Marx and ‘the Problem of Knowledge’



‘Epistemological’ questions arise very early in Marx’s work.2 For example, the notes for the doctoral dissertation (1841) pose the problem of the theoretical conditions for the possibility of Hegel’s political accommodation (CW 1:84); the 1843 critique of Hegel’s philosophy of the state provides an answer. The 1844 Manuscripts discuss the basis and development of human sense-perception. Basic questions relating to materialism and idealism are absolutely central to the brief notes (written in 1845) which Engels described, in publishing them for the first time under the title Theses on Feuerbach’, as ‘the first document in which is deposited the brilliant germ of the new world outlook’ (SW 3:336); the same is true of The German Ideology, written soon after, as of The Poverty of Philosophy (1847). Ten years later, in the ‘Introduction’ to the Grundrisse (1857–58) he discusses general questions of methodology, and in Capital ‘epistemological’ standpoints are present both explicitly and implicitly, as they are in one of Marx’s last important writings, the ‘Marginalia’ to Adolph Wagner’s Textbook of Political Economy (1879–80).


Correspondence Theory Theoretical Mode Theoretical Production Traditional Epistemology Practical Relation 
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Notes and References

Chapter 1: Marx and ‘the Problem of Knowledge’

  1. See, e.g., G. Markus, ‘Ueber die erkenntmstheoretischen Ansichten des jungen Marx’ in A. Schmidt (ed.) Beitrage zur marxistischen Erkenntnis-theorie (Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1969).Google Scholar
  2. I take the term ‘real abstraction’ from A. Sohn-Rethel, Intellectual and Manual Labour: a Critique of Epistemology (London: Macmillan, 1978). In this work it is anchored in an economic context; I use the term to designate a much more general situation. (For the rest I disagree with a great deal of this stimulating book.)Google Scholar
  3. See G. Boehme, W. van den Daele, W. Krohn, Experimented Philosophie: Ursprunge autonomer Wissenschaftsentwicklung (Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1977) pp. 129ff. (The whole book is of the greatest relevance here.)Google Scholar
  4. See H. Blumenberg, Der Prozess der theoretischen Neugierde (Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1980).Google Scholar
  5. Wittgenstein, Tractatus, 6.341 and 6.342. Cf. W. H. Watson, Understanding Physics (Cambridge University Press, 1938) p. 52.Google Scholar
  6. J. Cavailles, Sur la Logique et la theorie de la science (Paris: P.U.F., 1942) pp. 22f, 24.Google Scholar
  7. A. S. Eddington, The Nature of the Physical World (Cambridge University Press, 1928) p. 323. The ‘two tables’ example occurs at the beginning of the Introduction.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© W. A. Suchting 1986

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of General PhilosophyUniversity of SydneyAustralia

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