Cognizability of the world and its patterns

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

The fundamental opposite of materialism and idealism in resolving the question of the cognizability of the world

The question of the cognizability of the world in a primitive form arose at the earliest stages of the development of human society. Already primitive man tried to find answers to the questions: what the world is, what forces govern the world, whether it develops according to the laws inherent in it, or is it controlled by the activity of unknown supernatural forces, what is the reason for the onset of various natural phenomena, etc. It is clear that At that time, a person could not get scientifically substantiated answers to these questions and often had to fantasize, resort to explaining natural phenomena to a special divine power invented by him, which was subsequently used by the ideologists of the exploiting classes, fixing this fantastic, distorted idea of ​​the reality around us in various religious-idealistic philosophical systems.

But even then, attempts were made to explain natural phenomena, that is, to consider the world as it really is. These attempts at a na´ve, but, in essence, correct approach to the study of nature come out with particular clarity in ancient materialistic philosophy, which was born and developed in the fiercest struggle against idealism. 

The struggle between materialism and idealism in ancient Greece, as in the entire subsequent history of philosophy, was waged not only around the fundamental question of philosophy—the relation of thought to being—but also around the second side of the fundamental question—about the cognizability of the world, i.e., about how whether human thinking is able to correctly reflect, cognize, reveal the essence of things and phenomena of the material world. 

The idealistic point of view that the world is allegedly fundamentally unknowable by its nature is most frankly preached by skeptics and agnostics, representatives of the exploiting classes who are not interested in knowing the laws of the world. Revealing the essence of agnosticism, V. I. Lenin wrote: 

“Agnostic is a Greek word: a means not in Greek; gnosis - knowledge. The agnostic says: I don’t know if there is an objective reality that is reflected, reflected by our sensations, I declare it impossible to know this... Hence the denial of objective truth by the agnostic and tolerance, petty-bourgeois, philistine, cowardly tolerance for the doctrine of goblin, brownies, Catholic saints, and the like, things like that." (V. I. Lenin. Soch., vol. 14, p. 115. 4th ed.) 

Agnostics are pessimistic in their approach to assessing human knowledge and do not believe in the reliability of scientific data. We are given only our subjective experiences, they say, and therefore it is impossible even to determine whether the world around us exists or not. 

Agnosticism, as a reflection of this degeneration, became widespread already in ancient Greece, especially during the period of the degeneration of ancient philosophy. Philosophers such as Pyrrho, Protagoras, Gorgias, Sextus Empiricus, and others openly asserted the impossibility of knowing the world around us. All knowledge, said, for example, Protagoras, is only an opinion, which means that there is nothing false, just as there is nothing true. As it seems to anyone, it really is: “man,” he said, “is the measure of all things.” 

In modern times, a prominent representative of skepticism and agnosticism (since skepticism, as a theory of knowledge, coincides with agnosticism) was the eighteenth-century English idealist philosopher David Hume. All scientific knowledge, all the laws of nature, according to Hume, are the order to which people get used. Hume does not even try to explore what lies beyond our sensations, considering the elucidation of this problem beyond human strength. 

Being an expression of the interests of the moribund reactionary classes, Hume's philosophy puts faith and intuition in the place of science. Another representative of agnosticism, Kant, explicitly states that he restricts science in order to leave room for religion. 

Unlike Hume, Kant recognized the existence of an objective world of "things in themselves", but declared them unknowable. The objects and phenomena of the reality around us were attributed by Kant to the area of ​​the “other world”, inaccessible to knowledge and discovered by faith. 

But not all idealists openly recognized the impossibility of knowing the world—the groundlessness of the arguments of the agnostics was too obvious. Many idealists, such as Hegel, were ready to formally admit that the "mind" (or "spirit"), which creates the world, is capable of knowing its work. However, this does not stop idealists from being agnostics, because, in their opinion, a person can cognize not the phenomena of the surrounding reality, but only his subjective ideas or the objective "world spirit", "mind". 

Agnosticism in one form or another is inherent in all modern idealistic philosophical systems. By declaring all our knowledge to be mere subjective perceptions, allegedly not reflecting the real content of the world, they undermine the foundations of science, revive religion and priesthood, doom humanity to passivity and inaction, and distract the working masses from the struggle to change the world. If the world is unknowable, bourgeois philosophers say, then the phenomena of social life are also unknowable, and without knowing the laws of social development, a person cannot change the existing social system, therefore, the working masses are left to come to terms with capitalist exploitation and wait for the help of an unknown divine force that would change them fate. Such is the reactionary class-Party content of any and, above all, modern idealism. 

That is why modern, primarily American-British monopolists, the instigators of the third world war, instead of genuine science with great zeal for their class-exploitative purposes, use various reactionary, idealistic pseudo-scientific "theories" - racism, cosmopolitanism, social Darwinism, Weismannism-Morganism, the "theories" of right-wing socialists about the "harmony" of the class interests of the proletarians and capitalists, and similar ravings of certified lackeys of bourgeois science. 

The ideologists of US-British imperialism are well aware that genuine science and reason are the strongest weapons of the working people in the struggle against imperialism. Therefore, they are trying in every possible way to discredit science, to prove its impotence to cognize the world around them, they seek to replace it with a religion that calls on the exploited to humbly submit to the exploiters

The American-British obscurantists see the "excessive" growth of science and technology as the source of all the horrors of modern imperialism. That is why bourgeois philosophers like Carnap propose erasing the very word "truth" from the philosophical vocabulary, and a French journal published an article in which it screams hysterically that "the time has come to hang the scientists." More and more books appear in America that prove the connection between philosophy and religion. Particularly active "activity" in this field is shown by American personalists (Personalism is a reactionary philosophical trend that recognizes the divine, spiritual personality, person as the fundamental principle of being)Royce, Brown, Fluwelling, Brightman, and others who openly preach fideism and clericalism. Thus, Fluwelling assures that "matter exists as a result of the action of an expedient will and a higher power ... god, a higher personality, the true secret of the world order." Another personalist, Brightman, defining the essence of his philosophy, writes: “Personalism is the belief that the universe is a society of conscious beings, that the energy described by physicists is God's will in action. All that is the conscious spirit, or some phase or aspect of the conscious spirit.” 

Not lagging behind their American masters and English obscurantists, one English mathematician Whittaker authored a book called “Space and Spirit. The theory of the universe and the proof of the existence of God. 

Such literature, from which the darkness of the Middle Ages emanates, is now flooding all the countries of the American-British reactionary bloc. The resolute rejection of scientific knowledge of the world, the open preaching of fideism and priestism is a clear indicator of the degradation and disintegration of modern bourgeois science and philosophy, an indicator of the ultimate fall, insanity, and parasitism of the entire system of modern imperialism. 

Throughout its centuries-long history, materialism has waged the most resolute and merciless struggle against agnosticism, against idealism. The history of the development of materialistic thought, as A. A. Zhdanov pointed out, is essentially the history of its struggle with idealism. In this continuous struggle, materialism was tempered, tested, and improved its theory of knowledge. 

Even the ancient Greek materialists Democritus, Xenophanes, Parmenides, and others criticized skepticism. Acting as naive realists, the first ancient materialist philosophers did not question the ability of a person to know the world with the help of his sensory perceptions and reason, defended and substantiated the objective truth of human knowledge. A powerful blow to agnosticism was dealt by the metaphysical, mechanistic materialism of the 17th-18th centuries. It was a philosophical expression of the interests of the young emerging bourgeois class and marked a progressive stage in the development of materialism. 

Representatives of the materialism of the 17th century Francis Bacon, Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, the French materialists of the 18th century Diderot, Holbach, Helvetius, Robinet, Lamettry, the German materialist philosopher of the 19th century Ludwig Feuerbach and others also criticized agnosticism, idealism in the theory of knowledge, argued that man is able to know the world around us, is able to reveal the secrets of nature. Considering that the world exists independently of people and that all our knowledge is a reflection of the objective world in human consciousness, the materialists of the 17th-18th centuries argued that the true object of knowledge is nature itself, and the main means of knowledge is experience, experiment. 

They recognized as the criterion of truth the full correspondence of ideas about things and phenomena of the objective world with the things and phenomena themselves. This correspondence, in their opinion, can be established by experience; All knowledge must therefore begin with experience, and end with experiment. 

Consequently, speaking of the truth of knowledge, the materialists of the 17th-18th centuries turned to practice, to experience, as a means of penetrating "into the very sanctuary of nature" and a support in the struggle against idealism. This, of course, does not mean that they correctly understood the role of practice in the theory of knowledge. The pre-Marxist bourgeois materialists remained contemplative, metaphysical materialists; they did not reach the understanding that the knowledge of the laws of nature and society can be successfully accomplished only in the process of practical activity of social man, aimed at changing nature and society. They were unable to appreciate the great significance of social revolutionary practice as the basis of human knowledge, as a criterion for its truth, and they reduced practice to experience, to experiment. 

The historical limitations of the pre-Marxian bourgeois materialists in the theory of knowledge also consisted in the fact that they did not see the active role of thinking both in knowledge and in practical activity. The process of cognition for them was reduced to contemplation, to the passive perception of things and phenomena of the objective world. Truth for most of them is a simple correspondence of our knowledge to the outside world, and how to prove this correspondence, how to verify the truth of knowledge, they could not scientifically explain. 

The outstanding representatives of Russian materialist philosophy of the 19th century—Herzen, Belinsky, Chernyshevsky Dobrolyubov—in their philosophical views stood head and shoulders above all pre-Marxist materialism. They wittily ridiculed and mercilessly exposed the reactionary essence of agnostic idealism. In the fiercest struggle against agnosticism, against idealism, they created a scientific theory of knowledge, closely approaching the theory of knowledge of dialectical materialism. The classics of Russian philosophy of the 19th century were not contemplative materialists. They not only theoretically recognized the possibility of knowing the world, like their Western European predecessors, but considered knowledge as an effective force capable of illuminating the path to changing the existing reality, they sought to show the Russian people the way out of poverty, fought for the progressive development of society. The classics of Russian materialism of the 19th century sought to connect their philosophical views as closely as possible with reality, science with life, theory with practice. 

The classics of materialistic Russian philosophy went further than Western European pre-Marxian materialism in the question of the criterion of truth. They declared that our knowledge can be considered true only when it is tested in practice. Reality, said N. G. Chernyshevsky, can be known only in the process of practical activity, because only it is able to distinguish true knowledge from imaginary ones. 

Chernyshevsky and Dobrolyubov came close to understanding the role of practice as a revolutionary activity of people. However, the Russian materialists of the 19th century could not rise to an understanding of practice as the social production activity of people taking place at a certain stage in the historical development of society, under the conditions of historically established production relations, because, due to the backwardness of economic relations in Russia, they were unable to discover and understand the true laws social development. 

* * *

Thus, the question of knowledge of the world did not receive a truly scientific solution in all pre-Marxian philosophy. This is explained primarily by the fact that all bourgeois materialist philosophers before Marx separated the process, knowledge from social practice, from the historically determined social production and political activity of man. Practice was not considered by them as the concrete historical activity of a class-defined person, as the practice of historically defined social classes. All bourgeois philosophers in their views do not go further than the understanding of man only as a biological being, whose entire activity (including thinking) is allegedly determined only by his physical nature, and not by the social relations in which he lives. 

V. I. Lenin pointed out that the trouble with pre-Marxian mechanistic materialism was that its representatives did not know how to apply dialectics to the theory of knowledge, and therefore it (the theory of knowledge) remained metaphysical, historically limited. True, the revolutionary democrats, the classics of Russian materialistic thought of the 19th century, were able to come close to solving the problem of the cognizability of the world. However, they too, not knowing historical materialism, could not solve this problem correctly. 

A complete, truly scientific solution to this question became possible only from the standpoint of dialectical materialism, from the standpoint of the working class, for it represents the only consistently revolutionary part of society interested in real knowledge of the world for the purpose of its revolutionary transformation. 

Only the creators of dialectical materialism, Marx and Engels, for the first time in the history of science, showed the true essence of human practice as a socio-historical, productive, revolutionary-critical activity of people aimed at the progressive transformation of nature and human society, and thereby correctly posed and scientifically exhaustively resolved the question of the possibility and ways of knowing the truth, having made a whole revolutionary revolution in the theory of knowledge. 

Based on the achievements of science and advanced revolutionary practice, the classics of Marxism-Leninism comprehensively substantiated the unlimited possibility of human knowledge of the reality around us, armed humanity with a powerful weapon of knowledge and revolutionary change in nature and society. 

The revolutionary teaching of the classics of Marxism on the possibility of knowing the material world, even during the lifetime of Marx and Engels, was subjected to fierce attacks from the reactionary classes. In the era of imperialism and proletarian revolutions, when the question of overthrowing the old, capitalist system and creating a new, communist system became a matter of practical activity for the masses, the Marxist theory of knowledge was subjected to even more fierce attacks and distortions by various ideologues of imperialism. Bourgeois philosophy, Lenin pointed out, especially specialized at that time in epistemology

The greatest world-historical merit of the leaders of the resolution, Lenin, and Stalin, lies in the fact that they not only completely exposed the reactionary, anti-scientific essence of the idealist epistemology of bourgeois philosophers, but subjected the theory of knowledge of dialectical materialism to further deep development. Creatively generalizing the latest scientific discoveries and the practice of the revolutionary struggle of the masses, Lenin and Stalin armed the communist and workers' parties of all countries, the working people of the whole world, advanced scientists with a powerful weapon of knowledge of the objective laws of the development of nature and society and their use in the interests of the working people, in the interests of building a new, communist society. 

The only scientific Marxist-Leninist theory of knowledge instills confidence in the limitless possibility of knowing the world, opens up a huge prospect for the development of advanced science. The clearest proof of this is the rapid gigantic growth of advanced Soviet science. 

The following sections of the pamphlet are devoted to the presentation of the main provisions of the Marxist theory of knowledge and its further creative development in the works of V. I. Lenin and I. V. Stalin.