Marx vs Stirner

Ralph Dumain rdumain at
Fri Dec 30 23:27:03 MST 1994

I thank Dr. Stepelevich for his clarifications.  But I am troubled
by the conclusions he draws from the facts, starting here:

>all Hegelians were tarred with the same atheistic brush.  At the
>very outset of the G.I. Marx writes: "The entire body of German
>philosophical criticism from Strauss to Stirner [!] is confined
to criticism of RELIGIOUS conceptions."

Do you think that atheism vs. religion is the fundamental
motivating factor here?  It seems to me but a symptom of something
deeper.  Marx broke with the intellectual class as he knew it.  It
seems to me his outlook was profoundly affected by his sojourn in
France.  The atmosphere in which he found himself -- the state of
society and the thoughts about society that were being thought --
changed his attitude towards the environment in which he
germinated.  He not only took to criticizing others for their
limitations; their limitations were HIS limitations until his
experience of the world taught him something new.  From then on it
was the world that served as his reference point, not the
intellectual class.  You seem to share others' view that he
abandoned philosophy because he abandoned "Philosophy".

>With empirical praxis rather than religious contemplation, Marx
>would free himself from the magic circle of Hegelianism.

Fine, but this leaves open the question of the role of thought in
Marx's world-view.  You assume that, because he underscores real
life as a compensatory exaggeration to correct the self-enclosed
world of specious contemplation of the middle-class intellectual,
that thought ceases to mean anything for Marx other than an
accoutrement to action.  There are people who call themselves
Marxist who buy this line.  I do not.

>All this reminds me a bit of Heidegger's efforts to free himself

A curious comparison.  I'd like to see someone follow this line of
enquiry BUT with an eye not only in differences in the political
trajectories involved, but with the fundamental differences in
intellectual methodologies and background assumptions involved.
In an earlier post, I made an allusion which was evidently too
understated to evoke the response I had hoped for, when I
contrasted Gramsci's philosophy of praxis with Mussolini's
philosophy of action.  I assumed someone would catch the irony,
given Gramsci's imprisonment under Mussolini's regime, and I hoped
in vain someone would take my hint and ponder the philosophical
difference as well.  I see now I was asking too much.

>Marx,as a Feuerbachian unable to answer Stirner, and not willing
>to acknowledge Stirner,

Unable to answer: I'd like to know what this means.  If it were
so, I still don't buy the following:

>simply avoided the issue by labeling all philosophy, Feuerbach's
>included, as "ideology."

He so labelled the philosophy of his own intellectual milieu.  But
to suggest that Marx, unable to cut the mustard in the
philosophical pecking order (shamelessly mixed metaphor), decides
to abandon philosophy for something in which he is more competent,
I can't take that seriously.

>And there he left it, fixed at the penultimate point of the
>ideological superstructure, safely removed from the economic

That's another way of saying that Marx devoted the bulk of his
time in later years to political economy as a safe haven away from
philosophy, where he couldn't cut it.  Or that philosophy is left
where it stood, untouched.  I can't say I'm surprised at that way
of thinking.  I wonder if I should bother to refute it.

>perhaps re-name it the "Stirner-Feuerbach" debate, and then to
>look upon Marxism as representative of most post-Hegelian anti-
>Hegelianism -- i.e., a stew of high moral dudgeon against
>Hegel's "totalizing" --

I thought the holy war against totalizing was a recent thing, a
deconstructionist conceit rather than a Marxist one.  Also, to
view Marxism as a world-view as an academic specialty that just
wants to play games with other people's ideas -- this is a curious
way of looking at it.  Which is not even to argue over Marxism on
political or social grounds or as a social theory or a world-view
-- to be for or against it on political or moral principles -- to
which everyone is entitled to some kind of opinion --  but simply
to place it as a footnote to Hegelian philosophy, at best a
trivial moralistic intellectual game.  I can only thank my lucky
stars I never became a professor to reduce intellectual work to
such a level of trivialization.

>I am of the opinion that Stirner is about as far as one can go
>and still stay within the "magic circle.

>After Stirner, there are only those whom Karl Rosenkranz would
>call Hegel's "gravediggers or monument-builders."

You mean in relation to Hegel, or in relation to anything that
philosophy might do?

I defer to Dr. Stepelevich's expertise on the historical facts in
question, but I do not believe his interpretations are directly
buttressed by the facts of the matter.  Interpretation is an art
that often transcends professional expertise, and I find his
construction of the meaning of Marx's rejection of his
philosophical milieu to be as arbitrary as any.  But I am learning
something new every day about how people think, and what kind of a
world they think they live in.  And I wouldn't trade that kind of
an education for the world!


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