Ludwig Andreas Feuerbach

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What man calls Absolute Being, his God, is his own being. The power of the object over him is therefore the power of his own being. Thus, the power of the object of feeling is the power of feeling itself; the power of the object of reason is the power of reason itself; and the power of the object of will is the power of will itself.
The first philosophers were astronomers. The heavens remind man … that he is destined not merely to act, but also to contemplate.

Ludwig Andreas Feuerbach (July 28, 1804September 13, 1872) was a German philosopher and anthropologist best known for his book The Essence of Christianity, which provided a critique of Christianity that strongly influenced generations of later thinkers, including Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, Richard Wagner and Friedrich Nietzsche.


  • "Can any good come out of Nazareth?" This is always the question of the wiseacres and the knowing ones. But the good, the new, comes from exactly that quarter whence it is not looked for, and is always something different from what is expected. Everything new is received with contempt, for it begins in obscurity. It becomes a power unobserved.
    • As quoted in "Voices of the New Time" as translated by C. C. Shackford in The Radical Vol. 7 (1870), p. 329

Towards a Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy (1839)

  • Hegel determines and presents only the most striking differences of various religions, philosophies, time and peoples, and in a progressive series of stages, but he ignores all that is common and identical in all of them. … His system knows only subordination and succession; coordination and coexistence are unknown to it.
    • Z. Hanfi, trans., in The Fiery Brook (1972), p. 54
  • Demonstrating is therefore only the means through which I strip my thought of the form of “mine-ness” so that the other person may recognize it as his own.
    • Z. Hanfi, trans., in The Fiery Brook (1972), p. 66
  • Every presentation of philosophy, whether oral or written, is to be taken and can only be taken in the sense of a means. Every system is only an expression or image of reason, and hence only an object of reason, an object which reason—a living power that procreates itself in new thinking beings—distinguishes from itself and posits as an object of criticism. Every system that is not recognized and appropriated as just a means, limits and warps the mind for it sets up the indirect and formal thought in the place of the direct, original and material thought.
    • Z. Hanfi, trans., in The Fiery Brook (1972), p. 67
  • All presentation, all demonstration—and the presentation of thought is demonstration—has, according to its original determination—and this is all that matters to us—the cognitive activity of the other person as its ultimate aim.
    • Z. Hanfi, trans., in The Fiery Brook (1972), p. 67
  • The history of philosophical system is the picture gallery of reason.
    • Z. Hanfi, trans., in The Fiery Brook (1972), p. 68
  • Hegel … proceeds abstractly from the pre-existence of the intellect. … He does not appeal to the intellect within us.
    • Z. Hanfi, trans., in The Fiery Brook (1972), p. 68
  • To prove cannot mean anything other than to bring the other person to my own conviction. The truth lies only in the unification of “I” and “You.” The Other of pure thought, however, is the sensuous intellect in general. In the field of philosophy, proof therefore consists only in the fact that the contradiction between sensuous intellect and pure thought is disposed, so that thought is true not only for itself but also for its opposite.
    • Z. Hanfi, trans., in The Fiery Brook (1972), p. 75

Online text

  • If therefore my work is negative, irreligious, atheistic, let it be remembered that atheism — at least in the sense of this work — is the secret of religion itself; that religion itself, not indeed on the surface, but fundamentally, not in intention or according to its own supposition, but in its heart, in its essence, believes in nothing else than the truth and divinity of human nature.
    • Preface
  • I have always taken as the standard of the mode of teaching and writing, not the abstract, particular, professional philosopher, but universal man, that I have regarded man as the criterion of truth, and not this or that founder of a system, and have from the first placed the highest excellence of the philosopher in this, that he abstains, both as a man and as an author, from the ostentation of philosophy, i.e., that he is a philosopher only in reality, not formally, that he is a quiet philosopher, not a loud and still less a brawling one.
    • Preface to Second Edition (1843)
  • Aber freilich für diese Zeit, welche das Bild der Sache, die Kopie dem Original, die Vorstellung der Wirklichkeit, den Schein dem Wesen vorzieht … denn heilig ist ihr nur die Illusion, profan aber die Wahrheit.
    • The present age... prefers the sign to the thing signified, the copy to the original, fancy to reality, the appearance to the essence... for in these days illusion only is sacred, truth profane.
    • Preface to Second Edition (1843)
  • Religion is the dream of the human mind. But even in dreams we do not find ourselves in emptiness or in heaven, but on earth, in the realm of reality; we only see real things in the entrancing splendor of imagination and caprice, instead of in the simple daylight of reality and necessity.
    • Preface to Second Edition (1843)
  • I would rather be a devil in alliance with truth, than an angel in alliance with falsehood.
  • The power of thought is the light of knowledge, the power of will is the energy of character, the power of heart is love. Reason, love and power of will are perfections of man.
    • Introduction, Z. Hanfi, trans., in The Fiery Brook (1972), p. 99
  • The first philosophers were astronomers. The heavens remind man … that he is destined not merely to act, but also to contemplate.
    • Introduction, Z. Hanfi, trans., in The Fiery Brook (1972), pp. 101-102
  • What man calls Absolute Being, his God, is his own being. The power of the object over him is therefore the power of his own being. Thus, the power of the object of feeling is the power of feeling itself; the power of the object of reason is the power of reason itself; and the power of the object of will is the power of will itself.
    • Introduction, Z. Hanfi, trans., in The Fiery Brook (1972), p. 102
  • To be sure, the human individual can, even must, feel and know himself to be limited—and this is what distinguishes him from the animal—but he can become conscious of his limits, his finite-ness, only because he can make the perfection and infinity of his species the object either of his feeling, conscience, or thought. But if his limitations appear to him as emanating from the species, this can only be due to his delusion that he is identical with the species, a delusion intimately linked with the individual’s love of ease, lethargy, vanity, and selfishness; for a limit which I know to be mine alone, humiliates, shames, and disquiets me. Hence, in order to free myself of this feeling of shame, this uneasiness, I make the limits of my individuality the limits of man’s being itself. What is incomprehensible to me is incomprehensible to others; why should this worry me at all? It is not due to any fault of mine or of my understanding: the cause lies in the understanding of the species itself. But it is a folly, a ludicrous and frivolous folly to designate that which constitutes the nature of man and the absolute nature of the individual, the essence of the species, as finite and limited.
    • Introduction, Z. Hanfi, trans., in The Fiery Brook (1972), pp. 103-104
  • To enrich God, man must become poor; that God may be all, man must be nothing.
  • ...for stones, plants, and animals there is no God, but only for man.
  • Speculative philosophy as the realisation of God is the positing of God, and at the same time his cancellation or negation; theism and at the same time atheism: for God – in the sense of theology – is God only as long as he is taken to be a being distinguished from and independent of the being of man as well as of nature. The theism that as the positing of God is simultaneously his negation or, conversely, as the negation of God equally his affirmation, is pantheism. Theological theism – that is, theism properly speaking – is nothing other than imaginary pantheism which itself is nothing other than real and true theism.
    • Part I, Section 14
  • Pantheism makes God into a present, real, and material being; empiricism – to which rationalism also belongs – makes God into an absent, remote, unreal, and negative being. Empiricism does not deny God existence, but denies him all positive determinations, because their content is supposed to be only finite and empirical; the infinite cannot, therefore, be an object for man. But the more determinations I deny to a being, the more do I cut it of[ from myself, and the less power and influence do I concede to it over me, the freer do I make myself of it. The more qualities I possess, the more I am for others, and the greater is the extent of my influence and effects. And the more one is, the more one is known to others. Hence, each negation of an attribute of God is a partial atheism, a sphere of godlessness.
    • Part I, Section 16
  • The secret of Hegel's dialectic lies ultimately in this alone, that it negates theology through philosophy in order then to negate philosophy through theology. Both the beginning and the end are constituted by theology; philosophy stands in the middle as the negation of the first positedness, but the negation of the negation is again theology. At first everything is overthrown, but then everything is reinstated in its old place, as in Descartes. The Hegelian philosophy is the last grand attempt to restore a lost and defunct Christianity through philosophy, and, of course, as is characteristic of the modern era, by identifying the negation of Christianity with Christianity itself.
    • Part II, Section 21
  • Just as when a man commits suicide ne negates the body, this rational limit of subjectivity, so when he lapses into fantastic and trascendental practice he associates himself with embodied divine and ghostly appearances, namely, he negates in practise the difference between imagination and perception.
    • Part III, Section 29
  • The recognition of the light of reality within the darkness of abstraction is a contradiction – both the affirmation and the negation of the real at one and the same time. The new philosophy, which thinks the concrete not in an abstract but a concrete way, which acknowledges the real in its reality – that is, in a way corresponding to the being of the real as true, which elevates it into the principle and object of philosophy – is consequently the truth of the Hegelian philosophy, indeed of modern philosophy as a whole.
    • Part III, Section 31
  • We have busied ourselves and contented ourselves long enough with speaking and writing; now at last we demand that the word become flesh, the spirit matter; we are as sick of political as we are of philosophical idealism; we are determined to become political materialists.
    • Lecture I, Occasion and Context
  • A subject interests me and holds my attention only so long as it presents me with difficulties, only so long as I am at odds with it and have, as it were, to struggle with it; but once I have mastered it I hurry on to something else, to a new subject; for my interest is not confined to any particular field or subject; it extends to everything human. This does not mean that I am an intellectual miser or egoist, who amasses knowledge for himself alone; by no means! What I do and think for myself, I must also think and do for others. But I feel the need of instructing others in a subject only so long as, while instructing others, I am also instructing myself.
    • Lecture I, , R. Manheim, trans. (1967), p. 2
  • To theology, … only what it holds sacred is true, whereas to philosophy, only what holds true is sacred.
    • Lecture II, R. Manheim, trans. (1967), p. 11
  • Religion is indeed essential to or innate in man, but … this is not the religion of theology or theism, not an actual belief in God, but solely the religion that expresses nothing other than man’s feeling of finiteness and dependency on nature. … I distinguish religion from theism, the belief in a being distinct from nature and man. … Today theism, theology, the belief in God have become so identified with religion that to have no God, to theological being, is considered synonymous with having no religion. But here we deal with the original elements of religion. It is theism, theology, that has wrenched man out of his relationship with the world, isolated him, made him into an arrogant self-centered being who exalts himself above nature. And it is only on this level that religion becomes identified with theology, with the belief in a being outside and above nature as the true God. Originally religion expressed nothing other than man’s feeling that he is an inseparable part of nature or the world.
    • Lecture V, R. Manheim, trans. (1967), pp. 34-35
  • Though I myself am an atheist, I openly profess religion in the sense just mentioned, that is, a nature religion. I hate the idealism that wrenches man out of nature; I am not ashamed of my dependency on nature; I openly confess that the workings of nature affect not only my surface, my skin, my body, but also my core, my innermost being, that the air I breathe in bright weather has a salutary effect not only on my lungs but also on my mind, that the light of the sun illumines not only my eyes but also my spirit and my heart. And I do not, like a Christian, believe that such dependency is contrary to my true being or hope to be delivered from it. I know further that I am a finite moral being, that I shall one day cease to be. But I find this very natural and am therefore perfectly reconciled to the thought.
    • Lecture V, R. Manheim, trans. (1967), pp. 35-36
  • God did not, as the Bible says, make man in His image; on the contrary man, as I have shown in The Essence of Christianity, made God in his image.
    • Lecture XX, see Lectures on the Essence of Religion. Transl. Ralph Manheim. New York: Harper & Row. 1967. p. 187.  German: Vorlesungen über das Wesen der Religion. Leipzig: Wigand. 1851. p. 241. 
  • God, I have said, is the fulfiller, or the reality, of the human desires for happiness, perfection, and immortality. From this it may be inferred that to deprive man of God is to tear the heart out of his breast. But I contest the premises from which religion and theology deduce the necessity and existence of God, or of immortality, which is the same thing. I maintain that desires which are fulfilled only in the imagination, or from which the existence of an imaginary being is deduced, are imaginary desires, and not the real desires of the human heart; I maintain that the limitations which the religious imagination annuls in the idea of God or immortality, are necessary determinations of the human essence, which cannot be dissociated from it, and therefore no limitations at all, except precisely in man’s imagination.
    • Lecture XXX, Atheism alone a Positive View
  • Man has many wishes that he does not really wish to fulfil, and it would be a misunderstanding to suppose the contrary. He wants them to remain wishes, they have value only in his imagination; their fulfilment would be a bitter disappointment to him. Such a desire is the desire for eternal life. If it were fulfilled, man would become thoroughly sick of living eternally, and yearn for death. In reality man wishes merely to avoid a premature, violent or gruesome death. Everything has its measure, says a pagan philosopher; in the end we weary of everything, even of life; a time comes when man desires death. Consequently there is nothing frightening about a normal, natural death, the death of a man who has fulfilled himself and lived out his life.
    • Lecture XXX, Atheism alone a Positive View
  • But like the desire for eternal life, the desire for omniscience and absolute perfection is merely an imaginary desire; and, as history and daily experience prove, the supposed human striving for unlimited knowledge and perfection is a myth. Man has no desire to know everything; he only wants to know the things to which he is particularly drawn.
    • Lecture XXX, Atheism alone a Positive View
  • Christianity set itself the goal of fulfilling man’s unattainable desires, but for that very reason ignored his attainable desires. By promising man eternal life, it deprived him of temporal life, by teaching him to trust in God’s help it took away his trust in his own powers; by giving him faith in a better life in heaven, it destroyed his faith in a better life on earth and his striving to attain such a life. Christianity gave man what his imagination desires, but for that very reason failed to give him what he really and truly desires.
    • Lecture XXX, Atheism alone a Positive View

Quotes About Feuerbach

  • On the whole, Borne, Heine, Feuerbach, and such authors are the individualities who have great interest for someone who is composing an imaginary construction. They frequently are well informed about the religious—that is, they know definitely that they do not want to have anything to do with it. This is a great advantage over the systematicians, who without knowing where the religious really is located take it upon themselves to explain it—sometimes obsequiously, sometimes superciliously, but always unsuccessfully.
  • Feuerbach is saying: No, wait a minute — if you are going to be allowed to go on living as you are living, then you also have to admit that you are not Christians. Feuerbach has understood the requirements but cannot force himself to submit to them — ergo, he prefers to renounce being a Christian. And now, no matter how great a responsibility he must bear, he takes a position that is not unsound, that is, it is wrong of established Christendom to say that Feuerbach is attacking Christianity; it is not true, he is attacking the Christians by demonstrating that their lives do not correspond to the teachings of Christianity.
    • Soren Kierkegaard, Journals X2A 163
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