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Home page > 20- ENGLISH - MATERIAL AND REVOLUTION > Frederick Engels and Science

Frederick Engels and Science

Monday 2 April 2018, by Robert Paris

Read Here "Dialectics of Nature"

Anti-Dühring by Frederick Engels 1877 :

Philosophy of Nature

Time and Space

We now come to philosophy of nature. Here again Herr Dühring has every cause for dissatisfaction with his predecessors.

“Natural philosophy sank so low that it became an arid, spurious doggerel founded on ignorance”, and “fell to the prostituted philosophistics of a Schelling and his like, rigging themselves out in the priesthood of the Absolute and hoodwinking the public”. Fatigue has saved us from these “deformities”; but up to now it has only given place to “instability”; “and as far as the public at large is concerned, it is well known that the disappearance of a great charlatan is often only the opportunity for a lesser but commercially more experienced successor to put out again, under another signboard; the products of his predecessor”. Natural scientists themselves feel little “inclination to make excursions into the realm of world-encompassing ideas”, and consequently jump to “wild and hasty conclusions in the theoretical sphere” D. Ph. 56-57.

The need for deliverance is therefore urgent, and by a stroke of good luck Herr Dühring is at hand.

In order properly to appreciate the revelations which now follow on the development of the world in time and its limitations in space, we must turn back again to certain passages in "world schematism" 15.

Infinity — which Hegel calls bad infinity — is attributed to being also in accordance with Hegel (Encyclopaedia, § 93), and then this infinity is investigated.

“The clearest form of an infinity which can be conceived without contradiction is the unlimited accumulation of numbers in a numerical series 18 ... As we can add yet another unit to any number, without ever exhausting the possibility of further numbers, so also to every state of being a further state succeeds, and infinity consists in the unlimited begetting of these states. This exactly conceived infinity has consequently only one single basic form with one single direction. For although it is immaterial to our thought whether or not it conceives an opposite direction in the accumulation of states, this retrogressing infinity is nevertheless only a rashly constructed thought-image. Indeed, since this infinity would have to be traversed in reality in the reverse direction, it would in each of its states have an infinite succession of numbers behind itself. But this would involve the impermissible contradiction of a counted infinite numerical series, and so it is contrary to reason to postulate any second direction in infinity” 19.

The first conclusion drawn from this conception of infinity is that the chain of causes and effects in the world must at some time have had a beginning:

“an infinite number of causes which assumedly already have lined up next to one another is inconceivable, just because it presupposes that the uncountable has been counted” 37.

And thus a final cause is proved.

The second conclusion is

“the law of definite number: the accumulation of identities of any actual species of independent things is only conceivable as forming a definite number“. Not only must the number of celestial bodies existing at any point of time be in itself definite, but so must also the total number of all, even the tiniest independent particles of matter existing in the world. This latter requisite is the real reason why no composition can be conceived without atoms. All actual division has always a definite limit, and must have it if the contradiction of the counted uncountable is to be avoided. For the same reason, not only must the number of the earth’s revolutions round the sun up to the present time be a definite number, even though it cannot be stated, but all periodical processes of nature must have had some beginning, and all differentiation, all the multifariousness of nature which appears in succession must have its roots in one self-equal state. This state may, without involving a contradiction, have existed from eternity; but even this idea would be excluded if time in itself were composed of real parts and were not, on the contrary, merely arbitrarily divided up by our minds owing to the variety of conceivable possibilities. The case is quite different with the real, and in itself distinguished content of time; this real filling of time with distinguishable facts and the forms of being of this sphere belong, precisely because of their distinguishability, to the realm of the countable 64-65. If we imagine a state in which no change occurs and which in its self-equality provides no differences of succession whatever, the more specialised idea of time transforms itself into the more general idea of being. What the accumulation of empty duration would mean is quite unimaginable 70.

Thus far Herr Dühring, and he is not a little edified by the significance of these revelations. At first he hopes that they will “at least not be regarded as paltry truths” 64; but later we find:

“Recall to your mind the extremely simple methods by which we helped forward the concepts of infinity and their critique to a hitherto unknown import... the elements of the universal conception of space and time, which have been given such simple form by the sharpening and deepening now effected” 427-28.

We helped forward! The deepening and sharpening now effected! Who are "we", and when is this "now"? Who is deepening and sharpening?

"Thesis: The world has a beginning in time, and with regard to space is also limited. — Proof: For if it is assumed that the world has no beginning in time, then an eternity must have elapsed up to every given point of time, and consequently an infinite series of successive states of things must have passed away in the world. The infinity of a series, however, consists precisely in this, that it can never be completed by means of a successive synthesis. Hence an infinite elapsed series of worlds is impossible, and consequently a beginning of the world is a necessary condition of its existence. And this was the first thing to be proved. — With regard to the second, if the opposite is again assumed, then the world must be an infinite given total of co-existent things. Now we cannot conceive the dimensions of a quantum, which is not given within certain limits of an intuition, in any other way than by means of the synthesis of its parts, and can conceive the total of such a quantum only by means of a completed synthesis, or by the repeated addition of a unit to itself. Accordingly, to conceive the world, which fills all spaces, as a whole, the successive synthesis of the parts of an infinite world would have to be looked upon as completed; that is, an infinite time would have to be regarded as elapsed in the enumeration of all co-existing things. This is impossible. For this reason an infinite aggregate of actual things cannot be regarded as a given whole nor, therefore, as given at the same time. Hence it follows that the world is not infinite, as regards extension in space, but enclosed in limits. And this was the second thing" (to be proved).

These sentences are copied word for word from a well-known book which first appeared in 1781 and is called: Kritik der reinen Vernunft by Immanuel Kant, where all and sundry can read them, in the first part, Second Division, Book II, Chapter II, Section II: The First Antinomy of Pure Reason. So that Herr Dühring’s fame rests solely on his having tacked on the name — Law of Definite Number — to an idea expressed by Kant, and on having made the discovery that there was once a time when as yet there was no time, though there was a world. As regards all the rest, that is, anything in Herr Dühring’s exegesis which has some meaning, “We” — is Immanuel Kant, and the “now” is only ninety-five years ago. Certainly “extremely simple”! Remarkable “hitherto unknown import”!

Kant, however, does not at all claim that the above propositions are established by his proof. On the contrary; on the opposite page he states and proves the reverse: that the world has no beginning in time and no end in space; and it is precisely in this that he finds the antinomy, the insoluble contradiction, that the one is just as demonstrable as the other. People of smaller calibre might perhaps fuel a little doubt here on account of “a Kant” having found an insoluble difficulty. But not so our valiant fabricator of “from the ground up original conclusions and views” D. Ph. 525; he indefatigably copies down as much of Kant’s antinomy as suits his purpose, and throws the rest aside.

The problem itself has a very simple solution. Eternity in time, infinity in space, signify from the start, and in the simple meaning of the words, that there is no end in any direction neither forwards nor backwards, upwards or downwards, to the right or to the left. This infinity is something quite different from that of an infinite series, for the latter always starts from one, with a first term. The inapplicability of this idea of series to our object becomes clear directly we apply it to space. The infinite series, transferred to the sphere of space, is a line drawn from a definite point in a definite direction to infinity. Is the infinity of space expressed in this even in the remotest way? On the contrary, the idea of spatial dimensions involves six lines drawn from this one point in three opposite directions, and consequently we would have six of these dimensions. Kant saw this so clearly that he transferred his numerical series only indirectly, in a roundabout way, to the space relations of the world. Herr Dühring, on the other hand, compels us to accept six dimensions in space, and immediately afterwards can find no words to express his indignation at the mathematical mysticism of Gauss, who would not rest content with the usual three dimensions of space [37] See D. Ph. 67-68.

As applied to time, the line or series of units infinite in both directions has a certain figurative meaning. But if we think of time as a series counted from one forward, or as a line starting from a definite point, we imply in advance that time has a beginning: we put forward as a premise precisely what we are to prove. We give the infinity of time a one-sided, halved character; but a one-sided, halved infinity is also a contradiction in itself, the exact opposite of an “infinity conceived without contradiction”. We can only get past this contradiction if we assume that the one from which we begin to count the series, the point from which we proceed to measure the line is any one in the series, that it is any one of the points in the line, and that it is a matter of indifference to the line or to the series where we place this one or this point.

But what of the contradiction of “the counted infinite numerical series”? We shall be in a position to examine this more closely as soon as Herr Dühring has performed for us the clever trick of counting it. When he has completed the task of counting from (minus infinity) to 0 let him come again. It is certainly obvious that, at whatever point he begins to count, he will leave behind him an infinite series and, with it, the task which he is to fulfil. Let him just reverse his own infinite series 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 ... and try to count from the infinite end back to 1; it would obviously only be attempted by a man who has not the faintest understanding of what the problem is. And again: if Herr Dühring states that the infinite series of elapsed time has been counted, he is thereby stating that time has a beginning; for otherwise he would not have been able to start “counting” at all. Once again, therefore, he puts into the argument, as a premise, the thing that he has to prove.

The idea of an infinite series which has been counted, in other words, the world-encompassing Dühringian law of definite number, is therefore a contradictio in adjecto, [“contradiction in definition” — ed.] contains within itself a contradiction, and in fact an absurd contradiction.

It is clear that an infinity which has an end but no beginning is neither more nor less infinite than that which has a beginning but no end. The slightest dialectical insight should have told Herr Dühring that beginning and end necessarily belong together, like the north pole and the south pole, and that if the end is left out, the beginning just becomes the end — the one end which the series has; and vice versa. The whole deception would be impossible but for the mathematical usage of working with infinite series. Because in mathematics it is necessary to start from definite, finite terms in order to reach the indefinite, the infinite, all mathematical series, positive or negative, must start from 1, or they cannot be used for calculation. The abstract requirement of a mathematician is, however, far from being a compulsory law for the world of reality.

For that matter, Herr Dühring will never succeed in conceiving real infinity without contradiction. Infinity is a contradiction, and is full of contradictions. From the outset it is a contradiction that an infinity is composed of nothing but finites, and yet this is the case. The limitedness of the material world leads no less to contradictions than its unlimitedness, and every attempt to get over these contradictions leads, as we have seen, to new and worse contradictions. It is just because infinity is a contradiction that it is an infinite process, unrolling endlessly in time and in space. The removal of the contradiction would be the end of infinity. Hegel saw this quite correctly, and for that reason treated with well-merited contempt the gentlemen who subtilised over this contradiction.

Let us pass on. So time had a beginning. What was there before this beginning? The universe, which was then in a self-equal, unchanging state. And as in this state no changes succeed one another, the more specialised idea of time transforms itself into the more general idea of being. In the first place, we are here not in the least concerned with what ideas change in Herr Dühring’s head. The subject at issue is not the idea of time, but real time, which Herr Dühring cannot rid himself of so cheaply. In the second place, however much the idea of time may convert itself into the more general idea of being, this does not take us one step further. For the basic forms of all being are space and time, and being out of time is just as gross an absurdity as being out of space. The Hegelian “being past away non-temporally” and the neo-Schellingian “unpremeditatable being” are rational ideas compared with this being out of time. And for this reason Herr Dühring sets to work very cautiously; actually it is of course time, but of such a kind as cannot really be called time, time, indeed, in itself does not consist of real parts, and is only divided up at will by our mind — only an actual filling of time with distinguishable facts is susceptible of being counted — what the accumulation of empty duration means is quite unimaginable. What this accumulation is supposed to mean is here beside the point; the question is, whether the world, in the state here assumed, has duration, passes through a duration in time. We have long known that we can get nothing by measuring such a duration without content just as we can get nothing by measuring without aim or purpose in empty space; and Hegel, just because of the weariness of such an effort, calls such an infinity bad. According to Herr Dühring time exists only through change; change in and through time does not exist. Just because time is different from change, is independent of it, it is possible to measure it by change, for measuring always requires something different from the thing to be measured. And time in which no recognisable changes occur is very far removed from not being time; it is rather pure time, unaffected by any foreign admixtures, that is, real time, time as such. In fact, if we want to grasp the idea of time in all its purity, divorced from all alien and extraneous admixtures, we are compelled to put aside, as not being relevant here, all the various events which occur simultaneously or one after another in time, and in this way to form the idea of a time in which nothing happens. In doing this, therefore, we have not let the concept of time be submerged in the general idea of being, but have thereby for the first time arrived at the pure concept of time.

But all these contradictions and impossibilities are only mere child”s play compared with the confusion into which Herr Dühring falls with his self-equal initial state of the world. If the world had ever been in a state in which no change whatever was taking place, how could it pass from this state to alteration? The absolutely unchanging, especially when it has been in this state from eternity, cannot possibly get out of such a state by itself and pass over into a state of motion and change. An initial impulse must therefore have come from outside, from outside the universe, an impulse which set it in motion. But as everyone knows, the “initial impulse” is only another expression for God. God and the beyond, which in his world schematism Herr Dühring pretended to have so beautifully dismantled, are both introduced again by him here, sharpened and deepened, into natural philosophy.

Further, Herr Dühring says:

“Where magnitude is attributed to a constant element of being, it will remain unchanged in its determinateness. This holds good ... of matter and mechanical force” D. Ph. 26.

The first sentence, it may be noted in passing, is a precious example of Herr Dühring’s axiomatic-tautological grandiloquence: where magnitude does not change, it remains the same. Therefore the amount of mechanical force which exists in the world remains the same for all eternity. We will overlook the fact that, in so far as this is correct, Descartes already knew and said it in philosophy nearly three hundred years ago; that in natural science the theory of the conservation of energy has held sway for the last twenty years; and that Herr Dühring, in limiting it to mechanical force, does not in any way improve on it. But where was the mechanical force at the time of the unchanging state? Herr Dühring obstinately refuses to give us any answer to this question.

Where, Herr Dühring, was the eternally self-equal mechanical force at that time, and what did it put in motion? The reply:

“The original state of the universe, or to put it more plainly, of an unchanging existence of matter which comprised no accumulation of changes in time, is a question which can be spurned only by a mind that sees the acme of wisdom in the self-mutilation of its own generative power.” 78-79.

Therefore: either you accept without examination my unchanging original state, or I, Eugen Dühring, the possessor of creative power, will certify you as intellectual eunuchs. That may, of course, deter a good many people. But we, who have already seen some examples of Herr Dühring’s generative power, can permit ourselves to leave this genteel abuse unanswered for the moment, and ask once again: But Herr Dühring, if you please, what about that mechanical force?

Herr Dühring at once grows embarrassed.

In actual fact, he stammers, “the absolute identity of that initial extreme state does not in itself provide any principle of transition. But we must remember that at bottom the position is similar with every new link, however small, in the chain of existence with which we are familiar. So that whoever wants to raise difficulties in the fundamental case now under consideration must take care that he does not allow himself to pass them by on less obvious occasions. Moreover, there exists the possibility of interposing successively graduated intermediate stages, and also a bridge of continuity by which it is possible to move backwards and reach the extinction of the process of change. It is true that from a purely conceptual standpoint this continuity does not help us pass the main difficulty, but to us it is the basic form of all regularity and of every known form of transition in general, so that we are entitled to use it also as a medium between that first equilibrium and the disturbance of it. But if we had conceived the so to speak” (!) “motionless equilibrium on the model of the ideas which are accepted without any particular objection” (!) “in our present-day mechanics, there would be no way of explaining how matter could have reached the process of change.” Apart from the mechanics of masses there is, however, we are told, also a transformation of mass movement into the movement of extremely small particles, but as to how this takes place — “for this up to the present we have no general principle at our disposal and consequently we should not be surprised if these processes take place somewhat in the dark” 79-80, 81.

That is all Herr Dühring has to say. And in fact, we would have to see the acme of wisdom not only in the “self-mutilation of our generative power” 79, but also in blind, implicit faith, if we allowed ourselves to be put off with these really pitiable rank subterfuges and circumlocutions. Herr Dühring admits that absolute identity cannot of itself effect the transition to change. Nor is there any means whereby absolute equilibrium can of itself pass into motion. What is there, then? Three lame, false arguments.

Firstly: it is just as difficult to show the transition from each link, however small, in the chain of existence with which we are familiar, to the next one. — Herr Dühring seems to think his readers are infants. The establishment of individual transitions and connections between the tiniest links in the chain of existence is precisely the content of natural science, and when there is a hitch at some point in its work no one, not even Herr Dühring, thinks of explaining prior motion as having arisen out of nothing, but always only as a transfer, transformation or transmission of some previous motion. But here the issue is admittedly one of accepting motion as having arisen out of immobility, that is, out of nothing.

In the second place, we have the “bridge of continuity”. From a purely conceptual standpoint, this, to be sure, does not help us over the difficulty, but all the same we are entitled to use it as a medium between immobility and motion. Unfortunately the continuity of immobility consists in not moving; how therefore it is to produce motion remains more mysterious than ever. And however infinitely small the parts into which Herr Dühring minces his transition from complete non-motion to universal motion, and however long the duration he assigns to it, we have not got a ten-thousandth part of a millimetre further. Without an act of creation we can never get from nothing to something, even if the something were as small as a mathematical differential. The bridge of continuity is therefore not even an asses’ bridge [37a]; it is passable only for Herr Dühring.

Thirdly: so long as present-day mechanics holds good — and this science, according to Herr Dühring, is one of the most essential levers for the formation of thought — it cannot be explained at all how it is possible to pass from immobility to motion. But the mechanical theory of heat shows us that the movement of masses under certain conditions changes into molecular movement (although here too one motion originates from another motion, but never from immobility); and this, Herr Dühring shyly suggests, may possibly furnish a bridge between the strictly static (in equilibrium) and dynamic (in motion). But these processes take place “somewhat in the dark”. And it is in the dark that Herr Dühring leaves us sitting.

This is the point we have reached with all his deepening and sharpening — that we have perpetually gone deeper into ever sharper nonsense, and finally land up where of necessity we had to land up — “in the dark”. But this does not abash Herr Dühring much. Right on the next page he has the effrontery to declare that he has

“been able to provide a real content for the idea of self-equal stability directly from the behaviour of matter and the mechanical forces” D. Ph. 82.

And this man describes other people as “charlatans”!

Fortunately, in spite of all this helpless wandering and confusion “in the dark”, we are left with one consolation, and this is certainly edifying to the soul:

“The mathematics of the inhabitants of other celestial bodies can rest on no other axioms than our own!” 69.

Philosophy of Nature

Cosmogony, Physics, Chemistry

Passing on, we come now to the theories concerning the manner in which the present world came into existence.

A state of universal dispersion of matter, we are told, was the point of departure of the ionic philosophers, but later, particularly from the time of Kant, the assumption of a primordial nebula played a new role, gravitation and the radiation of heat having been instrumental in the gradual formation of separate solid celestial bodies. The contemporary mechanical theory of heat makes it possible to deduce the earlier states of the universe in a far more definite form. However, “the state of gaseous dispersion can be a starting-point for serious deductions only when it is possible to characterise beforehand more definitely the mechanical system existing in it. Otherwise not only does the idea in fact remain extremely nebulous, but also the original nebula, as the deductions progress, really becomes ever thicker and more impenetrable; ... meanwhile it all still remains in the vagueness and formlessness of an idea of diffusion that cannot be more closely determined”, and so “this gaseous universe” provides us with “only an extremely airy conception” D. Ph. 85-87.

The Kantian theory of the origin of all existing celestial bodies from rotating nebular masses was the greatest advance made by astronomy since Copernicus. For the first time the conception that nature had no history in time began to be shaken. Until then the celestial bodies were believed to have been always, from the very beginning, in the same states and always to have followed the same courses; and even though individual organisms on the various celestial bodies died out, nevertheless genera and species were held to be immutable. It is true that nature was obviously in constant motion, but this motion appeared as an incessant repetition of the same processes. Kant made the first breach in this conception, which corresponded exactly to the metaphysical mode of thought, and he did it in such a scientific way that most of the proofs furnished by him still hold good today. At the same time, the Kantian theory is still, strictly considered, only a hypothesis. But the Copernican world system, too, is still no more than this, [38] and since the spectroscopic proof of the existence of such red-hot gaseous masses in the starry heavens, proof that brooks no contradiction, the scientific opposition to Kant ’s theory has been silenced. Even Herr Dühring cannot complete his construction of the world without such a nebular stage, but takes his revenge for this by demanding to be shown the mechanical system existing in this nebular stage, and because no one can show him this, he applies all kinds of depreciatory epithets to this nebular stage of the universe. Contemporary science unfortunately cannot describe this system to Herr Dühring ’s satisfaction. Just as little is it able to answer many other questions. To the question: Why do toads have no tails? — up to now it has only been able to answer: Because they have lost them. But should anyone get excited over that and say that this is to leave the whole question in the vagueness and formlessness of an idea of loss which cannot be determined more closely, and that it is an extremely airy conception, such an application of morality to natural science does not take us one step further. Such expressions of dislike and bad temper can be used always and everywhere, and just for that reason they should never be used anywhere. After all, who is stopping Herr Dühring from himself discovering the mechanical system of the primordial nebula?

Fortunately we now learn that

the Kantian nebular mass “is far from coinciding with a completely identical state of the world medium, or, to put it another way, with the self-equal state of matter” D. Ph. 87.

It was really fortunate for Kant that he was able to content himself with going back from the existing celestial bodies to the nebular ball, and did not even dream of the self-equal state of matter! It may be remarked in passing that when contemporary natural science describes the Kantian nebular ball as primordial nebula, this, it goes without saying, is only to be understood in a relative sense. It is primordial nebula, on the one hand, in that it is the origin of the existing celestial bodies, and on the other hand because it is the earliest form of matter which we have up to now been able to work back to. This certainly does not exclude but rather implies the supposition that before the nebular stage matter passed through an infinite series of other forms.

Herr Dühring sees his advantage here. Where we, with science, stand still for the time being at what for the time being is deemed primordial nebula, his science of sciences helps him much further back to that

“state of the world medium which cannot be understood either as purely static in the present meaning of the idea, or as dynamic” 87

which therefore cannot be understood at all.

“The unity of matter and mechanical force which we call the world medium is what might be termed a logical-real formula for indicating the self-equal state of matter as the prerequisite of all innumerable stages of evolution” 87-88.

We are clearly not by a long shot rid of the self-equal primordial state of matter. Here it is spoken of as the unity of matter and mechanical force, and this as a logical-real formula, etc. Hence, as soon as the unity of matter and mechanical force comes to an end, motion begins.

The logical-real formula is nothing but a lame attempt to make the Hegelian categories “in itself ” [An sich] and "for itself" [Für sich] usable in the philosophy of reality. With Hegel, “in itself ” covers the original identity of the hidden, undeveloped contradictions within a thing, a process or an idea, and “for itself ” contains the distinction and separation of these hidden elements and the starting-point of their conflict. We are therefore to think of the motionless primordial state as the unity of matter and mechanical force, and of the transition to movement as their separation and opposition. What we have gained by this is not any proof of the reality of that fantastic primordial state, but only the fact that it is possible to bring this state under the Hegelian category of “in itself”, and its equally fantastic termination under the category of “for itself”. Hegel help us!

Matter, Herr Dühring says, is the bearer of all reality; accordingly, there can be no mechanical force apart from matter. Mechanical force is furthermore a state of matter See D. Ph. 73. In the original state, when nothing happened, matter and its state, mechanical force, were one. Afterwards, when something began to happen, this state must apparently have become different from matter. So we are to let ourselves be dismissed with these mystical phrases and with the assurance that the self-equal state was neither static nor dynamic, neither in equilibrium nor in motion. We still do not know where mechanical force was in that state, and how we are to get from absolute immobility to motion without an impulse from outside, that is, without God.

The materialists before Herr Dühring spoke of matter and motion. He reduces motion to mechanical force as its supposed basic form, and thereby makes it impossible for himself to understand the real connection between matter and motion, which moreover was also unclear to all former materialists. And yet it is simple enough. Motion is the mode of existence of matter. Never anywhere has there been matter without motion, nor can there be. Motion in cosmic space, mechanical motion of smaller masses on the various celestial bodies, the vibration of molecules as heat or as electrical or magnetic currents, chemical disintegration and combination, organic life — at each given moment each individual atom of matter in the world is in one or other of these forms of motion, or in several forms at once. All rest, all equilibrium, is only relative, only has meaning in relation to one or other definite form of motion. On the earth, for example, a body may be in mechanical equilibrium, may be mechanically at rest; but this in no way prevents it from participating in the motion of the earth and in that of the whole solar system, just as little as it prevents its most minute physical particles from carrying out the vibrations determined by its temperature, or its atoms from passing through a chemical process. Matter without motion is just as inconceivable as motion without matter. Motion is therefore as uncreatable and indestructible as matter itself; as the older philosophy (Descartes) expressed it, the quantity of motion existing in the world is always the same. Motion therefore cannot be created; it can only be transferred. When motion is transferred from one body to another, it may be regarded, in so far as it transfers itself, is active, as the- cause of motion, in so far as the latter is transferred, is passive. We call this active motion force, and the passive, the manifestation of force. Hence it is as clear as daylight that a force is as great as its manifestation, because in fact the same motion takes place in both.

A motionless state of matter is therefore one of the most empty and nonsensical of ideas — a “delirious fantasy ” of the purest water. In order to arrive at such an idea it is necessary to conceive the relative mechanical equilibrium, a state in which a body on the earth may be, as absolute rest, and then to extend this equilibrium over the whole universe. This is certainly made easier if universal motion is reduced to purely mechanical force. And the restriction of motion to purely mechanical force has the further advantage that a force can be conceived as at rest, as tied up, and therefore for the moment inoperative. For if, as is very often the case, the transfer of a motion is a somewhat complex process containing a number of intermediate links, it is possible to postpone the actual transmission to any moment desired by omitting the last link in the chain. This is the case, for instance, if a man loads a gun and postpones the moment when, by the pulling of the trigger, the discharge, the transfer of the motion set free by the combustion of the powder, takes place. It is therefore possible to imagine that during its motionless, self-equal state, matter was loaded with force, and this, if anything at all, seems to be what Herr Dühring understands by the unity of matter and mechanical force. This conception is nonsensical, because it transfers to the entire universe a state as absolute, which by its nature is relative and therefore can only affect a part of matter at any one time. Even if we overlook this point, the difficulty still remains: first, how did the world come to be loaded, since nowadays guns do not load themselves; and second, whose finger was it then that pulled the trigger? We may turn and twist as much as we like, but under Herr Dühring’s guidance we always come back again to — the finger of God.

From astronomy our philosopher of reality passes on to mechanics and physics, and voices the lament that the mechanical theory of heat has not, in the generation since its discovery, been materially advanced beyond the point to which Robert Mayer had himself developed it, bit by bit. Apart from this, the whole business is still very obscure;

we must “always remember that in the states of motion of matter, static relations are also present, and that these latter are not measurable by the mechanical work ... if previously we described nature as a great worker, and if we now construe this expression strictly, we must furthermore add that the self-equal states and static relations do not represent mechanical work. So once again we miss the bridge from the static to the dynamic, and if so-called latent heat has up to now remained a stumbling-block for the theory, we must recognise a defect in this too, which can least be denied in its cosmic applications” D. Ph. 90.

This whole oracular discourse is once again nothing but the outpouring of a bad conscience, which is very well aware that with its creation of motion out of absolute immobility it got irretrievably stuck in the mud, but is nevertheless ashamed to appeal to the only possible saviour, namely, the creator of heaven and earth. If the bridge from the static to the dynamic, from equilibrium to motion, cannot be found even in mechanics, including the mechanics of heat, under what obligations is Herr Dühring to find the bridge from his motionless state to motion? That would be a fortunate way for him to get out of his plight.

In ordinary mechanics the bridge from the static to the dynamic is — the external impulse. If a stone weighing a hundredweight is raised from the ground ten yards into the air and is freely suspended in such a way that it remains hanging there in a self-equal state and in a condition of rest, it would be necessary to have an audience of sucklings to be able to maintain that the present position of this body does not represent any mechanical work, or that its distance from its previous position is not measurable by mechanical work. Any passer-by will easily explain to Herr Dühring that the stone did not rise of itself to the rope and any manual of mechanics will tell him that if he lets the stone fall again it performs in falling just as much mechanical work as was necessary to raise it the ten yards in the air. Even the simple fact that the stone is hanging up there represents mechanical work, for if it remains hanging long enough the rope breaks, as soon as chemical decomposition makes it no longer strong enough to bear the weight of the stone. But it is to such simple basic forms, to use Herr Dühring’s language, that all mechanical processes can be reduced, and the engineer is still to be born who cannot find the bridge from the static to the dynamic, so long as he has at his disposal a sufficient external impulse.

To be sure, it is a hard nut and a bitter pill for our metaphysician that motion should find its measure in its opposite, in rest. That is indeed a crying contradiction, and every contradiction, according to Herr Dühring, is nonsense D. Ph. 30. It is none the less a fact that a suspended stone represents a definite quantity of mechanical motion, which is measurable exactly by the stone’s weight and its distance from the ground, and may be used in various ways at will, for example, by its direct fall, by sliding down an inclined plane, or by turning a shaft. The same is true of a loaded gun. From the dialectical standpoint, the possibility of expressing motion in its opposite, in rest, presents absolutely no difficulty. From the dialectical standpoint the whole antithesis, as we have seen, is only relative; there is no such thing as absolute rest, unconditional equilibrium. Each separate movement strives towards equilibrium, and the motion as a whole puts an end again to the equilibrium. When therefore rest and equilibrium occur they are the result of limited motion, and it is self-evident that this motion is measurable by its result, can be expressed in it, and can be restored out of it again in one form or another. But Herr Dühring cannot allow himself to be satisfied with such a simple presentation of the matter. As a good metaphysician he first tears open, between motion and equilibrium, a yawning gulf which does not exist in reality and is then surprised that he cannot find any bridge across this self-fabricated gulf. He might just as well mount his metaphysical Rosinante [Don Quixote’s horse] and chase the Kantian “thing-in-itself”; for it is that and nothing else which in the last analysis is hiding behind this undiscoverable bridge.

But what about the mechanical theory of heat and the tied-up or latent heat which “has remained a stumbling-block” for this theory?

If, under normal atmospheric pressure, a pound of ice at the temperature of the freezing point is transformed by heat into a pound of water of the same temperature, a quantity of heat disappears which would be sufficient to warm the same pound of water from 0° to 79.4° C, or to raise the temperature of 79.4 pounds of water by one degree. If this pound of water is heated to boiling point, that is, to 100° C, and is then transformed into steam of 100° C, the amount of heat that disappears, by the time the last of the water has changed into steam, is almost seven times greater, sufficient to raise the temperature of 537.2 pounds of water by one degree. The heat that disappears is called tied-up. If, by cooling, the steam is again transformed into water, and the water, in its turn, into ice, the same quantity of heat as was previously tied up is now again set free, i.e., can be felt and measured as heat. This setting free of heat on the condensation of steam and the freezing of water is the reason why steam, when cooled to 100°, is only gradually transformed into water, and why a mass of water of freezing point temperature is only very gradually transformed into ice. These are the facts. The question is, what happens to the heat while it is tied up?

The mechanical theory of heat, according to which heat consists in a greater or lesser vibration, depending on the temperature and state of aggregation, of the smallest physically active particles (molecules) of a body — a vibration which under certain conditions can change into any other form of motion — explains that the heat that has disappeared has done work, has been transformed into work. When ice melts, the close and firm connection between the individual molecules is broken, and transformed into a loose juxtaposition; when water at boiling point becomes steam a state is reached in which the individual molecules no longer have any noticeable influence on one another, and under the influence of heat even fly apart in all directions. It is clear that the single molecules of a body are endowed with far greater energy in the gaseous state than they are in the fluid state, and in the fluid state again more than in the solid state. The tied-up heat, therefore, has not disappeared; it has merely been transformed, and has assumed the form of molecular tension. As soon as the condition under which the separate molecules are able to maintain their absolute or relative freedom in regard to one another ceases to exist — that is, as soon as the temperature falls below the minimum of 100° or 0°, as the case may be, this tension relaxes, the molecules again press towards each other with the same force with which they had previously flown apart; and this force disappears, but only to reappear as heat, and as precisely the same quantity of heat as had previously been tied up. This explanation is of course a hypothesis, as is the whole mechanical theory of heat, inasmuch as no one has up to now ever seen a molecule, not to mention one in vibration. Just for this reason it is certain to be full of defects as this still very young theory is as a whole, but it can at least explain what happens without in any way coming into conflict with the indestructibility and uncreatability of motion, and it is even able to account for the whereabouts of heat during its transformations. Latent, or tied-up, heat is therefore in no way a stumbling-block for the mechanical theory of heat. On the contrary, this theory provides the first rational explanation of what takes place, and it involves no stumbling-block except in so far as physicists continue to describe heat which has been transformed into another form of molecular energy by means of the term “tied-up”, which has become obsolete and unsuitable.

The self-equal states and conditions of rest in the solid, in the liquid and in the gaseous state of aggregation therefore represent, to be sure, mechanical work, in so far as mechanical work is the measure of heat. Both the solid crust of the earth and the water of the ocean, in their present aggregate states, represent a definite quantity of heat set free, to which of course corresponds an equally definite quantity of mechanical force. In the transition of the gaseous ball, from which the earth has developed, into the liquid and subsequently into the largely solid aggregate state, a definite quantity of molecular energy was radiated as heat into space. The difficulty about which Herr Dühring mumbles in his mysterious manner therefore does not exist, and though even in applying the theory cosmically we may come up against defects and gaps — which must be attributed to our imperfect means of knowledge — we nowhere come up against theoretically insuperable obstacles. The bridge from the static to the dynamic is here, too, the external impulse — the cooling or heating brought about by other bodies acting on an object which is in a state of equilibrium. The further we explore this natural philosophy of Dühring’s, the more impossible appear all attempts to explain motion out of immobility or to find the bridge over which the purely static, the resting, can by itself pass to the dynamic, to motion.

With this we have fortunately rid ourselves for a time of the self-equal primordial state. Herr Dühring passes on to chemistry, and takes the opportunity to reveal to us three laws of nature’s inertness which have so far been discovered by his philosophy of reality, viz.:

(1) the quantity of all matter in general, (2) that of the simple (chemical) elements, and (3) that of mechanical force are constant D. Ph. 97

Hence: the uncreatability and indestructibility of matter, and also of its simple component parts, in so far as it is made up of such, as well as the uncreatability and indestructibility of motion — these old facts known the world over and expressed most inadequately — is the only positive thing which Herr Dühring can provide us with as a result of his natural philosophy of the inorganic world. We knew all this long ago. But what we did not know was that they were “laws of inertness” and as such “schematic properties of the system of things”. We are witnessing a repetition of what happened above to Kant: Herr Dühring picks up some old familiar quip, sticks a Dühring label on it, and calls the result:

“from the ground up original conclusions and views ... system-creating ideas 525 deep-rooted science” 200, 219; D. C. 555-56.

But the need not by any means despair on this account. Whatever defects even the most deep-rooted science and the best-ordered society may have, Herr Dühring can at any rate assert one thing with confidence:

“The amount of gold existing in the universe must at all times have been the same, and it can have increased or diminished just as little as can matter in general” D. Ph. 96.

Unfortunately Herr Dühring does not tell us what we can buy with this “existing gold”.

Philosophy of Nature

The Organic World

“A single and uniform ladder of intermediate steps leads from the mechanics of pressure and impact to the linking together of sensations and ideas” D. Ph. 104.

With this assurance Herr Dühring saves himself the trouble of saying anything further about the origin of life, although it might reasonably have been expected that a thinker who had traced the evolution of the world back to its self-equal state, and is so much at home on other celestial bodies, would have known exactly what’s what also on this point. For the rest, however, the assurance he gives us is only half right unless it is completed by the Hegelian nodal line of measure relations which has already been mentioned. In spite of all gradualness, the transition from one form of motion to another always remains a leap, a decisive change. This is true of the transition from the mechanics of celestial bodies to that of smaller masses on a particular celestial body; it is equally true of the transition from the mechanics of masses to the mechanics of molecules — including the forms of motion investigated in physics proper: heat, light, electricity, magnetism. In the same way, the transition from the physics of molecules to the physics of atoms — chemistry — in turn involves a decided leap; and this is even more clearly the case in the transition from ordinary chemical action to the chemism of albumen which we call life. [39] Then within the sphere of life the leaps become ever more infrequent and imperceptible. — Once again, therefore, it is Hegel who has to correct Herr Dühring.

The concept of purpose provides Herr Dühring with a conceptual transition to the organic world. Once again, this is borrowed from Hegel, who in his Logic — the Doctrine of the Notion — makes the transition from chemism to life by means of teleology, or the science of purpose. Wherever we look in Herr Dühring we run into a Hegelian “crudity”, which he quite unblushingly dishes out to us as his own deep-rooted science. It would take us too far afield to investigate here the extent to which it is legitimate and appropriate to apply the ideas of means and end to the organic world. In any case, even the application of the Hegelian “inner purpose” — i.e., a purpose which is not imported into nature by some third party acting purposively, such as the wisdom of providence, but lies in the necessity of the thing itself — constantly leads people who are not well versed in philosophy to thoughtlessly ascribing to nature conscious and purposive activity. That same Herr Dühring who is filled with boundless moral indignation at the slightest "spiritistic" tendency in other people assures us

“with certainty that the instinctive sensations were primarily created for the sake of the satisfaction involved in their activity” D. Ph. 158.

He tells us that poor nature

“is obliged incessantly to maintain order in the world of objects” 159 and in doing so she has to settle more than one business “which requires more subtlety on the part of nature than is usually credited to her” 165. But nature not only knows why she does one thing or another; she has not only to perform the duties of a housemaid, she not only possesses subtlety, in itself a pretty good accomplishment in subjective conscious thought; she has also a will. For what the instincts do in addition, incidentally fulfilling real natural functions such as nutrition propagation, etc., “we should not regard as directly but only indirectly willed” 169.

So we have arrived at a consciously thinking and acting nature, and are thus already standing on the “bridge” — not indeed from the static to the dynamic, but from pantheism to deism. Or is Herr Dühring perhaps just for once indulging a little in “natural-philosophical semi-poetry”?

Impossible! All that our philosopher of reality can tell us of organic nature is restricted to the fight against this natural-philosophical semi-poetry, against “charlatanism with its frivolous superficialities and pseudo-scientific mystifications”, against the “poetising features” 109 of Darwinism.

The main reproach levelled against Darwin is that he transferred the Malthusian population theory from political economy to natural science, that he was held captive by the ideas of an animal breeder, that in his theory of the struggle for existence he pursued unscientific semi-poetry, and that the whole of Darwinism, after deducting what had been borrowed from Lamarck, is a piece of brutality directed against humanity.

Darwin brought back from his scientific travels the view that plant and animal species are not constant but subject to variation. In order to follow up this idea after his return home there was no better field available than that of the breeding of animals and plants. It is precisely in this field that England is the classical country; the achievements of other countries, for example Germany, fall far short of what England has achieved in this connection. Moreover, most of these successes have been won during the last hundred years, so that there is very little difficulty in establishing the facts. Darwin found that this breeding produced artificially, among animals and plants of the same species, differences greater than those found in what are generally recognised as different species. Thus was established on the one hand the variability of species up to a certain point, and on the other the possibility of a common ancestry for organisms with different specific characteristics. Darwin then investigated whether there were not possibly causes in nature which — without the conscious intention of the breeder — would nevertheless in the long run produce in living organisms changes similar to those produced by artificial selection. He discovered these causes in the disproportion between the immense number of germs [in the original Keime, ‘shoots’,‘embryos’] created by nature and the insignificant number of organisms which actually attain maturity. But as each germ strives to develop, there necessarily arises a struggle for existence which manifests itself not merely as direct bodily combat or devouring, but also as a struggle for space and light, even in the case of plants. And it is evident that in this struggle those individuals which have some individual peculiarity, however insignificant, that gives them an advantage in the struggle for existence will have the best prospect of reaching maturity and propagating themselves. These individual peculiarities have thus the tendency to descend by heredity, and when they occur among many individuals of the same species, to become more pronounced through accumulated heredity in the direction once taken; while those individuals which do not possess these peculiarities succumb more easily in the struggle for existence and gradually disappear. In this way a species is altered through natural selection, through the survival of the fittest.

Against this Darwinian theory Herr Dühring now says that the origin of the idea of the struggle for existence, as, he claims, Darwin himself admitted, has to be sought in a generalisation of the views of the economist and theoretician of population, Malthus, and that the idea therefore suffers from all the defects inherent in the priestly Malthusian ideas of over-population D. Ph. 101. — Now Darwin would not dream of saying that the origin of the idea of the struggle for existence is to be found in Malthus. He only says that his theory of the struggle for existence is the theory of Malthus applied to the animal and plant world as a whole. However great the blunder made by Darwin in accepting the Malthusian theory so naively and uncritically, nevertheless anyone can see at the first glance that no Malthusian spectacles are required to perceive the struggle for existence in nature — the contradiction between the countless host of germs which nature so lavishly produces and the small number of those which ever reach maturity, a contradiction which in fact for the most part finds its solution in a struggle for existence — often of extreme cruelty. And just as the law of wages has maintained its validity even after the Malthusian arguments on which Ricardo based it have long been consigned to oblivion, so likewise the struggle for existence can take place in nature, even without any Malthusian interpretation. For that matter, the organisms of nature also have their laws of population, which have been left practically uninvestigated, although their establishment would be of decisive importance for the theory of the evolution of species. But who was it that lent decisive impetus to work in this direction too? No other than Darwin.

Herr Dühring carefully avoids an examination of this positive side of the question. Instead, the struggle for existence is arraigned again and again. It is obvious, according to him, that there can be no talk of a struggle for existence among unconscious plants and good-natured plant-eaters:

“in the precise and definite sense the struggle for existence is found in the realm of brutality to the extent that animals live on prey and its devourment” 118.

And after he has reduced the idea of the struggle for existence to these narrow limits he can give full vent to his indignation at the brutality of this idea, which he himself has restricted to brutality. But this moral indignation only rebounds upon Herr Dühring himself, who is indeed the only author of the struggle for existence in this limited conception and is therefore solely responsible for it. It is consequently not Darwin who

“sought the laws and understanding of all nature’s actions in the kingdom of the brutes” 117, —

Darwin had in fact expressly included the whole of organic nature in the struggle — but an imaginary bugbear dressed up by Herr Dühring himself. The name: the struggle for existence, can for that matter be willingly sacrificed to Herr Dühring’s highly moral indignation. That the fact exists also among plants can be demonstrated to him by every meadow, every cornfield, every wood; and the question at issue is not what it is to be called, whether “struggle for existence” or “lack of conditions of life and mechanical effects” 118, but how this fact influences the preservation or variation of species. On this point Herr Dühring maintains an obstinate and self-equal silence. Therefore for the time being everything may remain as it was in natural selection.

But Darwinism “produces its transformations and differences out of nothing” 114.

It is true that Darwin, when considering natural selection, leaves out of account the causes which have produced the alterations in separate individuals, and deals in the first place with the way in which such individual deviations gradually become the characteristics of a race, variety or species. To Darwin it was of less immediate importance to discover these causes — which up to the present are in part absolutely unknown, and in part can only be stated in quite general terms — than to find a rational form in which their effects become fixed, acquire permanent significance. It is true that in doing this Darwin attributed to his discovery too wide a field of action, made it the sole agent in the alteration of species and neglected the causes of the repeated individual variations, concentrating rather on the form in which these variations become general; but this is a mistake which he shares with most other people who make any real advance. Moreover, if Darwin produces his individual transformations out of nothing, and in so doing applies exclusively “the wisdom of the breeder” 125, the breeder, too, must produce out of nothing his transformations in animal and plant forms which are not merely imaginary but real. But once again, the man who gave the impetus to investigate how exactly these transformations and differences arise is no other than Darwin.

In recent times the idea of natural selection was extended, particularly by Haeckel, and the variation of species conceived as a result of the mutual interaction of adaptation and heredity, in which process adaptation is taken as the factor which produces variations, and heredity as the preserving factor. This is also not regarded as satisfactory by Herr Dühring.

“Real adaptation to conditions of life which are offered or withheld by nature presupposes impulses and actions determined by ideas. Otherwise the adaptation is only apparent, and the causality operative thereupon does not rise above the low grades of the physical, chemical and plant-physiological” D. Ph. 115.

Once again it is the name which makes Herr Dühring angry. But whatever name he may give to the process, the question here is whether variations in the species of organisms are produced through such processes or not. And again Herr Dühring gives no answer.

“If, in growing, a plant takes the path along which it will receive most light, this effect of the stimulus is nothing but a combination of physical forces and chemical agents, and any attempt to describe it as adaptation — not metaphorically, but in the strict sense of the word — must introduce a spiritistic confusion into the concepts” 115.

Such is the severity meted out to others by the very man who knows exactly by whose will nature does one thing or another, who speaks of nature’s subtlety and even of her will! Spiritistic confusion, yes — but where, in Haeckel or in Herr Dühring?

And not only spiritistic, but also logical confusion. We saw that Herr Dühring insists with might and main on establishing the validity in nature of the concept of purpose:

“The relation between means and end does not in the least presuppose a conscious intention” 102.

What, then, is adaptation without conscious intention, without the mediation of ideas, which he so zealously opposes, if not such unconscious purposive activity?

If therefore tree-frogs and leaf-eating insects are green, desert animals sandy-yellow, and animals of the polar regions mainly snow-white in colour, they have certainly not adopted these colours on purpose or in conformity with any ideas; on the contrary, the colours can only be explained on the basis of physical forces and chemical agents. And yet it cannot be denied that these animals, because of those colours, are purposively adapted to the environment in which they live, in that they have become far less visible to their enemies. In just the same way the organs with which certain plants seize and devour insects alighting on them are adapted to this action, and even purposively adapted. Consequently, if Herr Dühring insists that this adaptation must be effected through ideas, he as much as says, only in other words, that purposive activity must also be brought about through ideas, must be conscious and intentional. And this brings us, as is usually the case in his philosophy of reality, to a purposive creator, to God.

“An explanation of this kind used to be called deism, and was not thought much of” — Herr Dühring tells us — “but on this matter, too, views now seem to have been reversed” 111.

From adaptation we now pass on to heredity. Here likewise, according to Herr Dühring, Darwinism is completely on the wrong track. The whole organic world, Darwin is said to have asserted, descended from one primordial being, is so to speak the progeny of one single being. Dühring states that, in Darwin’s view, there is no such thing as the independent parallel lines of homogeneous products of nature unless mediated by common descent; and that therefore Darwin and his retrospectively directed views had perforce to come to an end at the point where the thread of begetting, or other form of propagation, breaks off 111.

The assertion that Darwin traced all existing organisms back to one primordial being is, to put it politely, a product of Herr Dühring’s “own free creation and imagination” 43. Darwin expressly says on the last page but one of his Origin of species, sixth edition, that he regards

“all beings not as special creations, but as the lineal descendants of some few beings”.

And Haeckel even goes considerably further, assuming

“a quite independent stock for the vegetable kingdom, and a second for the animal kingdom”, and between the two “a number of independent stocks of Protista, each of which, quite independently of the former, has developed out of one special archegone of the moneron type” [40] (Schöpfungsgeschichte, p. 397)

This primordial being was only invented by Dühring in order to bring it into as great disrepute as possible by drawing a parallel with the primordial Jew D. Ph. 110 Adam, and in this he — that is to say, Herr Dühring — suffers the misfortune of not having the faintest idea that this primordial Jew had been shown by Smith’s Assyrian discoveries [41] to have been a primordial Semite, and that the whole biblical history of creation and the flood turns out to be a part of the old heathen religious myths which the Jew have in common with the Babylonians, Chaldeans and Assyrians.

It is certainly a bitter reproach against Darwin, and one for which he has no defence, that he comes to an end at once at the point where the thread of descent breaks off. Unfortunately it is a reproach which has been earned by the whole of our natural science. Where the thread of descent breaks off for it, it “ends”. It has not yet succeeded in producing organic beings without descent from others; indeed, it has not yet succeeded even in producing simple protoplasm or other albuminous bodies out of chemical elements. With regard to the origin of life, therefore, up to the present, natural science is only able to say with certainty that it must have been the result of chemical action. However, perhaps the philosophy of reality is in a position to give some help on this point as it has at its disposal independent parallel lines of products of nature not mediated by common descent. How can these have come into existence? By spontaneous generation? But up to now even the most audacious advocates of spontaneous generation have not claimed that this produced anything but bacteria, embryonic fungi and other very primitive organisms — no insects, fishes, birds or mammals. But if these homogeneous products of nature — organic, of course, as here we are only dealing with these — are not connected by descent, they or each of their ancestors must, at the point “where the thread of descent breaks off”, have been put into the world by a separate act of creation. So we arrive once again at a creator and at what is called deism.

Herr Dühring further declares that it was very superficial on Darwin’s part

“to make the mere act of the sexual composition of properties the fundamental principle of the origin of these properties” 116.

This is another free creation and imagination of our deep-rooted philosopher. Darwin definitely states the opposite: the expression natural selection only implies the preservation of variations, not their origin (p. 63). This new imputation to Darwin of things he never said nevertheless helps us to grasp the following depth of Dühringian mentality:

“If some principle of independent variation had been found in the inner schematism of generation, this idea would have been quite rational; for it is a natural idea to combine the principle of universal genesis with that of sexual propagation into a unity, and to regard so-called spontaneous generation, from a higher standpoint, not as the absolute antithesis of reproduction but just as a production” 116.

And the man who can write such rubbish is not ashamed to reproach Hegel for his “jargon” D. K. G. 491!

But enough of the peevish, contradictory grumbling and nagging through which Herr Dühring gives vent to his anger at the colossal impetus which natural science owes to the driving force of the Darwinian theory. Neither Darwin nor his followers among naturalists ever think of belittling in any way the great services rendered by Lamarck; in fact, they are the very people who first put him up again on his pedestal. But we must not overlook the fact that in Lamarck’s time science was as yet far from being in possession of sufficient material to have enabled it to answer the question of the origin of species except in an anticipatory way, prophetically, as it were. In addition to the enormous mass of material, both of descriptive and anatomical botany and zoology, which has accumulated in the intervening period, two completely new sciences have arisen since Lamarck’s time, and these are of decisive importance on this question: research into the development of plant and animal germs (embryology) and research into the organic remains preserved in the various strata of the earth’s surface (palaeontology). There is in fact a peculiar correspondence between the gradual development of organic germs into mature organisms and the succession of plants and animals following each other in the history of the earth. And it is precisely this correspondence which has given the theory of evolution its most secure basis. The theory of evolution itself is however still in a very early stage, and it therefore cannot be doubted that further research will greatly modify our present conceptions, including strictly Darwinian ones, of the process of the evolution of species.

What, of a positive character, has the philosophy of reality to tell us concerning the evolution of organic life?

“The ... variability of species is a presupposition which can be accepted” D. Ph. 115. But alongside it there hold also “the independent parallel lines of homogeneous products of nature, not mediated by common descent” 111.

From this we are apparently to infer that the heterogeneous products of nature, i.e., the species which show variations, descend from each other but not so the homogeneous products. But this is not altogether correct either; for even with species which show variations,

“mediation by common descent is on the contrary quite a secondary act of nature” 114.

So we get common descent after all, but only “second class”. We must rejoice that after Herr Dühring has attributed so much to it that is evil and obscure, we nevertheless find it in the end readmitted by the backdoor. It is the same with natural selection, for after all his moral indignation over the struggle for existence through which natural selection operates we suddenly read:

“The deeper basis of the constitution of organisms is thus to be sought in the conditions of life and cosmic relations, while the natural selection emphasised by Darwin can only come in as a secondary factor” 115.

So we get natural selection after all, though only second class; and along with natural selection also the struggle for existence, and with that also the priestly Malthusian overpopulation! That is all, and for the rest Herr Dühring refers us to Lamarck.

In conclusion he warns us against the misuse of the terms: metamorphosis and development. Metamorphosis, he maintains, is an unclear concept 112, and the concept of development is permissible only in so far as laws of development can be really established 126. In place of both these terms we should use the term “composition” 114, and then everything would be all right. It is the same old story over again: things remain as they were, and Herr Dühring is quite satisfied as soon as we just alter the names. When we speak of the development of the chicken in the egg we are creating confusion, for we are able to prove the laws of; development only in an incomplete way. But if we speak of its’ “composition” everything becomes clear. We shall therefore no longer say: This child is developing finely but: It is composing itself magnificently. We can congratulate Herr Dühring on being a worthy peer of the author of the Nibelungenring not only in his noble self-esteem but also in his capacity of composer of the future. [42]


IF Engels had not been the constant companion in arms of Marx in the revolutionary struggles of the 19th century, there is no doubt that he would be remembered chiefly as one of the foremost scientist-philosophers of the century. It was an ironical tribute paid to the correctness of his views as to the relations between politics and ideology that he suffered complete neglect from the scientists of the Victorian age. But time now has taken its revenge, and Engels’ contemporary views on 19th century science seem to us now in the 20th far more fresh and filled with understanding than those of the professional philosophers of science of his day, who for the most part are completely forgotten, while the few that linger on, such as Lange and Herbert Spencer, are only quoted as examples of the limitations of their times. It would, of course, be wrong to consider Engels’ scientific achievement apart from his association with Marx. It was through Marx’s influence, and by the methods of dialectical materialism they evolved together from Hegel’s dialectic idealism, that he achieved the possibility of criticising and interpreting science in a manner which was not open to his predecessors. Engels as a Scientist

It is often said by those anti-Marxists who never trouble to read the original writings that the scientific knowledge of Marx and Engels was superficial; that Engels, for instance, sought in later life for scientific justification for the dialectical laws that Marx had introduced into economics. This is a complete misreading of the facts. Engels’ interest in and knowledge of science was deep and early. It ran through all his philosophical and political studies. In an essay as early as 1843 (quoted in the Marx-Engels, Selected Correspondence, p. 33), he shows a grasp of the fundamental connection between science and productivity that was to run through all his later work:—

. . . . yet there still remains a third factor—which never counts for anything with the economists, it is true—namely science, and the advance of science is as limitless and at least as rapid as that of population. How much of the progress of agriculture in this century is due to chemistry alone, and indeed to two men alone—Sir Humphry Davy and Justus Liebig? But science multiplies itself at least as much as population: population increases in relation to the number of the last generation; science advances in relation to the total amount of knowledge bequeathed to it by the last generation, and therefore under the most ordinary conditions in geometrical progression too—and what is impossible for science?

Engels to the very end of his life not only made use of the science he had learnt at the University, but kept up with extraordinary keenness and understanding his interest in the scientific discoveries of his times. Far from being prejudiced by any preconceived theories, he was more open to accepting new ideas than were the professional scientists. In a letter to Marx in 1858, he shows himself prepared to accept beforehand the idea of transformation of species which Darwin was to publish in the next year (Marx-Engels, Correspondence, p. ll4). In one passage he almost hints at the idea of evolution, derived from the Hegelian idea of transformation of quantity into quality:—

So much is certain; comparative physiology gives one a withering contempt for the idealistic exaltation of man over the other animals. At every step one bumps up against the most complete uniformity of structure with the rest of the mammals, and in its main features this uniformity extends to all vertebrates and even—less clearly—to insects, crustaceans, earthworms, etc. The Hegelian business of the qualitative leap in the quantitative series is also very fine here.

A few months later, when Darwin’s “Origin of Species” appeared, Engels and Marx together acclaim it as putting an end to teleology in the natural sciences. Already Engels on December 12, 1859, exactly four weeks after the publication of the first edition, writes to Marx: “Darwin, whom I am just now reading, is splendid,” and Marx writes in reply: “Although it is developed in the crude English style, this is the book which contains the basis in natural history for our point of view.”[1]

If we contrast this attitude to that of the official philosopher of science and physicist, Whewell, a great derider of Hegel, who was at the same time urging that Darwin’s book be not accepted by Trinity College Library, we can measure the greater breadth and penetration which their philosophical outlook had given to Marx and Engels. It was the same with all the significant ideas which science was developing. The great physical and chemical advances of the century, particularly the conservation of energy and the development of organic chemistry, were also recognised and carefully studied by Marx and Engels. In his approach to science, Engels cannot be said to have been an amateur. In Manchester, where he spent most of his life, there was a very lively scientific life with which he freely mixed, and, in particular, he had as his intimate friend Karl Schorlemmer, the first Communist Fellow of the Royal Society, and one of the most distinguished chemists of his time.

The width of Engels’ scientific knowledge can be fully appreciated only from a study of his great unfinished work, Dialectic and Nature. In it different sciences are treated comprehensively and critically. It is easy to see from the authorities cited how close Engels was to contemporary developments in mathematical, physical, and biological sciences, to say nothing of sociology and economies. He even includes a short and amusing chapter on psychic science. Engels on the History of Science

From the start Engels was able to unify his conceptions of science in such a way that he could naturally assimilate new developments as they appeared, and that without any of the wilder flights of such scientific philosophers as Haeckel or Herbert Spencer, but in an extremely sane and balanced way. The secret of this power lies in the materialist dialectic which he used in his analysis of the results of science. It was from Hegel that he learnt to appreciate, not things, but processes, and he always looked at the position which science had reached at any time in relation to its historical background. This is clearly seen in his essay on Feuerbach, where he traces the history of materialist philosophy in relation to the development of science and productive methods. For instance, he says:—

But during this long period from Descartes to Hegel and from Hobbes to Feuerbach, the philosophers were by no means impelled, as they thought they were, solely by the force of pure reason. On the contrary. What really pushed them forward was the powerful and ever more rapidly onrushing progress of natural science and industry. Among the materialists this was plain on the surface, but the idealist systems also filled themselves more and more with a materialist content and attempted pantheistically to reconcile the antithesis between mind and matter. Thus, ultimately, the Hegelian system represents merely a materialism idealistically turned upside down in method and content. . . .

The materialism of this last century was predominantly mechanical, because at that time, of all natural sciences, mechanics and indeed only the mechanics of solid bodies—celestial and terrestrial—in short, the mechanics of gravity, had come to any definite close. Chemistry at that time existed only in its infantile, phlogistic form. Biology still lay in swaddling clothes; vegetable and animal organisms had been only roughly examined and were explained as the result of purely mechanical causes. As the animal was to Descartes, so was man a machine to the materialists of the eighteenth century. This exclusive application of the standards of mechanics to processes of a chemical and organic nature—in which processes, it is true, the laws of mechanics are also valid, but are pushed into the background by other and higher laws—constitutes a specific but at that time inevitable limitation of classical French materialism.

The second specific limitation of this materialism lay in its inability to comprehend the universe as a process—as matter developing in an historical process. This was in accordance with the level of the natural science of that time, and with the metaphysical, i.e., anti-dialectical manner of philosophising connected with it. Nature, it was known, was in constant motion. But according to the ideas of that time, this motion turned eternally in a circle and therefore never moved from the spot; it produced the same results over and over again. (Feuerbach, pp. 36 and 37.)

As a historian of science Engels is particularly distinguished. He was the first to understand with Marx the close relation between the development of scientific theory and of productive methods. Much of what now passes for new in the interpretation of historical science is to be found in the pages, of Dialectic and Nature,[2] He notices, for instances, that the theory of heat did not develop from pure thought, but from a study of the economic working of steam engines, and comes to the conclusion: “Until now they have only boasted of what production owes to science, but science itself owes infinitely more to production.”[3] In particular he shows how the metaphysical and statical attitude of the 18th century materialists based on Newton was broken down in favour of a view which reflects, though unconsciously, a dialectical progress: “The beginnings of revolutionary science faced a through and through conservative nature, in which everything is to-day as at the beginning of the world, and will be to the end of the world the same as it was at the beginning.”[4] The breaches made in this outlook he indicates as, first Kant and Laplace’s nebular hypothesis, second the development of geology and paleontology, third chemistry, which can synthesise organised substances and whose rules hold just as much for the processes of life, fourth the discovery of the conservation of energy, fifth Darwin’s evolutionary theory, and sixth the synthesis of all the processes affecting life, animal ecology and distribution. The significance of the break is described as follows:—

It was not the scientists but the philosophers who made the first breach in this fossilised outlook. In 1755 appeared Kant’s “General Natural History and Theory of the Heavens.” The problem of the first impulse was here set aside. The earth and the whole solar system appeared as something become in the course of time. If, before the appearance of this thought, the overwhelming majority of scientists had not felt the fear expressed by Newton in his warning “Physics, Beware of Metaphysics!”[5]—then they would have drawn from this single discovery of genius by Kant such consequences as would have saved them infinite errors along circuitous paths, and an immense quantity of time and labour expended in a false direction. In Kant’s discovery lay the germ of all further progress. If the earth was something which had become, then all its present geological, climatic and geographical condition had become also, its flora and fauna as well, and it must have a history not merely in space, but in time also. (Quoted by V. L. Komarov in Marxism and Modern Thought, p. 205. See also M.E.A., Vol. 2, p. 244.)

As a result of these movements of thought, Engels says:—

The old teleology has gone to the devil, but now we have the knowledge that matter in its perpetual circulation moves according to laws that at certain stages—now here, now there—necessarily produce the thinking mind in organic existence. (M.E.A., Vol. 2, p. 175)

Engels’ concept of nature was always as a whole and as a process. He escaped the specialisation which even in those days made it impossible for a physicist to understand biology or vice-versa, and he laid down a general outline of this process which can still be the basis for an appreciation of the results of scientific research.

He never had the opportunity to put down in one place his view of this universal process. The main outlines can be seen in Anti-Dühring, or even better in the shortened form of Socialism, Utopian and Scientific. But for its full appreciation in this country we shall have to wait until the publication in English of Dialectic and Nature. Throughout Engels wages war on metaphysical ways of thinking in science, with its fixed categories and its sharp distinctions between cause and effect, structure and behaviour, identity and difference, whole and part[6]. These are not so much invalid as valid only in small, defined regions. The success of the scientific method is best seen in such regions: “For everyday use, for scientific retail trade, the metaphysical categories still keep their value.”[7] The dialectical approach to science has its value, on the contrary, in its comprehensiveness. The movements first seen by Hegel in the ideal world are, according to Marx and Engels, simply reflections of those in the objective world. Much of Engels’ studies were devoted to exemplifying the Hegelian modes, particularly those of the transformation of quantity into quality, the interpenetration of opposites and the negation of negation, in the world of science. In Anti-Dühring this is done in the shortest way. But the Dialectic and Nature contains far more examples. The Transformation of Quantity into Quality

Philosophers still cavil at the use of the phrase “transformation of quantity into quality” on the grounds that it is not quantity that changes into quality, because quantity remains in the end. But the phrase is simply a shorthand way of referring to Hegel’s law that purely quantitative changes turn into qualitative changes. It was in this form that Marx understood it, as shown explicitly in his letter to Engels (Letter 97). The examples which Engels gives, the case of ice turning into water, or water into steam, and that of the change of physical quality of a chemical substance with the number of atoms that are comprised in it, should have shown sufficiently clearly what this concept meant. With remarkable insight Engels says —

The so-called constants of physics are for the most part nothing but designations of the nodal points where quantitative addition or withdrawal of motion calls forth a qualitative change in the state of the body in question. (M.E.A., Vol. 2, p. 288.)

We are only now beginning to appreciate the essential justice of these remarks and the significance of such nodal points. The whole theory of quanta depends, like the theory of acoustic vibrations with which it has formal relations, on the distribution of nodes which mark out two qualitatively and quantatively different states of vibration.

The problem of qualities had always raised the greatest difficulties to the philosophers and furnished, as it still furnishes, a reason for invoking outside forces. From any logical materialist standpoint it is necessary to recognise that a new quality of a system is something not in any sense added to the system, but produced simply by a continuous change in its already existing components. To make this meaning perfectly clear, Engels cites as his final authority Napoleon.

In conclusion we shall call one more witness for the transformation of quantity into quality, namely—Napoleon. He makes the following reference to the fights between the French cavalry, who were bad riders but disciplined, and the Mamelukes, who were undoubtedly the best horsemen of their time for single combat, but lacked discipline: “Two Mamelukes were undoubtedly more than a match for three Frenchmen; 300 Frenchmen could generally beat 300 Mamelukes, and 1,000 Frenchmen invariably defeated 1,000 Mamelukes.” (Anti-Dühring, p. 146.)

Engels found many examples in science of this transformation. Of these I can only quote one, that of Mendeleyeff’s Periodic Law, which was to prove in the future so rich in further examples of the transformation of quantity into quality.

Finally, Hegel’s law holds not only for compound bodies, but for the chemical elements themselves. We know now that chemical properties of elements are a periodic function of their atomic weight and consequently their quality is determined by the quantity of their atomic weight (or, as we would now say, of their atomic number), and the proof of this has been made in a most striking way. . . . By the help of the—unknown—application of Hegel’s law of the change of quantity into quality, Mendeleyeff has achieved a scientific feat which can well stand comparison with Leverrier’s calculation of the orbit of the still unknown planet Neptune. . . . Perhaps those gentlemen who up till now have treated the transformation of quantity into quality as mysticism and incomprehensible transcendentalism will now explain that it is all perfectly self-evident, trivial, and platitudinous, that it has been long familiar to them and that we have nothing new to teach them. To have put forward for the first time a general law of nature and thought, in its most generally valid form, that will always remain as a historical achievement of the first order, and if these gentlemen for so many years have allowed quantity and quality to turn into each other without knowing what they were doing, they must console themselves with Molière’s Monsieur Jourdain, who had all his life spoken prose unwittingly. (Engels’ Dialectic and Nature, p. 289.)

Understood in this way, the concept of the transformation of quantity into quality can be, and is being, extremely valuable in scientific thought. We are learning more and more that specific qualitative properties of bodies depend on the number of certain of their internal components. If an atom can only link with one other atom, the result is a gas. If it can link with two or three, the result will be a solid of fibrous or platy character. If with four, a hard crystalline solid like diamond. If with more than four, a metal. Similarly the processes of freezing, boiling, vitrification, etc., depend on what are now known as “co-operative” phenomena. It takes a million or more molecules to make a substance which can be recognised as a solid or liquid: a smaller number leads to the qualitatively different colloid state. The Interpenetration of Opposites

The concept of the interpenetration of opposites has not been given by Engels the same coherent treatment as that of the others. Yet it recurs nearly all the way through his scientific writings. It appears in two shapes, firstly, as the Hegelian idea that nothing can be defined apart from its opposite, that, so to speak, everything implies its opposite (here Engels approached very close to the modern ideas of relativity) but also more objectively that there exist no hard and fast lines in nature.

“Hard and fast lines” are incompatible with the theory of development. Even the border line between vertebrates and invertebrates is no longer unchanging. Every day the lines of demarcation between fish and amphibia, between birds and reptiles, tend more and more to vanish. Between the Compsognatus (a small dinosaur) and the Archœopteryx (a toothed bird of the same origin) only a few intermediary members are wanting, while toothed birds’ beaks have been found in both hemispheres. (Quoted by V. L. Komarov in Marxism and Modern Thought, p. 199. See also M.E.A., Vol. 2, p. 189).

In physics Engels exemplified this principle by the example of magnetism, in which each N. Pole implies a S. Pole or vice-versa, or more generally in the balance between attraction and repulsion. Here, Engels’ treatment is surprisingly modern. He understands forces not as mystical entities, but to be known only by the movements produced by them. This is characteristic of the modern tendency of turning mechanics into kinematics. In Engels’ analysis attraction is simply the reflection of the coming together of bodies, as repulsion is of their separation. Thus heat in the kinetic theory of gases acts as a repulsive force. The Negation of the Negation

It is the same with the principle of the negation of the negation, which Engels illustrates with the famous examples o£ the barley seed negating itself into a plant and the plant further negating itself into many seeds, as well as the mathematical examples of the product of negative quantities and the differential calculus. These are the kind of statements that until recently made dialectical materialism seem quite unacceptable, indeed incomprehensible to scientists trained along official lines. Negation has always seemed to them something only applicable to human statements, but this is just a defect of language. If we had a word to describe how something in the course of its own inner development can produce something else different and in some sense opposite to it, and which comes in time to replace it entirely, that word would take the place of negation. Negation in this sense is not a symmetrical operation; the negation of negation does not reproduce the original, but something now unlike both. As long as we deal in mere words, however, such statements can convey very little. It is in concrete examples that the significance of the negation of the negation can effectively be grasped. And if Hegel’s and Engels’ works had been treated on their merits instead of as something to be attacked in every possible way, the sense of their use of “negation of negation” would have been clearly apparent. But this, of course, would also have meant the recognition of the necessity of revolution, and that was far too uncomfortable to be accepted.

Just as the transformation of quantity to quality, so the principle of the negation of negation finds many examples in modern science. In almost every physical process in nature, there is a tendency for the process itself to create an opposition which ultimately brings it to a stop, which in turn results in the disappearance of the antagonistic process and the re-establishment of the original one. Take, for example, the case of the building up of mountain ranges due to strain in the earth’s crust. This results in increased weathering which destroys the mountain range and accumulates sediments which lead to further crust strains, leading to further mountain building, etc. Modern physics is full of dialectical contradictions of this type—wave and particle, matter and energy—and even in Freudian psychology the provisional analyses of the mechanism of instinct and its repression are stated in a dialectical form. The whole of modern science is unconsciously affording more and more examples of the aspect of phenomena that can only be consciously grasped through dialectical materialism. The Dialectical Process of Nature as a Whole

But Engels did not confine himself to scientific illustrations of the validity of his philosophical position. His main task was a constructive one, and he gives in several places both in his Letters, in the Anti-Dühring, and the essay on Feuerbach, his general view of the dialectical process of nature taken as a whole. (See particularly Letter 232 and Chapters 5 to 8 of Anti-Dühring.) Dialectic and Nature was intended to give such a complete conception, but it was never finished and contains as it stands a number of more or less filled-in sketches of such conceptions.[8] In the omitted fragment from Feuerbach (p. 76 of the English edition) he recapitulates the chief points in which the science of his time had served to lay the basis of a comprehensible materialistic view of the development of the universe. In this he lays stress on three discoveries of decisive importance:

The first was the proof of the transformation of energy obtained from the discovery of the mechanical equivalent of heat (by Robert Mayer, joule and Colding). All the innumerable operative causes in nature, which until then had led a mysterious inexplicable existence as so-called “forces”—mechanical force, heat, radiation (light and radiant heat), electricity, magnetism, the force of chemical combination and dissociation—are now proved to be special forms, modes of existence of one and the same energy, i.e., motion. . . . The unity of all motion in nature is no longer a philosophical assertion but a fact of natural science.

The second—chronologically earlier-discovery was that of the organic cell by Schwann and Schleiden—of the cell as the unit, out of the multiplication and differentiation of which all organisms, except the very lowest, arise and develop. With this discovery, the investigation of the organic, living products of nature—comparative anatomy and physiology, as well as embryology—was for the first time put upon a firm foundation. The mystery was removed from the origin, growth and structure of organisms. The hitherto incomprehensible miracle resolved itself into a process taking place according to a law essentially identical for all multi-cellular organisms.

But an essential gap still remained. If all multi-cellular organisms—plants as well as animals, including man—grow from a single cell according to the law of cell-division, whence, then, comes the infinite variety of these organisms? This question was answered by the third great discovery, the theory of evolution, which was first presented in connected form and substantiated by Darwin. . . .

With these three great discoveries, the main processes of nature are explained and traced back to natural causes. Only one thing remains to be done here: to explain the origin of life from inorganic nature. At the present stage of science, that means nothing else than the preparation of albuminous bodies from inorganic materials. Chemistry is approaching ever closer to this task. It is still a long way from it. But when we reflect that it was only in 1828 that the first organic body, urea, was prepared by Wöhler from inorganic materials and that innumerable so-called compounds are now artificially prepared without any organic substances, we shall not be inclined to bid chemistry halt before the production of albumen. Up to now, chemistry has been able to prepare any organic substance, the composition of which is accurately known. As soon as the composition of albuminous bodies shall have become known, it will be possible to proceed to the production of live albumen. But that chemistry should achieve overnight what nature herself even under very favourable circumstances could succeed in doing on a few planets after millions of years—would be to demand a miracle.

The materialist conception of nature, therefore, stands to-day on very different and firmer foundations than in the last century.

This quotation shows amply that not only had Engels a complete grasp of the essential stages of development up to the human level, but that he also saw very clearly the gaps in the explanation. The gaps are, first of all, the origin of the stellar universe as we know it, including the solar system and the earth, the origin of life on the earth, the origin of the human race, and the origin of civilisation. Each one of these questions was treated by Engels, and to each one he had valuable contributions to make. The Origin of the Universe

Once dialectical materialism is understood, the logical absurdity of all creationist theories of the universe become apparent. It is not that dialectical materialism provides an alternate theory, but it shows that you cannot treat the Universe in the same way that you treat any part of it, as something acted on from outside. Whatever moves the Universe must be the Universe. In so far as it develops it is self-creating. In particular, it shows the childishness of assuming a personal Creator whether with the honest anthropomorphism of early tribal peoples or the reactionary idealism of the mathematician Godmakers of the present day. As Engels wrote: “Gott = Nescio, ‘aber ignorantia non est argumentum’ (Spinoza).”[9] At the same time he saw very clearly that there were social and political reasons for maintaining such beliefs, and of emphasising the helplessness of man before the existing state of nature and, by implication, the existing social and political order.

As to the origin of the universe, Engels put forward no new theory, but implied that the key to its discovery would lie in the study of the nature of matter and movement. Engels was from the beginning attracted to the nebular hypothesis, and enthusiastically took up the observations of spiral nubulæ of which our galaxy is only one example. The Origin of Life

As the last quotation shows, Engels believed, at a time when that belief was far less plausible than it is now, in the chemical origin of life as a definite period in the earth’s development. Short of a special creation of life, which had already become scientifically suspect by the middle of the 19th century, the only alternative theory was that life had always existed. This theory, upheld with the authority of Liebig and Helmholz,[10] Engels energetically combated. “Why should not,” asked Liebig, “organised life be as old, as eternal, as matter itself? Why should it not be as easy to imagine this as the eternity of carbon, and its compounds?” To this Engels answered:

(a) Is carbon simple? If it is not, it is as such not eternal. (b) Carbon compounds are eternal only in the sense that under such and such conditions of mixture, temperature, pressure, etc., they can be reproduced. However, only the simplest carbon compounds, for example CO2 and CH4, can be eternal because they can be at all times and more or less in all places, produced and decomposed into their elements. (M.E.A. Vol. 2, p. 180.)

He argues that with these exceptions the conditions for the production of carbon compounds will not exist except on the earth in living beings or in the laboratory, and that though their eternal existence is thinkable, this merely shows that anything that is thought need not necessarily exist. Far stronger is the argument against the eternity of albumen, which can exist only under the very narrow limits of temperature and moisture of the earth.

The atmospheres of astronomical bodies, particularly of nebula, were originally white hot—no place for albumen—so that space must be the big reservoir, a reservoir lacking air and nourishment and at a temperature which no albuminous body can possibly exist. . . . What Helmnholz says of the unsuccessfulness of experiment in making life is just childishness. Life is the mode of existence of albuminous substances its intrinsic impetus comes from the continuous exchange of matter with the medium surrounding it, and with the ceasing of this exchange life itself ceases, and the albumen breaks up. (M.E.A., Vol, 2, p. 181.)

Time has not diminished the soundness of Engels— conclusions. We are still far from having analysed, much less synthesised, albuminous substances (for by that Engels did not mean protein in its modern sense as a pure crystalline chemical substance, but the complex of chemicals that underlie protoplasm—proteins, sugars, salts, etc. Nevertheless, through combination of modern biochemical knowledge with astrophysical and geological considerations about the early atmosphere of the planet, we can make a plausible picture of the origin of life by purely chemical means, and no other hypothesis for its origin can be put forward which will stand the slightest rational examination. The Origin of Human Society

The next gap which Engels recognised was that in the development of human society from the animal stage, but it was not sufficient on this point to see and appreciate at their true value the results of scientific workers: here Engels was a scientist on his own account. The prevalent popular view in the 19th century was still that of the special creation of man. The materialists, led by Darwin, Huxley and Haeckel, maintained that man was only a superior ape distinguished by a larger brain. This brain which gave man his peculiar character was just such a product of evolution as a bat’s wings or an elephant’s trunk. Engels and Marx saw this crude explanation was hardly better than the theological one. They saw, long before anthropologists had taken up the question, that there was something qualitatively different about man which distinguished him from other animals, and that this was not an immortal soul, but the fact that man does not exist apart from society, and is in fact a product of the society which he has himself produced. Men, by entering into productive relations with each other, by the first exchange of food, and by the transmission of social characters through the family, became qualitatively different from other animals. These subjects were dealt with by Engels in an essay on “Work as the factor making for the transformation of Apes into Men,” and in his most brilliant scientific work, The History of the Family.

V. L. Komarov, in his article on “Marx and Engels on Biology”[11] discusses at length this very point. The first stages, the development of man as a tool-using animal and as an animal capable of communicating with his fellows, can only be looked at from the biological point of view. It is at the same time the anatomical possibility inherent in a tree ape that has become a ground ape that make the use of instruments possible, and the use of instruments make the development of the human hand into its present form possible, without which it must have developed either hoofs or paws:

So the hand is not only an organ of labour; it is also its product. . . . But the hand was not something self-sufficient: it was only one of the members of a complete and unusually complex organism, and what assisted the hand also assisted the whole body which the hand served, and assisted it in a double respect. (M.E.A., Vol. 2, p. 201.)

But at the same time, the development of manual skill inter-acted with the formation of primitive society.

The development of labour necessarily assisted the closer drawing together of the members of the society since because of it instances of mutual support and of common action became more frequent and the advantage of this mutual activity became clear to each separate member. To put it shortly, men when formed, reached the point when they felt the need of saying something to one another. The need created the organ. The undeveloped tongue of the ape was slowly but steadily changed by means of gradually increased modulations and the organs of the mouth gradually learned to pronounce one distinct sound after another. (V. L. Komarov, Marxism and Modern Thought, p. 201). The Origin of the Family

In The History of the Family Engels takes up the story again at a later stage. It is here that the full value of Engels as a scientist can be appreciated. Long before its recognition by the official anthropologists, he appreciated the significance of the matrilinear family group or clan that travellers and missionaries were showing to exist among all primitive peoples. With his wide historical learning he linked these facts with the history of early Greece and Rome, and showed first of all what an admirable economic unit the matrilineal family was at a certain primitive stage of production, and secondly how it broke down first to the patriarchal family, and finally to the modern small family, under the influence of the development of property, itself due to better methods of production. All the more recent work of anthropologists and historians has only served to confirm Engels’ original ideas. The transformation from the matrilinear family to the present form has been traced also in China and can be seen in actual course of operation in all primitive societies in contact with European civilisation, as Malinowski in particular has shown in great detail. Engels’ anthropological studies were not merely academic exercises: they were closely related to the great task that he shared with Marx, the transformation of capitalist into socialist society. In recognising the relatively happy, courteous, and upright life of savages compared to their civilised descendants, he conceives the task of socialism as that of the return, again through the negation of the negation, to the nobility of the savage, without the sacrifice of the material powers which capitalist development had presented to mankind. His historical studies, particularly The History of the Mark, all led to the effecting of this transformation. He realised its difficulty (Letter 227):—

History is about the most cruel of all goddesses, and she leads her triumphal car over heaps of corpses, not only in war, but also in “peaceful” economic development. And we men and women are unfortunately so stupid that we never can pluck up courage to a real progress unless urged to it by sufferings that seem almost out of proportion. Engels’ Work and the Development of Science

What is the relation of Engels’ work to the enormous development of science that has gone on since his time? What has already been said should be sufficient to show that this has only confirmed the value of his methods of approach and suggested their further application. For part of the intervening period this has been done by Lenin in Materialism and Empirio-Criticism, or by the writings of Plekhanov and Bukharin. At the moment this work is being carried forward both theoretically and practically by the younger Soviet scientists.[12]

There is no doubt that Engels would have recognised and welcomed the main advances in the scientific field which have occurred since his time. He would have recognised that four significant steps have been taken. The Relativity theory has finally dethroned the mechanical materialism of the Newtonian school, but only in its mechanical and not its materialist aspects. Engels, who welcomed the principle of the conversion of one form of energy into another, would equally have welcomed the principle of the transformation of matter into energy. Motion as the mode of existence of matter would here acquire its final proof. The second great advance, the whole modern atomic and quantum theory, would also appear to him as a vindication of dialectical materialism. The diverse qualities of the natural elements now find their explanation simply in the number of electrons which compose them. Even more clearly than in organic chemistry, the transformation of quantity into quality is exemplified. The great advances in bio-chemistry which show the phenomena of living animals and plants as functions of the properties of the chemical molecules which make them up is a direct exemplification of what Engels had written about the chemical basis of life. Finally, the discovery of the mechanism of inheritance through the chromosome theory (originally put forward by Mendel and now actually verifiable by microscopical observation) provides the material mode of transformation by which living animals develop and reproduce. These advances leave the main gaps in our knowledge still open, but we see more clearly than Engels could how they are likely to be filled. Nevertheless, Engels’ work remains not only notable in its own time, but as valuable to us now in trying to keep the same all-embracing and historical approach to science that he possessed, and to use the methods he elaborated in pushing forward the solution of further problems.

After half a century of neglect, the methods of Engels and Marx are at last coming into their own in the scientific field. First, in the Soviet Union, but already also in England and France, the classics of dialectical materialism are being studied for the light they throw on present problems. In France in particular there have already appeared two notable contributions in A la Lumière du Marxisme (In the Light of Marxism) by a number of scientific writers and historians, and Biologie et Marxisme by Prenant. The crises of modern science appear in the first place as intellectual difficulties arising from new and apparently incompatible discoveries. The resolution of these crises, that is, the process of bringing them into harmony with the general movement of human thought and action, is a task for the Marxist scientists of to-day and to-morrow. The task is an endless one, and yet definite stages of advance can be established. We have through dialectical materialism a greater comprehension of whole processes, which before were only seen in their parts.

But it is not only in these general, almost philosophical, aspects of science that Engels’ work is of value. In everyday work, those who take the trouble to follow Engels’ hints find themselves more able to grasp the detailed connections of special investigations. The function of dialectical materialism is not to take the place of scientific method, but to supplement it by giving indications of directions in which hopeful solutions may be looked for. As Uranovsky says in Marxism and Modern Thought:

The dialectic of nature is a method of the investigation and understanding of nature. This conception of nature is founded on the application of materialist dialectic to the data of science as they are obtained at each given historical moment. The dialectic of nature brings no artificial connections into nature and does not solve problems by substituting itself for the natural sciences. It helps in critically understanding and connecting facts already obtained, it points out the paths of further investigation and fearlessly poses uninvestigated problems. (p. 153.)

It is for the scientific method to judge whether these solutions are or are not true.

By showing how science has grown up as it were unconsciously in relation to these productive forces, it shows at the same time how this unconscious purpose, once grasped, can be consciously directed. This is what is happening in the U.S.S.R., and, once fully in action, it will be found that science has reached a new plane in its development.

But that stage will not come of itself; it will require intelligent collaboration on the part of the scientists themselves. In doing this they will make the memorial to Engels which is most in keeping with his spirit. For Engels was more than a scientist and a philosopher; he was a revolutionary. With him science acquired a new and positive meaning. As the last thesis on Feuerbach has it:

“The philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways. The point, however, is to change it.” Footnotes

[1] Quoted by V. L. Komarov in Marxism and Modern Thought, p. 193. See also Marx Engels, Correspondence, Letter 49.

[2] Marx and Engels Archives (German edition) Vol. 2, pp. 173, 194, et seq.

[3] M.E.A., Vol. 2, p. 195.

[4] M.E.A., Vol. 2, p. 175.

[5] The use of the word metaphysical in Marxist literature is apt to cause confusion at first reading. The accepted popular use of the word is to connote assumptions which cannot be verified by concrete experience, generally, also somewhat vague and mystical assumptions. This is the sense in which it is used here and also the sense in which Marxism itself is said to be—quite wrongly—metaphysical. The Marxist use of the word, however, is more specialised. As can be seen from the quotations in this pamphlet, it is used only for a class of assumptions and categories that are abstract, fixed eternal and capable of absolute contradiction, such as the categories of Aristotelian logic or pre-relativistic physics. In contrast to these are the fluid dialectical categories.

[6] M.E.A., Vol. 2, pp. 150 et seq.

[7] M.E.A., Vol. 2, p. 189.

[8] M.E.A., Vol, 2, pp. 134, 153, 216.

[9] M.E.A., Vol. 2, p. 169. “God = I don’t know, but ignorance is no argument.”

[10] M.E.A., Vol. 2, pp. 176 et seq.

[11] Marxism and Modern Thought.

[12] See for instance Science at the Cross-roads (Kniga 1931); and Science and Education in Soviet Russia, by A. Pinkevitch (Gollancz); and Marxism and Modern Thought, already quoted.

JD Bernal

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