Eugen Karl Dühring (12 January 1833, Berlin – 21 September 1901, Nowawes in modern-day Potsdam-Babelsberg) was a German philosopher, positivist, economist, and socialist who was a strong critic of Marxism.
Dühring was born in Berlin, Prussia. After a legal education he practised at Berlin as a lawyer until 1859. A weakness of the eyes, ending in total blindness, occasioned his taking up the studies with which his name is now connected. In 1864, he became docent of the University of Berlin, but, in consequence of a quarrel with the professoriate, was deprived of his licence to teach in 1874.
Among his works are Kapital und Arbeit (1865); Der Wert des Lebens (1865); Natürliche Dialektik (1865); Kritische Geschichte der Philosophie (von ihren Anfängen bis zur Gegenwart) (1869); Kritische Geschichte der allgemeinen Principien der Mechanik (1872), one of his most successful works; Kursus der National und Sozialokonomie (1873); Kursus der Philosophie (1875), entitled in a later edition Wirklichkeitsphilosophie; Logik und Wissenschaftstheorie (1878); and Der Ersatz der Religion durch Vollkommeneres (1883). He also published Die Judenfrage als Racen-, Sitten- und Culturfrage (1881, The Jewish Question as a Racial, Moral, and Cultural Question), and other antisemitic treatises.
He published his autobiography in 1882 under the title Sache, Leben und Feinde; the mention of Feinde ('enemies') is characteristic. Dühring's philosophy claims to be emphatically the philosophy of reality. He is passionate in his denunciation of everything which, like mysticism, tries to veil reality. He is, in the words of historian Carlton J. H. Hayes "almost Lucretian in his anger against religion" which would withdraw the secret of the universe from our direct gaze. His substitute for religion is a doctrine in many points akin to Auguste Comte and Ludwig Andreas Feuerbach, the former of whom he resembles in his sentimentalism.
Dühring's opinions changed considerably after his first appearance as a writer. His earlier work, Natürliche Dialektik (Natural Dialectics), is entirely in the spirit of critical philosophy. Later, in his later movement towards positivism, beginning with the publication of Kritische Geschichte der Philosophie (Critical History of Philosophy), he rejects Immanuel Kant's separation of phenomenon from noumenon and claims that our intellect is capable of grasping the whole reality. This adequacy of thought to things is because the universe contains but one reality, i.e. matter. It is to matter that we must look for the explanation both of conscious and of physical states. But matter is not, in his system, to be understood with the common meaning, but with a deeper sense as the substratum of all conscious and physical existence; and thus the laws of being are identified with the laws of thought. In this idealistic system Dühring finds room for teleology. The end of Nature, he holds, is the production of a race of conscious beings. From his belief in teleology he is not deterred by the enigma of pain. As a determined optimist, he asserts that pain exists to throw pleasure into conscious relief.
In ethics, Dühring follows Auguste Comte in making sympathy the foundation of morality. In political philosophy, he teaches an ethical communism and attacks Herbert Spencer's principle of Social Darwinism. In economics, he is best known by his vindication of the American writer H. C. Carey, who attracts him both by his theory of value, which suggests an ultimate harmony of the interests of capitalists and labourers; and also by his doctrine of national political economy, which advocates protection on the ground that the morals and culture of a people are promoted by having its whole system of industry complete within its own borders. His patriotism is fervent, but narrow and exclusive. He idolized Frederick the Great, and denounced Jews, Greeks, and the cosmopolitan Goethe. His writing has been characterized as clear and incisive, "though disfigured by arrogance and ill-temper, failings which may be extenuated on the ground of his physical affliction."
He is chiefly remembered among English-speakers because of Engels' criticism of his views in Anti-Dühring: Herr Eugen Dühring's Revolution in Science. Engels wrote his Anti-Dühring in opposition to Dühring's ideas, which had found some disciples among the German Social Democrats. He is also the most prominent representative of the socialism of that era attacked by Nietzsche in his later works. Most of Dühring's work remains unavailable in English, aside from his work on the Jewish question.
"Heroic materialism" characterized Dühring's philosophy. He attacked capitalism, Marxism, and organized Christianity and Judaism. Many scholars believe that Dühring's invention of a modern-sounding antisemitism helped persuade Theodore Herzl that Zionism was the only answer:
Herzl acknowledged this over and over in his diaries and correspondence: "I will fight anti-Semitism in the place it originated—in Germany and in Austria," he said in one letter. He identified the genealogy of modern, racist antisemitism in the writings of the German social scientist Dr. Eugen Duehring in the 1890s.