Presentation Details

The Second International Conference on New Directions in the Humanities

Humanistic Marxism & the Transformation of Reason

Kevin Michael Brien.

This paper will open with a focus on "alienated activity" as it is presented by Marx in his famous Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844. My concern will be to bring out the most central dimensions of his view of alienated activity: especially the mode of reason that is embedded within it; as well as the kind of relation between cognition, conation, sensory experience, feeling (etc.) that Marx projects as obtaining in such activity. <> Following this I will make a dialectical extrapolation from the analysis of alienated activity that Marx gives us, and go on to present a sketch of a humanistic-Marxist interpretation of unalienated activity that will be seen to involve a very different structural relation between cognition, conation, sensatory experience, feeling (etc.) than the one that obtains in alienated activity. <> Then I will give a sketch of a non-reductionist, non-economistic, praxis-oriented interpretation of historical materialism, which will serve to bring out the historicity of reason, and the historicity of the modes of rationality that prevail at various stages in world history. <> The last section of this paper will argue: (1) that a transformation of reason is a real possibility; (2) that a transformation of reason in the direction of the kind of unalienated activity I have delineated earlier offers the best hope for a human future; and also (3) that at this juncture in human history it has now become a practical necessity, if humankind is to lift itself out of the mounting world crisis—spiritual and otherwise—in which we are all enmeshed.


Kevin Michael Brien  (United States)
Professor of Philosophy & Religion
Department of Philosophy & Religion
Washington College

  • Alienated activity
  • Unalienated mode of being
  • Reason
  • Transformation of reason
  • Historical materialism
  • Spiritual crisis
Person as Subject
  • Marx, Karl "Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts"

(30 min. Conference Paper, English)