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Ludwig was won over instead by the speculative theologian, Karl Daub, who had been instrumental in bringing Hegel to Heidelberg for two years in , and was by this time one of the foremost theologians of the Hegelian school. The scathingly satirical and even vulgar couplets Xenien directed against the Pietists that Feuerbach appended to his first book, Thoughts on Death and Immortality , hereafter Thoughts ; see Section 2 below , which he published anonymously in , effectively destroyed his prospects for an academic career.

During the s Feuerbach published three books on the history of modern philosophy, in addition to several essays and reviews.

The first of them won him the praise of Edward Gans and an invitation from Leopold von Henning to contribute reviews to the Annals for Scientific Criticism , the principal journal of the Hegelian academic establishment in Berlin. In these reviews Feuerbach defended the Hegelian philosophy vigorously against critics such as Karl Bachmann. Even after the publication of the works on Leibniz and Bayle, however, he was refused an academic appointment. Baur, to reveal the historical unreliability of the accounts of the life of Jesus preserved in the canonical gospels, and interpreted the doctrine of the incarnation of Christ as a mythological expression of the philosophical truth of the identity of the divine spirit and the human species conceived as the community of finite spirits existing throughout history, and not as the historical individual, Jesus of Nazareth.

Ludwig Feuerbach (1804-1872)

Feuerbach achieved the height of his brief literary fame with the publication in of The Essence of Christianity , which was translated into English by the novelist, Mary Anne Evans a. In fact, Feuerbach was only then beginning to acquaint himself with socialist ideas through his reading of authors like Lorenz von Stein and Wilhelm Weitling. He did come out of rural seclusion to observe fairly passively the ultimately disappointing events in Frankfurt in , and to deliver a series of public lectures at Heidelberg beginning the same year.

The five years of philological labor that Feuerbach invested in the latter work, which he considered his crowning achievement, went largely unnoticed both by his contemporaries and by posterity. The following year he and his wife and daughter were forced to relocate to the village of Rechenberg, located then on the outskirts of Nuremberg, where Feuerbach lived out the remainder of his life under severely strained financial circumstances and in increasingly ill health.

Pinkard Jacobi [MPW]: Feuerbach included several verses of the Prometheus-fragment as an epigram to his first book, in which he used the tools of Hegelian logic to develop a view of the divinity as One and All along lines laid out by Spinoza, Giordano Bruno and Jacob Boehme. But this reconciliation, he argued, cannot occur as long as God continues to be thought of as an individual person existing independently of the world.

Foreshadowing arguments put forward in his first book, Feuerbach went on in this letter to emphasize the need for. This, he proposed, would require prevailing ways of thinking about time, death, this world and the beyond, individuality, personhood and God to be radically transformed within and beyond the walls of academia.

Philosophy

Feuerbach made his first attempt to challenge prevailing ways of thinking about individuality in his inaugural dissertation, where he presented himself as a defender of speculative philosophy against those critics who claim that human reason is restricted to certain limits beyond which all inquiry is futile, and who accuse speculative philosophers of having transgressed these. This criticism, he argued, presupposes a conception of reason is a cognitive faculty of the individual thinking subject that is employed as an instrument for apprehending truths.

In the introduction to Thoughts Feuerbach assumes the role of diagnostician of a spiritual malady by which he claims that modern moral subjects are afflicted. Rather than consisting of lifeless matter to which motion is first imparted by the purposeful action of an external agent, Feuerbach argues that nature contains within itself the principle of its own development.

But the immeasurable multiplicity of systems within systems that results from this activity constitutes a single organic totality. Nature is ground and principle of itself, or—what is the same thing, it exists out of necessity, out of the soul, the essence of God, in which he is one with nature. God, on this view, is not a skilled mechanic who acts upon the world, but a prolific artist who lives in and through it. In Thoughts Feuerbach further argues that the death of finite individuals is not merely an empirical fact, but also an a priori truth that follows from a proper understanding of the relations between the infinite and the finite, and between essence and existence.

Nature is the totality of finite individuals existing in distinction from one another in time and space. Since to be a finite individual is not to be any number of other individuals from which one is distinct, non-being is not only the condition of individuals before they have begun to exist and after they have ceased to do so, but also a condition in which they participate by being the determinate entities that they are. Thus, being and non-being, or life and death, are equally constitutive of the existence of finite entities throughout the entire course of their generation and destruction.

Everything that exists has an essence that is distinct from its existence. Although individuals exist in time and space, their essences do not. Essence in general is timeless and unextended. Feuerbach nevertheless regards it as a kind of cognitive space in which individual essences are conceptually contained. It is by means of Empfindung or sense experience that sentient beings are able to distinguish individuals from one another, including, in some instances, individuals that share the same essence.

Experience, in other words, is essentially fleeting and transitory, and its contents are incommunicable. What we experience are the perceivable features of individual objects. It is through the act of thinking that we are able to identify those features through the possession of which different individuals belong to the same species, with the other members of which they share these essential features in common. Unlike sense experience, thought is essentially communicable. Thinking is not an activity performed by the individual person qua individual. Pure spirit is nothing but this thinking activity, in which the individual thinker participates without himself or herself being the principal thinking agent.

That thoughts present themselves to the consciousness of individual thinking subjects in temporal succession is due, not to the nature of thought itself, but to the nature of individuality, and to the fact that individual thinking subjects, while able to participate in the life of spirit, do not cease in doing so to exist as corporeally distinct entities who remain part of nature, and are thus not pure spirit. A biological species is both identical with and distinct from the individual organisms that make it up. The species has no existence apart form these individual organisms, and yet the perpetuation of the species involves the perpetual generation and destruction of the particular individuals of which it is composed.

Feuerbach Addresses Luther

Similarly, Spirit has no existence apart from the existence of individual self-conscious persons in whom Spirit becomes conscious of itself i. Just as the life of a biological species only appears in the generation and destruction of individual organisms, so the life of Spirit involves the generation and destruction of these individual persons. Viewed in this light, the death of the individual is necessitated by the life of infinite Spirit. Death is just the withdrawal and departure of your objectivity from your subjectivity, which is eternally living activity and therefore everlasting and immortal.

Arguing thus, Feuerbach urged his readers to acknowledge and accept the irreversibility of their individual mortality so that in doing so they might come to an awareness of the immortality of their species-essence, and thus to knowledge of their true self, which is not the individual person with whom they were accustomed to identify themselves.

In light of the emphasis placed in his later works on the practical existential needs of the embodied individual subject, it should be noted that during his early idealistic phase Feuerbach was strongly committed to a theoretical ideal of philosophy according to which contemplation of and submersion in God is the highest ethical act of which human beings are capable.

Whereas in his later works Feuerbach would seek to compel philosophy. The understanding of reason as one and universal embodied in the works discussed in the preceding section also informs the approach taken by Feuerbach to the history of philosophy in the three previously mentioned books and a series of lectures that he produced during the s. The history of the philosophical systems that this activity has produced, he argues, is conceived only subjectively and thus inadequately as long as it is regarded as the history of the opinions of individual thinkers.

Because thinking is a species-activity the philosophical systems that have arisen in the course of the history of philosophy should be regarded as necessary standpoints of reason itself.

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The Idea is not something first produced by philosophical reflection. Rather, the individual thinker, in the act of thinking, transcends his individuality and functions as an instrument or organ through which the Idea actualizes one of its moments, which is later reproduced in the consciousness of the historian of philosophy.


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The activity of the Idea is experienced subjectively as inspiration Begeisterung. In producing itself, the Idea does not pass from nonbeing into being, but rather from one state of being being in itself to another being for itself. The Idea produces itself by determining itself, and human consciousness is the medium of its self-actualization.


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  • Reason is nothing but the self-activity of the eternal, infinite idea, whether in art or religion or philosophy, but this activity is always the activity of the Idea in a particular determination and thus also at a particular time , for it is precisely according to the particular determinations of the idea that enter successively into human consciousness that we differentiate the periods and epochs of history. VGP The emergence of new philosophical systems results on this view from a necessity that is both internal and external.

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    Christian Philosophy: The s French Debates | Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

    Certain philosophical ideas are only capable of achieving historical expression under specific historical conditions. Just as it was only possible for Christianity to appear at that point in history when the ties of family and nation in Greco-Roman antiquity were dissolved, so it was only possible for modern philosophy to appear under specific historical conditions.

    The beginning of the history of modern philosophy must be located at the point at which the modern spirit first begins to distinguish itself from the medieval spirit. The dominant principle of the medieval period was the Judeo-Christian, monotheistic principle, according to which God is conceived as an omnipotent person through an act of whose will the material world was created from nothing ex nihilo. It is because nature, as conceived from this standpoint, is excluded from the divine substance, according to Feuerbach, that medieval thought showed no interest in the investigation of nature.

    It is only where the substantiality of nature begins to be rediscovered that the spirit of modernity distinguishes itself from the medieval spirit. This occurs most clearly where matter comes to be regarded as an attribute of the divine substance, so that God is no longer conceived of as a being distinct from nature but rather as the immutable and eternal imminent cause from which the plenitude of finite shapes in nature pours forth.

    It is precisely in subjecting nature to experimentation, and thereby to rational comprehension, that spirit raises itself above nature. Breckman and Gooch To be sure, for Leibniz, there is nothing arbitrary about the divine will. Like Tycho Brahe, who sought to combine the Ptolemaic and Copernican astronomies, Leibniz sought to reconcile the irreconcilable. Feuerbach criticized Leibniz, however, for not having derived the unity or harmony of the monads from the nature of the monads themselves, and for appealing instead to a theological representation of God as an alien, external power who achieves this harmonization miraculously, and hence, inexplicably.

    The book is full of digressions that go on for many pages without making any reference to Bayle, which can produce an impression that it lacks a clearly defined focus. Although the Protestant Reformation, in its rejection of clerical celibacy, its affirmation of the vocation of the laity, and its separation of temporal and spiritual authority, resolved the contradiction between the spirit and the flesh that was characteristic of medieval Catholicism, Feuerbach argues, it failed to resolve the contradiction between faith and reason, or theology and philosophy.