ON MARXISM AND SPINOZISM
luigi.candreva at altair.it
Wed Feb 21 06:27:00 MST 1996
[This is the second time I'm posting this message, since I
din't see the first one appearing on the list. Sorry]
Marxism and Spinozism
Is some time now that I'm following this thread and I want to
try to provide some philosophical background to the
To my knowledge the first one to insist on the link
between marxist materialism and Spinoza has been Plekhanov.
Plekhanov's main work ("The fundamental questions of Marxism",
all the titles I give are my translation of the Italian title)
draws a direct line from Spinoza to the French Materialist to
Marx and Engels.
For instance the French materialist Diderot was very
aware of his derivation from Spinoza. In that Plekhanov agreed
with Karl Rosenkranz: "After Boulainvilliers, all french gone
through sensualism anda materialism recognize Spnoza's truth"
[all quotes are my translations].
Not only the French ones, but for Plechanov "Feuerbach's
materialism, as Diderot philosophy, is simply a variant of
Anyway Feuerbach was very critical of Spinoza:
"The truth is not "Deus sive Natura" [God, i.e. Nature], but
"aut Deus aut Natura" [either God or Nature]. If you identifie
God with Nature, God and Nature disappear: you have only an
hybrid..." (quoted in Plekhanov "Bernstein und der
In any case Max Adler and the same Plekhanov think that
Feuerbach was not an authentic materialist.
In explaining the difference between Marx and Feurbach,
Plekhanov found that the roots of that difference were on the
In German you have the words "Objeckt" and "Gegenstand".
In Plechanov's view Feuerbach conceived the human praxis
simply as an "Objekt", in a naturalistic manner. Here you can
find something similar in Gramsci's Prisons Notebooks (there
are various similitudes between Plekhanov and Gramsci: for
instance the concept of "hegemony"). In a word for Plekhanov
the difference was that Marx discovered the "historical"
materialism with his "Thesis on Feuerbach".
But, in las analysis, the founders of the historical
materialism never renounced to their "spinozian" point of
view. Plekhanov writes about a meeting he had with Engels in
1889. To the question if Spinoza was right to think that
"thought" and "extension" were attributes to the same
substance, Engels answered "Yes, the old Spinoza was perfectly
Marx and Engels found some other useful concepts in
Spinoza's philosophy: the concept of "Causa sui" (that for
Engels) or the concept "omnis determinatio est negatio", which
is a basic concept of dialectics. But in general for they
Spinozism is completely part of the metaphysics, that found
his triumph in Hegel. The natural outfall of Spinozism has
been Hegel. After Hegel no independent Spinozist philosophy
In the work "The holy family", Marx and Engels stated
theyr *opposition* to the metaphysics of Spinoza.
To close this point.
Some soviet philosophers criticized the spinozian
attitude of Plechanov (i.e.: V. A. Fomina and Cagin), while
Ilenkov in his "Logic of dialectics" wrote very favourably on
the marxist interpretation of Spinoza.
Sorry for my poor English that did not enable me to do
the point as I wanted.
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