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Dialectics Precede ... Part 5

Dialectics Precede … Part 5 (our decoding of Theses on Feuerbach Continues and Preview Why Dialectics Are Key Even As To Materialism)

By Dennis Loo (1/2/18)

Before I continue my exegesis of Marx’s 1888 germinal Theses on Feuerbach, a reminder: I am breaking with a tradition where the materialist part of materialist dialectics is emphasized and am stating unequivocally that dialectics are key between it and materialism. Both are important, but of the two, dialectics is more important overall then materialism. This has philosophical and real-world implications that I will shortly address.

But first, the rest of Theses:

Feuerbach wants sensuous objects, really distinct from the thought objects, but he does not conceive human activity itself as objective activity. Hence, in The Essence of Christianity, he regards the theoretical attitude as the only genuinely human attitude, while practice is conceived and fixed only in its dirty-judaical manifestation. Hence he does not grasp the significance of “revolutionary”, of “practical-critical”, activity.

Ludwig Feuerbach was a contemporary of Marx and he made a sensation when he argued that instead of God creating humankind, the reverse was true – humankind created god and religion. Feuerbach believed that knowing this would free humanity from religion’s hold. But as Marx points out, especially in the Fourth Thesis:

Feuerbach starts out from the fact of religious self-alienation, of the duplication of the world into a religious world and a secular one. His work consists in resolving the religious world into its secular basis.

But that the secular basis detaches itself from itself and establishes itself as an independent realm in the clouds can only be explained by the cleavages and self-contradictions within this secular basis. 

In other words, Feuerbach fails to see that the religious impulse has a secular (social and non-supernatural) foundation in society and cleavages in society itself. Religious belief can only be abolished to the degree that society itself is transformed and becomes transparent. People go to church or temple and even those who formally eschew a deity (such as Buddhists) because they find a community to join – a social impulse – and an immortality promise (“lasting life,” “forty virgins…”) and/or a celebration of society itself by elevating society to supernatural status – the ultimate compliment that we can pay it, though inadvertently and unknowingly. This latter point is made by Emile Durkheim, one of the founders of sociology, to explain religion and its persistent hold over people. Even in secular states or in atheist subcultures, the tendency to elevate the leader and worship of him or her and the community of believers, united in their beliefs, tends to assume paramount importance, showing once again the long-lasting persistence of religion.

Does that mean that religion – even in a secular form – will always be with us? Durkheim certainly thought so, since he believed that people who believed in religion were actually celebrating the power of society itself, and if society is always there, which it has been true from the very beginning of humankind, then so too religion in some form would be.

If we survive in some recognizable form, and if society becomes transparent for most of us, then eventually religion will “wither away,” but not before the cleavages in secular society are healed.

In the eighth thesis, Marx states;

All social life is essentially practical. All mysteries which lead theory to mysticism find their rational solution in human practice and in the comprehension of this practice.

When Marx and Engels were alive, and even Lenin, the practical solution to mysticism has given rise since their time to a suspicion that it will not quite so simple as they thought: that the division of classes and other invidious distinctions will need to be abolished before this mysticism, or even the worship of certain individuals, will need to be overcome.

Now if we parse that even further, social status – whether that is how well one shoots a basketball, or what heights one achieves in science or song, whatever it is, that difference will never go away. But class and similar group divisions can, leaving individual differences only. Even more: we can, on the one hand, say that great respect for those who conquer new frontiers can be forged, is a good thing. But if it leads to you blindly following their lead, rather than learning from their example, and becoming - if you will forgive the cliche - the best that you can be, then it is not such a good thing.


To be continued - in this series: Dialectics Precede and Are Primary Over Materailism Part I 

Part 2 (On the Basic Nature of Reality)

Part 3 (The Liar's Paradox Solved and Godel's Incompleteness Theorem Revisited)

Part 4 (On Theses on Feuerbach and Marx Melding Materialism with Dialectics)

Part 5 (our decoding of Theses on Feuerbach Continues and Preview Why Dialectics Are Key Even As To Materialism)

Part 6 (Why God Does Not Exist and Why It's Materialist Dialectics, Not Dialectical Materialism)




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Elaine Brower 2

Elaine Brower of World Can't Wait speaking at the NYC Stop the War on Iran rally 2/4/12