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BOOK REVIEWS 365 Marx W. Wartofsky. Feuerbach. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1977. Pp. xx + 460. $24.95. Frederick Gregory. Scientific Materialism in Nineteenth-Century Germany. Studies in the History of Modem Science, no. 1. Dordrecht: D. Reidel, 1977. Pp. xxiv + 279. $28.00; $13.50, paper. The appearance of two studies, both dealing in some way with the philosophy and enduring influence of the "fiery brook," Ludwig Feuerbach, marks a significant deepening of Englishlanguage understanding of this seminal philosopher, and provides a clearer picture of his legacy for twentieth-century thought. Wartofsky's book pairs logically with the study of German materialism by the historian of science Frederick Gregory, and the latter work is prefaced by a laudatory recommendation by Wartofsky. Feuerbach is a mature and thorough study, representing the first exhaustive attempt in English to deal with Feuerbach as a major nineteenth-centuryphilosopher. Reaching considerably deeper than a common view of Feuerbach either as a nineteenth-centurycritic of religion, or as a transitional left-Hegelian--the foil against which Marx would write his Theses in 1845--Wartofsky has treated Feuerbach in light of the whole corpus of his writings, from his early dissertation on Hegel, through his history of modem philosophy, into his final materialistic writings. Those works seen as critical are subjected to long discussion and detailed analysis, with the main focus on writings illustrating the development of Feuerbach from a youthful Hegelian into the mature critic of theology and speculative Idealism in the Essence of Christianity and the Essence of Religion. In his central concern with Feuerbach's transition away from Hegel, Wartofsky discusses his reaction not only specifically to idealism, but also to Spinoza, Descartes, Leibniz, Hobbes, Locke, and in great detail, Pierre Bayle. Wartofsky's point In spending a large portion of text on this material is not, however, simply to work out Feuerbach's intellectual biography, but rather to make a more ambitious thesis--that Feuerbach's own thought is developing dialectically through his reflection on the preceeding history of modem philosophy: "Philosophy is preeminently the inquiry into truth itself. The history of philosophy, therefore, presents the living process of this inquiry, and doing philosophy consists in the twofold activity of criticism and speculative construction . Criticism is the principle of motion by which the dialectic advances" (p. 135). In terms of the larger dialectical framework imbedded in Wartofsky's exposition, the argument of the book proceeds in such a way that the best known aspect of Feuerbach's thought--his reduction of theology to anthropology---emerges as the maturation of an ongoing dialectical development that reaches its culminationin his analysis of speculative philosophy as itself but a masked form of theology. From this point, it seems, Feuerbach's work, for Wartofsky, lapses into the dusk left behind by the flight of Hegel's minervan owl. The dialectical critique implicitly passes to Karl Marx, who would perceive the still "abstract" and "ahistorical" character of Feuerbach's anthropology, and the further reduction still made possible by a genuine historical materialism and an anthropology grounded on a concretized, world-transforming praxis. By concentrating on Feuerbach's dialectical method, Wartofsky feels that he has discerned the key to Feuerbach's unifying Problematick. The convincing attempt to unify Feuerbach's diverse writings by a grasp of a more fundamental set of questions and options is the great achievement of the book and represents history of philosophy at its best. With this Wartofsky is thus able to discriminate the more obvious and popular critique of religion in the Essence of Christianity from what he sees as its deeper and more esoteric philosophical content--a dialectical attack on alienating forms of consciousness in general. Three long chapters of the book deal with aspects of Feuerbach's attack on theology and religious belief, giving specific analyses of his reductive critiques of central Christian doctrines--incarnation , creation, redemption, and communion--andin great detail expounding the substance of 366 HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY his reduction of theology to anthropology. It is obvious that Wartofsky is generally sympathetic with these critiques, but at the same time he has taken pains to discern with clarity Feuerbach's differing assessment of rational theology and religious sentiment. It is...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1538-4586
Print ISSN
0022-5053
Pages
pp. 365-368
Launched on MUSE
2008-01-01
Open Access
No
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