Hegelian Dialectical Synthesis in Feuerbachian Thought, With Reference to Christ
By Matthew Lipscomb, Interpretation of Religion, UTC, Prof. Mills, 8/26/2009
Ideas have consequences. This age-old adage is aptly demonstrated in the thought of Feuerbach, as it relates to a Hegelian synthesis with reference to the character and principles of Christ. As we will see, Feuerbach also believed many ideas have sources.
Feuerbach was a post-Christian Hegelian philosopher who rejected the external authenticity of the Christian faith and embraced a view that it was, instead, an external projection of Man’s own ideals and potentials. But rather then embracing a complete aversion to the ideas and dynamics of faith, he purports to see a synthesis to take place, whereby instead of either just an “acceptance/thesis” vs. “rejection/antithesis” dualism being setup – he proposed a “synthesis” (or unity) that looks different from what both the believer and the atheist would say about something, or as is discussed here: Christ.
If asked what this unity or synthesis looks like – in relation to Christ and his principles, for example – Feuerbach would say that the reason that Christianity contains the figure of Christ and his respective attributes is that both he and they are projections of man’s own needs – externalized (from an innate awareness of man’s potential/ideal state) into the religious sphere’s dichotomy (with it’s various attendant theological assertions). The reason that Christ is presented as a savior, is that man is at times genuinely in need of a redeeming leader and his coming upon the given historical scene – one who is capable of bringing significant paradigm shifts towards the betterment of all those involved – or – at least, those who will follow him. In addition to the need for the arrival of “messiah” or “rescuer,” Feuerbach would also argue that we need leaders who portray to us the embodiment of the ideals that our culture either does or should hold to be ideal. If our culture does not reflect them – then Feuerbach might suggest that it may be in even greater need of a “messaiah” or “redeemer” to bring the prevailing, metanarrational social ethical standard and it’s respective points back up to the place that they should be held to ideally be. Hence – we need an external image that reflects these accepted-as-valuable and to-be-desired archetypical values (peace, sacrifice, constraint of power, unconditional love, justice and equality – to name just a few) back into the collective societal/cultural conscience – which, Feuerbach argued, was it’s original collective source.
Have there been historical ramifications to this proposed Hegelian synthesis of Christ with reference to Faith/Atheism? Both Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels (who were influential in the inception and initial propagation of Communism) cited Feuerbach as an influence. Indeed, the history of Communism, politically speaking, has generally revolved around charismatic, messiah figures that proclaimed the need for a restoration of justice and equality to often profoundly repressed & poor political and social demographics. Whether these same figures can be judged to have been more demonic then they were divine is the gist of many other philosophical and historical discussions. But as Feuerbach would point out – these same characteristics and historical presentations –may well just be further itinerations of the same Hegelian dialectical process – just reasserting itself into different dualisms to find new syntheses – as history continues to go marching on its own way – through both heaven and hell, destruction and salvation.