Lenin and Trotsky had seen the Russian revolution merely as the prologue to the international revolution. In isolation, backward Russia was not ready for. In May , Lenin published Materialism and empiriocriticism, a polemical assault on forms of positivistic empiricism popular among members. Materialism and Empirio-Criticism has ratings and 12 reviews. This text is a classic of Lenin – his essay explores materialism and its relation to capitalism.

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Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read. Want to Read saving…. Want to Read Currently Reading Read. Refresh and try again. Open Preview See a Problem? Thanks for telling us about the problem. Return to Book Page. This text is a classic of Lenin – his essay explores materialism and its relation to capitalism and how Communism can get over this psychological wish for material and empirical ownership.

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Materialism and Empirio-criticism

Be the first to ask a question about Materialism and Empirio-Criticism. Lists with This Book. Jun 24, Rhett Greenfield rated it really liked it. Specifically, this group adopted and began to promote the writings of Ernst Mach like “Mach 2” to measure the speed of sounda physicist who advanced the notion that contemporary scientific discov “Materialism and Empirio-Criticism” was written in the context of extensive theoretical and polemical debates between Lenin and a faction within the Bolshevik Party Bogdanov, Lunacharsky, Valentinov, etc.

Specifically, this group adopted and began to promote the writings of Ernst Mach like “Mach 2” to measure the speed of sounda physicist who advanced the notion that contemporary scientific discoveries invalidated materialist ontological theories and were more compatible with forms of phenomenalism like those of the British empiricists, such as Berkeley and Hume.

Phenomenalism has many philosophical “shades,” and “empirio-criticism” is one of them. Phenomenalism also encompasses “subjective idealism” and “solipsism. Phenomenalists basically regard belief in matter as a crude “metaphysical” superstition because we never have access to it — we can never step outside of our experiences in order to access an object independent of human consciousness.

Many phenomenalists therefore construct theories in terms of the “unity of subject and object,” “experience,” or similar terms meant to imply that the two are indissolubly connected, and that there is nothing “beyond appearances.

Kant’s transcendental idealism, phenomenology, Heidegger’s “fundamental ontology. Materialism begins with nature independent of any consciousness whether human consciousness or that of a divine mind as its ontological starting point, whereas idealism begins with consciousness and places nature secondary whether the initial consciousness is that of a single individual, abstract mental categories outside of nature such as the Platonic Forms, or collective “Spirit”.

Then there are “agnostic” theories such as those of Hume, Kant, and the empirio-criticists, which attempt to offer a “third way” which ostensibly overcomes the division between materialism and idealism by combining elements of both philosophical heritages and discarding those that are regarded as either problematic or outmoded.

Lenin also argues that all of these “third way” philosophies ultimately reduce to subjective idealism. To quickly summarize his argument, this is because the “third way” philosophies always throw up some vague phrase such as “experience,” “the elements of sensation,” or “principal co-ordination” in order to get around the distinction between subjectivity and objectivity, but this only serves to elide the distinction rather than explain it in a consistent manner.

Heidegger’s “Dasein” also falls under this category, despite the protestations of the aspiring Nazi court philosopher’s admirers. Generally speaking, such theories also try to “objectify” appearances by projecting either sensations or cognitive abstractions outward, such as in the manner of Kant’s a priori “categories” or “forms of intuition.

Kant postulated that these were contributions of the mind because it is not immediately apparent why these things are unified within our experience. One of the most enjoyable aspects of reading this work is the sharp manner by which Lenin summarily dispenses with ideas that he justifiably regards as empty nonsense.

Many of these ideas have persisted within the philosophical canon and can create confusion for inquisitive people who are used to thinking abstractly. For example, a chapter toward the beginning of the book takes up Berkeley’s infamous subjective idealism — the notion that everything before the individual is simply an appearance for that individual. In other words, that “the world is all inside my head. He tried to maintain that these things could be defended within “sensation,” but ultimately ended up resorting to the notion of a divinity responsible for that which appears within consciousness.


Basically, that God is throwing up a “symbol” of the table before me, or a “symbol” of my neighbor walking down the street. Lenin criticizes all forms of phenomenalism for falling into “howling logical absurdities” because they cannot give a convincing account of how sensations arise.

Modern science assumes that the brain processes sensations in an extremely complex manner, but phenomenalism contradicts this assumption. A phenomenalist explanation of this process would mean that sensations appearances are perceived and processed with the assistance of the human brain itself just a set of sensationsbefore appearing in conscious awareness another sensation.

Reiterated in reverse order, the ego a sensation processes external sensations by means of the brain another sensation. The result is an undifferentiated jumble. This is a general problem with most idealist theories: Even Hegel, whose theory of absolute idealism dealt with the conceptual movements of either “mass consciousness” or a cosmic mind, was subject to this problem, because Hegel held that the dialectic culminated with consciousness’ realization that it was both self-determining and self-alienating.

The shift from Hegelian idealism to Marxist materialism was predicated upon the realization that the infinite and endless movement of the material world was necessary to keep this “dialectical” process of motion going.

To put it somewhat colloquially, everything moves, nothing endures, and the ride never stops. Marxism developed from Hegelianism through the logical extension of Hegel’s central idea — dialectical processes, or the simultaneous unity and movement of contradictions. Lenin also refers to Engels’ criticism of Kantianism, which I believe is a successful criticism.

Kant was essentially criticis to avoid something like the extreme skeptical outcome of Berkeley’s ideas above and uphold some manner of objectivity within experience critixism reality.

For Kant, human consciousness has essential “objectifying” functions that organize our experience, and the sort of descriptions provided by the natural sciences hold true because of this unwitting, essential contribution by consciousness. We get “empirical” objectivity, while emphasizing that this empurio only applies for “consciousnesses like ours.

The Kantian phrase “the thing-in-itself” generally refers to the unknown “X” standing outside of experience that consciousness cannot seem to avoid positing as the source of its experience.

Engels’ criticism maintains that this is an artificial distinction. The advances of science amount to a cumulative and shifting process of forming increasingly accurate approximations of the criticizm.

Prior to such a discovery, this compound must have existed, even though humanity was unaware of its existence.

Materialism and Empirio-Criticism: Critical Comments on a Reactionary Philosophy

The discovery amounts to the transformation of an abstract “thing-in-itself” outside of consciousness into a “thing-for-us. An exasperated Kantian or neo-Kantian professor of philosophy would respond that Engels misses the point, and that this is simply an empirical discovery. However, Engels would justifiably insist that it is the Kantian who is missing the point.

The materialist is advancing the point that the transcendental-empirical distinction is an artificial, critiicsm assumption used to throw up doubts regarding the connection between sensation and mind-independent reality.

The criticisj between sensation and reality is the source of all of our knowledge and is always shifting; it is in constant annd. The collective labors of science bear an asymptotic relationship to things as they actually are, and it is the fact that consciousness is simply an ejpirio of nature, that sensation and thought are products of the brain, that allow for truth to be accumulated this way.

Individual claims or ideas within science might be discarded, but they are done so on the basis of forming a sharper picture of the underlying reality. Another finding discussed in this work is the advent of electron theory. Previous scientific conceptions had held that atoms must be indivisible, but then physicists began progressively splitting the atom into more and more subatomic particles.

The “billiard ball” model of the atom gave way to an extremely complex model involving orbitals, electrons, a nucleus held together by forces, etc. This threw “materialism” into doubt, as philosophers and some scientists began to doubt whether anything was “solid” and whether their methods were reliable descriptions of phenomena. This happens repeatedly in the course of scientific inquiry, and the process of confusion usually leads some figures to retreat into or, depending upon whom it is, enthusiastically advance mystical, idealist notions.

The general challenges involved in critjcism old scientific concepts with new discoveries can lead to a temporary “sleep of reason. The sharpening of humanity’s concept of what “matter” is can have a destabilizing effect upon outmoded ways of thinking, and such lack of theoretical clarity can generate sweeping doubts regarding the existence of mind-independent objects and forces.

This is where the addition of dialectics must be made empiroo materialism. Dialectical materialism holds that there is a mind-independent reality, that humanity can successfully access such a reality because we grew and developed through natural processes, and that our knowledge of reality is always in flux and progressively advancing over the course of history. The dialectical materialist is critical of matterialism materialist” ideas such as crude, billiard ball models of physics, holding that these models are actually idealist conceits.


Genuine, flexible materialism requires constant motion, rather than the imposition of rigid, fixed concepts. Science materalism on the basis of an interplay between “knowledge” as presently constituted within bodies of theories, and ignorance of the infinite variety of material objects and forces moving and being exchanged within nature. The distinction between concept and object, mind and nature is a legitimate, but relative, distinction.

For example, my brain is, in some sense, “me,” but can also be studied and examined as a mind-independent object. The boundary between consciousness and nature is fluid, as evidenced by the fact that human consciousness arises out of embryonic formation and ceases with death. The components of the mind return to nature. The materialist criticissm that this distinction can only be successfully understood on the basis of its foundation within nature.

Conceptions of matter can and do change–just as matter itself is always changing–but they crlticism so in accordance with the often painful intrusion of external reality. Many other ideas are ahd within “Materialism and Empirio-Criticism,” but the general theme of the text lies in its assault upon how idealist theories explain causality, human economic and social relations, and the necessity of employing logical or interpretive abstractions in every theory or idea that humanity has ever formed.

Lenin insists that consciousness is an outgrowth of nature, and that, accordingly, its contents can never fully encompass nature.

Materialism and Empirio-criticism – Wikipedia

This is true regardless of whether we are considering empifio, collective, or cosmic? Marx’s theories regarding socialism are predicated on the collective material criticosm of human labor, and the understanding that certain relationships–including economic and political relationships–hold true ekpirio of the consciousness or intentions of any particular individual. Broadly speaking, individuals are organized into social classes, these classes are relatively! I deducted a single star in my rating of this book because the work sometimes gets bogged down in a lot of names and terminology, and I think the average reader who lacks any background in either philosophy or the history of Marxist theory would likely find this work exceedingly dense.

Many of the overarching concepts and theoretical positions being discussed are challenging and exciting — and I would claim, true — insights, but are presented within crjticism context of an obscure conflict within the Bolshevik Party. I would like to independently review my notes on this work in criticksm near future in order to internalize many of the actual arguments Lenin uses to challenge, for instance, Humean notions of causality, while defending the status criticjsm Marxism as a legitimate scientific theory within the social sciences.

I sometimes find Marxist authors difficult to follow because their expressions are often presented in the form of blazing assertions and fiery political proclamations rather than sober analysis, but the analysis is often clearly there independently of this outward form.

Mmaterialism significance of the overall philosophical outlook presented in this text is quite clear to this reader. Lenin’s insistence on mind-independent processes and cognition’s imperfect reflection of these processes remains valuable in an age of rampant individualism, empty postmodernist navel-gazing, and the absurd violence to public life associated with an ultra-nationalist fascist?

View all 3 comments. Dec 04, Bradley rated it liked it. Lenin basically knows nothing of Kant Dec 16, Erik rated it did not like it. Lenin was far materlalism an idiot, as revealed in this polemic against the new positivism of Ernst Mach and his Russian followers. It is, ctiticism, a disgraceful misunderstanding of Machian positivism which influenced its reception in Russia and elsewhere.

It also set back materialism, which remained the crude Marxian kind, absent all nuance. Machian positivism was in reality a sophisticated kind of materialism which included mental phenomena, such as sensations, alongside physical phenomena under the Lenin was far from an idiot, as revealed in this polemic against the new positivism of Ernst Mach and his Russian followers.

Machian positivism was in reality a sophisticated kind of materialism which included mental phenomena, such as sensations, alongside physical phenomena under the heading of elements. Elements were neither physical nor mental, but more like neutral events with individual concrete qualities, when taken one by one.