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

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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 Theory of Knowledge of Dialectical Materialism – Part Nine

The Criterion of Practice in the Theory of Knowledge

Feuerbach also, like Marx and Engels, makes an impermissible – from the point of view of Schulze, Fichte and Mach – “leap” to practice in the fundamental problems of epistemology. Criticising idealism, Feuerbach explains its essential nature by the following striking quotation from Fichte, which superbly demolishes Machism: “ ‘You assume,’ writes Fichte, ‘that things are real, that they exist outside of you, only because you see them, hear them and touch them. But vision, touch and hearing are only sensations…. You perceive, not the objects, but only your sensations,’ ” (Feuerbach, Werke, X. Band, S. 185). To which Feuerbach replies that a human being is not an abstract I, but either a man or woman, and the question whether the world is sensation can be compared to the question: is another human being my sensation, or do our relations in practical life prove the contrary? “The fundamental defect of idealism is precisely that it asks and answers the question of objectivity and subjectivity, of the reality or unreality of the world, only from the standpoint of theory” (ibid., 189). Feuerbach makes the sum-total of human practice the basis of the theory of knowledge. He says that idealists of course also recognise the reality of the I and the Thou in practical life. For the idealists “this point of view is valid only for practical life and not for speculation. But a speculation which contradicts life, which makes the standpoint of death, of a soul separated from the body, the standpoint of truth, is a dead and false speculation” (192). Before we perceive, we breathe; we cannot exist without air, food and drink.

V.I.Lenin, Materialism and Empirio-criticism: Critical Comments on a Reactionary Philosophy, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1975, 125-126


Part nine/to be continued…