Idealism (new definition)

Charles Brown CharlesB at
Fri Aug 20 08:56:58 MDT 1999

Seems to me that Engels classic discussion of materialism and idealism is
"relational". He defines them in terms of the RELATION between thought and being, or
the relation between subjects and objects.

Engels defines idealism in relation to materialism in _Feuerbach_:

"The great basic question of all philosophy, especially of more recent philosophy, is
that concerning the relation of thinking and being... The answers which the
philosophers gave to this question split them into two great camps. Those who asserted
the primacy of spirit to nature and, therefore, in the last instance, assumed world
creation in some form or other...comprised the camp of idealism. The others, who
regarded nature as primary, belong to the various schools of materialism...But the
question of thinking and being has yet another side: in what relation do our thoughts
about the world surounding u stand to this world itself ? Is our thinking capable of
the cognition of the real world ? Are we able in our ideas and notions of the real
world to produce a correct reflection of reality ? ... The overwhelming majority of
philosophers give an affirmative answer to this question... In addition there is yet a
set of different philosophers - those who question the possibility of!
 any cognition, or at least of an exhaustive cognition of the world."

Charles Brown

>>> James Farmelant <farmelantj at> 08/19/99 04:41PM >>>

On Thu, 19 Aug 1999 12:21:49 -0400 (EDT) Andrew Wayne Austin
<aaustin at> writes:
>On Fri, 20 Aug 1999, Xxxzx Xyyxyz wrote:
>>The methods of neither Idealism nor Materialism are able to prove
>>that they are certainly correct.
>I have a longer post in response to Xxxzx's earlier post back to me. I
>crushed beneath the weight of responsibility right now so that post
>have to wait. Three quick points here:
>1. Materialism is not only or even for the most part based on a
>physicalist ontology of nature. Marx's materialism, for instance, is
>on a relational ontology, one somewhat captured by Roy Bhaskar's
>realism. Something of this view was also advanced by Whitehead.

And also by John Dewey (and presumably George Herbert
Mead as well).  Both Whitehead and Dewey advanced
forms of what is known as objective relativism or objective
relationism.  In objective relationism, the properties of objects
and subjects are treated as relational in nature.  Such a view
is seen as undermining any sharp distinctions between primary
and secondary qualities.  This view can be seen as having roots
in a Hegelian idealism that had been made over into a realism.

It can also be related to Bertell Ollman's notion that dialectics
can be understood in terms of Brand Blanshard's notion of
internal relations.

More information about the Marxism mailing list