I. Introduction
In his “Principles of the Philosophy of the Future” Ludwig Feuerbach examines the philosophical tradition up to the point of his own writing and reflects primarily on how that tradition defined man. For the modern philosophers (of Feuerbach’s era) most importantly Descartes (he also specifically mentions Kant and Ficht) man was defined as a thinking being.
This definition arose from the tendency of, what Feuerbach refers to as, “speculative philosophy” to formulate expressions about humanity in direct relation to God, the idealization of reason. In the dynamic of man in relation to reason the activity of man must necessarily be thought and he must therefore be a thinking being.

Feuerbach seeks to revise our understanding of man from a thinking being to a feeling (specifically loving) one. The repositioning of man is the fulfillment of “the transformation and dissolution of theology into anthropology.” (Feuerbach, 1) in the modern era. Feuerbach considered the work of Hegel to be the culmination of the modern period and that Hegel’s pantheistic streak showed its idealism to be a sort of veiled materialism, and in a materialist context it becomes necessary that man must be a feeling thing rather than a thinking one. If there is no noumenal existence then it becomes impossible to define man’s essential activity as the noumenal act of reasoning, of thought.

II. The Philosophy of the Future

To examine the role of human beings Feuerbach first had to determine which part of existence, and therefore which part of human life, had the most reality. He introduces this focus thusly: “The new philosophy, which thinks the concrete not in an abstract but a concrete way, which acknowledges the real in its reality” (Feuerbach, 31) It is important for him to establish that the sensuous (or material) world holds a primacy in the life of man in order to make the argument that the sensuous activity of feeling is therefore similarly prime.

Feuerbach contends that ideas are obtained from unconscious sensuous truths. If we are able to conceive of a form, say a triangle, it is because we have an unconscious sensuous impression of it, most likely a visual image. The problem is that we only understand and become conscious of the sensuous reality once we have deduced the idea; we cannot identify a three sided object as a triangle until we have created the idea of triangle and applied meaning to it. As Feuerbach puts it: “The demand that the Idea realise itself, that it assume sensuousness arises from the fact that sensuous reality is unconsciously held to be the truth which is both prior to and independent of thought. Thought proves its truth by taking recourse to sensuousness; how could this be possible if sensuousness was not unconsciously held to be the truth?” (Feuerbach, 31)

Having established that the senses establish being, “as given to us not only as thinking, but also as really existing being – as the object of being, as its own object,” (Feuerbach, 33) Feuerbach can now move forward into how sensing (feeling) beings can assert and identify themselves as the populous in the realm of reality. Feuerbach identifies love as the means for distinguishing the real from the non-existent. The God of Christianity is humanity idealized and his most emphasized trait, anthropologically speaking, is his capacity for love. It is important to note that the object of the Christian God’s love is always a being, never an idea. Applying the properties of the idea back to the idealized object Feuerbach concludes: “The Christian God himself is only an abstraction from human love and an image of it. And since the demonstrative this owes its absolute value to love alone, it is only in love – not in abstract thought – that the secret of being is revealed. Love is passion, and passion alone is the distinctive mark of existence. Only that which is an object of passion, exists” (Feuerbach, 33).

So, when human beings examine the natural world and encounter objects which arouse strong feelings it is actually a reflection of their own being, most often with this reflection being labeled as God, or the divine. The association of God and fire is the example used by Feuerbach: “Where God appears and is worshiped in the fire, there it is that fire is in actual truth worshiped as God. God in the fire is nothing else than the being of fire which is so striking to men because of its effects and qualities” (Feuerbach, 40). An important distinction is that in this process of labeling and appropriation there is a generalization that occurs. Just as with objects, a person has a tendency to conceptualize himself, what we have called the feeling loving thing, into God. Then in reflection the person realizes God in other men and creates a communication between his own sensuous reality and a community of people. For example, a man experiences greed, thinks about it, creates habits around it, applies these to the idealized man (God), and that idea is reflected back on others. What seems to be communication between God and man, idea and reality, is actually communication between man and man. It is in this way that we may conclude that in the new philosophy the community of persons is made up of feeling beings guided by love to make determinations about the external material world and communicate them to one another. Feuerbach stresses the importance of that communication: “The true dialectic is not a monologue of the solitary thinker with himself. It is a dialogue between “I” and “You” (Feuerbach, 62). Indeed in a materialist conception of reality the thoughts of one member of the human community uncommunicated have in them no reality.

III. Conclusion

Through his work Feuerbach attempted to ground philosophical discussion in material reality. By framing thought around the thinker rather than the concept and objects around their application rather than their form he did much to direct philosophy toward becoming a science of being rather than a science of meaning. The philosophy of his future, especially in the work of Marx, came to focus on man in the world interacting with other men, in large part thanks to his efforts.

Social forces such as governments, economics, and politics could now enter the purview of philosophical discussion because they are such strong elements in the life of man as being.

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