Ernst Haeckel and Ernst Mach (continued)
The storm provoked by Ernst Haeckel’s The Riddle of the Universe in every civilised country strikingly brought out, on the one hand, the partisan character of philosophy in modern society and, on the other, the true social significance of the struggle of materialism against idealism and agnosticism. The fact that the book was sold in hundreds of thousands of copies, that it was immediately translated into all languages and that it appeared in specially cheap editions, clearly demonstrates that the book “found its way to the people”, that there are masses of readers whom Ernst Haeckel at once won over to his side. This popular little book became a weapon in the class struggle. The professors of philosophy and theology in every country of the world set about denouncing and annihilating Haeckel in every possible way. The eminent English physicist Lodge hastened to defend God against Haeckel. The Russian physicist Mr. Chwolson went to Germany to publish a vile reactionary pamphlet attacking Haeckel and to assure the respectable philistines that not all scientists now hold the position of “naïve realism”. Innumerable theologians joined the campaign against Haeckel. There was no abuse not showered on him by the official professors of philosophy. It was amusing to see how – perhaps for the first time in their lives – the eyes of these mummies, dried and shrunken in the atmosphere of lifeless scholasticism, began to gleam and their cheeks to glow under the slaps which Haeckel administered them. The high-priests of pure science, and, it would appear, of the most abstract theory, fairly groaned with rage. And throughout all the howling of the philosophical die-hards (the idealist Paulsen, the immanentist Rehmke, the Kantian Adickes, and the others, and their name is legion) one underlying motif is clearly audible: they are all against the “metaphysics” of natural science, against “dogmatism”, against “the exaggeration of the value and significance of natural science”, against “natural-scientific materialism”. He is a materialist – at him! at the materialist! He is deceiving the public by not calling himself a materialist directly! – that is what particularly drives the worthy professors to fury.
V.I.Lenin, Materialism and Empirio-criticism: Critical Comments on a Reactionary Philosophy, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1975, 327-328
Part ten/to be continued…
Full text at Marxists Internet Archive