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2 - Ludwig Feuerbach's Critique of Religion and the End of Moral Philosophy

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  22 August 2009

Douglas Moggach
Affiliation:
University of Ottawa
Howard Williams
Affiliation:
Professor in political theory, University of Wales
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Summary

INTRODUCTION

Ludwig Feuerbach was in his time perhaps the best known of the Left Hegelian philosophers. His critique of religion The Essence of Christianity (1841) almost instantaneously turned him into a figure of great renown. The book became the centre of controversy among an inquisitive and religiously aware German public. As Friedrich Engels says of its impact on orthodox Hegelianism: “with one blow it pulverised the contradiction, in that without circumlocution it placed materialism on the throne again…. The spell was broken; the ‘system’ was exploded and cast aside. … One must himself have experienced the liberating effect of the book to get an idea of it. Enthusiasm was general; we all became at once Feuerbachians.” Marx also was infected by this enthusiasm and went on to write his Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844 under its influence. A further indication of the great interest that Feuerbach's writing aroused is that the English novelist George Eliot completed a translation of the book and published it under her own name, Marian Evans, in 1854.

Here I want to explore Ludwig Feuerbach's intellectual development to see what led him to this devastating and seminal critique of Christianity. According to Karl Barth, “no one among the modern philosophers has been so intensively, so exclusively and precisely occupied with the problem of theology as Feuerbach.” Feuerbach's fame rests on his critical encounter with Christian theology.

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The New Hegelians
Politics and Philosophy in the Hegelian School
, pp. 50 - 66
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2006

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