Lenin: the philosophical idealists – part three

The Criticism of Kantianism from the Left and from the Right (continued)

“The Kantian philosophy is a contradiction,” Feuerbach wrote to Bolin on March 26, 1858, “it inevitably leads either to Fichtean idealism or to sensationalism”. The former conclusion “belongs to the past”, the latter “to the present and the future” (Grün, op. cit., II, 49). We have already seen that Feuerbach advocates objective sensationalism, i.e., materialism. The new turn from Kant to agnosticism and idealism, to Hume and Berkeley, is undoubtedly reactionary, even from Feuerbach’s standpoint. And his ardent follower, Albrecht Rau, who together with the merits of Feuerbach also adopted his faults, which were overcome by Marx and Engels, criticised Kant wholly in the spirit of his teacher: “The Kantian philosophy is an amphibole [ambiguity]; it is both materialism and idealism, and the key to its essence lies in its dual nature. As a materialist or an empiricist, Kant cannot help conceding things an existence (Wesenheit) outside us. But as an idealist he could not rid himself of the prejudice that the soul is an entity totally different from sensible things. Hence there are real things and a human mind which apprehends those things. But how can the mind approach things totally different from itself? The way out adopted by Kant is as follows: the mind possesses certain a priori knowledge, in virtue of which things must appear to it as they do. Hence, the fact that we understand things as we do is a fact of our creation. For the mind which lives within us is nothing but the divine mind, and just as God created the world out of nothing, so the human mind creates out of things something which they are not in themselves. Thus Kant guarantees real things their existence as ‘things-in-themselves’. Kant, however, needed the soul, because immortality was for him a moral postulate. The ‘thing-in-itself’, gentlemen [says Rau, addressing the neo-Kantians in general and the muddleheaded A. Lange in particular, who falsified the History of Materialism], is what separates the idealism of Kant from the idealism of Berkeley; it forms a bridge between materialism and idealism. Such is my criticism of the Kantian philosophy, and let those who can refute it….” “For the materialist a distinction between a priori knowledge and the ‘thing-in-itself’ is absolutely superfluous, for since he nowhere breaks the continuity of nature, since he does not regard matter and mind as two fundamentally different things, but as two aspects of one and the same thing, he has no need of any special artifices in order to bring the mind and the thing into conjunction.”1


1. Albrecht Rau, Ludwig Feuerbachs Philosophie, die Naturforschung und die philosophische Kritik der Gegenwart, Leipzig, 1882, S. 87-89

V.I.Lenin, Materialism and Empirio-criticism: Critical Comments on a Reactionary Philosophy, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1975, 182-183


Part three/to be continued…

Full text at Marxists Internet Archive

Lenin: the philosophical idealists

The Criticism of Kantianism from the Left and from the Right

The principal feature of Kant’s philosophy is the reconciliation of materialism with idealism, a compromise between the two, the combination within one system of heterogeneous and contrary philosophical trends. When Kant assumes that something outside us, a thing-in-itself, corresponds to our ideas, he is a materialist. When he declares this thing-in-itself to be unknowable, transcendental, other-sided, he is an idealist. Recognising experience, sensations, as the only source of our knowledge, Kant is directing his philosophy towards sensationalism, and via sensationalism, under certain conditions, towards materialism. Recognising the apriority of space, time, causality, etc., Kant is directing his philosophy towards idealism. Both consistent materialists and consistent idealists (as well as the “pure” agnostics, the Humeans) have mercilessly criticised Kant for this inconsistency. The materialists blamed Kant for his idealism, rejected the idealist features of his system, demonstrated the knowability, the this-sidedness of the thing-in-itself, the absence of a fundamental difference between the thing-in-itself and the phenomenon, the need of deducing causality, etc., not from a priori laws of thought, but from objective reality. The agnostics and idealists blamed Kant for his assumption of the thing-in-itself as a concession to materialism, “realism” or “naïve realism”. The agnostics, moreover, rejected not only the thing-in-itself, but apriorism as well; while the idealists demanded the consistent deduction from pure thought not only of the a priori forms of perception, but of the world as a whole (by magnifying human thought to an abstract Self, or to an “Absolute Idea”, or to a “Universal Will” etc., etc.). And here our Machists, “without noticing” that they have taken as their teachers people who had criticised Kant from the standpoint of skepticism and idealism, began to rend their clothes and to cover their heads with ashes at the sight of monstrous people who criticised Kant from a diametrically opposite point of view, who rejected the slightest element of agnosticism (skepticism) and idealism in his system, who demonstrated that the thing-in-itself is objectively real, fully knowable and this-sided, that it does not differ fundamentally from appearance, that it becomes transformed into appearance at every step in the development of the individual consciousness of man and the collective consciousness of mankind. Help! – they cried – this is an illegitimate mixture of materialism and Kantianism!

V.I.Lenin, Materialism and Empirio-criticism: Critical Comments on a Reactionary Philosophy, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1975, 179-180


Part one/to be continued…

Full text at Marxists Internet Archive

Lenin: The Theory of Knowledge of Dialectical Materialism – Part Nineteen

Causality and Necessity in Nature (continued)

“Objective scientific knowledge,” says Dietzgen in his The Nature of the Workings of the Human Mind (German edition, 1903), “seeks for causes not by faith or speculation, but by experience and induction, not a priori, but a posteriori. Natural science looks for causes not outside or behind phenomena, but within or by means of them” (S. 94-95). “Causes are the products of the faculty of thought. They are, however, not its pure products, but are produced by it in conjunction with sense material. This sense material gives the causes thus produced their objective existence. Just as we demand that a truth should be the truth of an objective phenomenon, so we demand that a cause should be real, that it should be the cause of an objectively given effect” (S. 98-99). “The cause of a thing is its connection” (S. 100).

…The world outlook of materialism expounded by J. Dietzgen recognises that “the causal dependence” is contained “in the things themselves”.

V.I.Lenin, Materialism and Empirio-criticism: Critical Comments on a Reactionary Philosophy, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1975, 141


Part nineteen/to be continued…

Full text at Marxists Internet Archive