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11 - Marx and Feuerbachian Essence: Returning to the Question of ‘Human Essence’ in Historical Materialism

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  22 August 2009

Douglas Moggach
Affiliation:
University of Ottawa
José Crisóstomo de Souza
Affiliation:
Professor in the Department of Philosophy, Federal University of Bahia (UFBa), Brazil
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Summary

This paper is part of a larger effort to present what I would call the “unsaid” – or some of what is “unsaid” – in Karl Marx's theory. By this I am referring to a certain philosophical background made up of presuppositions that are not always completely explicit. This is not an attempt to expose “what Marxism really is,” because I believe there is no such thing in the absolutely univocal sense. Instead, I am attempting to view Marx in another light, principally in regard to the self-representation that Marxism has built up for itself – to view it, in fact, from the basis of a given spirit of (our) time, at the beginning of a new century. I do not presume that a theory can exist without philosophical presuppositions or commitments. The point here is to try to avoid being naïve regarding the presuppositions that may be assumed even when seeking to approach Marx's theory in a renewed and anti-dogmatic manner.

Particularly in this paper, I want to show a certain permanence, re-elaboration, and consequent “strengthening” in Marx's critical theory of 1845–6, of the originally Feuerbachian notion of a “communitarian” essence of man – with all the weight that this notion of essence has, among other things, for the definition of concepts like alienation. The Marxian re-elaboration of the Feuerbachian notion of “species-essence” (Gattungswesen) occurs primarily in Marx's well-known “Theses on Feuerbach,” and the first section, “Feuerbach,” of the German Ideology (a collaborative work by Marx and Engels).

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The New Hegelians
Politics and Philosophy in the Hegelian School
, pp. 242 - 260
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2006

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