Saturday, January 28, 2012

Ludwig Feuerbach 4: Lectures

Continuing here on Feuerbach's Lectures on the Essence of Religion (1851). While all of Lecture I is available on the Marxists Internet Archive, I have added the second half of this lecture to my own web site:

Lectures on the Essence of Religion #1 (Part II: On Jakob Böhme, Spinoza, and Leibniz)

For Feuerbach, Spinoza
is the only modern philosopher to have provided the first elements of a critique and explanation of religion and theology; the first to have offered a positive opposition to theology; the first to have stated, in terms that have become classical, that the world cannot be regarded as the work or product of a personal being acting in accordance with aims and purposes; the first to have brought out the all-importance of nature for the philosophy of religion.
In contrast, here is how Leibniz is presented:
. . . the first modern German philosopher earned the honour, or dishonour, of having once again tied philosophy to the apron strings of theology. In this respect Leibniz, in his celebrated Theodicy, outdid all others. [. . . . ]Leibniz sat on the fence between the two parties, and for this very reason satisfied neither. He wished to offend no one, to hurt no one's feelings; his philosophy is a philosophy of diplomatic gallantry. Even the monads, the entities of which in his view all sensible beings consist, exert no physical influence on one another, lest any of them suffer injury.

But a man who is determined to offend no-one – even unintentionally – can have no energy, no force; for it is impossible to take a step without trampling on some creature or other, or to drink a sip of water without swallowing a quantity of small organisms. Leibniz is an intermediary between the Middle Ages and modern times; he is, as I have called him, the philosophical Tycho Brahe, but precisely because of his indecision he remains to this day the idol of all those who lack the energy to make up their minds.
I also added to my web site:

Lectures on the Essence of Religion: #2

Spinoza begins with Pierre Bayle, continues on the topic of immortality, and emphasizes the antagonism between religion and philosophy, also in opposition to Hegelianism's pretension to reconcile the two:
The more recent philosophers differ in one striking respect from their predecessors. For the earlier philosophers separated philosophy and religion and even set them in opposition, arguing that religion is grounded on divine wisdom and authority, while philosophy is grounded solely on human wisdom—or, as Spinoza put it, that religion aims solely at the advantage and welfare of man, while philosophy aims at the truth; while the most recent philosophers stand for the identity of philosophy and religion, at least as far as content and substance are concerned. It was this identity that I set out to attack. As early as 1830, when my Thoughts on Death and Immortality appeared, I found myself involved in an argument with a dogmatist of the Hegelian school, who maintained that there is only a formal difference between religion and philosophy, that philosophy merely raised to the level of the concept what religion possessed in the form of images. I replied in the following verse:
Essence itself is form. You therefore destroy the content of
Faith by destroying the image, its own appropriate form
I criticized the Hegelian philosophy for regarding the essential as nonessential and the nonessential as essential in religion. The essence of religion, I declared, is precisely what philosophy regards as mere form. 
A work deserving of special mention in this connection is a short pamphlet which appeared in 1839 under the title: On Philosophy and Christianity. Despite all attempts at compromise, I wrote, the difference between religion and philosophy is ineradicable, for philosophy is a matter of thought, of reason, while religion is a matter of emotion and imagination. But religion does not, as Hegel maintains, merely translate speculative ideas into emotionally charged images, but also contains an element that is distinct from thought, and this element is not merely its form but its very essence. This element can in one word be termed sensuousness, for emotion and imagination are also rooted in sensibility.

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