A Comparison Of Marx And Engels With Mill Regarding Social And Economic Progress

5023 words - 20 pages

A Comparison of Marx and Engels with Mill Regarding Social and Economic Progress

To understand what these two different philosophies tell us about the
nature of social and economic progress it is important to clearly
establish, for the purpose of this essay, a definition of the word
progress. Many philosophers see progress as being a positive,
continuous advancement into the future where, if we do not gain full
scientific and empirical knowledge of our surroundings one day, then
we will at least gain a deeper knowledge of our lives than we at
present possess. If we can therefore have a fuller understanding of
our surroundings there leaves the further question of whether we will
ever reach a stage of progression where we can have complete knowledge
of the more abstract concepts of man’s social and moral
‘perfectibility’. Marx, Engels and Mill attempt to demonstrate how
this ‘perfectibility’ may be reached and/or will be reached with their
contrasting (Marx and Engels vs Mill) views of social and economic
progress. ((The most prominent similarity of these philosophers is the
emphasis that they all put on freedom as being the ultimate goal of
human progress.))

Marx and Engels believe that this ‘perfectibility’ would be reached
through a material process. They reject the views of the young
Hegelians. These new Hegelian followers re-interpreted Hegel’s
idealist philosophy that illustrates history as the progress of the
‘Mind’, thus the spiritual side of the Universe, into history being an
account of human self-consciousness freeing itself from the illusions
that prevent it from achieving self understanding and freedom. Marx
and Engels disagreed with this new interpretation and also disagreed
with the idealist views of Hegel himself. They decided that it is not
the ideas and thoughts of individuals or society as a whole that
drives progress forward but it is the material circumstances under
which people live that determines how they think and act; in their own
words ‘Consciousness does not determine life, but life determines
consciousness’. These two philosophers therefore believe, like
Feurbach (an extremely influential philosopher, especially on Marx)
that philosophy must begin with the finite, material world as this is
the only way that philosophical problems may be overcome; thought does
not precede existence, existence precedes thought. For example in an
article written by Marx titled ‘The Jewish Question’ the racist and
stereotypical nature of the Jew is discussed. The majority of people
at that time, under the Hegelian influence, would see with their
‘idealist eyes’ that the problem of Jews is in religious consciousness
which could be resolved by establishing a new way of thinking. However
Marx clearly points out that the problem does not lie in anything
spiritual but is...

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