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116 HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY Tom Rockmore. Fichte, Marx, and the German Philosophical Tradition. Carbondale and Edwardsville: Southern lllinois University Press, 198o. Pp. 21o. $16.5o. Tom Rockmore's concern in his interesting book, Fichte, Marx and the German Philosophical Tradition, is to examine a certain concept of activity found in both Fichte and Marx. In the first part of the book he compares the positions of Fichte and Marx analytically. At the end of the book he treats their views historically and tries to explain why their similarity has been obscured in most interpretations of nineteenthcentury German philosophy. This is largely due, he thinks, to the influence of Hegel's reading of the German philosophical tradition and his misinterpretation of Fichte. Rockmore shows that the concept of activity found in Fichte and Marx is based on Aristotle. For all three philosophers, activity is both a means to an end and an end in itself. Activity does generate an external result, but in a deeper sense the result is merely the activity that produced it. The end is present immanently in activity. For Fichte, the activity of the self results in a non-self, or physical object, but for the self this non-self is merely the activity through which it is generated. For Marx, work gives rise to a product, but the product is the objectification of the activity that brings it about. Moreover, the capabilities of a human being are inseparable from the activity in which they are manifested. A human being manifests its essence in what it does. The subject expresses itself in the object. The potentiality of the subject is realized and only becomes actual in the object. Only in this way does the subject develop. Furthermore, when individuals produce objects, they define themselves and limit their activity by generating the social context within which further activity takes place. If the relation of individuals to this social context becomes passive, development is arrested and alienation occurs. Development continues and alienation is overcome only if individuals again become active. The end of this process of development , its fulfillment, is the realization of human nature. This requires that the social context be transformed in a way that allows human potential to be manifested and realized. It is man's own activity that realizes this development and that is the end in itself--it is the realization of our human nature and our freedom. This comparison by Rockmore of Fichte and Marx (mediated by Aristotle) is useful in that it documents an important parallel. Moreover, it does a good job of showing us some of the conceptual presuppositions underlying important parts of Marx's thought; but one cannot say that it produces a new or original reading of Marx. It does not solve any of the problems that bother Marx scholars nor does it illuminate any obscurities in Marx. It simply gives us a better conceptual foundation for much that we already understand about Marx. On the other hand, Rockmore does argue a new and different interpretation of Fichte, and here he does give us an original and interesting reading. Rockmore's interpretation of Fichte illuminates Marx far less than his reading of Marx illuminates, perhaps even influences and regulates, his interpretation of Fichte. Rockmore also argues that in the epistemology of Fichte and Marx, doing, or acting, is prior to knowing. Doing is necessary for knowing to be possible, and BOOK REVIEWS 1 17 knowing becomes important as a precondition for further doing. Rockmore brings out the anti-Cartesian nature of this active theory of the self. Knowledge is essentially an interaction between subject and object. Objectivity cannot be encountered from a neutral and independent standpoint; it can be encountered only as a relation between an object and an active experiencing subject. This theory must abandon the search for certain knowledge of the real founded upon the guarantee of a cogito; it turns toward pragmatism. In order to understand experience we require concepts, which we impose upon experience and which constitute experience. But since the concepts used to constitute experience must originally be derived from experience itself, this process is inherently circular. It abandons the traditional notion that real...


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pp. 116-117
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