[OPE-L:8071] Re: The 11th Thesis on Feuerbach

From: Michael Eldred (artefact@t-online.de)
Date: Wed Nov 27 2002 - 06:51:13 EST

Cologne 27-Nov-2002

gerald_a_levy schrieb Tue, 26 Nov 2002 09:59:46 -0500:

> 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.
> True.
> > 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
> project.
> > 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
> philosophers.
> > 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
> working-class?
> > 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"
> > (erweiterte 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
> dynamic.

Up to this point I think you have provided a faithful recounting of Marx's views
and the intentions of his 11th Feuerbach Thesis. But, being a bourgeois
independent scholar, I don't adhere to this scheme for change (revolution). (I
told you I wasn't a Marxist.) Behind the mask of the scholar is the philosopher
or thinker who attempts to go beyond (or rather: step back from) philosophy in a
way different from the direction Marx proposes. I regard thinking as a practice
in itself, a rather useless practice that neither says what is to be done in any
political arena nor addresses any particular social subject. In fact, the
thinking I have in mind accomplishes precious little, but this precious little
is also indispensable.

The 'getting-over' philosophy I envisage would lead to a radically different
interpretation of the world. Thinking has the task of opening the world
historically in a radically different way (which ultimately, but in unforeseen
and scarcely perceptible ways, would change the way we live -- but the thinker's
role is neither to prophesy nor to predict). 'Radical' here means going back to
the roots of philosophy with the Greeks, not in order to uproot philosophy, but
to discover the roots of our own Western thinking which has shaped the Western
world through various epochs up to the present day, and now on a global scale,
in order to gain a distance from them. The way we think is also the way world
opens, and philosophical thinking is unknowingly present in all our everyday
thinking, say, when we employ the innocuous distinction between "form" and
"content", or think and talk in terms of "ideas", "force", "energy", "dynamics",
"reality", "objective", "subjective"... -- the list is endless. All these words
have percolated down from philosophical thinking in which they were thought for
the first time and are now used thoughtlessly. To rewitness the struggle in
which key philosophical concepts were first thought means discovering our

I realize that such talk is overly grand and terribly general and that my
remarks here can only be paltry. With regard to Marx, I see a task in learning
to see how his own interpretation of the world in his philosophical writings is
embedded within the tradition of Western philosophy and sets the horizon for his
thinking. In particular, as a student of Aristotle, Marx adopts modes of
Aristotelean thinking which could perhaps be 'loosened up' to see something else
in them. This may become apparent as we discuss here further.

> > 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
> theory.

I agree, but my question was directed at the concept of SNLT. Nicky's recent
post makes it clear that this concept has already been debated at length and in
depth in this forum.

> >  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 agree. The point would be (es koemmt darauf an) to see that these magnitudes
are situated in the dimension of money, not time, and that money itself is a
social dimension within which we move as social beings. The sociation practised
ubiquitously in capitalist society as generalized commodity exchange is mediated
by the monetary medium which also provides the quantitative measure for this

But I don't pretend that, with such an insight into the monetary dimension, we
have already fathomed the dimension of value, even on the level of commodity
exchange, not to mention the implications of a form of human sociation under a
quantitative measure.

Nevertheless, there is already a corollary here: If money is the dimension of
value, and not time, there is no law of value to causally explain exchange
proportions. A theory of prices becomes tautologous (a 'saying of the same'),
but this tautology is virtuous if we only learn to move within it.

A further corollary: If exchange relations are tautologous (in a way still to be
fathomed), then any sort of "uncertainty principle" misses the mark -- there is
uncertainty (regarding the exchange proportions or prices) but no principle (for
no causal explanation at all is being attempted). Rather, the groundlessness of
commodity exchange relations is conceded, admitted (zugelassen). The
groundlessness of commodity exchange relations is a positive phenomenon which
must not be lost sight of.

> > 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?

Ultimately, yes. But I'd prefer to say: That is the step back from value rather
than the step beyond. For, stepping beyond implies some sort of leaving behind,
whereas a stepping back allows another relation to value, a 'getting over'
value, not an overcoming of value.

Thanks for the stimulus,
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_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_ Dr Michael Eldred -_-_-

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