Bakunin's Argument for Materialism over Idealism

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Reply Sun 5 Apr, 2009 09:58 pm
Mikhail Bakunin wrote:
Man at first understood by the word 'Nature' only what we call external Nature, his own body included. What we call the universal Nature he called 'God'; hence, the laws of nature appeared not as inherent laws but as manifestations of the Divine Will, God's commandment imposed from above upon Nature and upon man. IN line with this, man, siding with God, whom he himself created, in opposition to Nature and his own being, declared himself in revolt against Nature, and laid the foundation for his own political and social slavery.

Such has been the historic work of all religous cults an dogmas.



Bakunin asserts Materialism over Idealism, claiming that Idealism is subject to the tragic flaw of moving from perfection (ideal world) to imperfection (material world). This is an illogical movement and is not supported by any objectively verifiable principle. By contrast, a Materialistic understanding of reality starts from the most basic facts of existence that can be known objectively and builds to greater complexity, emerging in man and man's liberty (at least thusfar the greatest animal triumph). Materialism is thus a more optimistic worldview, and also results in a more logical evaluation of empirical evidence, since it appeals only to the inherent logic of universal causality (universal Nature) by which we are all undeniably bound and extracts ideas therefrom. With Idealism it is all a collapse, a continual descension rather than ascension. Materialism accepts the inherent logic of real systems and does not exempt humanity from those laws, given that humanity is part of and bound to universal Nature.

He dichotomizes external Nature from universal Nature. Universal Nature is everything that exists, includes the internal world of humanity, while external Nature is that which exists outside of the mind. The mind, according to Bakunin, is still a material object, bound to inherent laws of nature and causality. However, by gaining the faculty of abstraction, man rises above the immediate pressure exercised by all external objects upon every individual and begins rising above his own drives, enabling to compare his inner drives just as he compares external objects.

He denies the existence of God, calling it the creation of man's abstract faculties. Betraying his anarchist philosophy, Bakunin cannot accept that any master should exist, or else human liberty would cease to be.

Quote:
[A master], whatever he may do, and no matter how much of a liberal he may want to appear, will nevertheless always remain a master, and his existence will necessarily entail the slavery of those who are beneath him. Therefore, if God existed, he could render service to human liberty in one way only--by ceasing to exist.

I reverse Voltaire's aphorism and say: If God really existed it would be necessary to abolish him.
 
jeeprs
 
Reply Thu 9 Apr, 2009 05:38 am
@rhinogrey,
Where does the "inherent logic of real systems" come from? Why are "real systems" logical in the first place? How is it that matter, which appears devoid of intelligence, is arranged intelligently, and intelligibly? Why is the universe lawful, and why does mathematics describe many aspects of it beyond what we can actually see? Where does scientific law come from, and why does the universe conform to it? If matter is dumb, and everything is made of it, how did it become smart? Or must it have been smart to begin with, in which case it wasn't matter?

Come to think of it, matter is not an intelligible concept. Is matter a gas, or a solid? Is it compound, or is it simple? If it is simple, what is its ultimate constitutuent? (Or shall we wait until the LHC is switched on again?) If, as Einstein said, E=MC2, then matter is simply a form of energy, and no-body knows what energy actually is.

Has Bakunin got anything to say on any of these points?
 
rhinogrey
 
Reply Sat 11 Apr, 2009 01:49 pm
@rhinogrey,
Yes. Unfortunately it's extremely hard to paraphrase the issues you're asking about. To get holistic answers to your questions you'd need to read the works themselves. I'll dig through and find some relevant quotations for ya, but don't expect any miracles.
 
jeeprs
 
Reply Sat 11 Apr, 2009 05:53 pm
@rhinogrey,
Hey Rhinogrey - don't take it too seriously on my behalf, I am just venting over the general topic of my dislike of materialism generally. Red rag to a bull in my case.
 
Eudaimon
 
Reply Tue 21 Apr, 2009 09:58 am
@rhinogrey,
rhinogrey wrote:

He denies the existence of God, calling it the creation of man's abstract faculties. Betraying his anarchist philosophy, Bakunin cannot accept that any master should exist, or else human liberty would cease to be.

:bigsmile: I like this thought. But Bakunin and Kropotkin, as politicians, obviously understood freedom in political sense, that is they wanted to become free from authorities not knowing that we are already free.
I agree that criterion for reality is perception - the basic materialistic argument. But what about soul, self, freedom? I perceive that I exist and that I am free just like I perceive light, sound. However, materialism tends to deny everything besides matter...
 
Greg phil
 
Reply Thu 21 Jan, 2010 11:03 am
@Eudaimon,
Quote:

By contrast, a Materialistic understanding of reality starts from the most basic facts of existence that can be known objectively and builds to greater complexity, emerging in man and man's liberty (at least thusfar the greatest animal triumph). Materialism is thus a more optimistic worldview, and also results in a more logical evaluation of empirical evidence, since it appeals only to the inherent logic of universal causality (universal Nature) by which we are all undeniably bound and extracts ideas therefrom. With Idealism it is all a collapse, a continual descension rather than ascension. Materialism accepts the inherent logic of real systems and does not exempt humanity from those laws, given that humanity is part of and bound to universal Nature.

The bit in bold is my main worry. Fundamentally, I only KNOW of subjective states (not objective) - viz, my immediate sensations ... and THEN I know of my judgements about these sensations ... and THEN about what follows logically from these judgements.
To move from sensations (which are mental) to matter is an illogical step - or at least it is in this immediate reasoning that you have used.

Further I fail to see why idealism 'is all a colapse'. An idealist does NOT have to reject physicalism (the doctrine that everything in the world can be defined and explained in reference to structure, form and logic). Consider that their may be a world of mental objects but which all obey certain laws of physics.


If someone were to argue for the existence of matter; this could only ever be via inference of the most likely state of affairs, or of the most straightforward assumption. This is because all empirical objects that we examine only exist as sensations which we can think about.
Consider that all our references are in essense mental (you can to think about an idea of a thing to refer to it); so from this it follows that you cannot refer to anything outside your own subjective mind - including matter. If you cannot refer to matter, then you cannot assert that matter exists.
 
Emil
 
Reply Thu 21 Jan, 2010 11:51 am
@rhinogrey,
The quoted passage contains no argument.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Thu 21 Jan, 2010 12:04 pm
@Emil,
Emil;121570 wrote:
The quoted passage contains no argument.


By contrast, a Materialistic understanding of reality starts from the most basic facts of existence that can be known objectively and builds to greater complexity, emerging in man and man's liberty (at least thusfar the greatest animal triumph). Materialism is thus a more optimistic worldview, and also results in a more logical evaluation of empirical evidence, since it appeals only to the inherent logic of universal causality (universal Nature) by which we are all undeniably bound and extracts ideas therefrom.

It is not a very good argument, to say the least, but there is an argument.

1. a Materialistic understanding of reality starts from the most basic facts of existence that can be known objectively and builds to greater complexity, emerging in man and man's liberty.
2. (Materialism) appeals only to the inherent logic of universal causality (universal Nature) by which we are all undeniably bound and extracts ideas therefrom.

Therefore, 3. Materialism is thus a more optimistic worldview, and also results in a more logical evaluation of empirical evidence.

But I agree that the argument is so bad, it stretches a point to call it an "argument". It is like dancing. Some people are such terrible dancers that it stretches a point even to call them dancers. In both cases, we need to be very charitable.
 
Eudaimon
 
Reply Sat 30 Jan, 2010 07:42 am
@rhinogrey,
It seems to me that to imply any order or (so-called "physical laws") in the world is the same thing as to believe in God or whatever. This is belief and real materialist who has let go any faith cannot accept that. The reality is sensation: I see sun, it is real, I hear voice, it is real. But the laws of physics cannot be perceived, they are mere generalisations of my experiences. I think there is no chasm between idealism and materialism if one comes to the very bottom of both of them.
It is impossible to assert anything about matter regardless of the observer: it is obvious that for an insane person the world is different from that of ours.
On the other hand, to reject matter is equally stupid because even our rejection thereof came from it: from, books, people, experiences.
 
GoshisDead
 
Reply Sat 30 Jan, 2010 10:11 am
@Eudaimon,
very interesting thread.
My issue with Bakunin's argument as explained here is that of direction. Just using the building of progress from one arbitrary point to another is an example of that which he was railing against. and Ideal or idealistic state that cannot be empirically proven to be "better" one way or the other. Breaking perfection into inperfection, i can see the argument, however going from simple to complex or from fact to man's liberty is an idealistic progression whose beginnings and ends are mental constructs that relate to perfection and imperfection. This implies that there is a mandated, divine, or at least directed progres`aion.
 
Magnus phil
 
Reply Sun 31 Jan, 2010 09:50 am
@rhinogrey,
Einstein said we create our own reality. If we create it from idealism, that may bring us better results than if we had no ideals.
 
jeeprs
 
Reply Sun 31 Jan, 2010 04:45 pm
@Magnus phil,
Magnus;123865 wrote:
Einstein said we create our own reality.


He did? I would be extremely surprised. He was a scientific realist. But if you can show me a quote, I am willing to be persuaded.
 
Magnus phil
 
Reply Sun 31 Jan, 2010 05:50 pm
@rhinogrey,
I was wrong. It's a new age slogan that I must have heard misquoted, or maybe I wasn't really paying attention as I was watching What the Bleep...That is where I thought I heard it from.

I've had bad experiences with being an idealist.
 
jeeprs
 
Reply Sun 31 Jan, 2010 06:07 pm
@rhinogrey,
Yes I watched 'What the Bleep'. I was dissappointed with it, really. I wanted to like it, but the script must have originated in a hot tub at Esalen, I think.

Incidentally, if you're interested in Einstein, the recent biography Einstein His Life and Universe, by Walter Isaacson, is first rate.
 
William
 
Reply Sun 31 Jan, 2010 07:59 pm
@rhinogrey,
Am I the only one who envisions a God other than that one imposed by religion? It seems this God of religion is one for those who love the thrill of argument will not let die for then what will amuse them?

William
 
jeeprs
 
Reply Sun 31 Jan, 2010 08:14 pm
@rhinogrey,
You might like this article William. I think I will do a precis of it for the forum also (it is not in the least connected with Bakunin or materialism, but anyway....)

??? Veda: Dharma and Religion
 
Eudaimon
 
Reply Mon 1 Feb, 2010 03:42 am
@rhinogrey,
Bakunin as well as many other so-called materialists, like K. Marx , Lenin, Kropotkin and those of their ilk are not, so to say, philosophical materialists. For them as well as for many modern materialists this is nothing but means to fight for their own ideals. They just need to justify their desires, their behaviour and the just serves for this.
It is significant that Bakunin paraphrased Voltaire’s saying. The purpose of Voltaire’s defence of God was to keep people in obedience, that is he, as well those “materialists”, was not interested in the true solution of the problem. The same was done by Kant and all those who say that God is indispensable to any ethical theory.
If one really wants to know the truth, the first thing to do is to look upon the matter without any prejudices. Otherwise thou wilt get the answer thou wantest to get.
 
jeeprs
 
Reply Mon 1 Feb, 2010 04:40 am
@rhinogrey,
it is also that when everything spiritual is rejected, then all that appears to be operative is material reality, although this too is an abstraction and not at all as it appears.
 
Eudaimon
 
Reply Tue 2 Feb, 2010 04:34 am
@rhinogrey,
Well, that's a tricky question, my friend. No one can reject everything spiritual altogether. Even the most materialistic materialist remains human. And human cannot be conceived without spirituality, even though he may reject the word. Spirituality is the way out from suffering. Suffering is real and I wonder if there are people who reject its existence. Everyone is trying to find the way out from it, everyone strives for what is good, everyone wants to be happy. And spirituality is exactly the thing which deals with these things.
 
jeeprs
 
Reply Tue 2 Feb, 2010 04:46 am
@rhinogrey,
You know that, and I know that, but I am very doubtful that Bakunin (or Sarte, or Camus, or Marx, or Engels) would have agreed with that in the least. They reject anything religious or spiritual whatsoever - there is only matter in motion. That is what materialism says. Although in actual fact this flipping between 'matter' and 'mind' or between 'body' and 'spirit' in Western thought, are really just two partial views of the whole situation.

Actually a Zen philosopher I am familiar with, Nishijima, says that idealism and materialism are simply historic phases of the development of human thought and that neither are complete. See To Meet the Real Dragon, Gudo Nishijima.
 
 

 
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