Materialism is basically a theory that states that nothing but matter exists. Thus, the study of matter and its movements and its changes is the study of materialism. This theory further claims that the consciousness and mental states are results of material movements and modifications. Mind and consciousness are by-products of matter itself (human brain, the nervous system). So, basically existence of thought is only possible because of the existence of matter.
Materialism is considered by many philosophers to be a synonym to philosophical physicalism which views that everything and all that exists is physical in form. The contradictions to these theories are idealism, pluralism, dualism and other forms of monism (these shall be dealt with by other articles).
Karl Marx was a German philosopher who was heavily influenced by the works of Ludwig Feuerbach – a fellow German philosopher who was a critique of Christianity. Feuerbach insisted that “to prove that something exists means to prove that it exists not only in mind.” He stated that it (something) must exist outside the mind and should be constant.
This theory was what inspired Friedrich Engels and Karl Marx to develop a notion of historical materialism. They stated that the real problems are what exist and not what are thought inside a group’s mind. Real problems are politico-socio-economic problems as per Marx and Engels. They thus shifted their discourses on production, producers and workers. The focal point of Marxian philosophy was thus the distribution of wealth among the labors and employers.
Friedrich Engels states that “The materialist conception of history starts from the proposition that the production of the means to support human life and, next to production, the exchange of things produced, is the basis of all social structure; that in every society that has appeared in history, the manner in which wealth is distributed and society divided into classes or orders is dependent upon what is produced, how it is produced, and how the products are exchanged. From this point of view, the final causes of all social changes and political revolutions are to be sought, not in men’s brains, not in men’s better insights into eternal truth and justice, but in changes in the modes of production and exchange. They are to be sought, not in the philosophy, but in the economics of each particular epoch.” (Friedrich Engels, Socialism: Scientific and Utopian).
Marx’s concept of materialism is simply the theory of determination of a society’s growth based on the struggles between the economic forces. These economic forces are material in nature, since they are what exist in a living society. The phrase “dialectical materialism” was coined by Karl Kautsky, after the death of Marx.
Karl Marx opined that we could learn in history that progression (in law, religion, morality, etc) was possible through conflict between forces. The Marxist theory of dialectics was pretty inspired by Hegel’s dialectics.
Dialectical materialism can also be understood as a socio-politico-economic and philosophical subject that states ways to understand the reality. Dialectical materialism is a theory that insists that reasoning should exist while aiming to understand the movement, change and interconnection of things.
Dialectics opposes the metaphysical mode of thought practices. For example ‘a bird is something that has wings’. Charles Darwin also a materialist rejected these sort of thoughts claiming that not all things that have wings are birds, bats for example are not birds.
This is exactly what Marxist philosophers opine. They say that everything must be observed empirically. If something cannot be applied then they are to be rejected. Practical approaches to matter is required.
Marxism derives economic principles on the basis of these forms of thoughts.
It was his (Marx’s) belief that workers are a class in a society who have it installed in their brains that “individual” self-interest is the basic foundation of a society, that working class should either give in to the material world (greed) or use religion/mysticism to “rise above the material world.”
Human greed is “natural” and that the society cannot be changed – this was the basic theory that Marx rejected. So basically the theory that Marx rejects are that – workers are only left with two options – to accept the natural greed or use religion to rise above. Marx however does not explain “what” is rising above religion.
Marx opines that progress is not defined by individual self-interest or “greed” and that this greed is not the natural part of human characteristic.
This problem as per Marx can be solved through Dialectical Materialism. Materialism is what represents the Marxist “reality” that “dialectics” analyzes.
So Dialectics as per Marx is a method of analysis.
Dialectics simply accepts that every thing is constantly changing and this continuous changes are results of interactions and conflicts between two or more forces – as per Marx there are many little and unnoticed changes that in conclusion brings in a qualitative transformation in a society. For example, reactions between chemicals – Parts of Hydrogen and Oxygen mixing up to form water, or, even reaction between water and fire to create steam.
Materialism as per Marx is nature as it is – with no adulteration of religion or mysticism. So materialism is basically the reality that exists beyond our mind.
Our thoughts, consciousness and characteristics are shaped by the environment that we live in – the material world. This is what Marxian materialism says.
So basically, when you look around on the basis of dialectical materialism you see that there is a logical development of beliefs and opinions, events, actions and the history.
All development as per Marx is based on conflicts and interactions in the material world.
Marx and Engels were students of Hegelian dialectics (meaning they heavily studied it) and were in opposition to what Hegel theorized – that human experience is dependent on the mind’s perceptions. Marx and Engels tried more of a realistic approach and emphasized importance of real-world conditions in terms of class, labor and socio-economic interactions.
‘Marx and Engels do not deny the reality of mental or spiritual processes but only accept that ideas could arise only as products and reflections of material conditions.’ (Dialectical materialism, Encyclopedia Britannica). They opined that combining or reconciling materialism with idealism would lead to confusion.
They (Marx and Engels) were avid supporters of Feuerbach, but soon became a critic to Feuerbach in order to restore Hegelian dialectic with a principle modification. They tried to free Hegelian dialectics from idealism and install materialism.
As per Marx, “Feuerbach wants sensuous objects, really distinct from the thought objects, but he does not conceive human activity itself as objective activity. Hence, in The Essence of Christianity, he regards the theoretical attitude as the only genuinely human attitude, while practice is conceived and fixed only in its dirty-judaical manifestation. Hence he does not grasp the significance of “revolutionary”, of “practical-critical”, activity.” (Karl Marx , Theses On Feuerbach, 1845/Marx/Engels Selected Works, Volume One).
Marx opposed Feuerbach since he thought that Feuerbach did not see the importance of practical activity.
Engels thought that “Hegel was an idealist. To him, the thoughts within his brain were not the more or less abstract pictures of actual things and processes, but, conversely, things and their evolution were only the realized pictures of the ‘Idea’, existing somewhere from eternity before the world was. This way of thinking turned everything upside down, and completely reversed the actual connection of things in the world. ” (Fredrick Engels, Socialism: Utopian and Scientific). This was what they wanted to change.
“Thoughts” for Marx and Engels were not separate from materialism, or to say that they were not independent reflections. Thoughts were products of human labor, and they contradicted with each other because of the contradictions within human society. This was the prime change Marxism developed to amend Hegelian Dialectics.
This theory was accepted by people like GyorgyLukacs, Lenin, Stalin and even Mao. So much so, that evolutionary biologists around the world even install the concept of dialectical materialism in their scientific approach – they accept that this theory does not provide a programmatic method but provides warning signs against narrowness of thoughts and dogmatism.
Though his ideas have in history been used to legitimize ill dictatorships, Karl Marx actually had a decent philosophy relating to societal development through dialectics on materialism.
However, there are flaws to the ideas of Marx. One is that development and progression is not always dependent upon the accounts of pure materialism.
Some philosophers even argue that dialectical materialism fails because in an authoritarian environment (which most communist states have faced) “dialectics” and “creative and critical thinking” are impossible.
In theory the core principle of dialectical materialism – dialogues between forces – is good. But, in reality the society does not only develop on realistic or existing objects, they also depend on human thoughts and ideas that can be formed upon logical ideologies.
So basically a society will get good values if a group of people come together and lay out their ideas – be it good or bad or even evil. The group would have a moral compass to pick up good values that everyone could agree upon. But Marx’s materialisms cannot be ignored either, because societal forces do exist.
Individual Interest as individual thoughts and ideas are thus pretty important. Individual ideas are actually the basis of development since they go on to make ideas of groups when accepted or rejected.
Marxist dialectics have given birth tomany modern communist philosophies. The ideas of Marx were modified by many Marxists, including Vladimir Lenin. Lenin went on to propound a concept of “Democratic centralism” which is a practice of reaching political decisions through voting processes inside a party. In party meetings debates motions are proposed by members and then debates are held to logically explain the motions. When certain motions are accepted through votes they are to be followed by all participants. Lenin discouraged propagandizing once votes have been placed and decisions are taken. Lenin said the theory consisted of “freedom of discussion, unity of action” (Vladimir Lenin, 1906 “Report on the Unity Congress of the R.S.D.L.P”).
This principle has been directly installed in the Chinese Constitution. Article 3 of the constitution provides that “the state organs of the People’s Republic of China apply the principle of democratic centralism. The National People’s Congress and the local people’s congresses at different levels are instituted through democratic election. They are responsible to the people and subject to their supervision. All administrative, judicial and procuratorial organs of the state are created by the people’s congresses to which they are responsible and under whose supervision they operate. The division of functions and powers between the central and local state organs is guided by the principle of giving full play to the initiative and enthusiasm of the local authorities under the unified leadership of the central authorities.”
This principle of Lenin created a new communist-political philosophy termed as “Marxism-Leninism” which is being followed by several political parties around the world including the Nepal Communist Party.
JPT story: Marry me because I am rich
“I have a boyfriend.”
“I can’t. I love him.”
“Love is just a feeling. Leave him and that lovely-dovely feeling will be gone as well.”
“I don’t want the feeling to go away. I am happy this way.”
“I can keep you much happier.”
“Oh really? How?”
“I will get you a mansion with everything in it that you ever dreamt of; will have a swimming pool to the theatre, servants to caretakers. Give you the best car available. Invest in your passion and help you establish yourself as a successful businesswoman. Let you buy anything you want to have. Just imagine a life that you have everything and you can do anything before you die, would not have a perfect life? That’s your happiness I am guaranteeing you if you marry me.”
“WOW! So you are actually buying happiness for me! All this time, I was thinking one can’t buy happiness, but you just claimed that you actually can.
“Yes, I believe happiness can be bought. You just have to be rich enough.”
“Are you happy, since you are quite rich?
“Then why are you forcing me to marry you as if you are so desperate and in need of someone in life to fill your empty unhappy life?”
“I am happy already. Just that now I want a wife to complete my life.”
“You don’t know anything about me but you are so obsessed to marry me. It can only mean you are attracted to me and basically, you want to marry my outlook, and in return you want me to marry your money, isn’t it? And you want me to carry your babies and raise them up, that your parents and relatives be happy and proud of your life. You actually want a machine that can produce babies and you are here to buy the machine at any cost since you have money. OR, you want to marry a girl that you can flash around saying “look what a hot and beautiful woman I found.” It’s all your ego and your life, isn’t it?”
“You are overreacting to my simple interest in marrying you.”
“Wow! so marriage is just that “simple interest” for you?”
“You are blind in love so you are not understanding how lucky you are that I am showing interest – the richest guy in town – that many girls would die to marry. Don’t be stupid. Once all this love crap is gone, you will realize what a mistake you did by rejecting my proposal.
“Let me explain to you my love life. Every morning I wake up with his good morning message and that lightens up my day. You see? I start my every day with a smile. Then I go to the gym. He is my motivation to stay young, stay healthy. I probably would not hit the gym and jog every day, if he was not in my life. I would just be lazy most of the day. My career, my study, it all revolves around our future life and dreams and desires. We dream to buy our house in some place, we dream to buy a car and go around touring the country. We have lots of plans and dreams. All those plans and dreams keep me moving, keep me focused, and it is the same for him. Now, let’s assume, I just leave him and marry you right away. I wake up with no good morning message and that would feel horrible. You may try to take his place but I don’t have that feeling and connection with you, so I will never feel that exact oxytocin rush. You will give me the house but it won’t be the same as the house I had dreamt to share with the man I love. You will give me the best car but the man sitting next to me would not be the man I love and I would feel empty. Servants would serve us dinner but I will be always missing the life where I would serve food for the man I love. Marrying you is like marrying Mr. Trump. I will have everything but not joy and happiness. And with this empty soul walking around your house and life, you too will feel sad and angry and guilty. Then our kids will suffer. That will make us more sad and depressed. You see, Mr. Richie? you can’t really buy happiness.
“But once married, you have no choice than to accept me and you will learn to love me and all these filmy notions of romance will be back to cheer you up, darling. What’s your problem?”
“Oh poor boy, you don’t even know how love works.”
“Ugh! Love, love love!! isn’t there anything in life that will compensate romance and love and still keep people happy together?”
“Okay listen. I have a friend who I am sure would love to marry you. Wanna meet her?”
“I don’t want to meet anyone. I just want you.”
“Why is that?”
“Because I like you more than anyone else.”
“There you go. You see? That “I like you” feeling matters more than anything. I like my boyfriend. I don’t like you. Find somebody that you can like, and you be liked back for what you are to each other in wild. That’s what marriage is all about. If you look for a breeding machine or look for a woman that can be bought, you will invite nothing but misery and sadness in your life. The Sooner you understand it, the better your life will be. Decades of togetherness defying the biology and nature won’t work, Mr. Money guy.”
Living is enough
Father: “Bachnu matra thulo kura ho? Bachna ta kukur pani bachirako chha” Is life all about living? What about achievement in life?
Son: Tell that to a wife whose husband is suffering from cancer and going to die soon. Ask her if she wants her husband lying and breathing and nothing much or she wishes him dead. Tell that to a mother who lost her son over a suicide that if doing-nothing-but-only-alive son would be enough for her or not. Tell that to a child who lost one of the parents who anyway wasn’t doing anything in life.
Dad, you haven’t lost anyone in life, so you can tell staying alive is nothing. When you lose someone then you will know staying alive itself is an achievement when millions die everyday prematurely.
I am alive, and that’s an achievement itself. Greater achievement is to be successful, rich, popular, etc, I understand, but you know what is the greatest achievement? It is to stay alive happily and independently. All the success, money, popularity, this and that only falls in between the achievement and the greatest achievement.
Dad, I am alive, I am happy, and I am independent. Maybe, per your definition and perception, I am not achieving anything. But to me, this version of me is the highest form of achievement. Don’t worry.
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A BREAK-UP LETTER
Let me tell you this again and again. I love you, loud and proud; deeply, madly, truly. Never thought, I would be loving anyone this much. You know, I used to find it funny when people say “I would die for you” but now I know such feeling is real, because I can relate. Damn! you got me.
Spending rest of my life with you was my biggest dream and I would want nothing more. Serving you, caring for you, growing old with you, they are the desires I long for every day, every second. Despite, I am calling off this relationship because it hurts to be an option. This may look harsh and hasty decision but trust me, I am saying this to you for the first time, but it has been in my head for many months now. So please take this as my final decision.
I know you have always tried your best to make me feel loved and cared, but even in those moments of love and care, I could sense you were only trying to be nice and babe, that hurts like hell. Every time when we were together in cafe, in street, in house party at friends place, I could see your mind and eyes were constantly searching for better one that you wish were with you instead of me. I pretended to never felt that way but deep inside, I always could feel “I am just an option” and it feels like shi*t to be “just an option.”
I tried fooling myself zillions times “hey stop overthinking” but how can I convince myself with those arrhythmic steps, wandering eyes, lost and zoned out you even in my presence? You can pretend but not your nerves, not your lips, not your touch. I appreciate your attempt of trying out so hard to synchronise your verbal and non-verbal gesture but your biology just can’t lie. Sorry babe, I have mastered over you. I wish I could never read those non-verbal gestures.
I know I am the one you would be happily settling with if you could not find someone better than me, and I know you would love me and care for me but again only if you couldn’t find someone better. Yes, Yes! That I have been saying. That “being option” is killing me, my love. I don’t want to be an option and live insecure forever fearing when you will find your ideal partner and me being dumped. I want to be The One, like the way you are to me, but you are not. And hey! it’s okay, you don’t have to be. When you find your ideal one, you will definitely be The One.
So love of my life, I am calling this off with heavy heart, drowning in the pool of tears but I know, it is still a better option than to be in somebody’s life as an option, especially when that somebody is world to you.
Please don’t try to find me to console me. I will find the solace in the agony because I know whatever the hell I will be going through for now will still be a temporary which is still better than the temporary feeling of being loved and cared just to fall in the same loop of “just an option,” after some days.
I am giving up on you. Sorry!
Hey KMAG Readers,
Glad to see you here. Since you are here, don’t forget to drop your email address. We want to surprise you.
Much love and regards,