Lecture 8 – November 5, 2012
Marx on Religion
1. Marx and the Young Hegelians
2. Ludwig Feuerbach on religion:
3. Marx on religion:
4. Marx on ideas: a contradiction?
Marx and the Young Hegelians:
Feuerbach was part of a young group of thinkers called the Young Hegelians. The Young Hegelians
were not admirers of the philosopher Hegel, they took issue with the conservative, religious parts of
Hegel‟s thoughts. Feuerbach criticizes traditional religion and opposes Hegel in that sense.
Other reasons why these people were followers of Hegel – they valued his dialectical method.
“Dialect,” makes you think of dialogue – take this idea and apply it to social sciences – the key
message is to be alert to the internal complexity of things, the external relations between things and
other things, and the ways that things change.
For example, the projector – to think dialectically is to not forget that the projector is made up of
different parts (lens, light, cord, etc). Secondly, you have to think of the projector in its context, its
environment (it‟s on a table, in a lecture). Finally, think about how the thing is changing – it‟s made
by constituent parts, let‟s say it was made in 2000 – before then, the steel rod may have come from
Ecuador, etc. What you have is a temporary conglomeration of different parts which each have their
Hegel: “Being is becoming.” – A cryptic phrase, seems hard to decipher, but the projector example
depicts it. The thing has a history, and it is becoming something else – perhaps it will be recycled, or
perhaps it will be compacted in a garbage pile. Hegel argued that everything should be seen in this
way – you should see everything as a conglomeration of parts existing in an environment.
Marx is a dialectical thinker.
The fundamental difference between Marx and Durkheim – for Durkheim, the parts of society must be
in harmony with each other, and for Marx, he thinks parts of society (social classes) are antagonistic
with each other.
Marx: “The dialectic is an abomination to the bourgeois.” Says the bourgeoisie, in trying to pull the wool
over our eyes, treats the capitalist system as natural – if the capitalist system seems like the only
possible state of affairs, then we‟re more likely to accept it. But to think dialectically means to take
any thing, i.e. the projector or capitalist system, as something that has a past and a future – just as
the projector will end up in a garbage heap one day, capitalist society will become something else as
well. It is not here forever. And that allows us to think of alternatives.
Marx, like the young Hegelians, shared their admiration for Hegel‟s mode of reasoning – at the same
time, in focusing on religious questions, the Young Hegelians disagreed with him.
Feuerbach on religion:
For Hegel, what is real comes from the divine – what Feuerbach argues is the reverse. The divine is a
product of the real. God, for Feuerbach, is a fantasy – humans, who see themselves as limited and
imperfect, project onto „god‟ their highest qualities. Feuerbach identifies concept