Dialectics of Nature. Frederick Engels 1883

Notes and Fragments

Source: Dialectics of Nature, pp. 184-201;
First Published: by Progress Publishers, 1934, 6th printing 1974;
Translated: from the German by Clemens Dutt;
Transcribed: by Andy Blunden, 2006.

[From the History of Science]

* * *

The successive development of the separate branches of natural science should be studied. First of all, astronomy, which, if only on account of the seasons, was absolutely indispensable for pastoral and agricultural peoples. Astronomy can only develop with the aid of mathematics. Hence this also had to be tackled. – Further, at a certain stage of agriculture and in certain regions (raising of water for irrigation in Egypt), and especially with the origin of towns. big building structures and the development of handicrafts, mechanics also arose. This was soon needed also for navigation and war. – Moreover, it requires the aid of mathematics and so promotes the latter’s development. Thus, from the very beginning the origin and development of the sciences has been determined by production.

Throughout antiquity, scientific investigation proper remained restricted to these three branches, and indeed in the form of exact, systematic research it occurs for the first time in the post-classical period (the Alexandrines, Archimedes, etc.). In physics and chemistry, which were as yet hardly separated in. men’s minds (theory of the elements, absence of the concept of a chemical element), in botany, zoology, human and animal anatomy, it had only been possible until then to collect facts and arrange them as systematically as possible. Physiology was sheer guess-work, as soon as one went beyond the most tangible things – e.g., digestion and excretion – and it could not be otherwise when even the circulation of the blood was not known. – At the end of the period, chemistry makes its appearance in the primitive form of alchemy.

If, after the dark night of the Middle Ages was over the sciences suddenly arose anew with undreamt-of force, developing at a miraculous rate, once again we owe this miracle to production. In the first place, following the crusades, industry developed enormously and brought to light a quantity of new mechanical (weaving, clockmaking, milling), chemical (dyeing, metallurgy, alcohol), and physical (spectacles) facts, and this not only gave enormous material for observation, but also itself provided quite other means for experimenting than previously existed, and allowed the construction of new instruments; it can be said that really systematic. experimental science now became possible for the first time. Secondly, the whole of West and Middle Europe, including Poland, now developed in a connected fashion, even though Italy was still at the head owing to its old-inherited civilisation. Thirdly, geographical discoveries – made purely for the sake of gain and, therefore, in the last resort, of production – opened up an infinite and hitherto inaccessible amount of material of a meteorological, zoological, botanical, and physiological (human) bearing. Fourthly, there was the printing press. [In margin: “Hitherto, what has been boasted of is what production owes to science, but science owes infinitely more to production."]

Now – apart from mathematics, astronomy, and mechanics, which were already in existence – physics becomes definitely separate from chemistry (Torricelli, Galileo – the former in connection with industrial waterworks studied first of all the movement of liquids, see Clerk Maxwell). Boyle put chemistry on a stable basis as a science. Harvey did the same for physiology (human and animal) by the discovery of the blood circulation. Zoology and botany remain at first collecting sciences, until palaeontology appeared on the scene – Cuvier – and shortly afterwards came the discovery of the cell and the development of organic chemistry. Therewith comparative morphology and physiology became possible and from then on both are true sciences. Geology was founded at the end of the last [18th] century, and recently anthropology, badly so-called, enabling the transition from the morphology and physiology of man and human races to history. This to be studied further in detail and to be developed.

The Ancients’ Outlook on Nature

[Hegel, Geschichte der Philosophie, Vol. I, – Greek Philosophy][119]

Of the first philosophers, Aristotle says (Metaphysics, 1, 3) that they assert:

“That of which all things consist, from which they first come and into which they are ultimately resolved ... of which the essence (ousia) persists although modified by its affections (paqesi) this is the element (stoiceton) and principle (arch) of all being.... Hence they believe that nothing is either generated (oute gignesqai ouden) or destroyed, since this kind of primary entity always persists.” (p. 98.)

Here, therefore, is already the whole original spontaneous materialism which at its beginning quite naturally regards the unity of the infinite diversity of natural phenomena as a matter of course, and seeks it in something definitely corporeal, a particular thing, as Thales does in water.

Cicero says:

Thales* of Miletos ... declared that water is the basis of things, and God that, mind that forms everything out of water.” (De Natura Deorum, 1, p. 10.)

Hegel quite rightly declares that this is an addition of Cicero’s, and says:

“However, we are not concerned here with this question whether, in addition, Thales believed in God; it is not a matter here of supposition, belief, popular religion ... and even if he spoke of God as having created all things from that water, we would not thereby know anything more of this being ... it is an empty word without its idea,” p. 209 (ca. 600 [B.C.]).

The oldest Greek philosophers were at the same time investigators of nature: Thales, a geometrician, fixed the year at 365 days, and is said to have predicted a solar eclipse. – Anaximander constructed a sun clock, a kind of map (perimetron) of land and sea, and various astronomical instruments. – Pythagoras was a mathematician.

Anaximander of Miletos, according to Plutarch (Quoestiones convivales [Table Talk], VIII, p. 8), makes “man come from a fish, emerging from the water on to the land,” p. 213. For him the arch kai stoiceion to apeiron [beginning and element is the infinite], without determining (diorizwn) it as air or water or anything else (Diogenes Laertius II, paragraph 1). This infinite correctly reproduced by Hegel, p. 215, as “undetermined matter” (ca. 580).

Anaximenes of Miletos takes air as principle and basic element, declaring it to be infinite (Cicero, De Natura Deorum, 1, p. 10) and that

“everything arises from it, in it everything is again dissolved” (Plutarch, De placitis philosophorum [On the Opinions of Philosophers], 1, p. 3).

Here air ahr = pneuma [breath, spirit];

“Just as our soul, which is air, holds us together, so also a spirit (pneuma) and air hold the whole world together. Spirit and, air have the same meaning” (Plutarch).[120] [pp. 215-16.]

Soul and air conceived as a general medium (ca. 555).

Aristotle already says that these ancient philosophers put the primordial essence in a form of matter: air and water (and perhaps Anaximander in something midway between both), later Heraclitus in fire, but none in earth on account of its multiple composition (dia thn megalomereian) Metaphysics, I, 8. (p. 217.)

Aristotle correctly remarks of all of them that they leave the origin of motion unexplained (p. 218 et seq.).

Pythagoras of Samos (ca. 540): number is the basic principle.

“That number is the essence of all things, and the organisation of the universe as a whole in its determinations is a harmonious system of numbers and their relations.”) (Aristotle, Metaphysics, I, 5 passim.)

Hegel justly points out

“the audacity of such language, which at one blow strikes down all that is regarded by the imagination as being or as essential (true), and annihilates the sensuous essence,” and puts the essence in a thought determination, even if it is a very restricted and one-sided one. (pp. 237-38.)

Just as number is subject to definite laws, so also the universe; hereby its obedience to law was expressed for the first time. To Pythagoras is ascribed the reduction of musical harmonies to mathematical relations. Likewise:

“The Pythagoreans put fire in the centre, but the earth as a star which revolves in a circle around this central body.” (Aristotle, De coelo [On the Sky], II, 13.) (p. 265.]

This fire, however, is not the sun; nevertheless this is the first inkling that the earth moves.

Hegel on the planetary system:

“...the harmonious element, which determines the distances (between the planets) – all mathematics has still not been able to give any basis for it. The empirical numbers are accurately known; but it has all the appearance of chance, not of necessity. An approximate regularity in the distances is known, and thus with luck planets between Mars and Jupiter have been guessed at, where later Ceres, Vesta, Pallas, etc., were discovered; but astronomy still did not find a consistent series in which there was any sense, any reason. Rather it looks with contempt on the regular presentation of this series; for itself, however, it is an extremely important point which must not be surrendered.” (pp. 267-68.)

For all the naive materialism of the total outlook, the kernel of the later split is already to be found among the ancient Greeks. For Thales, the soul is already something special, something different from the body (just as he ascribes a soul also to the magnet), for Anaximenes it is air (as in Genesis),[121] for the Pythagoreans it is already immortal and migratory, the body being purely accidental to it. For the Pythagoreans, also, the soul is “a chip of the ether (apospasma aiqeros)” (Diogenes Laertius, VIII, p. 26-28), where the cold ether is the air, the dense ether the sea and moisture. [pp. 279-80.]

Aristotle correctly reproaches the Pythagoreans also:

With their numbers “they do not say how motion comes into being, and how, without motion and change, there is coming into being and passing away, or states and activities of heavenly things.” (Metaphysics, I, 8.) [p. 277.]

Pythagoras is supposed to have discovered the identity

of the morning and evening star, that the moon gets its light from the sun, and finally the Pythagorean theorem.

“Pythagoras is said to have slaughtered a hecatomb on discovering this theorem ... and however remarkable it may be that his joy went so far on that account as to order a great feast, to which the rich and the whole people were invited, it was worth the trouble. It is joyousness, joy of the spirit (knowledge) – at the expense of the oxen.” (p. 279.)

The Eleatics.

* * *

Leucippus and Democritus.[122]

Leucippus, however, and his disciple Democritus hold that the elements are the Full and the Void – calling the one ‘what is’ and the other ‘what is not’. Of these they identify the fall or solid with ‘what is’ (i.e., the atoms) and the void or rare with ‘what is not’. Hence they hold that what is not is no less real than what is ... and they say that these are the material causes of things. And just as those who make the underlying substance a unity generate all other things by means of its modifications ... so these thinkers hold that the ‘differences’ (namely, of the atoms) are the causes of everything else. These differences, they say, are three: shape, arrangement, and position.... Thus, e.g., A differs from N in shape, AN from NA in arrangement, and Z from N in position.” (Aristotle, Metaphysics, Book I, Chapter IV.)

Leucippus “was the first to set up atoms as general principles ... and these he calls elements. Out of them arise the worlds unlimited in number and into them they are dissolved. This is how the worlds are formed. In a given section many atoms of all manner of shapes are carried from the unlimited into the vast empty space. These collect together and form a single vortex, in which they jostle against each other and, circling round in every possible way, separate off, by like atoms joining like. And, the atoms being so numerous that they can no longer revolve in equilibrium, the light ones pass into the empty space outside, as if they were being winnowed; the remainder keep together and, becoming entangled, go on their circuit together, and form a primary spherical system.” (Diogenes Laertius, Book IX, Chap. 6.)

The following about Epicurus.

The atoms are in continual motion through all eternity. Further, he says below that the atoms move with equal speed, since the void makes way for the lightest and heaviest alike.... Atoms have no quality at all except shape, size, and weight.... They are not of any and every size; at ally rate no atom has ever been seen by our sense.” (Diogenes Laertius, Book X, par. 43-45.) “When they are travelling through the void and meet with no resistance, the atoms must move with equal speed. Neither will heavy atoms travel more quickly than small and light ones, so long as nothing meets them, nor will small atoms travel more quickly than large ones, provided they always find a suitable passage, and provided also that they meet with no obstruction.” (Ibid., par. 61.)

- – -

“Thus it is clear that in every kind (of things) the one is of a definite nature and that in none of them does this, the one, have its nature.” (Aristotle, Metaphysics, Book IX, Chap. 2.)[123]

* * *

Aristarchus of Samos, 270 B. C., already held the Copernican theory of the Earth and Sun. (Madler, p. 44, Wolf, pp. 35-37.)[124]

Democritus had already surmised that the Milky Way sheds on us the combined light of innumerable small stars. (Wolf, p. 313.)

* * *

Difference Between the Situation at the End of the Ancient World, CA. 300 – and at the End of the Middle Ages – 1453:

1. Instead of a thin strip of civilisation along the coast of the Mediterranean, stretching its arms sporadically into the interior and as far as the Atlantic coast of Spain, France, and England, which could thus easily be broken through and rolled back by the Germans and Slavs from the North, and by the Arabs from the South-East, there was now a closed area of civilization – the whole of West Europe with Scandinavia, Poland, and Hungary as outposts.

2. Instead of the contrast between the Greeks, or Romans, and the barbarians, there were now six civilised peoples with civilised languages, not counting the Scandinavian, etc., all of whom had developed to such an extent that they could participate in the mighty rise of literature in the fourteenth century, and guaranteed a far more diversified culture than that of the Greek and Latin languages, which were already in decay and dying out at the end of ancient times.

3. An infinitely higher development of industrial production and trade, created by the burghers of the Middle Ages; on the one hand production more perfected, more varied and on a larger scale, and, on the other hand, commerce much stronger, navigation being infinitely more enterprising since the time of the Saxons, Frisians, and Normans, and on the other hand also an amount of inventions and importation of oriental inventions, which not only for the first time made possible the importation and diffusion of Greek literature, the maritime discoveries, and the bourgeois religious revolution, but also gave them a quite different and quicker range of action. In addition they produced a mass of scientific facts, although as yet unsystematised, such as antiquity never had: the magnetic needle, printing, type, flax paper (used by the Arabs and Spanish Jews since the twelfth century, cotton paper gradually making its appearance since the tenth century, and already more widespread in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, papyrus quite obsolete in Egypt since the Arabs), gunpowder, spectacles, mechanical clocks, great progress both of chronology and of mechanics.

(See No. 11 [sheet of manuscript, see below] concerning inventions.)

In addition material provided by travels (Marco Polo, ca. 1272, etc.).

General education, even though still bad, much more widespread owing to the universities.

With the rise of Constantinople and the fall of Rome, antiquity comes to an end. The end of the Middle Ages is indissolubly linked with the fall of Constantinople. The new age begins with the return to the Greeks – Negation of the negation!

Historical Material. – Inventions

B. C.:

Fire-hose, water-clock, ca. 200 B.C. Street paving (Rome).

Parchment, ca. 160.

A. D.:

Watermills on the Moselle, ca. 340, in Germany in the time of Charles the Great.

First signs of glass windows, street lighting in Antioch, ca. 370.

Silk-worms from China, ca. 550 in Greece.

Quill pens in the sixth century.

Cotton paper from China to the Arabs in the seventh century, in the ninth in Italy.

Water-powered organs in France in. the eighth century.

Silver mines in the Harz worked since the tenth century.

Windmills, about 1000.

Notes, Guido of Arezzo’s musical scale, about 1000.

Sericulture introduced in Italy, about 1100.

Clocks with wheels – ditto.

Magnetic needle from the Arabs to the Europeans, ca. 1180.

Street paving in Paris, 1184.

Spectacles in Florence. Glass mirrors. Second half of thirteenth century.

Herring-salting. Sluices.

Striking clocks. Cotton paper in France.

Rag-paper – beginning of fourteenth century.

Bills of exchange – middle of ditto.

First paper mill in Germany (Nuremberg), 1390.

Street lighting in London. Beginning of fifteenth century.

Post in Venice – ditto.

Wood-cuts and printing – ditto.

Copper-engraving – middle ditto.

Horse post in France, 1464.

Silver mines in the Saxon Erzgebirge, 1471.

Pedal clavichord invented, 1472.

Pocket watches. Air-guns. Flintlock – end of fifteenth century.

Spinning-wheel, 1530.

Diving bell, 1538.

* * *


Modern natural science – the only one which can come into consideration qua science as against the brilliant intuitions of the Greeks and the sporadic unconnected investigations of the Arabs -begins with that mighty epoch when feudalism was smashed by the burghers. In the background of the struggle between the burghers of the towns and the feudal nobility – this epoch showed the peasant in revolt, and behind the peasant the revolutionary beginnings of the modern proletariat, already red flag in hand and with communism on its lips. It was the epoch which brought into being the great monarchies in Europe, broke the spiritual dictatorship of the Pope, evoked the revival of Greek antiquity and with it the highest artistic development of the new age, broke through the boundaries of the old world, and for the first time really discovered the world.

It was the greatest revolution that the world had so far experienced. Natural science also flourished in this revolution, was revolutionary through and through, advanced hand in hand with the awakening modern philosophy of the great Italians, and provided its martyrs for the stake and the prisons. It is characteristic that Protestants and Catholics vied with one another in persecuting it. The former burned Servetus, the latter Giordano Bruno. It was a time that called for giants and produced giants, giants in learning, intellect, and character, a time that the French correctly called the Renaissance and Protestant Europe with one-sided prejudice called that of the Reformation.

At that time natural science also had its declaration of independence,[126] though it is true it did not come right at the beginning, any more than that Luther was the first Protestant. What Luther’s burning of the papal bull was in the religious field, in the field of natural science was the great work of Copernicus, in which he, although timidly, after thirty-six years’ hesitation and so to say on his deathbed, threw down a challenge to ecclesiastical superstition. From then on natural science was in essence emancipated from religion, although the complete settlement of accounts in all details has gone on to the present day and in many minds is still far from being complete. But from. then on the development of science went forward with giant strides, increasing, so to speak, proportionately to the square of the distance in time from its point of departure, as if it wanted to show the world that for the motion of the highest product of organic matter, the human mind, the law that holds good is the reverse of that for the motion of inorganic matter.

The first period of modern natural science ends – in the inorganic sphere – with Newton. It is the period in which the available subject-matter was mastered; it performed a great work in the fields of mathematics, mechanics and astronomy, statics and dynamics, especially owing to Kepler and Galileo, from whose work Newton drew the conclusions. In the organic sphere, however, there was no progress beyond the first beginnings. The investigation of the forms of life historically succeeding one another and replacing one another, as well as the changing conditions of life corresponding to them – paloeontology and geology did not yet exist. Nature was not at all regarded as something that developed historically, that had a history in time; only extension in space was taken into account; the various forms were grouped not one after the other, but only one beside the other; natural history was valid for all periods, like the elliptical orbits of the planets. For any closer analysis of organic structure both the immediate bases were lacking, viz., chemistry and knowledge of the essential organic structure, the cell. Natural science, at the outset revolutionary, was confronted by an out-and-out conservative nature, in which everything, remained today as it was at the beginning of the world, and in which right to the end of the world everything would remain as it had been in the beginning.

It is characteristic that this conservative outlook on nature both in the inorganic and in the organic sphere [...]

Plant physiology
Animal physiology

The first breach: Kant and Laplace. The second: geology and palaeontology (Lyell, slow development). The third: organic chemistry, which prepares organic bodies and shows the validity of chemical laws for living bodies. The fourth: 1842, mechanical (theory of) heat, Grove. The fifth: Darwin, Lamarck, the cell, etc. (struggle, Cuvier and Agassiz). The sixth: the comparative element in anatomy, climatology (isotherms), animal and plant geography (scientific travel expeditions since the middle of the eighteenth century), physical geography in general (Humboldt), the assembling of the material in its inter-connection. Morphology (embryology, Baer).

[Up to this point, the text of the note has been crossed out in the manuscript by a vertical stroke as having been used by Engels in the first part of the “Introduction” (see this volume, pp. 20-31). The two further paragraphs, partially used in the second part of the “Introduction” (pp. 31-39), were not crossed out. – Ed.]

The old teleology has gone to the devil, but it is now firmly established that matter in its eternal cycle moves according to laws which at a definite stage – now here, now there – necessarily give rise to the thinking mind in organic beings.

The normal existence of animals is given by the contemporary conditions in which they live and to which they adapt themselves – those of man, as soon as he differentiates himself from the animal in the narrower sense, have as yet never been present, and are only to be elaborated by the ensuing historical development. Man is the sole animal capable of working his way out of the merely animal state – his normal state is one appropriate to his consciousness, one that has to be created by himself.

* * *

Omitted from “Feuerbach"[127]

[The vulgarising peddlers who dealt in materialism in the Germany of the fifties in no wise went beyond these limits of their teachers.[ i.e., the French materialists of the eighteenth century.] All the advances made by natural science since then served them merely] as fresh arguments against the belief in a creator of the universe; and in fact the further development of theory was quite outside their line of business. Idealism was hard hit. owing to 1848 but materialism in this renovated form of it sank still lower.

Feuerbach was absolutely right in repudiating responsibility for this materialism; only he had no right to confuse the doctrine of the itinerant preachers with materialism in general.

At about the same time, however, empirical natural science made such an advance and arrived at such brilliant results that not only did it become possible to overcome completely the mechanical one-sidedness of the eighteenth century, but also natural science itself, owing to the proof of the inter-connections existing in nature itself between the various fields of investigation (mechanics, physics, chemistry, biology, etc.), was transformed from an empirical into a theoretical science and, by generalising the results achieved, into a system of the materialist knowledge of nature. The mechanics of gases; newly-created organic chemistry, which stripped the last remnants of incomprehensibility from one so-called organic compound after another by preparing them from inorganic substances; scientific embryology dating from 1818; geology and palaeontology; comparative anatomy of plants and animals – all these furnished new material in an unprecedented measure. Three great discoveries, however,, were of decisive importance.

The first was the proof of the transformation of energy arising out of the discovery of the mechanical equivalent of heat (by Robert Mayer, Joule and Colding). All the innumerable acting causes in nature, which had hitherto led a mysterious, inexplicable existence as so-called forces – mechanical force, heat, radiation (light and radiant heat), electricity, magnetism, chemical force of association and dissociation – have now been proved to be special forms, modes of existence of one and the same energy, i.e., motion. We can not only demonstrate its conversion from one form into another, which continually takes place in nature, but we can carry out this conversion in the laboratory and in industry, and indeed in such a way that a given quantity of energy in one form always corresponds to a given quantity of energy in some other form. Thus we can express the unit of heat in kilogram-metres and the units or any quantity of electrical or chemical energy once more in heat-units and vice versa; we can likewise measure the energy consumption and energy intake of a living organism and express it in any desired unit, e.g., in heat-units. The unity of all motion in nature is no longer a philosophical assertion, but a natural-scientific fact.

The second discovery – earlier in point of time – was that of the organic cell by Schwann and Schleiden, as being the unit out of which, by its multiplication and differentiation, all organisms with the exception of the lowest are formed and develop. This discovery for the first time gave a firm basis to the investigation of the organic, living products of nature – both comparative anatomy and physiology, and embryology. The origin, growth and structure of organisms were deprived of their mysterious character; the hitherto incomprehensible miracle was merged in a process which takes place according to a law that is essentially identical for all multicellular organisms.

But an essential gap still remained. If all multicellular organisms – both plants and animals, including man – in each case grow out of a single cell according to the law of cell division, what then is the source of the infinite diversity of these organisms? This question was answered by the third great discovery, the theory of evolution, which for the first time was comprehensively worked out and substantiated by Darwin. However many transformations this theory will still undergo as regards details, in the main it has already solved the problem in a more than adequate manner. The evolutionary series of organisms from a few simple forms to increasingly multifarious and complicated ones, as it confronts us today, and extending right up to man, has been established as far as its main features are concerned. Thanks to this, not only has it become possible to explain the existing stock of organic products of nature but the basis has also been provided for the pre-history of the human mind, for tracing the various stages of its development, from the simple protoplasm – structureless but sensitive to stimuli – of the lowest organisms right up to the thinking human brain. Without this pre-history, however, the existence of the thinking human brain remains a miracle.

By means of these three great discoveries, the main processes of nature were explained and referred to natural causes. One thing still remains to be done here: to explain the origin of life from inorganic nature. At the present stage of science that implies nothing less than the preparation of protein bodies from inorganic substances. Chemistry is approaching closer and closer to the solution of this task, but it is still a long way from it. If, however, we bear in mind that it was only in 1828 that Wohler prepared the first organic body, urea, from inorganic materials, and what an innumerable number of so-called organic compounds are now artificially prepared without any organic materials, we shall not be inclined to bid chemistry halt when confronted by protein. So far chemistry has been able to prepare every organic substance, the composition of which is accurately known. As soon as the composition of the protein bodies becomes known, chemistry will be able to set about the preparation of living protein. But to demand that it should achieve overnight what nature itself succeeds in doing only under very favourable circumstances on a few cosmic bodies after millions of years, would be to demand a miracle.

Thus the materialist outlook on nature rests today on much firmer foundation than it did in the previous century. At that time only the motion of the heavenly bodies and that of terrestrial solid bodies under the influence of gravity was at all exhaustively understood; almost the entire field of chemistry and the whole of organic nature remained mysterious and not understood. Today the whole of nature lies spread out before us as a system of inter-connections and processes that, at least in its main features, has been explained and understood. At all events, the materialist outlook on nature means nothing more than the simple conception of nature just as it is, without alien addition, and hence among the Greek philosophers it was originally understood in this way as a matter of course. But between those ancient Greeks and us lie more than two thousand years of an essentially idealist outlook on the world, and so the return to self-evident understanding is more difficult than it appears to be at first sight. For it is by no means a matter of simply throwing overboard the entire thought content of those two thousand years, but of a criticism of it, of extracting the results – that had been won within a form that was false and idealistic but which was inevitable for its time and for the course of evolution itself – from this transitory form. And how difficult that is, is proved for us by those numerous natural scientists who are inexorable materialists within their science but outside it are not merely idealists, but even pious and indeed orthodox Christians.

All these epoch-making advances of natural science passed Feuerbach by without affecting him in any essential respect. This was not so much his fault as that of the miserable German conditions, owing to which the university chairs were occupied by empty-headed, eclectic hair-splitters, while Feuerbach, who towered high above them, was compelled almost to rusticate in lonely village isolation. That is why, on the subject of nature, he wastes so much labour – except for a few brilliant generalizations – on empty belletristic writing. Thus he says:

“Life is, of course, not the product of a chemical process, nor in general is it the product of an isolated natural force or phenomenon, to which the metaphysical materialist reduces it; it is a result of the whole of nature."[128]

That life is a result of the whole of nature in no way contradicts the fact that protein, which is the exclusive independent bearer of life, arises under definite conditions determined by the whole inter-connection of nature, but arises precisely as the product of a chemical process. [Had Feuerbach lived in conditions Which permitted him to follow even superficially the development of natural science, it would never have happened that he would speak of a chemical process as the effect of an isolated force of nature.] To the same solitariness must be ascribed the fact that Feuerbach loses himself in a circle of barren speculations on the relation of thought to the thinking organ, the brain – a sphere in which Starcke follows him willingly.

Enough, Feuerbach revolts against the name materialism.[129] And not entirely without reason; for he never completely ceases to be an idealist. In the field of nature he is a materialist; but in the human field [...].

[Page 19 of the original manuscript of L. Feuerbach ends here. The end of this sentence occurs on the following page, which has not come down to us. On the basis of the printed text of L. Feuerbach it may be supposed that this sentence read approximately as follows: “In the sphere of human history he is an idealist.” – Ed.]

* * *

God is nowhere treated worse than by the natural scientists who believe in him. Materialists simply explain the facts, without making use of such phrases, they do this first when importunate pious believers try to force God upon them, and then they answer curtly, either like Laplace: Sire, je navais pas, etc.,[130] or more rudely in the manner of the Dutch merchants who, when German commercial travellers press their shoddy goods on them, are accustomed to turn them away with the words: Ik kan die zaken niet gebruiken [I have no use for the things] and that is the end of the matter: But what God has had to suffer at the hands of his defenders! In the history of modern natural science, God is treated by his defenders as Frederick William III was treated by his generals and officials in the Jena campaign. One division of the army after another lays down its arms, one fortress after another capitulates before the march of science, until at last the whole infinite realm of nature is conquered by science, and there is no place left in it for the Creator. Newton still allowed Him the “first impulse” but forbade Him any further interference ‘in his solar system. Father Secchi bows Him out of the solar system altogether, with all canonical honours it is true, but none the less categorically for all that, and he only allows Him a creative act as regards the primordial nebula. And so in all spheres. In biology, his last great Don Quixote, Agassiz, even ascribes positive nonsense to Him; He is supposed to have created not only the actual animals but also abstract animals, the fish as such! And finally Tyndall totally forbids Him any entry into nature and relegates Him to the world of emotional processes, only admitting Him because, after all, there must be somebody who knows more about all these things (nature) than John Tyndall![131] What a distance from the old God – the Creator of heaven and earth, the maintainer of all things – without whom not a hair can fall from the head!

Tyndall’s emotional need proves nothing. The Chevalier des Grieux also had an emotional need to love and possess Marion Lescaut, who sold herself and him over and over again; for her sake he became a cardsharper and pimp, and if Tyndall wants to reproach him, he would reply with his “emotional need"!

God=nescio; but ignorantia non est argumentum (Spinoza).[132]


119. G. W. F. Hegel, Werke, Bd. XIII, Berlin, 1833.

120. Regarding the work De placitis philosophorum, it was subsequently proved that it did not come from Plutarch but some other unknown author (the so-called “Pseudo-Plutarch”). It derives from Aetius who lived in about the year 100 of our era.

121. Genesis, Ch. 2, Verse 7.

122. This note is written in Marx’s handwriting and consists of quotations (from Tauchnitz editions) in Greek from Aristotle’s Metaphysica and from the compilatory work of Diogenes Laertius, Lives and Opinions of Famous Philosophers. The note dates from before June 1878 since it contains quotations about Epicurus which were used by Engels in the Old Preface to [Anti]-Dühring.

All the italicised words in the quotations are Marx’s.

123. In the latest editions of Metaphysica, Book IX is called Book X.

124. R. Wolf, Geschichte der Astronomie (History of Astronomy), Munchen, 1877.

For Mädler’s book, see Note 22.

125. This fragment constitutes the original outline of the Introduction (see this edition, pp. 20-39).

126. The Declaration of Independence, adopted on July 4, 1776, at the Philadelphia congress of delegates from thirteen English colonies in North America, proclaimed the secession of these colonies from England and the establishment of an independent republic, the United States of America.

127. This is the heading of the fragment given in the list of contents of the second folder of materials for Dialectics of Nature. The fragment consists of four pages of the original manuscript of L. Feuerbach, numbered 16, 17, 18 and 19. At the top of page 16 is written in Engels’s handwriting: “Aus ‘Ludwig Feuerbach’.” This fragment was part of the second chapter of L. Feuerbach and was intended to follow immediately after the description of the three principal “limitations” of the French materialists of the eighteenth century. On finally revising the manuscript of L. Feuerbach. Engels removed these four pages and replaced them by another text, but the basic contents of these pages left out of the second chapter (on the three great discoveries in natural science of the nineteenth century) were reproduced in an abbreviated form in the fourth chapter of L. Feuerbach. Since Engels’s L. Feuerbach was originally printed in the April and May issues of the magazine Die Neue Zeit for 1886, it can be considered that this fragment dates from the first quarter of 1886. On the first page of the fragment the text begins in the middle of a sentence. The beginning of the sentence, restored according to the text of L. Feuerbach printed in Die Neue Zeit, is given in square brackets.

128. This quotation is given in Starcke’s book Ludwig Feuerbach, Stuttgart, 1885, on pp. 154-55. It is taken from Feuerbach’s work Die Unsterblichkeitsfrage vom Standpunkt der Anthropologie (The Question of Immortality from the Standpoint of Anthropology) which was written in 1846. (See Ludwig Feuerbach’s Sämtliche Werke, Bd. III, Leipzig, 1847, §. 331.)

129. Engels has in mind Feuerbach’s aphorisms published posthumously in K. Grun, Ludwig Feuerbach in seinem Briefwechsel. und Nachlass sowie in seiner philosophischen Charakterentwicklung (Ludwig Feuerbach in His Correspondence and Legacy, as well as in His Philosophical Development), Bd. II, Leipzig und Heidelberg, 1874, S. 308. The aphorisms are quoted on p. 166 of Starcke’s book. Cf. Frederick Engels, Ludwig Feuerbach and the End of Classical German Philosophy, Ch. II.

130.Sire, je navais pas besoin de cette hypotheses” – the words of Laplace in answer to Napoleon’s question why he had made no mention of God in his work on celestial mechanics.

131. Engels is referring to Tyndall’s opening speech at the 44th meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science in Belfast, August 19, 1874 (published in Nature No. 251 of August 20, 1874). In a letter to Marx dated September 21, 1874, Engels gives a more detailed characterisation of this speech.

132. ignorance is no argument, says Spinoza in his Ethics (Part One, Addendum), as he opposes the exponents of the clerical- teleological view on nature, who gave the “will of God” as the cause of causes of all phenomena and had no other argument left them but the assertion that they knew no other causes.