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Bauer: Atheistic Humanism and the Critique of Religious Alienation

  • Robert Gascoigne
Part of the Archives Internationales D’Histoire Des Idees / International Archives of the History of Ideas book series (ARCH, volume 105)

Abstract

Among the Young Hegelians it was Bruno Bauer, theologian turned passionate atheist, who struggled most desperately to interpret Hegel’s absolute idealism as the vindication of the sovereign rights of the human self-consciousness. Bauer’s radically intellectualist search for genuine humanity in the spontaneous activity of the free mind, liberated from history and the absolute, failed to discover a sustaining field of activity in the social group or any other collective, and ended as an abandonment of European intellectual history, but he succeeded in demonstrating the critical potential of his own conception of the self-consciousness.

Keywords

Human Nature Political Freedom Ethical Life Intellectual Freedom Religious Consciousness 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Note

  1. 1.
    D. Hertz-Eichenrode, ‘Der Junghegelianer Bruno Bauer im Vormärz’, D. Phil, thesis, Freie Universität Berlin, 1959, pp. 10–19.Google Scholar
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  3. 3.
    Ibid., p. viii.Google Scholar
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    Ibid., p. xx.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Ibid., p. xxiv.Google Scholar
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  7. 7.
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  8. 8a.
    A. Schweitzer, The Quest of the Historical Jesus, London, 1954, p. 138Google Scholar
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    Bauer’s interpretation of Hegel was strikingly similar to that of the most celebrated exponent of a ‘left-wing’ interpretation of the Phänomenologie des Geistes: ‘by seeing in the Wise Man the human ideal in general, the Philosopher attributes to himself as Philosopher a human value without equal (p. 88)… In short the Phenomenology only shows that the ideal of the Wise Man, as it is defined therein, is the necessary ideal of philosophy, and of every philosophy — that is, of every man who puts the supreme value on Self-consciousness, which is precisely a consciousness of self and not of something else’, (p. 92) Alexandre Kojève, Introduction to the Reading of Hegel, New York, 1969.Google Scholar
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    Was ist jetzt der Gegenstand der Kritik? first published in Bauer’s Allgemeine Literaturzeitung, June 1844, re-printed in Feldzüge der reinen Kritik, ed. H.M. Sass, Frankfurt, 1968, p. 202 (Sass ed.)Google Scholar
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  75. 74.
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    Was ist jetzt der Gegenstand der Kritik?, p. 212.Google Scholar
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    Review of Hinrichspolitische Vorlesungen, in Sass, op. cit., pp. 197–8.Google Scholar
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    Bekenntnisse einer schwachen Seele, pp. 593–4.Google Scholar
  79. 78.
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  84. 83.
    Ibid., p. 223.Google Scholar
  85. 84.
    Ludwig Feuerbach, in Beiträge zum Feldzüge der reinen Kritik, Berlin, 1846, p. 4.Google Scholar
  86. 85.
    For N. Lobkowicz, in his Theory and Practice (University of Notre Dame Press, 1967), p. 257, ‘Feuerbach… instead of trying to transcend man’s finite condition simply declares man’s finite condition infinite. The task of philosophy, then, consists in “putting the infinite into the finite”, that is, in rediscovering the original infinity of natural finite man… Hegel conceived the self-realization of man as a transcendence of the limited and natural biological level; Feuerbach, on the contrary, condemned all such transcendence as “alienation”. In this sense he is a precursor of all “philosophies of life” from Nietzsche to Klages’.Google Scholar
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    For M. Wartofsky, by contrast, in his Feuerbach (Cambridge, 1977), Feuerbach envisages man’s transformation through the dialectical process of image formation: ‘The overcoming of sheer identity with the image is the work of critique. This critique raised to the level of self-recognition in the image is self-criticism. Self-transformation requires both self-objectification and the critique of this objectification. Dialectic is nothing less than this process of self-transformative praxis, therefore’, (p. 13).Google Scholar
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    Ludwig Feuerbach, p. 12.Google Scholar
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    For J.E. Toews, in Hegelianism. The Path towards Dialectical Humanism 1805–1841 (Cambridge University Press, 1980), although Marx, Feuerbach and Bauer ‘all accused each other of regressing to the abstract and undialectical positions of traditional metaphysical idealism or materialism, they all laid claim to the dialectical inheritance’. Bauer, as well as Marx and Feuerbach, made his analysis of the human condition concrete by ‘shifting the locus of human emancipation from the political to the social dimension’, although he rejected socialist and communist theory. ‘The development of Bauer’s critical theory after 1843 was also grounded in a critical reduction of the illusion of human essence to the concrete relationships of human existence’. While rejecting the social projects of the Feuerbachians, ‘Bauer also insisted that such negative dialectics was a positive, communal activity.’ (p. 365) For the present author, however, Bauer’s shift from political concern was less to the ‘social dimension’ than to a revolution of consciousness, a fundamental re-orientation away from all objective substance, whether religious or social, a characteristic of Bauer’s thought which is well-expressed by H. Stuke: ‘Bauer’s critique of established reality was ultimately not against particular historical relationships, institutions, ethics and rights, or forms and concretions of the spirit which no longer corresponded to its “higher concept”, but rather against the (in the Hegelian sense) continuing substance of world-history itself’. (Philosophie der Tat, Stuttgart, 1963, p. 186.)Google Scholar
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Copyright information

© Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, Dordrecht 1985

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  • Robert Gascoigne

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