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

What is Matter? What is Experience?

The first of these questions is constantly being hurled by the idealists and agnostics, including the Machists, at the materialists; the second question by the materialists at the Machists. Let us try to make the point at issue clear.

Avenarius says on the subject of matter:

“Within the purified, ‘complete experience’ there is nothing ‘physical’ – ‘matter’ in the metaphysical absolute conception – for ‘matter’ according to this conception is only an abstraction; it would be the total of the counter-terms while abstracting from every central term. Just as in the principal co-ordination, that is, ‘complete experience’, a counter-term is inconceivable (undenkbar) without a central term, so ‘matter’ in the metaphysical absolute conception is a complete chimera (Unding)” (Notes, p. 2, in the journal cited, §119).

In all this gibberish one thing is evident, namely, that Avenarius calls the physical or matter absolute and metaphysics, for, according to his theory of the principal co-ordination (or, in the new way, “complete experience”), the counter-term is inseparable from the central term, the environment from the self; the non-self is inseparable from the self (as J. G. Fichte said). That this theory is disguised subjective idealism we have already shown, and the nature of Avenarius’ attacks on “matter” is quite obvious: the idealist denies physical being that is independent of the mind and therefore rejects the concept elaborated by philosophy for such being. That matter is “physical” (i.e.., that which is most familiar and immediately given to man, and the existence of which no one save an inmate of a lunatic asylum can doubt) is not denied by Avenarius; he only insists on the acceptance of “his” theory of the indissoluble connection between the environment and the self.

V.I.Lenin, Materialism and Empirio-criticism: Critical Comments on a Reactionary Philosophy, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1975, 128-129

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Part eleven/to be continued…

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