The Man of Reason: Part Two

Lloyd noted that the distinction between male/rational and female/non-rational dates to the development of ‘rationality’ in Greek philosophy, and towards this she cites Aristotle. She then cites Augustine who also denied to females the degree of rationality both Aristotle and he accorded to males. Touching briefly on the Renaissance, Lloyd arrives at her point of focus, the treatment of reason in the seventeenth century – essentially by Descartes and Spinoza.

A major point for Lloyd is Descartes’ attempt to contain reason in a method depending on deduction and intuition for attaining certainty. His equation between reason and reality, on the basis of a veracious God, gave reason a divine aspect. Lloyd noted that crucial to Descartes’ treatment of reason is its connection with his antithesis between ‘mind’ and matter. What existed previously as contrasts – intellect versus the emotions, reason versus imagination and ‘mind’ versus matter, now became polarisations of male (as transcendent) and female (to sustain him). ‘The stage is now set for the emergence of the Man of Reason as a male character ideal.’5

Lloyd argues that the ‘benefits’ of gaining control of one’s thoughts was fully set out in the Ethics of Spinoza who aspired to ‘nothing less than the attaining of eternity of the mind’.6 Spinoza believed ‘the passions’ should not be ignored but transformed from confused modes of perception into active ‘rational emotions’. ‘The ultimate horror for Spinoza’s Man of Reason is to be “womanish”…under the sway of passions, untransformed by reason.’7 He sought ‘detachment from the transient and…attachment to the unchanging’.8 Death has no sting for him. Lloyd regards this as ‘the ultimate glorification of reason in its ethical dimension.’9

She wrote that Spinoza’s emphasis on self-interest (through the aspiration to eternity of ‘mind’ which rises above unconnected, fragmentary ideas and a limited standpoint) anticipates the attitude in the eighteenth century towards ‘the passions’. This eternity of ‘mind’ is to be attained by “Scientia Intuitiva’ – a knowledge superior to reason. It ‘proceeds from an…idea of the absolute essence of the attributes of God.’10

Lloyd distinguished Spinoza’s form of thought from those of both Descartes, and that of the later nineteenth century ‘which saw reason as limited in contrast to the access to reality provided by the will or the imagination’,11 even though she notes that Descartes also had some awareness of ‘the limitations of reason’ with regard to his intuitions, which he intended to be ‘the fresh, spontaneous, unclouded apprehensions of a “mind” operating in accordance with its understanding of its own nature.’12 Lloyd writes that Descartes’ intuitions were bound by method and she uses that method to exemplify the Man of Reason’s conception of reason as the encapsulation of thought into artificial and discrete mental states, subject to a rigorous discipline – ‘it then becomes easy to mistake this artificial creation for the real nature of consciousness’13 which, quoting Leibniz, ‘comes from the continual beatings of innumerable waves’.14

So the Man of Reason stands as an ‘ideal of method, construed as expressing the true nature of the “mind”…this rationalist model still underlies our “rational” thought styles.’15 Intuition is currently considered to both stand in opposition to this and to be associated with specifically female thought processes. In excluding from reason that which is attributed to and thereby encouraged in the female, the female is excluded from power. Lloyd urges that ‘an awareness of the claims of “intuition” can, nonetheless, be part of a constructive assessment of the claims and the ideals of reason.’16

Part two of nine/to be continued…


5 G. Lloyd, ‘The Man of Reason’, in Women, Knowledge, and Reality: Explorations in Feminist Philosophy, Eds., A. Garry and M. Pearsall. Boston: Unwin Hyman, 1989, 117

6 Ibid. 118

7 Ibid. 120

8 Ibid. 119

9 Ibid.120

10 Ibid. 122

11 Ibid.

12 Ibid.123

13 Ibid.

14 Ibid.124

15 Ibid.

16 Ibid.

The Man of Reason

The Artemision Bronze, sculptor unknown, c. 460 BCE, National Archaeological Museum of Athens

The Artemision Bronze, sculptor unknown, c. 460 BCE, National Archaeological Museum of Athens

‘Everything which sets men in motion must go through their minds; but what form it will take in the mind will depend very much upon the circumstances.’1

The ‘Man of Reason’ Lloyd analyses is a man of ideals and control. His other – the female – exists both in and (as Charlotte de Brachart wrote) as his shadow. ‘Reason’, its shadow, and the results of its domination pulse regularly through the essay – ‘ideals of manhood’, ‘ideals of our culture’, ‘the perfection of man’, ‘woman… “as it were an impotent male”’, “woman is subject to man”, ‘the Man of Reason as a character ideal’, ‘a veracious God’, ‘the divine spark in man’, ‘the duties of woman for all time’, ‘the ideals of reason’, ‘to make a god of man’, ‘the pedestalising of women’, ‘the impoverishment of women’. Beneath this dichotomy and tension – that between reason (assigned to male) and the emotions (assigned to female) runs another – that between philosophical idealism and idealism, between consciousness and matter.

The subject Lloyd has chosen is of the utmost importance to philosophy. She critiques the second element we use to arrive at our determinations in the triad of sensory input, brain processing and engagement in the practice, and does so by dealing with it not in the abstract, as does the Man of Reason, but as a cultural construct of domination. In arguing the one-sidedness of the Man of Reason, she works towards the perspective of the human – distinct, as Plumwood wrote, from that of the master.2

The ideal of the Man of Reason has had immeasurable impact on western culture since the Greeks, and Lloyd’s pointing to what has been separated off and denied in the name of that construct, to the way in which it has been done and by implication, her suggesting a reintegration of these elements and a broadening in some way of the notion of reason, is liberating and offers great potential for empowerment of rather than power over.

Lloyd defined the Man of Reason as ‘the ideal of rationality associated with the rationalist philosophies of the seventeenth century. And, secondly, something more nebulous – the residue of that ideal in our contemporary consciousness, our inheritance from seventeenth century rationalism.’3 She wrote that this is a substantial component in what reason has come to be. She is most concerned ‘to bring into focus…his maleness’4 since the Man of Reason is an idealisation of the male, not of the human being – yet he still embodies fundamental ideals of our culture.

Part one of nine/to be continued…


1. F. Engels, Ludwig Feuerbach and the End of Classical German Philosophy, 1888; with appendix, K. Marx, ‘Theses on Feuerbach’, Moscow: Progress, 1975, 50, 51

2. V. Plumwood, Feminism and the Mastery of Nature, London: Routledge, 1993

3. G. Lloyd, ‘The Man of Reason’, in Women, Knowledge, and Reality: Explorations in Feminist Philosophy. Eds. A. Garry and M. Pearsall. Boston: Unwin Hyman, 1989, 111

4. Ibid.


Foucault’s shaped subject: from disciplined to the Neoplatonic aesthetics of Self

Michelangelo, ‘David’, marble, 1501-1504, Galleria dell’Accademia di Firenze (Florence)

Michelangelo, ‘David’, marble, 1501-1504, Galleria dell’Accademia di Firenze (Florence)

In Discipline and Punish Foucault developed a view of the subject in a carceral society, in the work of his later years he sought to develop one of an ethical subject with a care for self. Both views are built on a shaped subject – the former by a range of disciplines, the latter by self on a Classical and fundamentally Platonic/Neoplatonic model.

In the chapter ‘The carceral’ Foucault wrote that the opening of Mettray in 1840 was the baptism of a new type of supervision over individuals who resisted normalisation. In the functioning of Mettray were to be found ‘cloister, prison, school, regiment’1 This ushered in a new age of institutions and disciplines which grew from the carceral network, which Foucault called a ‘counter law’ and which the administrative power of state bureaucracies and agencies did nothing to restrict from expanding to dominate modern society.

In this de-centred archipelago of diffuse power, the bureaucrat and the lawyer give legitimacy to the power of wardens, doctors, psychiatrists and teachers who all make punishment seem constructive and humane. They extend the control of the regime by making power most economical and its processes most efficient through internalising it in the bodies of the individuals they work with. Doctors and teachers complement the network of prisons – hospitals and schools are equally instruments of subjugation and subjection. The power to punish is not different from the power to cure and educate. Foucault asked ‘Is it surprising that prisons resemble factories, schools, barracks, hospitals, which all resemble prisons?’2

In a society where all relations are power relations, judges of normality are everywhere – the teacher-judge, the doctor-judge, the ‘social worker’-judge – the universal reign of the normative is based on them and all are subject to it. The carceral network is the greatest support in modern society of normalising power. Teachers, doctors and psychologists are tentacles of normalisation who disperse a manner of living and thinking that originated in the prison. All individuals are shaped by disciplinary power to the requisite form of subjectivity from cradle to grave – their bodies, behaviour and gestures. What we think are aspects of our socialisation and consider reasonable are in fact normalisation, gone beyond socialisation. The subject is not an expression of self. We have all been normalised, lulled into the carceral continuum. The ‘human sciences’ assist in this.

Foucault came to think that his writing in the period of Discipline and Punish put too much emphasis on disciplinary power and passive subjects, that he had not sufficiently considered how the subject constituted their self through their practices and ‘games of truth’. He discussed this in a interview in 1984, published as ‘the ethic of care for the self as a practice of freedom’. Rather than individuals being shaped by disciplinary techniques and prescriptive ethics, he theorised them shaping their selves on the basis of the Platonic and particularly, Neoplatonic model of an aesthetic care for the self.

Not only is power not an evil, it is the play of strategic games (rules for the production of truth) and such a model of care for the self obviated any requirement that the individual conform. When one thinks of, acts for and transforms oneself, one is thinking of others and the person who is thereby free has the power to speak the truth. The ‘beautiful’ individual is not the ‘normal’ person but one who has the courage to transgress. Foucault extended this into the notion of parresia or truth-telling in a rectangular field of competing values comprising isegoria (the right to speak/participate), ascendancy (who does speak?), normative truth and risk.

Foucault made liberty the criterion for an analysis of power. For the Greeks, having an ethos implied a competency to have relationships and to a place in the city and a city comprised of such citizens would function on a stable ethical principle. One only seeks to dominate others when one does not care for one’s self. In the case of pedagogical institutions the concern is not in the fact of the student being taught but in the mere exercise of power for its own sake. Such problems should be addressed through the law, the practice of self and the functioning of the community ethos.

Foucault argued that an ethics of care for the self was an urgent task. But this task is not the activity of an atomised individual, that self-formation requires a teacher and mentor. In the interview he referred to the end of the Alcibiades where that character, whose beauty was fading, said he will become the disciple of Socrates and Socrates his master, guiding him to true beauty. Foucault described this as the individual soul turning its gaze on itself in order to recognise itself and recall the truth to which it is related.

Plato describes this in the Phaedrus: ‘So each selects his love from the ranks of the beautiful according to his own disposition and, as if that love were the very god he followed, fashions and adorns him like a statue for himself, in order to honour him and celebrate his mystic rites. Thus those who belong to Zeus seek that the one loved by themselves should be Zeus-like in respect of his soul; so they look to see whether he is naturally disposed towards philosophy and leadership, and when they have found him and fallen in love, they do everything to make him like this.’3 The essence of this fashioning of another’s soul became the sculptor of Plotinus and Foucault’s real interest – the spiritual aestheticisation of self.4

In his attempt in the interview on care for the self to rise above a career of negativity Foucault is not convincing precisely because he looked not merely to a Classical but more specifically to a Platonic/Neoplatonic model which he agreed with the interviewer should be actualised.5 Foucault described this practice of the self as ‘ascetic’ saying that he used the word much as Weber had used it and this ‘asceticism’ can be traced back to Nietzsche.

In this interview on how to address core problems of modernity there is not merely an argument that if the self is formed ethically the community will reflect the benefits of this (a sound argument) but the ‘self’ referred to, as the man of ‘calling’ and overman in the writing of Weber and Nietzshe is inwardly focused. Further, not only is there a need of labour of self on self but that labour should be an occupation.6 But the interview ended with excellent words: ‘philosophy is precisely the challenging of all phenomena of domination at whatever level or under whatever form they present themselves – political, economic, sexual, institutional, and so on.’ If only that were true.



1. M. Foucault, Discipline and Punish, Trans., Alan Sheridan, Vintage, New York, 1995, 146
2. Ibid., 145
3. Phaedrus 252d5-252e5
4. Foucault said ‘I believe that, in ancient spirituality, there was identity or almost so between spirituality and philosophy. In any case, the most important preoccupation of philosophy revolved about the self, the knowledge of the world coming afterwards, and, most of the time, as a support to this care for self.’ ‘the ethic of care for the self as a practice of freedom,’ interview with Foucault 20.01.84 by Raúl Fornet-Betancourt, Helmut Becker and Alfredo Gomez-Müller.
5. ‘Q.: Should we actualise this notion of care for self, in the classical sense, against this modern thought? MF: Absolutely…’ Ibid.
6. Ibid.


Marx and Engels: On the Relationship between the Ruling Class and the Ruling Ideas

The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas: i.e. the class which is the ruling material force of society, is at the same time its ruling intellectual force. The class which has the means of material production at its disposal, consequently also controls the means of mental production, so that the ideas of those who lack the means of mental production are on the whole subject to it. The ruling ideas are nothing more than the ideal expression of the dominant material relations, the dominant material relations grasped as ideas; hence of the relations which make the one class the ruling one, therefore, the ideas of its dominance. The individuals composing the ruling class possess among other things consciousness, and therefore think. Insofar, therefore, as they rule as a class and determine the extent and compass of an historical epoch, it is self-evident that they do this in its whole range, hence among other things rule also as thinkers, as producers of ideas, and regulate the production and distribution of the ideas of their age: thus their ideas are the ruling ideas of the epoch. For instance, in an age and in a country where royal power, aristocracy, and bourgeoisie are contending for domination and where, therefore, domination is shared, the doctrine of the separation of powers proves to be the dominant idea and is expressed as an ‘eternal law’.

The division of labour, which we already saw above as one of the chief forces of history up till now, manifests itself also in the ruling class as the division of mental and material labour, so that inside this class one part appears as the thinkers of the class (its active, conceptive ideologists, who make the formation of the illusion of the class about itself their chief source of livelihood), while the others’ attitude to these ideas and illusions is more passive and receptive, because they are in reality the active members of this class and have less time to make up illusions and ideas about themselves. Within this class this cleavage can even develop into a certain opposition and hostility between the two parts, but whenever a practical collision occurs in which the class itself is endangered they automatically vanish, in which case there also vanishes the appearance of the ruling ideas being not the ideas of the ruling class and having a power distinct from the power of this class. …

If now in considering the course of history we detach the ideas of the ruling class from the ruling class itself and attribute to them an independent existence, if we confine ourselves to saying that these or those ideas were dominant at a given time, without bothering ourselves about the conditions of production and the producers of these ideas, if we thus ignore the individuals and world conditions which are the source of the ideas, then we can say, for instance, that during the time the aristocracy was dominant, the concepts honour, loyalty, etc., were dominant, during the dominance of the bourgeoisie the concepts freedom, equality, etc. The ruling class itself on the whole imagines this to be so. This conception of history, which is common to all historians, particularly since the eighteenth century, will necessarily come up against the phenomenon that ever more abstract ideas hold sway, i.e. ideas which increasingly take on the form of universality. For each new class which puts itself in the place of one ruling before it is compelled, merely in order to carry through its aim, to present its interest as the common interest of all the members of society, that is, expressed in ideal form: it has to give its ideas the form of universality, and present them as the only rational, universally valid ones. The class making a revolution comes forward from the very start, if only because it is opposed to a class, not as a class but as the representative of the whole of society, as the whole mass of society confronting the one ruling class. It can do this because initially its interest really is as yet mostly connected with the common interest of all other non-ruling classes, because under the pressure of hitherto existing conditions its interest has not yet been able to develop as the particular interest of a particular class. Its victory, therefore, benefits also many individuals of the other classes which are not winning a dominant position, but only insofar as it now enables these individuals to raise themselves into the ruling class. When the French bourgeoisie overthrew the rule of the aristocracy, it thereby made it possible for many proletarians to raise themselves above the proletariat, but only insofar as they become bourgeois. Every new class, therefore, achieves domination only on a broader basis than that of the class ruling previously…

Once the ruling ideas have been separated from the ruling individuals and, above all, from the relations which result from a given stage of the mode of production, and in this way the conclusion has been reached that history is always under the sway of ideas, it is very easy to abstract from these various ideas ‘the Idea’, the thought, etc. as the dominant force in history, and thus to consider all these separate ideas and concepts as ‘forms of self-determination’ of the Concept developing in history. It follows then naturally, too, that all the relations of men can be derived from the concept of man, man as conceived, the essence of man, Man. This has been done by the speculative philosophy. Hegel himself confesses at the end of the Geschichtsphilosophie that he ‘has considered the progress of the concept only’ and has represented in history the ‘true theodicy’ (p. 446). Now one can go back again to the producers of the ‘concept’, to the theorists, ideologists and philosophers, and one comes then to the conclusion that the philosophers, the thinkers as such, have at all times been dominant in history: a conclusion, as we see, already expressed by Hegel.

The whole trick of proving the hegemony of the spirit in history (hierarchy Stirner calls it) is thus confined to the following three attempts.

No. 1. One must separate the ideas of those ruling for empirical reasons, under empirical conditions and as corporeal individuals, from these rulers, and thus recognise the rule of ideas or illusions in history.

No. 2. One must bring an order into this rule of ideas, prove a mystical connection among the successive ruling ideas, which is managed by regarding them as ‘forms of self-determination of the concept’ (this is possible because by virtue of their empirical basis these ideas are really connected with one another and because, conceived as mere ideas, they become self-distinctions, distinctions made by thought).

No. 3. To remove the mystical appearance of this ‘self-determining concept’ it is changed into a person – ‘self-consciousness’ – or, to appear thoroughly materialistic, into a series of persons who represent the ‘concept’ in history, into the ‘thinkers’, the ‘philosophers’, the ideologists, who again are understood as the manufacturers of history, as the ‘council of guardians’, as the rulers. Thus the whole body of materialistic elements has been eliminated from history and now full rein can be given to the speculative steed.

This historical method which reigned in Germany, and especially the reason why, must be explained from its connection with the illusion of ideologists in general, e.g., the illusions of the jurists, politicians (including the practical statesmen), from the dogmatic dreamings and distortions of these fellows; this is explained perfectly easily from their practical position in life, their job, and the division of labour.

Whilst in ordinary life every shopkeeper is very well able to distinguish between what somebody professes to be and what he really is, our historiography has not yet won this trivial insight. It takes every epoch at its word and believes that everything it says and imagines about itself is true.

Karl Marx, Frederick Engels, The German Ideology, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1976, 67-71


Hegel and Marx – Mystic and Materialist: On Civil Society

The bases of Hegel’s and Marx’s theorising on civil society were diametrically opposed – Hegel’s was that of the spiritual progress of a ‘rationalised’, universal and mystical Geist which functions in nature and history and is manifested in consciousness, Marx’s was the material world. Yet there are several points of commonality between the two, particularly since the theorising of the former was fundamental to that of the latter.

Where Hegel’s view of society was tripartite and concentric, Marx’s was essentially dualist and antithetical. Hegel’s model comprised the family which was contained within civil society which in turn was contained by the centralised bureaucratic state which he regarded as the highest form of ethical life, the most stable expression of Geist. Marx rejected Hegel’s notion of a spiritual unfolding and saw in its stead a struggle between a dominant and exploitative bourgeoisie and the proletariat and a division between the state and civil society. He thought that rather than being the institutional and philosophical expression of ‘reason’, Hegel’s argument was ideological – the bourgeois view of the world, that Hegel’s view was contemplative and impotent – it did not seek to change the world by identifying and guiding the concrete participants who are going to do this.

Hegel’s model of civil society was a balanced and interdependent system of the needs of individuals and their satisfaction, informed by the individual’s contractual and legal rights and obligations based on market mechanisms. Through the individual’s interaction with others, the progress of the universal finds its expression in the developing consciousness of their own universality – from individual to citizen: ‘through its reference to others, the particular end takes on the form of universality, and gains satisfaction by simultaneously satisfying the welfare of others.’1 Hegel’s civil society functioned in a ‘rational’ inter-relationship between the family, civil society and state such that the dynamism of the modern world could be given expression and yet the society would be able to bear a degree of conflict as normal.

For Marx, as with Hegel, civil society was where the productive forces and social relations functioned but he focused on the forces of production as a base on which all else socially was built and argued that the tension in how those forces operated and were controlled by the bourgeoisie impacted in a profoundly negative way on civil society which represented, through ideology, the interests of the bourgeoisie – those interests maintained by the state.2 Where Hegel argued for fundamentally harmonious ‘rational’ relations in civil society, all knowing their place, and that his model embodied ‘the end of history’, Marx argued that this could never be, due to the class relations – the proletariat, exploited for their potential for surplus value, were excluded from the benefits of bourgeois society that they had produced and denied their humanity. Where Hegel held a contradictory position regarding the family – that it was the basis and first ethical power of the state even as it had been pulled apart and replaced by the corporation,3 Marx also argued that normal ties such as family were being eroded by the dynamics of capitalism, leaving the workers only their collective solidarity. This, Marx argued, could only be overcome by the overthrow of bourgeois property relations by the proletariat as the key stage for socialism.

Hegel, with his interest in political economy,4 recognised the division of labour and its impact on workers, the increasingly mechanical nature of work, that exploitation was essential to capitalism and that the capitalist economy produces great disparities in wealth – his writing on this echoes the force of Marx’s writing.5 But, contrary to Marx, he not only thought that these problems could be ameliorated by the welfare provided by the police and the corporation (he was the first philosopher to theorise on a version of the welfare state – which welfare state did not concern Marx) or regulated (in order to avoid ‘dangerous convulsions’6), that there was no lasting solution to them – his theorising on civil society was a justification for capitalism. Where Hegel believed the dependence and reciprocity of work and the satisfaction of needs was a contribution to the satisfaction of the needs of all, Marx saw them as the satisfaction of the needs only of the bourgeoisie, at the great expense of the proletariat. Likewise, Hegel believed that through interdependence the individual multiplies his needs and means of satisfying them – for Marx, this only applied to the bourgeois who is a self-interested maximiser of their needs.

Both Hegel and Marx were very positive about the dynamism of capitalism but Marx, while recognising its historically progressive role, argued that this dynamism is ultimately self-defeating in its irrationality and dehumanising effect. Again, both Hegel and Marx following him positively recognised the creativity in civil society. Hegel believed that in satisfying needs we are continually transforming the world, continually creating ourselves morally and socially through both practical and theoretical activity – in transforming nature we transform ourselves. Marx’s focus was on the proletariat as creators, on their transcendence of capitalism, not only so that they can regain control of their collective creation but that they can liberate all human creativity.

Even though he recognised the importance in the growth of trade and commerce, Hegel’s limit of social organisation was the nation-state. Marx, because capitalism functions trans-nationally, believed that the proletarians all over the world would recognise their collective interest in struggle against it. He believed that the struggle against capitalism could only have an international solution.

Marx’s analysis is clearly the most adequate – it is built on a study of objective reality not mysticism. Yet Hegel was a ‘keen observer’ of the world and like Marx, recognised the dynamic power and potential of capitalism. What for Marx had to be overcome, for Hegel was, in the nation state, the highest and end-point. It is very interesting that for such a profound and brilliant materialist as Marx, his theorising, which he derived substantially from that of Hegel, seems also to arrive at an end-point – in socialism. It is as if in their theorising they both had attained their telos and ideal.

Many, in their criticisms of Marx point to what he ‘failed’ to do – that he failed to address the complexity of modernity, that he failed to account for democracy, that he failed to account for nationalism, that he failed to see that the proletarians would soon begin to get a cut of the cake, binding them to capitalism. One such criticism is that Hegel’s analysis was more modulated, enabling him to recognise what was to become an enormous element of the bourgeois state – welfare, to recognise the part that ‘freedom’ and the satisfaction of the needs of all plays in the modern economy.

Such criticisms carry limited weight. Marx’s life’s work was a superb analysis of the commodity and its economic implications. His focus was not on the continuation for a period of time, of capitalism and its ideology (the reflection in consciousness of the objective world), it was on a far better, more humane society beyond it and the contradictions within capitalism that would, at some stage, present and drive the potential for its achievement.

Hegel’s theorising on civil society is premised on a positive understanding of the basic trends of bourgeois society and is bounded by the nation state. He failed to see the true potential and implications of global trade as did Marx. Where Hegel thought of the state and civil society working together, the latter happily under the domination of the former, Marx saw a split between them which could only be joined by the overthrow of the bourgeoisie. Civil society since the time of Hegel and Marx rapidly became central to capitalism – and the relevance of the term has broadened substantially to incorporate a wide range of organisations and institutions – if anything, increasingly under the sway of the bourgeois state and capitalist ideology



1. G.W.F. Hegel, Elements of the Philosophy of Right, Ed., Allen W. Wood, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2003, p. 220, #182.

2. In an essay with strong racist elements the young Marx wrote that only under Christianity ‘which objectifies all national, natural, moral and theoretical relationships, could civil society separate itself completely from the life of the state, sever all the species-bonds of man, establish egoism and selfish need in their place, and dissolve the human world into a world of atomistic, antagonistic individuals.’ K. Marx, ‘On the Jewish Question’, 1843. For Marx, while the system of need satisfaction increases the level of social interdependence necessary in the economy, the potential proletarian solidarity remains latent until the struggle against individual atomisation assumes a collective form. At this point, capitalism begins to produce its own ‘grave-diggers’.

3. ‘civil society tears the individual away from family ties, alienates the members of the family from one another, and recognises them as self-sufficient persons. …(it) subjects the existence of the whole family itself to dependence on civil society and to contingency.’ Hegel op. cit., p. 263, #238.

4. Marx also believed that political economy was a science, but that it was a bourgeois science, tainted by its commitment to the interests of the bourgeoisie.

5. ‘the emancipation of slaves is of the greatest advantage to the master.’ Hegel op. cit., p. 269, #248, ‘When a large mass of people sinks below the level of a certain standard of living…that feeling of right, integrity and honour which comes from supporting oneself by one’s own activity and work is lost. This leads to the creation of a rabble, which in turn makes it much easier for disproportionate wealth to be concentrated in a few hands.’ Hegel op. cit., p. 266, #244.

6. Hegel op. cit., p. 262, #236. Where Hegel rejected democracy, fearing the ‘uneducated masses’, Marx showed little interest in it, believing it to be a front for political domination by the bourgeoisie – his focus was on revolution.

Hegel on Contradiction: Part Three

the negative relation to self (is) the innermost source of all activity, of all animate and spiritual self-movement, the dialectical soul that everything true possesses and through which alone it is true; for on this subjectivity alone rests the sublating of the opposition between Notion and reality, and the unity that is truth. The second negative, the negative of the negative…is this sublating of the contradiction, but just as little as the contradiction is it an act of external reflection, but rather the innermost, most objective moment of life and spirit, through which a subject, a person, a free being, exists.

G.W.F. Hegel, Hegel’s Science of Logic, Trans., A.V.Miller, Humanities Press, New York, 1976, pp. 835-836


Part three/to be continued…

Nietzsche and his master

Plotinus 204/5-270

Plotinus 204/5-270

Plotinus wrote: ‘But how are you to see into a virtuous Soul and know its loveliness? Withdraw into yourself and look. And if you do not find yourself beautiful yet, act as does the creator of a statue that is to be made beautiful: he cuts away here, he smoothes there, he makes this line lighter, this other purer, until a lovely face has grown upon his work. So do you also: cut away all that is excessive, straighten all that is crooked, bring light to all that is overcast, labour to make all one glow of beauty and never cease chiselling your statue, until there shall shine out on you from it the godlike splendour of virtue, until you shall see the perfect goodness surely established in the stainless shrine.’  The Enneads I.6.9

Nietzsche wrote: ‘Man is no longer an artist, he has become a work of art: the artistic power of the whole of nature reveals itself to the supreme gratification of the primal Oneness amidst the paroxysms of intoxication. The noblest clay, the most precious marble, man, is kneaded and hewn here, and to the chisel-blows of the Dionysiac world-artist there echoes the cry of the Eleusinian mysteries, ‘Do you bow low, multitudes? Do you sense the Creator, world?’ The Birth of Tragedy Out of the Spirit of Music

As Christ had John the Baptist, Dionysus and the ‘higher man’ had Nietzsche. This man of god who derivatively (of Lutheranism, of Hegel and of the egoist Max Stirner – ‘Saint Max’ to Marx and Engels) told us ‘God is dead’ – so that his god may enter centre stage – built his philosophy on a simile of Plotinus that recurred over and again in his, as a metaphor (as it has throughout our culture, prior to and post Nietzsche). This tortured lover of ‘life’ had as a goal that which he knew was impossible – a mystical perfection of self in this world. Given this, the direction of his life was inevitable.

From The Birth of Tragedy to the final so-called aphorism of The Will to Power – which contains a synopsis of The Enneads – the bond is unbroken between Nietzsche’s philosophy and Neoplatonism – particularly The Enneads.

The will to power of Nietzsche (as did the world as will of Schopenhauer) derives from The Enneads in which the Good wills itself and all else. It boils with willing. Its emanations are manifestations of its willing. Again, free will (and this before Augustine) carries the soul of the contemplator back to the Good, to itself. Ennead VI tractate 8 is on ‘Free Will and the Will of the One’.

Nietzsche’s perspectivism is based on what he called ‘the limits of reason’. As with the ‘limits of language’ of his fellow disingenuous mystic Wittgenstein (Heraclitus without the Heraclitus), Neoplatonism and particularly Plotinus are the source. The impossibility of facts for Nietzsche – this lover of ‘truth’ – is set against the impossibility of Absolute Truth and the ineffable, not a deepening relative truth by which it was once correctly held that the earth is flat.

Nietzsche subscribed to ‘free will’ no less than did Kant – but for Nietzsche it was the ‘free will’ of the ‘higher man’.

He subscribed to a connection between morality and imperative no less than did Kant, but for him it was the imperative of the ‘immoralist’.

Nietzsche’s at best contradictoriness, at worst – hypocrisy – was free-wheeling and through his rhetorical skill he demanded we submit and be swept along. Behind his lyricism, he was the ultimate bower bird, the ultimate used-car salesman.

Nietzsche 1882

Nietzsche 1882

The writing of Nietzsche, as with that of other German romantic philosophers, is steeped in Neoplatonism – where romanticism, there Neoplatonism. But this is only one brief period in Western culture. We could discuss the influence of Plotinus and apophaticism in the visual arts, in literature, in music and more, in this and other periods. Every university in this country at which philosophy is taught runs courses on Plato and Aristotle, but to my knowledge never one, once, on a figure of equal significance – Plotinus. Vanderbilt University is the one university I know of in the West where such courses have been run, for several years – by William Franke.

The suppression of this pervasive current in Western philosophy (which I refer to as the pornography of philosophy – assiduously studied by predominantly male philosophers, and its influence on their work dissembled about and denied) by academic philosophers is a disgrace and a profound failure of intellectual and social responsibility. A display of the most determined, ideologically motivated ignorance.

My questions are these:

Are we so ashamed of ourselves that we cannot look openly at who we are and at what has contributed so significantly to forming us  – even as we draw on its creative power?

How much longer – particularly at a time of an immense global and cultural re-orientation – must we in the West cling to the myopic arrogance that we are the bearers of ‘reason’ while those in other cultures stare at their navels or are obsessed with filial piety?

Where are the barriers between ‘reason’ and emotions, ‘reason’ and intuition, ‘reason’ and what our brains do when we day-dream and when we are asleep, between ‘reason’ and all those other brain functions ‘below it’?

How else can these questions be addressed other than on a material basis?


Images: Plotinus/Nietzsche

On the importance of thinking

To the degree to which a person is unconscious of the world and their place in it, so they are the unconscious tool, either directly or indirectly, of another.


Lenin on Matter: Part Six

The fundamental characteristic of materialism is that it starts from the objectivity of science, from the recognition of objective reality reflected by science, whereas idealism needs “detours” in order, in one way or another, to “deduce” objectivity from mind, consciousness, the “psychical”.

Sensation is an image of matter in motion. Save through sensations, we can know nothing either of the forms of matter or of the forms of motion; sensations are evoked by the action of matter in motion upon our sense-organs. That is how science views it.

“Matter disappears”, only equations remain. At a new stage of development and apparently in a new manner, we get the old Kantian idea: reason prescribes laws to nature.

Materialism and Empirio-Criticism: Critical Comments on a Reactionary Philosophy, 1908, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1975, pp. 275, 282, 288

Hegel on Contradiction: Part Two

…the negative as determined in the sphere of essence (is) the principle of all self-movement…External, sensuous motion itself is contradiction’s immediate existence. Something moves, not because at one moment it is here and at another there, but because at one and the same moment it is here and not here, because in this ‘here’, it at once is and is not. The ancient dialecticians must be granted the contradictions that they pointed out in motion; but it does not follow that therefore there is no motion, but on the contrary, that motion is existent contradiction itself.

G.W.F. Hegel, Hegel’s Science of Logic, Trans., A.V.Miller, Humanities Press, New York, 1976, 440


Part two/to be continued…