Marx on Science, Religion, Historical Method

Before his [John Wyatt's] time, spinning machines, although very imperfect ones, had already been used, and Italy was probably the country of their first appearance. A critical history of technology would show how little any of the inventions of the 18th century are the work of a single individual. Hitherto there is no such book. Darwin has interested us in the history of Nature’s Technology, i.e., in the formation of the organs of plants and animals, which organs serve as instruments of production for sustaining life. Does not the history of the productive organs of man, of organs that are the material basis of all social organisation, deserve equal attention? And would not such a history be easier to compile, since, as Vico says, human history differs from natural history in this, that we have made the former, but not the latter? Technology discloses man’s mode of dealing with Nature, the process of production by which he sustains his life, and thereby also lays bare the mode of formation of his social relations, and of the mental conceptions that flow from them. Every history of religion, even, that fails to take account of this material basis, is uncritical. It is, in reality, much easier to discover by analysis the earthly core of the misty creations of religion, than, conversely, it is, to develop from the actual relations of life the corresponding celestialised forms of those relations. The latter method is the only materialistic, and therefore the only scientific one. The weak points in the abstract materialism of natural science, a materialism that excludes history and its process, are at once evident from the abstract and ideological conceptions of its spokesmen, whenever they venture beyond the bounds of their own speciality.


SOURCE: Marx, Karl. Capital, Vol. I, Chapter 15: Machinery and Modern Industry, footnote 4. Translated by Samuel Moore & Edward Aveling; edited by Frederick Engels. (First English edition, 1887, incorporating 4th German edition changes. First German edition, 1867.) Moscow: Progress Publishers.


Marx on Capital, Machinery, Universality, Descartes: From Worship to Instrumentalization of Nature

Science, Society, and Life: Extract from "Private Property and Communism"
from the Economic-Philosophical Manuscripts of Karl Marx (1844)

Marx & Engels on the Science of History

Marx and Marxism Web Guide

Positivism vs Life Philosophy (Lebensphilosophie) Study Guide

Philosophy and the Division of Labor: Selected Bibliography

Ideology Study Guide

Atheism / Freethought / Humanism / Rationalism / Skepticism / Unbelief / Secularism / Church-State Separation Web Links


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