This Life: faith, work, and free time, part two

This Life: faith, work, and free time, part two

At the beginning of this year, I posted a response to Martin Hägglund’s This Life: Secular faith and spiritual freedom. In October I learned of a conference next May in Belgium at which Hägglund will be one of the keynote speakers. So I submitted an abstract to present a paper.

When it came time to start working on a draft for the conference, I remembered my blog post and it formed the core for the rest of the draft. In that earlier post, I wrote about Marx’s identification in the Grundrisse of the inversion between necessary labour time and superfluous labour time. During editing of a first draft of the conference presentation I took a break and went for a walk. There it struck me that the inversion of necessary and superfluous labour time was a parallel to the inversion of this life and the supernatural that Ludwig Feuerbach had criticized. The following is an excerpt from my draft:

This inversion between necessary and superfluous labour time exhibits an uncanny parallel to the inversion in religion between this life and the purported afterlife. The analysis of the latter was carried out by Ludwig Feuerbach between 1830 and 1843 and published in The Essence of Christianity, which had a profound impact on Marx’s and Engel’s thinking. Marx adopted the concept of species-being (Gattungswesen) from Feuerbach’s book.

As Feuerbach explained, “that which in religion is the predicate, we must make the subject, and that which in religion is a subject we must make a predicate, thus inverting the oracles of religion; and by this means we arrive at the truth.” He invoked religion’s inversion of truth again in the concluding chapter:

And we need only, as we have shown, invert the religious relations – regard that as an end which religion supposes to be a means – exalt that into the primary which in religion is subordinate, the accessory, the condition – at once we have destroyed the illusion, and the unclouded light of truth streams in upon us.

In Marx’s September 1843 letter to Arnold Ruge, he expressed his enthusiasm for Feuerbach’s critique of religion and envisioned applying the same method to a critique of politics:

Like Feuerbach’s critique of religion, our whole aim can only be to translate religious and political problems into their self-conscious human form.

Our programme must be: the reform of consciousness not through dogmas but by analyzing mystical consciousness obscure to itself, whether it appear in religious or political form. It will then become plain that the world has long since dreamed of something of which it needs only to become conscious for it to possess it in reality.

Feuerbach described the doctrine of immortality as “the final doctrine of religion; its testament, in which it declares its last wishes.” He dismissed the argument that the characteristics of a future life are inscrutable as an invention of religious skepticism and instead presented a concise definition of immortality as an ideal image of this life, rid of its contradictions: 

The future life is nothing else than life in unison with the feeling, with the idea, which the present life contradicts. The whole import of the future life is the abolition of this discordance, and the realization of a state which corresponds to the feelings, in which man is in unison with himself.