Lenin: Empirio-criticism and historical materialism – part five

Francisco de Zurbarán, Saint Francis in Meditation, 1635-1639, oil on canvas, National Gallery, London

Francisco de Zurbarán, Saint Francis in Meditation, 1635-1639, oil on canvas, National Gallery, London

Parties in Philosophy and Philosophical Blockheads (continued)

J. Dietzgen had not the slightest doubt that the “scientific priestcraft” of idealist philosophy is simply the antechamber to open priestcraft. “Scientific priestcraft”, he wrote, “is seriously endeavouring to assist religious priestcraft” (op. cit., 51). “In particular, the sphere of epistemology, the misunderstanding of the human mind, is such a louse-hole” (Lausgrube) in which both kinds of priests “lay their eggs”. “Graduated flunkeys”, who with their talk of “ideal blessings” stultify the people by their tortuous (geschraubte) “idealism” (53) – that is J. Dietzgen’s opinion of the professors of philosophy. “Just as the antipode of the good God is the devil, so the professorial priest (Kathederpfaffen) has his opposite pole in the materialist.” The materialist theory of knowledge is “a universal weapon against religious belief” (55), and not only against the “notorious, formal and common religion of the priests, but also against the most refined, elevated professorial religion of muddled (benebelter) idealists” (58).

Dietzgen was ready to prefer “religious honesty” to the “half-heartedness” of free-thinking professors (60), for “there a system prevails”, there we find integral people, people who do not separate theory from practice. For the Herr professors “philosophy is not a science, but a means of defence against Social-Democracy” (107). “Those who call themselves philosophers – professors and university lecturers – are, despite their apparent free-thinking, more or less immersed in superstition and mysticism…and in relation to Social-Democracy constitute a single…reactionary mass” (108). “Now, in order to follow the true path, without being led astray by all the religious and philosophical gibberish (Welsch), it is necessary to study the falsest of all false paths (der Holzweg der Holzwege), philosophy” (103).

V.I.Lenin, Materialism and Empirio-criticism: Critical Comments on a Reactionary Philosophy, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1975, 319-320





Some concealed priests and mystics

Part five/to be continued…


Full text at Marxists Internet Archive

Image sources: 1st/2nd/3rd/4th/5th/6th

Lenin: Empirio-criticism and historical materialism – part four

Screen Shot 2014-12-01 at 3.08.26 PM 2

Parties in Philosophy and Philosophical Blockheads (continued)

“Of all parties,” our Joseph Dietzgen justly said, “the middle party is the most repulsive…. Just as parties in politics are more and more becoming divided into two camps… so science too is being divided into two general classes (Generalklassen): metaphysicians on the one hand, and physicists, or materialists, on the other. The intermediate elements and conciliatory quacks, with their various appellations – spiritualists, sensationalists, realists, etc., etc. – fall into the current on their way. We aim at definiteness and clarity. The reactionaries who sound a retreat (Retraitebläser) call themselves idealists, and materialists should be the name for all who are striving to liberate the human mind from the metaphysical spell…. If we compare the two parties respectively to solid and liquid, between them there is a mush.”


True! The “realists”, etc., including the “positivists”, the Machists, etc., are all a wretched mush; they are a contemptible middle party in philosophy, who confuse the materialist and idealist trends on every question. The attempt to escape from these two basic trends in philosophy is nothing but “conciliatory quackery”.

V.I.Lenin, Materialism and Empirio-criticism: Critical Comments on a Reactionary Philosophy, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1975, 319




Part four/to be continued…

Full text at Marxists Internet Archive

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

Lenin: the recent revolution in natural science, and philosophical idealism – part ten

Is Motion Without Matter Conceivable?

The fact that philosophical idealism is attempting to make use of the new physics, or that idealist conclusions are being drawn from the latter, is due not to the discovery of new kinds of substance and force, of matter and motion, but to the fact that an attempt is being made to conceive motion without matter. …let us examine Dietzgen’s own statements on the question under consideration. He says: “They [the idealists] want to have the general without the particular, mind without matter, force without substance, science without experience or material, the absolute without the relative” (Das Wesen der menschlichen Kopfarbeit, 1903, S. 108). …“The antithesis between force and matter is as old as the antithesis between idealism and materialism” (111). “Of course, there is no force without matter, no matter without force; forceless matter and matterless force are absurdities. If idealist natural scientists believe in the immaterial existence of forces, then on this point they are not natural scientists…but seers of ghosts” (114). …

 Let us imagine a consistent idealist who holds, let us say, that the entire world is his sensation, his idea, etc. (if we take “nobody’s” sensation or idea, this changes only the variety of philosophical idealism but not its essence). The idealist would not even think of denying that the world is motion, i.e., the motion of his thoughts, ideas, sensations. The question as to what moves, the idealist will reject and regard as absurd: what is taking place is a change of his sensations, ideas come and go, and nothing more. Outside him there is nothing. “It moves” – and that is all. It is impossible to conceive a more “economical” way of thinking. And no proofs, syllogisms, or definitions are capable of refuting the solipsist if he consistently adheres to his view.

The fundamental distinction between the materialist and the adherent of idealist philosophy consists in the fact that the materialist regards sensation, perception, idea, and the mind of man generally, as an image of objective reality. The world is the movement of this objective reality reflected by our consciousness. To the movement of ideas, perceptions, etc., there corresponds the movement of matter outside me. The concept matter expresses nothing more than the objective reality which is given us in sensation. Therefore, to divorce motion from matter is equivalent to divorcing thought from objective reality, or to divorcing my sensations from the external world – in a word, it is to go over to idealism. The trick which is usually performed in denying matter, in assuming motion without matter, consists in ignoring the relation of matter to thought. The question is presented as though this relation did not exist, but in reality it is introduced surreptitiously; at the beginning of the argument it remains unexpressed, but subsequently crops up more or less imperceptibly.

V.I.Lenin, Materialism and Empirio-criticism: Critical Comments on a Reactionary Philosophy, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1975, 246-248

The world is matter in motion: Voyager 1 approaching Jupiter, 1979

Jupiter’s storms modelled on a soap bubble

Part ten/to be continued…


Full text at Marxists Internet Archive

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

Causality and Necessity in Nature (continued)

“Objective scientific knowledge,” says Dietzgen in his The Nature of the Workings of the Human Mind (German edition, 1903), “seeks for causes not by faith or speculation, but by experience and induction, not a priori, but a posteriori. Natural science looks for causes not outside or behind phenomena, but within or by means of them” (S. 94-95). “Causes are the products of the faculty of thought. They are, however, not its pure products, but are produced by it in conjunction with sense material. This sense material gives the causes thus produced their objective existence. Just as we demand that a truth should be the truth of an objective phenomenon, so we demand that a cause should be real, that it should be the cause of an objectively given effect” (S. 98-99). “The cause of a thing is its connection” (S. 100).

…The world outlook of materialism expounded by J. Dietzgen recognises that “the causal dependence” is contained “in the things themselves”.

V.I.Lenin, Materialism and Empirio-criticism: Critical Comments on a Reactionary Philosophy, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1975, 141


Part nineteen/to be continued…

Full text at Marxists Internet Archive