Volume I. Marx and Heidegger
"Marxian Hermeneutics and Heideggerian Social Theory: Interpreting and Transforming Our World"
Gerry Stahl, PhD dissertation in philosophy, Northwestern University, June 1975
Today neither philosophy of interpretation (hermeneutics) nor philosophy of society can legitimately proceed without the other. Interpretation of the world precedes the possibility of transforming it, according to Martin Heidegger, because the presence of beings is always already meaningfully structured. For Karl Marx, however, interpretations of the world are constituted by human praxis, the reproduction and transformation of social reality. The confrontation of Marx’s thought with Heidegger’s provides an appropriate historical medium for the indispensable task of bringing the problematics of critical social theory and philosophical hermeneutics to bear upon each other.
The alternative notions, that hermeneutics either founds or is founded upon social analysis, are reconciled by interpreting Marx’s social methodology as being in accord with hermeneutic principles and by transforming Heidegger’s ontology to take account of social mediations. Thereby, Heidegger’s critique of metaphysics clarifies Marx’s methodological sophistication, rescuing Marxism from a history of mechanistic corruptions, while Marx’s insights into the power of social relations provide a corrective to the politically reactionary self-understanding, abstract form, scholastic structure and non-social content of Heidegger’s jargon.
Considering Heidegger and Marx together suggests that Heidegger’s central fault is in failing to relate changes in Being—the historically prevalent form of presence of beings—to developments within the concrete social realm of entities. Changes of ontological interpretation can, as Marx demonstrates, be comprehended in terms of transformations within society, whereby, of course, the social theory must itself be hermeneutically appropriate.
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