Philosophy and Ideology. Z. A. Jordan 1963
The difficulties which Marxism-Leninism has encountered in connection with the problem of universals, as well as the platonising and idealist tendencies involved in the attempt to solve the problem in terms of the whole-part relation, can be reduced to a basic contradiction between materialist metaphysical assumptions and the theory of reflection. The theory of reflection implies that non-imaginative concepts, that is, supposed objects of a special sort in the mind, apprehended by pure intelligence, have an objective foundation in the natural world. This factual reference would not be satisfied if concepts were recognised to have only a representative capacity or symbolic character, and still less if they were defined as the meaning of certain expressions. For this would apparently lead to relativism, scepticism, idealism, and conventionalism. The concept must stand for something in the external world in a similar manner as ‘John’ or ‘Fido’ does. Lenin strongly insisted on the correspondence, in the literal, mirror- or copy-like sense, between thought and reality. Lenin’s view has been fully accepted by Marxist-Leninists everywhere.
The same applies to the concept of law. Also laws must have a factual reference and an objective foundation, in the indicated sense, in the natural world. There must be some direct correspondence between the regularities in natural processes and their conceptual reflections expressed in the laws of science. Towards the end of his life Stalin emphasised the point that regularities of Nature cannot be changed or abolished by man and dwelt upon the difference of meaning in the use of the term ‘law’ in its descriptive and prescriptive sense, as much as upon the fact that they are faithfully reflected in the minds of men in a manner not dissimilar from the reflection of an object in a mirror. Stalin wrote for a didactic political purpose and did not feel any need to inquire into these trivialities and crudities. His followers in Poland accepted his view as a methodological discovery of the highest order; instead of a didactic simile they treated it as a literal truth. Natural regularities are in the real world in no metaphoric sense of this expression, and because they are there, the mind can discover and reflect them mentally. Since we do not acquire this knowledge through the senses but by means of intellectual and non-imaginative reflections in the mind, regularities are entities of the same ontological level as essences. ‘The law’, wrote Lenin, ‘is a relation of essences, ‘immanently present in the phenomenon’. He felt that this refuted ‘the followers of Mach, as well as other agnostics and Kantians’ .
This conception of natural laws differs radically from the positivist doctrine which defines natural laws as patterns of description or invariant formulae for making predictions. Laws are the work of man and successful predictions are the only criteria of causality and regularity in the world. For the confirmation of the prediction can be said to be the same as the empirical corroboration of the law. The presuppositions of this doctrine can be stated simply and concisely. We can observe the coexistence and succession of distinct things and events as well as compare the results of our observations. Laws formulate the observed correlations of coexistence and succession or the recurrent pattern of comparable observations.
According to Marxist-Leninists this is pure subjectivism, for it precludes the possibility of speaking about regularity and causality in the world. ‘What shallowness of thought’, exclaimed Engels, commenting on the viewpoint of positivism. Law does exhibit something about the events themselves and shows that regularity and causality are immanent in things and phenomena. If it is a description at all, it is a description of the order of Nature; it expresses the uniformities by which things and events are bound up together, the objective principles of necessitation. Laws are not, therefore, patterns of description but descriptions of patterns in Nature. These patterns are a manifestation of the manner in which things are essentially and internally related to each other. Consequently, natural laws areas much descriptions as explanations, they describe what happens as much as explain why something happens.
There is yet another characteristic of the Marxist-Leninist concept of law by which it differs from the positivist doctrine. Since only matter remains eternally the same in all its transformations and everything else is eternally changing, the order of Nature changes accordingly. There are, therefore, no eternal laws of Nature, all of them are changeable, and are more or less impermanent. The opposite point of view results from the adherence to the geocentric standpoint accepted in natural science. It is true that some laws change relatively faster than others. For instance, social laws and laws of historical development are certainly more impermanent than natural laws. But essentially there is no difference between the two classes; every law is a ‘historical presentation of the successive changes occurring in a system of the Universe from its origin to its passing away’. This idea, which Engels derived from Hegel, has acquired prominence in Marxist-Leninist philosophy, for it showed the way in which cosmology could dispense with God. Newton’s Universe, though subject to eternal laws, could not have arisen out of chaos by itself, by the operation of the laws of Nature. It required God who imposed these laws and by his constant intervention kept the mechanism from disruption and going to pieces. The view which denies the permanence of the natural order and assumes the concurrent evolution of the Universe and its laws, could follow Laplace and has no need for Newton’s theistic hypothesis.
The pictorial philosophy of the mind, which has just been summarised, is bound to come into conflict with the assumptions of materialism. For materialism leads to nominalism and nominalism denies the reality of universals in any form. On the other hand, the view regarding the nature of concepts and laws, based on the theory of reflection, implies the rejection of nominalism and the adoption of realism of some sort. Verbal evasive actions can dodge this consequence but are unable to escape from it. Marxist-Leninists seem to be bound by their viewpoint and theories to assign to concepts some existential, ontological status in the natural world, to be committed to universalia in rebus or inter res, and to recognise the existence of non-material constituents as real as lumps of matter. In Marxist-Leninist philosophy metaphysics and the theory of knowledge seem to be at loggerheads and militate against each other.
Not all Marxist-Leninists are unaware of the fact that by failing to pay due attention to ontological, logical and psychological issues involved in the problem of universals, they have become entangled in contradictions. Also this minority, whose views have been presented by Kołakowski, is anxious to keep away from its traditional formulation, considered to be a congeries of pseudo-problems invented by theologians. The real issue is not the question ‘What are universals?’ but ‘What is the subject-matter of abstract knowledge?’. It is the answer to this question that has committed Marxist-Leninist philosophy to views which actually are or might turn out to be incompatible with philosophic materialism.
To make this point clear, Kołakowski distinguishes two main types of conceptual and logical framework which can be adopted in science and which can be called by the traditional names of nominalism and realism. It will become clear that this is not an abuse of the traditional terminology, for the problem of universals has some methodological implications.This approach to the problem is legitimate, but it cannot avoid becoming involved in some questions of ontology and metaphysics. This also will become clear at once. Although the starting point of Kolakowski’s examination is methodological, not only his conclusions but also some initial basic distinctions are of a metaphysical nature.
Methodological nominalism denies that the world contains any other entities but individuals and, consequently, refuses to acknowledge that universal statements have an ‘independent cognitive value’. They are reports in a shorthand notation of what in principle can be fully described by a finite or an infinite conjunction of singular statements. Nominalism is a set of semantical, logical, and methodological rules of describing the world as composed solely of individuals. Properties and relations are inseparable from things to which they belong and are not independent ontological categories. The rules of nominalism do not imply, as some Marxist-Leninists suggested, that a nominalist must abandon the use of general words altogether. For the use of general words does not compel the nominalist to the acceptance of abstract objects whose existence he denies, if he can show that they are in principle expendable, that is, that they are introduced as convenient fictions or abbreviated manners of speaking.
In contradistinction to nominalism, methodological realism asserts that abstract knowledge has a subject-matter of its own. No universal statement is equivalent to any combination, finite or infinite, of singular statements, and general words are not an indirect manner of referring to particular things or events. Words are not merely arbitrary means of description and communication, for there are words proper to every thing which reflect its true nature. Methodological realism implies the acceptance of an independent realm of being, irreducible to the world of individuals. Realism may involve strict dualism, it may speak of two distinct and separate levels of existence. It may also do nothing of the sort and, instead of following the Platonic, accept the Aristotelian moderate realism. In this case no separate existence of the universal constituents is assumed; their distinctiveness and independence are of a logical nature. The intelligibile, that is, the subject-matter of abstract knowledge, is distinct from but contained in matter and though inseparable from it in any other way than in thought remains a non-material constituent of reality.
The Marxist-Leninist philosophy of science is committed to some definite views concerning the object, nature, and method of scientific knowledge. These views involve certain ontological presuppositions which should be examined as to their compatibility with materialism. Five points in particular are worthy of attention. The Marxist-Leninist philosophy of science assumes that the laws of Nature are invariant and hold without exception. They form a hierarchical order in which laws of greater scope provide an explanation of those with a more limited scope. The laws state a necessary connection of events and the term ‘necessary’ is not intended to mean the same as the expression ‘coincidence or succession admitting no exception’. The laws of Nature are true universal statements and refer to objects and events without regard to degree. They are, therefore, also an idealisation, for actual occurrences are more complex than their conditions assumed by the laws. Finally, scientific investigations are concerned not only with particular classes of occurrences and their interaction, but also with their real aggregates and emergent wholes. The latter are supposed to have properties irreducible to those attributed to their parts severally and are not, therefore, inferable from the characteristics manifested by their constituents in other circumstances. Yet these wholes are subject to laws and the laws of emergent wholes are constitutive of their parts whose nature they modify in a different manner in different combinations.
There seems to be a prima facie case for the supposition that the Marxist-Leninist philosophy of science operates with a realist and not a nominalist conceptual scheme. If that were true, the danger of Marxist-Leninist philosophy of science coming into conflict with its materialist assumptions would become apparent. The danger of Platonism appears on two levels, the ontological and the logical.
On the logical level the irreconcilability of the realist standpoint in the philosophy of science with that of materialism concerns mainly two points. They are the irreducibility of the laws of Nature to a conjunction of singular statements and the fact that causal laws being true statements are an idealisation, never fully satisfied by any observable instances, that is, they are true in general and, strictly speaking, false in every particular instance. To paraphrase a well-known saying: as far as natural laws refer to reality, they are not true, and as far as they are true, they do not refer to reality.
To examine more closely the first point it is advisable to introduce a distinction which was made by Popper. Two kinds of universal statements should be distinguished: the strictly universal and the numerically universal statements. The first claim to be true for any place and any time and are not, therefore, equivalent to a conjunction of certain singular statements; the second refer to a finite class (though possibly to a very large one) of specified elements to be found in a restricted spatio-temporal region, and are equivalent to a conjunction of appropriate singular statements. A simple example may be provided by the statement ‘all men are mortal’. If the term ‘men’ is given an extensional definition or ‘all’ is referred restrictively to men who ever lived on the Earth, we have a numerically universal statement. On the other hand, if ‘all men are mortal’ is interpreted in the manner of modern logic as a statement about everything, free of spatio-temporal restrictions, it is a strictly universal statement.
Aristotle held that natural laws have a restricted validity; he was led to this view by the a priori argument that a denumerable infinite class is a self-contradictory entity. His opinion was revived by Whitehead in recent times for some different but also metaphysical reasons. Whitehead rejected the so-called property of simple location attributed to matter by modern science and wished to substitute for it what he called a ‘community of occasions in a common space-time’. A somewhat similar view has recently been put forward in Poland. Most scientists and philosophers have adhered to the other point of view and have regarded natural laws as strictly universal statements.
This is also the position adopted in Marxist-Leninist philosophy. It is argued that if natural laws are strictly universal statements they are not translatable into a conjunction of singular statements (which a nominalist cannot supposedly concede). Consequently, they cannot be said to be concerned with individual objects but with something of which the latter are only instances. In traditional terminology this means that laws of Nature involve universals of some sort. Otherwise their claim to universal validity would not be justified.
This argument is a little confused and not entirely faultless. The question as to whether a nominalist can accommodate strictly universal statements in his system does not depend on their reducibility to a conjunction of specified singular statements. For if that were the case, the nominalist could not expand them into his own language. This expansion is not to be identified, however, with establishing the equivalence in question, but with the use of bound variables. It is not clear, therefore, why the admittance of strictly universal statements should militate against the principle of nominalism.
Moreover, there is no apparent reason why laws of Nature should be regarded as strictly rather than numerically universal statements, though a logicallyminded philosopher would support the former alternative. If laws of Nature are regarded as strictly universal statements, this does not necessarily imply that they are existential assertions. For they can be expressed, in the manner of Popper, as prohibitions or proscriptions, to be given the form of non-existence statements, that is, of negations of strictly existential statements. On the other hand, if they are regarded as schematic existential assertions, we are not obliged to admit the existence of universals. It is true that a natural and obvious way of avoiding this snare available for a nominalist is not available for a Marxist-Leninist who repudiates the interpretation of universal statements as propositional schemata. The criticism under discussion seems, therefore, to be justified with respect to his position. The interpretation given to universal statements in Marxist-Leninist philosophy commits it to the recognition of some sort of universals.
There is another confusion in this argument which is worth emphasising. It is said that a universal statement which does not establish an invariant repetition could not be considered a law of Nature. This is one of the reasons why Marxist-Leninists? regard laws of Nature as strictly universal statements. Furthermore, they say that a causal law is not merely an assertion of an ‘exceptionless’ coincidence or succession but also states a necessary connection between cause and effect. Some of them realise that the idea, as Hume put it, of the real power in the objects or events, which we call causes, over their effects, making the effect follow the cause, is anthropomorphic and highly unsatisfactory. They insist, however, that the correlation of occurrences temporally and possibly locally connected should be distinguished from their necessary connection and the efficacious compelling nexus between cause and effect, irrespective of whether we can express the distinction in unambiguous terms. This view is one of the fundamental tenets of Marxist-Leninist philosophy, immune from revision for reasons which have nothing to do with the logical analysis of causality.
If laws of Nature are strictly universal statements, this insistence is no longer justifiable. For a strictly universal statement does not put any limitations on the correlation between occurrences to which it refers, but asserts that they follow each other always and everywhere. If a causal law states that the coincidence of occurrences is not only regular but also ‘exceptionless’. the addition that it is necessary seems to become redundant.
The second logical consideration which seems to put a Marxist-Leninist thinker under the obligation of accepting a Platonic realism of some sort can be stated as follows. If causal laws are true statements, as the Marxist-Leninist philosophy of science asserts, they must be about some ideal objects. For if they are about real entities, they cannot be true or even objectively significant, contrary to the assumption. This follows from the fact that with respect to individual objects causal laws are only approximately true or true within certain limits of probability. To accept such a conclusion would be inadmissible. It would imply that causal laws are not principles of necessitation, universally valid and invariant uniformities imposed by ‘objective reality’. but conceptual constructions, subjective and arbitrary, similar to Max Weber’s ideal types, with a doubtful or non-existent reference to reality.
For Marxist-Leninist philosophy this is a major difficulty and no satisfactory suggestion as to how it could be explained away has so far been offered. A nominalist is not committed to the acceptance of ideal gases, levers in perfect equilibrium, or frictionless processes. He can reformulate contrary-to-fact laws as subjunctive conditionals. He is not obliged to regard natural laws as logical statements, either true or false. Since he assumes that existence is significantly predicable only of particulars he is not compelled to admit that causal laws state a connection of universals, which the Marxist-Leninist seems to be compelled to accept. There is a number of various nominalist theories regarding the nature of general statements in empirical science, closely linked with the so-called problem of demarcation, that is, with finding a reliable criterion of distinguishing a metaphysical from an empirical theoretical system. They have one common feature, namely, they provide for the substitution of a probability implication for the implication of logic in the formulation of causal laws. Causal laws are if-then statements of the form ‘For every x: if x is A then x is B’. They are empirically testable, confirmed to such and such a degree or eventually falsified, but never empirically verifiable, for their truth cannot be decided with certainty. Causal laws do not necessarily state that always p implies q. In some cases causal laws are probability laws and mean: p implies q to such and such a degree of probability. The degree of probability may be assigned either a metrical or a non-metrical measure, be assessed by the number and weight of reasons in its favour. A causal explanation of an event cannot be inferred from one or more universal laws alone. In addition some singular statements, called ‘initial conditions’, which describe the ‘cause’ of the event to be explained, must also be known. The variant initial conditions determine the degree of probability to be assigned to q when p implies q.
Probability logic provides no solution for Marxist-Leninists. They look with intense suspicion or outright disapproval at probability logic, unless it is clearly subordinated to some metaphysical presuppositions. For their approach is metaphysical and not logical or methodological; it is concerned with necessity and chance as metaphysical categories and their relation in the natural world established deductively, that is, by inference from metaphysical principles. The doctrine of chance and necessity in Marxist-Leninist philosophy in Poland is essentially that of Engels, hardly touched by any newer development in the methodology of empirical science. It recognises an ‘objective foundation’ both for chance and necessary events and involves the demand that the logic and methodology of empirical science should comply with the metaphysical postulates.
Engels thought that if chance events were denied altogether and ‘only simple, direct necessity prevailed in Nature’ ( Engels, say Marxist-Leninists, had Laplace’s strict determinism in mind), natural necessity would be degraded to the ‘production of what is merely accidental’ and become some sort of chance. What Engels wished to say is not quite clear. He might have meant that if every event is strictly determined, every event could be explained as an instance of a natural law. This would abolish the difference between an accidental and a necessary coincidence of events and discourage us from the search for laws. Engels seemed to have taken the position that if there were no chance events there would be no necessary events either, in the sense in which necessity is correlative to chance. Engels did not reject the conviction that determinism of some sort is an essential presupposition of science, and he probably believed that the search for laws would ultimately establish the fact that every event is an instance of a natural law or laws. What he objected to was the philosophical position taking for granted what remains to be shown. This becomes clearer perhaps if the Hegelian ‘rational necessity’ takes the place of Laplace’s strict determinism, which, as a rule, is assumed to have been the target of Engels’ criticism. For according to Hegel every fact is implied by every other fact in one all-inclusive system of interdependence, and Engels seemed to have aimed at this doctrine when he objected to the belief that the number of peas in a pod is preordained in the constitution of the solar system. This doctrine lays down as a truth of logic what cannot but be a statement of fact and imposes a frame of reference that could be said to leave no room for chance or to degrade necessitation to the level of chance.
This interpretation is consistent with another of Engels’ beliefs, namely, that where necessary connection is absent, science comes to an end. For to have knowledge of an event is to know its causes, that is, the causal law under which it can be subsumed, and conversely, an event which cannot be incorporated into a natural law could not be known.
The absence of necessary connections in the case of a chance event cannot, therefore, mean the absence of a cause or causes. A chance event is not an uncaused event and a theory intended to explain it must assume the law of causality. This statement exposes the widespread error that the admission of chance is inconsistent with every kind of determinism and reflects credit upon Engels. But it sets a dilemma in the solution of which Hegel once again came to Engels’ rescue. For it was Hegel who identified chance with the contingent, with what may or may not happen and what combines, as Hegel thought, the contradictory characters of the accidental and the necessary. The contingent is necessary in the sense of being causally conditioned, and it is not necessary in the sense of not being strictly causally determined (in the Hegelian terminology: it has its ground outside itself). A chance event occurs where there are alternative possibilities. It comes about as a cumulative effect of a number of causal chains, which happen to intersect and act in conjunction. On this account ‘chance’ is not an absolute but a relational term and a chance event is said to be something relative with respect to its causal antecedents. It could be different or no chance event at all if its causal antecedent were different.
From this viewpoint the introduction of the concept of probability to the logical analysis of causality must appear as inadmissible. It cannot be treated just as a new method of inference in empirical science, supplementing the classical nineteenth century methods of differential equations, which being ‘exceptionless’ could have been considered as a form of causal laws acceptable to Marxist-Leninist philosophy. Unlike the latter, probability logic contains a disintegrating element for it seems to undermine the validity of the law of causality and bring about the decline of causal laws in the traditional sense. In fairness it should be conceded that this is the claim of the contemporary methodology of empirical science. Without questioning the practical value of the concept of causality for everyday life and, within certain limits, for scientific activity, the view that this concept has outlived its usefulness and is no longer adequate for a precise description of natural phenomena has become prevalent among philosophers in close touch with the development of science.
Marxist-Leninist thinkers still accept the view of Engels that to give up the concept of causality is to repudiate science. For if there were no laws to discover, science would lose every reason for its existence, and scientific laws are always causal laws. This view transformed into some kind of self-evident and incontrovertible truth did not reflect the prevailing opinions in science even at the time of Engels. To-day, the unqualified assertion that genuine scientific knowledge is always knowledge of causes simply cannot be maintained without ignoring or repudiating a large field of science. It is certainly an error to assert that if natural phenomena are not subject to causal laws they are not subject to any laws at all. For causal laws are not the only or even the most important patterns of uniformities in Nature. As a matter of fact, they predominate at the less advanced stage of the development of science and once this stage is overcome the discovery of causes is no longer the main preoccupation in scientific inquiry. This has been recently recognised by some Marxist-Leninists in Poland, but only those of the younger generation; they are inclined to revise the conception of natural law still prevailing among their elders.
What is true in the Marxist-Leninist assertion is the historical fact that in the past the law of causality provided a compelling reason to search for universal laws. The law ‘All changes take place according to the law of causality’ methodologically meant just this ‘To give a causal explanation of events is to discover natural laws’. This does not imply that causal explanations alone lead to the discovery of natural laws and that by abandoning the search for causes we abandon thereby the search for universal laws.
The paradoxical aspect of the Marxist-Leninist condemnation of the methodological trend, which regards the concept of causality as vague and inadequate, is the fact that this trend has been inspired by the idea close to the so-called first law of dialectics. The traditional conception of causality, said Mach, is a sort of pharmaceutical conception of the Universe. A dose of effect follows on a dose of cause. Since the natural connections are not often so simple, Mach suggested that the concept of cause should be replaced by that of function, by the conception of the dependence of phenomena on one another. The old concept of causality corresponds to the simplified picture of the world, dominated by the idea that there are isolated events which follow and are invariably connected with each other independently of all events.
The Marxist-Leninist view on chance and necessary events is not incompatible with the fact that some phenomena are subject to statistical laws. Although it does not exclude them, they can hardly be considered as genuine laws of Nature. Statistical laws are a makeshift and a temporary device rather than a true reflection of natural regularities, provisionally accepted until causal laws, underlying the statistical ones, are discovered. In particular, causal laws cannot be conceived as limiting cases of statistical laws in which correlations between classes of events or objects with specific properties have a truth-frequency equal to unity. For a Marxist-Leninist is bound to insist that there is a qualitative -and not only a quantitative – difference between a causal and a statistical generalisation. In the former case one exception, that is, one single instance which satisfies the antecedent and falsifies the consequent is sufficient for the refutation of the generalisation. This is not true with respect to a statistical generalisation. For if ‘p implies q’ means ‘p implies q in a certain percentage of instances’, a single instance that turns the probability implication into a falsehood is not an exception.
For a Marxist-Leninist, restricted by his various inadequately analysed assumptions, the question ‘What are causal laws about?’ offers little scope for a satisfactory answer. He regards causal laws as strictly universal, true statements. They express some existential propositions and should be held to be false if there were no entities which they are said to describe. For instance, if the principle of conservation of mechanical energy is a strictly universal true statement, there must be frictionless processes to make it true and in their absence the principle would have to be declared false. Similarly, if Galileo’s law about falling bodies is a strictly universal true statement, there must be a medium with no density, an ideal vacuum, in which all bodies fall with the same acceleration. A Marxist-Leninist has closed for himself all the ways of explaining away these existential implications. He cannot consider causal laws as descriptive summaries of observation, forming no essential part of inference, for these summaries do not describe anything observable, and, if they did, they could not be strictly universal, true statements. For a similar reason he cannot account for their contrary-to-fact character by reformulating them as conditionals ‘if p were the case, q would be the case’. Neither can he treat them as prescriptions for the formation of predictions, or ‘prohibitions’, or some other kind of schemata for producing genuine statements. Finally, he cannot consider natural laws in the conventionalist manner as logical constructions and implicit definitions of terms which occur in their formulation. For according to all these interpretations causal laws are not assertive sentences, cannot be either true or false, and are, therefore, not genuine statements at all.
Causal laws cannot be strictly universal, true statements unless they describe some kind of ideal objects, processes and systems, supported by Platonic or Aristotelian realism. This has been clearly realised in the last forty years and prompted different attempts to reformulate universal empirical statements in such a manner that they would be free from ontological commitments to any kind of fictitious ideal objects. These preoccupations are absent in the Marxist-Leninist philosophy of science and involve it in ontological presuppositions which possibly are not deliberately undertaken. An ad hoc repudiation of extralinguistic universals would not remedy the position. For we cannot use a given discourse and simultaneously deny that we do not recognize the kind of objects which are presupposed in it. The discourse of the Marxist-Leninist philosophy of science precludes the possibility that universals are confined to the level of language and logical constructions. They are supposed to be discovered in the natural world as ‘exceptionless’ recurrences or relations between properties or kinds of events, and in this sense they are real. Engels seemed to have accepted this view. ‘The form of universality in Nature’, he said, ‘is law’ . On this assumption it makes sense to say that natural laws are strictly universal, true statements, for this means that they assert connections of universals in re.
On the ontological level the conflict between materialism and the presuppositions of the Marxist-Leninist philosophy of science is even more apparent. Its origin is the concept of the whole whose acceptance is urged on ontological and metaphysical grounds as a trait said to be pervasive of reality. Whenever Marxist-Leninists refer to this concept, they appeal to ‘concrete experience’, but they must use this expression in a manner different from that commonly accepted for they do not appeal to what can be intersubjectively tested. Their appeal is to what Whitehead called the ‘primary article of metaphysical doctrine’, to the supposition that ‘thought can penetrate into every occasion of fact so that by comprehending its key conditions the whole complex of its pattern of conditions lies open before it’ . It is impossible to imagine how the whole could be declared constitutive of its parts, if these power of thought were not explicitly or not implicitly recognised.
It is clear that experience alone is insufficient for the eastablishment of the concept of the whole in the capacity of the fundamental ontological category. It cannot be doubted that there are groups of objects (or sensations) which may be differentiated from there environment because they are more strongly connected with each other than with other elements given in experience. In this sense one can say that elements of such groups are not just a piece but a part of a whole. This was pointed out by Mach who at the same time emphasised the spurious nature of such composites. Although they assert themselves with elementary force, their practical importance not only for the individual but also for the species cannot be seriously be doubted. To accept them as ultimate is to succumb to the force of habit. For the demarcation line diving a whole from its environment is relative and not absolute, subjective and not objective, drawn according to some practical or theoritical requirements. A human being is either a part or a whole, and a part or a whole of a different kind, in accordance with various points of view- biological, demographic, anthropological, sociological, religious -from which we wish to consider him. To say that cohering wholes are natural and enduring structures given in experience would reveal an uncritical attitude of taking habits and points of view determined by theoritical interests for the basic stuctures underlying reality. The fact that entities and events are related or grouped into complexes does not imply that everything is related to everything else or that we cannot acquire knowledge about simple entities unless we investigate the whole of which they are parts. For there are emperical facts which we certainly causally or otherwise irrelevant to each other and we can examine various simple elemetns outside the whole which they may enter.
For a nominalist the ontological category of integrate units is a platonishing ontology which is also devoid of the advantages of some other platonistic ontologies, that is, it does not simplify conceptually the account of any part of reality or of the total world picture. The fundamental point of the holistic philosophies of Hegel, Bradly, and Whitehead might be described as the wish to see the Universe as a ‘unified and ordered and seamless whole’ . But this vision does not help us to know the Universe and to comprehend its structure. In this respect holistic philosophies are conspicuous by the absence of definite results and by the increase of confusion. For it may be true that the uniformities of Nature form one single intricate web, but if they do there is no other way of acquiring knowledge than by unravelling them and investigating each thread separately.
Some Marxist-Leninists are aware of the fact that their holistic ontology ‘dangerously oscillates between the Scylla of physicalism and the Charybdis of Platonism’ . There is a Scylla of physicalism because the units or wholes are supposed to be material; in this sense the holistic ontology of Marxism-Leninism accepts the requirement of materialism. On the other hand, however, these material units reveal an internal structure which is not material. This structure is determined by the principle of emergence and modification, which is a property peculiar to wholes. The principle of modification – the internal relations holding between all the parts of the whole – influences the essence of subordinated and enduring, i.e. material entities. The relations are internal because the related terms are in virtue of being related differnet from what they would have have been otherwise. On this account being a part of a whole means being causally changed by the ‘laws’ which determine the whole and aquiring a new mode of existence characterising the whole.
To accept the view that no terms, that is, lumps of matter (if the materialist is right), are independent of any of the relations (that is, of something which is certainly not material) in which they stand to other terms, and that these nonmaterial constituents of the world qualify, modify and determine the related lumps of matter, is to accept a clearly idealist point of view. This applies equally to both doctrines of internal relations, to be found in Marxist-Leninist philosophy, to its moderate and extremist versions. Neither of them is compatible with materialist monism, both of them accept that the world is neither wholly nor essentially material, since its structure is determined or modified by its nonmaterial constituents, namely, by an intelligible order of relations and interdependence with confers upon matter its emergent characteristics. It is obvious that these matter-modifying relations are not material. Neither are they solely mental. Like the terms they relate, they are supposed to be independent of thought. Being apprehended by and independent of thought, that is, not mindmade, they must be universals.
In the Marxist-Leninist doctrine these universals or complexes of relatedness do not constitute a realm apart (as Whitehead assumed), but are the constitutive element of the wholes of which matter is the other factor. Although universals are logically priopr to matter, matter is premordial and irreducible to universals. Aristotelian dualism dilutes and tempers an essentially monistic and Hegelian version of philosophic idealism that the real is the iniversal.
The complexes of relatedness in rebus account for the fact that abstract knowledge has its own subject-matter, disregarded by the nominalist, as well as a significance and meaning, irreducible to a conjunction of singular staements. The object of abstract knowledge is the universals, which while subsisting in rebus or rather inter res do not constitute the common property of things, taken severally or collectively; neither are they principles of classifying things in arbitrarily selected groups. They are constitutive elements of wholes, subject to and expressed by the ‘objective laws of Nature’ 
According to Marxist-Leninist metaphysics the Universe contains only matter. If its ontological stucture is not material, Marxist-Leninist philosophy can no longer be considered as unqualified materialist monism. This is the interpretation which has been suggested to explain Lenin’s remarks that ‘Nature is both concrete and abstract, both appearance and essence’ . The pervasive interconnection of the intelligible, of logically independent constituents with matter, is close to Aristotle’s dualism of matter and form. The principle of materialist monism is restricted nut retained in virtue of the assumption that matter is premordial and the universal is emergent and revolutionary.
The dialectics of the whole-part relation, epitomised in the conclusion that nothing but the whole of reality or the the evolutionary world process, considered as a totality, is ultimately knowable and that nothing can be wholly true unless it is about reality as a whole, has a streak of mysticism which it shares with idealist monism. Marxist-Leninist themselves have been anxious to emphasise another aspect of their venture: they have not offered anything more than some preliminary ideas and a programme of research, which is essentially of a logica and methological nature. This claim is not justified by what they say and do. The connections of their ideas and programme with logic and methology are as illusory as in the case of Hegel’s logic. Hegel’s logic is quete different from what is commonly called logic; in fact, it is honorific name for metaphysics. The concept of whole is clearly a metaphysical concept. It is not an analytic tool but a means by which the true vision of the world is supposed to be revealed.
Its acceptance implies that beneath the apperearances there is concealed an order and structure accessible only to reason which eludes comprehension unless novel categories are applied to their understanding. The research programme, to which Marxist-Leninists refer, is in fact a proposal for a total reconstuction of familiar ways of thinking, based on logic and accredited rules of scientific procedure. As a reward for this reconstruction they promise to lay bare the latent structure and the true reality of thought and the Universe.
This is a classic gambit of all metaphysics, of which two basic types can be distinguished. There are the metaphysics inspired mainly by a theoritical purpose and that whose chief preoccupation is of a moral and social nature. For once the latent stucture of reality is established, it is clear that in our moral and social actions we should be guided not by the ‘phenominal’ but by the ‘noumenal’ order. The logical priority of metaphysics over social and moral philosophy does not necessarily mean that metaphysical conjectures also as a matter of fact precede definite moral and social convictions. The order of discovery differs from the order of exposition, and it is not implausible that the relation of metaphysical conjectures to moral and social convictions is no exception to this rule.
It is perhaps no accidental coincedence that in case of the Marxist-Leninist holistic metaphysics the discovery of the only genuine existence of the whole, as contrasted with that of an isolated thing, has been made in the field of the social sciences and history. It is certainly no chance coincedence that procedures adopted by some scholars in the examination of social and historical phenomena are practically the only exemplications of the superiority conferred upon the method which considers the whole as primary and underivable instead of constructing a whole from separate pieces. The social sxiences and history provide a rich hunting ground where the subject-matter itself seems to offer ample evidence that the whole is primary and the ‘isolated’ fact or event or thing is to be derived from the whole, which gives to its parts their meaning and determines their nature. The alleged fundamental difference between and natural science and the humanities can be abolished by showing that the latter do not differ essentially in their subject-matter and method from the former. The unity of all sciences can, however, also be propounded by extending the concepts and methods of the historical and social sciences to the whole of knoeledge. This seems to be the course adopted by Marx, who in this respect seems to have been followed by Marxist-Leninist philosophy.