Thursday, August 14, 2008

Karl Marx and the Humanists: Not a Match Made in Heven


Karl Marx was a radical materialist. Like the humanist and rational humanist thinkers of his day, Marx argued that the source of all truth and that truth itself are simple; however, his thinking vastly estranged him from the humanists and other thinkers of the day in that Marx believed that the source of all truth is external to man.
Humanists argued that as we look inward we can find the answers to the many riddles of mortal life. Yet, even within the realm of humanists such as Montaigne, Galileo, Descrates (rational humanist), and others, many still looked toward heaven and established society as they looked inward for guidance. Galileo, for one, argued that man could deduce the answer to most questions about nature and the expansive universe through simple deduction and experimentation, but he did not dare to lift a finger against the supreme authority of the Church or against the established conventions of his time.
This is what makes Marx such a “radical” thinker in comparison to his progenitors and most of his contemporaries. Marx asserted that truth is not found in some sublime and mystical reality such as the Weltgeist but in the day to day hum drum of materialism. Men are inherently self-interested (sounds a little capitalistic . . .); therefore those of the higher ranks (the bourgeois), are wont to suppress the helpless and feeble proletariat. Most of Marx’s ideology was revolutionary in its time but from our perspective, a little clich├ęd and trite to say the least. The message was in essence, “Throw off the chains that bind you and unite in a form of egalitarian utopia!” Gee, we’ve never heard any “radical” proposal like that before. But up until that point in time, it was unprecedented thinking: God is a fabrication of the bourgeois to help them subjugate the proletariat, and society itself is just another form of the rich getting richer while the poor suffer and get the short end of the stick!
Marx argued against Hegel’s traditional thesis-antithesis view of society and posited that all societal structures would inevitably lead to communism (and no other reversal) and thus throw off the chains that bound the proletariat. . . perhaps, as history has shown, Marx, like the humanists was a little too simplistic himself?

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