Interpreting and changing
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Interpreting and changing book
In 1845 Karl Marx stated that ‘The philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways; the point, however, is to change it’ (Marx and Engels 1984: 286). This stands as a warning for the second half of the nineteenth century and a battle cry for the Modernist period. Certain writers in different fields did change the world in the sense at least of massively altering people’s most fundamental interpretations of the world. Not least in any such list would be the six figures given prominence in this chapter: Freud, Darwin, Saussure, Nietzsche, Einstein and Marx himself. They are not all from the same generation but were all born in the nineteenth century and for a short time their lives overlapped around 1880, at the threshold of the artistic revolutions that would be collected under the heading of Modernism. In this chapter, these names will be used as shorthand for the fundamental breaks with previous understandings that occurred in Victorian Britain and across the Western world at this time, in terms of politics
and history, religion and evolution, psychology, philosophy, language and science. Nonetheless, it can be noted that it would be possible also to trace a shift in understanding around the work of analytical philosophers such as Wittgenstein, Russell and G. E. Moore, instead of Saussure, to bring C. G. Jung’s importance more into view alongside Freud’s, or Schopenhauer’s alongside Nietzsche’s, to emphasise in more detail that Darwin was only one amongst a number of figures who brought evolutionary thought into scientific prominence, just as Einstein has become a cultural touchstone sometimes obscuring such figures as Max Planck, Nils Bohr, Werner Heisenberg and Marie Curie, and to note that myriad political figures from Aimé Césaire and Mohandas Gandhi through to Marcus Garvey have occasioned shifts in intellectual history since Marx.