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

Causality and Necessity in Nature (continued)

As regards Engels, he had, if I am not mistaken, no occasion to contrast his materialist view with other trends on the particular question of causality. He had no need to do so, since he had definitely dissociated himself from all the agnostics on the more fundamental question of the objective reality of the external world in general. But to anyone who has read his philosophical works at all attentively it must be clear that Engels does not admit even the shadow of a doubt as to the existence of objective law, causality and necessity in nature. We shall confine ourselves to a few examples. In the first section of Anti-Dühring Engels says: “In order to understand these details [of the general picture of the world phenomena], we must detach them from their natural (natürlich) or historical connection and examine each one separately, its nature, special causes, effects, etc.” (5-6). That this natural connection, the connection between natural phenomena, exists objectively, is obvious. Engels particularly emphasises the dialectical view of cause and effect: “And we find, in like manner, that cause and effect are conceptions which only hold good in their application to individual cases; but as soon as we consider the individual cases in their general connection with the universe as a whole, they run into each other, and they become confounded when we contemplate that universal action and reaction in which causes and effects are eternally changing places, so that what is effect here and now will be cause there and then, and vice versa” (8). Hence, the human conception of cause and effect always somewhat simplifies the objective connection of the phenomena of nature, reflecting it only approximately, artificially isolating one or another aspect of a single world process. If we find that the laws of thought correspond with the laws of nature, says Engels, this becomes quite conceivable when we take into account that reason and consciousness are “products of the human brain and that man himself is a product of nature”. Of course, “the products of the human brain, being in the last analysis also products of nature, do not contradict the rest of nature’s interconnections (Naturzusammenhang) but are in correspondence with them” (22). There is no doubt that there exists a natural, objective interconnection between the phenomena of the world. Engels constantly speaks of the “laws of nature”, of the “necessities of nature” (Naturnotwendigkeiten), without considering it necessary to explain the generally known propositions of materialism.

V.I.Lenin, Materialism and Empirio-criticism: Critical Comments on a Reactionary Philosophy, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1975, 139-140

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Part seventeen/to be continued…

Full text at Marxists Internet Archive

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