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Chapter 10 is dedicated to Friedrich Engels, who studied in Berlin at the beginning of the 1840s. The chapter explores Engels’ short monograph entitled Ludwig Feuerbach and the Outcome of Classical German Philosophy. In this work he gives a critical evaluation of German philosophy and speaks with nostalgia of the important role of Hegel and Feuerbach for the development of his thought and that of his collaborator Karl Marx. Engels claims that the radical nature of Hegel’s philosophy lies in its dialectical methodology. While it might at first glance look like Hegel is attempting to glorify the actual, in fact his theory shows that everything that arises in history appears at a specific place and under specific circumstances, and in time everything grows old and decays, at which point it is replaced by something new that is better suited to the new situation. This is a recipe for criticism and revolution. It is argued that Marx and Engels also further develop Hegel’s idea of self-conscious and alienation into a theory of class consciousness.
This chapter is dedicated to Hegel’s student Ludwig Feuerbach. It begins by giving an overview of Feuerbach’s life and writings. The main focus of the chapter is Feuerbach’s most famous work, The Essence of Christianity. Feuerbach tries to argue that it is a mistake to think of God as an objective, transcendent entity that is fundamentally different from human beings, as is traditionally done in theology. Instead, God is simply the essence of what is human projected onto an external entity. For this reason he refers to his undertaking not as theology or philosophy of religion but as anthropology; that is, a study of the human. It is shown that Feuerbach takes up the key Hegelian concepts of recognition and alienation. We take God to be something different and other, but in fact he is a reflection of our self-consciousness. Humans are alienated from their own positive qualities, which they have denied to themselves in order to project them onto God. Humans are thus not separated from something else or other but rather from themselves or their own nature. Feuerbach’s plea is that we restore our energy and efforts to ourselves by, for the first time, dedicating them to ourselves.
Chapter 6 is dedicated to the work of the young Karl Marx. It begins with an analysis of Marx’s “Introduction to the Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right,” which reveals the influence of both Hegel and Feuerbach. Marx sees his own work as continuing the criticism of religion that Feuerbach explored and expanding it to the social-political sphere. A close reading is given of the different kinds of alienation that Marx identifies in the “Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts,” which use Hegel’s Phenomenology as the point of departure. An account is given of the polemic between Marx and his one-time friend Bruno Bauer, which is played out in The Holy Family, a work coauthored by Marx and Engels. Finally an analysis is provided of The German Ideology with its polemic with the Young Hegelians and its theory of alienation.
The Introduction presents the philosopher G. W. F. Hegel and raises questions about the influence of his Berlin lectures in the 1820s. A remarkable generation came to learn from him, which included figures such as Ludwig Feuerbach, Bruno Bauer, Max Stirner, David Friedrich Strauss, and Heinrich Heine. After his death a second generation of students came to Berlin and were inspired by his legacy. Among these were Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, Søren Kierkegaard, Ivan Turgenev, and Mikhail Bakunin. All of these thinkers testify to the special intellectual atmosphere in Berlin that arose in connection with Hegel’s philosophy both during his lifetime and in the decades after his death. The present work takes as its point of departure the intellectual milieu at the University of Berlin, which was the fountain of inspiration that nourished the leading figures of the age. The introduction defines Hegel’s concepts of alienation and recognition, which are taken as the guiding themes for a study of philosophy in the nineteenth century. A handful of critical theses are sketched.
Richard Wagner was a political being throughout his life, even if his various political beliefs and commitments were not necessarily consistent or coherent. These beliefs found their way into his works. This is not surprising. Wagner despised what he saw as the shallowness and superficiality of contemporary opera. He aimed to supplant this with serious and substantial music dramas, of which the Ring is the grandest and most comprehensive example. Its mythological setting and characters can be deceptive. There are many implicit references to contemporary social and economic life. Wagner intended his work to have topical relevance. George Bernard Shaw, an early enthusiast for Wagner, was one of the first to see this. It is a mark of Wagner’s far-sightedness that he made an exploitative attitude to nature one of the key failings in the old order which was to be replaced. But how was this to happen? In his many drafts of Brunnhilde’s final peroration, Wagner evoked both the humanist Ludwig Feuerbach and the pessimist Arthur Schopenhauer. Wagner’s interests were never narrowly musical. He took a keen interest in the philosophical and intellectual currents of his age.
Brahms was a man with wide cultural interests that ranged far beyond his musical practice, as evinced by his circle of friends, as well as the contents of his library. He had close relationships with several leading German artists and art historians of his time. Once he was financially stable, he accumulated a substantial collection of prints that included both modern and classical artists, focussing on German and Italian art (much like his musical interests, and in keeping with prevailing German tastes). He showed little interest in French contemporaries, despite the towering reputation of contemporary painters like Delacroix and Courbet. On a personal level, his interest in art was part of his general thirst for Bildung, or all-round cultural cultivation. Already in the late 1850s, he met Herman Grimm through Joseph Joachim. Grimm was a historian of art and literature, and his biography of Michelangelo (which Brahms owned and read) is still consulted today.
We begin our consideration of Brahms’s politics and religion with the great historical turn that occurred in the centre of Europe in the year 1870. With the decisive German military defeat of France and proclamation of King Wilhelm I of Prussia as German Emperor, the German Question was at last given its definitive Prussian-dominated Smaller German solution. Brahms probably would have preferred a Larger German solution that included Austria, Prussia’s traditional rival for leadership in the loosely bound German Confederation that was established by the Congress of Vienna following Napoleon’s final defeat in 1815. But what mattered most was that Germany had at last emerged from its political impotence to become a nation-state possessed of power and influence in the world commensurate with its long-recognised achievements in the cultural sphere.
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