[Classics] Anti-Dühring

2. What Herr Dühring promises

The writings of Herr Dühring with which we are here primarily concerned are his Kursus der Philosophie, his Kursus der National- und Sozialökonomie, and his Kritische Geschichte der Nationalökonomie und des Sozialismus.[28] The first-named work is the one which particularly claims our attention here.

On the very first page Herr Dühring introduces himself as

“the man who claims to represent this power” (philosophy) “in his age and for its immediately foreseeable development” {D. Ph. 1}.

He thus proclaims himself to be the only true philosopher of today and of the “foreseeable” future. Whoever departs from him departs from truth. Many people, even before Herr Dühring, have thought something of this kind about themselves, but — except for Richard Wagner — he is probably the first who has calmly blurted it out. And the truth to which he refers is

“a final and ultimate truth” {2}.

Herr Dühring's philosophy is

“the natural system or the philosophy of reality... In it reality is so conceived as to exclude any tendency to a visionary and subjectively limited conception of the world” {13}

This philosophy is therefore of such a nature that it lifts Herr Dühring above the limits he himself can hardly deny of his personal, subjective limitations. And this is in fact necessary if he is to be in a position to lay down final and ultimate truths, although so far we do not see how this miracle should come to pass.

This “natural system of knowledge which in itself is of value to the mind" {508} has, "without the slightest detraction from the profundity of thought, securely established the basic forms of being” {556-57}. From its “really critical standpoint” {404} it provides “the elements of a philosophy which is real and therefore directed to the reality of nature and of life, a philosophy which cannot allow the validity of any merely apparent horizon, but in its powerfully revolutionising movement unfolds all earths and heavens of outer and inner nature” {430}. It is a “new mode of thought” {543}, and its results are “from the ground up original conclusions and views ... system-creating ideas {525} ... established truths” {527}. In it we have before us “a work which must find its strength in concentrated initiative” {38} — whatever that may mean; an “investigation going to the roots {200} ... a deep-rooted science {219} ... a strictly scientific conception of things and men {387} ... an all-round penetrating work of thought {D. C. III} ... a creative evolving of premises and conclusions controllable by thought {6} ... the absolutely fundamental” {150}.

In the economic and political sphere he gives us not only

“historical and systematically comprehensive works” {532}, of which the historical ones are, to boot, notable for “my historical depiction in the grand style” {D. K. G. 556}, while those dealing with political economy have brought about “creative turns” {462},

but he even finishes with a fully worked-out socialist plan of his own for the society of the future, a plan which is the

"practical fruit of a clear theory going to the ultimate roots of things" {D. C. 555-56}

and, like the Dühring philosophy, is consequently infallible and offers the only way to salvation; for

“only in that socialist structure which I have sketched in my Cursus der National- und Socialökonomie can a true Own take the place of ownership which is merely apparent and transitory or even based on violence” {D. Ph. 242}. And the future has to follow these directions.

This bouquet of glorifications of Herr Dühring by Herr Dühring could easily be enlarged tenfold. It may already have created some doubt in the mind of the reader as to whether it is really a philosopher with whom he is dealing, or a — but we must beg the reader to reserve judgment until he has got to know the above-mentioned “deep-rootedness” at closer quarters. We have given the above anthology only for the purpose of showing that we have before us not any ordinary philosopher and socialist, who merely expresses his ideas and leaves it to the future to judge their worth, but quite an extraordinary creature, who claims to be not less infallible than the Pope, and whose doctrine is the only way to salvation and simply must be accepted by anyone who does not want to fall into the most abominable heresy. What we are here confronted with is certainly not one of those works in which all socialist literature, recently also German, has abounded — works in which people of various calibres, in the most straightforward way in the world, try to clear up in their minds problems for the solution of which they may be more or less short of material; works in which, whatever their scientific and literary shortcomings, the socialist good will is always deserving of recognition. On the contrary, Herr Dühring offers us principles which he declares are final and ultimate truths and therefore any views conflicting with these are false from the outset; he is in possession not only of the exclusive truth but also of the sole strictly scientific method of investigation, in contrast with which all others are unscientific. Either he is right — and in this case we have before us the greatest genius of all time, the first superhuman, because infallible, man. Or he is wrong, and in that case, whatever our judgment may be, benevolent consideration shown for any good intentions he may possibly have had would nevertheless be the most deadly insult to Herr Dühring.

When a man is in possession of the final and ultimate truth and of the only strictly scientific method, it is only natural that he should have a certain contempt for the rest of erring and unscientific humanity. We must therefore not be surprised that Herr Dühring should speak of his predecessors with extreme disdain, and that there are only a few great men, thus styled by way of exception by himself, who find mercy at the bar of his "deep-rootedness".

Let us hear first what he has to say about the philosophers:

“Leibniz, devoid of any nobler sentiments ... that best of all court-philosophisers” {D. Ph. 346}.

Kant is still just about tolerated; but after him everything got into a muddle {197}:

there followed the “wild ravings and equally childish and windy stupidities of the immediately succeeding epigoni, namely, a Fichte and a Schelling {227} ... monstrous caricatures of ignorant natural philosophising {56} ... the post-Kantian monstrosities” and “the delirious fantasies” {449} crowned by “a Hegel” {197}. The last-named used a “Hegel jargon” {D. K. C. 491} and spread the “Hegel pestilence” {D. Ph. 486} by means of his “moreover even in form unscientific demeanour” and his “crudities” {D. K. G. 235}.

The natural scientists fare no better, but as only Darwin is cited by name we must confine ourselves to him:

“Darwinian semi-poetry and dexterity in metamorphosis, with their coarsely sentient narrowness of comprehension and blunted power of differentiation {D. Ph. 142} ... In our view what is specific to Darwinism, from which of course the Lamarckian formulations must be excluded, is a piece of brutality directed against humanity.” {117}.

But the socialists come off worst of all. With the exception at any rate of Louis Blanc — the most insignificant of them all — they are all and sundry sinners and fall short of the reputation which they should have before (or behind) Herr Dühring. And not only in regard to truth and scientific method — no, also in regard to their character. Except for Babeuf and a few Communards of 1871 none of them are "men" {D. K. G. 239}. The three utopians are called “social alchemists” {237}. As to them, a certain indulgence is shown to Saint-Simon, in so far as he is merely charged with “exaltation of mind” {252}, and there is a compassionate suggestion that he suffered from religious mania. With Fourier, however, Herr Dühring completely loses patience. For Fourier

“revealed every element of insanity ... ideas which one would normally have most expected to find in madhouses {276} ... the wildest dreams ... products of delirium...” {283}. “The unspeakably silly Fourier” {222}, this “infantile mind” {284}, this “idiot” {286}, is withal not even a socialist; his phalanstery[29] is absolutely not a piece of rational socialism, but “a caricature constructed on the pattern of everyday commerce” {283}.

And finally:

“Anyone who does not find those effusions” (of Fourier's, concerning Newton) “... sufficient to convince himself that in Fourier's name and in the whole of Fourierism it is only the first syllable” (fou — crazy) “that has any truth in itshould himself be classed under some category of idiots” {286}.

Finally, Robert Owen

“had feeble and paltry ideas {295} ... his reasoning, so crude in ethics {296} ... a few commonplaces which degenerated into perversions ... nonsensical and crude way of looking at things {297} ... the course of Owen’s ideas is hardly worth subjecting to more serious criticism {298} ... his vanity” {299-300} — and so on.

With extreme wit Herr Dühring characterises the utopians by reference to their names, as follows: Saint-Simon — saint (holy), Fourier — fou (crazy), Enfantin — enfant (childish) {303}; he only needs to add: Owen — o woe! and a very important period in the history of socialism has in four words been roundly condemned; and anyone who has any doubts about it “should himself be classed under some category of idiots”.

As for Dühring's opinion of the later socialists, we shall, for the sake of brevity, cite him only on Lassalle and Marx:

Lassalle: “Pedantic, hair-splitting efforts to popularise ... rampant scholasticism ... a monstrous hash of general theories and paltry trash {509} ... Hegel-superstition, senseless and formless ... a horrifying example {511} ... peculiarly limited {513} ... pompous display of the most paltry trifles {514} ... our Jewish hero {515} ... pamphleteer {519} ... common {520} ... inherent instability in his view of life and of the world” {529}.

Marx: “Narrowness of conception ... his works and achievements in and by themselves, that is, regarded from a purely theoretical standpoint, are without any permanent significance in our domain” (the critical history of socialism), “and in the general history of intellectual tendencies they are to be cited at most as symptoms of the influence of one branch of modern sectarian scholastics {D. K. G. 495} ... impotence of the faculties of concentration and systematisation ... deformity of thought and style, undignified affectation of language ... anglicised vanity ... duping {497} ... barren conceptions which in fact are only bastards of historical and logical fantasy ... deceptive twisting {498} ... personal vanity {499} ... vile mannerisms ... snotty ... buffoonery pretending to be witty ... Chinese erudition {506} ... philosophical and scientific backwardness” {507}.

And so on, and so forth — for this is only a small superficially culled bouquet out of the Dühring rose garden. It must be understood that, at the moment, we are not in the least concerned whether these amiable expressions of abuse — which, if he had any education, should forbid Herr Dühring from finding anything vile and snotty — are also final and ultimate truths. And — for the moment — we will guard against voicing any doubt as to their deep-rootedness, as we might otherwise be prohibited even from trying to find the category of idiots to which we belong. We only thought it was our duty to give, on the one hand, an example of what Herr Dühring calls

“the select language of the considerate and, in the real sense of the word, moderate mode of expression” {D. Ph. 260},

and on the other hand, to make it clear that to Herr Dühring the worthlessness of his predecessors is a no less established fact than his own infallibility. Whereupon we sink to the ground in deepest reverence before the mightiest genius of all time — if that is how things really stand.


[28] Dühring's works, quoted by Engels, are referred to in brackets in abbreviated form in the following way:

D.Ph. stands for: Dühring, Cursus der Philosophie, Leipzig, 1875

D.K.G. stands for: Dühring, Kritische Geschichte der Nationalökonomie und des Sozialismus, 2. Aufl., Berlin, 1875;

D.C. stands for: Dühring, Cursus der National- und Socialökonomie, 2. Aufl., Leipzig, 1876,

and the relevant pages.

[29] Phalansteries — the buildings in which, according to the French utopian socialist Charles Fourier, the members of phalanges, ideal harmonious communities, would live and work.

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