We looked at Marx’s claim that the economies we live in determine almost everything about our lives, including how we understand what our aim in life should be.
His second claim is just as far-reaching as Marx believes that capitalism has so flawed the vision of human happiness that people living under it are swayed and cannot possibly achieve genuine happiness.
Please let me explain what Marx is claiming as this is very important to realize.
Marx’s dim appraisal of capitalism stems from his conception of human nature as he sees humans are essentially producers. This is evident from his word choice when he talks about us as Homo Faber (“man is a maker”) rather than Homo sapiens (“thinking man)
Marx believes and I somehow believe that in the deepest part of our being we humans are makers or producers as our essence is to create, to build, to fashion and to make things. Productive work is the fullest and the highest expression of who we are.
Given what we have seen so far of Marx’s materialism and the power he grants to the material condition of our lives, it is no surprise that Marx claims that we become what we do as who we are is down deep depends on what kind of work we do and if our jobs consist of interesting, challenging activities then we become interesting well developed people.
But if we spend our lives and days doing boring, repetitive, mindless work then we become dull, boring individuals.
I must stress before I go to my next point that the German philosopher Martin Heidegger can’s agree more with Marx as Heidegger thinks that our very basic way of existing is a kind of activity that’s deeply immersed in the world.
This view of the relationship between the self and the world however hasn’t been popular as in fact it’s fairly radical way of understanding the self. Although it’s more typical in the Eastern world than in the west. As historically Heidegger is opposing a very ingrained tradition that says thinking is primary— a view that sees the self or existence as private and subjective and fully contained with one’s own mind as a thinking and conscious being.
This view comes from Rene’ Descartes (1596-1650) as Descartes argues that the fact that you exist is shown conclusively by the fact that you think as he famously points out in his book (Mediations) “I think, therefore I am”.
For Descartes, you think first then you engage in practical, worldly activity.
Heidegger reverses this suggesting in a sense “I do, therefore I am”. Conscious thought comes after a practical activity as when practical activity breaks down you start to consciously notice objects or even yourself as a thing when some practical activity that you are engaged in breaks down for some reason.
So for Heidegger although you have the capacity to think or be self-conscious, it’s not your essence at all as Descartes think it is.
But for me I believe that our essence encompasses a third reality as I believe that or essence is larger than from what we think and do.
Our essence is related to God in psychological third way we may call it our core identity.
I will explain this later in here as I will explain in details how we are larger than what we think and do.
But for now let’s examine Marx view on how we alienated as workers under capitalism.