Marx’s “Theses on Feuerbach” #2
Continuing our series on Marx’s Theses on Feuerbach:
II. The question whether objective truth can be attributed to human thinking is not a question of theory but is a practical question. Man must prove the truth, i.e., the reality and power, the this-sidedness of his thinking, in practice. The dispute over the reality or non-reality of thinking which is isolated from practice is a purely scholastic question.
In his second thesis, Marx attacks the question of truth head-on. Drawing upon his previous critique–in which he posited reality as sensuous activity, i.e. practice— Marx continues to rely upon the dichotomy of practice and theory: praxis and theoria.
Challenging the traditional notion of “truth” as a modality of thought, reason, or theory, Marx offers the disconcerting possibility that truth may, in actuality, rest solely within the realm of practice, within the realm of sensuous being which has been opened prior to both Idealism and Materialism. As has already been noted (in Thesis I), reality cannot be conceived within “the form of the object, or of contemplation,” thus truth itself, as a constituent of reality, also cannot be understood solely in these terms. Instead, rejecting the “scholasticism” of pure contemplation, the truth value of propositions must be determined through their use, through their value to sensuous life.
In this way, Marx seems to be reenacting Kant’s movement from his first to his second Critique (that is, from the Critique of Pure Reason to the Critique of Practical Reason). Antimonies, indeterminable within pure contemplation, can be understood through the movements of practical reason; unprovable hypotheses can become the postulates by which action (particularly moral action) is grounded.
Once again, we see the movement by which Marx’s philosophical positions will later become inseparable from his ethico-political. Philosophy must be grounded in the practical, not simply for its own sake, but because this is the sole realm of truth.