|The Early Days of a Better Nation|
Wednesday, August 04, 2010
the material, sensuously perceptible world to which we ourselves belong is the only reality.Engels describes this as a realization to which Feuerbach (a German philosopher who greatly influenced Marx and Engels while they were working out their own ideas) was 'driven', but he plainly agrees with it.
Engels was, of course, well aware that some aspects of the world are 'sensuously perceptible' only indirectly, through instruments and what have you, and he would have been far more delighted than surprised if he could have seen such instruments as the Hubble Telescope and the Large Hadron Collider. Numbers, logical categories and other abstractions he regarded as 'reflections' of the same material world, produced by the activity of the material brain: our consciousness and thinking, he goes on to say, however supra-sensuous they may seem, are the product of a material, bodily organ, the brain.
So we know what Engels had in mind when he talked about reality: the reality we inhabit. This, he says, is the only reality.
Now, you may ask how he (or Feurbach) knew this. But the question that occurred to me as a result of Engels's confident statement was this: where did the idea come from that there could be another reality? I'm fairly sure that for the Greeks and Hebrews - or at least, for Homer and the Bible - everything is part of the same reality. The gods really do live on Olympus. God really is in heaven. And heaven really is up there in the sky, as celestial as the stars. Sheol or Hades really is down below, as material as magma. Spirit really is breath. Spirits (ghosts and gods and so on) are sometimes visible, usually invisible. But so is water vapour.
So where did the idea of a reality outside 'our' reality (but not outside in space, outside in some unknowable way) come from? Did it all come from Plato and some muddle along the lines of: because we can understand numbers, where the numbers live is where we go when we die?