The principle of hope

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The principle of hope is the main work of the German philosopher Ernst Bloch (1885–1977). It was written in exile in the United States between 1938 and 1947 . Originally it should be called The dreams of a better life . It appeared in several volumes from 1954, first in the GDR and in 1959 by the Suhrkamp publishing house . Since then, the term “Hope Principle” has become a popular phrase in German feature pages.

Influenced by Hegel and Karl Marx , Bloch, in principle hope , unfolds an extensive philosophy of concrete utopia .

The principle of hope was published in three volumes:

  • The first volume includes
    • the part "little daydreams" ( report ),
    • the philosophical heart of "Anticipatory Consciousness" ( foundation )
    • and “ideal images in the mirror” ( transition ).
  • The second volume analyzes the “outline of a better world” ( construction ).
  • The third volume is called “Ideal Images of the Fulfilled Moment” ( Identity ).

Bloch himself describes the Tübingen Introduction to Philosophy , written much later, as the introduction to the principle of hope .

Content of "The Principle of Hope"

Who are we? Where are we from Where are we going? What do we expect What can we expect? Many just feel confused. The ground is shaking, they don't know why and from what. This state of theirs is fear; if it becomes more definite, it is fear.

Once someone went out to learn how to fear. That was easier and closer in the past time, this art was terribly mastered. But now, accounting for the originators of fear, a feeling more appropriate to us is due.

It all comes down to learning to hope. His work does not renounce, she is in love with success instead of failure. (From the preface)

Little daydreams (first chapter)

The first, 25-page part is strongly stylized in literary terms. Which is described desires , longing , hope from childhood through youth to old age.

It is typical of the literary style in Ernst Bloch's works that he first addresses the reader as an individual in simple, short chapters, and then guides them through the complex history of philosophy. It is probably due to the one and a half thousand pages work that it gets the reader in the mood not only in every chapter, but in the entire first chapter.

Anticipatory Consciousness (Chapter Two)

Bloch also called the second part of the work the foundation . This is where his philosophy can be found most compressed.

The not-yet-conscious

Bloch begins by examining the psychology of his time. The psychoanalytic unconscious it sets the Not-Yet-Conscious counter, which especially in waking dream - later, he prefers the term daydreams - appears:

"The waking dreams, provided they contain a real future, all move into this not-yet-conscious, into the unfilled or utopian field."

- page 218

Bloch differentiates himself from Sigmund Freud , who mainly analyzed night dreams. According to Bloch, daydreams, on the other hand, contain an idea of ​​the future and thus also a formative, planning character and not just working through the past, as in Freud's depth psychological studies. Reaching for possibilities in daydreams and using them to determine his being draws a parallel to Martin Heidegger's being and time , which has a very new approach to existentialist philosophy, to include ideas of the future in the self-determination of existence. Another fundamental distinction is the analysis of the basic instinct . While Freud made the libido here , Ernst Bloch sees hunger as the basic instinct. The depth psychologists Carl Gustav Jung and Alfred Adler , who distinguish themselves from Freud, are also criticized by Bloch and assessed as "fascist" (Jung) or "imperialist" (Adler). Bloch complains that the basic material needs of ordinary people and their consequences - e. B. the influence of hunger on consciousness - would not be adequately considered in psychoanalysis.

The Possibility category

Endless stairs by Max Bill . The 19 twisted levels provide the philosophical principle of hope is

This is followed by categorical determinations: the categories Front, Novum and Ultimum are introduced. Then, the Aristotelian matter conception and the resulting therefrom for Bloch distinction within the category option received the distinction between the post-opportunity-existent and the in-way-existent . This distinction corresponds to the differentiation of the social analysis that Ernst Bloch considered necessary in his examination of National Socialism : the cold current, with which he referred to the hard and clear Marxist analysis of the economic and political distribution of resources and power in society and the post-possibility - determine the end of the line; and the flow of heat , which takes people's expectations seriously and thus aims at the hope side of the objective-real possibility , the being- in-possibility . The objective-real possibility that appears in art as the fore . But as the last two parts of the principle of hope are intended to show, this appearance is omnipresent.

Bloch divides the Possibility category into four layers below:

  • the formally possible - that which does not contradict logic (formally permissible)
  • the factually-objectively possible - that which is possible according to epistemology (objectively presumable)
  • the factually-object- related possible - that which is object-theoretically possible (object- related open)
  • the objectively real possible - that which has latency and tendency in the matter (corresponding to the process matter)

In order for what is possible according to the objective and the object to be realized, it is important that the partial conditions of active ability on the one hand and passive possibility on the other hand intertwine. In short: in order to be able to read, one must be able to read (ability) and have a text (passive possibility), only then is there the (factually, object-oriented) possibility to read. The objective-real Possible sets Bloch coinciding with the matter. However, for him, matter is not just a block of matter , but rather self-creative.

On the theory-practice relationship

This leads to his examination of the Marxian Feuerbach theses. Here Ernst Bloch further develops the Marxist theory - practice relationship:

“The dialectical-historical tendency science Marxism is thus the mediated science of the future of reality plus the objective-real possibility in it; all for the purpose of the action. "

- page 331

The darkness of the lived moment

Then (pp. 343–368) he elaborates on his reflections on the darkness of the lived moment and amazement . In this chapter he relates so-called spiritual questions to class society.

The darkness of the lived moment is the immediate now, which is lived but never experienced. In this now it drives, in it is the basic drive of hunger, the immediate now thus forms the front in which the real future can be decided. To realize this future, however, not only the darkness of the now belongs as a source, but also the corresponding openness of the object-like background , the utopia as the front-end determination of the objects . Dark moment and adequate openness of the objects are the poles of anticipatory consciousness . Open adequacy is made clear in the strange experience of anticipating stillness , the questioning amazement, and this runs as an unconstructible question back into the darkness of the moment.

In the next - not in the most distant - the knot of the riddle of existence is stuck. The objective content of the darkness of the lived moment is intended under the mythological designation God and, with the unmythological designation, is both the agent and the core of the developing matter . It has not yet been possible to experience this directly and therefore no one is really living, which Bloch says in various works with the formula: “I am. But I haven't tried to express myself yet. ” The carpe diem (picking the day) of the people of action is far from allowing the now to be experienced and pure contemplation is just as insufficient. In the class society, which necessarily overlooks what is really producing via the product, there is no comprehension-grasping of the current driving forces of events ; at best , a vertical light falls on the immediacy of revolutionary situations. A militant optimism is appropriate here, a real history-conscious Carpe diem.

Ideal images in the mirror (third chapter)

Versailles Palace , Orangery ... the interest of occidental absolutism in oriental despotism let the Arab imagination take hold.

In this last chapter of the first volume Bloch deals with the ideal images that appear to us in conversation .

Above all, it is also about the broken ideal images that cannot develop, that make us seductive. Bloch is talking about the light of the advertising, the colorful magazines. He writes about the South Seas in funfairs and circuses and about fairy tales. The "Once Upon a Time" does not refer to the past but to the future, the Magic says Ernst Bloch, intendiere the land of plenty as a utopia. This is followed by the sections Stimulus of Travel and Ideal Images in Dance . It should be noted that Bloch, even more drastically than Adorno , condemned American jazz dance : Man should be defiled and the brain emptied . He countered this with the down-to-earth and - at the time - not marketed folk dance . However, as a philosopher of the upright gait in folk dance , he praised exactly what makes up today's jazz dance : the body line and the movement from the pelvis.

In the subchapter on the Schaubühne, Bloch refers positively to Bertolt Brecht . Here he discusses the joy of liberation, defiance and hope as an effective part of the future in the theater.

This is followed by an investigation into ridiculed ( castle in the air ) and hated ideal images such as Das Wörtchen Wenn or the comedies of Aristophanes ( Cloud Cuckoo's Land ). However, there are also premature dreams that believe in new things and yet laugh at them. Here Bloch cites HG Wells in particular .

The first volume ends with a happy ending (seen through and still defended) .

Outlines of a Better World (Chapter Four)

In the fourth part of the principle of hope, i.e. the second volume, Bloch analyzes

More's " Utopia ". Wood engraving by Ambrosius Holbein (1518)

Social utopias

The thinning of the social utopias takes up most of the outline of a better world . Here, on almost two hundred pages, the ideal social images of the past are presented, from Solon and Diogenes to Thomas More to Edward Bellamy and William Morris . These ideal images are not arbitrary and incoherent, but are socially conditioned, they obey a social mandate :

"Social utopia worked as part of the force to be amazed and to take the given so little for granted that only its change can make sense."

- page 557

Beyond personal opinion, they stuck to a timetable . They not only speak of what is to come in the form of a subsequent tendency, but also contain excessive images . This subchapter ends with a plea for Marxist concrete anticipation .

Technical utopias

This sub-chapter is very important because Bloch presents his concept of the alliance technology here.

First, Bloch goes into the technical utopias handed down in history . Here he discusses the utopian content of technical-magical inventions in Aladdin's fairy tales, in alchemy and in Francis Bacon's Nova Atlantis as a utopian laboratory .

Then the late bourgeois throttling of technology is discussed. This is caused by the transformation of all exchange goods into commodities , by commodity thinking , reification , by the fact that the world is only perceived quantitatively . With this quantitative understanding of nature, bourgeois science and therefore technology can only be further developed to a limited extent. Because nature can only be outwitted or exploited in this form . But it would not be perceived that nature, as Averroes says, is creative matter . Only the subject socially mediated with itself, which increasingly mediates itself with the problem of the natural subject (p. 787), can prevent bourgeois reification from continuing. This means that people see themselves as adding value and nature as creative and see each other as an alliance. Both together suggest the concrete utopia of technology as it joins and is connected to the concrete utopia of society. (P. 787 f.)

Ideal images of the fulfilled moment (fifth chapter)

In the last volume, which Bloch described with ideal images of the fulfilled moment , he explores these in detail in the categories of morality , music , death , religion , nature and finally home .


Ernst Bloch's final sentences in the principle of hope form a brilliant furioso (Eberhard Braun) on the topic of home:

“Man still lives everywhere in prehistory, yes everything and everything is still before the creation of the world, as a right one. The real genesis is not at the beginning, but at the end, and it only begins when society and existence become radical, that is, get to the root. The root of history, however, is the working, creating man who transforms and overtakes the given situation. If he has grasped himself and established his own in real democracy without alienation and alienation, something arises in the world that seems to everyone in childhood and in which no one has been: home. "

- page 1628

Impact history

Ernst Bloch, who initially published the volumes of the Hope Principle in Leipzig , was very popular with students in the young GDR .

Wolfgang Harich founded the German magazine for philosophy together with Ernst Bloch and others , in which Bloch was also critical of the SED . In 1956, under Bloch's influence, Harich published the “Platform on the Special German Path to Socialism”. He was arrested that same year and sentenced to ten years in prison after the Hungarian uprising . 1957 Bloch is forcedly emeritus , two years later, his third volume of appears Principle of Hope .

The eschatology and the relation to religion , which later (1968) was further elaborated in Bloch's work Atheism in Christianity , had a strong effect on German Protestant theologians of liberation theology . Was influenced z. B. Jürgen Moltmann , who published the book Theology of Hope in 1964 , and Dorothee Sölle ( Atheistically believing in God , 1968).


The philosopher and sociologist Theodor W. Adorno expressed his criticism in a letter to the publisher Peter Suhrkamp in 1958 as follows:

“Instead of the real effort and work of the term, which God knows would have been difficult for an old Hegelian like Bloch to take, the book is like a raging body of water in which all sorts of stuff, especially canned food, swims around, sometimes overflowing with something apocryphal material, but simply poor in spiritual content. "

With his work “ The Responsibility Principle ”, the philosopher Hans Jonas formulated an explicit criticism of Ernst Bloch's principle of hope .

The sociologist Helmut Schelsky published his own book against The Principle of Hope : ("The Hope of Bloch: Critique of the Marxist Existential Philosophy of a Youth Movement").


  • Ernst Bloch: Work edition: Volume 5: The principle of hope. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1985, ISBN 3-518-28154-2 .
  • Ernst Bloch: Tübingen Introduction to Philosophy. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1996, ISBN 3-518-13308-X .
  • Katharina Block: social utopia. Presentation and analysis of the chances of realizing a utopia (PDF; 22 kB). Wissenschaftlicher Verlag Berlin, Berlin 2011, ISBN 978-3-86573-602-4 .
  • Eberhard Braun: Outlines of a better world. Contributions to the political philosophy of hope. Talheimer Verlag, Mössingen-Talheim 1997, ISBN 3-89376-011-3 .
  • Eberhard Braun: "And where no one has been: home." To the final furious of Bloch's "Principle Hope". In: Karlheinz Weigand: Bloch-Almanach 8. Ludwigshafen 1988, pp. 137–142.
  • Hans Jonas: The principle of responsibility : Attempting ethics for technological civilization. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 2003, ISBN 3-518-39992-6 .
  • Heinz Kimmerle: The future meaning of hope. Examination of Ernst Bloch's “Principle of Hope” from a philosophical and theological point of view. Bonn 1966; 2nd edition ibid 1974.
  • Helmut Schelsky: The hope of Bloch: Critique of the Marxist existential philosophy of a youth movement. Klett-Cotta, Stuttgart 1979, ISBN 3-12-911730-X .
  • Jürgen Moltmann: Theology of Hope. Ch. Kaiser, Munich 1964. (Contributions to Protestant theology; Vol. 38)
  • Dorothee Sölle : Believing in God atheistically. dtv, Munich 1994, ISBN 3-423-30400-6

Individual evidence

  1. Proof at Worldcat
  2. Kindler's new literature lexicon study edition 1996 volume p. 784