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    Posted April 19, 2014 by
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    Marx Contra Zizek: On the Question of the Question and the Necessity of Acting on those Questions Part II

    Marx saw his mission as the transposition into practice of the whole order of things, which Aristotle and Hegel had reserved to the theoretical intellect. The theoretical, as opposed to the practical mind, when free (as after Aristotle and Hegel), is transformed into practical energy, practical force --- and turns to act upon material reality. Just as the post-Aristotelian period that emphasized practical, ethical self-determination (which Marx would continue), so Marx desired to rescue man from the post-Hegelian impasse by reclaiming the world in practice (not in pure thought as he thought and he pitilessly criticized Hegel on this score).

    For Marx, philosophy is an instrument of change!

    Ludwig Feuerbach who conceived philosophy as a social activity influenced Marx on this matter. Without a doubt, Marx recognized the importance of theory, but he did not stop there, because his interest and goal was for philosophy to be more than mere theory.

    Theory must be united to practice --- so that it can become a tool, a force of cure and radical transformation. It is on this undeniable sense that philosophy in Marx’s system is not destroyed but completely transformed, because Marx was desirous of destroying the limited conception of philosophy as a mere theoretical activity. To Marx, theory without practice is dead!

    That is precisely the reason behind his violent denunciation and radical stinging criticism of (limited) philosophy and of the contention of his contemporary philosophers, moralists and intellectuals.

    He relentlessly criticized and vehemently attacked ravenously German thinkers because they had done nothing more than to theorize. They talked and talked, but they did not act, they seem to know everything but they did nothing on what they appear to know or claim to know.

    Below is the testimony of F. Copleston’s (1994) reading on Marx’s position that philosophy or theory without practice is worthless:

    We cannot change society by philosophizing about it. Thought must issue in action, that is, in social revolution. For philosophical criticism raises problems which can be solved only in this way. In Marx’s language, philosophy must be overcome, this overcoming being also the realization of philosophy. It must leave the plane of theory and penetrate to the masses. And when it does so, it is no longer philosophy but takes the form of a social revolution, which must be the work of the most oppressed class, namely the proletariat. By abolishing private property consciously and explicitly the proletariat will emancipate itself, and, together with itself, the whole of society. For egoism and social injustices are bound up with the institution of private property. (My italics)

    Below is an example of Marx’s typical, forceful and scathing criticism of those bloody idiots who called themselves as “philosophers”

    In direct contrast to German philosophy which descends from heaven to earth, here we ascend from earth to heaven. That is to say, we do not set out from what men say, imagine, conceive, nor from men as narrated, thought of, imagined, conceived, in order to arrive at men in the flesh. We set out from real, active men, and on the basis of their real life-process we demonstrate the development of the ideological reflexes and echoes of this life-process. The phantoms formed in the human brain are also, necessarily, sublimates of their material life-process, which is empirically verifiable and bound to material premises. Morality, religion, metaphysics, all the rest of ideology and their corresponding forms of consciousness, thus no longer retain the semblance of independence. They have no history, no development; but men, developing their material production and their material intercourse, alter, along with this their real existence, their thinking and the products of their thinking. Life is not determined by consciousness, but consciousness by life. (The German Ideology, 1845, written with Engels)

    Does it mean that Marx hates and/or distrusted ‘philosophy’?

    Let us quote Leon Trotsky (1927) to explain the answer:

    Marx once said that philosophers had sufficiently interpreted the world, and that the task now was to turn it upside down. In these words there was by no means a lack of respect for philosophy. Marx was himself one of the most powerful philosophers of all time. His words simply meant that the further development of philosophy, and of culture as a whole, both material and spiritual, demands a revolution in social relations. And therefore Marx appealed from philosophy to the proletarian revolution, – not against philosophy, but for it.

    Wherever Marx spoke of philosophy so as to disparage it tremendously and to mercilessly criticize it, he was attacking that kind of philosophy, which merely theorized, which simply described existing problems and conditions without finding concrete solutions that will lead eventually to a realization and ultimate transformation.

    Philosophy for Marx is both a social and universal philosophy of action. It is necessarily the study of man’s social relationships since these are his very nature, his essence (Theses on Feuerbach, no. VI, 1845). Man is a social animal; his being is constituted by his relations to other beings. Also, philosophy for Marx does not immediately become active in the transformation of society and the world. It has to be tested, developed and practiced.

    Philosophy leads to action; but philosophy is not action per se… in a way, we can say that to Marx, words are nothing and empty, without the corresponding action to test them; in order to prove them.

    This is precisely because when Marxist revolutionaries speak of the “unity of thought and action”, it does not intend to imply that thoughts and actions are one and the same thing. It does mean however, that thoughts and actions are inseparably united.

    For Marx, socialism (on to communism) is not just the goal or end of the movement or party committed to realizing it. Socialism is also the very struggle itself, and to be a socialist, or for that matter, a Marxist revolutionary, is not merely to be committed to a belief in the virtues of equality, solidarity and the like, but to take the side of the oppressed and the exploited in their struggles.

    This is a morally and personally demanding version of what socialism involves; but it is also, without the slightest iota of doubt, in an utterly important ways, a more realistic and hopeful one, because instead of relegating socialism to a distant and perhaps unattainable future, it firmly stresses that victories for the oppressed and the exploited, and hence, for socialism can be achieved here and now, in the real and imperfect world of the present!

    This is the ultimate difference of Marx to those so-called ‘philosophers’ who merely posed and raises the questions without doing anything about it.

    For Marx does not simply raises the questions of Mankind and calling the world’s attention in his brutal, extensive and exhaustive depiction the burden of Humanity, he does not stop there, rather he went all the way to transcend the questions by acting and working on it at the forefront of the Struggle!

    Marx is not merely a philosopher who raised the correct questions, but precisely a revolutionary philosopher that stood, fought and struggled to change the world – all throughout his life --- until the very end!

    Jose Mario Dolor De Vega

    Philosophy/Social Science lecturer
    College of Liberal Arts
    Department of Social Science
    Technological University of the Philippines

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