In reading the following, be aware that they were only scribbled notes
addressed to the writer himself and never intended for publication.
Hence ordinary methods of interpretation must be used with care. The
context is epistemological, though the Eleventh is often misread as an
ethical proposition. Crudely, the point is that understanding of the
world depends on colective activity to change it. I agree that the
"Slft" as seen, for example, in Margaret Thatcher's "Society does not
exist, only individuals and families" -- that Self does not exist. But
critics of that "Self" who start of as isolated individuals engaged in
contemplation in effect assume what they are trying to deny. (This may
be Jerome's point.) I.e.: What is (for example) Heidegger's own
standpoint from which he elaborates his views? (Heidegger & Derrida are
srious people; Lacan's books ought to be placed on the same shelf which
holds accounts of being kidnapped by aliens brandishing anal probes.)
Less crude but really presupposing Thather's statement is a comment by
John Arthos on PL,: ""One of the great advantages of Milton's manner is
that it largely frees the Christian view from the limited contexts of
contemporary society and draws us instead to think of Adam and Eve as
ourselves at any moment in history and at any place entering upon an
unknown life."4 "The individual" in abstraction from such a "limited
context" of concrete social relations does not exist -- but it is
precisely _as_ such an isolated individual (i.e., as a Self) that some
so-called "postmodernists" attempt to deny the self. I take it that this
is part of Jerome's point. Milton's characters come to us as existing
outside all social relations, entering into such relations by an act of
will. But in fact whenever and wherever we find ourselves we are always
alreasdy enmeshed in an ensemble of social relations. We never find
ourselves in the postion of the newly created Adam who leaps to his feet
and reasons as though he were an 18th-c Philosophe, otuside the world
and comtemplating it from that positon. But from the perspecive of a
social being the thinker already recognizes the objective existence of
social relations as prior to the individual even as he/she attempts to
cxritique the Self.
THESES ON FEUERBACH
The chief defect of all hitherto existing materialism - that of
Feuerbach included - is that the thing, reality, sensuousness, is
conceived only in the form of the object or of contemplation, but not as
sensuous human activity, practice, not subjectively. Hence, in
contradistinction to materialism, the active side was developed
abstractly by idealism - which, of course, does not know real, sensuous
activity as such.
Feuerbach wants sensuous objects, really distinct from the thought
objects, but he does not conceive human activity itself as objective
activity. Hence, in The Essence of Christianity, he regards the
theoretical attitude as the only genuinely human attitude, while
practice is conceived and fixed only in its dirty-judaical
manifestation. Hence he does not grasp the significance of
"revolutionary", of "practical-critical", activity.
The question whether objective truth can be attributed to human thinking
is not a question of theory but is a practical question. Man must prove
the truth - i.e. the reality and power, the this-sidedness of his
thinking in practice. The dispute over the reality or non-reality of
thinking that is isolated from practice is a purely scholastic question.
The materialist doctrine concerning the changing of circumstances and
upbringing forgets that circumstances are changed by men and that it is
essential to educate the educator himself. This doctrine must,
therefore, divide society into two parts, one of which is superior to
The coincidence of the changing of circumstances and of human activity
or self-changing can be conceived and rationally understood only as
Feuerbach starts out from the fact of religious self-alienation, of the
duplication of the world into a religious world and a secular one. His
work consists in resolving the religious world into its secular basis.
But that the secular basis detaches itself from itself and establishes
itself as an independent realm in the clouds can only be explained by
the cleavages and self-contradictions within this secular basis. The
latter must, therefore, in itself be both understood in its
contradiction and revolutionized in practice. Thus, for instance, after
the earthly family is discovered to be the secret of the holy family,
the former must then itself be destroyed in theory and in practice.
Feuerbach, not satisfied with abstract thinking, wants contemplation;
but he does not conceive sensuousness as practical, human-sensuous
Feuerbach resolves the religious essence into the human essence. But the
human essence is no abstraction inherent in each single individual.
In its reality it is the ensemble of the social relations.
Feuerbach, who does not enter upon a criticism of this real essence, is
1. To abstract from the historical process and to fix the religious
sentiment as something by itself and to presuppose an abstract -
isolated - human individual.
2. Essence, therefore, can be comprehended only as "genus", as an
internal, dumb generality which naturally unites the many individuals.
Feuerbach, consequently, does not see that the "religious sentiment" is
itself a social product, and that the abstract individual whom he
analyses belongs to a particular form of society.
All social life is essentially practical. All mysteries which lead
theory to mysticism find their rational solution in human practice and
in the comprehension of this practice.
The highest point reached by contemplative materialism, that is,
materialism which does not comprehend sensuousness as practical
activity, is contemplation of single individuals and of civil society.
The standpoint of the old materialism is civil society; the standpoint
of the new is human society, or social humanity.
The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the
point is to change it.
The final lines of Paradise Lost, which form the point of departure for
wordsworth's fine epic poem of The Self. And in fact, though this would
have irritated Pound, they are the point of departure for his epic:
And then went down to the sea . . . .
That line in the Odyssey is in Book 11, well after it has been clearly
established that Odysseus has no existence independently of his _oikos_,
return to which is essential to confirm himself as himself. But as the
first line, coming from nowhere, of a long voyage through history
attempting to find the the point from which it would be possible to say
"we," Pound's epic too is a (quite wonderful) footnote to "The World was
all before them, where to choose . . . ."
Som natural tears they drop'd, but wip'd them soon;
The World was all before them, where to choose
Thir place of rest, and Providence thir guide:
They hand in hand with wandring steps and slow,
Through Eden took thir solitarie way.