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Karl Marx
The Difference Between the Democritean and Epicurean Philosophy of Nature
Fragment from the Appendix

Critique of Plutarch's Polemic against the Theology of Epicurus

I. The Relationship of Man to God

1. Fear and the Being Beyond

<"1"> <"1b">(1) Plutarch, That Epicurus Actually Makes a Pleasant Life Impossible (published by Xylander), 1 I, 1100. point, that of pleasure they derive from these views, has, I should say, been dealt with (i.e., from Epicurus): ... their theory ... does remove a certain superstitious fear; but it allows no joy and delight to conic to us from the gods.

<"2"> <"2b">(2) [Holbach,] System of Nature (London, 1770), I, P. 9. [32] The idea of such powerful agencies has always been associated with that of terror; their name always reminded man of his own calamities or those of his fathers; we tremble today because our ancestors have trembled for thousands of years. The idea of Divinity always awakens in us distressing ideas ... our present fears and lugubrious thoughts ... rise every time before our mind when we hear his name. Comp. p. 79. When man bases morality on the not too moral character of a God who changes his behaviour, then he can never know what he owes to God nor what he owes to himself or to others. Nothing therefore could be more dangerous than to persuade man that a being superior to nature exists, a being before whom reason must be silent and to whom man must sacrifice all to receive happiness.

<"3"> <"3b">(3) Plutarch, 1.c., 1101. For since they fear him [God] as a ruler mild to the good

and hating the wicked, by this one fear, which keeps them from doing wrong, they are freed from the many that attend on crime, and since they keep their viciousness within themselves, where it gradually as it were dies down, they are less tormented than those who make free with it and venture on overt acts, only to be filled at once with terror and regret.

2. Cult and the Individual

<"4"> <"4b">(4) Plutarch, 1.c., 1101. No, wherever it [i.e., the soul] believes and conceives most firmly that the god is present, there more than anywhere else it puts away all feelings of pain, of fear and of worry, and gives itself up so far to pleasure that it indulges in a playful and merry inebriation, in amatory matters....

<"5"> <"5b">(5) Ibid., 1.c.

<"6"> <"6b">(6) Ibid., 1.c., 1102. For it is not the abundance of wine or the roast meats that cheer the heart at festivals, but good hope and the belief in the benign presence of the god and his gracious acceptance of what is done.

3. Providence and the Degraded God

<"7"> <"7b">(7) Plutarch, 1.c., 1102. ... how great their pleasures are, since their beliefs about God are purified from error: that he is our guide to all blessings, the father of everything honourable, and that he may no more do than suffer anything base. For he is good, and in none that is good arises envy about aught or fear or anger or hatred; for it is as much the function of heat to chill instead of warm as it is of good to harm. By its nature anger is farthest removed from favour, wrath from goodwill and from love of man and kindliness, hostility and the spreading of terror; for the one set belong to virtue and power, the other to weakness and vice. Consequently it is not true that Heaven is prey to feelings of anger and favour; rather, because it is God's nature to bestow favour and lend aid, it is not his nature to be angry and do harm....

<"8"> <"8b">(8) Ibid. Do you think that deniers of providence require any other punishment, and are not adequately punished when they extirpate from themselves so great a pleasure and delight?

<"9"> <"9b">(9) "But he is not a weak intellect who does not know an objective God, but he who wants to know one." Schelling, "Philosophical Letters on Dogmatism and Criticism" [in German] in Philosophische Schriften, Vol. I, Landshut, 1809, p. 127, Letter II.

Herr Schelling should at any rate be advised to give again some thought to his first writings. For example, we read in his essay "on the Ego as principle of philosophy":

For example, let us assume God, insofar as he is determined as object, "as the real foundation of our cognition, then he belongs himself, insofar as he is object, in the sphere of our cognition and therefore cannot be for us the ultimate point on which this entire sphere is suspended"(l.c., p. 5).

Finally, we remind Herr Schelling of the last words of the letter from which we have just quoted:

"The time has come to proclaim to the better part of humanity the freedom of minds, and not to tolerate any longer that they deplore the loss of their fetters". P. 129, 1.c.

When the time already had come in 1795, how about the year 1841? [33]

We might bring up for this occasion a theme that has well-nigh become notorious, namely, the proofs of the existence of God. Hegel has turned all these theological demonstrations upside-down, that is, he has rejected them in order to justify them. What kind of clients are those whom the defending lawyer can only save from conviction by killing them himself? For instance, Hegel interpreted the conclusion from the world to God as meaning: "Since the accidental does not exist, God or Absolute exists." [34] However, the theological demonstration is the opposite: "Since the accidental has true being, God exists." God is the guarantee for the world of the accidental. It is obvious that with this the opposite also has been stated.

The proofs of the existence of God are either mere hollow tautologies. Take for instance the ontological proof. This only means:

"that which I conceive for myself in a real way (realiter), is a real concept for me",

something that works on me. In this sense all gods, the pagan as well as the Christian ones, have possessed a real existence. Did not the ancient Moloch reign? Was not the Delphic Apollo a real power in the life of the Greeks? Kant's critique [35] means nothing in this respect. If somebody imagines that he has a hundred talers, if this concept is not for him an arbitrary, subjective one, if he believes in it, then these hundred imagined talers have for him the same value as a hundred real ones. For instance, he will incur debts on the strength of his imagination, his imagination will work, in the same way as all humanity has incurred debts on its gods. The contrary is true. Kant's example might have enforced the ontological proof. Real talers have the same existence that the imagined gods have. Has a real taler any existence except in the imagination, if only in the general or rather common imagination of man? [36] Bring paper money into a country where this use of paper is unknown, and everyone will laugh at your subjective imagination. Come with your gods into a country where other gods are worshipped, and you will be shown to suffer from fantasies and abstractions. And justly so. He who would have brought a Wendic [37] god to the ancient Greeks would have found the proof of this god's non-existence. Indeed, for the Greeks he did not exist. That which a particular country is for particular alien gods, the country of reason is for God in general, a region in which he ceases to exist.

As to the second alternative, that such proofs are proofs of the existence of essential human self-consciousness, logical explanations of it, take for example the ontological proof. Which being is immediate when made the subject of thought? Self-consciousness.

Taken in this sense all proofs of the existence of God are proofs of his non-existence. They are refutations of all concepts of a God. The true proofs should have the opposite character: "Since nature has been badly constructed, God exists", "Because the world is without reason, therefore God exists", "Because there is no thought, there is God". But what does that say, except that, for whom the world appears without reason, hence who is without reason himself, for him God exists? Or lack of reason is the existence of God.

"... when you presuppose the idea of an objective God, how can you talk of laws that reason produces out of itself, since autonomy can only belong to an absolutely free being." Schelling, 1.c., p. 198 [Letter X].

"It is a crime against humanity to hide principles that can be generally communicated." Ibid., p. 199.