V. I.   Lenin


Critical Comments on a Reactionary Philosophy

( Chapter Three: The Theory of Knowledge of Dialectical Materialism and of Empirio-Criticism. III )

3. Causality And Necessity In Nature

The question of causality is particularly important in determining the philosophical line of any new “ism,” and we must therefore dwell on it in some detail.

Let us begin with an exposition of the materialist theory of knowledge on this point. L. Feuerbach’s views are expounded with particular clarity in his reply to R. Haym already referred to.

Nature and human reason,’ says Haym, ‘are for him (Feuerbach) completely divorced, and between them a gulf is formed which cannot be spanned from one side or the other.’ Haym grounds this reproach on § 48 of my Essence of Religion where it is said that ‘nature may be conceived only through nature itself, that its necessity is neither human nor logical, neither metaphysical nor mathematical, that nature alone is the being to which it is impossible to apply any human measure, although we compare and give names to its phenomena, in order to make them comprehensible to us, and in general apply human expressions and conceptions to them, as for example: order, purpose, law; and are obliged to do so because of the character of our language.’ What does this mean? Does it mean that there is no order in nature, so that, for example, autumn may be succeeded by summer, spring by winter, winter by autumn? That there is no purpose, so that, for example, there is no co-ordination between the lungs and the air, between light and the eye, between sound and the ear? That there is no law, so that, for example, the earth may move now in an ellipse, now in a circle, that it may revolve around the sun now in a year, now in a quarter of an hour? What nonsense! What then is meant by this passage? Nothing more than to distinguish between that which belongs to nature and that which be longs to man; it does not assert that there is actually nothing in nature corresponding to the words or ideas of order, purpose, law. All that it does is to deny the identity between thought and being; it denies that they exist in nature exactly as they do in the head or mind of man. Order, purpose, law are words used by man to translate the acts of nature into his own language in order that he may understand them. These words are not devoid of meaning or of objective content (nicht sinn-, d. h. gegenstandslose Worte); nevertheless, a distinction must be made between the original and the translation. Order, purpose, law in the human sense express something arbitrary.

From the contingency of order, purpose and law in nature, theism expressly infers their arbitrary origin; it infers the existence of a being distinct from nature which brings order, purpose, law into a nature that is in itself (an sich) chaotic (dissolute) and indifferent to all determination.   The reason of the theists . . . is reason contradictory to nature, reason absolutely devoid of understanding of the essence of nature. The reason of the theists splits nature into two beings—one material, and the other formal or spiritual” (Werke, VII. Band, 1903, S. 518-20).

Thus Feuerbach recognises objective law in nature and objective causality, which are reflected only with approximate fidelity by human ideas of order, law and so forth. With Feuerbach the recognition of objective law in nature is inseparably connected with the recognition of the objective reality of the external world, of objects, bodies, things, reflected by our mind. Feuerbach’s views are consistently materialistic. All other views, or rather, any other philosophical line on the question of causality, the denial of objective law, causality and necessity in nature, are justly regarded by Feuerbach as belonging to the fideist trend. For it is, indeed, clear that the subjectivist line on the question of causality, the deduction of the order and necessity of nature not from the external objective world, but from consciousness, reason, logic, and so forth, not only cuts human reason off from nature, not only opposes the former to the latter, but makes nature a part of reason, instead of regarding reason as a part of nature. The subjectivist line on the ques-tion of causality is philosophical idealism (varieties of which are the theories of causality of Hume and Kant), i.e.., fideism, more or less weakened and diluted. The recognition of objective law in nature and the recognition that this law is reflected with approximate fidelity in the mind of man is materialism.

As regards Engels, he had, if I am not mistaken, no occasion to contrast his materialist view with other trends on the particular question of causality. He had no need to do so, since he had definitely dissociated himself from all the agnostics on the more fundamental question of the objective reality of the external world in general. But to anyone who has read his philosophical works at all attentively it must be clear that Engels does not admit even the shadow of a doubt as to the existence of objective law, causality and necessity in nature. We shall confine ourselves to a few examples. In the first section of Anti-Dühring Engels says: “In order to understand these details [of the general picture   of the world phenomena], we must detach them from their natural (natürlich) or historical connection and examine each one separately, its nature, special causes, effects, etc.” (pp. 5-6). That this natural connection, the connection between natural phenomena, exists objectively, is obvious. Engels particularly emphasises the dialectical view of cause and effect: “And we find, in like manner, that cause and effect are conceptions which only hold good in their application to individual cases, but as soon as we consider the individual cases in their general connection with the universe as a whole, they run into each other, and they become confounded when we contemplate that universal action and reaction in which causes and effects are eternally changing places, so that what is effect here and now will be cause there and then, and vice versa” (p. 8). Hence, the human conception of cause and effect always somewhat simplifies the objective connection of the phenomena of nature, reflecting it only approximately, artificially isolating one or another aspect of a single world process. If we find that the laws of thought correspond with the laws of nature, says Engels, this becomes quite conceivable when we take into account that reason and consciousness are “products of the human brain and that man himself is a product of nature.” Of course, “the products of the human brain, being in the last analysis also products of nature, do not contradict the rest of nature’s interconnections (Naturzusammenhang) but are in correspondence with them” (p. 22).[5] There is no doubt that there exists a natural, objective interconnection between the phenomena of the world. Engels constantly speaks of the “laws of nature,” of the “necessities of nature” (Naturnotwendigkeiten), without considering it necessary to explain the generally known propositions of materialism.

In Ludwig Feuerbach also we read that “the general laws of motion—both of the external world and of human thought—[are] two sets of laws which are identical in substance but differ in their expression in so far as the human mind can apply them consciously, while in nature and also up to now for the most part in human history, these laws assert themselves unconsciously in the form of external necessity in the midst of an endless series of seeming accidents” (p. 38). And Engels reproaches the old natural philosophy for having   replaced “the real but as yet unknown interconnections” (of the phenomena of nature) by “ideal and imaginary ones” (p. 42).[6] Engels’ recognition of objective law, causality and necessity in nature is absolutely clear, as is his emphasis on the relative character of our, i.e., man’s approximate reflections of this law in various concepts.

Passing to Joseph Dietzgen, we must first note one of the innumerable distortions committed by our Machians. One of the authors of the Studiesin” the Philosophy of Marxism, Mr. Helfond, tells us: “The basic points of Dietzgen’s world outlook may be summarised in the following propositions: . . . (9) The causal dependence which we ascribe to things is in reality not contained in the things themselves” (p. 248). This is sheer nonsense. Mr. Helfond, whose own views represent a veritable hash of materialism and agnosticism, has outrageously falsified J. Dietzgen. Of course, we can find plenty of confusion, inexactnesses and errors in Dietzgen, such as gladden the hearts of the Machians and oblige materialists to regard Dietzgen as a philosopher who is not entirely consistent. But to attribute to the materialist J. Dietzgen a direct denial of the materialist view of causality—only a Helfond, only the Russian Machians are capable of that.

Objective scientific knowledge,” says Dietzgen in his The Nature of the Workings of the Human Mind (German ed. 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 back of phenomena, but within or by means of them” (pp. 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 derived 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 some objective effect” (pp. 98-99). “The cause of the thing is its connection” (p. 100).

It is clear from this that Mr. Helfond has made a statement which is directly contrary to fact. The world outlook of materialism expounded by J. Dietzgen recognises that “the causal dependence” is contained “in the things themselves.”   It was necessary for the Machian hash that Mr. Helfond should confuse the materialist line with the idealist line on the question of causality.

Let us now proceed to the latter line.

A clear statement of the starting point of Avenarius’ philosophy on this question is to be found in his first work, Philosophie als Denken der Welt gemäss dem Prinzip des kleinsten Kraftmasses. In § 81 we read: “Just as we do not experience (erfahren) force as causing motion, so we do not experience the necessity for any motion. . . . All we experience (erfahren) is that the one follows the other.” This is the Humean standpoint in its purest form: sensation, experience tell us nothing of any necessity. A philosopher who asserts (on the principle of “the economy of thought") that only sensation exists could not have come to any other conclusion. “Since the idea of causality,” we read further, “demands force and necessity or constraint as integral parts of the effect, so it falls together with the latter” (§ 82). “Necessity therefore expresses a particular degree of probability with which the effect is, or may be, expected” (§ 83, thesis).

This is outspoken subjectivism on the question of causality. And if one is at all consistent one cannot come to any other conclusion unless one recognises objective reality as the source of our sensations.

Let us turn to Mach. In a special chapter, “Causality and Explanation” (Wärmelehre, 2. Auflage, 1900, S. 432-39), we read: “The Humean criticism (of the conception of causality) nevertheless retains its validity.” Kant and Hume (Mach does not trouble to deal with other philosophers) solve the problem of causality differently. “We prefer” Hume’s solution. “Apart from logical necessity [Mach’s italics] no other necessity, for instance physical necessity, exists.” This is exactly the view which was so vigorously combated by Feuerbach. It never even occurs to Mach to deny his kinship with Hume. Only the Russian Machians could go so far as to assert that Hume’s agnosticism could be “combined” with Marx’s and Engels’ materialism. In Mach’s Mechanik, we read: “In nature there is neither cause nor effect” (S. 474, 3. Auflage, 1897). “I have repeatedly demonstrated that all forms of the law of causality spring from subjective   motives (Trieben) and that there is no necessity for nature to correspond with them” (p. 495).

We must here note that our Russian Machians with amazing naïveté replace the question of the materialist or idealist trend of all arguments on the law of causality by the question of one or another formulation of this law. They believed the German empirio-critical professors that merely to say “functional correlation” was to make a discovery in “recent positivism” and to release one from the “fetishism” of expressions like “necessity,” “law,” and so forth. This of course is utterly absurd, and Wundt was fully justified in ridiculing such a change of words (in the article, quoted above, in Philosophische Studien, S. 383, 388), which in fact changes nothing. Mach himself speaks of “all forms” of the law of causality and in his Knowledge and Error (2. Auflage, S. 278) makes the self-evident reservation that the concept function can express the “dependence of elements” more precisely only when the possibility is achieved of expressing the results of investigation in measurable quantities, which even in sciences like chemistry has only partly been achieved. Apparently, in the opinion of our Machians, who are so credulous as to professorial discoveries, Feuerbach (not to mention Engels) did not know that the concepts order, law, and so forth, can under certain conditions be expressed as a mathematically defined functional relation!

The really important epistemological question that divides the philosophical trends is not the degree of precision attained by our descriptions of causal connections, or whether these descriptions can be expressed in exact mathematical formulas, but whether the source of our knowledge of these connections is objective natural law or properties of our mind, its innate faculty of apprehending certain a priori truths, and so forth. This is what so irrevocably divides the materialists Feuerbach, Marx and Engels from the agnostics (Humeans) Avenarius and Mach.

In certain parts of his works, Mach, whom it would be a sin to accuse of consistency, frequently “forgets” his agreement with Hume and his own subjectivist theory of causality and argues “simply” as a natural scientist, i.e.., from the instinctive materialist standpoint. For instance,   in his Mechanik, we read of “the uniformity which nature teaches us to find in its phenomena” (French ed., p. 182). But if we do find uniformity in the phenomena of nature, does this mean that uniformity exists objectively outside our mind? No. On the question of the uniformity of nature Mach also delivers himself thus: “The power that prompts us to complete in thought facts only partially observed is the power of association. It is greatly strengthened by repetition. It then appears to us to be a power which is independent of our will and of individual facts, a power which directs thoughts and [Mach’s italics] facts, which keeps both in mutual correspondence as a law governing both. That we consider ourselves capable of making predictions with the help of such a law only [!] proves that there is sufficient uniformity in our environment, but it does not prove the necessity of the success of our predictions” (Wärmelehre, S. 383).

It follows that we may and ought to look for a necessity apart from the uniformity of our environment, i.e.., of nature! Where to look for it is the secret of idealist philosophy which is afraid to recognise man’s perceptive faculty as a simple reflection of nature. In his last work, Knowledge and Error Mach even defines a law of nature as a “limitation of expectation” (2. Auflage, S. 450 ff.)! Solipsism claims its own.

Let us examine the position of other writers of the same philosophical trend. The Englishman, Karl Pearson, expresses himself with characteristic precision (The Grammar of Science, 2nd ed.): “The laws of science are products of the human mind rather than factors of the external world” (p. 36). “Those, whether poets or materialists, who do homage to nature, as the sovereign of man, too often forget that the order and complexity they admire are at least as much a product of man’s perceptive and reasoning faculties as are their own memories and thoughts” (p. 185). “The comprehensive character of natural law is due to the ingenuity of the human mind” (ibid.). “Man is the maker of natural law,” it is stated in Chapter III, § 4. “There is more meaning in the statement that man gives laws to nature than in its converse that nature gives laws to man,” although the worthy professor is regretfully obliged to admit, the latter (materialist)   view is “unfortunately far too common today” (p. 87). In the fourth chapter, which is devoted to the question of causality, Pearson formulates the following thesis (§ 11): “The necessity lies in the world of conceptions and not in the world of perceptions.” It should be noted that for Pearson perceptions or sense-impressions are the reality existing outside us. “In the uniformity with which sequences of perception are repeated (the routine of perceptions) there is also no inherent necessity, but it is a necessary condition for the existence of thinking beings that there should be a routine in the perceptions. The necessity thus lies in the nature of the thinking being and not in the perceptions themselves; thus it is conceivably a product of the perceptive faculty (p. 139)

Our Machian, with whom Mach himself frequently expresses complete solidarity, thus arrives safely and soundly at pure Kantian idealism: it is man who dictates laws to nature and not nature that dictates laws to man! The important thing is not the repetition of Kant’s doctrine of apriorism—which does not define the idealist line in philosophy as such, but only a particular formulation of this line—but the fact that reason, mind, consciousness are here primary, and nature secondary. It is not reason that is a part of nature, one of its highest products, the reflection of its processes, but nature that is a part of reason, which thereby is stretched from the ordinary, simple human reason known to us all to a “stupendous,” as Dietzgen puts it, mysterious, divine reason. The Kantian-Machian formula, that “man gives laws to nature,” is a fideist formula. If our Machians stare wide-eyed on reading Engels’ statement that the fundamental characteristic of materialism is the acceptance of nature and not spirit as primary, it only shows how incapable they are of distinguishing the really important philosophical trends from the mock erudition and sage jargon of the professors.

J. Petzoldt, who in his two-volume work analysed and developed Avenarius, may serve as an excellent example of reactionary Machian scholasticism. “Even to this day,” says he, “one hundred and fifty years after Hume, substantiality and causality paralyse the daring of the thinker” (Introduction to the Philosophy of Pure Experience, Bd. I, S. 31). It goes without saying that those who are most “daring” are the solipsists   who discovered sensation without organic matter, thought without brain, nature without objective law! “And the last formulation of causality, which we have not yet mentioned, necessity, or necessity in nature, contains something vague and mystical"—(the idea of “fetishism,” “anthropomorphism,” etc.) (pp. 32, 34). Oh, the poor mystics, Feuerbach, Marx and Engels! They have been talking all the time of necessity in nature, and have even been calling those who hold the Humean position theoretical reactionaries! Petzoldt rises above all “anthropomorphism.” He has discovered the great “law of unique determination,” which eliminates every obscurity, every trace of “fetishism,” etc., etc., etc. For example, the parallelogram of forces (p. 35). This cannot be “proven"; it must be accepted as a “fact of experience.” It cannot be conceded that a body under like impulses will move in different ways. “We cannot concede nature such indefiniteness and arbitrariness; we must demand from it definiteness and law” (p. 35). Well, well! We demand of nature obedience to law. The bourgeoisie demands reaction of its professors. “Our thought demands definiteness from nature, and nature always conforms to this demand; we shall even see that in a certain sense it is compelled to conform to it” (p. 36). Why, having received an impulse in the direction of the line AB, does a body move towards C and not towards D or F, etc.?

line AB towards C

Why does nature not choose any of the countless other directions?” (p. 37). Because that would be “multiple determination,” and the great empirio-critical discovery of Joseph Petzoldt demands unique determination.

The “empirio-criticists” fill scores of pages with such unutterable trash!

“. . . We have remarked more than once that our thesis does not derive its force from a sum of separate experiences, but   that, on the contrary, we demand that nature should recognise its validity (seine Geltung). Indeed, even before it becomes a law it has already become for us a principle with which we approach reality, a postulate. It is valid, so to speak, a priori, independently of all separate experiences. It would, indeed, be unbefitting for a philosophy of pure experience to preach a priori truths and thus relapse into the most sterile metaphysics. Its apriorism can only be a logical one, never a psychological, or metaphysical one” (p. 40). Of course, if we call apriorism logical, then the reactionary nature of the idea disappears and it becomes elevated to the level of “recent positivism"!

There can be no unique determination of psychical phenomena, Petzoldt further teaches us; the role of imagination, the significance of great inventions, etc., here create exceptions, while the law of nature, or the law of spirit, tolerates “no exceptions” (p. 65). We have before us a pure metaphysician, who has not the slightest inkling of the relativity of the difference between the contingent and the necessary.

I may, perhaps, be reminded—continues Petzoldt—of the motivation of historical events or of the development of character in poetry. “If we examine the matter carefully we shall find that there is no such unique determination. There is not a single historical event or a single drama in which we could not imagine the participants acting differently under similar psychical conditions. . .” (p. 73). “Unique determination is not only absent in the realm of the psychical, but we are also entitled to demand its absence from reality [Petzoldt’s italics]. Our doctrine is thus elevated to the rank of a postulate, i.e.., to the rank of a fact, which we regard as a necessary condition of a much earlier experience, as its logical a priori” (Petzoldt’s italics, p. 76).

And Petzoldt continues to operate with this “logical a priori” in both volumes of his Introduction, and in the booklet issued in 1906, The World Problem from the Positivist Standpoint.[1] Here is a second instance of a noted empirio-criticist   who has imperceptibly slipped into Kantianism and who serves up the most reactionary doctrines with a somewhat different sauce. And this is not fortuitous, for at the very foundations of Mach’s and Avenarius’ teachings on causality there lies an idealist falsehood, which no highflown talk of “positivism” can cover up. The distinction between the Humean and the Kantian theories of causality is only a secondary difference of opinion between agnostics who are basically at one, viz., in their denial of objective law in nature, and who thus inevitably condemn themselves to idealist conclusions of one kind or another. A rather more “scrupulous” empirio-criticist than J. Petzoldt, Rudolf Willy, who is ashamed of his kinship with the immanentists, rejects, for example, Petzoldt’s whole theory of “unique determination” as leading to nothing but “logical formalism.” But does Willy improve his position by disavowing Petzoldt? Not in the least, for he disavows Kantian agnosticism solely for the sake of Humean agnosticism. “We have known from the time of Hume,” he writes, “that ‘necessity’ is a purely logical (not a ‘transcendental’) characteristic (Merkmal), or, as I would rather say and have already said, a purely verbal (sprachlich) characteristic” (R. Willy, Gegen die Schulweisheit, München, 1905, S. 91; cf. S. 173, 175).

The agnostic calls our materialist view of necessity “transcendental,” for from the standpoint of Kantian and Humean “school wisdom,” which Willy does not reject but only furbishes up, any recognition of objective reality given us in experience is an illicit “transcendence.”

Among the French writers of the philosophical trend we are analysing, we find Henri Poincaré constantly straying into this same path of agnosticism. Henri Poincaré is an eminent physicist but a poor philosopher, whose errors Yushkevich, of course, declared to be the last word of recent positivism, so “recent,” indeed, that it even required a new “ism,” viz., empirio-symbolism. For Poincaré (with whose views as a whole we shall deal in the chapter on the new physics), the laws of nature are symbols, conventions, which man creates for the sake of “convenience.” “The only true objective reality is the internal harmony of the world.” By “objective,” Poincaré means that which is generally   regarded as valid, that which is accepted by the majority of men, or by all[2] ; that is to say, in a purely subjectivist manner he destroys objective truth, as do all the Machians. And as regards “harmony,” he categorically declares in answer to the question whether it exists outside of us—"undoubtedly, no.” It is perfectly obvious that the new terms do not in the least change the ancient philosophical position of agnosticism, for the essence of Poincaré’s “original” theory amounts to a denial (although he is far from consistent) of objective reality and of objective law in nature. It is, therefore, perfectly natural that in contradistinction to the Russian Machians, who accept new formulations of old errors as the latest discoveries, the German Kantians greeted such views as a conversion to their own views, i.e.., to agnosticism, on a fundamental question of philosophy. “The French mathematician Henri Poincaré,” we read in the work of the Kantian, Philipp Frank, “holds the point of view that many of the most general laws of theoretical natural science (e.g., the law of inertia, the law of the conservation of energy, etc.), of which it is so often difficult to say whether they are of empirical or of a priori origin, are, in fact, neither one nor the other, but are purely conventional propositions depending upon human discretion. . . .” “Thus [exults the Kantian] the latest Naturphilosophie unexpectedly renews the fundamental idea of critical idealism, namely, that experience merely fills in a framework which man brings with him from nature. . . ."[3]

We quote this example in order to give the reader a clear idea of the degree of naïveté of our Yushkeviches, who take a “theory of symbolism” for something genuinely new, whereas philosophers in the least versed in their subject say plainly and explicitly: he has become converted to the standpoint of critical idealism! For the essence of this point of view does not necessarily lie in the repetition of Kant’s formulations, but in the recognition of the fundamental idea common to both Hume and Kant, viz., the denial of objective law in nature and the deduction of particular   “conditions of experience,” particular principles, postulates and propositions from the subject, from human consciousness, and not from nature. Engels was right when he said that it is not important to which of the numerous schools of materialism or idealism a particular philosopher belongs, but rather whether he takes nature, the external world, matter in motion, or spirit, reason, consciousness, etc., as primary.

Another characterisation of Machism on this question, in contrast to the other philosophical lines, is given by the expert Kantian, E. Lucka. On the question of causality “Mach entirely agrees with Hume."[4] “P. Volkmann derives the necessity of thought from the necessity of the processes of nature—a standpoint that, in contradistinction to Mach and in agreement with Kant, recognises the fact of necessity; but contrary to Kant, it seeks the source of necessity not in thought, but in the processes of nature” (p. 424).

Volkmann is a physicist who writes fairly extensively on epistemological questions, and who tends, as do the vast majority of scientists, to materialism, albeit an inconsistent, timid, and incoherent materialism. The recognition of necessity in nature and the derivation from it of necessity in thought is materialism. The derivation of necessity, causality, law, etc., from thought is idealism. The only inaccuracy in the passage quoted is that a total denial of all necessity is attributed to Mach. We have already seen that this is not true either of Mach or of the empirio-critical trend generally, which, having definitely departed from materialism, is inevitably sliding into idealism.

It remains for us to say a few words about the Russian Machians in particular. They would like to be Marxists; they have all “read” Engels’ decisive demarcation of materialism from the Humean trend; they could not have failed to learn both from Mach himself and from everybody in the least acquainted with his philosophy that Mach and Avenarius follow the line of Hume. Yet they are all careful not to say a single word about Humism and materialism on the question   of causality! Their confusion is utter. Let us give a few examples. Mr. P. Yushkevich preaches the “new” empirio-symbolism. The “sensations of blue, hard, etc.—these supposed data of pure experience” and “the creations supposedly of pure reason, such as a chimera or a chess game"—all these are “empirio-symbols” (Studies, etc., p. 179). “Knowledge is empirio-symbolic, and as it develops leads to empirio-symbols of a greatet degree of symbolisation. . . . The so-called laws of nature . . . are these empirio-symbols. . .” (ibid.). “The so-called true reality, being in itself, is that infinite [a terribly learned fellow, this Mr. Yushkevich!] ultimate system of symbols to which all our knowledge is striving” (p. 188). “The stream of experience . . . which lies at the foundation of our knowledge is . . . irrational . . . illogical” (pp. 187, 194). Energy “is just as little a thing, a substance, as time, space, mass and the other fundamental concepts of science: energy is a constancy, an empirio-symbol, like other empirio-symbols that for a time satisfy the fundamental human need of introducing reason, Logos, into the irrational stream of experience” (p. 209).

Clad like a harlequin in a garish motley of shreds of the “latest” terminology, there stands before us a subjective idealist, for whom the external world, nature and its laws are all symbols of our knowledge. The stream of experience is devoid of reason, order and law: our knowledge brings reason into it. The celestial bodies are symbols of human knowledge, and so is the earth. If science teaches us that the earth existed long before it was possible for man and organic matter to have appeared, we, you see, have changed all that! The order of the motion of the planets is brought about by us, it is a product of our knowledge. And sensing that human reason is being inflated by such a philosophy into the author and founder of nature, Mr. Yushkevich puts alongside of reason the word Logos, that is, reason in the abstract, not reason, but Reason, not a function of the human brain, but something existing prior to any brain, something divine. The last word of “recent positivism” is that old formula of fideism which Feuerbach had already exposed.

Let us take A. Bogdanov. In 1899, when he was still a semi-materialist and had only just begun to go astray under the influence of a very great chemist and very muddled philosopher, Wilhelm Ostwald, he wrote: “The general causal connection of phenomena is the last and best child of human knowledge; it is the universal law, the highest of those laws which, to express it in the words of a philosopher, human reason dictates to nature” (Fundamental Elements, etc., p. 41).

Allah alone knows from what source Bogdanov took this reference. But the fact is that “the words of a philosopher” trustingly repeated by the “Marxist"—are the words of Kant. An unpleasant event! And all the more unpleasant in that it cannot even be explained by the “mere” influence of Ostwald.

In 1904, having already managed to discard both natural-historical materialism and Ostwald, Bogdanov wrote: “. . . Modern positivism regards the law of causality only as a means of cognitively connecting phenomena into a continuous series, only as a form of co-ordinating experience” (From the Psychology of Society, p. 207). Bogdanov either did not know, or would not admit, that this modern positivism is agnosticism and that it denies the objective necessity of nature, which existed prior to, and outside of, “knowledge” and man. He accepted on faith what the German professors called “modern positivism.” Finally, in 1905, having passed through all the previous stages and the stage of empirio-criticism, and being already in the stage of “empirio-monism,” Bogdanov wrote: “Laws do not belong to the sphere of experience . . . they are not given in it, but are created by thought as a means of organising experience, of harmoniously co-ordinating it into a symmetrical whole” (Empirio-Monism, I, p. 40). “Laws are abstractions of knowledge; and physical laws possess physical properties just as little as psychological laws possess psychical properties” (ibid.).

And so, the law that winter succeeds autumn and the spring winter is not given us in experience but is created by thought as a means of organising, harmonising, co-ordinating. . . what with what, Comrade Bogdanov?

Empirio-monism is possible only because knowledge actively harmonises experience, eliminating its infinite contradictions, creating for it universal organising forms, replacing the primeval chaotic world of elements by a derivative, ordered world of relations” (p. 57). That is not true. The idea that knowledge can “create” universal forms, replace the primeval chaos by order, etc., is the idea of idealist philosophy. The world is matter moving in conformity to law, and our knowledge, being the highest product of nature, is in a position only to reflect this conformity to law.

In brief, our Machians, blindly believing the “recent” reactionary professors, repeat the mistakes of Kantian and Humean agnosticism on the question of causality and fail to notice either that these doctrines are in absolute contradiction to Marxism, i.e.., materialism, or that they themselves are rolling down an inclined plane towards idealism.


[1] J. Petzoldt, Das Weltproblem von positivistischein Standpunkte aus, Leipzig, 1906, S. 130: “Also from the empirical standpoint there can be a logical a priori; causality is the logical a priori of the experienced (erfahrungsmässige) permanence of our environment.” —Lenin

[2] Henri Poincaré, La valeur de la science [The Value of Science], Paris, 1905, pp. 7, 9. There is a Russian translation. —Lenin

[3] Annalen der Naturphilosophie,[7] VI. B., 1907, S. 443, 447. —Lenin

[4] E. Lucka, Das Erkenntnisproblem und MachsAnalyse der Empfindungen” [The Problem of Knowledge and Mach’sAnalysis of Sensations"], in Kantstudien, VIII. Bd.. S. 409. —Lenin

[5] See F. Engels, Anti-Duhring, Moscov.’, 1959, pp. 33, 36, 55.

[6] See K. Marx and F. Engels, Selected Works, Vol. II, Moscow, 1958, pp. 387, 389. p.

[7] Annlen der Neturphilosophie (Annals of Natural Philosophy)— a journal of a positivist tendency, published by Wilhelm Ostwald in Leipzig from 1901 to 1921. Its contributors included Ernst Mach, Paul Volkmann and others. 60. See F. Engels, Anti-Duhring, Moscow, 1959, p. 135. 61. See F. Engels, Anti-Duhring, Moscow, 1959, p. 76.

  2. Plekhanov’s Error Concerning The Concept “Experience” | 4. The “Principle Of Economy Of Thought” And The Problem Of The “Unity Of The World”  

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