left biblioblography: FOOD FOR THOUGHT: A NEW PHILOSOPHER HAS CAUGHT MY EYE…OR RATHER, AN OLD ONE

Saturday, November 25, 2006

FOOD FOR THOUGHT: A NEW PHILOSOPHER HAS CAUGHT MY EYE…OR RATHER, AN OLD ONE

One Ludwig Andreas Feuerbach, to be precise. He’s new to me: but he lived circa 1804–1872.

“German philosopher and anthropologist whose major work, The Essence of Christianity (1841), maintains that religion and divinity are projections of human nature.

“(Born July 28, 1804, Landshut, Bavaria-died Sept. 13, 1872, Rechenberg, Ger.) German philosopher. The son of an eminent jurist, he studied under G.W.F. Hegel in Berlin but later abandoned Hegelian idealism for a naturalistic materialism. In Thoughts on Death and Immortality (1830), he attacked the concept of personal immortality. His Abelard and Heloise (1834) and Pierre Bayle (1838) were followed by On Philosophy and Christianity (1839), in which he claimed, “Christianity has in fact long vanished not only from the reason but from the life of mankind.” In The Essence of Christianity (1841), he proposed that God is merely the outward projection of mankind's inward nature. Some of his views were later endorsed by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels.”

Let me qualify some items further, before we venture on:


  1. Feuerbach stipulates in his preface that “But in considering this subject in the first instance, I was under the necessity of treating it as a matter of science, of philosophy; and in rectifying the aberrations of Religion, Theology, and Speculation, I was naturally obliged to use their expressions, and even to appear to speculate, or – which is the same thing – to turn theologian myself, while I nevertheless only analyse speculation, i.e., reduce theology to anthropology . My work, as I said before, contains, and applies in the concrete, the principle of a new philosophy suited – not to the schools, but – to man. Yes, it contains that principle, but only by evolving it out of the very core of religion; hence, be it said in passing the new philosophy can no longer, like the old Catholic and modern Protestant scholasticism, fall into the temptation to prove its agreement with religion by its agreement with Christian dogmas; on the contrary, being evolved from the nature of religion, it has in itself the true essence of religion, – is, in its very quality as a philosophy, a religion also. But a work which considers ideas in their genesis and explains and demonstrates them in strict sequence, is, by the very form which this purpose imposes upon it, unsuited to popular reading.”
That is for the kibitzers in the audience, who will undoubtedly take issue with the usages of ‘God’, or the capitilization of religion, or any other references to which the book refers. Sadly, we get shackled by those who take umbrage at our efforts: ‘Why do you quote scripture, if you don’t believe?’ or ‘Using such-and-such language indicates a nod to the divine’ or other such folderol.
  1. Most astute readers will tag him as a Marxian philosopher, and thus, allegorically (or sophistically) infer that both he and I are neo-Marxists (as one such twit at One Cosmos tried to insist). Note that last sentence: ‘Some of his views were later endorsed’ (see above). Also, his work here is on a Marxist site. I most emphatically am not a communist/socialist/marxist, regardless of the popular misconception. As I told a fellow at work (a fellow named Alex, who is a secular Jew, who began explaining he was more of ‘Socialist Democrat’), “Communism’s a great idea, if people knew how to share.”

Now that that particular bugaboo’s been laid to rest, shall we continue?

A few choice quotes, to wet the palate:

Religion is the dream of the human mind. But even in dreams we do not find ourselves in emptiness or in heaven, but on earth, in the realm of reality; we only see real things in the entrancing splendor of imagination and caprice, instead of in the simple daylight of reality and necessity.

If therefore my work is negative, irreligious, atheistic, let it be remembered that atheism -- at least in the sense of this work -- is the secret of religion itself; that religion itself, not indeed on the surface, but fundamentally, not in intention or according to its own supposition, but in its heart, in its essence, believes in nothing else than the truth and divinity of human nature.

A note from Chapter One caught my eye:
”The uninspired materialist says: “Man is distinguished from the animal only by consciousness; he is an animal, but one possessing consciousness in addition.” He does not take into account that a being that awakes to consciousness is thereby qualitatively changed. Moreover, what we have just said is by no means intended to belittle the animal. This is not the place to go deeper into this question.”

From Chapter Two:

”RELIGION is the disuniting of man from himself; he sets God before him as the antithesis of himself God is not what man is – man is not what God is. God is the infinite, man the finite being; God is perfect, man imperfect; God eternal, man temporal; God almighty, man weak; God holy, man sinful. God and man are extremes: God is the absolutely positive, the sum of all realities; man the absolutely negative, comprehending all negations.

But in religion man contemplates his own latent nature. Hence it must be shown that this antithesis, this differencing of God and man, with which religion begins, is a differencing of man with his own nature.

“The inherent necessity of this proof is at once apparent from this, – that if the divine nature, which is the object of religion, were really different from the nature of man, a division, a disunion could not take place. If God is really a different being from myself, why should his perfection trouble me? Disunion exists only between beings that are at variance, but who ought to be one, who can be one, and who consequently in nature, in truth, are one. On this general ground, then, the nature with which man feels himself in disunion must be inborn, immanent in himself, but at the same time it must be of a different character from that nature or power which gives him the feeling, the consciousness of reconciliation, of union with God, or, what is the same thing with himself.”

From Chapter Three:

”A God, therefore, who expresses only the nature of the understanding does not satisfy religion, is not the God of religion. The understanding is interested not only in man, but in the things out of man, in universal nature. The intellectual man forgets even himself in the contemplation of nature. The Christians scorned the pagan philosophers because, instead of thinking, of themselves, of their own salvation, they had thought only of things out of themselves. The Christian thinks only of himself. By the understanding an insect is contemplated with as much enthusiasm as the image of God – man. The understanding is the absolute indifference and identity of all things and beings. It is not Christianity, not religious enthusiasm, but the enthusiasm of the understanding that we have to thank for botany, mineralogy, zoology, physics, and astronomy. The understanding is universal, pantheistic, the love of the universe; but the grand characteristic of religion, and of the Christian religion especially, is that it is thoroughly anthropo-theistic, the exclusive love of man for himself, the exclusive self-affirmation of the human nature, that is, of subjective human nature; for it is true that the understanding also affirms the nature of man, but it is his objective nature, which has reference to the object for the sake of the object, and the manifestation of which is science. Hence it must be something entirely different from the nature of the understanding which is an object to man in religion, if he is to find contentment therein, and this something will necessarily be the very kernel of religion.”

From Chapter Four:

“For religion – the religious man in the act of devotion believes in a real sympathy of the divine being in his sufferings and wants, believes that the will of God can be determined by the fervour of prayer, i.e., by the force of feeling, believes in a real, present fulfilment of his desire, wrought by prayer. The truly religious man unhesitatingly assigns his own feelings to God; God is to him a heart susceptible to all that is human. The heart can betake itself only to the heart; feeling can appeal only to feeling; it finds consolation in itself, in its own nature alone.

“The notion that the fulfilment of prayer has been determined from eternity, that it was originally included in the plan of creation, is the empty, absurd fiction of a mechanical mode of thought, which is in absolute contradiction with the nature of religion. “We need,” says Lavater somewhere, and quite correctly according to the religious sentiment, “an arbitrary God.” Besides, even according to this fiction, God is just as much a being determined by man, as in the real, present fulfilment consequent on the power of prayer; the only difference is, that the contradiction with the unchangeableness and unconditionedness of God – that which constitutes the difficulty – is thrown back into the deceptive distance of the past or of eternity. Whether God decides on the fulfilment of my prayer now, on the immediate occasion of my offering it, or whether he did decide on it long ago, is fundamentally the same thing.

“It is the greatest inconsequence to reject the idea of a God who can be determined by prayer, that is, by the force of feeling, as an unworthy anthropomorphic idea. If we once believe in a being who is an object of veneration, an object of prayer, an object of affection, who is providential, who takes care of man, – in a Providence, which is not conceivable without love, – in a being, therefore, who is loving, whose motive of action is love; we also believe in a being who has, if not an anatomical, yet a psychical human heart. The religious mind, as has been said, places everything in God, excepting that alone which it despises. The Christians certainly gave their God no attributes, which contradicted their own moral ideas, but they gave him without hesitation, and of necessity, the emotions of love, of compassion. And the love, which the religious mind places in God, is not an illusory, imaginary love, but a real, true love. God is loved and loves again; the divine love is only human love made objective, affirming itself. In God love is absorbed in itself as its own ultimate truth.”

So, let’s nutshell this (hey, see how flexible language is? I just used a noun as a verb!):

Man is God. Man simply took his own best attributes, and used them to cast his own shadow upon the universe, an effort to tailor reality to suit his own needs.

Discuss among yourselves.

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3 comments:

beepbeepitsme said...

The gods are so much like us, because we created them.

They are a personification of the ultimate hero.

They are the alpha males in supernatural form.

They are our supernatural cult heroes.

remy said...

I think you nutshelled that well. To someone like me it seems self evident that humans projected their own image to create gods. I could never have expressed it this way. Good post.

ted said...

That's some excellent reading KA and as remy says, well nutshelled indeed.