Idealism (new definition)

E.C.Apling E.C.Apling at
Mon Aug 23 06:19:13 MDT 1999

David Guest (killed in Spain fighting witht he International Brigade) put
the answer to idealism vey succinctly in his little book "A Text Book of
Dialectical Materialism" (Lawrence & Wishart, 1939):

At p. 23:  To those idealists who would ask us, how can you prove the
existence of a material world? we would reply, how can you <doubt> it? Since
we must judge idealist philosophers as we do political parties, by their
<actions> and not by their <words>, we conclude that iealists cannot in
practice disbelieve in a material world, which does not dpend for its
existence on their sensations.

and in a note he gives the comment: In the assertion "I," "my," or "mine"
our material existence is presupposed.  In our own existence is presupposed
all the requisites for that existence including the material universe.  Thus
if the idealist starts with "I" or "my" sensations he tacitly concedes the
material universe he proceeds to juggle into non-existence.

and on the following page, he quotes Hyman Levy, The Universe of Science,
The universe is our datum, it is given, it exists, it is the everyday world
of common sense and common experience.  It is a world of process.  Mankind
is just such a changing feature, a compound and indissoluble part of it, and
yet so definitely distinguished from the whole that it is easily induced to
isolate itself in thought as if it were an independent thing; and therein we
we have seen, lies the danger.

and goes on:

This materialist standpoint is the true alternative to idealist scepticism.
Unlike the latter it is not self-destructive, not is it "uncritical".  It is
the practical standpoint on which natural science has worked from earliest
times.   .....

.....  Idealism and materialism are two ways of looking at the world.  But
the struggle bwteen them is no mere struggle of abstract principles.  It is
essentially a reflection of the contradictions and conflicts in modern
class-divided society.

David uses the following chapter to simply explain why the outlook of the
militant proletariat must be MATERIALIST, and also DIALECTICAL.


It is a great pity that David Guest's little book is long out of print - it
could do with a wide circulation among marxists and progressives generally

It should be quite clear that there is no point in discussing idealism v
materialism on the basis of "proof" (= on the basis of IDEAS).  That
starting point is wrong in itself (= starting off from the wrong foot!!) -
without our material existence there are no ideas, we do not NEED (an
idealist) "proof" of our existence!!!!

This is all a highly PRACTICAL question, for the REAL world - not just to be
detrmined by the philosopher in his study.

Mailto:E.C.Apling at

> -----Original Message-----
> From: owner-marxism at
> [mailto:owner-marxism at]On Behalf Of Xxxzx Xyyxyz
> Sent: 20 August 1999 10:26
> To: marxism at
> Subject: Re: Idealism (new definition)
> Hi Andy,
> >Idealism is demonstrably wrong.
>   Are we able to certainly and absolutely consistently prove
> materialism? We cannot hitherto because all of the variables (of
> whichever situation) are not certainly within our grasp of knowledge.
> A great deal is still beyond us. In this way, materialism is based
> upon knowing. The Materialist (Einstien's theory of light for
> example) makes the 'uncertain infinite' certain. They do not do this
> by establishing a theory (the constant speed of light) as *absolutely
> certain*, but do make it certain in regards to everything we know,
> within everything we work. In the "great beyond" it will be wrong, we
> can be sure of it, but within our knowledge hitherto, it is correct,
> it is right, and with it we have been able to do a great deal.
>   Demonstrably wrong yes. Certainly wrong? No. We come closer and
> closer, we beat it harder and harder, and so far we have come that
> the probablities we could site for it being otherwise are absurd, and
> such in the practice of materialism, therefore establishes certainty.
> The only certainties Idealism will abide, however, are those knowable
> by a process(s) of thought. For the Idealist these process are not
> based upon reality, but exist seperate, of themselves.
> Xxxzx

More information about the Marxism mailing list