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

What is Matter? What is Experience? (continued)

…the English Machist, Pearson, a rabid antagonist of materialism, says: “Now there can be no scientific objection to our classifying certain more or less permanent groups of sense-impressions together and terming them matter, – to do so indeed leads us very near to John Stuart Mill’s definition of matter as a ‘permanent possibility of sensation’, – but this definition of matter then leads us entirely away from matter as the thing which moves” (The Grammar of Science, 2nd ed., 1900, p. 249). Here there is not even the fig-leaf of the “elements”, and the idealist openly stretches out a hand to the agnostic.

As the reader sees, all these arguments of the founders of empirio-criticism entirely and exclusively revolve around the old epistemological question of the relation of thinking to being, of sensation to the physical. It required the extreme naïveté of the Russian Machists to discern anything here that is even remotely related to “recent science”, or “recent positivism”. All the philosophers mentioned by us, some frankly, others guardedly, replace the fundamental philosophical line of materialism (from being to thinking, from matter to sensation) by the reverse line of idealism. Their denial of matter is the old familiar answer to epistemological problems, which consists in denying the existence of an external, objective source of our sensations, of an objective reality corresponding to our sensations. On the other hand, the recognition of the philosophical line denied by the idealists and agnostics is expressed in the definitions: matter is that which, acting upon our sense-organs, produces sensation; matter is the objective reality given to us in sensation, and so forth.

V.I.Lenin, Materialism and Empirio-criticism: Critical Comments on a Reactionary Philosophy, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1975, 129


 Part twelve/to be continued…