Conspectus of Feuerbach’s Book Exposition, Analysis and Critique of the Philosophy of Leibnitz

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Author(s) Lenin
Written September 1914

Written: between September and November 4 (17), 1914
Source: Lenin Collected Works, 4th Edition, Moscow, 1976, Volume 38, pp. 375-387
Publisher: Progress Publishers
First Published: 1930 in Lenin Miscellany XII. Published according to the manuscript

Conspectus of L. Feuerbach’s book “Darstellung, Entwicklung und Kritik der Leibnizschen Philosophie.” Sämtliche Werke. Bd. IV, Stuttgart, 1910 (Exposition, Analysis and Critique of the Philosophy of Leibnitz, Collected Works, Vol. IV, Stuttgart, 1910) is contained in a separate notebook on whose cover is written: “Feuerbach.” The conspectus was made in Bern at the end of 1914 or the beginning of 1915.




In the brilliant exposition of Leibnitz

some especially outstanding passages should

be mentioned (this is not easy, for the

whole—i.e., the first part (§ 1-13) is out-

standing), and then the supplementsof 1847.

The book on Leibnitz was

written by Feuerbach in

1836, when he was still

an idealist

§ 20

§ 21 1847

and separate passages
P. 27—The feature that distinguishes Leib-

nitz from Spinoza: in Leibnitz there

is, in addition to the concept of sub-

stance, the concept of force

“and indeed of active force...” the prin-

ciple of “self-activity” (29)—

Ergo, Leibnitz through theology

arrived at the principle of the in-

separable (and universal, absolute)

connection of matter and motion.

So, it seems to me, Feuerbach is

to be understood?

p. 32: “Spinoza’s essence is unity, that of

Leibnitz is difference, distinction.”

p. 34: The philosophy of Spinoza is a tele-

scope, that of Leibnitz a micro-


“Spinoza’s world is an achromatic lens

of divinity, a medium through which we

see nothing but the colourless celestial

light of the single substance; Leibnitz’s

world is a many-faceted crystal, a dia-

mond, which by its specific nature mul-

tiplies the simple light of the substance

into an infinitely varied wealth of colours

and darkens it.” (Sic!)

p. 40: “Consequently, for Leibnitz, corpo-

real substance is no longer, as for Des-

cartes, a merely extended dead mass

brought into motion from outside, but

as substance it has within it an active

force, a never-resting, principle of activ-


For this, to be sure, Marx valued

Leibnitz,[2] despite his, Leibnitz’s,

“Lassallean” features and his con-

ciliatory tendencies in politics and

The monad is the principle of Leibnitz’s

philosophy. Individuality, movement, soul

(of a special kind). Not dead atoms, but

the living, mobile monads, reflecting the

whole world in themselves, possessing (va-

guely) the capacity of sensuous representa-

tion (souls of a certain kind)—such are

the “ultimate elements” (p. 45).

Each monad is different from the others.
...“It would be ... quite contradictory

to the beauty, order and reason of nature

if the principle of life or of its own internal

actions were to be linked only with a small

or special part of matter” (Leibnitz—

p. 45).


“Hence the whole of nature is full of

souls, as the ancient philosophers already

correctly recognised, or at any rate of

beings analogous to souls. For, by means

of the microscope, one finds that there are

a multitude of living beings not visible

to the naked eye, and that there are more

souls than grains of sand and atoms” (Leib-

nitz—p. 45).

cf. electrons!

Qualities of monads: Vorstellung,[3] Re-


“Sensuous representation itself, however,

is nothing more than the representation

(reproduction in the mind and presenta-

tion) of the complex or the external, i.e.,

of multiplicity in the simple”... or ...

“the transitory state, which contains and

reproduces multiplicity in unity or simple

substance” (p. 49, Leibnitz)—verworrene[4]

(p. 50) (confuse,[5] p. 52) Vorstellung in

the monads (man also has many uncon-

scious, verworrene, feelings, etc.).

Every monad is “a world for itself, each

is a self-sufficient unity” (Leibnitz,

p. 55).

“A mixture of vague conceptions, the

senses are no more than that, matter is no

more than that” (Leibnitz, p. 58).... “Hence

matter is the bond of the monads” (ibi-


My free interpretation:

Monads = souls of a certain kind.

Leibnitz = idealist. And matter is

something in the nature of an other-

being of soul, or a jelly linking them

by a worldly, fleshly connection.

“Absolute reality, lies only in the mo-

nads and their conceptions” (Leibnitz,

p. 60). Matter is only a phenomenon.

“Clarity is only spirit” (p. 62)... matter,

however, is “unclearness and unfreedom.”


Space “in itself is something ideal”

(Leibnitz, pp. 70-71).

...“The material principle of the diver-

sity of matter is motion....” (72)

“Similarly— Newton and his adherents

to the contrary—there is no empty space

in material nature. The air pump by no

means proves the presence of a vacuum

for the glass has pores through which

all kinds of fine matter can penetrate”

(Leibnitz, 76-77)....

“Matter is a phenomenon” (Leibnitz, 78).

“The Being-for-itself of the monads is

their soul, their Being-for-others is

matter” (Feuerbach, 78). The human

soul—the central, higher monad, en-

telechy,[6] etc., etc.

“Hence every body is affected by every-

thing that goes on in the universe” (Leib-

nitz, 83).

“The monad represents the whole uni-

verse” (Leibnitz, 83).

“The monad, despite its indivisibility,

possesses a complex impulse, i.e., a mul-

tiplicity of sensuous representations, which
individually strive for their special changes

and which, by virtue of their essential

connection with all other things, at the

same time are found within it....” “Individ-

uality contains the infinite within it, as

it were, in the germ” (Leibnitz, 84).





Here is dialectics of a kind, and very

profound, despite the idealism and

“Everything in nature is analogical”

(Leibnitz, 86). “In general, there is nothing absolutely





discrete in nature; all opposites, all bound-

aries of space and time, and kind, vanish

in the face of the absolute continuity, the

infinite interconnection of the universe“

(Feuerbach, 87).
“Owing to its peculiar nature, consisting

solely of nerves and not of flesh and blood,

the monad is influenced and affected by

everything that takes place in the world....”

Nevertheless “it is only a spectator of the

world drama, not an actor. Therein lies

the chief defect of the monads” (Feuer-

bach, 90).

The conformity of soul and body is a

harmonie préétablie[7] by God.
“The weak side of Leibnitz” (Feuer-

bach, 95).”[8]

“The soul is a kind of spiritual automa-

ton” (Leibnitz, 98). (And Leibnitz himself

said once that the transition from Occa-

sionalism[9] to his philosophy is an easy

one, Feuerbach, 100.) But in Leibnitz this

is deduced from the “nature of the soul”....


In his Theodicée[10] (§ 17) Leibnitz

essentially repeats the ontological argu-

ment[11] for the existence of God.

In his Nouveaux essais sur l’entend-

ement,[12] Leibnitz criticised Locke’s emp-

iricism,— saying nihil est in intellectu, etc.,

nisi intellectus ipse[13] (!) (152).

(Feuerbach in the first edition also ideal-

istically criticises Locke.[14])

The principle of “necessary truths” lies

within us” (Leibnitz, 148).
Cf. Kant likewise
The ideas of substance, change, etc., lie

within us (Leibnitz, 150).

“To be determined towards the best

through reason is the highest degree of free-

dom” (Leibnitz, 154).

“The philosophy of Leibnitz is idealism

(Feuerbach, 160), etc., etc.

...“The cheerful, lively polytheism of

Leibnitz’s monadology passed into the se-

vere, but for that reason more spiritual

and intense monotheism of ‘transcendental

idealism’” (Feuerbach, 188).


|Pp. 188-220: supplements of 1847| P. 188: “Idealistic, a priori philosophy....”
“But, of course, what for man is a pos-teriori is for a philosopher a priori; for

when man has gathered experiences and

has embraced them in general concepts,

then he is, of course, in a position to make


‘synthetic judgments a priori.’ Hence what

for an earlier time is a matter of experience

is for a later time a matter of reason....

Thus, earlier, electricity and magnetism

were only empirical, i.e., here accidental,

properties perceived only in particular

bodies, whereas now, as the result of compre-

hensive observations, they are recognised

to be properties of all bodies, essential

properties of a body.... Hence the history

of mankind is the sole standpoint that

yields a positive answer to the problem

of the origin of ideas....” (191-192)

The soul is not wax, it is no tabula

rasa[15].... “The creation of a sensuous re-

presentation requires the addition of some-

thing distinct from the object, hence it

would be sheer folly for me to seek to

derive this distinct element, which is the

basis of the real essence of the sensuous

representation, from the object. But what

is this then? The form of universality; for

even the individual idea or sensuous re-

presentation is, as Leibnitz remarked, at

least in comparison with the real individual

object, originally universal, i.e., in this

case undetermined, wiping out differences,

destructive. Sensuousness is massive, uncrit-

ical, luxurious; but the idea, the sensuous

representation, is restricted solely to the

universal and necessary.” (192)

“The basic thought, therefore, of the Nou-veaux essais sur l’entendement humain is Leibnitz

and Kant

already, as in Der Kritik der reinen Ver-nunft, that universality, and the ne-
cessity which is inseparable from it,

express the essence belonging to the under-

standing or apperceiving being, and there-

fore cannot come from the senses, or

from experience, i.e., from outside....”




able from

the universal


This idea occurs already among the Car-

tesians—Feuerbach quotes Clauberg,1652.[16]


= old

“Undoubtedly this axiom” (that the whole

is greater than the part) “owes its certainty

not to induction, but to the understand-

ing, for the latter has no other aim and

vocation than to generalise the data of

the senses, in order to save us the tedious

trouble of repetition, to anticipate, replace,

spare, sensuous experience and perception.

But does the understanding do this by

itself, without a basis for it being pres-

ent in sense-perception? Is then the individ-

ual case shown me by the senses an individ-

ual case in abstracto? Is it not a qualita-

tively determined case? But does not

this quality, however, contain so much

as an identity of the individual cases that

is perceptible by the senses?... Do the
senses show me only leaves and not also

trees?... Is there no feeling of identity,

likeness and difference? Is there no differ-

ence for my senses between black and

white, day and night, wood and iron?...

Are not the senses the unconditional affir-

mation of what is? Consequently, is not

the highest law of thought, the law of

identity, also a law of sensuousness; indeed,

does not this law of thought rest on the

truth of sense-perception?”... (193-194)

Leibnitz in Nouveaux essais: “Generality

consists in the resemblance to each other

of individual things, and this resemblance

is a reality” (Book III, Chapter 3, § 12).

“But is this resemblance then not sensuous

truth? Do not the beings which the un-

derstanding refers to a single class, a single

genus, affect also my senses in an identical,

equal manner?... Is there for my sexual

sense—a sense which theoretically also

is of the greatest importance, although

in the theory of the senses it is usually

left out of account—no difference between

an animal and a human female? What

then is the difference between the faculty

of understanding and that of sensuous per-

bien dit!
ception or sensation? The senses present

the thing, but the understanding adds the

name to it. There is nothing in the under-

standing that is not in sensuous perception,

but what is found in the sensuous perception

in fact is in the understanding only in
name. The understanding is the highest

being, the ruler of the world, but only in

name, not in fact. What, however, is a

name? It is a mark of difference, a striking

bien dit!
characteristic, which I make the character,

the representative, of the object in order

thereby to represent it to myself in its

totality” (195).

...“The senses tell me just as well as

the understanding that the whole is greater

than the part; but they tell me so not by

words, but by examples, for instance, that

the finger is smaller than the hand....


...“Hence the certainty that the whole

is greater than the part indubitably does

not depend on the senses. But on what

then? On the word: the whole. The state-

ment that the whole is greater than the

part says absolutely nothing more than

the word ‘whole’ itself says.... (497)

...“Leibnitz, on the other hand, as an

idealist or spiritualist, makes the means

into an end, the denial of sensuousness

into the essence of the mind.... (198)

...“That which is conscious of itself exists

and is, and is called soul. We are, there-

fore, certain of the existence of our soul

before we are certain of the existence of

our body. Of course, consciousness is pri-

mary, but it is only primary for me, it is

not primary in itself. In the sense of my con-

sciousness, I am, because I am conscious;

but in the sense of my life I am conscious,

because I am. Which of these two is right?

The body, i.e., nature, or consciousness,

i.e., I? I, of course, for how could I admit

myself wrong? But can I then in fact sepa-

rate consciousness from my body and think

by myself?... (201)

...“The world is the object of the senses

and the object of thought. (204)

“In a sensuous object, man distinguishes

the essence as it really is, as an object

of sense-perception, from the essence of

it in thought, abstracted from sensuous-

ness. The former he calls the existence

or also the individual, the latter the es-

sence or the genus. The latter is defined

by him as necessary and eternal—because,

although a sensuous object may have van-

ished from the sensible world, it still

remains as an object of thought or sensuous

representation—but existence as accidental

and transitory.... (205)

...“Leibnitz is half-Christian, he is a

theist, or Christian and a naturalist. He

limits the goodness and power of God by

wisdom, by the understanding; but this

understanding is nothing but a cabinet
of natural objects, it is only the idea of

the interconnection of nature, of the uni-

verse; hence he limits his theism by na-

turalism; he affirms and defends theism

by that which abolishes it....“ (215)

P. 274 (from the supplement of 1847):

“How much has been said of the decep-

tion of the senses, how little of the decep-

tion of speech, from which, however, thought

is inseparable! Yet how clumsy is the

betrayal of the senses, how subtle that

of language! How long have I been led by

the nose by the universality of reason, the

universality of Fichte’s and Hegel’s Ego,

until finally, with the support of my

five senses, I recognised for the salvation

of my soul that all the difficulties and

mysteries of the logos, in the sense of rea-

son, find their solution in the meaning of

the word! For that reason Haym’s state-

ment ‘the critique of reason must become

the criticism of language’ is for me in a theo-

retical respect a soul-inspired statement.—

As regards, however, the contradiction be-

tween me as a perceiving, personal being

and me as a thinking being, it reduces

itself in the sense of this note and the dis-

sertation quoted” (of Feuerbach himself)[17]

“to the sharp contradiction: in sensation

I am individual, in thinking I am univer-

sal. However, in sensation I am not less

universal than I am individual in thinking.

Concordance in thinking is based only on

concordance in sensation.” (274)

...“All human communion rests on the

assumption of the likeness of sensation

in human beings.” (274)

Spinoza and Herbart (1836).[18] P. 400

ff.[19] A defence of Spinoza against the

banal attacks of the “moralist” Herbart.

The objectivism of Spinoza, etc., is

stressed. NB.

Verhältnis zu Hegel (1840 and später).

S. 417 ff.[20]

Not very clear, intermittently

emphasised that he was a disciple

of Hegel.

From the notes:

“What is a dialectic that is in contradiction

to natural origin and development?

What is its necessity?...” (431)

Herr von Schelling (1843). Letter to

Marx (434 ff.). According to the rough

draft. Castigation of Schelling.[21]

End of Volume IV.

  1. In the passage referred to by Lenin, Feuerbach states: “Spinoza’s philosophy is like a telescope which makes objects visible to the human eye that are otherwise invisible owing to their remoteness; Leibnitz’ philosophy is like a microscope which makes objects visible that are unnoticeable owing to their minuteness and fineness.” (See L. Feuerbach, Sämtliche Werke, Bd. IV, 1910, S. 34.)
  2. See Marx’s letter to Engels dated May 10, 1870.
  3. sensuous representation—Ed.
  4. confused—Ed.
  5. vague—Ed.
  6. Entelechy—a term in idealist philosophy, used by Aristotle to denote the aim inherent in an object—an aim which through its activity is transformed from the possible to the actual. According to Leibnitz, entelechy is the urge of the monad towards realisation of the perfection potentially contained in it.
  7. harmony pre-established—Ed.
  8. Lenin is referring to the following statement by Feuerbach: “Pre-established harmony is Leibnitz’ weak point, despite the fact that it is his pet creation.... Pre-established harmony, understood in a purely external sense in relation to the monad, basically contradicts the spirit of Leibnitz’ philosophy.” (See L. Feuerbach, Sämtliche Werke, Bd. IV, 1910, S. 95.)
  9. Occasionalism—an idealist, religious trend in 17th-century philosophy which distorted the teachings of Descartes in the spirit of clericalism and mysticism. The Occasionalists held the reactionary view that all physical and mental activity and the reciprocal action between them, is due to the intervention of God.
  10. Theodicée (a vindication of the justice of God)—an abbreviated title of G. W. Leibnitz’ book: Essais de Theodicée sur la bonté de Dieu, la liberté l’homme et l’origine du mal (Theodician Essays on the Goodness of God, the Freedom of Man, and the Origin of Evil).
  11. The ontological argument for the existence of God was first advanced by Anselm, Bishop of Canterbury and medieval scholastic. It can be summarised as follows: God is the totality of perfection. Perfection includes existence. Therefore God exists.
    On the essence of the ontological argument see F. Engels, Anti-Dühring, Part I, Chapter IV.
  12. Nouveaux essais sur l’entendement humain (New Essays on Human Understanding) by Leibnitz (written 1700-05 and published in 1765)—directed against the materialist trend of Locke’s sensualist theory of knowledge.
  13. there is nothing in the intellect except the intellect itself.—Ed.
  14. The first edition of L. Feuerbach’s book Darstellung, Entwtcklung und Kritik der Leibniz’schen Philosophie (Exposition, Analysis and Critique of the Philosophy of Leibnitz) was published in 1837.
  15. smoothed tablet—Ed.
  16. The reference is to the work by Clauberg, German Cartesian philosopher: Defensio Cartesiana, Amsterdam, 1652 (Defence of Cartesianism).
  17. Feuerbach’s dissertation in Latin, published in Erlangen in 1828 under the title “De Ratione una, universali, infinita,” appeared in German translation under the title “Über die Vernunft; ihre Einheit, Allgemeinheit, Unbegrenztheit” (“On Reason; Its Unity, Universality and Infiniteness”) in Vol. IV of Feuerbach’s works in German; Bolin and Jodl edition, Stuttgart, 1910.
  18. Lenin is referring to Feuerbach’s work Spinoza and Herbart (1836), appearing in Vol. IV (1910) of Feuerbach’s works in German; Bolin and Jodl edition.
  19. et seq.—Ed.
  20. Relation to Hegel (1840 and later), p. 417 et seq.—Ed.
  21. The reference is to Feuerbach’s letter to Marx in 1843 in which Feuerbach sharply criticises Schelling’s philosophy (see L. Feuerbach, Sämtliche Werke, Bd. IV, 1910, S. 434-440). Feuerbach’s letter was written in answer to Marx’s letter of October 20, 1843.