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The Enigma Of The Universe : Mach

Published: 25.12.2014
Updated: 02.07.2015

Some other scientists such as Mach and Poincare also hold idealistic views and deny the objective existence of the external world. In Mach's view, even the 'atom' is only a construct[1] and in Poincare's view it is impossible that a wholly objective world can exist. We have already discussed how in defiance of such views the Jain philosophy asserts that the atom or the external world exists objectively. The exponents of the dialectical materialism have also strongly refuted the views of Mach, Poincare, etc. who on the basis of the new development in theoretical physics, tried to show that matter has disappeared.[2]

For example, in one of his ardent statements, Lenin, the well-known exponent of materialism, observes: "Do electrons, ether and so on exist as objective realities outside the human mind or not? The scientists will also have to answer this question unhesitatingly; and they do invariably answer it in the affirmative, just as they unhesitatingly recognise that nature existed prior to man and prior to organic matter. Thus, the question is decided in favour of materialism, for the concept matter, as we already stated, epistemologically implies nothing but objective reality existing independently of the human mind and reflected by it.

"But dialectical materialism insists on the approximate, relative character of every scientific theory of the structure of matter and its properties; it insists on the absence of absolute boundaries in nature, on the transformation of moving matter from one state into another which, from one point of view, is to us apparently irreconcilable with it, and so forth. However bizarre from the standpoint of "common sense" the transformation of imponderable ether into ponderable matter and vice versa may appear, however "strange" may seem the absence of any other kind of mass in the electron save electromagnetic mass, however extraordinary may be the fact that the mechanical laws of motion are confined only to a single sphere of natural phenomena and are subordinated to the more profound laws of electromagnetic phenomena, and so forth all this is but another corroboration of dialectical materialism. It is mainly because the physicists did not know dialectics that the new physics strayed into idealism. They combated metaphysical (in Engels', and not the positivists, i.e., human sense of the word) materialism, and its one-sided "mechanism", and in so doing threw the baby out with the bath-water. Denying the immutability of the elements and the properties of matter known hitherto, they ended in denying matter, i.e., the objective reality of the physical world. Denying the absolute character of some of the most important and basic laws, they ended in denying all objective law in nature and in declaring that a law of nature is a mere convention, "a limitation of expectation", "a logical necessity", and so forth. Insisting on the approximate and relative character of our knowledge, they ended in denying the object independent of the mind and reflected approximately correctly and relatively-truthfully by the mind. And so on, and so forth, without end.

"The opinion expressed by Bogdanov in 1899 regarding "the immutable essence of things", the opinion of Valentinov and Yushkevich regarding "substance", and so forth are similar fruits of ignorance of dialectics. From Engels' point of view, the only immutability is the reflection by the human mind (when there is a human mind) of an external world existing and developing independently of the mind. No other "immutability", no other "essence", no other "absolute substance", in the sense in which these concepts were depicted by the empty professorial philosophy, exists for Marx and Engels. The "essence" of things, or "substance", is also relative; it expresses only that degree of profundity of man's knowledge did not go beyond the atom, and today does not go beyond the electron and ether, dialectical materialism insists on the temporary, relative, approximate character of all these mile-stones in the knowledge of nature gained by the progressing science of man. The electron is as inexhaustible as the atom, nature is infinite, but it infinitely exists. And it is this sole categorical, this sole unconditional recognition of nature's existence outside the mind and perceptions of man that distinguishes dialectical materialism from relativist agnosticism and idealism."[3]

Again at another place, he confutes:-

"The destructibility of the atom, its inexhaustibility, the mutability of all forms of matter and of its motion, has always been the stronghold of dialectical materialism. All boundaries in nature are conditional, relative, moveable, and express the gradual approximation of our reason towards the knowledge of matter. But this does not in any way prove that nature, matter itself, is a symbol, a conventional sign, i.e., the product of our mind. The electron is to the atom as a full stop in this book is to the size of a building 200 feet long, 100 feet broad, and 50 feet high (Lodge); it moves with a velocity as high as 270,000 kilometres per second; its mass is a function of its velocity; it makes 500 trillion revolutions in a second-all this is much more complicated than the old mechanics; but it is, nevertheless, movement of matter in space and time. Human reason has discovered many amazing things in nature and will discover still more, and will thereby increase its power over nature. But this does not mean that nature is the creation of our mind or of abstract mind, i.e., of Ward's God, Bogdanov's "substitution", etc.[4]

In conclusion, we may say that the idealist scientists and the Jain philosophy hold identical views regarding the existence of non-physical reality (soul or consciousness). But regarding the reality of matter, they differ. The former generally does not accept the objectivity of the external world, whereas the latter does.


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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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Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Albert Einstein
  2. Consciousness
  3. Einstein
  4. Ether
  5. Jain Philosophy
  6. Mach
  7. Objectivity
  8. Poincare
  9. Science
  10. Soul
  11. Space
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