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23 Reviews

exclusively human characteristic. A spider conducts operations which resemble those of the
weaver, and a bee would put many a human architect to shame by the construction of its honeycomb cells. But what distinguishes the worst
architect from the best of bees is that the
architect builds the cell in his mind before he
constructs it in wax. At the end of every labour
process, a result emerges which had already
been conceived by the worker at the beginning,
hence already existed ideally. Man not only
effects a change of form in the materials of
nature; he also realizes· (virwirklicht) his own
purpose in those materials. And this is a purpose
he is conscious of, it determines the mode of his
activity with the rigidity of a law, and he must
subordinate his will to it. (21)
21 K. Marx, Capital, Vol. I, trans. B. Fowkes, 1976, pp283-84. Cf. Engels:

‘In short, the animal merely uses its environment, and brings about
changes in it simply by its presence; man by his changes makes it serve

The exclusively human characteristic, it appears,
is labour animated by conscious purpose. In the
light of the preceding discussion Marx may now be
classified as one of the philosophers who conceive
of human beings as rational animals • But for him it
is a rationality that exhibits itself characteristically
not in theory or contemplation but in activity in the
world: what is quintessentially human is the faculty
of practical reason. The explication of his dialectical
social science has to be grounded in a theory of the
conditions for the proper exercise of this faculty;
that is to say, in a materialist theory of society. In
the end such a theory must prove to be the only
effective armour against the idealist temptations of
the dialectic.

his ends, masters it. This is the final, essential distinction between man
and other animals, and once again it is labour that brings about this
distinction.’ Dialectics of Nature, 1954, pp179-80.

REVIEWS
THE HISTORIAN’S COACH
Jonathan Ree, Michael Ayers and Ada.m Westoby,
Philosophy and its Past, Harvester, 1978,
£8.50 hardback, £3.50 paperback
It is really rather surprising that this book, or
something like it, has not appeared before. For as
well as being straightforwardly interesting, and
readable, it could be i.mportant. The History of
Philosophy, which figures in almost all undergraduate Philosophy programmes, is arguably the
seat of Philosophy’s own self-consciousness. Only
Logic rivals it as a preparatory study for Philosophy proper. Like a nation’s history to the people,
it presents to the diSCiples of Philosophy images of
the fatal mistakes and the heroism of the founding
fathers, who fought (mostly amongst themselves)
to hand on the clear lines of philosophical practice
that we now enjoy. But this short book undermines
those images. Look again into your collective
me.mory, it suggests, think back over your past.

And the truth may be traumatic for the selfassured practitioner of academic Philosophy, if it
can get beneath his skin.

The book’s three articles cover not only different
sides of the subject of the History of Philosophy,
but different approaches to arguing for a change in
method. Jonathan Ree’s is an historical article. It
describes the genesis of Philosophy’s own view of
its distinct history in the Renaissance and
Enlightenment views of the history of culture itself.

Both periods had a vested interest in rejecting so.me
part of their history. Thus, the Philosophes could
make good use of the systematisation of the history
of Philosophy into conflicting schools developed by
Jacob Brucker to train students in the new German
protestant universities. It made a good case for
rejecting out of hand all theorising, be it religious
or metaphysical, in favour of plain, reasonable
man’s understanding. But a tactically expedient
position has hardened into the orthodoxy of academic institutions for the following two centuries. And
today the History of Philosophy shows us no progress, only toing and froing over a given range of
possible philosophical positions. Kant, Regel and
30

Marx offer ways out of this collective ideology,
each of which shows how past philosophies are valid
preliminaries for future progress. But these have
not been taken up. Again, Ree claims the same
lineage for the central position attributed to episte.mology, and in particular to the opposition
between Rationalis.m and EmpiriCism.

I found this a fascinating piece of historical
research, but am unhappy about what seems a
major lacuna. Although so.mewhat unevenly, continental Philosophy has advanced, via Kant, Hegel,
Marx etc, fro.m the Enlightenment view of the
History of Philosophy. It is the country whose only
original contribution to Philosophy is E.mpiricis.m,
na.mely Britain, where that historical view which
counterposes futile theories, making them easy
targets for e.mpiricist reductionism, is still
followed, and where Empiricis.m, by being counterposed to all other philosophies, still appears to be
God’s gift to philosophical thought. I think there
must be so.me historical reason why British
Philosophy (and to so.me extent American) pulled
up while European Philosophy moved on. But this
historical account of the growth of a range of philosophical positions is chastening for the professional:

who takes them for granted. For to raise the question of their historical origin i.mmediately shows
how non-necessary they may be.

Though Ree’s essay contains certain philosophical
argu.ments (about, for example, whether it is
possible to identify a syste.m of beliefs outside a
context), it is Ayers’ article that attacks the Histor)l
of Philosophy with more conventionally pure philOsophical argument. Ayers shows up mistaken
philosophical presuppositions which underlie
various examples of .misinterpretation of historical
philosophers. Russell on Leibnitz, for example,
takes his own philosophical starting points and
prunes and trains Leibnitz’s philosophy to grow out
of them. Others adopting the same approach identify
mistakes in Hume’s or Kant’s formulation of their
poSitions which, if removed, magically produce the
writer’s own view. Accompanying this practice
there is the unfounded belief that what a philosopher

‘says’ can be removed from what he wanted to say,
and improved as a service to his modern reputation.

In this critique the smug ingenuity of the .modern
interpreter’s approach stands out so clearly.

Where the historical philosopher differs from the
.modern’s view, he is ‘mistaken’; where he agrees
it is on the interpreter’s ter.ms, and the authority
of the historical philosopher’s reputation descends
upon the interpreter’s .modern views. What is quite
extraordinary about this approach is that such
theoretical underpinnings as it has seem to fly in
the face of most of conte.mporary theory of meaning.

Only the departmental demarcation of Philosophy
can justify excising so .much of the original on the
grounds that it was not what the historical philosopher was concerned with ‘qua philosopher’ •
Adam Westoby’s article preaches by e~mple.

There is a skeletal introduction to Hegel’s vast
History of Philosophy, taking his account of the four
philosophers whom he regards as momentous in the
strict sense, and a good short account of Hegel’s
dialectic. While undermining some ignorant attacks
on Hegel, which ignore his sensitivity to the real
diversity of philosophical positions within his overall historical vision, the article’s critical assessment of Hegel is not strong enough to show how his
example could be a model for us. There is, for
example, a kind of defence of Hegel’s idalism; in
a cO.mmunist society, free from scarcity and class
limits, Hegel ‘smethod would-be sound.

Can this book under.mine the approach of established
History of Philosophy courses? I hope so, but I am
by no .means certain. The patient’s s~lf-~ma~e may
yet resist this form of analysis. Jonathan Ree’s
historical account is challenging, for exa.mple, but
it is only ‘History’ is it not? Why, then, should an
academic practice whose certainties are ahistorical,
logical truths change its ways? Likewise, Michael
Ayers’ exa.mples of interpretation, set against his
so much richer re.marks on the originals, seem
barely worth pursuing. But if you have carefully
de.marcated your ‘philosophical’ approach beforehand, the dissonance between your interpretation
and the original need never appear. A determined
philosophical philistine could still argue that he is
right, if he has the face to abandon so .much rich
theory because it belongs to others – historians of
ideas, literary critics, theologians. The educational argu.ments against signing away nine tenths of
your subject should clinch the .matter. But in a
career-conscious acade.mic environment, whose
members are jealous of the protecting boundaries
of their academic specialis.m, even the needs of
education may be ignored.

On the other hand, the existence of a growing
intellectual alternative .may embarrass the professionals out of their complacency. Here, though,
many questions remain and are even raised by this
book, which is needed in order to resolve the.m for
the sake of that intellectual alternative. The principle of these questions is whether there should be
a History of Philosophy at all? Jonathan Ree’s
concluding description of ‘the ideological function
of the History of Philosophy’ suggests reasons why
there should not. A History such as we have, ne
argues, assures the stagnation of Philosophy itself
by defining the whole field of philosophical positions.

But, of course, it is just that about the History of
Philosophy which sustains it; it appears to fill an
essential task for a discipline which (again as

The Oxford Literary Review
Spring 1979 (Vol. 3 No.3) includes:

Harold Bloom:

Robert Young:

Maud Ellmann:

Lying against Time: Gnosis, Poetry, Criticism
A Lacanian Reading of Wordsworth’s ‘Prelude’

Floating the Pound: The Circulation of the Subject of
Pound’s Cantos
Terry Eagleton: Review of ‘Language and Materialism’

Brecht, Sartre and Materialist Theatre
Ian MeLeod:

Graham Peehey: A Semiotic Study of Blake and Milton

Still Available: Derrida Special Issue (Summer 78)
Jaeques Derrida: Speculations – On Freud
Mark Cousins:

The Logic of Deconstruction
Jean-wc Naney: Dum Scribo. The Writing of Descartes
Ann Wordsworth: Derrida and Criticism

Single Copies £1.50 or $3.75; Subscriptions (3 issues) £4.50 or $10, for
Institutions £6 or $14
From: OLR, 2 Marlborough lld, Oxford OXI 4LP, U.K.

Jonathan Ree points out}, unlike most others, has
always to draw upon its own past, namely that of
defining the discipline’s material.

Again, it .may just be .misguided to atte.mpt such a
process of definition. For, as once .more Ree points
out, Philosophy ‘enco.mpasses al.most any kind of
abstract conceptual puzzlement or consternation
that people may happen to feel and this .makes it
impossibly difficult to provide any definition of the
“principles of philosophy”‘. Political history, the
history of literature and ideas, social history,
econo.mic history, all these have an object which is
a continuous feature of human ‘life (political organisation, overt efforts to organise aI}.d pass on ideas
and so on). But history itself shows how the object
of the History of Philosophy admits of constantly
changing boundaries, as systems of thought establish a .more or less coherent for.m and break away
(natural science) or lose their coherence and
resume the style of philosophical discussion
(religious belief). It seems, then, that against the
whole spirit of ‘history of philosophy’ as an academic discipline, the effort to define a unified object
of the history of philosophy is harmful and futile.

Yet this feature of philosophical thinking, its
amorphousness, is the very source of its value in
cultural life. It is the willingness to build systems
of ideas, undermine them and build again that
.makes philosophy worth having. What a serviceable
history of philosophy should be doing, then, is to
enable philosophy to live with boundaries that change
with the passage of time.

Finally, this leads me to the difficult question of
the relation between the historical origin of a system
of beliefs and its truth. While expressing the view
that silence on this topic is a lacuna in Philosophy
and its Past, I do not think it possible here to go
further than saying that in judging the ‘truth’ of
systems of belief (including philosophical systems)
we are often judging as well their adequacy for
given problems, which are of course given in
history.

Philosophy and its History provokes’ thought on this
and so many other fundamental aspects of philosophy’s view of itself that we can only wish it
success.

Noel Parker

31

PRACTICAL MORALITY
Stuart Hampshire, ed. Private and Public Morality,
Cambridge University Press, 1978, 143pp + x,
£1.95
Sissela Bok, Lying: Moral Choice in Public and
Private Life, Harvester Press, 1978, 326pp + xxii,
£6.50
As socialism has aged,its adherents have realised
that many of the proble.ms of the liberal state are
also those of its successors. Dilem.mas which were
once ‘.merely bourgeois’ are now seen to be co.m.mon
to political life generally, and radical political
theorists have been forced to peer under the carpet
of their historical tradition in search of issues mistakenly removed from public debate. Fore.most
among these is the ethical dualism associated with
Machiavelli and since often termed ‘raison d ‘etat’ .

While Lukacs and others have recognised that ‘the
true strength of the (Marxist) party is .moral’, the
standards of fairness implicit in all socialist thought
. have been frequently subverted by the creative
deployment of practical and episte.mological stalinism. Bok and Hampshire ~ recognise a similar
failure in liberalis m, but their discussions suggest
that the central problems are .much the same for
both political traditions.

Of the six essays in Public and Private Morality,
only the first four (two by Hampshire and one each
by Bernard Willia.ms and Thomas Nagel) specifically
address the theoretical discrepancy between codes
of individual conduct and those suitable or claimed
necessary in public life. Hampshire pessimistically
attacks what he sees as a ‘new, abstract cruelty in
politics ‘: ‘mechanical, quantitative thinking …

derived from the utilitarian habit of mind ‘. Historical relativism, he claims, has led us to see the
sacredness of life as itself .merely another human
invention, thereby undermining an essential justification for restraint in war and politics.

Political acts, he claims, seem to necessitate the
‘withholding of so.me scruples’. But in atte.mpting
to minimise the conflict of individual with public
ethics, Ha.mpshire can only suggest what .might be
termed a ‘resanctification’ of social roles, on the
basis of the view that all rituals disclose ‘a peculiar
kind of respect for human life’. He neglects to mention, however, that many social cere.monies which
reinforce respect and deferral do so only in the
context of a customary hierarchy of status and
wealth. Such observances often embody greater
veneration for the rapaciousness and ambition of
the dead than anything else; to invoke the.m is only
to surreptitiously plead for order in a chaotic world.

Bernard Williams emphasises that public figures
must be able to judge when actions are morally
disagreeable even though politically advantageous.

How a government can be filled with, or at least
led by, such ethically discriminating individuals is
a more difficult matter. ‘Trying to stay in office’

is a full-time industry with its own standards, in
which public welfare often becomes subordinated to
a vulgar image-mongering which accounts the
public’s electoral approval as the highest political
profit.

32

The prag.matis m of political elites can only be
counterbalanced by the active concern of an educated and continuously interested public. A cynicis m
regarding the creation of such ideal citizens pervades the Hampshire collection of essays: popular
involve.ment in politics is again declining. This
apathy Sissela Bok attributes to a justifiable lack of
trust in modern regimes. Paternalistic and selfinterested leaders have lied so often that the statements of political life see.m enmeshed in a fabric of
deception. Falsehood ‘for the public good’, Bok
claims, originates with Plato’s use of the ‘Noble
Lie’ to persuade citizens that only a few are fit for
power. In the present, the ruled are presumed
either to have an inadequate ability to judge complex
issues, or as likely to respond inappropriately to
the release of truthful information.

Two interesting examples are drawn to illustrate
the latter case, where governmental secrecy and
lying might be justified: prior to a currency devaluation, and before a sharp increase in taxes upon
imported goods. In both instances publicity .might
incite a panic of sorts, but Bok does not examine
the fact that those who would .rro st profit fro.m
foreknowledge would be currency speculators and
the wealthy. Such illustrations provide some basis
for assuming that the larger ethical question is in
some ways tied to the nature of the economic
system.

The quandry for socialists is that this relation is
not as mechanical as it .may appear :Marx tended to
avoid such questions because, among other reasons,
they involved too much of the ethical language of
his opponents. Later socialists have based their
confidence on three assumptions: the government
under socialism will be from the same class as the
majority, hence more concerned with the public
good; socialism will be so widespread as .to virtuallyeli.minate ‘national security’ as a ratIonale for
secrecy; the electoral apparatus will function more
democratically, through the use of delegated rather
than represented authority, public involvement at
all levels of decision-making, rapid circulation of
political elites, etc.

Almost all of these notions derive from a criticism
of the current division of labour, which precisely
because it is politically oriented raises questions
which Bok and Ha.mpshire et al tend to ignore or
fail to illuminate. Bernard Williams, while admitting that his assertion ‘seems false’, holds that one
is morally justified in ordering others to do something one is not prepared to do oneself, while Nagel
admits that this invariably must lead to a diminished
sense of responsibility on the part of political
executors. Would Henry Kissinger or Richard
Nixon have killed Vietnamese personally, even
from the height of a mile? The abolition of capitalism will not render such questions meaningless,
but a serious analysis of the bankruptcy of public
morality might well gain public support for more
humane social and economic alternatives.

Greg Claeys

FEUERBACH
M. W. Wartofsky: Feuerbach, Cambridge University
Press, 1977, £ 17 .50 hardback
It is impossible to contest Professor Wartofsky’s

claim that: ‘This work is the first major full-length
study of the philosophy of Ludwig Feuerbach in
English.’ Indeed, this is one of those works of
scholarly interpretation which make such a central
contribution to the constitution of their object for
their time as to make nonsense of the reviewing
convention, whereby one is supposed to pretend to
some access to the object which is entirely independ·
ent of the work under discussion. To review an
authority in a field where authorities must be
counted slowly on the fingers of one hand is necessarily to come under it. It is only by means of
Wartofsky, then, that I can write about Wartofsky.

Before I do so, however, it may be helpful to
readers of Radical Philosophy to make a few
simple comparisons between Wartofsky’s book and
the only other book-length study of Feuerbach to
appear in English in recent years, Kamenka’s
The Philosophy of Ludwig Feuerbach. The first and
obvious impression is that Wartofsky’s book is about
three times as long and three times as expensive as
its predecessor. What this means in respect of
their contents can be shown by the fact that
Wartofsky spends as long on Feuerbach’s writings
before the Essence of Christianity as Kamenka gives
to his entire opus. Kamenka achieves this partly by
more or less writing off Feuerbach’s works from
after 1850, partly by disdaining any attempt at
giving us an account of his major works in terms of
their development out of his earlier ones. In the
spirit of a reductive ‘introduction’ Kamenka admits
that Feuerbach’s critique of Hegelian idealism
preceded, at least in its genesis, his critique of
religion, but then declares that he is not going to
allow this to affect his treatment. So the chapter on
the critique of religion comes before and is three
times longer than the one on the critique of philosophy, and Feuerbach’s other concerns are demote.:1
as ‘a number of strains arid tendencies’ which
Feuerbach, an unsystematic and patchy thinker,
seems to Kamenka to have taken up from time to
time in inexplicable disorder. Ethics, in accordance with the customs of recuperative Anglo-Saxon
history of philosophy, gets the last chapter – a compartmentalisation which has no counterpart in
Feuerbach’s actual thought. But then Kamenka’s
‘Feuerbach’ is pretty much a predecessor of
‘sensible’ empiricism. The book moves pleasantly
on to the remark in the Postscript that Feuerbach
‘leaves one with the feeling that he could have done
philosophy in the conventional way and at a more
than respectable level if he had only cared to do so.’

What a lot Hegel has to answer for, to be sure.

Nevertheless Kamenka’s book is better than others
in its genre, such as Peters’ condescending distortion of Hobbes. It has a more extensive biography
of Feuerbach and bibliography of his work than
Wartofsky.

It could be argued that books like Kamenka’s simply
cannot afford the self-consciousness which is such
an impressive, if not always convincing, feature of
Wartofsky:

The method of inversion in the critique of philosophy almost appears as an account of

Feuerbach’s own philosophical development.

In .the somersault in which Hegel is turned

upside down and stood upon his feet, we can
recognise Feuerbach in almost every stage of
the reversal. That is, we can see the process
of transformation and inversion in the development of Feuerbach’s own works. The critique
of philosophy, in Feuerbach, then comes to
appear not only as a dialectic of philosophical
positions that Feuerbach describes in others,
but as a self-critique, in which the dialectic
of Feuerbach’s own development shows itself.

His critique of theology and of speculative
philosophy is thus not simply a liberation, .!?y
Feuerbach, from the illusions of others, but
a self-liberation, because Feuerbach is at once
theologian, speculative philosopher, and critic,
in his own development. What is overcome is
thus preserved in its ‘rational form’. The
intriguing suggestion is that what Feuerbach
!§ as a philosopher is largely constituted by
what he conceives philosophy to be. He produces himself, so to speak, out of his own
conception. He is his own self-conscious
object, generating his critique as a series of
negations of what he finds in himself. (p351)
This is the view of Feuerbach which, in his Preface,
Wartofsky extends and transposes into a methodological self-consciousness of his own project as a
critical exponent of Feuerbach and impliCitly of
much more than Feuerbach, as of course he tells
us himself, ‘of a thesis about the nature of the
history of philosophy and of the relation of this
history to contemporary philosophic. problems and
their resolution’. But I chose it partly for economy
of illustration, since it also and more directly
states what are the achievements and the limitations
of the book.

What Wartofsky achieves is what he sets out to
achieve, the discovery of Feuerbach ‘in the detail
and struggle of his emerging thought’. The whole of
Feuerbach’s opus is surveyed, but there is an
emphasis on the first great transition within it,
from Hegelianism to a materialist humanism, on
which Feuerbach’s fame rightly rests. The second
shift, or rather collateral development in
Feuerbach’s interests, towards a general epistemology and ontology with which to frame his anthropology, is comprehensively treated in the two
closing chapters; but the difficulties Feuerbach
encountered in this, the less masterly phase of his
thought, are bound to be reflected in the commentary, absorbing though it remains, if only for the
‘if onlys’ of hindsight which touch us at every turn.

The account of how Feuerbach developed away from
Hegelianism through Hegelianism, and particularly
in the course of his own work in the history of
philosophy, is, so far as I know, something which
has never been available in English before.

It is strange, however, that of all Feuerbach’s
early works Wartofsky should pass over the 1830

Thoughts On Death and Immortality whose atheistic
arguments, albeit in impeccably Hegelian form,
ensured that Feuerbach’s access to a university
career was closed for good. Both the content and
the result of this work were surely of considerable
importance in the development of Feuerbach, the
33

anti-professional, anti-establishment, antitheological thinker. But Wartofsky gives the work
no more than a few comments on the de-Hegelianisation of its style in a later edition. The impression
I gained was that it is the dialectic of Feuerbach’s
thought, not that of his life, to which Wartofsky
restricts himself, if necessary at the price of a
little judicious schematisation here and there.

To be more honest, this is no mere impression but
something admitted by Wartofsky himself in the
Prefatory Reflections; it is, he tells us, beyond his
present grasp to achieve a full historical study of
Feuerbach’s thought in its concrete historical
matrix. Failing that, he disdains offering us some
vulgar sociology or vulgar Marxism, i. e. a
mechanistic and flat-footed economic determinism,
in its place. All well and good; let us not run after
ersatz history if we cannot have the real thing. But
there is a tension between Wartofsky’s apology for
himself in this respect and the following:

If I am critical of Feuerbach, then, it is at those
points where he himself fails to break with the
very philosophical inversion he attacked in
Hegel and in speculative philosophy generally
– the failure to see the abstractly human or
abstractly material as themselves derived, by
the philosophical consciousness (in this case
Feuerbach’s own), from the more concrete
circumstances of historical human activity, in
concrete social, political, and economic
contexts. (p25 )
The question posed by Wartofsky’s book, then, and
by its achievements above all, is quite simply how
‘relatively autonomous’ is the philosophical dialectic, in this case, the dialectic not of Feuerbach but
of Feuerbach’s thought as reconstructed for us by
Wartofsky? And what is the role of an apologetic
acknowledgement that the dialectic of thought is
only relatively autonomous in a definitive work of
scholarship which in its practice renders that
dialectic up to us as wholly autOnomous? I have no
general formula to appease such Furies. And in
this particular case I simply have not read
Feuerbach’s correspondence, for instance, which
is rarely mentioned by Wartofsky. And no-one
seems to have read his extensive notes on the
natural sciences in the archive at Munich Univers1·ty.,*
True, if the relative autonomy approach can ever be
convincing, it should be in the case of Feuerbach,
the amateur recluse exception to Hegel’s observation that philosophy had entered a new phase once
its practitioners had become state employees.

Though the work of his contemporaries is not
exactly absent from Feuerbach’s writings, it seems
to occur largely as that upon which he practises his
understanding occasionally, never as that from
which he learns – with the possible exception of
Moleschott. Nor is there much conscious acknowledge.ment of debts to any other aspects of contemporary society – his distaste for radical politics, for
.n’his is a serious gap in our understanding of a thinker who, though himself
no SCientist, had a good enough ‘nose’ for what was in the air to be able,
in 1876 in scientifically ‘backward’ Germany, to publish such a sentence as
this:

But if the end of a species of life coincides with the end of its conditions,
so too does the beginning, the origin of a species of life coincide with the
beginning of its conditions. (from The Essence of Religion)
The rest of the passage shows that Feuerbach waS by no means able to anticipate Darwin and Wallace from his village study. But the insight shown is
vastly impressive, when one reflects that, apart from an unknown American
treatise on naval timber, there was nothing better in print in English at this
date than Chambers’ natural-theological Vestiges of Creation.

34

example, is fa.mous.

It is, I hope, unnecessary to point out to readers of

Radical Philosophy how substantive such aspects of
the authoritarian ‘style’ of thought have been, and
remain for us today. But in Feuerbach’s case the
problems raised for any interpretation are acute.

The radical thinker who has depressed many a
sympathetic reader with the speculative dogmatism
of his pronouncements was also possessed of profound scepticism as to the efficacy of all verbal
com.munication or formulation of thought, in a
striking antiCipation of Nietzsche. The theoretician
who seems to have been trapped, in the end, within
the circumference of ‘the circle in which consciousness eternally takes itself for its own object’

(pp352-53), within the limit of pure reason at which
Wittgenstein points the Tractatus, was also a person
who expressly and repeatedly repudiated selfsufficing speculation (e. g. the preface to the second
edition of the Essence of Christianity) – just as do
so many radical philosophers today.

Wartofsky comments sympathetically on Feuerbachs
view of the Refor.mation:

The genesis of a ‘new principle’ requires conviction’ the motive force of belief in ‘divine necessity’, the instrumentality for ‘dominating the
passions’, without which the prinCiple remains
abstract, contemplative, and, in this sense,
unactualised. Here, in an early form, are
Feuerbach’s intimations of the diesseitigkeit,
of the subjective practical activity ~hatmakes
the history of philosophy more than a history of
ideas. Rather, it is also a history of beliefs and
ultimately, therefore, a history of action, of
‘concrete activity’. It is in Luther that Feuerbach
finds the concretisation of belief intO action.

(p59)
Does the key to Feuerbach’s li.mitations perhaps lie
in whatever aspects of his life were responsible for
his being unable to generate the irresistible energy
for his ideas whiCh might have made them more
than ideas?

For instance, was Feuerbach unable to break from
self-sufficient speculation, despite his sincere
resolve to do so, because he never passed beyond
an individualist, middle class self-sufficiency in
his working life? Was he unable ever to articulate
his tantalising anticipations of some notion of
prfUds, because he had no living commitment to
any praxiS larger than himself? Was he unable to
realise his life-long concept of the social being of
humanity, because his own reality was withdrawn
into an isolated and abstract contemplation of his
fellow-humans? In short, were the li.mitations of
his life the source, or the result, of the limitations
in his thought?

By telling us, with such thoroughness, clarity and
comprehension, si.mply what it was to be Feuerbach
‘in the detail and struggle of his emerging thought’,
Wartofsky has created the space for an urgent dissatisfaction as to how this Feuerbach came about,
that is, as to how· he is to be explained historically .

J3y doing so much to enable us to understand
Feuerbach, or rather Feuerbach’s works, philosophically, Wartofsky also does us the service of
exposing the question he never undertakes to
answer.

Rip Bulkeley

PHYSICAL ISM
Kathleen Wilkes, Physicalism, Routledge and Kegan
Paul, 1978, £4.75 hardback
A number of philosophers in recent years, such as
the Australians J. C. C . Smart and D. M. Armstrong,
have espoused the theory known as scientific materialis.m or physicalism. In the form adopted by
Smart and Ar.mstrong, this theory has two aspects:

firstly, the claim that mental events or processes
are identical with processes in the brain; and
secondly the clai.m that human behaviour could in
principle be co.mpletely explain~d in physicoche.mical terms; and that in so far as they are
legitimate, all explanations of behaviour must
ulti.mately be reducible to physics and chemistry.

Kathleen Wilkes’ book is a useful contribution to the
debate that has surrounded this theory. She points
out, to start with, the difficulty in clearly de.marcating the ‘.mental’ from, the ‘physical ‘; that the
concept of ‘body’ which underlies many discussions
of the mind-body problem is historically co.mparatively recent; and that criteria such as i.mmediacy
or incorrigibility, or intensionality, which attempt
to distinguish between mental and physical, are
very proble.matic. We should not assume that it is
clear from the outset just.what the relata in the
mind-body proble.m are.

She suggests that questions about the relation
between the .mental and the physical fall into two
types. There are questions which are basically
ontological, and which are concerned to ask how
many- types of entity there are in the world, or what
a .mental state of process really is. Then there are
questions which concern explanation, and ask
whether the vocabulary and theories of physical
science are adequate to describe and explain the
purposive behaviour of animals or humans. She
points out that the debate over the truth of monis.m
is of little interest for science; whereas the debate
concerning explanation is centrally about science.

Since it seems to me that some defenders of
physicalis.m have constantly tended to confuse or
conflate these questions, it is useful to have the
difference between them pointed out. Both S.mart
and Armstrong, for example, see.m to believe that
neurophysiological evidence could help to establish
the truth of their for.m of monis.m. Kathleen Wilkes
points out that in fact there is no ‘evidence’ for the
identification of a sensation with a brain process
that is not at the same time ‘evidence’ for their
parallelism.

More i.mportantly, perhaps, she argues that a
particular sort of interpretation of physicalism is
misguided and untenable. The enterprise of physicalism is sometimes understood as being that of
trying to show that everyday or co.mmonsense
explanations of behaviour could (in principle) be
correlated with and explained in terms of cerebral
states and processes within neurophysiological
theory. This she believes to be i.mpossible, since
everyday explanations, while rich, varied and useful, are also imprecise; group pheno.mena in ways
that humanly interest us rather than in ways that
lend themselves to scientific rigour; are concerned
with specific human actions rather than ~ of
action and the general features which might underlie
these; and lack any theoretical underpinning which

could support an investigation of such general
features. The enterprise of physicalism is, rather,
dependent on the evolution of a scientific psychology, which will not aim to explain individual actions identifiable at the level of common sense, but
will look at ‘the .most general, common, indispensable and pervasive abilities of people – abilities
that are required ‘for each and every complex
action, no matter what other incidental features
may be involved’ (P41).

Psychology will thus have little to say about the
actions which arouse our curiosity in everyday life.

And physicalism is rendered i.mmune fro.m attacks
on it which clai.m that translations or reductions of
ordi~ry language into neurophysiology are impossible. By the same token, the labour expended by
some philosophers in trying to show that such
reductions are possible is otiose. The relation of
this scientific psychology to neurophysiology will
not be one in which psychology can in any si.mple
sense be ‘reduced’ to neurophysiology. The two will
rather for.m an interlocking ‘psychophysiology’, in
which the items picked out by psychological terms
will be at the .molar level in relation to the theory
as a whole.

This raises the question, however, of what the
relation of this psychophysiology will be to everyday
explanations of behaviour. Wilkes argues that
‘psychology bears the same relation to ordinary
language as does physics ‘; and that this relation is
no more puzzling than the relation between ordinary
language talk of chairs and tables, and the physicists talk of molecules, protons and I].eutrons.

However, she also adds that we do have a stock of
everyday generalisations about behaviour which
are important, well-grounded and interesting, and
that psychology should be continuous with these,
and add deeper insights to them. She contrasts
this with biochemistry, where there is, she says,
no ‘bioche.mical common sense with which the biochemist has to contend’. But this contrast seems to
me rather misleading. There is a fund of common
sense generalisation about the physical world as a
whole. Given that human beings live and act in it,
there has to be. And it is not at all clear that the
relation between this body of common sense and
physical science is necessarily the same as the
relation between common sense explanations of
behaviour and ‘psychophysiology’. If a physical
scientist does not .mention tables and chairs in his
theory, and could not do so, that is no reason for
suggesting that the theory has ceased to be about
the physical world. Human beings, however, are
different from tables and chairs in that they have a
conception of themselves, and in that their actions
have social meaning. It is unclear in what sense a
theory in which these conceptions and meanings
disppear, and which uses concepts or theoretical
entities which are completely remote fro.m everyday
explanation, can be said to ‘explain’ behaviour.

Psychophysiology will (perhaps) explain the general
capacities which underlie human activity (such as
perceptual or memory capacities), presumably by
showing their necessary or sufficient conditions in
cerebral activity, and by relating them to physiological theory. But this is of course a far cry, not
merely fro.m explaining any specific human action,
but from saying anything interesting at all about
35

such things as human motivation, human development and selfhood, and so on.

There is still, I think, an i.mplicit tendency in
Kathleen Wilkes’ book to regard everyday explanations of behaviour as interesting, perhaps, and
practically essential in the conduct of life, but
otherwise as rather inferior and unsatisfactory if
co.mpared with anything that can be grounded in
physical science. This is linked with an uncritical
attitude towards the concept of ‘explanation’.

Wilkes see.ms just to assume (along with Smart,
Armstrong and many others) that the concept of
‘explanation’ has the same meaning when applied
to the physical world as it does when applied to
human behaviour. I think that this assumption needs

NBWS

French Philosophers Fight Cuts

by Christian Descamps

On 16 and 17 June, a large, attentive and committed
– audience gathered at the Sorbonne in Paris to participate in a ‘Philosophical Estates General’. Beneath
the frescoes of Puvis de Chavannes, Jacques
Derrida described how philosophy is being strangled
in France, and Vladi.mir Jankelevitch spoke of the
‘final solution’. Jeannette Colombel referred to the
philosopher-peasants of Larzac, and Christine
Buci-Glucksmann emphasised the contribution of
women to philosophy. •• But what was this
‘Estates General’ for?

The purpose was to protest against the infamous
‘Reforme Haby’, which considerably reduces both
timetable hours and the number of teaching posts
in philosophy in secondary schools. Paradoxically,
this blow coincides with a wave of popularity for
philosophy amongst the general public. Obviously
one should not lump together everything that’s
published under the prestigious title of ‘philosophy’

• •• But the attack on this subtly subversive
diSCipline is far from being innocent. Liberalis m
is fine, but only up to a point. Regis Debray pointed
out that ‘the relation between the reduction of teaching posts and the proliferation of jobs in televiSion,
.may not be a .matter of cause and effect, but it is
not a coincidence either. •• In reality the sa.me
strategy underlies the.m both.’.

The discussions were remarkable: they affirmed
that without philosophy there would never have been
the miracle of ancient Greece, or democracy, or a
Renaissance or a French Revolution. What is really
under attack in the assault on this diSCipline is free
thought itself.

Of course there were a number of incidents, and a
little scuffling when the impresario of the Nouveaux
Philosophes, Bernard-Henry Levy, got up to speak.

But these very divisions only show that philosophy
is alive and well. If it were dead – as the powers
that be would like – it would of course be accorded
all the funereal respect of those who so like dead
thinkers. (Consider the fabulous turnabouts of the
soviet officials who nowadays always have the name
of MayakowSki on their lips!)
In fact – aside from the folklore that is always
associated with the work of large Ire etings (and
which made the Sorbonne re.miniscent of the Odeon
36

questioning. Com.mon sense explanations of human
behaviour or development or motivation.are. often
inadequate; but the route to a more adequate understanding of these things does not lie through neurophysiology. The psychophysiology envisaged by
Wilkes would not be continuous with common sense;
it would be raiSing different questions which,
thOugh legitimate, would not contribute towards an
understanding of most of the questions about human
behaviour that we want to ask. And these questions
are not ‘.merely practical’, in a deflationary sort of
sense; they are concerned with our whole understanding of what it is to be human, and should not
be displaced by any form of scientis.m, however
.muted.

Jean Grimshaw
in 1968) – these discussions really did produce a
lot of new ideas. Various working groups looked at
the relations between philosophy and the press,
television and publishing. And, beneath all the
rhetoric, the discipline of philosophy e.merged as
vigorous, critical and incisive; and the numerous
secondary school philosophy teachers testified to a
genuine desire for philosophy.

The one regrettable thing was the absence of
students. For whilst it was emphasised that the
desire for philosophy is independent of the imperatives of the Baccalaureat, it would have been nice
to see .more lycee students there – and especially
to ask the.m what they think of the idea of starting
philosophy in the first years of secondary school.

Convulsive, subversive and youthful, the ancient
logos appealed to non-philosophers too – to all
those who refuse to accept the suppression of
thought. Roland Brunet, one of the organisers of
these sessions, is already planning a second
‘Philosophical Estates General’. This will be in a
few months’ time, and will take place somewhere
in the provinces.

(Translated by Jonathan Ree from La Quinzaine
Litteraire 305, July 1979)

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RP22 – SUMMER 1979
Editorial: The Politics of Clarity
John Krige: Revolution and Discontinuity
Les Levidow: Ideology and the IQ Debate
avid Murray: Ollman on Marx on Utopia
Rip Bulkeley: A Reply to Norman’s ‘Discussion’

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