Cognizability of the world and its patterns

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  Cognizability of the world and its patterns
K. Y. Andreev

On Absolute and Relative Truth

Exposing the falsifier of Marxism, Machist Bogdanov, who slanderously asserted that “Marxism contains the denial of the unconditional objectivity of any truth, the denial of all eternal truths,” V. I. Lenin wrote: 

“Two questions are obviously confused here: 1) is there an objective truth, i.e., can there be such a content in human ideas that does not depend on the subject, does not depend either on man or on humanity? 2) If so, can human representations expressing objective truth express it at once, entirely, unconditionally, absolutely, or only approximately, relatively? This second question is the question of the relationship between absolute and relative truth. (V. I. Len and n. Soch., v. 14, p. 110.) 

Idealists answer the first question in the negative. They categorically reject the objective character of any truth whatsoever, but by denying objective truth, they inevitably come to the denial of absolute truth as well. 

What is absolute truth? 

Absolute truth is such a truth that fully, exhaustively, quite adequately reflects in the mind of a person this or that phenomenon, object, this or that regularity of the objectively existing material world and, therefore, can never be refuted. 

Dialectical materialism teaches that the cognition of absolute truth is an endless process, that, while cognizing objects, phenomena, laws of the objective world, a person cannot comprehend absolute truth at once, entirely, unconditionally, finally, but reveals it, masters it gradually, approximately, relatively. 

While recognizing objective truth as basically a correct reflection of the phenomena of the material world in people's minds, dialectical materialism by no means considers it a finished, unchanging, frozen truth. But being objective, truly scientific knowledge always contains, to a greater or lesser extent, grains, parts, particles of absolute truth, because knowledge is a historical process, as a result of which our knowledge about a subject more and more accurately reflects the content of this subject. Genuine truth always contains aspects, moments that do not depend either on man or on humanity. 

Therefore, people's knowledge consists mainly of relative truths, i.e., such provisions, theories, concepts that basically correctly reflect the phenomena of objective reality, but in the process of development of science and social practice they are continuously refined, concretized, deepened and, as a result, constitute a moment side, a step on the way to mastering the absolute truth. 

“Man,” V. I. Lenin points out, “cannot embrace = reflect = display the nature of all, completely, its “immediate wholeness”, he can only eternally approach this, creating abstractions, concepts, laws, a scientific picture of the world, etc. etc. etc.” (V. I. Lenin. Philosophical notebooks, p. 157.) 

The entire history of the development of scientific knowledge from ancient times to the present day irrefutably proves this most important proposition of dialectical materialism. The history of the development of any branch of science shows that in the process of social and labor and, above all, production activities, people move from ignorance to knowledge, from error to truth, from incomplete knowledge to more complete knowledge. 

Let us take as an example the doctrine of the atomistic structure of the world. It is known what huge changes, corrections, and additions this doctrine has undergone over the millennia, starting from the ancient Greek materialist philosopher Democritus to the present day. Democritus, like his followers, believed that all objects are composed of atoms - indivisible material particles. All atoms, according to Democritus, are qualitatively the same and differ only in shape, arrangement, and position in space. The atomistic theory of Democritus contained a particle of absolute truth, contained in the very idea of ​​the atomistic structure of the world. But in this theory there was much that was naive, incorrect, and erroneous (for example, the indivisibility of the atom, its immutability, indestructibility, the qualitative homogeneity of atoms, etc.). 

With the development of science and scientific knowledge, this theory has been continuously developed and improved. Scientists have proven that an atom is a complex system consisting of electrons and a nucleus, which in turn consists of protons. Further, it was found that in addition to these particles, the composition of the atom also includes such elementary particles as the neutron, positron, mesotron, and others. At present, a hypothesis has been put forward about the existence of a new elementary particle inside the atom - the neutrino. There is no doubt that in the process of a deeper knowledge of the laws of the objective world, our knowledge of the atom will be subject to further changes and refinements, and at the same time, our ideas about the atom will inevitably change. 

And this happens in any science, in any branch of knowledge. 

Marxist-Leninist science is also continuously developing, supplementing, and enriching itself. Marx and Engels created the general principles of this science, discovered the most general laws of the development of nature, human society and thought. Under the new historical conditions, Lenin, and Stalin creatively developed Marxism, enriched it with new discoveries and conclusions, concretized and deepened its most important propositions, and replaced the obsolete formulas of Marxism with new formulas corresponding to the new historical conditions. 

Any science contains theories and provisions that reflect aspects, moments, laws of objective reality, and do not reflect them immediately, not entirely, not absolutely, but gradually, partially, relatively. With the development of science and social practice, the moments of relativity in our knowledge are increasingly decreasing, however, never completely disappearing, and the grains of absolute truth in them are continuously increasing. Each new scientific discovery, each moment of refinement and correction of our knowledge is a step, a stage, a step on the way to a more complete knowledge of the patterns of development of the material world, on the way to the knowledge of absolute truth. 

In the theory of knowledge,” teaches V. I. Lenin, “as in all other areas of science, one should reason dialectically, that is, not assume our knowledge is ready and unchanged, but analyze how knowledge comes from ignorance, how incomplete, inaccurate knowledge becomes more complete and more accurate. (V. I. Lenin. Works, vol. 14, p. 91.) 

The Marxist thesis about the endless process of cognition, about the approach of man to the attainment of absolute truth, not only radically differs from the pseudo-scientific reactionary assertion of the idealists about the unknowability of the world, but is directly opposite to it. If agnosticism, which in one form or another is shared by all idealists, asserts that the objects and phenomena surrounding us are fundamentally unknowable, that man is powerless at any time to penetrate the secrets of the laws of development of nature, and even more so of human society, then dialectical materialism proceeds from the fact that the world is cognizable by its nature, that in the world there are no such objects and phenomena that a person could not know. There are no unknowable objects and phenomena, but only such objects and phenomena that are not yet known, but in due time they will certainly be revealed and known by the forces of developing science and social practice. 

Thus, a contradiction is obtained: on the one hand, the world is knowable, there are no objects and phenomena that are fundamentally unknowable, and on the other hand, the world cannot be known completely, absolutely. But this is not a logical contradiction that arises as a result of the fact that a person thinks inconsistently, contrary to elementary laws and forms of thinking, but a dialectical contradiction inherent in reality itself. 

Answering the question: is human thinking sovereign, i.e., is it capable of knowing the world to the end, Engels gives an exhaustive explanation of how this contradiction is resolved. “This contradiction,” Engels points out, “can be resolved only in an endless progressive movement, in such a series of successive human generations, which, for us at least, is in practice endlessly. In this sense, human thought is as sovereign as it is non-sovereign, and its ability to know is as unlimited as it is limited. Sovereign and unlimited in nature, vocation, opportunity, historical ultimate goal; non-sovereign and limited in terms of individual implementation, in terms of reality given at one time or another. (Friedrich Engels. Anti-Dühring, pp. 81-82.) 

Consequently, this contradiction is resolved only as a result of the cognition of the objective world by many billions of past, present and future generations of people, i.e., in practice, the process of cognition will be carried out endlessly. At present, humanity has come a long way in its development, but, as Engels pointed out, “we, in all likelihood, are still standing at about the very beginning of human history, and the generations that will have to correct us will, presumably, be much more numerous. those generations whose knowledge we are now ready to correct, treating them very often from above. (Ibid., p. 81.) 

The material world is inexhaustible, it is infinite both in space and in time, it is constantly evolving and changing. In this eternal, endless development of the material world, there is an ongoing process of the death of the old and the birth of the new, the disappearance of obsolete phenomena and the appearance of newly emerging ones. But since the process of the emergence of the new, the emerging is an endless process, then the knowledge of these new aspects of the material world is also an endless process. 

Mankind practically cannot exhaust absolute truth, and its knowledge consists mainly of relative truths, historically transient, containing only grains, sides, moments of absolute truth. 

The “essence” of things or “substance” is also relative, V. I. Lenin teaches, they express only the deepening of human knowledge of objects, and if yesterday this deepening did not go further than the atom, today it does not go further than the electron and ether, then dialectical materialism insists on the temporary, relative, approximate nature of all these milestones in the knowledge of nature by the progressive science of man. The electron is just as inexhaustible as the atom, nature is infinite...”. (V. I. Lenin. Works, vol. 14, p. 249.) 

This, however, does not mean that absolute truth is some kind of unattainable ideal, to which a person can only strive, but never achieve it. Dialectical materialism rejects such an agnostic approach to the question of absolute truth and believes that absolute truth is comprehended by us all the time. With its side, a particle, it enters into every truly scientific position, into every scientifically substantiated theory. But our knowledge also contains moments of relativity, for the inconsistency of the process of cognition lies precisely in the fact that human ideas, concepts, theories are a dialectical unity of the absolute and the relative, the objective and the subjective. 

“So,” V. I. Lenin points out, “human thinking by its very nature is capable of giving and gives us absolute truth, which is made up of the sum of relative truths. Each stage in the development of science adds new grains to this sum of absolute truth, but the limits of the truth of each scientific position are relative, being either expanded or narrowed by the further growth of knowledge. (Ibid., p. 122.) 

But our movement towards absolute truth is accomplished not only by increasing grains, moments, sides of absolute truth in relative truths. There are also truths that absolutely accurately reflect this or that side of the objective world, and therefore do not need to be clarified, corrected, or added. 

It is impossible, for example, to doubt the absolute truth of the proposition of materialistic dialectics that the world is in eternal and endless motion and development. This position is the absolute truth and does not need to be changed or corrected. But when we begin to concretize this general, absolutely true position, when we consider the question of the methods, forms, types of motion of matter, we immediately fall into the realm of relative truths, because specific forms and types of motion of a certain type of matter cannot be considered abstractly. Matter can take the most diverse forms and types of motion, depending on concrete historical conditions. One form or type of motion of matter is replaced under appropriate conditions by another form or type of its motion; under certain conditions, new types of motion of matter appear, which mankind is studying, 

The relationship between absolute and relative truth was brilliantly expressed by V. I. Lenin: 

“From the point of view of modern materialism, i.e. Marxism,” wrote V.I. Lenin, “the limits of the approximation of our knowledge to objective, absolute truth are historically conditional, but the existence of this truth is unconditional, it is unconditional that we are approaching it. The contours of the picture are historically conditional, but what is certain is that this picture depicts an objectively existing model. It is historically conditional when and under what conditions we advanced in our knowledge of the essence of things to the discovery of alizarin in coal tar or to the discovery of electrons in the atom, but it is certain that each such discovery is a step forward of "unconditionally objective knowledge." In a word, any ideology is historically conditional, but what is certain is that any scientific ideology (unlike, for example, religious) corresponds to objective truth, absolute nature.(In I. Lenin. Works, vol. 14, p. 123.) 

The essence of the Marxist-Leninist doctrine of the relationship between absolute and relative truth lies precisely in the fact that it considers relative truth as a moment, a part, a stage, a step in the cognition of absolute truth. Therefore, any truly scientific truth is at the same time both absolute truth, insofar as it basically correctly reflects a certain side of the objective world, and relative truth, insofar as it reflects this side of objective reality partially, incompletely, approximately. 

Noting this dialectical character of the nature of truth and arguing with the enemies of Marxism, V. I. Lenin wrote: 

“You will say: this distinction between relative and absolute truth is indefinite. I will answer you: it is just so “indefinite” as to prevent the transformation of science into dogma in the worst sense of the word, into something dead, frozen, ossified, but at the same time it is just so “definite” as to dissociate itself by the most resolute and irrevocably from fideism and agnosticism, from philosophical idealism and from the sophistry of the followers of Hume and Kant. (Ibid.) 

The recognition by dialectical materialism of the relative character of our knowledge has nothing in common with idealistic relativism. The reactionary essence of relativism is not that it recognizes the relative nature of all our knowledge, but that it does not recognize the objective nature of scientific knowledge, undermines faith in the cognitive abilities of human thinking, leads to a denial of the possibility of knowing the world around us and thus closes with agnosticism. 

Not knowing and not wanting to know dialectics, relativists tear off, exaggerate, absolutize one of the aspects of knowledge - the relative nature of our knowledge. If our knowledge of natural phenomena changes over time, relativists reason, if even at the same time different people speak differently about the same subject, phenomenon, and there is some truth in the reasoning of both, then it is not better Is it possible to “refrain from judgments”, is it not better to recognize all our knowledge about nature as fluid, impermanent, not containing even elements of absolute, objective truth. And if so, then we will never achieve true knowledge, and we are left to recognize that the real essence of things is unknowable. This is how relativists come to agnosticism, to idealism. Therefore, V. I. Lenin in his work “Materialism and Empirio-Criticism” wrote that “the principle of relativism, the relativity of our knowledge ... in case of ignorance of dialectics, inevitably leads to idealism.(V. I. Lenin. Works, vol. 14, p. 295.) 

The classics of Marxism-Leninism attached great importance to the struggle against relativism. They proved that relativists are essentially no different from subjective idealists, who reject everything that is beyond the limits of subjective sensations and experiences and believe that all phenomena around us are nothing but a free and arbitrary creation of human consciousness. 

But the denial of idealistic relativism by dialectical materialism, of course, does not mean a denial of relative truth in general. V. I. Lenin resolutely emphasizes that “the materialistic dialectics of Marx and Engels certainly includes relativism, but is not reduced to it, that is, it recognizes the relativity of all our knowledge, not in the sense of denying objective truth, but in the sense of the historical conventionality of the limits of approximation our knowledge to this truth." (Ibid., p. 124.) 

The profound, comprehensive criticism by Lenin and Stalin of idealistic relativism in cognition is of inestimable significance even today for the exposure of modern American-English bourgeois reactionary philosophy.

It is known that the most characteristic feature of all modern "isms" of reactionary bourgeois philosophy is agnosticism, mainly of a relativistic kind. For example, one of the most fashionable currents in modern American-English idealist philosophy, called positivism, is built on relativistic agnosticism. This current accepted and combined in itself all the most reactionary, most anti-scientific of the idealistic agnostic systems of the past, classifying them into special groups and awarding them with "self-contained" names like "logical analysis", "logical empiricism", "semantics", "pragmatism", "physicalism”, and other no less sophisticated "isms". They all pursue the same goal: to undermine people's faith in the ability of human thinking to know the world and remake it, to prove that science is powerless, point the way to a happy human society. Every progressive theory, every scientific position is declared by modern American-English philosophical obscurantists to be "pseudo-judgment", "pseudo-concept", which have a purely subjective, conditional, relative meaning and are allegedly completely devoid of objectivity. 

The class-political meaning of all this pseudo-philosophical gibberish was brilliantly revealed by V. I. Lenin forty-five years ago. In his work “Materialism and Empirio-Criticism”, V. I. Lenin wrote that “behind the epistemological scholasticism of empirio-criticism one cannot fail to see the struggle of parties in philosophy, a struggle that in the last analysis expresses the tendencies and ideology of the hostile classes of modern society.” (V. I. Lenin. Works, vol. 14, p. 343). This Leninist conclusion applies in its entirety to all varieties of contemporary idealism. 

The Marxist-Leninist doctrine of the relationship between absolute and relative truth, with its edge, is directed not only against idealistic relativism, but also against the other extreme in the assessment of truth - against dogmatists, Talmudists, and dogmatists, who believe that all our knowledge consists of abstract, eternal, and unchanging truths.

Dogmatism in cognition means blind faith in old obsolete theories, unwillingness, and inability to modify and improve our knowledge, to bring it into line with new, continuously developing conditions. 

Dogmatists and Talmudists are trying to squeeze new phenomena into old habitual positions and formulas that no longer correspond to new conditions. They believe that we must recognize every thought as either true for all times and for all occasions, or false. For them, there are no truths that are fair in some conditions and unfair in other conditions, therefore, in their reasoning, they operate mainly with bare abstractions and empty, meaningless analogies. Instead of a concrete historical analysis of the facts of reality, they artificially adjust the phenomena of nature and social life to general, stereotyped, "universal" truths. 

The classics of Marxism-Leninism resolutely reject such a view of truth as a collection of complete dogmatic propositions that can only be memorized and applied to all cases of life. “... Truth now consisted in the very process of cognition,” wrote Engels, “in the long historical development of science, rising from the lower levels of knowledge to ever higher ones, but never reaching such a point from which it, having found some so-called absolute truth , could no longer go further and where there would be nothing left for her, how, with folded hands, to contemplate this obtained absolute truth with amazement. (K. Marx and F Engels. Selected works, vol. II, p. 343.)

The theory of knowledge of dialectical materialism proceeds from the fact that abstract truths do not exist, truth is always concrete, and the concreteness of truth implies a comprehensive reflection of the world in thinking, a deep study of all aspects of a given object or phenomenon, taking into account the situation, place, and time. 

The totality of all aspects of a phenomenon, reality,” teaches V.I. Lenin, “and their (mutual) relations—this is what truth is made up of.” (V. I. Lenin. Philosophical Notebooks, p. 169.) 

Not a single object, not a single phenomenon can be considered abstractly, outside the historically established conditions, place, and time, without taking into account its concrete historical place in a number of other objects, phenomena. The conditions themselves, Comrade Stalin teaches, are constantly changing, and therefore any proposition that is true in a given set of connections of an object, phenomenon, in given conditions of place and time, may turn out to be false and harmful in other conditions.

In the works “Marxism and Questions of Linguistics” and “Economic Problems of Socialism in the USSR”, as in his other works, Comrade Stalin waged a most ruthless struggle against all varieties of dogmatism, Talmudism, and dogmatism, which are especially dangerous when applied to the Marxist-Leninist science of society. 

“Scholars and Talmudists,” writes Comrade Stalin, “consider Marxism, individual conclusions and formulas of Marxism, as a collection of dogmas that “never” change, despite changes in the conditions for the development of society. They think that if they memorize these conclusions and formulas and start quoting them at random, then they will be able to solve any problems, in the expectation that the conclusions and formulas learned by heart will be useful to them for all times and countries, for all occasions of life. But only people who see the letter of Marxism, but do not see its essence, who memorize the texts of the conclusions and formulas of Marxism, but do not understand their content, can think like that. (I. Stalin. Marxism and questions of linguistics, p. 54.)

By analyzing the mistake of A. Kholopov and using other examples, Comrade Stalin showed that Marxist-Leninist science is not a dogma, but a guide to action, that it is necessary not to memorize Marxist conclusions and formulas in a Talmudic way, but to understand their essence and creatively apply them to specific conditions, develop and to enrich Marxism-Leninism with new achievements of science and social practice. 

Examples of the Talmudic approach on the part of some Soviet economists and philosophers to certain formulas and conclusions of Marxism, I. V. Stalin also cites in his work “Economic Problems of Socialism in the USSR”. Thus, for example, when examining the question of commodity production under socialism, I.V. Stalin points out that some comrades, referring to Engels’ proposition that “once society takes possession of the means of production, commodity production will be eliminated, and at the same time and the dominance of products over producers," decided that the Party should eliminate commodity production as soon as it took power and nationalized the means of production in our country. They came to this profoundly erroneous conclusion precisely because they considered Engels' formula as pedantic, Talmudists, outside of space and time, without taking into account the specific conditions, place and time of its application.

J. V. Stalin showed that Engels in his formula had in mind countries where capitalism and the concentration of production are sufficiently developed not only in industry, but also in agriculture, and therefore there is the possibility of nationalizing and transferring to the public property all the means of production both in industry and agriculture. For such a case, Engels' formula is absolutely correct. But in the overwhelming majority of countries, including our country, agriculture was so fragmented between small and medium-sized owner-producers that it was not possible to raise the question of the expropriation of these producers. For such a case, Engels' formula is inapplicable.

Some would-be Marxists, seeking at all costs to show their non-Marxist thesis about the inexpediency of maintaining commodity production in our country, contrary to the Marxist-Leninist principle of the concreteness of truth, argue that commodity production under all conditions must lead and will certainly lead to capitalism. 

Exposing this metaphysical, abstract proposition, V. Stalin, using a number of striking historical facts, proved that commodity production does not always and under all conditions lead to capitalism, but only in those cases when there is private ownership of the means of production and when labor power comes into play to the market as a commodity that the capitalist can buy and exploit in the process of production, i.e., in those cases where a system of exploitation of wage-workers by the capitalists exists in the country. In our country, however, where private ownership of the means of production, the system of hired labor, the system of exploitation no longer exist, commodity production cannot lead to capitalism.  

“It is impossible to consider commodity production,” teaches I. V. Stalin, “as something self-sufficient, independent of the surrounding economic conditions.” (I. Stalin. Economic problems of socialism in the USSR, p. 15.)

This position of I. V. Stalin is of the greatest importance for the theory of knowledge. It teaches us to study each subject, each phenomenon deeply and comprehensively, taking into account the totality of their connection with other objects, phenomena, specific conditions, place, and time. Only such study can lead us to success and warn against mistakes. 

The most important position of the Marxist-Leninist theory of knowledge about the concreteness of truth is consistently carried out and developed in the works of I. V. Stalin. A striking example of this is JV Stalin's consideration of the question of the disintegration of the single world market and the deepening crisis of the world capitalist system. 

It is known that in the spring of 1916, V. I. Lenin expressed the thesis that, despite the decay of capitalism, “on the whole, capitalism is growing immeasurably faster than before”; in the period before World War II, JV Stalin formulated the thesis about the relative stability of markets during the period of the general crisis of capitalism. Both these propositions of Lenin and Stalin were absolutely correct for their time. 

However, at the present time, I. V. Stalin points out, the world market has disintegrated into two parallel world markets. As a result, “the sphere of application of the forces of the main capitalist countries (USA, England, France) to world resources will not expand, but will shrink, that the conditions of the world market for these countries will worsen, and the underutilization of enterprises in these countries will increase.” (I. Stalin. Economic problems of socialism in the USSR, pp. 31-32). Therefore, in the new historical conditions, Comrade Stalin notes, these theses, which were valid for their time, have now lost their force.

This proposition of J. V. Stalin provides new vivid proof of the critical, revolutionary spirit of Marxist-Leninist teaching, which fights against inertia, conservatism, and stagnation in science, against the transformation of our knowledge into dead, canonized dogmas. “Science is therefore called science,” I. V. Stalin points out, “because it does not recognize fetishes, is not afraid to raise a hand against the obsolete, old, and sensitively listens to the voice of experience, practice.” (I. Stalin. Questions of Leninism, p. 502.) 

The greatest strength of Marxism-Leninism lies precisely in the fact that it does not stand in one place, does not consider its individual formulas and conclusions as a collection of dogmatic propositions, but constantly changes, is replenished with new propositions, is enriched by the practice of the world revolutionary movement and, above all, by the richest experience in building communist society in our country. 

Marxism, as a science,” writes I. V. Stalin in his work “Marxism and Questions of Linguistics,” cannot stand in one place, it develops and improves. In its development, Marxism cannot but be enriched by new experience, new knowledge—consequently, its individual formulas and conclusions cannot but change with the passage of time, cannot but be replaced by new formulas and conclusions corresponding to new historical tasks. (I. Stalin. Marxism and questions of linguistics, p. 55.)