Table of Contents
Philosophy As A World-View And A Methodology
        What Is Philosophy?

        Philosophy as a World-View

        Philosophy as Methodology

        Philosophy and Science

        Philosophy and Art
The System of Categories in Philosophical Thought
         The Categories of Dialectics

         Matter as the Substance of Everything That Exists

         The Motion of Matter

         Space and Time

         The Principle of Universal Connection and Development

         The Principle of Causality

         System and Structure

         Essence and Phenomenon

         Quality and Quantity

        Negation and Continuity

        Contradiction and Harmony
Consciousness of the World and the World of Consciousness
          The General Concept of Consciousness and Mental Activity

           The Material and the Spiritual

          Consciousness and Language
The Theory of Knowledge and Creativity
           General Concept of Cognition

           Cognition and Practice

           What Is Truth?

           The Sensuous Image of the World

On the Human Being and Being Human
           What Is a Human Being?

           The Human as the Biosocial

           Man in the Realm of Nature

           Man and Society

           Man as a Personality

           Man the Doer

           Destiny, Freedom and Responsibility

           Man and culture
Request to Readers
Front Matter




This book is a consideration of the essence of Marxist-Leninist philosophy, its central propositions and problems, its historical role and significance in the complex world of today.

We are witnessing, and participating in, enormous changes, changes that affect the very foundations of human existence, that have drawn into the revolutionary process peoples who one after the other are freeing themselves from centuries of social and national oppression and attaining high levels of national and class consciousness. These revolutionary changes in society are moving in step with ever more frequent and breath-taking discoveries in various spheres of science and technology. Contemporary science has become a powerful and direct transforming force in production and spurred into life a great scientific and technological revolution.

Socialist society, free from exploitation of man by man, is being built in accordance with a strictly scientific social theory—Marxism-Leninism, whose philosophical basis is dialectical materialism. Marxist-Leninist philosophy has throughout its history been inseparably and openly connected with the revolutionary struggle of the working class, of all working people for their intellectual, social and national emancipation—in this sense it is a committed philosophy. The philosophy of Marx was a turning-point in the development of world philosophical thought. Its great innovation was to make philosophy into a science, to remould the very purpose of philosophical knowledge, which as it became established not only explained but helped to transform the world. Marxist philosophy, as Lenin put it, has the integrity of something forged out of a single piece of steel. It is a harmonious, consistent system of materialist views on nature, society and the mind, on the general laws of their development.

This system was formed by generalising the greatest achievements of human thought and the practice of the oppressed classes' revolutionary struggle against their oppressors as an effective instrument for establishing the highest ideals to which humanity had aspired throughout the ages.

The foundations were laid by the great thinkers Karl Marx and Frederick Engels. It was they who formulated the basic propositions of the theory which was to become the banner of the struggle for socialism, for true humanism, for the free development of every individual as a condition for the free development of all members of society.

In the new historical conditions, when capitalism had entered the stage of imperialism, the scientific feat of the founders of Marxism was continued by Lenin, who, proceeding from the creative principles of their theory, analysed hitherto unknown processes, drew general conclusions concerning their future course, and thus delineated the road into the future. Lenin's work signalled a new stage in the development of Marxist philosophy as an eternally living and creative theory.

Marxist-Leninist philosophy, though essentially partisan, committed, is at the same time consistently objective. Subjectivism, voluntarism and dogmatism are entirely alien to it. Its propositions are based on analysis of the objective laws of world development, of the essence and dialectics of social processes. It defends the highest human values in the interests of the progressive forces. The invincibility of its conclusions is implicit in objective social development.

Communism's ideological opponents, expressing the class interests of the bourgeoisie, have tried to discredit Marxist-Leninist philosophy by presenting it as an obsolete, dogmatic and therefore allegedly impotent theory when faced with the crucial problems confronting modern man. In the final analysis these attacks are orchestrated to win space for a reactionary world-view justifying and defending the world of capitalism. Many of its ideologists, however, acknowledge that they are compelled to battle with an adversary armed with one of the greatest of world philosophies, derived from the deepest sources of contemporary life and thought. Today, when the struggle for democracy and socialism, for the peaceful coexistence of different social systems stands in the forefront of the confrontation between irreconcilable ideologies, a mastery of the scientific world-view helps us to gain an understanding of the complex and contradictory processes that are shaking the modern world, without which the basic practical problems facing mankind cannot conceivably be overcome.

The significance of Marxist-Leninist philosophy further increases in a situation where the very existence of man, of mankind as a whole, of all civilisation is threatened. The 26th Congress of the CPSU proclaimed, "to safeguard peace— no task is more important now on the international plane for our Party, for our people and, for that matter, for all the peoples of the world". The Congress formulated a concrete programme for the defence of peace, which expressed the essential needs of contemporary social development and which can be realised only on the basis of the creative application and development of the principles of Marxist-Leninist theory and its philosophy by the communist and workers' parties, by all the progressive forces.

At various international forums, in outspoken dialogues between representatives of various spheres of knowledge and trends in philosophy advocates of dialectical materialism speak from obviously more advantageous positions when discussing the fundamental scientific and social problems, the global problems of the struggle for peace and for overcoming the ecological, energy, demographic and other crises that threaten humanity.

The realistic ways and means of establishing a just social order revealed by Marxist-Leninist philosophy make it a profoundly humane philosophy. It elevates the dignity and rights of man, uncovers the objective conditions, ways and factors that have to be considered to achieve his social emancipation and all-round, harmonious development. It defends humane ideals and provides a theoretical substantiation for the peoples' struggle for peace and for the peaceful coexistence of different social systems.

The present book is an attempt to expound the basic principles and ideas of this philosophy in a compressed form. Its range encompasses philosophy and art, man and his existence in the world, the creative power of human reason, man and culture and many other problems that are not usually examined in similar courses on Marxist-Leninist philosophy.


Chapter 1. Philosophy As A World-View And A Methodology 


What Is Philosophy?


The subject-matter of philosophy. When we set out to study philosophy, we enter the fascinating realm of the theoretically thinking mind, of wisdom that has been accumulated over the centuries. The oldest definition of philosophy is attributed by legend to the famous Pythagoras. Too modest to wish to be called wise, he said that he was not a wise man, but only a lover of wisdom —a philosopher (from the Greek "philos"— loving and "sophia" —wisdom. From time immemorial philosophy in the true sense has been understood as a desire for the highest knowledge and wisdom, as distinct from everyday and other forms of applied knowledge, and also from religious or mythological forms of thinking. The thinkers of ancient times sought an understanding of the world that would replace the obsolete picture produced by myth and legend. Philosophical thought has traditionally been distinguished by its orientation on understanding the foundations of existence at the limits of our mental powers, the mechanisms of human cognitive activity, the essence not only of the phenomena of nature but also of social life, man and culture. This has always had very great practical as well as theoretical significance; it is essential for an understanding of the meaning and goals of life. Philosophy's aim from the beginning has been to give a general understanding of the universe that could provide a basis for the understanding of life, something on which to build a rational art of the existence of man and society.

Consideration of the subject-matter of philosophy involves an investigation of the place this sphere of knowledge occupies in the system of culture as a whole, alongside science, art, politics, religion, morality, and so on. This investigation presupposes two approaches. According to one approach, in ancient times all man's knowledge of the world and himself was considered to be wisdom and was called philosophy. Subsequently, as this knowledge became differentiated and was broken down into separate disciplines, one science after another developed out of philosophy regarded as the totality of human knowledge. In this way mathematics, physics, medicine and other sciences appeared. Philosophy is thus regarded as the mother of all the sciences. This idea was aptly expressed by Descartes, who compared philosophy to a tree with metaphysics as its roots, physics as its trunk and all the other sciences comprised in the three main disciplines of medicine, mechanics and ethics as its branches. This broad notion of philosophy, not only in ancient times but even in the last century, led to its being identified with theoretical mechanics, biology and other sciences. We know, for example, that Newton's main work was called Philosophiae naturalis principia mathematica, while Linnaeus' book bore the title Philosophia botanica. Lamarck called his work Philosophie zoologique, and Laplace, Essai philosophique sur les probabilités. This is one approach to the subject-matter of philosophy. The other and, in our view, the more reliable, is that in the historically early stages of the development of culture within the framework of general, only slightly differentiated knowledge, spontaneous notions of the specific subject of philosophical knowledge as such took shape. At first, these were natural philosophical views oriented on nature, on the universe, on the origin and ultimate destination of all things. The ancient thinkers were keenly interested in cosmogonic problems. This afterwards came to be called ontology—the study of the nature of being. Later they turned to the problems of cognition and this gave rise to the theory of knowledge, epistemology, and to logic. The philosophical disciplines proper comprise ethics —the study of moral problems, and aesthetics— the study of the aesthetic attitude to reality and of artistic creativity. Until recent times the psychological questions involved in understanding the essence of mental activity, consciousness and the individual personality were treated as philosophical problems. In short, philosophy has for centuries been interested in the problems of human existence, of man's value orientations, his spiritual world with all its various planes, and also his socio-political and religious positions. Year after year, century after century philosophy has steadily absorbed, in a generalised form, not only the achievements of science and art but the overall experience of all humanity, the wisdom comprised in the thought and life of nations, and has passed all this on from generation to generation.

To answer the question, "What is the subject-matter of philosophy?", let us first consider the sphere of human knowledge in general. Scientists investigate the motion of celestial bodies, the world of physical and chemical phenomena, the realm of animate nature, the sphere of mental activity, the spirit or intellect and, finally, the world of social phenomena. All these things make up the subject-matter of the sciences: astronomy, physics, chemistry, biology, psychology, sociology, and history. And since all our knowledge is contained in such phenomena and all the content of our knowledge is broken down into the afore-mentioned sciences, it would seem that there is no place there for philosophy. If a philosopher decided to study mental phenomena, a psychologist would say to him, "This is my province." If he wished to undertake an investigation of the world of animate creatures, he would encounter similar objections from the biologist. So, it turns out that since the sciences have taken over the investigation of all the separate spheres of existence, there is nothing left for philosophy. Apparently it shares the fate of Shakespeare's King Lear, who in old age gave away all his possessions to his daughters and was then turned out like a beggar into the street. But if we look a little deeper, we find that there are some questions that have never formed part of the subject-matter of the separate sciences. For example, Thales set himself the task of discovering the origin of everything that exists, the first principles of such being and what it would all ultimately become. His conclusion was that everything arose from water and would return to water, that water was the foundation of all existence. Democritus asked what everything, material and spiritual, was composed of and replied that it was all composed of atoms. We should note that the questions posed by Thales and Democritus were not questions of biology or psychology. These thinkers did not ask what vegetable and animal organisms were made of, what formed the substance of the world of mental activity; they were interested in the world in general, both material and spiritual, so it is clear that philosophers must have been thinking about the first principle of the existence of the universe —celestial bodies, crystals, organisms, and mental processes. Since it concerned not any separate part of existence, but existence in general, it could not form the subject-matter of any specific science. It was the subject matter of philosophy— the science of the initial principles of the existence of the world, humanity and cognition. Admittedly in ancient times when philosophy had only just come into being, it was "omnivorous", in the sense that philosophers then took an interest in all or many fields of knowledge, and from a professional point of view. It is no accident that works on the history of philosophy, particularly as we go back into the centuries, are full of a great deal of non-philosophical facts and reflections that refer rather to specific scientific, literary, artistic or socio-political subjects. But this is another question. Today, too, the philosopher may engage in research in some specific field of knowledge, let us say, physics, and a physicist may be professionally interested in philosophy. But this does not mean that the specific problems of physics are the subject-matter of philosophy and vice versa. It was exactly the same in ancient times. Of course, this does not imply that, say, in physics or some other sphere of knowledge there has never been any philosophy. But philosophers, past and present, have always had to know the general principles of all the sciences.

To sum up then, the subject-matter of philosophical cognition is not only the universe and its most general laws as they exist in themselves, but also and more particularly the relationship between man and the universe. Thus, it may be said that the basic question of philosophy, that is, the question of the relationship of thinking to being, became a part of its subject-matter at the early stages of the formation of philosophical thought.

Unlike everyday, socio-political, and artistic thinking, philosophical reasoning characteristically seeks to single out the "frontier" foundations or principles of existence and cognition, to discover the general logic of universal motion, the history of society and human life, the principles of the rational relationship between the individual and the world, which can be found only in knowledge of the laws of the life of the universe itself, for the logic of human thought and rational action can be deduced only from the logic of life in the fullest sense.

Naturally, the subject of philosophy has never remained static. It has developed historically and taken its own shape along with the development of human culture, including the culture of thought itself, its ever deeper and universal penetration into the "pores" of existence. Moreover, at various periods one or another philosophical school or individual thinker has given preference to questions of ontology, the theory of being, or to questions of the theory of knowledge and logic, or to problems of morality, philosophical anthropology, and so on.

If we considered the history of philosophy and what this or that thinker regarded as the basic subject of philosophical reflection, the answers would be many and various. Socrates, for example, urged that philosophy should stop pondering the first principles of existence and concentrate on knowing about human affairs, particularly the problems of morality. According to Plato, the purpose of philosophy was to know the essence, the eternal and the intransient, and according to Aristotle, philosophy should understand the causes and principles of things. Francis Bacon described philosophy as the universal science, from which all other sciences grew like the branches of a tree. According to Descartes, it was the highest wisdom that could be achieved by logic; it taught the reason how to set about obtaining knowledge of as yet unknown truths. Locke and Hume saw the task of philosophy in elaborating a theory of knowledge and theory of morality. Helvetius thought the main question was the nature of human happiness, and Rousseau, social inequality and the ways of overcoming it. Hegel defined philosophy as the highest stage of theoretical thought, the self-cognition of the absolute idea, and called philosophy the epoch embodied in thought. Pisarev believed that ......................


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