If you can't tell idealism and materialism apart, the difference can't be important.

Marxism. Materialism

Marxism puts materialism that is right, against idealism that is wrong. Materialism is believing consciousness is a result of an outer world, while idealism is believing an outer world is a result of consciousness. How do I know that you exist, that I am not dreaming you? How do you know that I exist, that you are not dreaming me? The Marxist answer is practice. It is 'Common Sense'. It is 'I Can See It'. Common sense is seen as the great arbitrator. Like it can't be wrong. How do I know it is the sun orbiting earth and not the other way around? I can see it.

You can see the world around you, you can interact with others around you. How can all that be a result of your consciousness? I do not know how it is possible but it is. If you remember dreaming, you know your brain can construct an outer world, a world around you, that is only dependent on your mind. It is true that the thing you see in your dream stem from your non-dreaming life, there are tables, mountains, humans. It is true the dream is short and disjointed. Still, the point is the brain can construct an outer world without a material counterpart. Maybe if man didn't dream, he had never thought of the disparity between idealism and materialism.

The Irish bishop George Berkeley claimed a physical object cannot exist independently of a mind that perceives it. To explain that the objects we perceive seem consistent, that they are the same when we reenter a room as when we left it, he asserts this proves there is a mind that perceives everything all the time. And this mind is God.
To prove Berkeley's theory wrong, writer Samuel Johnson kicked a stone and said "I refute it thus". So if I dream I kick a stone, that proves the stone I dream about exists independent of my mind?

In the 1930's, the Icelandic writer Laxness was invited to the Soviet Union. He was well known and a communist so he got a guide to show him around. When they saw some homeless street boys, he remarked on it but the guide answered "Comrade Stalin has declared that there are no homeless street boys". When he insisted, the guide just repeated "Comrade Stalin has declared that there are no homeless street boys".
This is a curious case. The guide does not see the outer world with the street boys as primary. Neither does he see the street boys as secondary, as figments of his consciousness. Instead he sets Stalin's consciousness as primary and declares the boys nonexistent.
When returning home, Laxness had lost some of his communist fervor.

Everything you experience, you experience through some process in your brain; you cannot know the thing in itself. If you see an axe, the axe is not inside your brain, your nervous system has somehow created some sort of representation. Even should somebody bury an axe in your brain, if you experience anything at all it is some sort of representation, you do not experience the axe in itself.
How can you tell the difference between the materialistic and the idealistic standpoint? You can't. Both the materialist and the idealist get hurt if hit on the head. Both see others getting hurt if hit on the head. Both see an object they drop fall to the ground. There is no experiment to tell the standpoints apart. If you want to "prove" the existence of an outer world, you have to start from what you experience; you have to go from your consciousness to the outer world. This does not mean the outer world is a result of your consciousness; it means that you claim the outer world exists because you think so; you make the outer world dependent on your thought. You make yourself an idealist.

I have talked about idealism as denying the existence of an independent world external to some sort of consciousness. Maybe this is not what Marx and Engels mean. They are very vague. No matter what, to be an idealist is nonsense. When it is impossible to tell idealism and materialism apart it is nonsense to put any importance to the difference.

© Anders Floderus