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

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Part nine/to be continued…

Full text at Marxists Internet Archive

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Lenin on Matter: Part Five

The destructibility of the atom, its inexhaustibility, the mutability of all forms of matter and of its motion, have always been the stronghold of dialectical materialism. All boundaries in nature are conditional, relative, movable, and express the gradual approximation of our mind towards knowledge of matter. But this does not in any way prove that nature, matter itself, is a symbol, a conventional sign, i.e., the product of our mind. The electron is to the atom as a full stop in this book is to the size of a building 200 feet long, 100 feet broad, and 50 feet high (Lodge); it moves with a velocity as high as 270,000 kilometres per second; its mass is a function of its velocity; it makes 500 trillion revolutions in a second – all this is much more complicated than the old mechanics; but it is, nevertheless, movement of matter in space and time. Human reason has discovered many amazing things in nature and will discover still more, and will thereby increase its power over nature. But this does not mean that nature is the creation of our mind or of abstract mind, i.e., of Ward’s God, Bogdanov’s “substitution”, etc.

V.I.Lenin, Materialism and Empirio-Criticism: Critical Comments on a Reactionary Philosophy, 1908, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1975, p. 262

Part Five/To be continued…