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Concatenation of principles

Monday, 27 Feb 2017

Engels on Dr John Dunn. Friedrich Engels

Social relations act as a hostile force dominating people. People themselves are the makers of history, but they are not free of the objective circumstances that result. Instead they are wholly dependent on them and historical necessity is realised spontaneously. Engels expressed the conundrum succinctly:

What each individual wills is obstructed by everyone else, and what emerges is something that no one willed. (Engels letter to J. Bloch in Königsberg, 1890)

The world outlook of people confronting these objective circumstances is a concatenation of principles, views and convictions which determines their attitude to reality. The dominant world outlook remains that of the bourgeoisie and concentrates around the protection of their rule, privileges and denial of the ownership of the means of production to wider society. In this respect the world outlook of the bourgeoisie has not only a class but a reactionary character. However, the bourgeois world view is not held by the dominating class alone, its fundamental premises are shared by all who would live, work, survive and ‘succeed’ within the only cultural milieu that is familiar to them.

The bourgeois world view is all-pervasive and is systematised by theoreticians as philosophical idealism. Reality is perceived through a creator, human existence, the flow of direct states of consciousness (existentialism), or as something that can be experimentally verified (neo-positivism).

The result is a flat evolutionism or ‘creationism’ which recognises in one form or another the creation of the world out of nothing.

Bourgeois idealistic philosophy serves as the theoretical foundation of falsifying dialectical materialism and therefore socialism. It does this in two principle ways. Firstly by arguing that human beings are irrational with existences that are senseless and driven by immutable instincts, an approach that was typified in Bertrand Russell’s Nobel Prize acceptance speech, ‘The Four Desires Driving All Human Behaviour’. Secondly by preaching an aggressive voluntarism, an approach typified in the will to power of Friedrich Nietzsche

Bourgeois idealist philosophy is a reflection of the spontaneous and still undisclosed social relations dominating humankind. It is a modern emanation of religion, notwithstanding Nietzsche’s famous pronouncement that ‘God is dead’.


Religion expresses the state of non-freedom, the historical subordination to theunconquered natural forces and obscured social relations which remain hostile. In religious consciousness these hostile entities take the form of something supernatural. Faith in the existence of supernatural forces on which existence and fate depend is the main feature of any religion. It remains also the foundational principle of bourgeois idealistic philosophies for which the veil remains drawn across the truth of social relations.

(Notes on Hegel drawn from from E. V. Ilyenkov’s Dialectical Logic.)

John Dunn.







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