Philosophy and Ideology. Z. A. Jordan 1963
When we pass from the Marxist-Leninist criticism of the Warsaw school to that of phenomenology we might expect arguments and evaluations which would command a wide measure of consent outside the Marxist-Leninist school of thought. In Poland, Husserl’s Logische Untersuchungen was a widely studied and influential work. Polish thinkers owed much to Husserl’s criticism of psychologism in logic and he inspired their interest and first studies of semantical concepts. This could not be said of Husserl later philosophical works, commencing with Ideen zu einer reinen Ph"nomenologie und ph"nomenologischen Philosophie, and of the elaborate speculative system that followed the latter. Husserl’s transcendental idealism found no supporters in the small circle of Polish phenomenologists, including Roman Ingarden, Husserl’s eminent pupil. Ingarden did not accept the view often expressed by Husserl in his oral pronouncements: Streichen wit das BewuŠtsein, so streichen wir die Welt.
Broadly speaking, and with some qualifications, the phenomenological method was not accepted in Poland as a reliable method for acquiring knowledge. Its application to some fields of experience and for specific purposes caused no apprehension. Leopold Blaustein’s use of the phenomenological method as a reflective analysis of various kinds of representations or Ingarden’s studies in which he applied this method to the examination of literary and other works of art, were admired for their incisive insight and fruitful probing of particular kinds of experience. But the universality of the phenomenological method was challenged and its assumptions were questioned, since they failed to conform to, if not defied, the accepted criteria of validity. It was emphasised that various claims of the phenomenologists did not stand up under critical examination by scientific procedure. There is, for instance, no eidetic science, independent of all knowledge of fact and based on pure intuition, in which essences are apprehended just as individual objects are in empirical intuition. In particular, Kotarbiński criticised the phenomenological theory of intentional objects, according to which for every O, if somebody thinks of O, there is something that is O. At the time when Marxist-Leninists subjected phenomenology to criticism, Kotarbiński analysed various concepts employed in the humanities, teeming with intentional objects, hypostatised expressions, idealisations, abstract entities and reified constructions. He showed that descriptive phrases used in these disciplines do not imply the existence of appropriate denotata and that under certain conditions they may be significant, although there is no abstract entity that answers to these phrases. Incidentally, these conclusions deeply shocked some of the Marxist-Leninists.
The expectation that in view of the speculative character of phenomenology Marxist-Leninist thinkers might justify its rejection in a genuinely philosophical manner was not fulfilled. On the whole, their interest was once more limited to the social and political implications of the phenomenological doctrine. They wished to locate phenomenology on the intellectual map determined by the reference frame of the two pairs of polar opposites, namely, materialism and idealism, Marxist-Leninist and non-Marxist philosophy; as well as to find the co-ordinates which would describe more precisely the position of Ingarden’s phenomenology on this map.
If materialism with its conception of reality prior to and independent of the mind is put at one extreme, Husserl’s transcendental idealism constitutes the other. For according to Husserl, pure consciousness, and not Nature, as the totality of natural objects, must be reckoned as an absolute. The whole spatio-temporal world, including man, is a ‘mere intentional Being. . . . which has the merely secondary, relative sense of a being for consciousness’. To make the latter absolute, is simply nonsense. ‘An absolute reality is just as valid as a round square’. The world of natural objects is ‘posited’ by consciousness in its experiences, but ‘over and beyond this, it is just nothing at all’ .
It is right to call this view, as Marxist-Leninists do, an extreme idealism, only the qualification ‘subjective’, which they add and which is accepted in order to avoid further confusion, is misapplied. For Husserl emphatically warned against misconstruing pure absolute consciousness as an individual, psychologically conceived agent. Marxist-Leninists ignored this warning. Their differentiations of subjective and objective idealism run along various lines of divisions, but they are never similar to those traditionally accepted. Subjective and objective idealism in the traditional sense are in their terminology subjective idealism.
The ‘phenomenological secession’ resulting from Husserl’s failure to persuade his followers about the truth of transcendental idealism marked the emergence of objective idealism within the phenomenological school. Objective idealism, as Marxist-Leninists understand it, does not exclude epistemological realism. Not every realist is a materialist, and a ‘non-materialist’ realist is an ‘idealist realist’, in short, an objective idealist. Objective idealism as a metaphysical doctrine comprises both spiritualistic monism and any metaphysical dualism. It is also sometimes equated with the belief that the world is created by God -on this account Twardowski was classified as an objective idealist – or with what Marvin Farber calls the ‘party of religion in philosophy’ . The latter comprises thinkers whose philosophy directly serves the purpose of demonstrating God’s existence, and also philosophers of various tendencies, who, either consciously or not, support this purpose by undermining the authority of science.
There is, indeed, much circumstantial evidence that idealism, either directly or by implication, provides philosophical justification for religious belief. This is very apparent in the views of many idealist thinkers. In Berkeley’s philosophy the ‘reduction’ of Nature to spirit leads to Theism and without the appeal to God’s will and perception Berkeley’s theory of knowledge would not be tenable. R. P. Perry clearly recognised that idealism is a form of spiritualism and that this is its message to modern times. But he also emphasised that ‘while the burden of idealism is a religious interpretation of Nature, its cardinal principle is a theory of knowledge’ . This cardinal principle reflects the preoccupation of philosophy from the time of Descartes in establishing a foundation for our knowledge of the world that is impregnable to doubt. It is not irrevocably committed to or overshadowed by the endeavour to substantiate the claims of faith. To see the connections between idealism and Theism is one thing, to identify them quite another. The latter presupposes the conviction that there is a philosophical procedure by means of which God’s existence may be proved or disproved (Marxist-Leninists assert that they can disprove the existence of God). But the validity of such procedure is at least a moot point, contested by those who consider both Theism and anti-Theism to be theological doctrines, outside the reach of philosophy.
Objective idealism, as Marxist-Leninists understand this term, is a bundle of miscellaneous and heterogeneous opinions. It has no classificatory function and it does not circumscribe adequately any single historical trend of philosophical thought.
Objective idealism, Marxist-Leninists asserted, was represented in Poland by Neo-Thomism and Ingarden’s phenomenology. It is true that Ingarden refused to adopt Husserl’s view that the world is created by the constitutive activity of pure consciousness. He also opposed the neo-positivistic standpoint, and professed realism in the theory of knowledge. He sharply differentiated between an autonomous and a non-autonomous (intentional) individual object: while the latter does not, the former does transcend ‘its givenness’ or our knowledge of it. Thus, however, the Husserlian world of natural realities is no longer reducible to mere intentionality. This did not exonerate Ingarden from being an objective idealist. For Ingarden recognised that there are real entities, other than things, in the world, which, therefore, clearly is not exclusively material. There are various levels of existence. Besides bodies there are ideas or essences, intentional objects, and values, all of them real, though each of them in a different sense. With Ingarden’s ‘phenomenological realism’ we are en plein idéalisme, without a mask or mystification.
The thinking of Polish Marxist-Leninists on the phenomenological method has been under considerable influence of Georg Luk cs’ views and Luk cs’ criticism of the phenomenological method follows a peculiar course of its own. In agreement with thinkers of very different orientations, such as Farber and Bocheński, he considers the phenomenological method as a distinct sort of reflective analysis and a legitimate one within certain definite limits. Its proper field of investigations are intentional acts and intentional objects, and in this capacity it has proved its usefulness in Husserl’s examination of questions of “pure logic’. Outside this field, however, transformed into a universal method and a universal philosophy, phenomenology reveals its inadequacy to ‘objective reality’. This became increasingly clear when Max Scheler made use of it in his studies concerned with ethical and sociological problems, and Heidegger and Sartre applied it to the ‘ultimate questions of philosophy’. Luk cs examined in a detailed and incisive fashion existentialist philosophy and interpreted it as a product of an illegitimate extension of the phenomenological method. The existentialist thinkers have put the phenomenological method to uses for which it is not designed, and consequently distorted the issues involved. Luk cs does not criticise the phenomenological method on its own original ground, but, as it were, carried out its reductio ad absurdum. If it is conceded that existentialism results from the application of the phenomenological method outside its proper field and that existentialism is an absurd and false doctrine, the validity of Luk cs’ thesis should be recognised.
Polish Marxist-Leninists could not follow in Luk cs’ footsteps, however much they were impressed by his reductio ad absurdum and his impressive analysis of existentialism. They accepted his thesis that phenomenology was a powerful influence reinforcing the irrationalistic trends in philosophy, either indirectly, by inspiring such movements as existentialism, or directly, by its basic assumptions concerning the limited validity of science. But existentialism as a philosophical or quasi-philosophical doctrine did not exist in Poland and Ingarden’s phenomenology, concerned mainly with ‘pure acts and objects of thought’, with questions of ontology, theories of value and of art, would have been impervious to this kind of refutation. Ingarden made it clear also that his concept of existence had besides an ontological and metaphysical meaning, closely related to that accepted in the philosophical tradition, also an empirical sense, clearly distinct from the existentialist uses of the term ‘existence’, familiar from Heidegger’s writings.
This raised difficulties in finding an effective way of criticising Ingarden’s phenomenology. Phenomenology, as much as idealism, is immune from the pressure of arguments brought to bear upon it by accepting the standpoint of science and experience. From the phenomenologist’s point of view such arguments raise assumptive questions; they take for granted what phenomenology puts in doubt, they identify science in general with science of experience, sensory seeing with seeing described by Husserl ‘as primordial dator consciousness of any kind whatsoever’. The intuition of the phenomenologists cannot be dislodged from its stronghold of being the ultimate source of justification for all rational statements, including those of science, by an argument based on an explicit or implicit denial of this intuition. Moreover, the phenomenologists insist that the method of science is also dependent upon deeply concealed and uncritically accepted ‘subjective ground’. This was made clear by Husserl in the opening chapters of Ideen zu einer reinen Ph"nomenologie und ph"nomenologischen Philosophie and his followers have considered this view of Husserl as irrefutable. The position taken by a phenomenologist is similar to that of an empiricist who would reject as fanciful speculation any argument against his standpoint based on the assumption that questions concerning the mind or matter may be decided otherwise than on the basis of empirical evidence alone. The impregnability of the phenomenological method to criticism from without has been further strengthened by Ingarden’s clear recognition, stated more clearly than it had been done by Husserl, that science on the one hand, ontology and metaphysics on the other, have distinct tasks and that their respective methods are equally legitimate, provided that each of them is restricted to its own field.
More controversial and more easily refutable was Ingarden’s claim that, in principle, metaphysics may obtain absolute knowledge, while science can never reach beyond what is uncertain and contingent.
Thus, the phenomenological method can be effectively challenged only on its own ground and Marvin Farber has shown that this can be done successfully without destroying its specific and necessarily limited merits. The first step is to firmly establish the fact that whatever else any reflective procedure – like the phenomenological method – may be, it is not outside the natural order. Consequently, its temporal quality and reference, with everything that this recognition implies, cannot be denied. In this manner, what C. I. Lewis called the ‘thin experience’ of intuition is enclosed by the ‘thick experience’ of everyday life. The phenomenological subjectivistic procedure is thereby assigned the role of a methodological expedient. It becomes one particular type of reflective analysis among others, to be assessed by the results obtained, instead of being a selfcontained study of the whole of reality, providing absolute knowledge, subject to no control, unique in its method, toto coelo different from other kinds of reflections. The drawing of distinctions between phenomenology conceived as a method and as a universal philosophy does not abolish the value of any contribution that the phenomenological method may make towards the philosophical understanding of the mind’s activities and removes the discrediting claim that thereby a final and complete explanation of man and his knowledge of the world is given.
The criticism of phenomenology from within requires one concession. The critic must accept the desirability of the Cartesian method of universal doubt, as the means of freeing the mind from unwarranted beliefs and dogmatic assumptions, or of its phenomenological version that enjoins us to suspend beliefs and to bracket judgments as the first step towards the discovery of a new range of problems. If this concession is not made, the usefulness of reflective analysis and its function within a larger context of human existence cannot be either understood or appreciated. This is, however, a concession which the Marxist-Leninists seem to be unwilling to make. They would be ready to say that Descartes had every reason to search for the Archimedean point to support philosophical constructions, but there is no need for it any more, since the Archimedean point has been found. The very idea that one can entertain a philosophical doubt, and, in particular, a doubt about the existence of the world, that it may provide the subject of a philosophical controversy, and that anybody can try to resolve it by the examination of what this controversy is about, was described as an ‘utterly ridiculous’ undertaking and a parody of philosophical circumspection.
If a philosophical doctrine is unassailable from without and for some reason or other the possibility of its criticism from within is disregarded, its content must be ignored and the doctrine may be examined only in terms of the beliefs and aspirations which it is supposed to express, and from the viewpoint of its social significance. This was the course taken by the Marxist-Leninists with respect to Ingarden’s phenomenology.
In his critical studies on modern philosophical trends Georg Luk cs argued that subjective and objective idealism (in the Marxist-Leninist sense) are not different in their social significance and this opinion was accepted by the Marxist-Leninists in Poland. An undisguised and thorough-going idealism can thrive only in times free from tensions and open conflicts. Luk cs recalled Goethe’s comment on the incident during which students had broken windows in Fichte’s home. ‘This is a very disagreeable way’, Goethe was reported to have said, ‘to take cognisance of the reality of the external world’. In modern times such window-breaking takes place on a world-wide scale. Since Nietzsche, bourgeois philosophy has been made aware that man has got a body, not only a soul; his body having been rediscovered he experiences all the joys and dangers of his bodily existence. The realities of the time have invalidated the assumptions of idealism of the extreme sort and to save its conclusions a third way, distinct from materialism on the one hand, and from subjective idealism on the other, became indispensable. It recognises the reality of the body and of the external world without making concessions to materialism and without losing any essential ingredient of the idealist moral and social outlook. This is the key to the understanding of such figures of modern thought as Nietzsche, Mach, Avenarius, Dilthey, Bergson, and Scheler. At its face value the third way is not idealism; it asserts that there is no consciousness without being. But it also asserts that there is no being without consciousness and by making being dependent on consciousness it is not materialism but objective idealism.
Phenomenology exemplifies the manner in which idealism can emerge from epistemological non-materialist realism. The intuition of essence starts from what is given in inner experience and does not inquire into its social and historical preconditions. Thus, the mind ossifies into a formal agent, emancipated from causal dependence on the extra intellectual circumstances of existence. Finally, it proceeds to conjure up a false and irrelevant ideal of the mind, alien to the world of contingent empirical facts, which is irreducible to the categories of essence and logically necessary structures. For to demand certainty from empirical statements is to deprive them of factual content. The vision of the world and human existence, inspired by the phenomenological procedure, is divorced from reality. The phenomenologists embrace the Kantian conception according to which the content of an object of thought is the same as that of an actual object. They lack, therefore, the capacity, as it was put, ‘to grasp concrete being’ . The conception of the mind as an autonomous agent, unconditioned by and abstracted from all social actuality, operating with the appearance of logic and rigour, opens the door to irresponsible intuitive claims, which are supposedly based on the insight into essences, but which fly in the face of factual evidence. Thus, there arises the ‘logical myth’ of a world independent of consciousness in spite of the fact that its structure and characteristics are recognised as being ‘determined by the individual consciousness’. The phenomenologists under the guise of formalistic formulations only seem to go beyond the epistemology of subjective idealism and its ontology. These appearances, however, make objective idealism less objectionable and more congruent with the temper of the times.
In one of his impressionistic essays, written shortly before the war and published in 1947, Ingarden said things which fit into Luk cs’ explanatory framework. In his essay Ingarden argued that man is raised above the animal level by the magical potency of intentional experience (in the phenomenological sense of the term ‘intentional’), which discovers essences, ideal structures, and values, permeates the world with significance, bestows meaning on natural objects and makes the world as a whole what it appears to be in man’s life. It is intentional experience that somehow creates the world satisfying the needs of the human spirit, gives man an ideal commanding his devotion and provides a purpose worth striving for.
It should be noticed that the pure consciousness of Ingarden’s essay, whose creative power is extolled, somehow hovers in the air, unaffected by any apparent connection with the physical and biological reality, or with its claims upon men. In principle, the author recognises that pure consciousness is no disembodied spirit and that man has got a body subject to natural laws, but the latter is left in the background and plays no effective role. It is hard not to be sensitive to the appeal of Ingarden’s vision, which combines a certain grandeur of thought with a sense of tragic heroism inherent in an intensely human experience of life. On second thought, however, the conclusion may be reached that Ingarden fails to answer some searching questions that occur to sober minds who are anxious to secure evidence instead of being subject to the pressure of noble sentiments and who wish to be governed by facts rather than by inspiring thoughts and intuitive insights. What Ingarden presented as knowledge based on intuition of essence lacks positive evidence, and it is in the nature of the case that it can never produce it. This essay provided the testimony which revealed, in the opinion of Marxist-Leninists, the real purpose of Ingarden major work Controversy over the Existence of the World published after the war.
They argued that the Cartesian method of universal questioning, by means of which Ingarden establishes the preliminaries for the formulation of his problem, is nothing but a transparent subterfuge. It led Husserl first to a neutral position with respect to the issue of idealism versus realism, and later paved the way for his transcendental idealism. In Ingarden’s case the Cartesian doubt helps to discover the alleged Archimedean point of his procedure, namely, pure consciousness, whose existence cannot be put in question, and its cogitationes, which provide necessary knowledge. On this foundation Ingarden constructs his ontology, and, with its assistance, eliminates not only subjective idealism but also materialism. The refutation of materialism is in fact the supreme task of Ingarden’s work. True to Husserl’s transcendental objectivism, Ingarden rejects monistic materialism as an epistemologically naive and dogmatic assertion, which accepts the existence of the world in its alleged unquestionable obviousness. The certainty which apparently can be obtained in the examination of pure thoughts and pure acts is a baseless claim and a trap for some ulterior metaphysical purpose. In this manner any opinion adopted beforehand might be presented as absolutely founded in pure consciousness. There is hardly anything that Ingarden cannot prove as a ‘pure possibility’ by his a priori analysis of the content of ideas, whether it be God or the devil. This exemplifies the arbitrariness of his procedure and the scholastic conceptual muddle in which his mind is bogged. Ingarden’s ontology with its emphasis on the absolute reliability of the intuition of essence gives support to religious faith, which also appeals to the certainty of inner life. In his own work there are indications that the controversy over the existence of the world would be resolved by the acceptance of its reality as God’s creation. For according to Ingarden God is also the ultimate ground of all values, effected by man’s intentional acts in the created world.
It should be remembered that the critical comments on Ingarden’s phenomenology are rationalisations superimposed on evaluation concerned with the social significance of objective idealism and of phenomenology as a particular instance of it. In the last resort, it is evaluation in terms of social significance, and not rationalisation, that claims to establish a valid case against phenomenology in general and Ingarden’s phenomenology in particular. The objections raised against the latter are worth, however, a moment’s attention, for they throw some light on the philosophical assumptions of Marxism-Leninism itself.
Although some of the Marxist-Leninist arguments against the phenomenological method are not new, they seem to be both relevant and right. Marxist-Leninists are not alone in their doubt as to why the analysis of essences should be immune from error while such reputed sources of knowledge as perception or memory are not. The questions whether the intuition of essence actually performs what it claims to achieve and whether it is a procedure that provides reliable knowledge were asked insistently and persuasively before. The suspicion that knowledge derived from intuition and pure consciousness might provide intellectual support for false doctrines goes back to John Stuart Mill. In Poland as much as anywhere else there were numerous thinkers who pointed out the dangers resulting from the elevation of intuition, whether Bergsonian or Husserlian, to the position of a source of indubitable knowledge that secures an unassailable foundation for philosophy, morals, politics, and religion. There was a large measure of agreement that it might be an excellent instrument for consecrating all deep-seated prejudices.
What is valid in the Marxist-Leninist criticism of the phenomenological method is, however, subsidiary to the main objection concerning the Cartesian method of doubt. It is this method that Ingarden tries to elaborate and apply to the controversy over the existence of the world. It is also the method that is generally approved and in some way or other cultivated by the whole of modern philosophy. For the position of a modern philosopher does not differ radically from that of Descartes when he set out in search of the philosopher’s stone. Uncritical assumptions and dogmas dressed up as certain knowledge, whether they appear as beliefs of philosophers, presuppositions of science, or habits of thought, continue to be one of the main obstacles to the search for truth. For that reason the Cartesian device of methodological scepticism has become a standard constituent of a philosopher’s intellectual equipment and an accredited route to knowledge.
Marxist-Leninists seem to take a different view and to reject the Cartesian principle. At best, it was a device for establishing the rights of reason against the encroachments of religion and theology, for the secularisation of the criteria of truth and for the emancipation of knowledge from authority. But in the theory of knowledge Descartes initiated a development in the wrong direction and was responsible for settting up almost unconquerable obstacles to knowledge about the world as a whole and about man as its integral part. To follow Descartes’ lead in epistemology is to fall into the trap of idealism. There is no room for the Cartesian principle in the controversy over the existence of the world, because there is no such controversy among sane men, undeluded by idealist inventions, who have never thought that the world could not be real.
Marxist-Leninists start, therefore, with the assumptions that the outside world is independent of the mind and that the mind is able to acquire an objective knowledge about the world by somehow comparing thought with the real processes in the external world. These assumptions might be, of course, true but they must be shown to be true, and this purpose cannot be achieved unless they are doubted and questioned. In other words, to be shown to be true they must be conclusions emerging from prior critical and reflective examination instead of being assumptions from which other conclusions can be safely drawn. The latter approach to the controversy over the existence of the world is dogmatic, as contrasted with the sceptical, the critical and the transcendental in Descartes, Kant’s, and Ingarden’s sense respectively.
The dogmatic approach was in the case of Marx and Engels an understandable development. It was a reaction to the wild speculations of post-Kantian idealism and, in particular, of Hegelian idealism. On reading Engels’ Feuerbach and the End of Classical German Philosophy one still experiences the feeling of elation and the liberating effect of the discovery that after all ‘Nature exists independently of all philosophy’. Some believe that the attitudes of mind, which are symbolised by the names of Parmenides and Hegel, are deeply ingrained in human nature and that there is always a Father Parmenides to every generation of philosophers. He calls forth in others the dogmatic and uncritical assertion denying any contribution of the mind to the determination of what is given, real, or valid in experience. To discover the source from which this sort of dogmatism springs and from which it draws its renewed strength, does not amount to the justification of the dogmatic claims. Common sense metaphysics breaks down sooner or later, when tested by the criteria of consistency, agreement with reality, and requirements of intelligent action. It cannot survive these tests unless it denies the possibility of some questions which can be asked, declares others to be illegitimate and eliminates the difficulties by an increasing number of prohibitions concerning the object and manner of philosophical inquiry. These prohibitions make of common sense metaphysics an impregnable stronghold but also one that is a prison to its defenders. The fetters of common sense may be as oppressive as those of idealism.
The objection that Ingarden’s phenomenology is a cunning device, similar to that of Berkeley, for refuting materialism and justifying God’s existence, is based on a misconception about what Ingarden’s ontology is and what it can achieve. Again it should be remembered that Ingarden differentiates ontology, a study of pure possibilities, from metaphysics, which deals with existential questions. At the level of ontological reflective analysis, concerned with the controversy over the existence of the world, there is no room for existential statements and since materialism is an existential metaphysical hypothesis, this hypothesis can neither be argued for nor against, neither proved nor disproved on the basis of ontological conceptual investigations and revisions alone.
Ingarden’s transcendental method is in fact incompatible with ‘absolute materialism’, for it takes as its Archimedian point pure consciousness, to be apprehended in ‘immanent perception’ and whose mode of existence, though left undetermined, excludes its being something clearly physical. This pure consciousness is essentially man’s consciousness, and not that of God. The idea of God being the ultimate ground of the reality of the world as a whole is mentioned marginally, but not explored as a distinct approach to the problem, discussed exclusively on a human level. It is true that moderate materialism (this is Ingarden’s terminology) excludes some possible existential relations between consciousness and matter, namely, those which would deny either the priority of matter or the dependence of consciousness on the latter. These again are existential metaphysical questions which cannot be resolved on the ground of ontology. Moreover, Ingarden’s ontological examinations concerned with the mode of existence of pure consciousness, i.e., with what the idea of its existence considered as a pure possibility implies, lead to the conclusion that there might be some necessary relations between pure consciousness and the mind. If that were actually the case, the essential connection of the mind and body within the real world, over which the controversy takes place, could jeopardise the whole transcendental method of procedure and its Archimedean point of departure. For the existential relations that would bind pure consciousness with the mind, and through the mind with the body constituting a part of the world, would deprive the being of pure consciousness of its primary and independent character. Ingarden’s work ends on this note, and he did not indicate what the solution of this question might turn out to be.
The opinion that Ingarden’s phenomenology is an introduction to theistic metaphysics cannot find any support in what he said in his published work so far. More controversial is his attitude to materialism. His transcendental method is incompatible with ‘absolute materialism. But Marxist-Leninists reject it too, under the name of ‘vulgar materialism’. So far as consciousness is concerned, ‘absolute’ or ‘vulgar materialism’ is epitomised in the famous dictum that the brain secretes thought in the same way as the liver secretes bile (the emphasis being put on ‘the same way’). ‘Absolute materialism’ includes, however, ‘absolute realism’, that is, speaking freely, the thesis that the knowledge of the world is not in any way relative to and dependent upon consciousness. ‘Absolute realism’ is not necessarily implied by materialism, but for Marxist-Leninists it is the opinion of ‘any healthy person’, which they regard as the foundation of their theory of knowledge. Since ‘absolute realism’ is one of the pure possibilities which are excluded by Ingarden, his ontology does refute materialism, but materialism of a particular sort.
On the other hand, Ingarden did not consider materialism as a metaphysical doctrine that is concerned with the nature of the world and with the determination of the materialist criteria by which ‘real’ or ‘existent’ can be truly and correctly predicated, since these matters go beyond the limits of ontological investigations. Although it seems to be clear that he is not a materialist, it is at least premature and possibly wrong to say that he refuted materialism in the metaphysical sense of this term. The question whether the world is entirely material or entirely spiritual or both material and spiritual is undecided, and, apart from occasional references to various possibilities, not even touched upon.
The central motive of all modern philosophy is to view the world ‘under the form of knowledge’. This observation was made in connection with the rise of idealism from Berkeley onwards, but it equally applies to other philosophical trends. The concern with epistemological problems, of which the idealist tradition is only one branch, dominates modern philosophy. If it ventures beyond the theory of knowledge into the domain of metaphysics, it remains primarily an epistemology and becomes a metaphysics by implication.
The Marxist-Leninist criticism of Ingarden’s phenomenology indicates that Marxist-Leninist materialism is the exact opposite of the initial standpoint, method and strategy applied by modern philosophy. For its cardinal principle is not a theory of knowledge but a metaphysics. It is metaphysics first and foremost, and a theory of knowledge only by implication. This offers some advantages in the criticism of other trends of thought. What the latter present as their views on the nature and structure of the world is tentative, hypothetical and inferred knowledge which Marxist-Leninists confront with assertions claiming some kind of direct acquaintance and absolute validity. The position is reversed when the controversies move from the field of metaphysics to that of epistemology. For Marxist-Leninists encounter serious difficulties in giving an account of how they arrive at the knowledge which they claim to possess and in justifying what they assert. These difficulties considerably increase with the conjoining of materialistic metaphysics and ‘absolute realism’. For by denying that knowledge is relative to the mind, Marxist-Leninist thinkers put reality beyond the reach of the mind. The denial of the fact that knowledge is relative to the mind is forced upon Marxist-Leninists by their implicit endorsement of the idealist argument. The epistemological idealists argue that if knowledge of the external world is relative to the mind, the external world is completely dependent upon the mind. As Marxist-Leninists reject the conclusion, they feel obliged to reject the premiss. There is, however, no dilemma here, for if the realist is right the conclusion does not follow from the premiss, and one can accept the latter without being committed to the former.
Having recognised the justice of the idealist argument, Marxist-Leninists are compelled to consider any concession to the view that recognises the relativity of knowledge to the mind as a repudiation of materialism. A Marxist-Leninist materialist has to reject any limitations on the likeness or similarity or coincidence of knowledge and reality. This gives him a unique position in two different meanings of this term. He is looked upon by others as a naive epistemologist, holding a view clearly untenable and, upon closer examination, absurd. On the other hand, and from his own vantage point, everybody but himself is an idealist. All thinkers but the Marxist-Leninists are tarred with the same idealist brush, they all, whether be it Berkeley or Russell, Kant or Hegel, Comte or Carnap, ‘create’ or ‘construct’ reality,.” Idealism is the common denominator of all philosophical standpoints and tendencies, however different they might be in other respects, for they are related by their fundamental epistemological assumption. This assumption makes Husserl and Ingarden, logical positivists and the Warsaw school thinkers members of one single philosophical family, all stricken by the same fatal disease.