[OPE-L:8063] The 11th Thesis on Feuerbach

From: gerald_a_levy (gerald_a_levy@msn.com)
Date: Tue Nov 26 2002 - 09:59:46 EST

Re Michael E's [8057]:

> You quote the 11th Feuerbach Thesis "The philosophers have only
> *interpreted*  the world, in various ways: the point, however, is to
> *change* it"  The German says: "es koemmt (an obsolete subjunctive!)
> darauf an".  "Ankommen"   (indicative, not subjunctive) means to
> 'arrive'. The "however"  was added by  Engels, 'correcting' Marx's
> version. You can't even trust  your best friend not  to 'correct' you.
> The standard English translation does  not even come to terms  with
> the now obsolete German subjunctive form:  "es koemmt darauf an".
> How would  we arrive (subjunctive!) at changing  the world?

Through human action based on understanding?

Thanks for your explanation of the translation of the 11th Thesis and
your interrogation of that Thesis.  I now turn to that interrogation.

> Marx's 11th Feuerbach Thesis  does not say who the 'subject' of change is.


> Is it the philosophers themselves  (is Marx a philosopher?)

I don't think that Marx really thought of himself as a philosopher although
a critique of philosophy formed a component part of his revolutionary

> who are to change the world instead of merely  interpreting it in various
> ways?

No, I think what was being suggested is the need to go _beyond_ the

> Or can the philosophers go on vacation as  being irrelevant to changing
> the  world?

No,  I don't think that was his perspective either.  I think the message of
the 11th Thesis is that we need to both understand and change the world and
that these two tasks are inter-related (or dialectically connected, if you
prefer).  Thus, action without comprehension would be as futile as setting
sail on a boat without a rudder and without a compass, charts, a  skilled
navigator, etc.  Yet,  understanding without action to bring about change is
also unsuccessful from the standpoint of humanity.  Thus, the purpose of
understanding is to change the world and ourselves.  The above comments
are valid for society but might not necessarily be transferable to the
natural sciences.  E.g. if the subject that we are trying to comprehend is
geology we don't thereby attempt to change the structure and characteristics
of rocks.  In other words, the call to change is indicated for when the
subject of analysis is social.  We are, after all, not rocks.

> If the philosophers are irrelevant,

No, they are not irrelevant.

> then reading Marx carefully and "interpreting" his writings would be a
> waste of  time -- a mere pastime for certain academics furthering their
> careers or for  other bourgeois independent scholars.

Well, it probably is a waste of time for _some_ bourgeois scholars.

> Then the slogan would be: Go out and  change the world instead!!

Some "activists" sometimes seem to (mistakenly) make this assertion.

> Or maybe, alternatively, the philosophers _as_
> philosophers have the task of not merely interpreting the world but
> changing  it.

I don't think that Marx was really calling upon philosophers _as
philosophers_ to change the world.  Rather, I think that he was asserting
the need to go _beyond_ the philosophers.  (Yet, to go "beyond"
presupposes a comprehension and critique of philosophy itself).

> Then 'philosophizing' itself as a practice would have the job of
> opening  the world in a radically different way, in a hitherto unthinkable
> way,  twisted  free of the traditional "interpretations".

The "agent" of change was, for Marx the working class (which had the
designated historical role of "gravedigger").   The interesting and
important question here -- at least for intellectuals -- is: what is the
relation between intellectuals who are revolutionaries and the

> Then, trying to change the world  without radically changing  your
> 'interpretation' of the world would only end  up in reproducing the
> same old shebang, perhaps on an "expanded scale"
> (erweitete Stufenleiter; Marx).

The _process_ of changing the world  *itself*  leads to changes in
interpretation and understanding.  Thus, engagement in struggle itself
leads to lessons being learned.  This forms part of the revolutionary

> Then, what is the status of the quantitatively conceived law of value
> (magnitude of value = "socially necessary labour-time")? Is it compatible
> with  what Marx analyzes as the "form of value"?

I don't think that Marx's theory of value is only "quantitatively
conceived".  Yes,  he does conceive of value quantitatively as magnitude but
he also conceives of value qualitatively as expressive of  a particular
social relationship.  These two aspects -- qualitative and quantitative --
can not be divorced from each other without doing an injustice to Marx's

>  Can the social relation of commodity exchange be adequately
> expressed  as magnitude?

It _is_ expressed as magnitude.  Yet, commodity exchange is _more
than_ a quantitative relation.

> I don't think so (perhaps Marx put his bet both ways?), and
> that  is what we have been discussing. This has essential implications, it
> seems to  me, for the "systematic comprehension of  *CLASSES* and
> *THE STATE*".  Why?  Because the concept of value, which is first
> developed through a consideration  of the social relation of commodity
> exchange, is the basis upon which the  phenomena of class and the state
are to be "reproduced in thought", if at all.

Doesn't an examination of value, though, lead one to the category of
*'NOT-VALUE'*?   (Reference, of course, to the _Grundrisse_).  Thus,
the examination of value leads one to go _beyond_ value,  does it not?

In solidarity, Jerry

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