Feuerbach's concepts

Notes by Arianna Bove, 2001

Homo homini deus est

God is nothing but the subject's objectified essence, i.e. the reflected image and illusory projection of human qualities. Feuerbach makes several hypotheses regarding the 'origin' of God. One traces it back to the genesis of the distinction between individual and species; another to the opposition between will (unlimited) and power (conditioned); another finds it in the feeling of dependency man experiences with regards to nature (nature is hostile to men). In all of these cases religion clearly retains an anthropological character.


For Hegel, the foundation is Reason , for Feuerbach it is Nature and man as an element of nature, derivative of it. Feuerbach accepts Hegel's dialectical process of Infinite/Finite, but regards finite as what alienates itself in infinite rather than viceversa. He claims that thought is inadequate to reality since it cannot contemplate the concrete.


Man is a psycho-somatic unity. Truth is arrived at via confrontation, man is not autarchic, he relates to others for gnoseological (truth discovered via communication), ethical (man is ethical only in so far as he expresses solidarity with fellow beings), and utilitarian reasons (it takes two men to make one).


The way Feuerbach conceives of religion is through a reversed anthropology, as  ‘man's first, though indirect, form of self-consciousness'. His work includes several examples from daily life through which he reinterprets all theological concepts in an anthropological fashion.


Indicates the pathological element intrinsic to religious ‘objectification', as Feuerbach describes it. In other words, the process through which man, through an internal scission, projects outside himself a superior power to which he subjugates himself as  object. ‘Man, this is the mystery of religion, projects his being outside of himself and then turns himself into the object of this being metamorphised into subject, into a person; he thinks, but as the object of another being's thought, and this being is God'(55-56EC). Alienation is linked to the fact that the more man projects into God, the more he takes away from himself.


Identified with the reappropriation, by man, of his alienated essence. As such, it is not only an act of philosophical intelligence, but also a moral and human duty. Feuerbach's atheism does not have a purely negative character, since it presents itself positively as the proposal for a new divinity: Man. Feuerbach ends up substituting atheism  with a form of anthropotheism, also known as religious integral (since it accounts for man's corporeal aspect too) humanism.

Rationalized or concealed theology

Feuerbach regards Hegelian idealism as the speculative translation of the Christian religion: Unless one renounces Hegel's philosophy, one cannot renounce theology'.

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