Outline of an Outline: Karl Marx’s 1845 “Theses on Feuerbach”


  • Reality and sensuousness is “human sensuous activity, practice”.
  • Human activity is an “objective activity”.
  • Practice, especially revolutionary practical-critical activity, is extremely significant.


  • The only way to know whether objective truth is attributable to human thinking is through practice–testing the idea out in the real world: “Man must prove the truth, that is the reality and the power, the this-sidedness of his thinking in practice”.


  • It is true that men are the outcome of their “circumstance and upbringing”. However, men are also the authors of any changes in their circumstances and that educators themselves might need to be educated in light of such changes.
  • Revolutionizing practice: is the “coincidence of the changing circumstances and of human activity”.


  • Feuerbach begins his analysis from “the fact of religious self-alienation” — of the separation of reality into two: the religious, imaginary world & the real world — and seeks to resolve the former into a secular one. But additional work is needed:

“For the fact that the secular basis detaches itself from itself and establishes itself in the clouds as an independent realm can only be explained by the cleavage and self-contradictions within this secular basis. The latter must itself, therefore, first be understood in its contradiction and then, by the removal of the contradiction, revolutionized in practice. Thus, for instance, after the earthly family is discovered to be the secret of the holy family, the former must then itself be criticized in theory and revolutionized in practice”


  • Sensuousness, contra Feuerbach, is practical, “human-sensuous activity”


  • Contra Feuerbach, human essence is “the ensemble of the social relations”.
    Contra Feuerbach, the human individual is not isolated but rather intimately connected to the historical process.
    The human essence is not merely genus.


  • Religious sentiment is a social product and the individual “belongs in reality to a particular form of society”.


  • “Social life is essentially practical. All mysteries which mislead theory into mysticism find their rational solution in human practice and in the comprehension of this practice”.


  • The pinnacle of contemplative materialism–the type which ignores practical activity–is reflection on “single individuals in civil society”.


  • Civil society is the standpoint of the old materialism, human society (i.e., socialized humanity) is the standpoint of the new materialism.


  • Philosophers should change the world, not merely seek to interpret it: “The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point, however, is to change it”.

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