The real question bears precisely on this traditional practice which Lenin brings back into question by proposing a quite different practice of philosophy. This different practice contains something like a promise or outline of an objective knowledge of philosophys mode of being. A knowledge of philosophy as a holzweg der Holzwege. But the last thing philosophers and philosophy can bear, the intolerable, is perhaps precisely the idea of this knowledge. What philosophy cannot bear is the idea of a theory (i.e. Of an objective knowledge) of philosophy capable of changing its traditional practice.
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But he adds: that is not the question. Not only do i not philosophize with their philosophy, i do not philosophize like them at all. Their way of philosophizing is to expend fortunes of intelligence and subtlety for no other purpose than to ruminate in philosophy. Whereas I treat philosophy differently, i practise it, as Marx intended, in obedience to what. That is why i believe i am a dialectical materialist. Materialism and Empirio-criticism contains all this, either directly or between stages the lines. And that is why lenin the philosopher is intolerable to most philosophers, who do not want to know,. Who realize without admitting it, that this review is the real question. The real question is not whether Marx, Engels and Lenin are or are not real philosophers, whether their philosophical statements are formally irreproachable, whether they do or do not make foolish statements about Kants thing-in-itself, whether their materialism is or is not pre-critical, etc. For all these questions are and always have been posed inside a certain practice of philosophy.
Which means, to speak plainly, that there can be no true path (. In the sciences, but above all in politics) without a study, and, eventually a theory of philosophy as a false path. In the last resort, and more important than all the reasons I have just evoked, this is undoubtedly why lenin is intolerable to academic philosophy, and, to avoid hurting anyone, to the vast majority of philosophers, if not to all philosophers, whether academic or otherwise. He is, or has been on one occasion or another, philosophically intolerable to everyone (and obviously i also mean myself). Intolerable, basically, because despite all they may say about the pre-critical character of his philosophy and the summary aspect of some of his categories, philosophers feel and know that this is not the real question. They feel and know that Lenin is profoundly indifferent to their objections. He is indifferent first, because he foresaw them long ago. Lenin said himself: i am bill not a philosopher, i am badly prepared in this domain ( Letter to gorky, 7 February 1908). Lenin said: i know that my formulations and definitions are vague, unpolished; i know that philosophers are going to accuse my materialism of being metaphysical.
just as the antipodes of the good God is the devil, so the professorial priest had his opposite pole in the materialist. The materialist theory of knowledge is a universal weapon against religious belief, and not only against the notorious, formal and common religion of the priests, but also against the most refined, elevated professorial religion of muddled idealists. Dietzgen was ready to prefer religious honesty to the half-heartedness of free-thinking professors, for there a system prevails, there we find integral people, people who do not separate theory from practice. For the herr Professors philosophy is not a science, but a means of defence against Social-Democracy. Those who call themselves philosophers professors and university lecturers are, despite their apparent free-thinking, more or less immersed in superstition and mysticism. And in relation to social-Democracy constitute a single. now, in order to follow the true path, without being led astray by an the religious and philosophical gibberish, it is necessary to study the falsest of all false paths ( der Holzweg der Holzwege and philosophy ( Materialism and Empirio-criticism, collected Works, moscow, 1962, vol. 3 Ruthless though it is, this text also manages to distinguish between free-thinkers and integral people, even when they are religious, who have a system which is not just speculative but inscribed in their practice. It is also lucid: it is no plan accident that it ends with an astonishing phrase of dietzgens, which Lenin"s: we need to follow a true path; but in order to follow a true path it is necessary to study philosophy, which is the falsest.
To give just one example, it was only a little while ago that a few French academic philosophers first turned to the study of the great theoreticians of political philosophy, machiavelli, spinoza, hobbes, Grotius, locke and even rousseau, our rousseau. Only thirty years earlier, these authors were abandoned to literary critics and jurists as left-overs. But French academic philosophy was not mistaken in its radical refusal to learn anything from politicians and politics, and therefore from Lenin. Everything which touches on politics may be fatal to philosophy, for philosophy lives on politics. Of course, it cannot be said that, if academic philosophy has ever read him, lenin did not more than repay it in kind, leaving it the change! Listen to him in Materialism and Empirio-criticism, invoking dietzgen, the german proletarian who marx and Engels said had discovered dialectical materialism all by himself, as an auto-didact, because he was a proletarian militant: Graduated flunkeys, who with their talk of ideal blessings stultify the people. Dietzgens opinion of the professors of philosophy.
Philosophical Dictionary: Aesthetics -Altruism
To my knowledge, with the holiday exception of Henri lefebvre who has devoted an excellent little book to him, French academic philosophy has not deigned to concern itself with the man who led the greatest political revolution in modern history and who, in addition, made. I hope that any of our luminaries whom I have forgotten will forgive me, but it seems to me that, if we except articles by communist philosophers and scientists, i can hardly find more than a few pages devoted to lenin in the last half-century. In the last named, ricoeur speaks of State and revolution with respect, but he does not seem to deal with Lenins philosophy. Sartre says that the materialist philosophy of Engels and Lenin is unthinkable in the sense of an Unding, a thought which cannot stand the test of mere thought, since it is a naturalistic, pre-critical, pre-kantian and pre-hegelian metaphysic; but he generously concedes that it may. Merleau-ponty dismisses it with a single word: Lenins philosophy is an expedient.
It would surely be unbecoming on my part, even given all the requisite tact, to open a case against the French philosophical tradition of the last one hundred and fifty years, since the silence in which French philosophy has buried this past is worth more. It must really be a tradition which hardly bears looking at, for to this day no prominent French philosopher has dared publicly to write its history. Indeed, it takes some courage to admit that French philosophy, from maine de biran and cousin to bergson and Brunschvicg, by way of ravaisson, hamelin, lachelier and boutroux, can only be salvaged from its own history by the few great minds against whom it set. We all know these names; forgive me if i only cite those who are no longer with us: cavaillès and Bachelard. 2 After all, this French academic philosophy, profoundly religious, spiritualist and reactionary one hundred and fifty years ago, then in the best of cases conservative, finally belatedly liberal and personalist, this philosophy which magnificently ignored Hegel, marx and Freud, this academic philosophy which only seriously. Besides the overwhelming class pressures on its strictly philosophical traditions, besides the condemnation by its most liberal spirits of Lenins unthinkable pre-critical philosophical thought, the French philosophy which we have inherited has lived in the conviction that it can have nothing philosophical to learn either.
But as clothes do not make the man, the audience does not make a talk. My talk will therefore not be philosophical. Nevertheless, for necessary reasons linked to the point we have reached in theoretical history, it will be a talk in philosophy. But this talk in philosophy will not quite be a talk of philosophy. It will be, or rather will try to be, a talk on philosophy.
Which means that by inviting me to present a communication, your Society has anticipated my wishes. What I should like to say will indeed deserve that title if, as I hope, i can communicate to you something on philosophy, in short, some rudimentary elements towards the idea of a theory of philosophy. Theory: something which in a certain way anticipates a science. That is how i ask you to understand my title: Lenin and Philosophy. Not Lenins philosophy, but Lenin on philosophy. In fact, i believe that what we owe to lenin, something which is perhaps not completely unprecedented, but certainly invaluable, is the beginnings of the ability to talk a kind of discourse which anticipates what will one day perhaps be a non-philosophical theory of philosophy. 2 If such is really lenins greatest merit with respect to our present concern, we can perhaps begin by quickly settling an old, open dispute between academic philosophy, including French academic philosophy, and Lenin. As I too am an academic and teach philosophy. I am among those who should wear Lenins cap, if it fits.
Louis, althusser ideology and Ideological State
But we can discern in this tactic much more than a tactic, something I should like to call a practice of philosophy, and the consciousness of what practising philosophy means; in short the consciousness of the ruthless, primary fact that philosophy divides. If science unites, and if it unites summary without dividing, philosophy divides, and it can only unite by dividing. We can thus understand Lenins laughter: there is no bill such thing as philosophical communication, no such thing as philosophical discussion. All I want to do today is to comment on that laughter, which is a thesis in itself. I venture to hope that this thesis will lead us somewhere. And it leads me straightaway to ask myself the question which others cannot fail to ask: if no philosophical communication is possible, then what kind of talk can I give here? It is obviously a talk to philosophers.
Now what is remarkable about these scientists philosophical crises is the fact that they are always orientated philosophically in one and the same direction: they revive and update old empiricist or formalist,. Idealist themes; they are therefore always directed against materialism. So the Otzovists were empirio-criticists, but since (as Bolsheviks) they were marxists, they said that Marxism had to rid itself of that pre-critical metaphysics, dialectical materialism, and that in order to become the marxism of the twentieth century, it had at last to furnish itself. Some bolsheviks of this group even wanted to integrate into marxism the authentic humane values of religion, and to this end called themselves God-builders. But we can ignore this. So gorkys aim was to invite lenin to discuss philosophy with the group of Otzovist philosophers. Lenin laid down his conditions: dear Alexei maximovich, i should very much like to see you, but I refuse to engage in any philosophical discussion. To be sure, this was a tactical attitude: since political unity among the bolshevik émigrés was essential, they should not be divided by a philosophical dispute.
These philosophers proclamations are, if I may say so, normal: for a whole category of philosophers spend their time predicting,. Awaiting, the last gasp of the sciences, in order to administer them the last rites of philosophy, ad majorem gloriam dei. But what is more curious is the fact that, at the same time, there will be scientists who talk of a crisis in the sciences, and suddenly discover a surprising philosophical vocation in which they see themselves as suddenly converted into philosophers, although in fact. We are philosophers by trade, so we are inclined to think that if there is a crisis, it is a visible and spectacular philosophical crisis into which these scientists have worked themselves up when faced with the growth of a science which they have taken. Their spontaneous, everyday philosophy has simply become visible to them. Machs empirio-criticism, and all its by-products, the philosophies of Bogdanov, lunacharsky, bazarov, etc., represented a philosophical crisis of this kind. Such crises are chronic occurrences. To give some contemporary idea of this, other things being equal, we can say that the philosophy which certain biologists, geneticists and linguists today are busy manufacturing around information theory is a little philosophical crisis of the same kind, in this case a euphoric one.
Lenin was then at Capri, as a guest of Gorky, whose generosity he really liked and whose talent he admired, but whom he treated nevertheless as a petty-bourgeois revolutionary. Gorky had invited him to capri to take part in philosophical discussions with a small group of Bolshevik intellectuals whose positions Gorky shared, the. 1908: the aftermath of the first October revolution, that or 1905, the ebb-tide and repression of the workers movement. And also disarray among the intellectuals, including the bolshevik intellectuals. Several of them had formed a group known to history by the name. Politically, the Otzovists were leftists, in favour of radical measures: recall ( otzovat ) of the partys Duma representatives, rejection of every form of legal action and immediate recourse to violent action. But these leftist proclamations concealed rightist theoretical positions. The Otzovists were infatuated with a fashionable philosophy or philosophical fashion, empirio-criticism, which had been updated in form by the famous Austrian physicist, Ernst Mach. This physicists and physiologists philosophy (Mach was not just anybody: he has left his name in the history of the sciences) was not without affinity with other philosophies manufactured by scientists like henri poincaré, and by historians of science like pierre duhem and Abel rey.
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Lenin and Philosophy by louis Althusser 1968. Louis Althusser 1971, lenin and Philosophy and Other Essays. May i thank your Society for the honour it literature has done me in inviting me to present to it what it has called, since it came into existence, and what it will doubtless long continue to call, by a disarmingly nostalgic name: a communication. 1 1, a scientist is justified in presenting a communication before a scientific society. A communication and a discussion are only possible if they are scientific. But a philosophical communication and a philosophical discussion? This term would certainly have made lenin laugh, with that whole-hearted, open laugh by which the fishermen of Capri recognized him as one of their kind and on their side. This was exactly sixty years ago, in 1908.