3) Nature as declination and repulsion within the Individual (atom and human) : Marx notes that “Declination is that something in its (atom’s) breast that can fight back and resist”. Which means, the atom must have a kind of consciousness that is able to resist being pushed into a straight line by the ‘bond of fate’ (fati foedera). Which would also imply that the atom is seeking freedom from something called as fate (or freedom should already be a quality of atom), and in order for that seeking, it should have a kind of self-realization of itself as an abstract individual. Or as Marx puts it “Repulsion is the first form of self-consciousness, it corresponds therefor to that self-consciousness which conceives itself as immediate-being, as abstractly individual.” He then also pushes this idea, like Epicurus, to the idea of the human self and says “But when I relate myself to myself as to something which is directly another, then my relationship is a material one. This is the most extreme degree of externality that can be conceived.” This idea of the externalized or abstract self is also seen in the 1844 Manuscripts, where Marx notes that externalization or alienation in itself is not necessarily a problem, but always a condition that all individuals share in the world. As when Marx says, “Man makes his life activity itself into an object of will and conscious- ness. He has conscious life activity. It is not a determination with which he immediately identifies. Conscious life activity distinguishes man immediately from the life activity of the animal. Only thereby is he a species-being. Or rather, he is only a conscious being -that is, his own life is an object for him -since he is a species-being. Only on that account is his activity free activity.” It should become clear from this quotation the similarity between the Epicurean idea of atoms and Marx’s idea of the man.
In the 1844 manuscripts one also gets the idea of human nature. Human nature understood as human essence. According to Marx, there are two ways to understand the idea of human essence (nature). Firstly, activity, as in to do something humanly, is the essence of man. Secondly, the essence of man gets naturalized historically. “In this relationship the extent to which the human essence has become nature for man or nature has become the human essence of man is sensuously manifested, reduced to a perceptible fact. From this relationship one can thus judge the entire level of mankind’s development.” Which tells us that practice is the essence of human being. Yet, what humans practice is not necessarily abstract, but always embedded in the historicity of ‘mankind’s development’.
This idea of individual, the man who is free to carry out his activity outside the bounds of fate (the straight line), is important for Epicurus, and subsequently even for Marx, as a way to understand the political and social domains. The possibility of emancipation, to swerve away from the given condition, to freely meet and connect with other humans, to produce a new world, is what then can be considered as natural or essence of human being. For this reason, Marx notes, at the end of the first chapter: “Hence we find also more concrete forms of the repulsion applied by Epicurus. In the political domain there is the covenant, in the social domain friendship, which is praised as the highest good.” Not the family, not familial relations, or blood relations, but friendship is praised as the highest good. Something that can even be found in Aristotle’s ethics as well.
Now that we have seen that to carry out activity freely, by extension to swerve away from the given bonds of fate, and by extension to relate freely (as friends and as equals), is what historically constitutes the essence or nature of human being, the question then follows, where and with what do humans carry out their life activities?