Lenin: the philosophical idealists – part nine

Michelangelo, Creation of Adam, Sistine Chapel

Michelangelo, ‘Creation of Adam’, Sistine Chapel

 A.Bogdanov’s “Empirio-monism” (continued)

A philosophy which teaches that physical nature itself is a product, is a philosophy of clericalism pure and simple. And its character is in no wise altered by the fact that Bogdanov himself emphatically repudiates all religion. Dühring was also an atheist; he even proposed to prohibit religion in his “socialitarian” order. Nevertheless, Engels was absolutely right in pointing out that Dühring’s “system” could not be made to hang together without religion. The same is true of Bogdanov, with the essential difference that the quoted passage is not a chance inconsistency but the very essence of his “empirio-monism” and of all his “substitution”. If nature is a product, it is obvious that it can be a product only of something that is greater, richer, broader, mightier than nature, of something that exists; for in order to “produce” nature, it must exist independently of nature. That means that something exists outside nature, something which moreover produces nature. In plain language this is called God. The idealist philosophers have always sought to change this latter name, to make it more abstract, more vague and at the same time (for the sake of plausibility) to bring it nearer to the “psychical”, as an “immediate complex”, as the immediately given which requires no proof. Absolute Idea, Universal Spirit, World Will, “general substitution” of the psychical for the physical, are different formulations of one and the same idea. Every man knows, and science investigates, idea, mind, will, the psychical, as a function of the normally operating human brain. To divorce this function from matter organised in a definite way, to convert this function into a universal, general abstraction, to “substitute” this abstraction for the whole of physical nature, this is the raving of philosophical idealism and a mockery of science.

Materialism says that the “socially-organised experience of living beings” is a product of physical nature, a result of a long development of the latter, of development from a state of physical nature when no society, organisation, experience, or living beings existed or could have existed. Idealism says that physical nature is a product of this experience of living beings, and in saying this, idealism is equating (if not subordinating) nature to God. For God is undoubtedly a product of the socially-organised experience of living beings. No matter from what angle you look at it, Bogdanov’s philosophy contains nothing but a reactionary muddle.

Bogdanov thinks that to speak of the social organisation of experience is “cognitive socialism” (Bk. III, p. xxxiv). This is insane twaddle. If socialism is thus regarded, the Jesuits are ardent adherents of “cognitive socialism”, for the starting-point of their epistemology is divinity as “socially-organised experience”. And there can be no doubt that Catholicism is a socially-organised experience; only, it reflects not objective truth (which Bogdanov denies, but which science reflects), but the exploitation of the ignorance of the masses by definite social classes.

V.I.Lenin, Materialism and Empirio-criticism: Critical Comments on a Reactionary Philosophy, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1975, 210-11


Part nine/to be continued…

Full text at Marxists Internet Archive

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Lenin: the philosophical idealists – part eight

Porträt des Philosphen Arthur Schopenhauer, 1852

A.Bogdanov’s “Empirio-monism” (continued)

And this precisely is idealism; for the psychical, i.e., consciousness, idea, sensation, etc., is taken as the immediate and the physical is deduced from it, substituted for it. The world is the non-ego created by the ego, said Fichte. The world is Absolute Idea, said Hegel. The world is will, said Schopenhauer. The world is concept and idea, says the immanentist Rehmke. Being is consciousness, says the immanentist Schuppe. The physical is a substitution for the psychical, says Bogdanov. One must be blind not to perceive the identical idealist essence under these various verbal cloaks.

V.I.Lenin, Materialism and Empirio-criticism: Critical Comments on a Reactionary Philosophy, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1975, 209


Part eight/to be continued…

Full text at Marxists Internet Archive

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Lenin: the philosophical idealists – part seven


A.Bogdanov’s “Empirio-monism”

It is immaterial what these abstractions are called: whether Absolute Idea, Universal Self, World Will, and so on and so forth. These terms distinguish the different varieties of idealism, and such varieties exist in countless numbers. The essence of idealism is that the psychical is taken as the starting-point; from it external nature is deduced, and only then is the ordinary human consciousness deduced from nature. Hence, this primary “psychical” always turns out to be a lifeless abstraction concealing a diluted theology. For instance, everybody knows what a human idea is; but an idea independent of man and prior to man, an idea in the abstract, an Absolute Idea, is a theological invention of the idealist Hegel. Everybody knows what human sensation is; but sensation independent of man, prior to man, is nonsense, a lifeless abstraction, an idealist artifice. And it is precisely to such an idealistic artifice that Bogdanov resorts when he constructs the following ladder.

1) The chaos of “elements” (we know that no other human concept than sensation is concealed behind the word “element”).

2) The psychical experience of men.

3) The physical experience of men.

4) “The knowledge arising therefrom.”

There are no sensations (human) without man. Hence, the first rung of this ladder is a lifeless idealist abstraction. As a matter of fact, what we have here is not the usual human sensations familiar to all, but fictitious sensations, nobody’s sensations, sensations in general, divine sensations – just as the ordinary human idea became divine with Hegel when it was divorced from man and man’s brain.

So away with the first rung!

Away also with the second rung, for the psychical before the physical (and Bogdanov places the second rung before the third) is something unknown to man or science. The physical world existed before the psychical could have appeared, for the latter is the highest product of the highest forms of organic matter. Bogdanov’s second rung is also a lifeless abstraction, it is thought without brain, human reason divorced from man.

Only when we throw out the first two rungs, and only then, can we obtain a picture of the world that truly corresponds to natural science and materialism. Namely: 1) the physical world exists independently of the mind of man and existed long prior to man, prior to any “human experience”; 2) the psychical, the mind, etc., is the highest product of matter (i.e., the physical), it is a function of that particularly complex fragment of matter called the human brain.

V.I.Lenin, Materialism and Empirio-criticism: Critical Comments on a Reactionary Philosophy, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1975, 208-209


Part seven/to be continued…

Full text at Marxists Internet Archive