Lenin: Empirio-criticism and historical materialism – part thirteen



Ernst Haeckel and Ernst Mach (continued)

The “war” on Haeckel has proved that this view of ours corresponds to objective reality, i.e., to the class nature of modern society and its class ideological tendencies.

Here is another little example. The Machist Kleinpeter has translated from English into German a work by Carl Snyder, World Picture from the Standpoint of Modern Natural Science (Das Weltbild der moderner Naturwissenschaft, Leipzig, 1905), which had a wide circulation in America. This work gives a clear and popular account of a number of recent discoveries in physics and other branches of natural science. And the Machist Kleinpeter was called upon to supply the book with a preface in which he makes certain reservations, such as, for example, that Snyder’s epistemology is “not satisfactory” (S. v). Why so? Because Snyder never entertains the slightest doubt that the world picture is a picture of how matter moves and of how “matter thinks” (S. 288). In his next book, The World Machine (London and New York, 1907), Snyder, referring to the fact that his book is dedicated to the memory of Democritus of Abdera, who lived about 460-360 B.C., says: “Democritus has often been styled the grandsire of materialism. It is a school of philosophy that is a little out of fashion nowadays; yet it is worthy of note that practically all of the modern advance in our ideas of this world has been grounded upon his conceptions. Practically speaking, materialistic assumptions are simply unescapable in physical investigations” (p. 140).

“…If he likes, he may dream with good Bishop Berkeley that it is all a dream. Yet comforting as may be the legerdemain of an idealised idealism, there are still few among us who, whatever they may think regarding the problem of the external world, doubt that they themselves exist; and it needs no long pursuit of the will-o’-the-wisps of the Ich and non-Ich to assure oneself that if in an unguarded moment we assume that we ourselves have a personality and a being, we let in the whole procession of appearances which come of the six gates of the senses. The nebular hypothesis, the light-bearing ether, the atomic theory, and all their like, may be but convenient ‘working hypotheses’, but it is well to remember that, in the absence of negative proof, they stand on more or less the same footing as the hypothesis that a being you call ‘you’, Oh, Indulgent Reader, scans these lines” (pp. 31-32).

V.I.Lenin, Materialism and Empirio-criticism: Critical Comments on a Reactionary Philosophy, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1975, 332-333




Part thirteen/to be continued…

Full text at Marxists Internet Archive

Image sources: 1st/2nd

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