Rough Theory

Theory In The Rough

Marx of the Day

I feel like I ought to have had this quote handy a few weeks ago, when I was writing about Derrida’s selective edits to Capital. In any event, this quotation hits on some of the themes in the various conversations that have been underway in recent weeks with Praxis on the relationship between philosophy and other forms of practice in Marx’s work:

The same spirit that constructs railways with the hands of workers, constructs philosophical systems in the brains of philosophers. Philosophy does not exist outside the world, any more than the brain exists outside man because it is not situated in the stomach. But philosophy, of course, exists in the world through the brain before it stands with its feet on the ground, whereas many other spheres of human activity have long had their feet rooted in the ground and pluck with their hands the fruits of the world before they have any inkling that the “head” also belongs to this world, or that this world is the world of the head. Rheinische Zeitung No. 195, July 14, 1842, Supplement

This passage is from a quite early piece that expresses a number of views not carried over in this form into later works. One element of the quote, however, reminds me of a number of later formulations – specifically, the distinctive double movement through which Marx criticises philosophy, while also rejecting its abstract negation: the “head” and the “hand” are part of the same world – problems arise when philosophy forgets its intrinsic connection to other forms of practice, but also when other forms of practice fail to grasp their own implicit conceptual dimensions… No huge substantive point to be made here – certainly not tonight. Just archiving the quote, in part to remind myself to talk about things like this, if I ever find time to develop properly the argument I began to sketch in relation to Specters

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