The Great Philosophers: Karl Marx | Philosophers' Mail

The link between Popper’s theory of knowledge and his socialphilosophy is his fallibilism—just as we make theoreticalprogress in science by deliberately subjecting our theories tocritical scrutiny, and abandoning those which have been falsified, sotoo, Popper holds, the critical spirit can and should be sustained atthe social level. More specifically, the open society can be broughtabout only if it is possible for the individual citizen to evaluatecritically the consequences of the implementation of governmentpolicies, which can then be abandoned or modified in the light of suchcritical scrutiny—in such a society, the rights of theindividual to criticise administrative policies will be formallysafeguarded and upheld, undesirable policies will be eliminated in amanner analogous to the elimination of falsified scientific theories,and differences between people on social policy will be resolved bycritical discussion and argument rather than by force. The opensociety as thus conceived of by Popper may be defined as ‘anassociation of free individuals respecting each other’s rights withinthe framework of mutual protection supplied by the state, andachieving, through the making of responsible, rational decisions, agrowing measure of humane and enlightened life’ (Levinson, R.B.In Defense of Plato, 17). As such, Popper holds, it is not autopian ideal, but an empirically realised form of social organisationwhich, he argues, is in every respect superior to its (real orpotential) totalitarian rivals. But he does not engage in a moraldefence of the ideology of liberalism; rather his strategy is the muchdeeper one of showing that totalitarianism is typically based uponhistoricist and holist presuppositions, and of demonstrating thatthese presuppositions are fundamentally incoherent.

The Great Philosophers: Karl Marx

Karl Marx (1818–1883) is best known not as a philosopher but asa revolutionary, whose works inspired the foundation of many communistregimes in the twentieth century. It is hard to think of many who havehad as much influence in the creation of the modern world. Trained asa philosopher, Marx turned away from philosophy in his mid-twenties,towards economics and politics. However, in addition to his overtlyphilosophical early work, his later writings have many points ofcontact with contemporary philosophical debates, especially in thephilosophy of history and the social sciences, and in moral andpolitical philosophy. Historical materialism — Marx’s theory ofhistory — is centered around the idea that forms of society riseand fall as they further and then impede the development of humanproductive power. Marx sees the historical process as proceedingthrough a necessary series of modes of production, characterized byclass struggle, culminating in communism. Marx’s economic analysis ofcapitalism is based on his version of the labour theory of value, andincludes the analysis of capitalist profit as the extraction ofsurplus value from the exploited proletariat. The analysis of historyand economics come together in Marx’s prediction of the inevitableeconomic breakdown of capitalism, to be replaced by communism. HoweverMarx refused to speculate in detail about the nature of communism,arguing that it would arise through historical processes, and was notthe realisation of a pre-determined moral ideal.


Karl Marx > By Individual Philosopher > Philosophy

A collection of quotes attributed to German social philosopher Karl Marx.

The Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts cover a widerange of topics, including much interesting material on privateproperty and communism, and on money, as well as developing Marx’scritique of Hegel. However, the manuscripts are best known for theiraccount of alienated labour. Here Marx famously depicts the workerunder capitalism as suffering from four types of alienatedlabour. First, from the product, which as soon as it is created istaken away from its producer. Second, in productive activity (work)which is experienced as a torment. Third, from species-being, forhumans produce blindly and not in accordance with their truly humanpowers. Finally, from other human beings, where the relation ofexchange replaces the satisfaction of mutual need. That thesecategories overlap in some respects is not a surprise given Marx’sremarkable methodological ambition in these writings. Essentially heattempts to apply a Hegelian deduction of categories to economics,trying to demonstrate that all the categories of bourgeois economics— wages, rent, exchange, profit, etc. — are ultimatelyderived from an analysis of the concept of alienation. Consequentlyeach category of alienated labour is supposed to be deducible from theprevious one. However, Marx gets no further than deducing categoriesof alienated labour from each other. Quite possibly in the course ofwriting he came to understand that a different methodology is requiredfor approaching economic issues. Nevertheless we are left with a veryrich text on the nature of alienated labour. The idea ofnon-alienation has to be inferred from the negative, with theassistance of one short passage at the end of the text ‘On JamesMill’ in which non-alienated labour is briefly described interms which emphasise both the immediate producer’s enjoyment ofproduction as a confirmation of his or her powers, and also the ideathat production is to meet the needs of others, thus confirming forboth parties our human essence as mutual dependence. Both sides of ourspecies essence are revealed here: our individual human powers and ourmembership in the human community.


Most people agree that we need to improve our economic system somehow

Although he shared's belief in dialectical structure and historical inevitability, Marx held that the foundations of reality lay in the of economics rather than in the abstract thought of idealistic philosophy.