Philosophy after Its Completion

by Karl Marx

In regard to Hegel, too, it is out of mere ignorance that his disciples explain this or that determination of his system by accommodation and the like or, in a word, morally. They forget that a very short time ago they enthusiastically adhered to all aspects of his one-sidedness; clear evidence of this fact is found in their own writings.

If they really were so much affected by the completed scientific knowledge they received that they submitted to it with naive uncritical trust, how unconscionable it is to reproach the master with having a hidden motive behind his insight—the master for whom scientific knowledge was not something received but something evolving as his own intellectual life's blood pulsed to its outmost periphery. Doing this, they throw suspicion on themselves, as though formerly they were not serious, and they combat their own former position in the form of ascribing it to Hegel. They forget, however, that he stood in direct, substantial relationship to his system, and they in a reflected relationship.

It is conceivable that a philosopher commits this or that apparent non sequitur out of this or that accommodation. He himself may be conscious of it. But he is not conscious that the possibility of this apparent accommodation is rooted in the inadequacy of his principle or in its inadequate formulation. Hence, if a philosopher has accommodated himself, his disciples have to explain from his inner essential consciousness what for him had the form of an exoteric consciousness. In this way what appears as progress of consciousness is progress of knowledge as well. It is not that the particular consciousness of the philosopher is suspect; rather, his essential form of consciousness is constructed, raised to a particular form and meaning, and at the same time superseded.

Incidentally, I regard this unphilosophical turn made by a large segment of the Hegelian school as a phenomenon that will always accompany the transition from discipline to freedom.

It is a psychological law that the theoretical mind, having become free in itself, turns into practical energy. Emerging as will from Amenthes' shadow-world, it turns against worldly actuality which exists outside it. (It is important, however, from the philosophical point of view, to specify these aspects more clearly, because deductions about a philosophy's immanent determination and world-historical character can be made from the particular manner of this turn. Here we see, as it were, its curriculum vitae narrowed down, brought to the subjective point.) The practice [Praxis] of philosophy, however, is itself theoretical. It is criticism which measures individual existence against essence, particular actuality against the Idea. But this direct realization of philosophy is burdened with contradictions in its innermost essence, and this essence manifests itself in appearance and puts its stamp thereon.

While philosophy, as will, turns toward the apparent world, the system is reduced to an abstract totality, that is, it becomes one side of the world facing another. Its relation to the world is reflexive relation. Enthusiastic in its drive to realize itself, it enters into tension with everything else. The inner self-contentedness and roundedness is broken down. The former inner light becomes a consuming flame turning outward. The consequence, hence, is that the world's becoming philosophical is at the same time philosophy's becoming worldly, that its realization is at the same time its loss, that what it combats outside is its own inner defect, that just in this combat philosophy itself falls into the faults which it combats in its opponent, and that it transcends these faults only by falling victim to them. Whatever opposes it and what philosophy combats is always the very same thing as philosophy, only with reversed factors.

This is the one side, when we look at the matter purely objectively, as immediate realization of philosophy. But there is also a subjective side—actually only a different form of the other side. This is the relation of the philosophical system which is actualized to its intellectual supporters and to the individual self-consciousnesses in which its progress becomes manifest. From the relationship that lies in the realization of philosophy in opposition to the world it is apparent that these individual self-consciousnesses always have a double-edged demand, of which one edge turns against the world, the other against philosophy itself. For what appears objectively as a relationship reversed in itself, appears to them as a double, self-contradictory demand and action. Their liberation of the world from nonphilosophy is at the same time their own liberation from the philosophy which fettered it as a definite system. Being themselves involved in action and the immediate energy of development, and hence, as far as theory is concerned, not yet beyond that system, they sense only the contradiction with the plastic self-identity of the system and are unaware that by turning against it, they merely actualize its particular moments.

Finally, this duality of philosophical self-consciousness manifests itself in double directions which are diametrically opposed. The one, which we may generally call the liberal party, adheres to the Concept and the principle of philosophy as its main determination; the other to its Non-concept, the element of reality. This second direction is positive philosophy. The act of the former is criticism; hence, precisely the turning outward of philosophy. The act of the latter is the attempt to philosophize, thus the turning inward of philosophy. It grasps the deficiency as immanent to philosophy, while the former conceives it as a deficiency of the world to be made philosophical. Each of these parties does exactly what the other wants to do, and what each one itself does not want to do. But the former, with its inner contradiction, is conscious in general of principle and aim. In the second appears perversity, so to speak, insanity as such. In content only the liberal party makes real progress, because it is the party of the Concept while positive philosophy is capable of achieving merely demands and tendencies whose form contradicts its meaning.

What seems to be, first of all, philosophy's wrong relation to and diremption with the world, turns secondly into a diremption of the individual philosophical self-consciousness in itself and finally appears as philosophy's external separation and duality, as two opposed philosophical directions.

It is understood that in addition a lot of subordinate, trifling unoriginal forms appear, which perhaps hide behind a philosophical giant of the past—but one soon notices the donkey under the lion's skin; the whiny voice of a perennial puppet cries in comic contrast to the mighty voice that fills centuries, say Aristotle's, having made itself his unwelcome mouthpiece; it is, as if a mute person wanted to acquire a voice with the aid of an enormous megaphone—or, armed with double spectacles, some Lilliputian stands on the extremity of the giant's posterior, announces amazeedly to the world what an astoundingly new view is offered from his point of vantage and ridiculously endeavors to demonstrate that the Archimedean point, the [Greek words] on which the world hinges, can be found not in the pulsating heart but in the firm and solid area on which he stands. Thus originate hair-, toe-, excrement-philosophers, and others who represent an even worse position in Swedenborg's mystical world-man. According to their nature, however, all these clams fall into the two directions stated, these being their element. In regard to these directions, I shall elsewhere explain completely their relationship to each other and to Hegel's philosophy, as well as the particular historical moments in which this development is manifest.

SOURCE: Writings of the Young Marx on Philosophy and Society, translated and edited by Loyd D. Easton and Kurt H. Guddat (Garden City, NY: Doubleday [Anchor Books], 1967), pp. 60-64.

Note: It is easy to get confused about the actual source of this material, as the surviving copy of Marx's 1841 doctoral dissertation is incomplete. Thus, while Part One, Chapter 4 is missing, the notes to chapter 4 are not. The source is Difference between the Democritean and Epicurean Philosophy of Nature, Notes; Part One; IV: General difference in principle between the Democritean and Epicurean philosophy of nature, beginning with note 1. A more complete version of this extract, in the most complete version of the dissertation in English, can be found (in a different translation) in: Marx-Engels Collected Works, Volume 1 (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1975), pp. 84-88.

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