Plekhanov on Engels’ Book
Ludwig Feuerbach and the End of Classical German Philosophy

From the Translator
[Introduction to First Russian Edition]

Triumphant reaction attires itself in our country, among other things, in a philosophical raiment, as can be seen, for example, from the journal Voprosy Filosofii i Psikhologii. [1*] The negational trend of the sixties [2*] is treated as something very lightminded and superficial, and Messrs. Astafyev, Lopatin and others would-be sages are acknowledged as great philosophical magnitudes (see, for instance, what Mr. Y. Kolubovsky narrates on Philosophy with the Russians in the supplement to his Russian translation of History of Modern Philosophy by Überweg-Heinze). [3*] The Russian socialists will be obliged to take this philosophical reaction into account and consequently study philosophy. In this field, in politics as in economics, Marx and Engels will be their most reliable guides. The present pamphlet contains as full as possible a summary of the philosophical views of these thinkers.

The pamphlet is written in a very concise form. We have had to supply a number of explanatory notes. The longer ones are indicated by figures and placed at the end of the book. There also are two supplements, one of which (Karl Marx on Feuerbach) is also in the German edition and the other one (Karl Marx on French Materialism) is borrowed from Marx and Engels’ work Die heilige Familie oder Kritik der kritischen Kritik, gegen Bruno Bauer und Comp., Frankfurt a.M. 1845 (The Holy Family, or Critique of Critical Criticism. Against Bruno Bauer and Co.) But we have not borrowed it directly, as this book is extremely rare. [4*] The chapter on French materialism has been translated by us from the well-known Socialist-Democratic journal Neue Zeit, in which there was a reprint of it a few years ago. [5*]

Marx and Engels’ polemic with “Bruno Bauer and Company” (see Note 4 on Bruno Bauer) constitutes a whole epoch in the history of world literature. It was the new dialectical materialism’s first resolute encounter with idealist philosophy. Of extraordinary importance by its historical significance and its content (as far as we have been able to judge by the few extract are acquainted with) it could still play a great role in Russia, where even the most progressive writers obstinately continue to adhere to idealist views of social life. We would be very willing to contribute to the publication of this book in Russian if it were at our disposal. But we do not know when it will be and therefore we content ourselves with translating one chapter of it. [1] This chapter, which is closely connected with what Engels says about Feuerbach, is a fairly complete whole, and by its wealth of thought it leaves far behind the many pages on materialism of modern times contained in Lange’s well-known work. [7*] We particularly direct our readers’ attention to the link which Marx shows between nineteenth-century Utopian socialism and eighteenth-century French materialism.

Engels’ work on Feuerbach was written on the occasion of Starcke’s book on the same author. [8*] But so little is said in it about this latter book that we do not consider it necessary to speak of it in the foreword. Readers will find the required information in Note 5.


G. Plekhanov
June 1892

Author’s Footnotes

1. [Note to the 1905 edition] This book has now been published in the second volume of the edition of Gesammelte Schriften von K. Marx und Fr. Engels, 1841 bis 1850 [6*] by Mehring.



1*. Questions of Philosophy and Psychology – a reactionary journal published in Moscow from 1889 to 1918, the rallying centre for representatives of various idealist schools and trends which succeeded one another over a number of years, first Neo-Kantians and then Machists, Vekhovtsi, etc.

2*. Plekhanov calls the materialist trend of the sixties negational for its revolutionary negation of the Russian reality of the day and for its fight against serfdom and autocracy.

3*. Plekhanov here refers to Y. Kolubovsky’s bibliographical appendix to Überweg-Heinze’s History of Modern Philosophy, St. Petersburg 1890. In the third section of the appendix Philosophy with the Russians the following short lines are devoted to the philosophy of the sixties:

“The stormy sixties were marked by the appearance of materialism. Chernyshevsky, Antonovich and Pisarev were the supporters of this teaching, whose force lay not so much in their thoroughness as in the significance they then had. Yurkevich had no difficulty in coping with this trend as far as its philosophical principles were concerned, but on the other hand it was more difficult for him to counteract the influence of these writers.” (p.529)

4*. K. Marx and F. Engels’ Die heilige Familie (The Holy Family) appeared in 1845. One can see from V.D. Perazich’s letter to Plekhanov how difficult it was to get this book in the nineties. Replying to Plekhanov’s request to obtain the book for him on loan, Perazich wrote from Vienna on December 19, 1892:

“Concerning the heil[ige] Fam[ilie], yesterday I was to be told the results of the negotiations with Dr. Adler, the only possessor of the book in spheres to which I have access ... I shall try to have it copied and I can send you the manuscript.” (The Literary Legacy of G.V. Plekhanov, Coll.I, pp.265-66.)

5*. The section Critical Battle Against French Materialism from a chapter in The Holy Family was pulished in Die Neue Zeit, No.9, 1885, pp.385-95 under the title Der französische Materialismus des XVIII Jahrhunderts. Plekhanov translated this extract and had it printed as an appendix to the booklet Ludwig Feuerbach. But prior to that, in 1885, he partially expounded it for the newspaper Nedelya (The Week), before the latter became the organ of the Liberal Narodniks. This article was not published, possibly because of a change in the trend of Nedelya. It was published posthumously in The Literary Legacy of G. V. Plekhanov, Coll.I, pp.164-68.

6*. The Russian translation of this book was not published until 1906 and then not entirely: K. Marx and F. Engels, The Holy Family, or Critique of Critical Criticism. Against Bruno Bauer and Co. Selected Passages, 1. On Contemplative Philosophy. On the Occasion of Proudhon, New Voice, St. Petersburg 1906.

7*. F.A. Lange, Geschichte des Materialismus und Kritik seiner Bedeutung in der Gegenwart, 1866.

8*. C.N. Starcke, Ludwig Feuerbach, Stuttgart, F. Enke, 1885.

Last updated on 17.10.2006