Life Is Not Determined By Consciousness, But Consciousness By Life

1009 Words May 18th, 2016 5 Pages
‘Life is not determined by consciousness, but consciousness by life.’ (Karl Marx & Friedrich Engels.) What do Marx and Engels mean by this and how helpful is this idea for literary analysis?
Marx and Engels both formed the theory that it isn’t what we think that decides out reality, it is instead our reality that decides what it is that we are capable of thinking. It is in essence the idea that we as human beings are refined not by what we think, but by our reality, which in turn decides the capability of our thoughts. The definition of human consciousness, as is the case with all philosophers is of critical importance to Marx and Engels. The Oxford English Dictionary definition of consciousness states firstly: “The state of being aware of and responsive to one’s surroundings.” (Oxford English Dictionary Definition of Consciousness Entry One). The second entry is similar: “A person’s awareness or perception of something” (Oxford English Dictionary Definition of Consciousness Entry Two). It is in principle, the idea that consciousness is how a human being defines themselves; it is their unique identity on Earth.

Marx’s entire theory stated in The German Ideology borrows from his own teacher, Hegel, who he himself argued that consciousness is a continual process called the “dialectic between oppositions” (thesis and antithesis). This is familiar to us due to the “Hegelian Philosophy”. For Marx however the process is instead economic and is amid those with money and…

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