An Introduction to Continental Philosophy by David West

By David West

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From these origins a series of important contributions to continental philosophy can be traced. These range from the ideas of Marx himself and the intellec­ tual and ideological system of historical materialism and Marxism constructed in his name to a variety of critical renewals of Marxian thought, including the 'Western Marxism' of the Frankfurt School and Habermas. 5 The critique of religion plays the central role in Feuerbach's philosophy, but in a manner strongly influenced by Hegel. Feuerbach's critique ofreUgion, presented in his most famous work The Essence of Christianity (1841), is more complex and nu­ anced than earUer expressions of Enlightenment rationalism.

Still, Feuerbach beUeves that it is only by means of a thoroughgoing demystification of aU reUgion, that humanity can fuUy reappropriate its aUenated capacities and concentrate on a real rather than merely illusory satisfaction of its needs. " He accuses speculative philosophy of having 'torn philosophy out of its natural alliance with science' and 'subjected it to the reUgious impulse'. " In fact, theology is by no means preferable to reUgion. ReUgion is the 'real essence' or 'content' which contains distorted truths about humanity, whereas theology is the 'false es­ sence' or 'form' ofreUgion and involves an even more intense and selfconscious alienation of human capacities.

The French revolutionary Terror is the characteristic manifestation of the 'absolute freedom' and abstract universality of Kant's moral philosophy. In fact, this outcome is similar to what might be expected from the irrationaUsm of the Romantic celebration of pure, unconstrained and defiant wiU. e. '» For Hegel there are dangers in any account of moraUty, which ig­ nores the tissue of moral values, duties and social practices in existing communities. I t is characteristic of EnUghtenment rationaUsm, pre­ cisely, to ignore these estabUshed, merely traditional values and prac­ tices of society in order to start again from scratch and design new and more rational principles.

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