2. Now, alas, we have to add the name of Jean Hyppolite to this list.
on politics may be fatal to philosophy, for philosophy lives on politics.
Of course, it cannot be said that, if academic philosophy has ever read him, Lenin did not more than repay it in kind, 'leaving it the change'! Listen to him in Materialism and Empirio-criticism, invoking Dietzgen, the German proletarian who Marx and Engels said had discovered 'dialectical materialism ' 'all by himself', as an auto-didact, because he was a proletarian militant:
'Graduated flunkeys ', who with their talk of 'ideal blessings ' stultify the people by their tortuous 'idealism ' -- that is J. Dietzgen's opinion of the professors of philosophy. 'Just as the antipodes of the good God is the devil, so the professorial priest had his opposite pole in the materialist .' The materialist theory of knowledge is 'a universal weapon against religious belief ', and not only against the 'notorious, formal and common religion of the priests, but also against the most refined, elevated professorial religion of muddled idealists '. Dietzgen was ready to prefer 'religious honesty ' to the 'half-heartedness ' of free-thinking professors, for 'there a system prevails ', there we find integral people, people who do not separate theory from practice. For the Herr Professors 'philosophy is not a science, but a means of defence against Social-Democracy '.
'Those who call themselves philosophers -- professors and university lecturers -- are, despite their apparent free-thinking, more or less immersed in superstition and mysticism . . . and in relation to Social-Democracy constitute a single . . . reactionary mass .' 'Now, in order to follow the true path, without being led astray by an the religious and philosophical gibberish, it is necessary to study the falsest of all false paths (der Holzweg der Holzwege ), philosophy ' (Materialism and Empirio-criticism, Collected Works, Moscow, 1962, Vol. 14, pp. 340-41).
Ruthless though it is, this text also manages to distinguish between 'free-thinkers' and 'integral people', even when they are religious, who have a 'system' which is not just speculative but inscribed in their practice. It is also lucid:
3. I have italicized Lenin's quotations from Dietzgen. Lenin himself stressed the key phrase 'der Holzweg der Holzwege '.
it is no accident that it ends with an astonishing phrase of Dietzgen's, which Lenin quotes: we need to follow a true path; but in order to follow a true path it is necessary to study philosophy, which is 'the falsest of all false paths ' (der Holzweg-der Holzwege). Which means, to speak plainly, that there can be no true path (sc. in the sciences, but above all in politics) without a study, and, eventually a theory of philosophy as a false path.
In the last resort, and more important than all the reasons I have just evoked, this is undoubtedly why Lenin is intolerable to academic philosophy, and, to avoid hurting anyone, to the vast majority of philosophers, if not to all philosophers, whether academic or otherwise. He is, or has been on one occasion or another, philosophically intolerable to everyone (and obviously I also mean myself). Intolerable, basically, because despite all they may say about the pre-critical character of his philosophy and the summary aspect of some of his categories, philosophers feel and know that this is not the real question. They feel and know that Lenin is profoundly indifferent to their objections. He is indifferent first, because he foresaw them long ago. Lenin said himself: I am not a philosopher, I am badly prepared in this domain (Letter to Gorky, 7 February 1908). Lenin said: I know that my formulations and definitions are vague, unpolished; I know that philosophers are going to accuse my materialism of being 'metaphysical'. But he adds: that is not the question. Not only do I not 'philosophize' with their philosophy, I do not 'philosophize' like them at all. Their way of 'philosophizing' is to expend fortunes of intelligence and subtlety for no other purpose than to ruminate in philosophy. Whereas I treat philosophy differently, I practise it, as Marx intended, in obedience to what it is. That is why I believe I am a 'dialectical materialist'.
Materialism and Empirio-criticism contains all this, either
directly or between the lines. And that is why Lenin the philosopher is intolerable to most philosophers, who do not want to know, i.e. who realize without admitting it, that this is the real question. The real question is not whether Marx, Engels and Lenin are or are not real philosophers, whether their philosophical statements are formally irreproachable, whether they do or do not make foolish statements about Kant's 'thing-in-itself', whether their materialism is or is not pre-critical, etc. For all these questions are and always have been posed inside a certain practice of philosophy. The real question bears precisely on this traditional practice which Lenin brings back into question by proposing a quite different practice of philosophy.
This different practice contains something like a promise or outline of an objective knowledge of philosophy's mode of being. A knowledge of philosophy as a Holzweg der Holzwege. But the last thing philosophers and philosophy can bear, the intolerable, is perhaps precisely the idea of this knowledge. What philosophy cannot bear is the idea of a theory (i.e. of an objective knowledge) of philosophy capable of changing its traditional practice. Such a theory may be fatal for philosophy, since it lives by its denegation.
So academic philosophy cannot tolerate Lenin (or Marx for that matter) for two reasons, which are really one and the same. On the one hand, it cannot bear the idea that it might have something to learn from politics and from a politician. And on the other hand, it cannot bear the idea that philosophy might be the object of a theory, i.e. of an objective knowledge.
That into the bargain, it should be a politician like Lenin, an 'innocent' and an auto-didact in philosophy who had the audacity to suggest the idea that a theory of philosophy is
essential to a really conscious and responsible practice of philosophy, is obviously too much. . . .
Here, too, philosophy, whether academic or otherwise, is not mistaken: it puts up such a stubborn resistance to this apparently accidental encounter in which a mere politician suggests to it the beginnings of a knowledge of what philosophy is, because this encounter hits the mark, the most sensitive point, the point of the intolerable, the point of the repressed, which traditionally philosophy has merely ruminated -- precisely the point at which, in order to know itself in its theory, philosophy has to recognize that it is no more than a certain investment of politics, a certain continuation of politics, a certain rumination of politics.
Lenin happens to have been the first to say so. It also happens that he could say so only because he was a politician, and not just any politician, but a proletarian leader. That is why Lenin is intolerable to philosophical rumination, as intolerable -- and I choose my words carefully -- as Freud is to psychological rumination.
It is clear that between Lenin and established philosophy there are not just misunderstandings and incidental conflicts, not even just the philosophy professors' reactions of wounded sensibility when the son of a teacher, a petty lawyer who became a revolutionary leader, declares bluntly that most of them are petty-bourgeois intellectuals functioning in the bourgeois education system as so many ideologists inculcating the mass of student youth with the dogmas -- however critical or post-critical -- of the ideology of the ruling classes. Between Lenin and established philosophy there is a peculiarly intolerable connexion: the connexion in which the reigning philosophy is touched to the quick of what it represses: politics.
4. See Appendix, p. 68 below.
But before we can really see how the relations between Lenin and philosophy reached this point, we must go back a little and, before discussing Lenin and philosophy in general, we have to establish Lenin's place in Marxist philosophy, and therefore to raise the question of the state of Marxist philosophy.
I cannot hope to outline the history of Marxist philosophy here. I am in no position to do so, and for an altogether determinant reason: I should have to know precisely what was this X whose history I proposed to write, and if I knew that, I would also have to be in a position to know whether this X has or has not a History, i.e. whether it has or has not the right to a History.
Rather than outlining, even very roughly, the 'history' of Marxist philosophy, I should like to demonstrate the existence of a symptomatic difficulty, in the light of a sequence of texts and works in History.
This difficulty has given rise to famous disputes which have lasted to the present day. The names most often given to these disputes signal its existence: what is the core of Marxist theory? a science or a philosophy? Is Marxism at heart a philosophy, the 'philosophy of praxis' -- but then what of the scientific claims made by Marx? Is Marxism, on the contrary, at heart a science, historical materialism, the science of history -- but then what of its philosophy, dialectical materialism? Or again, if we accept the classical distinction between historical materialism (science) and dialectical materialism (philosophy), how are we to think this distinction: in traditional terms or in new terms? Or again, what are the relations between materialism and the dialectic in dialectical materialism? Or again, what is the dialectic: a mere method? or philosophy as a whole?
This difficulty which has provided the fuel for so many disputes is a symptomatic one. This is intended to suggest that it is the evidence for a partly enigmatic reality, of which the classical questions that I have just recalled are a certain treatment, i.e. a certain interpretation. Speaking very schematically, the classical formulations interpret this difficulty solely in terms of philosophical questions, i.e. inside what I have called philosophical rumination -- whereas it is undoubtedly necessary to think these difficulties and the philosophical questions which they cannot fail to provoke, in quite different terms: in terms of a problem, i.e. of objective (and therefore scientific) knowledge. Only on this condition, certainly, is it possible to understand the confusion that has led people to think in terms of prematurely philosophical questions the essential theoretical contribution of Marxism to philosophy, i.e. the insistence of a certain problem which may well produce philosophical effects, but only insofar as it is not itself in the last instance a philosophical question.
If I have deliberately used terms which presuppose certain distinctions (scientific problem, philosophical question), this is not so as to pass judgement on those who have been subject to this confusion, for we are all subject to it and we all have every reason to think that it was and still is inevitable -- so much so that Marxist philosophy itself has been and still is caught in it, for necessary reasons.
For finally, a glance at the theatre of what is called Marxist philosophy since the Theses on Feuerbach is enough to show that it presents a rather curious spectacle. Granted that Marx's early works do not have to be taken into account (I know that this is to ask a concession which some people find difficult to accept, despite the force of the arguments I have put forward), and that we subscribe to Marx's statement that The German Ideology represented a
decision to 'settle accounts with his erstwhile philosophical consciousness', and therefore a rupture and conversion in his thought, then when we examine what happens between the Theses on Feuerbach (the first indication of the 'break', 1845 ) and Engels's Anti-Dühring (1877 ), the long interval of philosophical emptiness cannot fail to strike us.
The XIth Thesis on Feuerbach proclaimed: 'The philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it.' This simple sentence seemed to promise a new philosophy, one which was no longer an interpretation, but rather a transformation of the world. Moreover, that is how it was read more than half a century later, by Labriola, and then following him, by Gramsci, both of whom defined Marxism essentially as a new philosophy, a 'philosophy of praxis'. Yet we have to face the fact that this prophetic sentence produced no new philosophy immediately, at any rate, no new philosophical discourse, quite the contrary, it merely initiated a long philosophical silence. This silence was only broken publicly by what had all the appearances of an unforeseen accident: a precipitate intervention by Engels, forced to do ideological battle with Dühring, constrained to follow him onto his own 'territory' in order to deal with the political consequences of the 'philosophical' writings of a blind teacher of mathematics who was beginning to exercise a dangerous influence over German socialism.
Here we have a strange situation indeed: a Thesis which seems to announce a revolution in philosophy -- then a thirty-year long philosophical silence, and finally a few improvised chapters of philosophical polemic published by Engels for political and ideological reasons as an introduction to a remarkable summary of Marx's scientific theories.
Must we conclude that we are the victims of a retrospective philosophical illusion when we read the XIth
Thesis on Feuerbach as the proclamation of a philosophical revolution? Yes and no. But first before saying no, I think it is necessary to say yes, seriously: yes, we are essentially the victims of a philosophical illusion. What was announced in the Theses on Feuerbach was, in the necessarily philosophical language of a declaration of rupture with all 'interpretative' philosophy, something quite different from a new philosophy: a new science, the science of history, whose first, still infinitely fragile foundations Marx was to lay in The German Ideology.
The philosophical emptiness which followed the proclamation of Thesis XI was thus the fullness of a science, the fullness of the intense, arduous and protracted labour which put an unprecedented science on to the stocks, a science to which Marx was to devote all his life, down to the last drafts for Capital, which he was never able to complete. It is this scientific fullness which represents the first and most profound reason why, even if Thesis XI did prophetically announce an event which was to make its mark on philosophy, it could not give rise to a philosophy, or rather had to proclaim the radical suppression of all existing philosophy in order to give priority to the work needed for the theoretical gestation of Marx's scientific discovery.
This radical suppression of philosophy is, as is well known, inscribed in so many words in The German Ideology. It is essential, says Marx in that work, to get rid of all philosophical fancies and turn to the study of positive reality, to tear aside the veil of philosophy and at last see reality for what it is.
The German Ideology bases this suppression of philosophy on a theory of philosophy as a hallucination and mystification, or to go further, as a dream, manufactured from what I shall call the day's residues of the real history of concrete men, day's residues endowed with a purely imag-
inary existence in which the order of things is inverted. Philosophy, like religion and ethics, is only ideology; it has no history, everything which seems to happen in it really happens outside it, in the only real history, the history of the material life of men. Science is then the real itself, known by the action which reveals it by destroying the ideologies that veil it: foremost among these ideologies is philosophy.
Let us halt at this dramatic juncture and explore its meaning. The theoretical revolution announced in Thesis XI is in reality the foundation of a new science. Employing a concept of Bachelard's, I believe we can think the theoretical event which inaugurates this new science as an 'epistemological break'.
Marx founds a new science, i.e. he elaborates a system of new scientific concepts where previously there prevailed only the manipulation of ideological notions. Marx founds the science of history where there were previously only philosophies of history. When I say that Marx organized a theoretical system of scientific concepts in the domain previously monopolized by philosophies of history, I am extending a metaphor which is no more than a metaphor: for it suggests that Marx replaced ideological theories with a scientific theory in a uniform space, that of History. In reality, this domain itself was reorganized. But with this crucial reservation, I propose to stick to the metaphor for the moment, and even to give it a still more precise form.
If in fact we consider the great scientific discoveries of human history, it seems that we might relate what we call the sciences, as a number of regional formations, to what I shall call the great theoretical continents. The distance that we have now obtained enables us, without anticipating a future which neither we nor Marx can 'stir in the pot', to pursue our improved metaphor and say that, before Marx,
two continents only had been opened up to scientific knowledge by sustained epistemological breaks: the continent of Mathematics with the Greeks (by Thales or those designated by that mythical name) and the continent of Physics (by Galileo and his successors). A science like chemistry, founded by Lavoisier's epistemological break, is a regional science within the continent of physics: everyone now knows that it is inscribed in it. A science like biology, which came to the end of the first phase of its epistemological break, inaugurated by Darwin and Mendel, only a decade ago, by its integration with molecular chemistry, also becomes part of the continent of physics. Logic in its modern form becomes part of the continent of Mathematics, etc. On the other hand, it is probable that Freud's discovery has opened a new continent, one which we are only just beginning to explore.
If this metaphor stands up to the test of its extension, I can put forward the following proposition. Marx has opened up to scientific knowledge a new, third scientific continent, the continent of History, by an epistemological break whose first still uncertain strokes are inscribed in The German Ideology, after having been announced in the Theses of Feuerbach. Obviously this epistemological break is not an instantaneous event. It is even possible that one might, by recurrence and where some of its details are concerned, assign it a sort of premonition of a past. At any rate, this break becomes visible in its first signs, but these signs only inaugurate the beginning of an endless history. Like every break, this break is actually a sustained one within which complex reorganizations can be observed.
In fact, the operation of these reorganizations, which affect essential concepts and their theoretical components, can be observed empirically in the sequence of Marx's writings: in the Manifesto and The Poverty of Philosophy
of 1847, in A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy of 1859, in Wages, Price and Profits of 1865, in the first volume of