Meillassoux: Lenin’s Best Disciple

Here’s another one. All that business about Meillassoux’s arch-fossil argument being so immensely and devastatingly novel that surely now all the idealists correlationists will die a horrible death reminded me of Lenin’s Materialism and Empirio-criticism, a rather bombastic and, as some argued, not very deep philosophical book, written primarily for political reasons. Whatever the case may be, this is 1908 and here are a couple of quotes (Lenin has a style of his own, makes for a fun reading):

We have already seen that this question is particularly repugnant to the philosophy of Mach and Avenarius. Natural science positively asserts that the earth once existed in such a state that no man or any other creature existed or could have existed on it. Organic matter is a later phenomenon, the fruit of a long evolution. It follows that there was no sentient matter, no “complexes of sensations,” no self that was supposedly “indissolubly” connected with the environment in accordance with Avenarius’ doctrine. Matter is primary, and thought, consciousness, sensation are products of a very high development. Such is the materialist theory of knowledge, to which natural science instinctively subscribes. [Chapter 1.4]

To summarise. Three augurs of empirio-criticism have appeared before us and have laboured in the sweat of their brow to reconcile their philosophy with natural science, to patch up the holes of solipsism. Avenarius repeated Fichte’s argument and substituted an imaginary world for the real world. Petzoldt withdrew from Fichtean idealism and moved towards Kantian idealism. Willy, having suffered a fiasco with the “worm,” threw up the sponge and inadvertently blurted out the truth: either materialism or solipsism, or even the recognition of nothing but the present moment. [Ibid.]

If things-in-themselves, apart from their action on our sense organs, have no aspect of their own, then in the Mesozoic period they did not exist except as the “aspect” of the sense organs of the ichthyosaurus. And this is the argument of a materialist! If an “aspect” is the result of the action of “things-in-themselves” on sense-organs—does it follow that things do not exist independently of sense-organs of one kind or another?? [Ibid.]

[Drum roll] I give you the “arch-fossil” argument!