The Enigma Of The Universe : Materialistic Realism of Soviet Scientists

Published: 01.09.2014
Updated: 02.07.2015

The materialist Soviet scientists are strongly opposed to idealism. Their view is based on the "dialectical materialism" of Karl Marx. According to them, the external world has an objective existence. One of the most prominent exponents of Soviet materialism, V.I. Lenin, in his Materialism and Empirio-criticism, has critically examined the views of the idealists like Mach. At one place, criticizing Machian idealism, he writes: "Their denial of matter is the old answer to epistemological problems, which consists in denying the existence of an external, objective source of our sensations, of an objective reality corresponding to our sensations. On the other hand, the recognition of the philosophical line denied by the idealists and agnostics is expressed in the definitions: matter is that which acting upon our sense-organs, produces sensation, matter is the objective reality given to us in sensation, and so forth."[1] Again, at another place, refuting idealistic view, he states: "It is not our thought that reflects the transfor­mation of energy in the external world, but the external world that reflects a certain property of our mind."[2]

Impeaching the idealist view, Soviet scientist V. Majentschev, in his book The Universe and the Atom, mentions: "The idealists-the enemies of materialism-by denying the objective existence of all things (except man), in fact, gainsay the principle of conservation of matter. They, due to their obstinacy, always try to falsify this great principle."

"Also, they are trying to prove the nonsensical concept of creation of matter from "void" and its transformation into "void".[3]

Another Soviet authority J B. Stalin oppugns idealism thus: "Against idealism which denies the possibility to have the knowledge of the universe and its laws; which has no faith in the truthfulness of our knowledge; which, instead of believing in objective truth, contends that the universe is full of things which are for ever unknowable for science-the philosophical materialism of Marx presents the view that the universe and its laws can be fully comprehended by science; that our knowledge of the laws of nature attested by experiments and commonsense is valid; that it contains the objective truth; that nothing in the universe is unknowable; and there exist in the universe only those things which, even if not known to us at present, will be revealed to us by the efforts of science and common sense."[4]

The materialist scientists think that the hypotheses, which are at the base of the scientific theories most generally accepted, are to be regarded as accurate descriptions of the constitution of the universe around us; that they are a copy of objective reality, and not only a "methodology", a "pure symbol" or mere froms of organisation of experience.[5] They find it impossible for science to solve many a problem without accepting the objectivity of matter. Take for example, the theory of light. In the field of science, from the time of Newton upto the present age, several theories have been put forward to explain the phenomenon of light. Whether light travels in the form of waves or particles is a difficult question to answer. Some phenomena tend to show the former possibility to be true, while some other clearly exhibit the corpuscular nature of light. Aggravating to the intricacy of the problem, some pheno­mena show the matter to act like waves. Thus, matter as well as light seem to be in the form of wave as well as particles. It means that the substance (i.e. matter and light) simultaneously possesses the properties of waves and particles; but it is neither solely in the form of wave nor in the form of particle nor a mixture of the two. Science has so far not succeded in deciding the issue, but the Soviet scientists believe that science has successfully made an objective description of light as well as matter.[6]

The soviet scientists believe that "matter" is the only objective reality in the universe. In this sense, they adhere to materialistic monism. But their view is different from old materialism, as it is based on the "dialectical materialism" of Karl Marx and Engels. In the words of Lenin, we find: 'The basic materialist spirit of physics, as of all modern science, will overcome all crisis, but only by the indispensable replacement of metaphysical materialism by dialectical materialism."[7] And again, he mentions: "And it is indeed undeniable that the old materialism did suffer from such a defect; Engels reproached the earlier materialists for their failure to appreciate the relativity of all scientific theories, for their ignorance of dialectics and for their exaggeration of the mechanical point of view...Engels rejected the old metaphysical materialism for dialectical materialism, and not for relativism that sinks into subjectivism."[8]

Famous Indian scholar Rahul Sankrityayana, who is a well known exponent of scientific materialism, distinguishes dialectical materialism from the old materialism thus: "The ultimate elements of the universe, according to dialectical materialism, are not the atoms, but the elementary particles, the waves and the continuous stream of events, which contain in themselves the law of destruction and creation every moment. It contends that the things from which life or mind came into existence is certainly nothing but matter, though mind is not matter-not in any form. In fact, mind is altogether a new flow created from the old flow (of matter) by the qualitative change."[9] Thus, it is clear that in the materialism, advocated by the Soviet scientists, "mind" is not considered merely as a form of matter; all the same it is not given the status of the ultimate reality.


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Title: The Enigma Of The Universe Publisher: JVB University Ladnun English Edition: 2010 HN4U Online Edition: 2014

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  1. Calcutta
  2. Mach
  3. Monism
  4. Newton
  5. Objectivity
  6. Science
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