Lenin: the philosophical idealists – part seven

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A.Bogdanov’s “Empirio-monism”

It is immaterial what these abstractions are called: whether Absolute Idea, Universal Self, World Will, and so on and so forth. These terms distinguish the different varieties of idealism, and such varieties exist in countless numbers. The essence of idealism is that the psychical is taken as the starting-point; from it external nature is deduced, and only then is the ordinary human consciousness deduced from nature. Hence, this primary “psychical” always turns out to be a lifeless abstraction concealing a diluted theology. For instance, everybody knows what a human idea is; but an idea independent of man and prior to man, an idea in the abstract, an Absolute Idea, is a theological invention of the idealist Hegel. Everybody knows what human sensation is; but sensation independent of man, prior to man, is nonsense, a lifeless abstraction, an idealist artifice. And it is precisely to such an idealistic artifice that Bogdanov resorts when he constructs the following ladder.

1) The chaos of “elements” (we know that no other human concept than sensation is concealed behind the word “element”).

2) The psychical experience of men.

3) The physical experience of men.

4) “The knowledge arising therefrom.”

There are no sensations (human) without man. Hence, the first rung of this ladder is a lifeless idealist abstraction. As a matter of fact, what we have here is not the usual human sensations familiar to all, but fictitious sensations, nobody’s sensations, sensations in general, divine sensations – just as the ordinary human idea became divine with Hegel when it was divorced from man and man’s brain.

So away with the first rung!

Away also with the second rung, for the psychical before the physical (and Bogdanov places the second rung before the third) is something unknown to man or science. The physical world existed before the psychical could have appeared, for the latter is the highest product of the highest forms of organic matter. Bogdanov’s second rung is also a lifeless abstraction, it is thought without brain, human reason divorced from man.

Only when we throw out the first two rungs, and only then, can we obtain a picture of the world that truly corresponds to natural science and materialism. Namely: 1) the physical world exists independently of the mind of man and existed long prior to man, prior to any “human experience”; 2) the psychical, the mind, etc., is the highest product of matter (i.e., the physical), it is a function of that particularly complex fragment of matter called the human brain.

V.I.Lenin, Materialism and Empirio-criticism: Critical Comments on a Reactionary Philosophy, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1975, 208-209

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Part seven/to be continued…

Full text at Marxists Internet Archive

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