Martin Heidegger Critiques Karl Marx – 1969


Heidegger rebuts Marx’s famous claim that philosophers only interpret and do not actually change the world … Heidegger replies that philosophy is essential in any *concept* of social-political change, including, of course, Marx’s concept of a classless society:

Richard Wisser: … Do you think philosophy has a social mission?

Heidegger: No! One can’t speak of a social mission in that sense! To answer that question, we must first ask: “What is society?” We have to consider that today’s society is only modern subjectivity made absolute. A philosophy that has overcome a position of subjectivity therefore has to say no in the matter.

Another question is to what extent we can speak of a change of society at all. The question of the demand for world change leads us back to Karl Marx’s frequently quoted statement from his Theses on Feuerbach. I would like to quote it exactly and read out loud: “Philosophers have only interpreted the world differently; what matters is to change it.” When this statement is cited and when it is followed, it is overlooked that changing the world presupposes a change in the conception of the world. A conception of the world can only be won by adequately interpreting the world.

That means: Marx’s demand for a “change” is based upon on a very definite interpretation of the world, and therefore this statement is proved to be without foundation. It gives the impression that it speaks decisively against philosophy, whereas the second half of the statement presupposes, unspoken, a demand for philosophy.

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