Thursday, June 29, 2006

Marx Meets Buddha as WC Philosophy Professor Explores the Spiritual Dimensions of Humanistic Socialism

Chestertown, MD, June 28, 2006 — Karl Marx's materialistic philosophy of history might seem to exclude all possibilities of a spiritual dimension to human existence. But, according to Marx scholar Kevin Brien, chair and professor in the Department of Philosophy and Religion at Washington College, the core of humanistic Marxism contains a latent spiritual view of human existence. In the second edition of his book Marx, Reason, and the Art of Freedom (Prometheus/Humanity Books, 2006), Brien analyzes not only the concept of freedom as developed throughout the philosophical works of Marx but also the convergence of humanistic Marxism and Buddhism through their nontheistic view of human flourishing.

In his analysis of the problem of freedom from a humanistic-Marxist perspective, Brien draws on the full chronological spectrum of Marx's writings to reconstruct the mature Marx's view of freedom. While recognizing that many students of Marx have noted two distinctly different perspectives in early and late Marx, Brien interprets Marx's philosophy as a coherent organic whole, demonstrating that Marx's thought is principally and systematically an elaborated philosophical-scientific theory of freedom.

"In 1987 I published the first edition of this book because of my belief that Marx's scientific/philosophical paradigm, when seen in the appropriate way, stands as the most viable currently available perspective for understanding human cultural evolution; and also because of my belief that Marx's paradigm, when properly understood, provides extremely fruitful guidance for nurturing a development toward a new plateau of human culture and of human freedom," Brien writes. "In undertaking to publish this second edition after the break up of the Soviet Union, and now well into the twenty-first century, these beliefs still function as my basic motivation."

New to this second edition is Brien's presentation of a humanistic-Marxist interpretation of spirituality and the viability of a nontheistic spiritual dimension, a "liberation spirituality" that provides a moral ground for common social action among adherents of different beliefs.

"It is my deep belief that a nondogmatic, nonsectarian, this-world oriented attitude concerning the spiritual dimension holds great promise for building such transcending holistic coalitions that could nurture developments toward a new plateau of cultural evolution—while acknowledging and even cultivating diversity," Brien says.

Brien received his Ph.D. from Boston University in 1978 and has taught in the Department of Philosophy and Religion at Washington College since 1986. His areas of specialization and interest include Eastern philosophy and religion, philosophy of science, Marx, Nietzsche, and the history of philosophy. He is currently working on a new book tentatively called Toward a New Liberation Spirituality, aiming a critical synthesis of Marx, Nietzsche, and Buddhism.