Marx’s “Theses on Feuerbach” #8
“All social life is essentially practical. All mysteries which lead theory to mysticism find their rational solution in human practice and in the comprehension of this practice.”
Alas, after his foray into Feuerbach’s critique of religion, Marx has once again returned to (what may be) the principle question of his theses, practice. If we might return to the intuitions of the first couple theses, it should be recognized that “practice” designated more than mere activity, but instead an entire region being: the subjective, sensuous realm of human activity, the realm of truth. Returning to this realm, this region of Being, Marx’s eighth thesis identifies two important aspects of practice.
First, Marx resolves all social relations into practice. Were practice misunderstood as mere activity, such an assertion would be decidedly banal. Yet, recognizing Marx’s complex notion of practice, as nothing other than the subjective sensuality of human life, the placement of social relation within practice becomes a meaningful analysis. Understood in this way, social relations are abstracted from the theoretical, economical, and political realms which remain fundamentally secondary to living praxis. Instead of being mediated through these structures, sociality is recognized as a direct human connection, a piece of true human life and reality: prior to economics, prior to politics.
Second, Marx identifies this reality, practice, as the means by which the aporias of rational contemplation might be overcome. In his critique of “mysticism,” Marx does not intend a particular religious disposition, but instead employs this term in reference to the philosophical movement beyond human sensuality, the excess of intellectual contemplation. Instead of a radicalized intellectualism (e.g. Hegel, or even Feuerbach’s “contemplative materialism”), Marx proposes the sensuous activity of human life as the single adequate response to the “mysteries” of intellectualism. Instead of pursing the ultimate philosophical questions (freedom, ethics, etc.) into successively more remote abstractions, Marx simply proposes a reliance upon non-contemplative methodology; Marx proposes a solution in the “comprehension of this practice,” that is, in a phenomenology of practical life.