Lenin: the philosophical idealists – part three

The Criticism of Kantianism from the Left and from the Right (continued)

“The Kantian philosophy is a contradiction,” Feuerbach wrote to Bolin on March 26, 1858, “it inevitably leads either to Fichtean idealism or to sensationalism”. The former conclusion “belongs to the past”, the latter “to the present and the future” (Grün, op. cit., II, 49). We have already seen that Feuerbach advocates objective sensationalism, i.e., materialism. The new turn from Kant to agnosticism and idealism, to Hume and Berkeley, is undoubtedly reactionary, even from Feuerbach’s standpoint. And his ardent follower, Albrecht Rau, who together with the merits of Feuerbach also adopted his faults, which were overcome by Marx and Engels, criticised Kant wholly in the spirit of his teacher: “The Kantian philosophy is an amphibole [ambiguity]; it is both materialism and idealism, and the key to its essence lies in its dual nature. As a materialist or an empiricist, Kant cannot help conceding things an existence (Wesenheit) outside us. But as an idealist he could not rid himself of the prejudice that the soul is an entity totally different from sensible things. Hence there are real things and a human mind which apprehends those things. But how can the mind approach things totally different from itself? The way out adopted by Kant is as follows: the mind possesses certain a priori knowledge, in virtue of which things must appear to it as they do. Hence, the fact that we understand things as we do is a fact of our creation. For the mind which lives within us is nothing but the divine mind, and just as God created the world out of nothing, so the human mind creates out of things something which they are not in themselves. Thus Kant guarantees real things their existence as ‘things-in-themselves’. Kant, however, needed the soul, because immortality was for him a moral postulate. The ‘thing-in-itself’, gentlemen [says Rau, addressing the neo-Kantians in general and the muddleheaded A. Lange in particular, who falsified the History of Materialism], is what separates the idealism of Kant from the idealism of Berkeley; it forms a bridge between materialism and idealism. Such is my criticism of the Kantian philosophy, and let those who can refute it….” “For the materialist a distinction between a priori knowledge and the ‘thing-in-itself’ is absolutely superfluous, for since he nowhere breaks the continuity of nature, since he does not regard matter and mind as two fundamentally different things, but as two aspects of one and the same thing, he has no need of any special artifices in order to bring the mind and the thing into conjunction.”1


1. Albrecht Rau, Ludwig Feuerbachs Philosophie, die Naturforschung und die philosophische Kritik der Gegenwart, Leipzig, 1882, S. 87-89

V.I.Lenin, Materialism and Empirio-criticism: Critical Comments on a Reactionary Philosophy, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1975, 182-183


Part three/to be continued…

Full text at Marxists Internet Archive

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