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Ludwig Feuerbach 1804-1872

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  • vjsimms73
    (the promotion of Man not some invented god) Ludwig Feuerbach 1804-1872 INTRODUCTION Once heralded as the foremost radical thinker of mid-nineteenth-century
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 26, 2009
      (the promotion of Man not some invented god) Ludwig Feuerbach
      1804-1872 INTRODUCTION
      Once heralded as the foremost radical thinker of mid-nineteenth-century
      Germany, Feuerbach is now generally viewed as a transitional figure
      between the speculative idealism of G. W. F. Hegel and the
      historical-dialectical materialism of Karl Marx. Advocating a humanist,
      empiricist, and naturalist philosophy, Feuerbach offered a revolutionary
      critique of religion in his most influential work, Das Wesen des
      Christentums (1841; The Essence of Christianity), in which he asserted
      the divinity of humankind in place of God and sought to elevate
      anthropology to the level of theology. Later, in hisGrundsätze der
      Philosophie der Zukunft (1843;Principles of the Philosophy of the
      Future), Feuerbach envisioned the coming dominance of politics and the
      natural sciences, which he suggested would largely displace philosophy
      in modern culture. His proclivity toward aphorism, evidenced by his
      sometimes misconstrued declaration that "man is what he eats"
      (which has been taken as an affirmation of his thoroughgoing
      materialism), and his strong influence on Marxist thought have long
      contributed to reductive perceptions of Feuerbach. By the twentieth
      century, formal reassessments of Feuerbach's work had indicated not only
      the historical significance of his critiques of religion and
      philosophical idealism, but also the profound influence of his thought
      on modern theology and social science.
      Biographical Information
      Feuerbach was born in Landshut, Bavaria (now part of Germany) in 1804.
      His father, Paul Johann Anselm Feuerbach, was a renowned liberal jurist
      who composed Bavaria's 1913 Penal Code. In 1805, Feuerbach's parents
      moved to Munich, where he grew up and attended school. Entering
      Heidelberg University in 1823, Feuerbach left after only one year,
      transferring to the University of Berlin in order to study under
      theologian Friedrich Schleiermacher and attend lectures by Hegel, the
      great German philosopher of the era. After gaining official acceptance
      at Berlin in 1824 and hearing both men speak, Feuerbach discovered that
      philosophy was more congenial to his thought than theology. Financial
      difficulties precipitated by the cancellation of his stipend forced him
      to transfer again to the University of Erlangen. Unable to complete his
      studies due to a continued lack of funds, Feuerbach returned to Ansbach
      (near Munich), where he finalized his dissertation. The work, entitled
      De ratione, una, universali, infinita (1828), won the admiration of his
      professors at Erlangen, who granted him a doctoral degree as well as a
      lecturing position in philosophy at the university. Feuerbach's academic
      career, however, was short-lived. His anonymous publication of Gedanken
      über Tod und Unsterblichkeit (1830;Thoughts on Death and Immortality)
      failed to conceal his identity. Once it was determined in the notably
      conservative and authoritarian political climate of 1830s Germany that
      he was the author of this decidedly anti-religious and potentially
      revolutionary text, Feuerbach's prospects of promotion to full
      professorship were obliterated. Dissatisfied with his status as a
      lecturer, Feuerbach left his position at Erlangen in 1832, but he found
      it impossible to secure an academic post elsewhere. He nevertheless
      continued to pursue his philosophical projects, writing several
      histories of modern, empiricist philosophy, Geschichte der neueren
      Philosophie von Bacon von Verulam bis Benedict Spinoza (1833),
      Darstellung, Entwicklung und Kritik der Leibnitz'schen Philosophie
      (1837) and Pierre Bayle (1838). At the urging of his friends, he
      lectured briefly at Erlangen between 1835 and 1836, but he otherwise
      refused to work without the possibility of promotion. In 1837, Feuerbach
      married Berta Löw. Her share of a porcelain factory in Bruckberg,
      where the couple were to relocate, proved their principal means of
      financial support for the next two decades. Meanwhile, Feuerbach's
      publication of Über Philosophie und Christenthum in 1839 represented
      a new phase in the philosopher's departure from the thought of his
      former master. It was followed by The Essence of Christianity in 1841.
      This work, along with its sequel Das Wesen der Religion (1846; The
      Essence of Religion), made Feuerbach the most famous and controversial
      philosopher in Germany during the 1840s, although his outspoken ideas
      and democratic sensibilities also attracted a measure of police
      scrutiny. After a short period of political euphoria in the wake of
      Germany's 1848 Revolution, including talk of his possible part in the
      Frankfurt National Assembly, had subsided, Feuerbach lectured briefly on
      religion between 1848 and 1849 at Heidelberg's city hall, inviting
      ordinary citizens as well as students and academics to attend. The
      lectures were later published asVorlesung über das Wesen der Religion
      (1851; Lectures on the Essence of Religion). Feuerbach devoted much of
      the 1850s to the research and composition of his Theogonie nach den
      Quellen des classischen, hebräischen und christlichen Alterthums, a
      work that elicited little interest. The bankruptcy of the Bruckberg
      porcelain factory in 1859 together with Feuerbach's vanished notoriety
      forced another move, this time to a small house in the vicinity of
      Munich at Rechenberg. His final work, Gottheit, Freiheit und
      Unsterblichkeit vom Standpunkte der Anthropologie, appeared in 1866,
      again to little notice. Supported by private contributions from friends
      and admirers late in life, Feuerbach suffered a debilitating stroke in
      1870. He died in Nuremberg in September of 1872.
      Major Works
      Feuerbach's doctoral dissertation De ratione, una, universali, infinita
      is permeated with Hegelian rationalism and idealism. Concerned with
      human apprehension of the universal, the work contains a critique of
      Immanuel Kant's conception of the limits of reason, but only hints at
      Feuerbach's subsequent, post-Hegelian thought and critical assessment of
      Christianity. His next treatise, the anonymous Thoughts on Death and
      Immortality, offers a thorough denial of the Christian doctrine of
      personal immortality. In it, Feuerbach attacks what he viewed as the
      egotism and subjectivity of religion. The work also offers suggestions
      of Feuerbach's ideas on divinity and infinity as concepts that should be
      allied with humanity, rather than with God. Feuerbach thus equates
      theology with anthropology and defines love as the impulse toward that
      which is shared among humanity. The awareness and acceptance of one's
      future death is its essential principal, the work forwarding a scheme in
      which death comes to represent a final surrendering of the self to
      communality. The notions outlined in Thoughts on Death and Immortality
      took further shape in Feuerbach's The Essence of Christianity, which
      traces the origins of religion to human self-consciousness. Its
      publication proved incontrovertible the break with Hegelian thought
      initially made by Feuerbach in his Über Philosophie und Christenthum.
      Still accepting the Hegelian assertion that Christianity was the highest
      development of religion, and likewise his view that philosophy
      supercedes theology, Feuerbach expanded his own critique of systematic
      idealism to include religion, which like pure speculative philosophy, he
      maintained, represents an alienation of the human subject. Feuerbach
      concluded that all celebration of God was in fact an appreciation of
      human accomplishment. For Feuerbach, community, concretized in his
      perception of the "I-Thou" relationship, became the central and
      fundamental element of human reality. Departing from the subject of
      religion in favor of science, Principles of the Philosophy of the Future
      represents Feuerbach's move toward empirical philosophy. In urging an
      intellectual continuity between the human and natural sciences, the work
      lays out his conception of the role of sense perception in the
      evaluation of truth. With The Essence of Religion Feuerbach expanded the
      ideas presented inThe Essence of Christianity, extending the same
      principles to other world religions. The work additionally develops
      Feuerbach's notion that human dependence on nature is the key factor in
      the origin of spiritual belief. Intended to be his philosophical
      masterpiece, Feuerbach'sTheogonie nach den Quellen des classischen,
      hebräischen und christlichen Alterthums (1857) contains a great deal
      of polemic. Its principal contention is that gods, from those of Greek
      myth to the God of Christianity, can be understood as the
      personifications of human desires. A final work containing Feuerbach's
      late thought, Gottheit, Freiheit und Unsterblichkeit vom Standpunkte der
      Anthropologie demonstrates his effort to release the concepts of freedom
      and moral obligation from Kant's categorical imperative and Arthur
      Schopenhauer's pessimistic notion of the will.
      Critical Reception
      The appearance of The Essence of Christianity in 1841 marked a pivotal
      shift in Feuerbach's career and signaled the peak of his notoriety. At
      the time, German intellectuals of the philosophical Left considered it a
      watershed publication. Friedrich Engels, the principal intellectual
      collaborator of Karl Marx, remarked: "Enthusiasm was general; we all
      became at once Feuerbachians." This celebratory phase was temporary,
      and by the middle of the 1840s Marx, Engels, and others had already
      begun to fashion their sharp critiques of Feuerbach's thought. Marx
      centered his fundamental point of divergence with Feuerbach on the
      thinker's failure to place human transformation in terms of historical
      development. Whereas Feuerbach pointed to the fundamental human
      relationship with nature, Marx chose history, and he declared
      Feuerbach's work too abstract. Meanwhile, the failure of the 1848
      Revolution in Germany and the passing of Hegelianism as the dominant
      German philosophy at mid-century coincided with a sharp decline in
      Feuerbach's reputation. For decades his works were studied only in the
      context of Marxism, or he was seen as simply a transitional marker,
      bridging the gap between Hegel and Marx. By the 1920s, a revival in
      Feuerbach studies had begun in Germany. Karl Barth, one of Feuerbach's
      main critics, who would flippantly designate his work as "a thorn in
      the flesh of modern theology" while decrying its
      "shallowness," nevertheless began to formulate his own theology
      as a response to the ideas Feuerbach had proposed in the 1840s. Barth at
      once initiated a trend of disparagement for and reasoned interest in
      Feuerbach, who was subsequently designated the father of modern atheism
      by theologians. Conversely, critics oriented toward the social sciences
      have been less inclined to make this assertion, instead focusing on
      Feuerbach as a precursor of modern developments in anthropology,
      psychology, and sociology. By the middle of the twentieth century, a
      detailed understanding of Feuerbach was deemed imperative to any serious
      consideration of Marxism, and his work was additionally noted for its
      impact on such diverse figures as Søren Kierkegaard, Friedrich
      Nietzsche, and Sigmund Freud, as well as later thinkers, including
      Martin Heidegger, Nikolay Berdyayev, and Jean-Paul Sartre. The 1970s
      witnessed another reassessment of Feuerbach, especially promoted by the
      appearance of Marx W. Wartofsky's 1977 study Feuerbach, which has been
      viewed as a significant work in English for its removal of the
      distorting contexts of Marxism and contemporary theological debate.
      Other commentators have begun to examine long-neglected elements of
      Feuerbach's work, including his lesser known writings. Overall, late
      twentieth-century critics generally sought to overturn the notion that
      Feuerbach's thought was banal or reductive. Most have nevertheless
      cautioned that he was not a systematic philosopher, but rather a
      suggestive one, and that his ideas were frequently imprecise or muddled.
      Several scholars have also continued the effort to appraise his work
      outside the frame of Marxism in order to appreciate Feuerbach, as many
      of his contemporaries did, as a perceptive critic and to re-examine the
      elements of his broadly influential philosophical humanism.

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