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Ludwig Feuerbach: God as a Human Creation - Term Paper Example

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Ludwig Feuerbach: God as a Human Creation

As is common with intolerant states, the autocratic Prussian system justified itself through a derivative conservative creed rooted in a combination of country, Christianity and a compatible philosophy (Harvey, 2007). The reaction of Feuerbach and others of the German intelligentsia, animated by the revolutionary ferment then rising in Europe, was to cast aside the Hegelian philosophical orthodoxy of the day in favor of a radicalized view of the world, man’s place in it and what Feuerbach considered man’s naivete concerning theology. Feuerbach and his colleagues contended that “faith” and the supernatural basis of Christian doctrine was incompatible with rationalist thought and philosophy (Harvey, 2007). The ascendancy of the wealthy and powerful was based on a systematic exploitation of the majority of people, who simply lacked resources and social standing. From this standpoint, Christian practice had no practical use in that it could not improve the lot of the dispossessed. The writings of Feuerbach and his fellow “Young Hegelians” led to repressive measures by the Prussian state, particularly toward the university intellectuals. Feuerbach emerged from this experience a confirmed materialist and atheist and, in his evolving philosophy, he came to reject Christianity as an “absolute” religion, instead embracing rationalism which he believed more truly explained the world and the development of human society as a consequence of natural phenomena (2007). Thus, personal experience shaped his perspective and his philosophical position – when Feuerbach contended that God was a human construct, he was speaking as a man whose experiences taught that theology could not stand in the presence of reason and philosophy. Break with Hegel As a student at the University of Berlin, Feuerbach came under the influence of Hegelian thought, which held that individuality finds its ultimate expression within the “absolute” of the state. The state, which Hegel described as “absolutely rational,” represents a state of existence in which “freedom comes into its supreme right,” a “final end” (that) has supreme right against the individual, whose supreme duty is to be a member of the State” (Hegel, p. 258). The Prussian state in which this concept was introduced was held by many to be an expression of the rational absolute, and Hegel’s writings on the subject were seen as apologia for an often repressive political system. Feuerbach’s adaption of Hegel led him to a belief that God was a manifestation of man’s essential nature, a position which requires that man find himself in God (Schleiermacher, p. 13). As dissatisfaction with the old political order grew (an order which the Prussians seemed to have inherited from the Austro-Hungarian Empire), Feuerbach’s humanist /anthropological message struck a chord among revolutionaries who sought a voice in politics for the people and an overall improvement in conditions within the greater state. Those who had used Hegel to promote the ultimate authority of church and state came up against a new, more radical interpretation. The Young Hegelians were a collection of academics who held that reason and freedom were the logical outcome and extension of human experience. They rejected the “orthodox” Hegelian view that the subsuming of individuality within the state, as a paragon of absolute reason, was the supreme duty of the citizen. The Prussian state, which gradually aggrandized its political power throughout the confederation of German states in the 19th century, was irreconcilable with the ...Show more

Summary

Ludwig Feuerbach was precisely what he espoused in his philosophy: a product of his environment, and of the Zeitgeist that characterized mid-19th-century Europe. The Prussian state in which he lived was one of the most reactionary governments in Europe. …
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