Lenin: the recent revolution in natural science, and philosophical idealism

The 'indivisible' atom. 'With each epoch-making discovery even in the sphere of natural science, (materialism) has to change its form' (Engels)

The ‘indivisible’ atom. ‘With each epoch-making discovery even in the sphere of natural science, (materialism) has to change its form’ (Engels)

Engels says explicitly that “with each epoch-making discovery even in the sphere of natural science [“not to speak of the history of mankind”], materialism has to change its form” (Ludwig Feuerbach, German edition, p. 19). Hence, a revision of the “form” of Engels’ materialism, a revision of his natural-philosophical propositions is not only not “revisionism”, in the accepted meaning of the term, but, on the contrary, is an essential requirement of Marxism. We criticise the Machists not for making such a revision, but for their purely revisionist trick of betraying the essence of materialism under the guise of criticising its form and of adopting the fundamental propositions of reactionary bourgeois philosophy without making the slightest attempt to deal directly, frankly and definitely with assertions of Engels’ which are unquestionably of extreme importance for the given question, as, for example, his assertion that “…motion without matter is unthinkable” (Anti-Dühring, p. 50).

It goes without saying that in examining the connection between one of the schools of modern physicists and the rebirth of philosophical idealism, it is far from being our intention to deal with specific physical theories. What interests us exclusively is the epistemological conclusions that follow from certain definite propositions and generally known discoveries. These epistemological conclusions are of themselves so insistent that many physicists are already almost reaching them. What is more, there are already various trends among the physicists, and definite schools are beginning to be formed on this basis. Our object, therefore, will be confined to explaining clearly the essence of the difference between these various trends and the relation in which they stand to the fundamental lines of philosophy.

V.I.Lenin, Materialism and Empirio-criticism: Critical Comments on a Reactionary Philosophy, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1975, 232-233

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Part one/to be continued…

Full text at Marxists Internet Archive

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