The Holy Family Chapter VIII
“Rudolph does not remain at his lofty” (!) ..standpoint ... he does not shirk the trouble of adopting by free choice the standpoints on the right and on the left, above and below” (Szeliga).
One of the principal mysteries of Critical Criticism is the “standpoint” and judgment from the standpoint of the standpoint. For Criticism every man, like every product of the spirit, is turned into a standpoint.
Nothing is easier than to see through the mystery of the standpoint when one has seen through the general mystery of Critical Criticism, that of warming up old speculative trash.
First of all, let Criticism itself expound its theory of the “standpoint” in the words of its patriarch, Herr Bruno Bauer.
“Science ... never deals with a given single individual or a given definite standpoint ... it will not fail, of course, to do away with the limitations of a standpoint if it is worth the trouble and if these limitations have really general human significance; but it conceives them as pure category and determinations of selfconsciousness and accordingly speaks only for those who have the courage to rise to the generality of self-consciousness, i.e., who do not wish with all their strength to remain within those limitations” (Anekdota, t. II, p. 127).
[B. Bauer, Leiden und Freuden des theologischen Bewusstseins]
The mystery of this courage of Bauer’s is Hegel’s Phänomenologie. Because Hegel here substitutes self-consciousness for man, the most varied manifestations of human reality appear only as definite forms, as determinateness of self-consciousness. But mere determinateness of self-consciousness is a “pure category”, a mere “thought”, which I can consequently also transcend in “pure” thought and overcome through pure thought. In Hegel’s Phänomenologie the material, sensuously perceptible, objective foundations of the various estranged forms of human self-consciousness are allowed to remain. The whole destructive work results in the most conservative philosophy because it thinks it has overcome the objective world, the sensuously perceptible real world, by transforming it into a “Thing of Thought”, a mere determinateness of self-consciousness, and can therefore also dissolve its opponent, which has become ethereal, in the “ether of pure thought’. The Phänomenologie is therefore quite consistent in that it ends by replacing human reality by “absolute knowledge” — knowledge, because this is the only mode of existence of self-consciousness, and because selfconsciousness is considered the only mode of existence of man — absolute knowledge for the very reason that selfconsciousness knows only itself and is no longer disturbed by any objective world. Hegel makes man the man of self-consciousness instead of making self-consciousness the self-consciousness of man, of real man, i.e., of man living also in a real, objective world and determined by that world. He stands the world on its head and can therefore in his head also dissolve all limitations, which nevertheless remain in existence for bad sensuousness, for real man. Moreover, everything that betrays the limitations of general self-consciousness — all sensuousness, reality, individuality of men and of their world — is necessarily held by him to be a limit. The whole of the Phänomenologie is intended to prove that self-consciousness is the only reality and all reality.
Herr Bauer has recently re-christened absolute knowledge Criticism, and given the more profane sounding name standpoint to the determinateness of self-consciousness. In the Anekdota both names are still to be found side by side, and standpoint is still explained as the determinateness of self-consciousness.
Since the “religious world as such” exists only as the world of self-consciousness, the Critical Critic — the theologian ex professo — cannot by any means entertain the thought that there is a world in which consciousness and being are distinct; a world which continues to exist when I merely abolish its existence in thought, its existence as a category or as a standpoint; i.e., when I modify my own subjective consciousness without altering the objective reality in a really objective way, that is to say, without altering my own objective reality and that of other men. Hence the speculative mystical identity of being and thinking is repeated in Criticism as the equally mystical identity of practice and theory. That is why Criticism is so vexed with practice which wants to be something distinct from theory, and with theory which wants to be something other than the dissolution of a definite category in the “boundless generality of self-consciousness”. Its own theory is confined to stating that everything determinate is an opposite of the boundless generality of self-consciousness and is, therefore, of no significance; for example, the state, private property, etc. It must be shown, on the contrary, how the state, private property, etc., turn human beings into abstractions, or are products of abstract man, instead of being the reality of individual, concrete human beings.
Finally, it goes without saying that whereas Hegel’s Phänomenologie, in spite of its speculative original sin, gives in many instances the elements of a true description of human relations, Herr Bruno and Co., on the other hand, provide only an empty caricature, a caricature which is satisfied with deriving any determinateness out of a product of the spirit or even out of real relations and movements, changing this determinateness into a determinateness of thought, into a category, and making out that this category is the standpoint of the product, of the relation and the movement, in order then to be able to look down on this determinateness triumphantly with old-man’s wisdom from the standpoint of abstraction, of the general category and of general self-consciousness.
Just as in Rudolph’s opinion all human beings maintain the standpoint of good or bad and are judged by these two immutable conceptions, so for Herr Bauer and Co. all human beings adopt the standpoint of Criticism or that of the Mass. But both turn real human beings into abstract standpoints.