Lenin: The Theory of Knowledge of Dialectical Materialism – Part Nine

The Criterion of Practice in the Theory of Knowledge

Feuerbach also, like Marx and Engels, makes an impermissible – from the point of view of Schulze, Fichte and Mach – “leap” to practice in the fundamental problems of epistemology. Criticising idealism, Feuerbach explains its essential nature by the following striking quotation from Fichte, which superbly demolishes Machism: “ ‘You assume,’ writes Fichte, ‘that things are real, that they exist outside of you, only because you see them, hear them and touch them. But vision, touch and hearing are only sensations…. You perceive, not the objects, but only your sensations,’ ” (Feuerbach, Werke, X. Band, S. 185). To which Feuerbach replies that a human being is not an abstract I, but either a man or woman, and the question whether the world is sensation can be compared to the question: is another human being my sensation, or do our relations in practical life prove the contrary? “The fundamental defect of idealism is precisely that it asks and answers the question of objectivity and subjectivity, of the reality or unreality of the world, only from the standpoint of theory” (ibid., 189). Feuerbach makes the sum-total of human practice the basis of the theory of knowledge. He says that idealists of course also recognise the reality of the I and the Thou in practical life. For the idealists “this point of view is valid only for practical life and not for speculation. But a speculation which contradicts life, which makes the standpoint of death, of a soul separated from the body, the standpoint of truth, is a dead and false speculation” (192). Before we perceive, we breathe; we cannot exist without air, food and drink.

V.I.Lenin, Materialism and Empirio-criticism: Critical Comments on a Reactionary Philosophy, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1975, 125-126

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Part nine/to be continued…

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