Andreas Feuerbach a German philosopher, the fourth son of the eminent
jurist Paul Johann Anselm Ritter von Feuerbach.
was born in Landshut, Bavaria and died in Rechenberg (since 1899
a district of Nuremberg). Nietzsche is quoted to have said that
Feuerbach means 'Fiery Brook'.
matriculated at the University of Heidelberg with the intention
of pursuing an ecclesiastical career. Through the influence of
Prof. Karl Daub he was led to an interest in the then predominant
philosophy of Hegel and, in spite of his father's opposition,
went to Berlin to study under the master himself. After two years'
discipleship, the Hegelian influence began to slacken. Feuerbach
became associated with a group known as the Young Hegelians, who
synthesized a radical offshoot of Hegelian philosophy. "Theology,"
he wrote to a friend, "I can bring myself to study no more.
I long to take nature to my heart, that nature before whose depth
the faint-hearted theologian shrinks back; and with nature man,
man in his entire quality." These words are a key to Feuerbach's
completed his education at Erlangen at the Friedrich-Alexander-University,
Erlangen-Nuremberg with the study of natural science. His first
book, published anonymously, Gedanken über Tod und Unsterblichkeit
(1830), contains an attack on personal immortality and an advocacy
of the Spinozistic immortality of reabsorption in nature. These
principles, combined with his embarrassed manner of public speaking,
debarred him from academic advancement. After some years of struggling,
during which he published his Geschichte der neueren Philosophie
(2 vols., 1833-1837, 2nd ed. 1844), and Abelard und Heloise (1834,
3rd ed. 1877), he married in 1837 and lived a rural existence
at Bruckberg near Nuremberg, supported by his wife's share in
a small porcelain factory.
two works of this period, Pierre Bayle (1838) and Philosophie
und Christentum (1839), which deal largely with theology, he held
that he had proven "that Christianity has in fact long vanished
not only from the reason but from the life of mankind, that it
is nothing more than a fixed idea" in flagrant contradiction
to the distinctive features of contemporary civilization. This
attack is followed up in his most important work, Das Wesen des
Christentums (1841), which was translated into English (The Essence
of Christianity, by George Eliot, 1853, 2nd ed. 1881), French
and Russian. Its aim may be described shortly as an effort to
humanize theology. He lays it down that man, so far as he is rational,
is to himself his own object of thought. Religion is consciousness
of the infinite.
therefore is "nothing else than the consciousness of the
infinity of the consciousness; or, in the consciousness of the
infinite, the conscious subject has for his object the infinity
of his own nature." Thus God is nothing else than man: he
is, so to speak, the outward projection of man's inward nature.
theme was a misunderstanding of Hegel's speculative theology in
which the Creation remains a part of the Creator, while the Creator
remains greater than the Creation. When the student Feuerbach
presented his own theory to professor Hegel, Hegel refused to
reply positively to it.
part oneof his book Feuerbach develops what he calls the "true
or anthropological essence of religion." Treating of God
in his various aspects "as a being of the understanding,"
"as a moral being or law," "as love" and so
on, Feuerbach shows that in every aspect God corresponds to some
feature or need of human nature. "If man is to find contentment
in God," he claims, "he must find himself in God."
part twohe discusses the "false or theological essence of
religion," i.e. the view which regards God as having a separate
existence over against man. Hence arise various mistaken beliefs,
such as the belief in revelation which he believes not only injures
the moral sense, but also "poisons, nay destroys, the divinest
feeling in man, the sense of truth," and the belief in sacraments
such as the Lord's Supper, which is to him a piece of religious
materialism of which "the necessary consequences are superstition
spite of many admirable qualities both of style and matter the
Essence of Christianity has never made much impression upon thought
outside Germany. To treat the actual forms of religion as expressions
of our various human needs is a fruitful idea which deserves fuller
development than it has yet received, but Feuerbach's treatment
of it is fatally vitiated by his subjectivism. Feuerbach denied
that he was rightly called an atheist, but the denial is merely
verbal: what he calls "theism" is atheism in the ordinary
sense. Feuerbach labours under the same difficulty as Fichte;
both thinkers strive in vain to reconcile the religious consciousness
the troubles of 1848-1849 Feuerbach's attack upon orthodoxy made
him something of a hero with the revolutionary party; but he never
threw himself into the political movement, and indeed had not
the qualities of a popular leader. During the period of the Diet
of Frankfurt he had given public lectures on religion at Heidelberg.
When the diet closed he withdrew to Bruckberg and occupied himself
partly with scientific study, partly with the composition of his
1860 he was compelled by the failure of the porcelain factory
to leave Bruckberg, and he would have suffered the extremity of
want but for the assistance of friends supplemented by a public
subscription. His last book, Gottheit, Freiheit und Unsterblichkeit,
appeared in 1866 (2nd ed., 1890). After a long period of decline,
he died on September 13, 1872. He is buried in the same cemetery
in Nuremberg (Johannis-Friedhof) as artist Albrecht Dürer.
influence has been greatest upon the anti-Christian theologians
such as Strauss, the author of the Leben Jesu. But many of his
ideas were taken up by those who, like Arnold Ruge, had entered
into the struggle between church and state in Germany, and those
who, like Friedrich Engels and Karl Marx, were leaders in the
revolt of labour against the power of capital. His work was too
deliberately unsystematic ("keine Philosophie ist meine Philosophie",
"my philosophy is no philosophy") ever to make him a
power in philosophy.
expressed in an eager, disjointed, but condensed and laboured
fashion, certain deep-lying convictions -- that philosophy must
come back from unsubstantial metaphysics to the solid facts of
human nature and natural science, that the human body was no less
important than the human spirit ("Der Mensch ist was er isst",
"Man is what he eats") and that Christianity was utterly
out of harmony with the age. His convictions gained weight from
the simplicity, uprightness and diligence of his character; but
they need a more effective justifcation than he was able to give
some have said that Feuerbach influenced Bruno Bauer into following
Feuerbach from Hegelianism to a form of naturalism, this is disputed
by modern writers. Bruno Bauer did not cite Feuerbach as a source.
The anti-Hegelianism of Feuerbach was not echoed by Bruno Bauer,
either, since Bauer continued to pursue Hegelian themes of theology
along with demythologization, dialectic and historical analysis
in New Testament criticism.
notion that was common to Feuerbach and David Strauss, namely,
that all people are equal to God immediately, without any spiritual
development required, was rejected by Bruno Bauer as an anti-Hegelian
notion. For Bauer, only the careful development of a spiritual
Self-consciousness could elevate the average human being up to
Divine Unity. Arnold Ruge, for his part, severely criticized Bauer
for his fealty to theological themes. Later, Marx and Engels would
reject all the Young Hegelians, from Feuerbach to Bauer in their
famous work, The GErman Ideology and the shorter "Theses