If I'm not mistaken, this was fairly central to Marx's philosophy, though I've not been able to find any succinct descriptions of it.

My interest was piqued by the book "Marx for beginners", in a passage describing how Hegel thought that one could be wrapped in chains but still feel free, and Marx vehemently disputed this, heavily insisting that one must attain real-life freedom in order to feel free.

I'm wondering if anyone can refer me to any passages or works by either one that details each's stance on the matter better.

  • 1
    Could you maybe start with what you've found out so far? To summarize the differences, one has first to fully outline the philosophies of both in general. This is a massive task. You could try to be more specific, thereby increasing your chances of getting a good answer.
    – iphigenie
    Nov 28, 2013 at 11:27
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    Well, for example, in "Marx for beginners", there's a passage about Hegel encouraging faith in religion as a path to freedom. It says that "hegel thought that one could be wrapped in chains and still feel free." And it goes on to say how marx very seriously disputed this, and opposed deluding oneself about your real, concrete situation for comfort. This is the aspect that i'm interested in. Nov 28, 2013 at 15:49
  • Keep in mind SE is optimized for questions that are highly-specific and that can be meaningfully answered in a few paragraphs. Maybe you could share a little bit more about why this question might have become interesting or important to you? What sort of explanation are you looking for?
    – Joseph Weissman
    Nov 28, 2013 at 16:59
  • If that's the passage and the point that#s of special interest to you, you should definitely edit the question and highlight that. The same goes for the headline. Not everyone knows about all the differences there are, but some might be especially interested in the religious dimension, and vice versa.
    – iphigenie
    Nov 28, 2013 at 18:08
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    The version I read was taken offline by intellectual property capitlists, so unfortunately I can't. Nov 29, 2013 at 10:46

1 Answer 1


I don't know why you've titled the difference as being about "mysticism". To put it simply, Marx is not a very good interpreter of Hegel (for the take of another Hegel scholar see Dudley Knowles, Routledge Guide to Hegel and the Philosophy of Right , p. 20). So Marx critiques what turns out to be a fundamental feature of Hegel's philosophy which demonstrates how badly he's misunderstood the dialectic.

For Hegel, there are three different approaches to truth: art, religion, and philosophy. Skipping over quite a bit of the Phenomenology and moving towards the ending, what turns out to be the case is that each of these three can give access to that which is in and of itself (i.e. Truth) and the means through which truth is accessible is either through imagery (art), through faith (religion), or through knowledge (philosophy). In other words, ideal art is right about what it represents, ideal religion is right about what it believes, and ideal philosophy is right about what it comprehends.This sort of triadic structure is common in Hegel's philosophy and is called dialectic. There's actually multiple forms in the text itself (but we needn't understand that to understand this point). The think that engages in all of this is for Hegel Geist -- rendered in English classically as "Spirit" and more recently as "Mind". Thus for Hegel, religion and thinking of God is not wrong but is second to philosophy.

What causes Marx to disagree with this account? Marx wants to keep a dialectic but does not understand humans as thinkers. Instead, he views the dynamic in terms of capital and how it causes relationships. Thus, his view is called dialectical materialism -- whereas Hegel is dialectical but not a materialist.

Where this matters for the case of slavery is in Hegel's classic Master-Slave dialectic (probably better rendered as "lordship and bondage"). It's a commonly referenced but misunderstood passage and subject to multiple interpretations. On the simplest level, Hegel is making the following points: (1) the master does control the slave physically (2) but "master" and "slave" are social identities (3) the "slave" is made a slave by the master's consciousness and subjugation of the person socially. (4) thus, the master ultimately depends on the slave for recognition as a master as well.

Hegel's point is that while the master controls the slave "master" and "slave" are identities that are mutually dependent on recognition. (Hegel will later draw this into society by pointing out that the identities of selves depend on each other and society). Thus, for Hegel, the slave can be freer than the master in terms of Spirit because the slave's thoughts are free whereas the master's body is free.

Marx's dialectic does not engage in terms of "Spirit" (i.e. consciousness), so he just sees that the master is getting more use out of the slave than vice-versa on a material level.

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