On the Possibility of Transcendental Materialism Essay

On the Possibility of Transcendental Materialism Essay

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On the Possibility of Transcendental Materialism

ABSTRACT: The purpose of this address is to argue for the following theses: (1) the concept of transcendentality can be associated not only with idealism but also with materialism; (2) such a connection was made possible by Karl Marx's theory; and (3) in the development of Marxism up to now, theory has been tied to a political movement, which is an error of principle, for what survives of it is a kind of social ethics which should more appropriately be called Marxism. Transcendence and immanence are notions of relationship. Values exist sensually above the senses: e.g., the aesthetic value of a painting is not identical with the material of the canvas and the oils on it, although it cannot exist without them. Persons who do not recognize values that are transcendent compared to the merely natural immanence or, to put it in another way, those for whom nothing is sacred are in fact not truly human.


The concept of transcendentality, as we know, was introduced by Immanuel Kant in Section VII of his Introduction to his chef d'oeuvre, Kritik der reinen Vernunft, where he said that cognition is transcendental when it is occupied not so much with objects as with the mode of our knowledge of objects. He subsequently examined the possibility of surpassing mere immanence without arriving in the sphere of an abstract transcendence. Kant's idealism is therefore neither immanent (subjective) nor transcendent (objective)-it is a transcendental idealism that seeks the potential and the limitations of cognition. This concept of transcendentality, although with certain modifications, remains unchanged in the subsequent development of German idealism, having in general preserved the formu...

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...though it also supersedes it-much in the way of the Kantian idea of knowledge which always begins with apperception but then surpasses it theoretically. The assumption of at least a prevailing, if not existing, transcendence-in neo-Kantian terms: gelten-existieren-which emerges from the sphere of immanence and supersedes it, using that sphere as a basis, should be the essence of a transcendental materialism. And if Marx's thought is cleansed from the debris which the political movement has deposited on it, that is, if it takes shape as Marxianism, then from this approach Marxianism, owing to and undertaking the philosophical and cultural heritage it takes as its point of departure, may consider itself as a radical Protestant view, even a version of 'God is dead' theologies. Because, as the Czech Marxian philosopher Vitézslav Gardavsky said, God is not entirely dead.

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