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

Wassily Kandinsky, ‘Murnau, Dorfstrasse (Street in Murnau, A Village Street)’, 1908, oil on cardboard, later mounted on wood panel, Merzbacher collection, Switzerland ‘This discovery struck me with terrific impact, comparable to that of the end of the world. In the twinkling of an eye, the mighty arches of science lay shattered before me. All things became flimsy, with no strength or certainty. I would hardly have been surprised if the stones had risen in the air and disappeared. To me, science had been destroyed.’ Kandinsky in response to Rutherford’s ‘disintegration’ of the atom, which was instrumental in his move to abstraction.

Wassily Kandinsky, ‘Murnau, Dorfstrasse (Street in Murnau, A Village Street)’, 1908, oil on cardboard, later mounted on wood panel, Merzbacher collection, Switzerland
‘This discovery struck me with terrific impact, comparable to that of the end of the world. In the twinkling of an eye, the mighty arches of science lay shattered before me. All things became flimsy, with no strength or certainty. I would hardly have been surprised if the stones had risen in the air and disappeared. To me, science had been destroyed.’ Kandinsky in response to Rutherford’s ‘disintegration’ of the atom, which was instrumental in his move to abstraction.

“Matter has disappeared”

Such, literally, is the expression that may be encountered in the descriptions given by modern physicists of recent discoveries. For instance, L. Houllevigue, in his book The Evolution of the Sciences, entitles his chapter on the new theories of matter: “Does Matter Exist?” He says: “The atom dematerialises…matter disappears.” To see how easily fundamental philosophical conclusions are drawn from this by the Machists, let us take Valentinov. He writes: “The statement that the scientific explanation of the world can find a firm foundation ‘only in materialism’ is nothing but a fiction, and what is more, an absurd fiction” (p. 67). He quotes as a destroyer of this absurd fiction Augusto Righi, the well-known Italian physicist, who says that the electron theory “is not so much a theory of electricity as of matter; the new system simply puts electricity in the place of matter”. (Augusto Righi, Die moderne Theorie der physikalischen Erscheinungen, [The Modern Theory of Physical Phenomena], Leipzig, 1905, S. 131. There is a Russian translation.) Having quoted these words (p. 64), Mr. Valentinov exclaims:

“Why does Righi permit himself to commit this offence against sacred matter? Is it perhaps because he is a solipsist, an idealist, a bourgeois criticist, an empirio-monist, or even someone worse?”

This remark, which seems to Mr. Valentinov to annihilate the materialists by its sarcasm, only discloses his virgin innocence on the subject of philosophical materialism. Mr. Valentinov has absolutely failed to understand the real connection between philosophical idealism and the “disappearance of matter”. That “disappearance of matter” of which he speaks, in imitation of the modern physicists, has no relation to the epistemological distinction between materialism and idealism.

V.I.Lenin, Materialism and Empirio-criticism: Critical Comments on a Reactionary Philosophy, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1975, 239-240

Wassily Kandinsky, ‘Composition VII’, 1913, oil on canvas, State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow

Wassily Kandinsky, ‘Composition VII’, 1913, oil on canvas, State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow

red-star

Part four/to be continued…

Full text at Marxists Internet Archive

Image sources: 1st/2nd

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