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Feuerbach, Ludwig (1804–1872)

Clifford L. Staples

Subject Philosophy
Sociology » Sociological and Social Theory, Sociology of Religion

Place Western Europe » Germany

Period 1000 - 1999 » 1800-1899

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405124331.2007.x


Ludwig Feuerbach was born into a large, prominent, academic family in Landshut, Bavaria. His father was a distinguished professor of jurisprudence, and three of Ludwig's four brothers went on to noteworthy careers in mathematics, law, and archeology. But unwilling to heed his father's advice to steer clear of radical ideas, and unable to negotiate the repressive atmosphere of academic and political life in mid-nineteenth century Germany, Feuerbach became an important academic failure. Some social theorists and sociologists are familiar with Feuerbach's writings on religion, but most sociologists know Feuerbach primarily because of his influence on the young Karl Marx – a central figure within the sociological tradition. Feuerbach's critique of Hegel provided Marx with the occasion to, in turn, critique Feuerbach, and in the process Marx worked his way toward a thoroughly sociological approach to such core topics as history, ideology, and social evolution – topics approached before Marx usually as theological or philosophical problems. For his time and place, Feuerbach was a radical, though not quite radical enough for Marx. Feuerbach's life took a familiar modern trajectory from youthful religiosity toward naturalism and eventually to a materialist humanism typical, if not universal, among contemporary sociologists. Having a highly learned and opinionated father, however, made it ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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