Sunday, December 10, 2023

Two Atheist Philosophers

Feuerbach and Schopenhauer

The Preface will make a brief mention of two important atheist philosophers.  They did not belong to a particular school and stand on their own, although their influence on other philosophers was significant. 

Ludwig Feuerbach (1804-1872)

The Essence of Christianity. (1837) n.p.: CreatSpace, 2011.

The Essence of Religion. (1848)  Tras. Alexander Loss. Amherst, New York: Prometheus Press, 2004.

Feuerbach was infamous in his time for his attack on Christianity in The Essence of Christianity (1837) and his Lectures on the Essence of Religion (1848.) In Essence of Christianity he argued that the beliefs of the Christian faith are anthropology turned into religion.  He maintained that unconscious processes try to overcome contradictory elements within the self by projection.  All the unrealized projection of ourselves into an imaginary, non-human god resolves our difficulty without the daunting task of improving ourselves and other human beings.  Essence of Religion took a slightly new direction.  Feuerbach added to his original theory by stating that religions are also based on a desire of people to exceed the limits of life which are based in nature.  That is why people believe in miraculous concepts and a god independent of limits.  Feuerbach was very influential in the 19th Century and is an interesting philosopher for readers of atheistic literature. 

Further Reading:  

Van A. Harvey. Feuerbach and the Interpretation of Religion. (1995); Mark Wartofsky. Feuerbach. (1977). 

Feuerbach was an important influence on Marx.  Socialism and Communism are not in the purview of this Philosophy Section.  For an excellent short discussion on why atheism is not connected to the errors of Communism, see Julian Baggini’s Atheism: A Very Short Introduction.  U.S.: Oxford University Press, 2003.  86-90.

Arthur Schopenhauer (1788- 1860)

Tras.Judith Norman, et al. The World as Will and Representation. (1818) Vol. 1. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010.  This volume is the original edition of World, later published in two volumes.  There are supplementary essays, forthcoming in another volume.

Schopenhauer was an atheist who was influenced by Buddhist and Indian philosophy.  He believed in the reality of the world, but thought that people’s view of it was illusory. His philosophy is contained in his magnum opus, The World as Will and Representation. He maintained that behind the world and managing it was a force he called “The Will.”  The will drove people and all of nature to “mate,” “breed,” and “die.”  People attempt to maintain the illusion that their life has meaning, but their movement from one desire to another is the basis of their motivation.  The way out of this unsatisfactory state of being is either through art, aesthetic pleasure, contemplation, or ascetic self denial.  Schopenhauer had a significant influence on Nietzsche (see Existentialism) and on Ludwig Wittgenstein and Karl Popper, 20th Century philosophers. 

Further Reading: Arthur Schopenhauer. The World as Will and Representation. (1818) and On The Will in Nature. (1836). Bryan Magee. The Philosophy of Schopenhauer. (Revised and Enlarged Edition, 1997.)  Note:  Magee’s study of Schopenhauer is masterly and complete.  It is considered the finest work on Schopenhauer and his thought.  It is very technical, however, and the reader should first be acquainted with terms and concepts in Philosophy.

The complete (Bibliography) for all the sections of philosophy is in a separate file labeled Bibliography. There are over 76 works listed.


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