface to Second Edition (1843)

Principles of Philosophy of the Future (1843)

  • Speculative philosophy as the realisation of God is the positing of God, and at the same time his cancellation or negation; theism and at the same time atheism: for God – in the sense of theology – is God only as long as he is taken to be a being distinguished from and independent of the being of man as well as of nature. The theism that as the positing of God is simultaneously his negation or, conversely, as the negation of God equally his affirmation, is pantheism. Theological theism – that is, theism properly speaking – is nothing other than imaginary pantheism which itself is nothing other than real and true theism.
    • Part I, Section 14
  • Pantheism makes God into a present, real, and material being; empiricism – to which rationalism also belongs – makes God into an absent, remote, unreal, and negative being. Empiricism does not deny God existence, but denies him all positive determinations, because their content is supposed to be only finite and empirical; the infinite cannot, therefore, be an object for man. But the more determinations I deny to a being, the more do I cut it of[ from myself, and the less power and influence do I concede to it over me, the freer do I make myself of it. The more qualities I possess, the more I am for others, and the greater is the extent of my influence and effects. And the more one is, the more one is known to others. Hence, each negation of an attribute of God is a partial atheism, a sphere of godlessness.
    • Part I, Section 16
  • The secret of Hegel's dialectic lies ultimately in this alone, that it negates theology through philosophy in order then to negate philosophy through theology. Both the beginning and the end are constituted by theology; philosophy stands in the middle as the negation of the first positedness, but the negation of the negation is again theology. At first everything is overthrown, but then everything is reinstated in its old place, as in Descartes. The Hegelian philosophy is the last grand attempt to restore a lost and defunct Christianity through philosophy, and, of course, as is characteristic of the modern era, by identifying the negation of Christianity with Christianity itself.
    • Part II, Section 21
  • The recognition of the light of reality within the darkness of abstraction is a contradiction – both the affirmation and the negation of the real at one and the same time. The new philosophy, which thinks the concrete not in an abstract but a concrete way, which acknowledges the real in its reality – that is, in a way corresponding to the being of the real as true, which elevates it into the principle and object of philosophy – is consequently the truth of the Hegelian philosophy, indeed of modern philosophy as a whole.
    • Part III, Section 31

Lectures on the Essence of Religion (1851)

  • We have busied ourselves and contented ourselves long enough with speaking and writing; now at last we demand that the word become flesh, the spirit matter; we are as sick of political as we are of philosophical idealism; we are determined to become political materialists.
    • Lecture I, Occasion and Context
  • God, I have said, is the fulfiller, or the reality, of the human desires for happiness, perfection, and immortality. From this it may be inferred that to deprive man of God is to tear the heart out of his breast. But I contest the premises from which religion and theology deduce the necessity and existence of God, or of immortality, which is the same thing. I maintain that desires which are fulfilled only in the imagination, or from which the existence of an imaginary being is deduced, are imaginary desires, and not the real desires of the human heart; I maintain that the limitations which the religious imagination annuls in the idea of God or immortality, are necessary determinations of the human essence, which cannot be dissociated from it, and therefore no limitations at all, except precisely in man’s imagination.
    • Lecture XXX, Atheism alone a Positive View
  • Man has many wishes that he does not really wish to fulfil, and it would be a misunderstanding to suppose the contrary. He wants them to remain wishes, they have value only in his imagination; their fulfilment would be a bitter disappointment to him. Such a desire is the desire for eternal life. If it were fulfilled, man would become thoroughly sick of living eternally, and yearn for death. In reality man wishes merely to avoid a premature, violent or gruesome death. Everything has its measure, says a pagan philosopher; in the end we weary of everything, even of life; a time comes when man desires death. Consequently there is nothing frightening about a normal, natural death, the death of a man who has fulfilled himself and lived out his life.
    • Lecture XXX, Atheism alone a Positive View
  • But like the desire for eternal life, the desire for omniscience and absolute perfection is merely an imaginary desire; and, as history and daily experience prove, the supposed human striving for unlimited knowledge and perfection is a myth. Man has no desire to know everything; he only wants to know the things to which he is particularly drawn.
    • Lecture XXX, Atheism alone a Positive View
  • Christianity set itself the goal of fulfilling man’s unattainable desires, but for that very reason ignored his attainable desires. By promising man eternal life, it deprived him of temporal life, by teaching him to trust in God’s help it took away his trust in his own powers; by giving him faith in a better life in heaven, it destroyed his faith in a better life on earth and his striving to attain such a life. Christianity gave man what his imagination desires, but for that very reason failed to give him what he really and truly desires.
    • Lecture XXX, Atheism alone a Positive View

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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

LUDWIG ANDREAS FEUERBACH (1804-1872), German philosopher, fourth son of the eminent jurist (see below), was born at Landshut in Bavaria on the 28th of July 1804. He matriculated at Heidelberg with the intention of pursuing an ecclesiastical career. Through the influence of Prof. Daub he was led to an interest in the then predominant philosophy of Hegel and, in spite of his father's opposition, went to Berlin to study under the master himself. After two years' discipleship the Hegelian influence began to slacken. "Theology," he wrote to a friend, "I can bring myself to study no more. I long to take nature to my heart, that nature before whose depth the faint-hearted theologian shrinks back; and with nature man, man in his entire quality." These words are a key to Feuerbach's development. He completed his education at Erlangen with the study of natural science. His first book, published anonymously, Gedanken über Tod and Unsterblichkeit (1830, 3rd ed. 1876), contains an attack upon personal immortality and an advocacy of the Spinozistic immortality of reabsorption in nature. These principles, combined with his embarrassed manner of public speaking, debarred him from academic advancement. After some years of struggling, during which he published his Geschichte der neueren Philosophic (2 vols., 1833-1837, 2nd ed. 1844), and Abiilard and Heloise (1834, 3rd ed. 1877), he married in 1837 and lived a rural existence at Bruckberg near Nuremberg,, supported by his wife's share in a small porcelain factory. In two works of this period, Pierre Bayle (1838) and Philosophie and Christentum (1839), which deal largely with theology, he held that he had proved "that Christianity has in fact long vanished not only from the reason but from the life of mankind, that it is nothing more than a fixed idea" in flagrant contradiction to the distinctive features of contemporary civilization. This attack is followed up in his most important work, Das Wesen des Christentums (1841), which was translated into English (The Essence of Religion, by George Eliot, 1853, 2nd ed. 1881), French and Russian. Its aim may be described shortly as an effort to humanize theology. He lays it down that man, so far as he is rational, is to himself his own object of thought. Religion is consciousness of the infinite. Religion therefore is "nothing else than the consciousness of the infinity of the consciousness; or, in the consciousness of the infinite, the conscious subject has for his object the infinity of his own. nature." Thus God is nothing else than man: he is, so to speak, the outward projection of man's inward nature. In part 1 of his book he develops what he calls the "true or anthropological essence of religion." Treating of God in his various aspects "as a being of the understanding," "as a moral being or law," "as love" and so on, Feuerbach shows that in every aspect God corresponds to some feature or need of human nature. "If man is to find contentment in God, he must find himself in God." In part 2 he discusses the "false or theological essence of religion," i.e. the view which regards God as having a separate existence over against man. Hence arise various mistaken beliefs, such as the belief in revelation which not only injures the moral As feudalism passed from its age of supremacy into its age of decline, its customs tended to crystallize into fixed forms.

At the same time a class of men arose interested in these forms for their own sake, professional lawyers Bence, but also "poisons, nay destroys, the divinest feeling in man, the sense of truth," and the belief in sacraments such as the Lord's Supper, a piece of religious materialism of which "the necessary consequences are superstition and immorality." In spite of many admirable quanlities both of style and matter the Essence of Christianity has never Made much impression upon British thought. To treat the actual forms of religion as expressions of our various human needs is a fruitful idea which deserves fuller development than it has yet received; but Feuerbach's treatment of it is fatally vitiated by his subjectivism. Feuerbach denied that he was rightly called an atheist, but the denial is merely verbal: what he calls "theism" is atheism in the ordinary sense. Feuerbach labours under the same difficulty as Fichte; both thinkers strive in vain to reconcile the religious consciousness with subjectivism.

During the troubles of1848-1849Feuerbach's attack upon orthodoxy made him something of a hero with the revolutionary party; but he never threw himself into the political movement, and indeed had not the qualities of a popular leader. During the period of the diet of Frankfort he had given public lectures on religion at Heidelberg. When the diet closed he withdrew to Bruckberg and occupied himself partly with scientific study, partly with the composition of his Theogonie (1857). In 1860 he was compelled by the failure of the porcelain factory to leave Bruckberg, and he would have suffered the extremity of want but for the assistance of friends supplemented by a public subscription. His last book, Gottheit, Freiheit and Unsterblichkeit, appeared in 1866 (2nd ed., 1890). After a long period of decay he died on the 13th of September 1872.

Feuerbach's influence has been greatest upon the antiChristian theologians such as D. F. Strauss, the author of the Leben Jesu, and Bruno Bauer, who like Feuerbach himself had passed over from Hegelianism to a form of naturalism. But many of his ideas were taken up by those who, like Arnold Ruge, had entered into the struggle between church and state in Germany, and those who, like F. Engels and Karl Marx, were leaders in the revolt of labour against the power of capital. His work was too deliberately unsystematic ("keine Philosophie ist meine Philosophie") ever to make him a power in philosophy. He expressed in an eager, disjointed, but condensed and laboured fashion, certain deep-lying convictions - that philosophy must come back from unsubstantial metaphysics to the solid facts of human nature and natural science, that the human body was no less important than the human spirit ("Der Mensch ist was er isst") and that Christianity was utterly out of harmony with the age. His convictions gained weight from the simplicity, uprightness and diligence of his character; but they need a more effective justification than he was able to give them.

His works appeared in 10 vols. (Leipzig, 1846-1866); his correspondence has been edited with an indifferent biography by Karl Grün (1874). See A. Levy, La Philosophie de Feuerbach (1904); M. Meyer, L. Feuerbach's Moralphilosophie (Berlin, 1899); E. v. Hartmann, Geschichte d. Metaphysik (Leipzig, 1899-1900), ii. 437-444; F. Engels, L. Feuerbach und d. Ausgang d. class. deutsch. Philos. (2nd ed., 1895). (H. ST.)


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