Ethics and the Materialist Interpretation of History

  • Eugene Kamenka
Part of the New Studies in Ethics book series (NSE)


‘A philosophy of man’, Adam Schaff writes,15 ‘can start off from two opposite principles: (1) that man’s existence is the realisation of some superhuman conception of plan, external to man; (2) that man’s existence is the creation of man himself — man makes himself, and the starting point of all considerations about man should be that he is autonomous.’ The upshot of our criticism of the young Marx’s humanism was to deny that these are the two alternatives for a consideration of man’s position, either logically or ethically. Man’s existence is neither the realisation of some superhuman conception, nor is it the work of man himself. To use Hegelian language, man is both subject and predicate. There is no logical discontinuity between man and his environment, no actual or ideal truly human and unconditioned essence against which the whole of empirical human existence is to be set and judged. Human nature, human purposes and human conceptions are the product, at any given stage or in any given place, of the continuous interaction between actual existing men and their environment. They are to be understood neither in terms of ‘man’ alone, nor in terms of his environment alone.


Productive Force Moral Philosophy Moral Theory Moral Belief Moral Demand 
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Copyright information

© Eugene Kamenka 1969

Authors and Affiliations

  • Eugene Kamenka
    • 1
  1. 1.Australian National UniversityAustralia

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