Ludwig Feuerbach

On literary & philosophical works as the individual essences of their authors,
from Abelard and Heloise, or the Writer and the Human:
A Series of Humorous Philosophical Aphorisms (1834)

translated by Eric v.d. Luft

But answer my question: Do you indeed believe, naturally apart from the various highly significant properties and particularities which various nationalities produce in authors, [… several examples follow… ] that Spinoza could have been the originator of the monadology (the theory of individual unities) and Leibniz the originator of the theory of substance (absolute unity)? “Certainly not! Who could believe us capable of such absurdity? It is purely impossible.” Oh, don’t carry on so dreadfully! If you had insight into the true ground and the further consequences of this impossibility, then I would have spared myself the trouble of writing this aphorism for your edification. It is impossible only just because the direct beholdings which the poet or philosopher deposits in his works and which you call his fictions or chimeras are his soul, his true principle of life, and he can exchange his basic direct beholdings with those of another as little as he can exchange his individuality with that of another.

* * * *

Thus, if you call Leibniz’s philosophical principle of monads or Spinoza’s of substance a mere thought in your sense, i.e., call them imaginings or chimeras, then you are calling Leibniz and Spinoza themselves chimeras. It is false that Leibniz ever existed if his monads are false; if his monads were nothing, then he himself would also be nothing. For in the monads, which Leibniz made into the principal of the world, we have his objectified essence itself, we have him entirely, as he loved and lived. As Xenophanes sang of his god, he is all eyes, all ears, so we can say of Leibniz, he did not have spirit, he was himself entirely spirit, entirely thinking, entirely life, and entirely activity. As the universe, according to his philosophy, resembles a fishpond full of living essences, but in which every drop of water is itself again a fishpond, so also was every drop of blood, every atom of him itself again a little Leibniz, Leibniz himself and nothing else, a compositum, an aggregate, a great encyclopedia of sheer Leibnizes, but with each of them mirroring his entire essence, as each monad mirrors the entire universe, nothing else than a thick (if you will pardon the expression) bundle of light, of which each individual ray has been sufficient to form the soul of a capable human. Consider, on the other hand, the sublime simplicity, the silent dignity and serenity in the life and character of Spinoza, and you will find in him not a single dark spot, but on the contrary you will find him to be so bright and transparent that you will perceive in him and all through him nothing else but the pure, clear heaven of substance, which he articulated as the principle of philosophy. Conduct the most meticulous search of both their homes, inspect them, if you have the desire, plunder them, in order to see whether they might have managed to smuggle their wares in here from any other place, perhaps outside the domestic products of their direct beholdings; yes, I advise you to try still another remedy: Squeeze each of their hearts, the centers of individual life, like a leather pouch filled with mercury and you will see nothing but monads and substance gushing forth from every pore. If this remedy also does nothing to help you, provides no relief or improvement in your heads, then I want to write you two more prescriptions, which are exactly aimed at your condition, from Spinoza and Leibniz themselves. Leibniz says: “We are made to think. It is not necessary to live, but it is necessary to think. Spinoza says: “We act only insofar as we understand.”

[#59: extracts, p. 61, 62-4]

Good books, i.e. those which give us something to think about, are written in foreign languages. By reading them we translate them into our mother tongue. But only a few people understand the art of translating or know how to combine properly the freedom of adaptation with the constraint of fidelity. Most readers are either literalistic, inflexible, slavish pedants or careless paraphrasers who, often even unwittingly and unwillingly, just parody the author.

[#61: pp. 64-5]

Spirit is like Descartes, who, with that indecision which is not a sign of characterlessness, but rather, on the contrary, a sign of inner self-sufficiency in the force and fullness of life, strolling aimlessly through the whole domain of the world in thoughts and in actuality, however much he cudgelled his brains all the while, could not decide on any determinate sphere of life, but rather, voluntarily banishing himself from his fatherland in order to break all bonds, even those with friends and relatives, lived only for the sciences.

[#65: extract, p. 79]

“Even purely scientific, philosophical production, which thrives only under the consummate dominion of reason, is at the same time ecstasy that grips the entire human, excites the most vivacious sensations, demands and generates the most intimate personal sympathy. Every true thought, as a free product of reason, is at the same time a thoroughly urgent determination of our immediate individuality, a stab in the heart, a violent shaking of our whole being, a sacrifice of our existence.”

[#75: concluding sentences, p. 112]

SOURCE: Feuerbach, Ludwig. Abelard and Heloise, or the Writer and the Human: A Series of Humorous Philosophical Aphorisms (1834), translated and with an introduction by Eric v.d. Luft, foreword by Angela Moreira. North Syracuse, NY: Gegensatz Press, 2012.

Abelard and Heloise, or the Writer and the Human (Ludwig Feuerbach): Book notes
by R. Dumain

Descartes & Marxism: Selected Bibliography

Spinoza & Marxism: Selected Bibliography (with Basic Spinoza Web Guide)

Leibniz & Ideology: Selected Bibliography

Biographical and Psychological Dimensions of Philosophy: Selected Bibliography

Ludwig Feuerbach: A Bibliography

The Young Hegelians: Selected Bibliography

Marx and Marxism Web Guide

Historical Surveys of Atheism, Freethought, Rationalism, Skepticism, and Materialism:
Selected Works

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