The purpose of bourgeois philosophy

kant

Immanuel Kant by Karl Friedrich Hagemann, 1801, marble, Kunsthalle, Hamburg

The purpose of bourgeois philosophy:

‘The workingman who eats sausage and receives a hundred sous a day knows very well that he is robbed by the employer…that the employer is a robber…Not at all, say the bourgeois sophists, whether they are called Pyrrho, Hume or Kant. His opinion is personal, an entirely subjective opinion; he might with equal reason maintain that the employer is his benefactor and that the sausage consists of chopped leather, for he cannot know things-in-themselves.’

The counter to bourgeois philosophy:

‘The question is not properly put, that is the whole trouble…In order to know an object, man must first verify whether his senses deceive him or not…The chemists have gone deeper – they have penetrated into bodies, they have analysed them, decomposed them into their elements, and then performed the reverse procedure, they have recomposed them from their elements. And from the moment that man is able to produce things for his own use from these elements, he may, as Engels says, assert that he knows the things-in-themselves. The God of the Christians, if he existed and if he had created the world, could do no more.’

Paul Lafargue

The same counter in different words:
‘The question whether objective [gegenständliche] truth can be attributed to human thinking is not a question of theory but is a practical question. In practice man must prove the truth, that is, the reality and power, the this-sidedness [Diesseitigkeit] of his thinking. The dispute over the reality or non-reality of thinking which is isolated from practice is a purely scholastic question.’

Marx, Second thesis on Feuerbach, 1845

A summary of how we have developed:

‘From living perception to abstract thought, and from this to practice, – such is the dialectical path of the cognition of truth, of the cognition of objective reality. Kant disparages knowledge in order to make way for faith: Hegel exalts knowledge, asserting that knowledge is knowledge of God. The materialist exalts the knowledge of matter, of nature…’

Lenin

red-star

Image

Engels on materialism: part 6 – the universe is a process

The second specific limitation of this materialism lay in its inability to comprehend the universe as a process, as matter undergoing uninterrupted historical development. This was in accordance with the level of the natural science of that time, and with the metaphysical, that is, anti-dialectical manner of philosophising connected with it. Nature, so much was known, was in eternal motion. But according to the ideas of that time, this motion turned, also eternally, in a circle and therefore never moved from the spot; it produced the same results over and over again. This conception was at that time inevitable. The Kantian theory of the origin of the Solar System (that the Sun and planets originated from incandescent rotating nebulous masses) had been put forward but recently and was still regarded merely as a curiosity. The history of the development of the Earth, geology, was still totally unknown, and the conception that the animate natural beings of today are the result of a long sequence of development from the simple to the complex could not at that time scientifically be put forward at all. The unhistorical view of nature was therefore inevitable. We have the less reason to reproach the philosophers of the 18th century on this account since the same thing is found in Hegel. According to him, nature, as a mere “alienation” of the idea, is incapable of development in time — capable only of extending its manifoldness in space, so that it displays simultaneously and alongside of one another all the stages of development comprised in it, and is condemned to an eternal repetition of the same processes. This absurdity of a development in space, but outside of time — the fundamental condition of all development — Hegel imposes upon nature just at the very time when geology, embryology, the physiology of plants and animals, and organic chemistry were being built up, and when everywhere on the basis of these new sciences brilliant foreshadowings of the later theory of evolution were appearing (for instance, Goethe and Lamarck). But the system demanded it; hence the method, for the sake of the system, had to become untrue to itself.

Friedrich Engels, Ludwig Feuerbach and the End of Classical German Philosophy, 1886

red-star

Full text at Marxists Internet Archive

Engels on materialism: part 3 – you don’t get philosophy like this in the bourgeois academy

Eleanor Anne Ormerod (1828-1901), entomologist

Eleanor Anne Ormerod (1828-1901), entomologist

…during this long period from Descartes to Hegel and from Hobbes to Feuerbach, these philosophers were by no means impelled, as they thought they were, solely by the force of pure reason. On the contrary, what really pushed them forward most was the powerful and ever more rapidly onrushing progress of natural science and industry. Among the materialists this was plain on the surface, but the idealist systems also filled themselves more and more with a materialist content and attempted pantheistically to reconcile the antithesis between mind and matter. Thus, ultimately, the Hegelian system represents merely a materialism idealistically turned upside down in method and content.

Friedrich Engels, Ludwig Feuerbach and the End of Classical German Philosophy, 1886

red-star

Full text at Marxists Internet Archive

Image

Engels on materialism: part 9 – ‘What is man? – Half beast, half angel’

Auguste Rodin, The Gates of Hell, Kunsthaus, Zürich

Auguste Rodin, The Gates of Hell, Kunsthaus, Zürich

…Starcke looks for Feuerbach’s idealism in the wrong place.

“Feuerbach is an idealist; he believes in the progress of mankind.” (p.19)

“The foundation, the substructure of the whole, remains nevertheless idealism. Realism for us is nothing more than a protection again aberrations, while we follow our ideal trends. Are not compassion, love, and enthusiasm for truth and justice ideal forces?” (p.VIII)

In the first place, idealism here means nothing, but the pursuit of ideal aims. But these necessarily have to do at the most with Kantian idealism and its “categorical imperative”; however, Kant himself called his philosophy “transcendental idealism” by no means because he dealt therein also with ethical ideals, but for quite other reasons, as Starcke will remember. The superstition that philosophical idealism is pivoted round a belief in ethical, that is, social, ideals, arose outside philosophy, among the German philistines, who learned by heart from Schiller’s poems the few morsels of philosophical culture they needed. No one has criticised more severely the impotent “categorical imperative” of Kant — impotent because it demands the impossible, and therefore never attains to any reality — no one has more cruelly derided the philistine sentimental enthusiasm for unrealisable ideals purveyed by Schiller than precisely the complete idealist Hegel (see, for example, his Phenomenology).

In the second place, we simply cannot get away from the fact that everything that sets men acting must find its way through their brains — even eating and drinking, which begins as a consequence of the sensation of hunger or thirst transmitted through the brain, and ends as a result of the sensation of satisfaction likewise transmitted through the brain. The influences of the external world upon man express themselves in his brain, are reflected therein as feelings, impulses, volitions — in short, as “ideal tendencies”, and in this form become “ideal powers”. If, then, a man is to be deemed an idealist because he follows “ideal tendencies” and admits that “ideal powers” have an influence over him, then every person who is at all normally developed is a born idealist and how, in that case, can there still be any materialists?

In the third place, the conviction that humanity, at least at the present moment, moves on the whole in a progressive direction has absolutely nothing to do with the antagonism between materialism and idealism. The French materialists no less than the deists Voltaire and Rousseau held this conviction to an almost fanatical degree, and often enough made the greatest personal sacrifices for it. If ever anybody dedicated his whole life to the “enthusiasm for truth and justice” — using this phrase in the good sense — it was Diderot, for instance. If, therefore, Starcke declares all this to be idealism, this merely proves that the word materialism, and the whole antagonism between the two trends, has lost all meaning for him here.

The fact is that Starcke, although perhaps unconsciously, in this makes an unpardonable concession to the traditional philistine prejudice against the word materialism resulting from its long-continued defamation by the priests. By the word materialism, the philistine understands gluttony, drunkenness, lust of the eye, lust of the flesh, arrogance, cupidity, avarice, covetousness, profit-hunting, and stock-exchange swindling — in short, all the filthy vices in which he himself indulges in private. By the word idealism he understands the belief in virtue, universal philanthropy, and in a general way a “better world”, of which he boasts before others but in which he himself at the utmost believes only so long as he is having the blues or is going through the bankruptcy consequent upon his customary “materialist” excesses. It is then that he sings his favourite song, What is man? — Half beast, half angel.

Sandro Botticelli, Dante and Beatrice, n.d., The University of Texas, Austin

Sandro Botticelli, Dante and Beatrice, n.d., The University of Texas, Austin

Auguste Rodin, The Cry, bronze, 1886, Musée Rodin

Auguste Rodin, The Cry, bronze, 1886, Musée Rodin

Frederick Engels, Ludwig Feuerbach and the End of Classical German Philosophy, 1886

red-star

Full text at Marxists Internet Archive

Images: top/middle/bottom

Engels on materialism: part 2 – the ideological function of Hume and Kant

Statue of David Hume by Alexander Stoddart, 1995, bronze, in front of High Court Building, Edinburgh, Scotland

Statue of David Hume by Alexander Stoddart, 1995, bronze, in front of High Court Building, Edinburgh, Scotland

Immanuel Kant by Karl Friedrich Hagemann, 1801, marble, Kunsthalle, Hamburg

Immanuel Kant by Karl Friedrich Hagemann, 1801, marble, Kunsthalle, Hamburg

…there is yet a set of different philosophers — those who question the possibility of any cognition, or at least of an exhaustive cognition, of the world. To them, among the more modern ones, belong Hume and Kant, and they played a very important role in philosophical development. What is decisive in the refutation of this view has already been said by Hegel, in so far as this was possible from an idealist standpoint. The materialistic additions made by Feuerbach are more ingenious than profound. The most telling refutation of this as of all other philosophical crotchets is practice — namely, experiment and industry. If we are able to prove the correctness of our conception of a natural process by making it ourselves, bringing it into being out of its conditions and making it serve our own purposes into the bargain, then there is an end to the Kantian ungraspable “thing-in-itself”. The chemical substances produced in the bodies of plants and animals remained just such “things-in-themselves” until organic chemistry began to produce them one after another, whereupon the “thing-in-itself” became a thing for us — as, for instance, alizarin, the colouring matter of the madder, which we no longer trouble to grow in the madder roots in the field, but produce much more cheaply and simply from coal tar. For 300 years, the Copernican solar system was a hypothesis with 100, 1,000, 10,000 to 1 chances in its favour, but still always a hypothesis. But then Leverrier, by means of the data provided by this system, not only deduced the necessity of the existence of an unknown planet, but also calculated the position in the heavens which this planet must necessarily occupy, and when [Johann] Galle really found this planet [Neptune, discovered 1846, at Berlin Observatory], the Copernican system was proved. If, nevertheless, the neo-Kantians are attempting to resurrect the Kantian conception in Germany, and the agnostics that of Hume in England (where in fact it never became extinct), this is, in view of their theoretical and practical refutation accomplished long ago, scientifically a regression and practically merely a shamefaced way of surreptitiously accepting materialism, while denying it before the world.

Frederick Engels, Ludwig Feuerbach and the End of Classical German Philosophy, 1886

red-star

Full text at Marxists Internet Archive

Images: Hume/Kant

Lenin: Empirio-criticism and historical materialism – part twelve

Ordination of priests, Rome, 2008

Ordination of priests, Rome, 2008

Ernst Haeckel and Ernst Mach (continued)

…Haeckel does not attempt an analysis of philosophical problems and is not able to contrast the materialist theory of knowledge with the idealist theory of knowledge. He ridicules all idealist – more broadly, all peculiarly philosophical – artifices from the standpoint of natural science, without even admitting the idea that any other theory of knowledge than natural-scientific materialism is possible. He ridicules the philosophers from the standpoint of a materialist, without realising that his standpoint is that of a materialist!

The impotent wrath aroused in the philosophers by this almighty materialism is comprehensible. We quoted above the opinion of the “true-Russian” Lopatin. And here is the opinion of Mr. Rudolf Willy, the most progressive of the “empirio-criticists”, who is irreconcilably hostile to idealism (don’t laugh!). “Haeckel’s monism is a very heterogeneous mixture: it combines certain natural-scientific laws, such as the law of the conservation of energy… with certain scholastic traditions about substance and the thing-in-itself into a chaotic jumble” (Gegen die Schulweisheit, S. 128).

What has annoyed this most worthy “recent positivist”? Well, how could he help being annoyed when he immediately realised that from Haeckel’s standpoint all the great doctrines of his teacher Avenarius – for instance, that the brain is not the organ of thought, that sensations are not images of the external world, that matter (“substance”) or “the thing-in-itself” is not an objective reality, and so forth – are nothing but sheer idealist gibberish!? Haeckel did not say it in so many words because he did not concern himself with philosophy and was not acquainted with “empirio-criticism” as such. But Rudolf Willy could not help realising that a hundred thousand readers of Haeckel meant as many people spitting in the face of the philosophy of Mach and Avenarius. Willy wipes his face in advance, in the Lopatin manner. For the essence of the arguments which Mr. Lopatin and Mr. Willy marshal against materialism in general and natural-scientific materialism in particular, is exactly the same in both. To us Marxists the difference between Mr. Lopatin and Messrs. Willy, Petzoldt, Mach and Co. is no greater than the difference between the Protestant theologians and the Catholic theologians.

John Caird, theologian, 1871. From the page: ‘A sermon on Religion in Common Life, preached before Queen Victoria, made him known throughout the Protestant world.’

John Caird, theologian, 1871. From the page: ‘A sermon on Religion in Common Life, preached before Queen Victoria, made him known throughout the Protestant world.’

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.

US dollar bill - In God We Trust. The motto of the United States ‘In God we trust’ was adopted by Congress in 1956 in response to fears of Godless ‘communism’.

US dollar bill – In God We Trust. The motto of the United States ‘In God we trust’ was adopted by Congress in 1956 in response to fears of Godless ‘communism’.

V.I.Lenin, Materialism and Empirio-criticism: Critical Comments on a Reactionary Philosophy, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1975, 331-332

red-star

Part twelve/to be continued…

Full text at Marxists Internet Archive

Image sources: 1st/2nd/3rd

Lenin: Empirio-criticism and historical materialism

darkenergy

Parties in Philosophy and Philosophical Blockheads

Karl Grün quotes a letter from Marx to Feuerbach dated October 20, 1843, in which Marx invites Feuerbach to write an article for the Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher against Schelling. This Schelling, writes Marx, is a shallow braggart with his claims to having embraced and transcended all previous philosophical trends. “To the French romanticists and mystics he [Schelling] says: I am the union of philosophy and theology; to the French materialists: I am the union of the flesh and the idea; to the French skeptics: I am the destroyer of dogmatism.” That the “skeptics”, be they called Humeans or Kantians (or, in the twentieth century, Machists), cry out against the “dogmatism” of both materialism and idealism, Marx at that time already saw; and, without letting himself be diverted by any one of a thousand wretched little philosophical systems, he was able through Feuerbach to take directly the materialist road against idealism. Thirty years later, in the afterword to the second edition of the first volume of Capital, Marx just as clearly and definitely contrasted his materialism to Hegel’s idealism, i.e., the most consistent and most developed idealism; he contemptuously brushed Comtean “positivism” aside and dubbed as wretched epigoni the contemporary philosophers who imagined that they had destroyed Hegel when in reality they had reverted to a repetition of the pre-Hegelian errors of Kant and Hume. In the letter to Kugelmann of June 27, 1870, Marx refers just as contemptuously to “Büchner, Lange, Dühring, Fechner, etc.”, because they were incapable of understanding of Hegel’s dialectics and treated him with scorn. And finally, take the various philosophical utterances by Marx in Capital and other works, and you will find an invariable basic motif: insistence upon materialism and contemptuous derision of all obscurity, of all confusion and all deviations towards idealism. All Marx’s philosophical utterances revolve within these two fundamental opposites, and from the standpoint of professorial philosophy, their defect lies in this “narrowness” and “one-sidedness”. In reality, this refusal to recognise the hybrid projects for reconciling materialism and idealism constitutes the great merit of Marx, who moved forward along a sharply-defined philosophical road.

V.I.Lenin, Materialism and Empirio-criticism: Critical Comments on a Reactionary Philosophy, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1975, 316-317

Dark matter ring modelled around galaxy cluster CL0024+17

Dark matter ring modelled around galaxy cluster CL0024+17

Distant supernova, dark energy

Distant supernova, dark energy. For details, click on third link at bottom.

If you add up all the matter and energy in the universe, you'd find little that is familiar. The stars and gas that astronomers see in their telescopes make up just 0.5 percent of the cosmos. Just 0.01 percent of the universe is made of elements heavier than hydrogen or helium. Because of uncertainties, the numbers in this chart do not add up to 100 percent.

What the universe is made of: if you add up all the matter and energy in the universe, you’d find little that is familiar. The stars and gas that astronomers see in their telescopes make up just 0.5 percent of the cosmos. Just 0.01 percent of the universe is made of elements heavier than hydrogen or helium. Because of uncertainties, the numbers in this chart do not add up to 100 percent.

red-star

Part one/to be continued…

Full text at Marxists Internet Archive

Image sources: 1st/2nd/3rd/4th

Lenin: the philosophical idealists – part five

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

And lastly, Karl Kautsky in his Ethics also criticises Kant from a standpoint diametrically opposed to that of Humism and Berkeleianism. “That I see green, red and white,” he writes, arguing against Kant’s epistemology, “is grounded in my faculty of sight. But that green is something different from red testifies to something that lies outside of me, to real differences between things…. The relations and differences between the things themselves revealed to me by the individual space and time concepts… are real relations and differences of the external world, not conditioned by the nature of my perceptive faculty…. If this were really so [if Kant’s doctrine of the ideality of time and space were true], we could know nothing about the world outside us, not even that it exists.” (Russian translation, pp. 33-34.)

Thus the entire school of Feuerbach, Marx and Engels turned from Kant to the left, to a complete rejection of all idealism and of all agnosticism. But our Machists followed the reactionary trend in philosophy, Mach and Avenarius, who criticised Kant from the standpoint of Hume and Berkeley. Of course, it is the sacred right of every citizen, and particularly of every intellectual, to follow any ideological reactionary he likes. But when people who have radically severed relations with the very foundations of Marxism in philosophy begin to dodge, confuse matters, hedge and assure us that they “too” are Marxists in philosophy, that they are “almost” in agreement with Marx, and have only slightly “supplemented” him – the spectacle is a far from pleasant one.

V.I.Lenin, Materialism and Empirio-criticism: Critical Comments on a Reactionary Philosophy, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1975, 186

red-star

Part five/to be continued…

Full text at Marxists Internet Archive

Lenin: the philosophical idealists – part four

There are the most subtle and powerful proofs for the existence of God – astonishing intellectual achievements, the work of towering philosophical geniuses. Then there is materialism – which explores the relationship between philosophy, ideology and the workingman’s sausage.

sausage_2001253c

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

…Engels, as we have seen, rebuked Kant for being an agnostic, but not for deviating from consistent agnosticism. Lafargue, Engels’ disciple, argued in 1900 against the Kantians (amongst whom at that time was Charles Rappoport) as follows:

“…At the beginning of the nineteenth century our bourgeoisie, having completed its task of revolutionary destruction, began to repudiate its Voltairean and free-thinking philosophy. Catholicism, which the master decorator Chateaubriand painted in romantic colours (peinturlurait), was restored to fashion, and Sebastian Mercier imported the idealism of Kant in order to give the coup de grâce to the materialism of the Encyclopaedists, the propagandists of which had been guillotined by Robespierre.

“At the end of the nineteenth century, which will go down in history as the bourgeois century, the intellectuals attempted to crush the materialism of Marx and Engels beneath the philosophy of Kant. The reactionary movement started in Germany – without offence to the socialist integralistes who would like to ascribe the honour to their chief, Malon. But Malon himself had been to the school of Höchberg, Bernstein and the other disciples of Dühring, who were reforming Marxism in Zurich. [Lafargue is referring to the ideological movement in German socialism in the later seventies.] It is to be expected that Jaurès, Fournière and our other intellectuals will also treat us to Kant as soon as they have mastered his terminology…. Rappoport is mistaken when he assures us that for Marx the ‘ideal and the real are identical’. In the first place we never employ such metaphysical phraseology. An idea is as real as the object of which it is the reflection in the brain…. To provide a little recreation for the comrades who have to acquaint themselves with bourgeois philosophy, I shall explain the substance of this famous problem which has so much exercised spiritualist minds.

“The workingman who eats sausage and receives a hundred sous a day knows very well that he is robbed by the employer and is nourished by pork meat, that the employer is a robber and that the sausage is pleasant to the taste and nourishing to the body. Not at all, say the bourgeois sophists, whether they are called Pyrrho, Hume or Kant. His opinion is personal, an entirely subjective opinion; he might with equal reason maintain that the employer is his benefactor and that the sausage consists of chopped leather, for he cannot know things-in-themselves.

“The question is not properly put, that is the whole trouble…. In order to know an object, man must first verify whether his senses deceive him or not…. The chemists have gone deeper – they have penetrated into bodies, they have analysed them, decomposed them into their elements, and then performed the reverse procedure, they have recomposed them from their elements. And from the moment that man is able to produce things for his own use from these elements, he may, as Engels says, assert that he knows the things-in-themselves. The God of the Christians, if he existed and if he had created the world, could do no more.”1

We have taken the liberty of making this long quotation in order to show how Lafargue understood Engels and how he criticised Kant from the left, not for those aspects of Kantianism which distinguish it from Humism, but for those which are common to both Kant and Hume; not for his assumption of the thing-in-itself, but for his inadequately materialist view of it.

Note

1. Paul Lafargue, ‘Le matérialisme de Marx et l’idéalisme de Kant’, Le Socialiste, February 25, 1900

V.I.Lenin, Materialism and Empirio-criticism: Critical Comments on a Reactionary Philosophy, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1975, 184-186

red-star

Part four/to be continued…

Full text at Marxists Internet Archive

Image

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

Note

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

red-star

Part three/to be continued…

Full text at Marxists Internet Archive