The Appearance of Reality and the Reality of Appearance

David H. DeGrood

Bourgeois thought when it represented the consciousness of a rising class was materialistic (or dialectical and occasionally materialistic, as in Hegel), truth‑oriented, and saw, in part at least, behind the appearances of medieval practices, institutions, and feudal ideas; it used its knowledge of the reality behind these appearances to fell the rotting tree of feudal society, a socioeconomic system being undermined by the growing capitalist mode of production. Truth was on the side of the rising bourgeoisie and its ideologists; it was an effective weapon.

Once capitalist society arrived in its full contradictory and alienating actuality, that is, once the bourgeois ideologists had to defend an existing, ruling system, bourgeois social thinkers and philosophers made a theoretical practice of dis‑orientation, of denial of a reality behind the appearances, of mystifying and veiling the existing relations these same ideologists had unmasked before. But the relations had changed, they were now the relations of the bourgeois' own society. The more materialistic and scientific political economy of Adam Smith (1723‑1790) and David Ricardo (1772‑1823), coinciding with the challenge of the rising bourgeoisie to feudal power remnants, with the rapid and growing domination of the capitalist mode of production, was thus metamorphosed into the vulgar bourgeois, apologetic snake‑dance of the political economy of Marx's and our own time.

But it is not only to the vulgar political economist, the apologist of bourgeois society, that the reality behind the appearances is hidden or obscured. The practical capitalist undergoes a parallel process, given his practice as a capitalist. And this process extends even to the mystification of the worker himself!

Karl Marx (1818‑1883) points out in his unfinished third volume of Capital that, given a particular rate of exploitation of the workers, the surplus‑value yielded in a given sphere of production has greater importance for social capital (or for the capitalist class as a whole) than for a particular capitalist in a specific branch of production. The particular capitalist cares about this mass of surplus‑value in a particular sphere of production only in relation to what it does for average profit. As Marx observes:

But this is a process which occurs behind his back, one he does not see, nor understand, and which indeed does not interest him. The actual difference of magnitude between profit and surplus‑value—not merely between the rate of profit and the rate of surplus‑value—in the various spheres of production now completely conceals the true nature and origin of profit not only from the capitalist, who has a special interest in deceiving himself (sich zu täuschen) on this score, but also from the labourer (Arbeiter). The transformation of values into prices of production serves to obscure the basis for determining value itself. [1]

Reality, then, would no longer appear in their theoretical frameworks, and many of the complicated and misleading appearances, within the system of bourgeois economic distortions and theoretical lacunae, would be misconceived, conceived by means of a false consciousness, as "realities".

According to Marx, the later bourgeois, post‑Ricardian, vulgar economy had been "entrapped" by the existing system of capitalist production‑relations. The bourgeoisie's vulgar economists felt perfectly at home in their own version of a science of economics, which quite nicely cohabited with patent absurdities and "perfect contradictions"; bourgeois relations of production became more and more intuitively "self‑evident". Thus vulgar bourgeois political economy "theoretically" nurtured itself in the alienated external form (entfremdeten Erscheinungsform) of economic relationships. [2] The apologists of bourgeois economy necessarily chose, then, to abide within the estranged surface and show of capitalist society, that is, they ceased to pursue the science of political economy that their revolutionary predecessors had founded. As Marx describes the alienated scientific appearance of bourgeois political economy:

Thus, vulgar economy has not the slightest suspicion that the trinity which it takes as its point of departure, namely, land‑rent, capital‑interest, labour‑wages or the price of labour, are prima facie three impossible combinations. First we have the use‑value land, which has no value, and the exchange‑value rent: so that a social relation conceived as a thing is made proportional to Nature, i.e., two incommensurable magnitudes are supposed to stand in a given ratio to one another. Then capital‑interest. If capital is conceived as a certain sum of values represented independently by money, then it is prima facie nonsense to say that a certain value should be worth more than it is worth. It is precisely in the form: capital‑interest that all intermediate links are eliminated, and capital is reduced to its most general formula, which therefore in itself is also inexplicable and absurd. The vulgar economist prefers the formula capital‑interest, with its occult quality of making a value unequal to itself, to the formula capital‑profit, precisely for the reason that this already more nearly approaches actual capitalist relations. Then again, driven by the disturbing thought that 4 is not 5 and that 100 taler cannot possibly be 110 taler, he flees from capital as value to the material substance of capital; to its use‑value as a condition of production of labour, to machinery, raw materials, etc. . . . . As soon as the vulgar economist arrives at this incommensurable relation, everything becomes clear to him, and he no longer feels the need for further thought. For he has arrived precisely at the "rationale" of the bourgeois presentation. [3]

The "rationale" of the bourgeois presentation is to stop before the "boundary" that appearance has with reality, to shield reality off from these appearances, and to delve into these same appearances "systematically" in a bourgeois way, i.e. without connection with the material‑historical realities underlying capitalist relationships, namely unscientifically.

But it was by now too late to expect of the bourgeois economists a scientific world‑view, just as today it would be equally ridiculous to expect of bourgeois philosophers, whether pragmatists, positivists, phenomenologists, or existentialists, that they themselves should deal with reality, rather than appearances. Earlier Hegel had probed as deeply as any bourgeois philosopher could thereafter into the dialectical reality underlying the appearances, just as Smith and Ricardo had been digging as deeply as their own bourgeois standpoint would allow, i.e. more deeply than the subsequent vulgar, bourgeois political economists. In both philosophy and political economy the surface dominates the apologists' consciousness more and more. Hegel, Smith, and Ricardo, as representatives of the rising class brought forth by the new mode of production, were determined to get to the bottom of things, their foundation; yet they were unable to so fully, because as Marx explains of their economists:

Classical Political Economy nearly touches the true relation of things, without, however, consciously formulating it. This it cannot so long as it sticks in its bourgeois skin. [4]

Marx knew, however: ". . . all science would be superfluous if the outward appearance (Erscheinungsform) and the essence (Wesen) of things directly coincided." [5]

The practicing capitalist, as we have seen earlier, has an objective interest in not penetrating the inner essence of the capitalist mode of production and, also, an inability to move towards the essence, both brought on by the process by which he continues to remain in existence as a capitalist. Marx was the first thinker able to gain theoretical truth about that essence: that surplus‑value is transformed by the capitalist into profit. The cost‑price can be distinguished by the capitalist from the profit, yet the "conception of value" (Begriff des Werts) naturally eludes the capitalist here; for he fails to see the total labor objectified in the commodity—he only sees "total labor" in terms of the means of production (both living and nonliving means of production). Thereby to the capitalist, profit seems to lodge in another place than in the commodity itself; furthermore, profit seems to lodge in another place than in the commodity itself; furthermore, influences outside the commodity seem to him to have a greater determining role, because of his own practice of positioning himself in the market and against his workers so he can effectively fight for profit. [6] Thus, even when the capitalist class was a rising class, even when its political economist were materialistic and progressive, they still could not peer more deeply into the essence of capitalist production‑parts of the essence could be theoretically conceptualized, but nonetheless the appearances called forth by this mode of production for the capitalists and their literary representatives kept Marx's own discovery of the essence from theoretical realization.

Marx was able to probe into and find this inner connection for the first time, despite the fact that many economists of genius had been working for many decades to theoretically understand the foundation of the new system. Those bourgeois theoreticians either conceptualized the system in forced abstraction from surplus‑value and profit, in order to retain the determination of value as a basis, or, less theoretically, as the bourgeois theory of political economy evolved, they shifted to the appearances, away still further from the essence, by abandoning value as a basis. These latter theorists, then, fell into the same theoretical cul‑de‑sac as the practical capitalists, viz. they yielded to the phenomena of competition, becoming incapable of going beneath them. They could no longer comprehend the inner essence (innere Wesen) and inner structure (innere Gestalt) behind the appearance (Schein). [7]

Competition as a phenomenon, Marx had found, cannot show how value is determined. Contrary to the appearances, value (Wert) dominates the movement of production, since values lie beneath the prices of production (and ultimately determine them). To elaborate this Seeming that competition brings forth, Marx gives the following: (1) average profits are independent of the "organic composition of capital" (i.e. the relation of the amount of living labor to machinery, etc.) and the amount of exploitation of workers; (2) fluctuation of prices with the wage‑level (which seemingly contradicts the deeper connections embodied in the value relation of commodities); and (3) intricate divergencies of market price from market value. Marx's discovery, that the essence of value, to put it simply, is labor‑time (and that surplus‑value is unpaid labor‑time), [8] is seemingly contradicted by the phenomena of competition, i.e. the appearances connected with competition; in fact, perceiving the economy of capitalism from the viewpoint of competition gives us the appearance of the inverse of Marx's theory. Competition as the surface of the reality beneath conceals this inner essence; the phenomena of competition are the inverse (verkehrt) of the essential patterns giving them birth. [9]

A superficial, class‑bounded look at bourgeois society shows us the worker's wage as labor's price. Some interpret this as the "value of labor", with an expression of its "necessary or natural price" in money terms. At the same time they speak of the "market‑price" of labor, which fluctuates above and below its "natural price". [10] But, in reality, labor has no value. As Marx asserts:

In the expression "value of labour," the Value concept (Wertbegriff) is not only completely obliterated, but actually inverted (verkehrt). It is an expression as imaginary as the value of the earth. These imaginary expressions, arise, however, from the relations of production themselves. They are categories for the outer forms (Erscheinungsformen) of essential relations (wesentlicher Verhältnisse). That in their appearance (Erscheinung) things often represent themselves in inverted form (verkehrt) is pretty well known in every science except Political Economy. [11]

For Marx, then, and for social science as well, the appearance/reality distinction is indispensable. The essence manifests itself (partly at least) in its appearances, reality must appear in a certain form; the appearances are not unreal but are the appearances of the essence, the appearance of reality. Nonetheless, the appearances must not be taken, undialectically, unscientifically, for the reality (essence) itself. As the ancient Ionian philosopher Heraclitus (ca. 540‑475 B.C.) had said: "The underlying harmony is stronger than the apparent one." [12] Both Hegel and Marx, as dialecticians, based their own distinction of appearance/reality upon Heraclitus; and science in general, despite pervasive positivistic obscurantism, [13] must agree with Heraclitus when he observed: "The inner essence is disposed to hide itself.” [14]

The appearance/reality distinction, of course, did not spring up from social science, but was generated from the needs of physical science, originally. As Albert Einstein (1879‑1955) stated in his inaugural address to the Prussian Academy of Sciences in 1914:

. . . As long as no principles are found on which to base the deduction, the individual empirical fact is of no use to the theorist; indeed he cannot even do anything with isolated general laws abstracted from experience. He will remain helpless in the face of separate results of empirical research, until principles which he can make the basis of deductive reasoning have revealed themselves to him. [15]

And Einstein added, humbly, the following, on the basis of this essence/appearance distinction, in regard to the present unknowns in theoretical science:

. . . It may equally well happen that clearly formulated principles lead to conclusions which fall entirely, or almost entirely, outside the sphere of reality at present accessible to our experience. In that case it may need many years of empirical research to ascertain whether the theoretical principles correspond with reality. We have an instance of this in the theory of relativity. [16]

Einstein was also wise and practical enough to know that reality must appear, that scientific concepts to be true must conform to and explain the laws of these appearances: "Kepler's marvelous achievement is a particularly fine example of the truth that knowledge cannot spring from experience alone but only from the comparison of the inventions of the intellect with observed fact." [17] Despite Einstein's ahistoric view, that scientific theories are "free creations" of the mind, the theories approximately reveal the underlying reality, for him.

Though Kant (1724‑1804) made the reality behind the appearances unknowable, [18] he made the existence of things in themselves thinkable. As Kant says: ". . otherwise we should be landed in the absurd conclusion that there can be appearance (Erscheinung) without anything that appears." [19] Or as Kant put it in his Prolegomena (1783):

The sensuous world is nothing but a chain of appearances connected according to universal laws; it has therefore no subsistence by itself, it is not the thing in itself, and consequently must point to that which contains the basis of this appearances (Grund dieser Erscheinung), to beings which cannot be known merely as appearances, but as things in themselves. In the knowledge of them alone can reason hope to satisfy its desire for completeness in proceeding from the conditioned to its conditions. [20]

Kant makes plain what his Critique is out to smash, viz. materialism, fatalism, atheism, free‑thinking, fanaticism, superstition. [21] And the unknowability of reality has this motivation for Kant; as he says: "I must, therefore, abolish (aufheben) Knowledge in order to make a place for Faith (Glauben) . . . ." [22]

In order to make room for faith, Kant developed a constitutive idealism of the appearances, such that the whole world of Nature (phenomena) were mere appearances, i.e. only modifications of our sensuous intuition, without any categorical connection to transcendental objects. [23] As Kant declares: nature is not a thing in itself but is merely an aggregate of appearances . . . " [24] And further:

Thus the order and regularity in the appearances (Erscheinungen), which we entitle nature (Natur), we ourselves introduce. We could never find them in appearances, had not we ourselves, or the nature of our mind, originally set them there. [25]

The full anti‑materialist and transcendental idealistic flavor of Kant's outlook comes forth when he asserts:

External objects (bodies—Körper) . . . are mere appearances, and are therefore nothing but a species of my representations (Vorstellungen), the objects of which are something only through these representations. Apart from them they are nothing. [26]

Given Kant's theory that the structure of Nature (the world of phenomena) and external bodies are projected by the make‑up of our minds, and thus appearances are perfectly cognizable (along with their laws), the thinker can never come into contact with Dinge an sich, things in themselves, only with appearances; but Kant declares we do not really need to know noumena (things as they really are), since nothing can be presented to me except as a phenomenon. [27]

Hegel (1770‑1831) was not content to seal reality off from the cognitive powers of the human mind, nor was he willing to jettison the appearance/reality dialectic, as in the case of so many thinkers of the post‑Kantian, bourgeois era. Hegel points out that Transcendental Idealism's development after Kant (Fichte, Schelling) "recognized the nothingness of the spectral thing‑in‑itself", which as an "abstract shadow divorced from all content". [28] Even Kant must admit the complete divorce from content of his Ding an sich:

If we are pleased to name this object noumenon for the reason that its representation is not sensible, we are free to do so. But since we can apply to it none of the concepts of our understanding, the representation remains for us empty, and is of no service except to mark the limits of our sensible knowledge and to leave open a space which we can fill neither through possible experience nor through pure understanding. [29]

Such things in themselves (as unknowable), Hegel points out, are merely abstractions from the interconnectedness of things with one another, thoughts devoid of all determination. Because, conceptually, the thing in itself is thus set equal to zero, of course, it becomes unknowable. Kant's "thing in itself" (as incomprehensible) is like Schelling's "Absolute" of which nothing ultimately can be said except in "it" all is one. [30] Being must be mediated, must have determinations, therefore must be knowable, must appear, for Hegel. Unlike Kant, Hegel knows that there is a becoming of essence (Werden Des Wesens).

Just as in Marx later, Hegel states: “. . . the world in and for itself is the inversion (die verkehrte) of the manifested (erscheinenden) world.” [31] Marx's account of the Show of competition also involved inverting the essential relationships, and Hegel sees, like Marx, that, although seeming (Schein) hides these essential relationships, seeming itself is the seeming of essence, essence's seeming. As Hegel states:

Essence (Wesen) is, however, that sublated Being (aufgehobene Seyn) developed; it is only Seeming (Schein) which stands over against it. But Seeming is the . . . positing (Setzen) of Essence. [32]

As Hegel explains at his dialectical best:

These two moments, namely the nothingness (Nichtigkeit) which yet is and the being which is only a moment, or the implicit negativity and the reflected immediacy that constitute the moments of essence itself: it is not a seeming (Schein) of being in the essence, or a seeming of essence in being, the seeming in the essence (Wesen) is not the seeming of another, but rather it is seeming in itself, the Seeming of the Essence itself. [33]

Thus the essence shines forth by means of "distinct moments". [34]

Whereas Kant stopped at contradiction, Kant being paralyzed by its omnipresence where thought was concerned, Hegel presses forward to the recognition of the profound truth of contradiction, [35] and thus Hegel is not trapped with an incognizable essence and a perfectly cognizable appearance, as in Kant; since, for Hegel, reality can only present itself by means of contradictory oppositions, such as the opposition appearance/reality. [36] The being that appears and its essence must stand in relation to one another; their essential relation is Existence (Existenz): " . . what appears manifests what is essential and this is in its Appearance." [37] When certain conditions obtain, there are existential facts which emerge; but such facts are tied to their essences and have being before they actually exist—they must unfold. [38] "Das Wesen muss erscheinen." [39] The Essence must appear. Essence passes into existence: ". . . Existence is essence's absolute emptying of itself or self·alienation (Entäusserung), nor has it remained behind on the further side of it." [40]

Finally, as in Marx, Hegel states (though with a mystical motive): "Abstract thinking . . . is not to be regarded as a mere setting aside of the sensuous material (sinnlichen Stoffes), the reality of which is not thereby impaired; rather is it the sublating and reduction (Aufheben und die Reduktion) of that material as mere Appearance (Erscheinung) to the Essential (Wesentliche), which is manifested only in the Concept (Begriff)." [41]

In Hegel's Germany the bourgeoisie was not in power, but had to be content with a secondary, sycophantic relationship to the rotting system of the feudal nobles and kings there; yet the German bourgeoisie still had their eyes on the citadels of power, which their cousins in England and France were closer to, and thus Hegel's thought represented a rising, though timid bourgeoisie. This rising class wished to lift the veil of appearance and gaze at the essence. The deep social and economic contradictions of that German world made the conceptualization of dialectics necessary for the literary representatives of the rising class. Marx radically transformed Hegelian dialectics for the use of science, materialism, and the new class that had recently arrived on the historical stage, the proletariat.

When the bourgeoisie achieved power in France, England, and the United States, it needed a philosophy which would express its new practice of rule, a practice which included a rapidly growing internal economy—in between mammoth depressions—and a vigorous and an aggressive policy towards grabbing the lands and wealth of other peoples. Especially in England and the United States, the new philosophy was Neo‑Hegelianism. Neo‑Hegelianism's "Absolute Mind" gave its devotees that oceanic feeling, stressed growth, completeness transcending space and time, and was a secular bourgeois substitute for feudalistic and obsolescent religiosity. Philosophy could soar beyond time and space, and it could commune with the new gods of the earth making for "progress", the colonialists, world‑ranging merchants, mechanical inventors, and arrogant missionaries with a "world mission". Capitalism was on the verge of imperialism, yet all seemed rational, cosmically necessary. When capitalism did reach the stage of imperialism, that is, when there was no longer any room for the colonial powers to "grow" except by "growing" at the expense of other colonial powers, Neo‑Hegelianism or Absolute Idealism had reached the stage of being aufgehoben; it had to be sublated, and it was. American Absolute Idealism had represented expansiveness, guaranteed salvation sub specie aeternitatis, being able to grasp the totality, i.e. rising above both the immediate and the particular, and, above all, rising above to the totality by means of rationality. But by the 1890's and the years before the Great Imperialist World War of 1914, the imperialist powers were hemmed in by one another, emphasis shifted to the immediate, to the particular. The economy and the society didn't seem to be working—a new bourgeois outlook, corresponding to the new capitalist practice, was needed in the youngest and most vital imperialist power, a philosophy which would make a full break with the feudal past's religion and outlook, especially with its rationality, and with that substituting bourgeois expediency and "workability" for truth.

Josiah Royce (1855‑1916) stood forth as the greatest representative in America of this Neo‑Hegelianism. He had come from the frontier and avidly, reworked the products of the great stream of philosophers from Germany. His colleague William James (1842‑1910) devoted his life to destroying Royce's Absolute Idealism, as well as its British philosophical cousin. James was intent on developing a new outlook, Pragmatism.

What had previously been a progressive, semi‑worldly outlook in Emerson, had become an anachronistic, almost other‑worldly creed in Royce. Absolute Idealism in the pre‑Civil War period fought for the abolition of slavery and for human liberty. (Nonetheless, it was still a philosophy of mystification, since it was still an idealism, a philosophy fighting against materialism and science. But its main function was to create a more rational, a more developed capitalist system.) But the march of science had irretrievably damaged the older idealism, so a new idealism, not going by that name, in fact claiming to go beyond it, was needed. Moreover, the new milieu of imperialism had such sharp and inexhaustible contradictions connected with it, both domestically and abroad, that the concept of a fully rational universe was no longer either a proper fighting creed nor a useful notion to serve for the purpose of mystifying the people, that is, for protecting the now profoundly uneasy power of the ruling capitalist class, because the world no longer seemed so rational, nor would any "Absolute" magically account for or cancel out such sharply contrasting appearances. In other words, the proper philosophy for the period of imperialism in America, in order to serve effectively as a mystification of the masses and to serve as a fighting weapon of the American bourgeoisie, would have to be irrational. Nowhere else in the imperialist world did the ruling capitalist class make such a "good" decision on choice of philosophy; its choice of pragmatism was probably the closest to real bourgeois needs.

Pragmatism, in James' conception at least (and this conception of pragmatism is still the most deeply rooted in the consciousness of Americans, notwithstanding Dewey, C. I. Lewis, Hook, and Quine), was both irrational and mystified, yet claimed also to be scientific! It was not only "scientific" but religious to boot! Immediacy, sensuousness, experience, and particularity would replace the dramatic, conspicuous absence of the Absolute Mind. As James stated in 1904:

My description of things starts with the parts [nota bene] and makes of the whole a being of the second order. It is essentially a mosaic philosophy of plural facts, like that of Hume and his descendants, who refer these facts neither to Substances in which they inhere nor to an Absolute Mind that creates them as its objects. [42]

We notice here a rejection both of materialism, that is, of a material reality giving rise to the appearances, and of Absolute Idealism. Moreover, only the parts are really real, a nominalist antithesis to Absolute Idealism's denial of the ontological ultimacy of the "parts", i.e. the appearances. Bourgeois thought, then, falls back upon the skeptical conservatism of David Hume's philosophy, with some new bourgeois twists and additions. Thus only the experienceable surface of reality is granted ontological status, and this surface is nominalistically conceived. It is also fitting that James selects the term "mosaic" as his metaphor to describe his conception.

But what about the powers and forces behind these appearances? This question always comes back to haunt the phenomenalist. Due to the fact that James requires all proposed realities to be directly experienceable, he must then try to make the connections and determinations of the appearances themselves appearances, sensuously apparent. Hence James is convinced that he is far more "radical" than Hume, since James grants that the set of "conjunctions" ("conjunctive relations"), the glue that holds things together, is there for us to perceive, instead of Hume's loose, glueless phantasmagoria of disconnected impressions. [43] But James' conception of the universe is not really that far removed from Hume's; James not only does not want reality and its essential relations to stand behind the appearances but he also does not want too much glue to reside on the surface of the mosaic. As James explains:

Taken as it does appear, our universe is to a large extent chaotic. No one single type of connection runs through all the experiences that compose it. [44]

The "chaos" James is speaking about, however, is a function of physical laws on the cosmic level and of socio‑economic laws on the socio‑historical level, both sets of laws not apparent on the phenomenal level. The "chaotic" condition of human affairs in James' time was largely the manifestation of the inner workings of imperialism, as James himself sometimes realized. But James and the bourgeoisie could not plumb the depths under the "chaos", otherwise they would have had to surrender ideological hegemony to the proletariat and its theorists. The chaos would have to be taken as ultimate ontologically, reality would be identified solely with seeming. As James explained, parallel to Ernst Mach's subjectivism, in James' famous essay of 1904, "Does 'Consciousness' Exist?": "My thesis is that if we start with the supposition that there is only one primal stuff or material in the world, a stuff of which everything [nota bene] is composed, and if we call that stuff 'pure experience,' then knowing can easily be explained as a particular sort of relation towards one another into which portions of pure experience may enter.” [45]

Even James' own pragmatism, he himself asserted in 1907, was not logically connected with his "radical empiricism". [46] James' philosophy itself was a scene of chaos, but a "chaos" with an underlying unity: bourgeois thought had to move to emphasize immediacy, one could no longer conceptualize the totality or the essential relationships giving rise to the forms of appearance. The bourgeoisie was now a declining ruling class and no longer had an interest in either reality or truth, yet pragmatism would give the capitalists and their ideologists the needed flexibility and techniques to control their system and the masses to a certain extent, and, since it would turn the bourgeois away from the reality behind the appearances, pragmatism would allow its devotees to engage in their own self‑deception. Let us see how James himself works this "flexible" perspective out in his pragmatic notion of "truth":

Our account of truth is an account of truths in the plural, of processes of leading, realized in rebus, and having only this quality in common, that they pay. . . . Truth for us is simply a collective name for verification·processes, just as health, wealth, strength, etc., are names for other processes connected with life, and also pursued because it pays to pursue them. Truth is made, just as health, wealth and strength are made, in the course of experience. [47]

The metaphor of "paying" is, of course, a perfect one for a bourgeois philosopher. Like Marxism before it, Pragmatism does link up with life; they both emphasize practice, but Pragmatism allows (for James) anything that fits psychologically into our individual lives to "pay", [48] whereas Marxism sees theory and practice as dialectically interpenetrating, that is, theory and practice illuminate one another. Practice, in Marxism, does not make theory subservient to inner psychological needs. Practice is the proof (or disproof) that theory has gone beyond the surface of things, that objective truth has been sighted, or better conceptualized, though Marxism already (before Pragmatism's bourgeois birth) knew, contrary to Feuerbach and the mechanistic materialists, that much of the objective truth of the reality around us has been brought about by the subject, i.e. human beings, by their revolutionary practice. Something is true, nonetheless, even if a subjective idealist such as James might not feel it "paid" for him!

As James sketched the orientation that the "pragmatic method" gives: "The attitude of looking away from first things, principles, 'categories,' supposed necessities; and of looking towards last things, fruits, consequences, facts."  [49] "Looking away", of course, James forgot, does not remove the reality behind the appearance. Scientists cannot indulge in "looking away" from "first things", with the exception of bourgeois social scientists. Thus James does not disappoint our expectation, he feels quite comfortable in teaming up with George Berkeley (1685‑1753), agreeing with Berkeley's rejection of material substance behind our sensations. [50]

James' philosophy was designed to link up with life. But the new philosophy of Edmund Husserl (1859‑1938), that is, "Phenomenology", which was formulated shortly before World War I, in Germany, strained every philosophical and methodological muscle to detach itself from existence, to enable Husserl to develop a "permanent" and an "indubitable" foundation for science and culture. That "foundation" would be steeped in Spirit, in a Transcendental Idealism, a foundation which would fight eternally against materialism (Naturalismus). Husserl's phenomenology was announced in 1913 in his book Ideas: General Introduction to Pure Phenomenology (Ideen zu einer reinen Phänomenologie und phänomenologischen Philosophie). And as Husserl stated in the preface to the English edition in 1931: "The result of the phenomenological clarification of the meaning of the manner of existence of the real world . . . is that only transcendental subjectivity has ontologically the meaning of Absolute Being, that it only is non‑relative, that is relative only to itself; whereas the real world indeed exists, but in respect of essence is relative to transcendental subjectivity, and in such a way that it can have its meaning as existing . . . reality only as the intentional meaning‑product of transcendental subjectivity." [51] Within the text of his book of 1913, Husserl continued the tradition of constitutive idealism of such Neo‑Kantians as Hermann Cohen (1842‑1918) and Paul Natorp (1854‑1924), which Neo‑Kantians had thrown out Kant's own Ding an sich, that is, the reality behind the appearances, and thus Cohen and Natorp had followed the general bourgeois trend towards immediacy and allowing the appearances no ontological support except the spiritual action of Mind. As Husserl asserts: "An object that has being in itself. . . is never such as to be out of relation to consciousness and its Ego." [52] Furthermore, Husserl's own brand of Idealism has the wild, egotistic outcome, that even if the world of Nature disappeared, though the Being of consciousness would be "affected", that "Being" would still exist (!) and its essential functioning would remain in place! Marx and Engels were able to explain the roots of such speculative idealism and the idealistic rejection of the primacy of Nature and existing human practice:

Division of labour only becomes truly such from the moment when a division of material and mental labour appears. From this moment onwards consciousness can really flatter itself that it is something other than consciousness of existing practice, that it really represents something without representing something real; from now on consciousness is in a position to emancipate itself from the world and to proceed to the formation of "pure" theory, theology, philosophy, morality, etc. [53]

Marx and Engels explain the trap that idealistic philosophers such as Husserl fall into in terms of the process of ideology (false, distorted consciousness), in which the true relations of reality and mind become inverted, perverted, turned upside down. To cite the actual quotation from Husserl referred to above in paraphrase: ". . . The Being of consciousness, of every stream of experience (Erlebniisstromes) generally, [54] though it would indeed be inevitably modified by a nullifying (Vernichtung) of the thing‑world, would not be affected thereby in its own proper existence.” [55]

Husserl fell into this wild Transcendental Idealism despite his great teacher's warnings about going off the deep end. Franz Brentano (1838‑1917), Husserl's Viennese teacher, however, himself gave Husserl many of the scholastic philosophical categories and concepts that would aid Husserl in holding out against materialism and the growth of modem science. Husserl's German academic world was a professorial‑bureaucratic world, in which Husserl could insulate himself from the hurly‑burly of life, at least until the Nazis came to power in 1933. In German philosophy, despite wide idealistic differences, the main enemy was materialism, and a direct attack on irrational religion and society was largely impossible. But the real battles and most important dimension of life for such ideologist‑philosophers were those of clashing philosophical schools, competition between various idealisms and idealistic methodologies. Since such philosophers were not linked up with the extra‑academic world, the greatest threat to their ideological fantasies and school‑empires was the impact of the rapidly growing sciences whose main danger to idealism was the constant tendency towards materialistic conclusions, in other words, conclusions which went against the ideological inversion which had the peril of inverting the inversion. As Marx and Engels described in outline this process of the ideological inversion:

Men are the producers of their conceptions, ideas, etc., that is, real, active men, as they are conditioned by a definite development of their productive forces and of the intercourse corresponding to these, up to its furthest forms. Consciousness can never be anything else than conscious being, and the being of men is their actual life‑process. If in all ideology men and their relations appear upside‑down (auf den Kopf gestellt) as in a camera obscura, this phenomenon arises just as much from their historical life‑process as the inversion of objects on the retina does from their physical life‑process. [56]

Husserl, of course, carries this ideological inversion as far as it can be carried when he says: ". . .Consciousness, considered in its 'purity', must be reckoned as a self‑contained system of Being, as a system of Absolute Being, into which nothing can penetrate, and from which nothing can escape. . . ." [57] Despite this phenomenological disconnection from actual material and earthly life, Husserl, like James, proceeds to reduplicate empiricism, positivism, and immediacy on the transcendental level, as well as on the sensuous intuitive plane.

The phenomenology of Husserl is a study of "phenomena", not the reality of a material world behind them. What is different here from more profane, impure types of empiricism or positivism is that Husserl's "phenomena" are not considered from the point of view of their existence. Phenomenology purifies itself of this vast philosophical impurity of natural existence by means of the phenomenological reduction, the epoché. What is gained in this purified region "outside" of existence is a new point of view, one which can be seen to contrast at every point with the (normal) natural outlook. Husserl, after existence has been placed in "brackets" by means of the epoché, then concentrates on the eidos, the essence of all kinds of presentation, sensuous, conceptual, imaginative, fantastic types. Phenomenology thus aims at a knowledge of essences (Wesenerkenntnisse), it deals not with the real but with the "irreal". [58] Scholasticism of a new subjectivistic kind thus re‑entered the philosophical mainstream of Idealism, reflecting the imperfectly realized bourgeois society of Germany, which was still dominated by strong feudalistic‑bureaucratic elements. [59]

Just as each positive science has its own domain, Husserl tells us, and its own rational justifications of its assertions on the basis of "originary" (originärer) given objects of intuition, e.g. the originary experience of physical things in physical science; thus does phenomenology have its own objects and "originary experience". As Husserl declares:

The essence (Eidos) is an object of a new type. Just as the datum of individual or empirical intuition is an individual object, so the datum of essential intuition is a pure essence. [60]

Thereby Husserl does battle with both naturalistic and positivistic empiricism, not by the old rationalism, but by his new transcendental subjectivistic "empiricism" made possible by the phenomenological [epoché], whereby essences are "freed" from all questions of existence, thereby purified and made available "on a basis of immediacy" (unmittelbaren Feststellung). [61] Husserl sees the growing popularity of philosophical empiricism as a function of the continuing advance of science, but he warns that even greater breakthroughs of the positive sciences require further breakthroughs in insight into Essential Being; therefore, the empiricist hostility to ideas (Ideenfeindschaft) must be successfully combatted. [62] Instead of Husserl seeing that empiricism of either the naturalistic or positivistic variety remains only on the surface of things, instead of perceiving that theoretical investigation requires digging into the reality behind the appearances, behind the immediately intuited, Husserl constructs a new one‑sided empiricism, a new ultimate set of intuitions, "seeing in general". Phenomenological, radical "seeing" has its own given objects which can be seen in an "originary" way. As Husserl insists:

If we see an object standing out in complete clearness, if purely on the basis of the seeing, . . . if then we see (as a new way of "seeing") how the object is constituted, the statement faithfully expressing this has then its justification. If we ask why the statement is justified, and ascribe no value to the reply "I see that it is so", we fall into absurdity . . . . [63]

This statement of Husserl's is reminiscent of James' own criterion of evidence in his philosophy of Radical Empiricism. As James says: "To be radical, an empiricism must neither admit into its constructions any element that is not directly experienced, nor exclude from them any element that is directly experienced." [64]

Husserl formulates his own "principle of all principles" not in terms of a Praxis critically evaluating "seeing" and theories of various sorts but in terms of "originary given intuition" (originär gebende Anschauung), [65] and thus parts company with Classical German Idealism which had seen that the categories we approach the immediate with mediate immediacy, i.e. they make what is "seen" intelligible. Husserl returns to a passive revelation of complete Being and truth. But even a muddy idealist such as A. N. Whitehead (1861‑1947) knew better. As he asserted:

Theories are built upon facts; and conversely the reports upon facts are shot through and through with theoretical interpretation . . . . . . . Contemporary evidence is contemporary interpretation, including the assumption of data other than these bare sensa. [66]

Even the anti‑Marxist and pseudo‑dialectical theoretician of the Frankfurt School Theodor Adorno (1903‑1969) saw through the shallowness of bourgeois philosophies of immediacy such as Husserl's, when Adorno wisely observed:

The confidence that from immediacy, from the solid and downright primary, an unbroken entirety will spring—this confidence is an idealistic chimera. To dialectics, immediacy does not maintain its immediate pose. Instead of becoming the ground, it becomes a moment. [67]

In both the thought of James and Husserl theory and science are reduced to immediacy, all mediations and constructions of theories are one‑sidedly neglected, and bourgeois philosophy continues its reckless and anti‑human course of disorientation by assuming that immediacies float around as things which are complete in themselves, like ripe peaches ready to be picked. Husserl not only leaves out the need of theory to probe into and beyond immediacy, but he leaves out the other pole of this dialectic, namely Praxis. As Marx says in his Second Thesis on Feuerbach:

Man must prove the truth, i.e., the reality and power, the this‑worldliness (Diesseitigkeit) of his thinking in practice (Praxis). The dispute over the reality or non‑reality of thinking which isolates itself from practice is a purely scholastic question. [68]

But Husserl persists with inverted (ideological) thought when he states:

Thus the meaning which "Being" bears in common speech is precisely inverted (kehrt um). . . . . Reality, that of the thing taken singly as also that of the whole world, essentially lacks independence. . . . . Reality is not in itself something absolute, binding itself to another only in a secondary way, it is, absolutely speaking, nothing at an, it has no "absolute essence" whatsoever, it has the essentiality of something which in principle is only intentional, only known, consciously presented as an appearance. [69]

As Marvin Farber says of all this nonsense: "Husserl had lived alone too much, had practiced his unchallenged monologue too long, and had combed over his self‑consciousness to such an extent, that to him the term 'everything' came to mean only the set of correlates of his consciousness.” [70] And as Farber says further: ". . . Husserl never 'inspected' himself with respect to his actual economic, social, and political place in German society, either under the monarchy, to which he later looked back with regret at its passing, or under the Weimar republic." [71] We must add even "essences" must be probed beneath the immediacies with which concepts present themselves. Truth is there, but not in pristine nakedness to a passive intellectual consciousness.

The logical positivist and phenomenalist A. J. Ayer (b. 1910) did to some extent at least engage in political and social life, [72] without purposefully having it fertilize his thin, apparently anti‑metaphysical philosophy. Ayer was in the British Army when he published his defense of phenomenalism in 1940, while the Second World War was in its early stage of catastrophic carnage! Earlier in 1936, during the Nazi era, Ayer had taken the position that ethical and political philosophy was "meaningless', [73] thus putting Nazi, liberal, and Marxist ethical systems all on the same irrational‑emotional level. In his book defending phenomenalism, [74] he begins on a scholastic note of conventionalism:

. . . I have shown that between a philosopher who says that he sees only sense‑data and one who says that he sees material things there is no disagreement about any matter of fact. If they appeal to the facts at all it can be only to show that one form of expression is more convenient [nota bene] than the other. Thus, the sense in which my experience gives me justification for saying that I see only sense‑data in quite different from the sense in which it gives me justification for saying that I see only Bank of England notes. [75]

The good bourgeois philosopher, of course, knows when a British five pound note is in his hand, though he remains doubtful about the relative "convenience" of the material‑object "language"! Ayer's conventionalism deepens later in his book:

There is, indeed, a sense in which it is correct to say that both sense‑data and material things exist, inasmuch as sentences that are used to describe sense‑data and sentences that are used to describe material things both very frequently express true propositions [true in relation to what?]. But is would not be correct to infer from this that there really were both material things and sense‑data, in the sense in which it can truly be said that there really are chairs as well as tables. . . . [76]

The phenomenalistic nearby objects of Ayer's professorial world, then, take ontological precedence over material reality, of which these objects are also a small part.

With Ayer's phenomenalism, the sense‑data language will make no distinction "between things as they appear and things as they really are". [77] Ayer adds that this philosophical move would neither throw us into self‑contradiction nor would it negate the concept of a veridical perception. But he hastens to observe: "It is true, indeed, that if we abolished the distinction that we ordinarily make between appearance and reality, and at the same time refused to introduce any compensatory conventions [conventions again!], we should be involved in self‑contradiction." [78] Therefore Ayer must develop a phenomenalistic interpretation of the concept of a veridical perception; if this proves to be either logically impossible, or even less "convenient" than the retention of the appearance/reality dialectic, then Ayer's phenomenalistic convention of "veridicity" would be propelled towards "self‑contradiction", or to the very opposite of convenience, to say the least.

But if every object perceived is but appearance, if there is no reality issuing into these appearances, what sense could logically be given to a veridical "appearance" as opposed to a "non‑veridical" appearance? Precisely on this question of judging the convenience of a phenomenalistic approach, Ayer is able to see self‑contradiction in the concepts of Rudolf Carnap (1891‑1970). Carnap tried to avoid the problem of the egocentric predicament by stating that the "problem" does not come up if it is expressed in formal terminology—everything is attempted to be avoided by formal terminology in Carnap, it seems. Yet Ayer sees through this formalistic seeming easily:

But in this instance his [Camap's] predilection for the formal terminology has led him into confusion. His argument rests . . . upon the assumption that if the sentences of the protocol language referred, not to physical events, but to the contents of experiences, it would follow, in view of the privacy of personal experience, that each person would have his own private protocol language which could have no meaning for anybody else. [79]

Ayer does not see that he falls into the same difficulties by retaining any kind of phenomenalism. For if Ayer is attempting to express material object statements by sense data, the problem of the uniqueness of each ego's own sensa makes this impossible. Ayer again must fall back on convention, i.e. relatively similar meanings of reports of similar sensa. [80] Like Carnap's, Ayer's phenomenalistic idealism places him in an inextricable solipsism, in a privatized world of "correlating" sense experiences, all the talk of "conventions" and "formal terminology" in both Ayer and Carnap notwithstanding.

Our shining phenomenalist knight, A. J. Ayer, comes, in appearance, to the rescue quickly to save us from the need of bringing back the concept of reality. "What we actually do is to define the real qualities of a material thing in terms of the qualities of certain privileged appearances." [81] Thus Saint Alfred is able to save the concept of veridicity for phenomenalism, to "define" the real in terms of "certain privileged appearances". There is nothing like privilege in "égalitarian", open, bourgeois society. Aren't the concepts of "privilege" or "privileged appearances" rather arbitrary? No, says Ayer. As he states, flexibly, of his "privileged appearances": "The choice of the preferential conditions may not be the same for every kind of material thing; but it will be governed by the general rule of giving preference to the sense‑data that are the most reliable. . . . [82] But even if the concept of "privileged appearances" were arbitrary, our fearless knight of the realm of appearances, A. J. Ayer, tells us, this would not condemn the phenomenalist position to self‑contradiction, real or phenomenal:

But even if the procedure were arbitrary, which it is not, there would still be no ground for saying that it led to any contradictions. There is no logical reason why, in classifying appearances as veridical or delusive, we should have to include them all in the same category.  [83]

Apparently, then, in the ever‑so‑unlikely case that Ayer's "privileged appearances" were found to be arbitrary, arbitrariness itself is not contradictory nor would it lead to self·contradiction. Would arbitrariness make the phenomenalistic language even more "convenient"? [84]

To show that he is not a Berkeleyan idealist, Ayer proceeds to refute Berkeley's esse is percipi argument against material things, and then Ayer adopts the phenomenalistic idealism of John Stuart Mill (1803‑1873). [85] Furthermore, Ayer adopts the convention is his sense‑data approach that "whatever appears is real.” [86] It is unusual for a positivist to speak of something being "real", but Ayer does not deviate from normal positivism on the question of causation as necessary connection, a concept he rejects. Like Hume before him, Ayer only sees correlations. Ayer's sense‑datum approach was supposed to be more "convenient" than the material‑object "language"; but when we consult the awesome difficulties involved with the sense data approach, e.g. in G. E. Moore (1873‑1958),  [87] and when we see Ayer continue to show how much human thought must be narrowed and limited by it, it is no surprise that sense‑datum theorists are still squirming about like Laocoön, trying to extricate themselves from self‑imposed restrictions. Our own Laocoön, Ayer, states in fine positivist fashion:

To the question, What are the causes of sense‑data in general? there can indeed be no significant answer. [How often do we get a "significant answer" on anything from a positivist?] For it does not make sense to postulate a cause of phenomena as a whole. [Why not the physical world?] But it is always permissible to attempt to correlate any given sense·datum . . . with another. [88]

For Ayer it could not be substantial material events that would give rise to our perceptions, since the "unity" and "substantiality" of material things need only be explained by reference to certain patterns of sense data. [89] Thus Berkeley's idealism has not been transcended by Ayer, despite his earlier refutation of certain of Berkeley's arguments designed to prove esse is percipi. Ayer's thought supplements Berkeley by Bertrand Russell's theory that material things are logical constructions out of perceived sensa. [90] These "logical constructions" often reflect reality, Ayer neglects to mention, as verified by practice. Ayer neglects to mention this because of his contemplative approach to science and life. [91] In fact, Ayer shows his own empiricist ignorance of theory and practice in science when he states: "I have chosen my examples from the sense of sight because, as I have already pointed out, it is, for those who are able to obtain them, the visual data that play the predominant rôle in the construction of the material world." [92]

Ayer, near the end of his book, skirts practice when he states, that we are on the way towards identifying veridical perceptions—he cannot think of actually identifying a reality beyond and indicated by the appearances, since then Ayer would be forced into materialism—when further sense‑experiences can be given predictive value. [93] But scientists must do more than gaze at appearances so their predictions might have veridicity, and their predictions look for more than "correlations". Opposed to such phenomenalistic reductions of scientific statements, Willard Van Orman Quine (b. 1908) states: "The totality of our so‑called knowledge or beliefs, from the most casual matters of geography and history to the profoundest laws of atomic physics or even of pure mathematics and logic, is a man‑made fabric which impinges on experience only along the edges.” [94] Thus, instead of Quine falling into positivistic idealism, he falls into pragmatistic idealism. Quine rejects Ayer's attempt to define theoretical principles and real events by means of primitive sense data, but Quine falls into the same conventionalistic trap as Ayer when Quine asserts: "Physical objects are conceptually imported into the situation as convenient intermediaries—not by definition in terms of experience, but simply as irreducible posits comparable, epistemologically, to the gods of Homer." [95] Then Quine descends to irrationalism and relativistic sociologism:

. . . In point of epistemological footing the physical objects and the gods differ only in degree and not in kind. Both sorts of entities enter our conception only as cultural posits. The myth of physical objects is epistemologically superior to most in that it has proved more efficacious than other myths as a device for working a manageable structure into the flux of experience. [96]

The ideological consciousness of the bourgeois philosopher, then, is used to giving out myths and seeing everything as ultimately a lie, given the present position of the ruling bourgeoisie. Capitalist ideologies must invent devices for throwing up a "manageable structure" over an apparently chaotic mass of fragments and anarchy in the bourgeois world. This is quite different from the revolutionary bourgeois thinkers, who strove to fight against and dispel myths and lies instead of dealing with physical and social reality, the bourgeois now falls back on "cultural posits", i.e. conventional bourgeois "wisdom". Thus, like Ayer, Quine sees scientific concepts as "expediting", [97]  “managing" our sense experiences, but Quine goes further, seeing science as "myth‑making". British positivist sobriety can brook only "logical construction"; it takes American pragmatic drunkenness to move onto the next anti‑Praxis rung of the ladder, onto conceiving scientific notions as mythical. At any rate, once again, the bourgeois philosopher separates us from reality, screening it from our comprehension by pragmatic myths. But this pragmatic American myth‑making is not as irrational as may seem, it can not hold a candle to an even more irrational set of pure French madness, petty bourgeois negativism: the existentialist phenomenalistic, constitutive, negativistic ontological idealism of Jean‑Paul Sartre (1905‑1980).

Returning to the more sober idealism of A. J. Ayer, his book, The Foundations of Empirical Knowledge, ends with a phenomenalistic whimper rather than a materialistic bang, when he asserts:

The most that we can do is to elaborate a technique for predicting the course of our sensory experience, and to adhere to it so long as it is found to be reliable. And this is all that is essentially involved in our belief in the reality of the physical world. [98]

Thus, Ayer cannot but adopt the perspective of the ideology of the ruling, non‑productive classes; he contemplates, views, supervises, "experiences" from his concrete domination of others who actually produce. Ayer is not involved in actually making what he could then "experience"; the physical world as a concept thus seems a superfluous, "inconvenient" one for him. But phenomenalism does not require that its exponents adopt a passive orientation to reality; given the appropriate conditions, phenomenalism can declare that the mind creates its experiences, or at least the structures of those experiences, as we shall see in Sartre.

The Second World War was not yet over, France was in the grips of the horrendous Nazi occupation, and Sartre published his Being and Nothingness (1943), writing it in a café under the eyes of the Nazis. And though Sartre stressed human freedom in his book (L'Être et le néant), this human freedom could only be posited within an absurd world drama and in desperate opposition to social science, declared to be founded on "self‑deception".

While Marxist philosophers helped to organize the Resistance against the Nazis, analyzing Nazism as a product of the objective, irreconcilable contradictions of capitalism in continental Europe, analyzing the situation without falling, by any means, into irrationalism; Sartre, representing the anti‑Nazi French bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie, read the irrational situation of their society as a product of the general situation of an irrational life. As Auguste Cornu masterfully characterizes Sartre's position on this absurdity: —"Sartre's absolute subjectivism condemns man to an absurd existence, and reduces the subject to a tortured consciousness, in despair because of its pursuit of a goal which remains inaccessible to it, and making the wretchedness of consciousness the very essence of existence; existence thereby has the character of a pointless drama." [99]

Existentialism had arisen, in this century, in the Germany of the 1920's with Heidegger, in which country, as Cornu notes, the depression and crisis had ruined the petty bourgeoisie. The philosophy of Existentialism had its vogue in France after World War II, in the late 1940's and early 1950's. Cornu correctly sees in French Existentialism the outlook of the isolated individual, lost in a decaying capitalist civilization, an outlook in which the individual rejects the bourgeois world and seeks transcendence of that world in this very bourgeois isolation and subjectivity, [100] making a heroic virtue out of a degrading (apparent) necessity. Cornu makes an insightful observation about the originality of this early Sartrean system when he says: "Thus he combines . . . all the characteristic traits of the ideology of decadent classes, an ideology marked by an egocentrism expressed either in an escape from reality by way of dream, renunciation, or death, or in a utopian voluntarism which tends arbitrarily to impose its rules on the world.” [101]

Sartre begins his Being and Nothingness by setting forth the phenomenalist problematic. "Modern thought has realized considerable progress by reducing the existent to the series of appearances (apparitions) which manifest it.” [102] As in pragmatism, phenomenology, and positivism—despite the occasional bourgeois philosophic exceptions to the phenomenalist tendency—Sartre rejects the appearance/reality distinction. Rejecting this distinction at a time when it was never more sorely needed, viz. during the Nazi occupation of France, Sartre glories in continuing the same bourgeois thought which figures as part of the reason why so many had been fooled and manipulated by the appearances of capitalism and bourgeois life. As Sartre nonetheless heedlessly states:

There is no longer an exterior for the existent if one means by that a superficial covering which bides from sight the true nature of the object. . . . . The appearances which manifest the existent are neither interior nor exterior; they are all equal, they all refer to other appearances . . . [103]

Sartre, despite superficial appearances of following in the wake of phenomenalists such as Peirce, James, and the logical positivists, however, wants to make sure that we know just which phenomenalists he is following. He doesn't leave us in suspense: he is following the "phenomenology" of Husserl and Martin Heidegger (1889‑1976). [104] One can see the eclectic combination of these two "phenomenologies" in Sartre's consciousness when we see Sartre combine the essence‑seeking‑pursuit of Husserl with the irrational grounding of Heidegger's existentialist method of using morbid emotions to get to these essences. As Sartre explains: "Being will be disclosed to us by some kind of immediate access—boredom, nausea, etc., and ontology will be the description of the phenomenon of being as it manifests itself; that is, without intermediary.” [105] As Husserl's own interpretation of "positivism" is qualitatively different from "mundane" positivism, [106] Sartre's "phenomenalism" is quite different from earlier monistic phenomenalism.

Our own consciousness, Sartre tells us, has no other deeper reality activating it either; it, too, is but its appearance. But Sartre adds a Heideggerian element to his own phenomenalism by totally emptying consciousness and transforming it into a Nothingness:

Consciousness has nothing substantial, it is pure "appearance" ("apparence") in the sense that it exists only to the degree to which it appears. But it is precisely because consciousness is pure appearance, because it is total emptiness" [107] (since the entire world is outside it)—it is because of this identity of appearance and existence within it that it can be considered as . . . absolute (l'absolu). [108]

As Cornu explains Sartre's own anti‑empirical and pseudo‑theoretical phenomenalism:

Sartre pushed phenomenalism to its extreme, thereby giving ideological expression to the aggravation of the capitalist system's decomposition. It is not enough for him to deny all substantive reality to the external world; he finds the Ego itself has an essentially phenomenal character, and deprives it of all substance, reducing it thus not to the inner Ego, as Bergson did, but to Nothingness. [109]

But Sartre cannot follow the other phenomenalists in reducing the series of phenomenal appearances to the subject's, to consciousness' series of appearances (partly because he never outgrew religious and Cartesian dualisms). Sartre wishes to preserve the existence of being outside, really outside (totally separate from) of consciousness (which is Nothingness, void). Consciousness thus entails a Being other than itself. [110]

This Being in itself (what materialists would call Nature) is the (non·interpenetrating, for Sartre) opposite of Being for itself (consciousness). In order to postulate a theory about the essence of Being in itself, Sartre reverses Spinoza's statement "Omnis determinatio est negatio", all determination is negation, by stating that all negation is determination, that negation is the foundation of the structure of Being in itself. Negation is only a category of Nothingness, of human existence, however; thus Being is prior to the negativating activity of Nothingness and has no nothingness in it—yet Being gives Nothingness something to project its negativities onto. Sartre's existentialism then, more firmly anchors itself in the pseudo‑phenomenology of the Nazi Heidegger than in the phenomenology of Husserl, victim of Nazism and Heidegger. [111] But Sartre's phenomenalistic dualism, contradictory in itself, makes the object to be inactive. This is nothing new. Max Stirner (1806‑1856) assigned the qualities of things to acts of the Ego; in Arthur Schopenhauer (1788‑1860) reality was postulated as absurd; and from Friedrich Nietzsche (1844‑1900) Sartre derived his notion of the essence of the individual as a will to power. Coming back to his main roots in phenomenology, Sartre explains, despite his reservations about the fruitfulness of Heidegger's own Nicht: "Nothingness (le néant) can be nothingness only by nihilating itself expressly as nothingness of the world; that is, in its nihilation (néantisation) it must direct itself expressly toward this world in order to constitute itself as refusal of the world (refus du monde)." [112]

"Nothingness lies coiled in the heart of being—like a worm. [113] Sartre thus continues Heidegger's "much ado about nothing", and Sartre turns the structures of being into little nothings—he robs Being of structure, turns it into a blob, and makes the irrationalization of the world, à la Heidegger, more complete. Sartre also carries on the idealist struggle against materialistic determinism by making human decisions totally free (due to the void or nothingness of Being for itself, i.e. consciousness).

But why all this? Why must bourgeois philosophers not only deny the appearance/reality dialectic, but negate the world's rationality, and rob it of structure? Why all this talk about the worm at the heart of being? Why must the human being's consciousness be totally emptied?

Certainly none of this metaphysic gone mad can be deduced from phenomenalism (nor from the usual idealism) per se, otherwise Ayer might well have deduced some of it from his. Cornu's explanation is illuminating in this connection: since Sartre "speaks for a class which has lost its reason for existence, he deprives both the world and the Ego of all substantive reality; thus he makes Nothingness the basic relation of man with himself and with the world, and reduces the will to power to a freedom of choice without reason and without goal, to a useless activity in an absurd world.” [114]

The "useless activity" spoken of by Cornu in Sartre's thought stems from Sartre's borrowing from Nietzsche (at least in part), that the basic will to power means "striving to become God". [115] In Sartrean terms this is to unite the un‑unitable, viz. Being (fullness) and Nothingness (void), [116] and thus, as Sartre states with existentialist "heroism": "Human reality therefore is by nature an unhappy consciousness with no possibility of surpassing its unhappy state.” [117]

William James' phenomenalism was largely optimistic and opportunistic, reflecting the outset of Imperialism; nevertheless it wound up in irrationalism. Edmund Husserl's "phenomenalism" was a phenomenalism of a higher level than all the others, irrational precisely because of its unearthly and one‑sided notion of reason; it reflected the feudalistic remnants of the German ruling class which had to turn away from the developing reality or to deal with reality in an unreal fashion. Certainty could only be found by looking to an unchanging realm, and thus phenomenology à la Husserl was itself irrational and led to the even greater irrationality of Heidegger's existentialism ("philosophy of Being", as he wanted it called). Husserl's higher level, transcendental phenomenalism, was brought into serious question by World War I and the unrelenting crises of Weimar Germany. The irrationality of the capitalist world required even Husserl's most recent faithful followers to mix heavy doses of the existentialism Husserl despised with his "phenomenology", thereby destroying the "Reinheit" of Husserl's decadent Neo­Kantian scholasticism. A. J. Ayer's phenomenalism and anti‑materialism continued the poverty‑stricken British empiricism which had its roots in the active hegemony of capitalist relationships and bourgeois thought in England, and Ayer carried this empiricistic phenomenalism close to the dawn of an even more bankrupt stage of British bourgeois philosophy: linguistic "analysis". Ayer's positivism strives to strip away ontology from philosophy, to show a conventionalist, fictional alternative to materialism, and to keep philosophy from interacting with practice. Thus Ayer's philosophy also winds up in a self‑contradictory sensationalist metaphysics, in a conventionalistic irrationalisrn, and in an empiricistic Oxfordian scholasticism, an irrationalism manifesting itself as a fetishism of the process of analysis, a pure contemplation of the world like Husserl's (and unlike the irrational activisms of James and Sartre). Ayer's analysis of the nature of science winds up similarly to Sartre's, namely, scientific theories become fictions, mere constructions, though Sartre's thought takes this seriously philosophically and shows science the door. Ayer baths in Russellian skepticism and adds his own positivist arrogance and haughtiness, whereas Sartre bases his philosophy, negatively, on a world without God, where religion is no longer a consolation for the irrationality of capitalism, and irrationality itself formally negates, in a bourgeois way, that bourgeois negation. As Auguste Cornu sums up Sartre's outlook of Being and Nothingness, [118] showing how Sartre deepened French bourgeois irrationalism after Bergson still further, in accordance with the new stage of bourgeois society and its idealist philosophy:

Contemporary French idealist philosophy, whose essential representatives are, first Bergsonianism, and then existentialism, is the ideology of the bourgeoisie, which was revolutionary during the rise of the class and conservative during its dominance, becomes reactionary during the phase of decadence, a phase marked by the disintegration of the capitalist system, more and more deeply undermined by economic and social contradictions. Bourgeois ideology no longer tends to change or to justify the real, but to escape from it. [119]

Cornu's analysis of Sartre's early thought, incidentally, gives the answer to the mystery the existentialist Maurice Merleau‑Ponty (1908‑1961) discerned. As Merleau‑Ponty stated: "Philosophy no longer has the power of exhaustive comprehension which Hegel gave it." [120] Even Sartre himself, later, tried to escape the bankruptcy of bourgeois thought by "adopting" Marxism with an Existentalist base. As Sartre asserted: ". . . I consider Marxism the one philosophy of our time which we cannot go beyond and because I hold the ideology of existence and its 'comprehensive' method to be an enclave inside Marxism. . . . ." [121] And as Sartre continues:

. . . An "anti‑Marxist" argument is only the apparent rejuvenation of a pre‑Marxist idea. A so‑called "going beyond" Marxism will be at worst only a return to pre·Marxism; at best, only the rediscovery of a thought already contained in the philosophy which one believes he has gone beyond. [122]

Sartre's identification with anti‑imperialist Third World movements and his attempts to recover from the eclipse of Existentialism in the late 1950's (the eclipse being due both to the rise of a philosophy antithetical to existentialism, viz. Structuralism, which replaced it as the most important bourgeois philosophical movement in France, and to the unremitting and withering criticisms of French Marxists and above all, perhaps, Lukács' telling critique of Sartre) brought him to appear to adopt Marxism, and to adapt the Marxist concepts of the unity of theory and practice to his own radical bourgeois purposes. As Sartre said, for example:

Every philosophy is practical, even the one which at first appears to be the most contemplative. Its method is a social and political weapon [nota bene]. [123]

Unfortunately, Sartre actually used the weapon of his "Marxism" quite often against the proletarian nations and against the Party of the workers in France, [124] going over at last to the isolated French ultra‑left and Maoism. Despite all the various attempts at phenomenalism, in practice, in reality, even the phenomenalists themselves implicitly accept and utilize the dialectics of appearance /reality (e.g. Sartre above—"every philosophy is practical, even the one which at first appears to be the most contemplative"). The appearance/essence distinction is indispensable to both scientific theory and revolutionary practice; therefore, phenomenalism cannot maintain its philosophic rationality. Phenomenalism is one of the facets of decay connected with the basically idealist nature of bourgeois philosophy during the period of the decline and inherent precariousness of the ruling class of capitalist society. The bourgeois literary representatives of this class are not paid to ponder the reality behind the appearances, but to manage the appearances, to use a thought from the reactionary Pragmatist Quine.

As Sartre says of Nature (Being in itself), in contrast to the old idealist, religious concept: "Uncreated, without reason for being, without any connection with another being, being‑in‑itself (l’être‑en‑soi) is de trop [superfluous] for eternity. [125] It is not Nature which is de trop for eternity, but it is reactionary bourgeois thought which is now superfluous for those who adopt the perspective of the future, those who see the reality beneath the apparent chaos of today's world.

University of Bridgeport


NOTES

1.  Karl Marx, Capital (Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1962), vol. III, pp. 165‑166. [—> main text]

2.  Cf. Karl Marx, Das Kapital: Kritik der politischen Ökonomie, vol. 3 (Bk. III, Der Gesamtprozess der kapitalistischen Produktion), ed. Friedrich Engels, 1894; in Karl Marx/Friedrich Engels, Werke, vol. 25 (Berlin: Dietz Verlag, 1975), p. 825. In the English translation, Karl Marx, Capital, III, p. 797. [—> main text]

3.  Marx, Capital, III, pp. 797‑798. Translation of last line corrected. Italics in original. [—> main text]

4.  Karl Marx, Capital (Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1961), vol. I , p. 542. [—> main text]

5. Marx, Capital, III, p. 797. [—> main text]

6. Cf. ibid., III, p. 166. [—> main text]

7. Cf. ibid., III, p. 166. [—> main text]

8.  As Marx explains: "Capital . . . is not only, as Adam Smith says, the command over labour. It is essentially the command over unpaid labour. All surplus‑value, whatever particular from (profit, interest, or rent), it may subsequently crystallize into, is in substance the materialisation of unpaid labour. The secret of the self·expansion of capital resolves itself into having the disposal of a definite quantity of other people's unpaid labour." Marx, Capital, I, p. 534. And further, Marx gives his labor‑power theory of Value: "A commodity represents, say 6 working·hours. If an invention is made by which it can be produced in 3 hours, the value, even of the commodity already produced, falls by half. It represents now 3 hours of social labour instead of the 6 formerly necessary. It is the quantity of labour required for its production, not the realised form of that labour, by which the amount of the value of a commodity is determined." Ibid., I, pp. 536‑537. [—> main text]

9. Cf. Marx, Capital, III, pp. 204‑205. [—> main text]

10. Cf. Marx, Capital, I, p. 535. [—> main text]

11.  Ibid., I. p. 537. Translation corrected. As Marx continues, connecting the concentration on appearances by bourgeois economists and practical capitalists to the reality of the unfolding of capitalist society: "Hence, we may understand the decisive importance of the transformation of value and price of labour‑power into the form of wages, or into the value and price of labour itself. This phenomenal form, which makes the actual relation invisible, and, indeed, shows the direct opposite of that relation, forms the basis of all the juridical notions of both labourer and capitalist, of all the mystifications of the capitalistic mode of production, of all its illusions as to liberty, of all the apologetic shifts of the vulgar economists." Capital, I, p. 540. [—> main text]

12.  My translation, Cf. G. S. Kirk, Heraclitus: The Cosmic Fragments (Cambridge University Press, 1970), pp. 222‑226. [—> main text]

13.  As Einstein said on the topic of positivism, very aptly (but perhaps too loosely); "I believe that every true theorist is a kind of tamed metaphysicist, no matter how pure a 'positivist' he may fancy himself." Albert Einstein, "On the Generalized Theory of Gravitation", 1950, p. 342. In Albert Einstein, Ideas and Opinions (New York: Crown, 1959). [—> main text]

14.  My translation. Cf. Kirk, op. cit., p. 227. Kirk correctly perceives that Heraclitus is not thereby falling into the Kantian obscurantism of the incomprehensible Ding an sich: "It is important to notice that Heraclitus does not say that the constitution of things is unknowable, only that it is hidden . . . .” Ibid., p. 231. Kirk's italics. [—> main text]

15.  Einstein, "Principles of Theoretical Physics", p. 221. In Einstein, Ideas and Opinions. As Einstein further explained twenty years later: "The theoretical scientist is compelled in an increasing degree to be guided by purely mathematical, formal considerations in his search for a theory, because the physical experience of the experimenter cannot lead him up to the regions of highest abstraction." Einstein, "The Problem of Space, Ether and the Field in Physics", 1934, p. 282. [—> main text]

16. Einstein, "Principles of Theoretical Physics", p. 222. [—> main text]

17. Einstein, "Johannes Kepler", p. 266. In Ideas and Opinions. [—> main text]

18.  "What objects may be in themselves, and apart from all this receptivity of our sensibility, remains completely unknown to us." Immanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, 1781, 1787, trans. Norman Kemp Smith (New York: St. Martin's, 1968), §8, p. 82. [—> main text]

19.  Kant, Preface to the Second Edition, Critique of Pure Reason, p. 27. Cf. also Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, p. 466ff. (B563ff.). [—> main text]

20.  Immanuel Kant, Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics, ed. Lewis White Beck (New York: Liberal Arts, 1950), p. 102. [—> main text]

21.  Cf. Kant, Preface to the Second Edition, Critique of Pure Reason, p. 32. [—> main text]

22. My translation. Immanuel Kant, Kritik der reinen Vernunft, 1787, p. 19. Kant's gesammelte Schriften, vol. III (Berlin: Georg Reimer, 1911). Kemp Smith trans., op. cit., p. 29. [—> main text]

23. Cf. Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, §8, pp. 84‑85. [—> main text]

24. Ibid., p. 140 (Al 14). Cf. ibid., §26, p. 172. [—> main text]

25. Ibid., p. 147 (A125). [—> main text]

26. Ibid., p. 346 (A370‑371). [—> main text]

27. Cf. ibid., p. 286 (B332‑333). [—> main text]

28. G. W. F. Hegel, Hegel's Science of Logic, 1812‑1816, trans. A. V. Miller (London: Allen & Unwin, 1969), p. 47. (Hereafter Science of Logic.) Furthermore, Hegel notes: "It marks the diseased state of the age when we see it adopt the despairing    creed that our knowledge is only subjective, and that beyond this subjective we cannot go." G. W. F. Hegel, The Logic of Hegel (The Encyclopaedia of the Philosophical Sciences, 1817, 1827, 1830), 2nd ed., William Wallace trans. (Oxford University Press, 1965), §22, p. 44. (Hereafter Encyclopaedia Logic.) [—> main text]

29. Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, pp. 293‑294 (B345). [—> main text]

30.  Hegel, Science of Logic, p. 121. As Hegel states with great acuity elsewhere of Kant's "thing in itself": "If to know means to comprehend an object in its concrete character, then the thing‑in‑itself, which is nothing but the quite abstract and indeterminate thing in general, must certainly be as unknowable as it is alleged to be. With as much reason however as we speak of the thing‑by‑itself, we might speak of quality‑by‑itself or quantity‑by‑itself, and of any other category." Encyclopaedia Logic, §124, pp. 231‑232. [—> main text]

31.  Hegel, Science of Logic, p. 509. Hegel's italics. [—> main text]

32.  G. W. F. Hegel, Wissenschaft der Logik, vol. 1, p. 485. In Hegel, Sämtliche Werke, vol. IV (Stuttgart: Friedrich Frommann, 1965). Hegel's italics. [—> main text]

33.  Hegel, Science of Logic, pp. 397‑398. Miller translation considerably changed. Italics in original. [—> main text]

34.  Ibid., p. 409. [—> main text]

35.  "Everything is inherently contradictory, and . . . this law in contrast to the others [i.e. formal logical laws] expresses rather the truth and the essential nature of things." Hegel, Science of Logic, p. 439. Hegel's italics. As Hegel observes: "it must be regarded as a step of infinite importance that dialectic is once more recognized as necessary to reason, although the result to be drawn from it must be the opposite of that arrived at by Kant." Ibid., p. 831. [—> main text]

36.  Cf. ibid., p. 439. [—> main text]

37.  Ibid., p. 480. [—> main text]

38.  Cf. ibid., p. 477. [—> main text]

39.  Hegel, Wissenschaft der Logik, p. 597. [—> main text]

40.  Hegel, Science of Logic, p. 483. [—> main text]

41.  Ibid., p. 588. Translation changed. Hegel's italics. Despite its dialectical genius, Hegel's philosophy is permeated with undialectical mystification. As Hegel asserts: "Every philosophy is essentially an idealism or at least has idealism for its principle, and the question then is only how far this principle is actually carried out." Ibid., pp. 154‑155. [—> main text]

42.  William James, "A World of Pure Experience", p. 152. In Paul Kurtz, ed., American Philosophy in the Twentieth Century (New York: Macmillan, 1966). [—> main text]

43.  Cf. ibid., pp. 152‑153. [—> main text]

44.  Ibid., p. 154. [—> main text]

45.  Op. cit.: in Kurtz, ed., American Philosophy in the Twentieth Century, p. 144. [—> main text]

46.  Cf. James, Author's preface to Pragmatism, p. 14. In Pragmatism and four essays from The Meaning of Truth, 1907 (Cleveland: Meridian, 1961). [—> main text]

47.  James, Pragmatism, op. cit., pp. 142‑143. James' italics. [—> main text]

48.  As James declares, "On pragmatic principles we can not reject any hypothesis if consequences useful to life flow from it." Pragmatism, p. 177. [—> main text]

49. James, Pragmatism, p. 47. James' italics. [—> main text]

50.  As James explains: "Material substance was criticised by Berkeley with such telling effect that his name has reverberated through all subsequent philosophy. . . . . So far from denying the external world which we know, Berkeley corroborated it. It was the scholastic notion of a material substance unapproachable by us, behind the external world, deeper and more real than it, and needed to support it, which Berkeley maintained to be the most effective of all reducers of the external world to unreality. Abolish that substance, he said, believe that God, whom you can understand and approach, sends you the sensible world directly, and you confirm the latter and back it up by his divine authority. Berkeley's criticism of 'matter' was consequently absolutely pragmatistic." Pragmatism, pp. 67‑68. James' italics. [—> main text]

51. Edmund Husserl, Ideas, trans. W. R. Boyce Gibson (London: Allen & Unwin, 1958), p. 21. [—> main text]

52. Ideas, §47, p. 148. Husserl's italics. [—> main text]

53.  Karl Marx & Friedrich Engels, The German Ideology, 1845‑1846, pp. 44‑45; in Marx/Engels, Collected Works (New York: International, 1976), vol. 5. Italics in original. [—> main text]

54.  Husserl appreciated William James' The Principles of Psychology (2 vols., 1890), and he made use of James' "stream of consciousness" metaphor, but Husserl's idealism returns to the thick spiritual consciousness of ghostly Renaissance (Cartesian) and Medieval (Scholastic, filtered through Brentano) times whereas James' consciousness is closer to naturalism and organic functioning, though James also cannot at the same time resist the thicker more pre‑scientific fakeries of the Spiritualism usually rampant in America. James' metaphysics of "pure experience" and Husserl's "Transcendental Ego" and the stream of its experiences are both idealistic constructs, but James is here trying to transcend both materialism and idealism, another illusion of bourgeois philosophy in the age of imperialism. [—> main text]

55.  Husserl, Ideas, §49, p. 151. Husserl's italics. As Husserl also declares: "Thus no real thing, none that consciously presents and manifests itself through appearances, is necessary for the Being of consciousness itself (in the widest sense of the stream of experience)." Ideas, §49, p. 152. Husserl's italics. [—> main text]

56.  Marx & Engels, The German Ideology, p. 36. [—> main text]

57.  Ideas, §49, p. 153. Husserl's italics. [—> main text]

58.  Cf. ibid. pp. 41, 44. For a more detailed analysis of this phenomenological procedure, see David H. DeGrood, Philosophies of Essence (Amsterdam: B. R. Grüner, 1976), pp. 112‑126. For Marvin Farber's extensive study and critique of Husserlian phenomenology, see the following tomes of Farber: —Phenomenology as a Method and as a Philosophical Discipline (University of Buffalo Studies, June 1928); The Foundation of Phenomenology (New York: Paine‑Whitman, 1962). Naturalism and Subjectivism (Springfield: Charles C Thomas, 1959); Phenomenology and Existence (New York: Harper & Row, 1967); The Aims of Phenomenology (New York: Harper & Row, 1966). [—> main text]

59.  In speaking of the things of the natural world, Husserl refers, among other things, to his "servants" and his "superiors". Ideas, §27, p. 103. Everything is neatly in place for him! [—> main text]

60.  Ideas, §3, p. 55. Husserl's italics. [—> main text]

61. Ibid., § 18, p. 81. [—> main text]

62.  Cf. ibid. [—> main text]

63. Ibid., § 19, p. 84. [—> main text]

64.  James, "A World of Pure Experience", op. cit., p. 152. [—> main text]

65.  As Husserl insists: ". . whatever presents itself in 'intuition' in originary form (as it were in its bodily reality), is simply to be accepted as it gives itself out to be . . . ." Ideas, §24, p. 92. Italics Husserl's. Translation slightly emended. [—> main text]

66.  Alfred North Whitehead, Adventures of Ideas, 1933 (New York: Free Press, 1967), pp. 3‑4. [—> main text]

67.  Theodor Adorno, Negative Dialectics, 1966, trans. E. B. Ashton (New York: Sea­bury, 1973), p. 40. [—> main text]

68.  Marx, "Theses on Feuerbach", 11, p. 6. Marx/Engels, Collected Works, vol. 5. [—> main text]

69.  Ideas, §50, p. 154. Husserl's italics. [—> main text]

70.  Farber, "Experience and Subjectivism", p. 627. In Roy Wood Sellars, V. J. McGill & Marvin Farber, eds., Philosophy for the Future: The Quest of Modern Materialism (New York: Macmillan, 1949). [—> main text]

71.  Ibid., p. 629. [—> main text]

72.  Cf. A. J. Ayer, "Philosophy and Politics", 1965. In A. J. Ayer, Metaphysics and Common Sense (San Francisco: Freeman, Cooper, 1970). Ayer's politics can be seen to be a liberal litany of the status quo. As Ayer explains his position: ".  .  . I have nothing new to offer. Only the old familiar liberal principles. . . . Representative government, universal suffrage, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, the right of collective bargaining, equality before the law, and all that goes with the so‑called welfare state. . . . . It would be more romantic to be marching forward shoulder to shoulder under some bright new banner towards a brave new world. But I don't know: perhaps it is the effect of age. . . . . For me the problem is not to devise a new set of political principles but rather to find a more effective means of putting into operation the principles that most of us already profess to have." Ibid., pp. 259‑260. The causes of Ayer's view are not to be found in his own superannuation, but that of British capitalism, that there is no "bright new banner" for the bourgeoisie and its representatives. [—> main text]

73.  A. J. Ayer, Language, Truth and Logic, 1936 (New York: Dover, 1946). For a Marxist humanist antidote to such positivist nonsense, see Barrows Dunham, Ethics Dead and Alive (New York: Knopf, 1971). [—> main text]

74.  A J. Ayer, The Foundations of Empirical Knowledge, 1940 (London: Macmillan, 1947). [—> main text]

75.  Ibid., pp. 27‑28. [—> main text]

76.  Ibid., p. 229. [—> main text]

77.  Ibid., p. 30. [—> main text]

78.  Ibid., p. 31. [—> main text]

79.  Ibid., pp. 149‑150. [—> main text]

80.  Cf. ibid., pp. 157‑161, 249‑255. [—> main text]

81.  Ibid. Ayer wishes to avoid Rudolf Carnap's formalistic conventionalism (and also Carnap's coherence theory of truth in regard to "protocol sentences"), and Ayer says very amusingly: "We should think a philosopher very silly who maintained that all problems about nutrition were purely verbal, on the ground that they could be reformulated as questions about the words that occurred in nutrition‑sentences. But his argument would be exactly on a level with that which Carnap uses to dispose of the 'problems of the so‑called given'." Ayer, The Foundations of Empirical Knowledge, p. 114. Ayer does not want to give up his own British empiricistic idealism for Carnap's Austrian formalistic idealism. Ayer's uneaten banana is an object of the possible experience of eating, while Carnap allows any linguistic conventions about the banana, as long as those conventions used are consistent. Both, nonetheless, try to avoid any ontological status for the material banana outside of actual or possible experience. [—> main text]

82. Ayer, The Foundations of Empirical Knowledge, p. 268. [—> main text]

83. Ibid., p. 32. [—> main text]

84.  Ayer explains this notion of "privileged appearances" in terms of certain definite relationships. Cf. Ayer, The Foundations of Empirical Knowledge, p. 264f. As he observes: "Thus, the real shape of the material thing might be defined by a reference to the shape of sense·data that were in a certain spatial relationship to sense·data belonging to the observer's body; or its real colour might be defined by a reference to sense‑data that occurred in sense‑fields displaying a relatively high degree of illumination. . . . " Ibid., p. 266. But Ayer is himself not altogether happy with the incomplete scope of this approach. [—> main text]

85.  Cf. Ayer, The Foundation of Empirical Knowledge, pp. 64‑68, 244‑245. [—> main text]

86.  Ibid., p. 123. [—> main text]

87.  For the inexhaustible difficulties connected with sense data, see G. E. Moore, "The Status of Sense‑data" (1914), in Moore, Philosophical Studies (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1922). [—> main text]

88.  Ayer, The Foundations of Empirical Knowledge, p. 224. [—> main text]

89.  Cf. ibid., p. 232. Ayer also recognizes he may be placing himself in logical jeopardy here by stating: "It may seem that an attempt to carry out this plan of 'reducing' material things to sense‑data would be at variance with my previous attempt to draw a sharp distinction between them." Ibid. [—> main text]

90.  Cf. Ayer, The Foundation of Empirical Knowledge, p. 237. As Ayer states in good Russellian fashion: ". . no finite set of singular statements about sense‑data can ever formally entail a statement about a material thing, inasmuch as I have recognized that statements about material things are not conclusively verifiable."  Ibid., p. 239. [—> main text]

91.  Cf. Ayer, The Foundations of Empirical Knowledge, pp. 247‑249. Chairs and bookcases, moreover, dominate Ayer's visual field. [—> main text]

92.  Ibid., p. 269. [—> main text]

93.  Cf. ibid., p. 274. [—> main text]

94.  Quine, "Two Dogmas of Empiricism", p. 42. In Quine, From a Logical Point of View, 2nd ed. (New York: Harper & Row, 1961). [—> main text]

95.  Ibid., p. 44. [—> main text]

96.  Ibid. See also Paul Feyerabend, Against Method: Outline of an Anarchistic Theory of Knowledge (London: New Left Books, 1975). [—> main text]

97.  Cf. Quine, "Two Dogmas of Empiricism", p. 45. [—> main text]

98.  Ayer, op. cit., p. 274. Italics added. [—> main text]

99.  Auguste Cornu, "Bergsonianism and Existentialism", p. 164. In Marvin Farber, ed., Philosophic Thought in France and the United States (State University of New York Press, 1968). [—> main text]

100. Cf. ibid., p. 164. [—> main text]

101. Ibid.,  p. 166. [—> main text]

102. Jean‑Paul Sartre, Being and Nothingness: An Essay on Phenomenological Ontology, trans. Hazel E. Barnes (New York: Philosophical Library, 1956), p. xlv. [—> main text]

103. Ibid. As Sartre states later: “. . . since we have restricted reality to the phenomenon, we can say of the phenomenon that it is as it appears." Ibid., p. 1. Sartre's italics. [—> main text]

104. Cf. ibid., p. xlvi. [—> main text]

105. Ibid., p. xlviii. [—> main text]

106. Husserl states in this connection: "If by 'Positivism' ("Positivismus") we are to mean the absolute unbiased grounding of all science on what is 'positive', i.e. on what can be originarily apprehended, then it is we who are the genuine positivists." Ideas, §20, p. 86. Italics Husserl's. Translation slightly altered. [—> main text]

107. That is, a total void (vide total). [—> main text]

108. Sartre, Being and Nothingness, p. lvi. [—> main text]

109. Cornu, "Bergsonianism and Existentialism". p. 162. [—> main text]

110. Cf. Sartre, Being and Nothingness, pp. lx‑lxii. [—> main text]

111. Cf. ibid., pp. 15‑18. [—> main text]

112. Ibid., p. 18. [—> main text]

113. Ibid., p. 21. Sartre continued the undialectical and irrationalist concept of Heideggerian "freedom", when Sartre states colorfully and foolishly: "Freedom is the human being putting his past out of play by secreting his own nothingness." Being and Nothingness, p. 28. [—> main text]

114. Cornu, "Bergsonianism and Existentialism", p. 167. [—> main text]

115. As Sartre says: "To be man means to reach toward being God. Or if you prefer, man fundamentally is the desire to be God." Being and Nothingness, p. 566. [—> main text]

116. Sartre declares on this: "But the idea of God is contradictory and we lose ourselves in vain. Man is a useless passion (passion inutile)." Sartre, Being and Nothingness, p. 615. [—> main text]

117. Sartre, Being and Nothingness, p. 90. [—> main text]

118. Sartre later tries to transcend Nothingness by placing himself at the apparent "service" of the proletariat by adopting Marxism, though he obviously fights for the grounding of Marxism in Existentialist Nothingness, i.e. in Existentialism's "theory" of human nature (and he really tries to kill Marxist historical and dialectical materialism by smuggling pre‑Marxist idealistic concepts into his "Marxism"). Cf. Jean‑Paul Sartre, Search for a Method, 1960, trans. Hazel E. Barnes (New York: Vintage, 1968); and Sartre, Critique of Dialectical Reason, 1960, trans. Alan Sheridan‑Smith (London: New Left Books, 1976). For extended critiques of Sartre, see Howard L. Parsons, "Existentialism and Marxism in Dialogue", pp. 90‑124. In Herbert Aptheker, ed., Marxism and Alienation (New York: Humanities, 1965). See also James Lawler, The Existentialist Marxism of Jean‑Paul Sartre (Amsterdam: B. R. Grüner, 1976). [—> main text]

119. Cornu, "Bergsonianism and Existentialism", p. 151. Italics added. [—> main text]

120. Maurice Merleau‑Ponty, In Praise of Philosophy, 1953, trans. John Wild & James M. Edie (Northwestern University Press, 1963), p. 51. [—> main text]

121. Sartre, Search for a Method, p. xxxiv. Cf. Mark Poster, Existential Marxism in Postwar France (Princeton University Press, 1975). Cf. also David H. DeGrood, "Owls of Minerva", pp. 125‑135; in Revolutionary World, vol. 33, 1979. [—> main text]

122. Sartre, Search for a Method, p. 7. My italics. [—> main text]

123. Ibid., p. 5. Italics added. [—> main text]

124. Cf. Jack Woddis, New Theories of Revolution (New York: International, 1972), pp. 346·365; and cf. Poster, op. cit., pp. 361‑398. [—> main text]

125. Sartre, Being and Nothingness, p. lxvi. My paper here is printed by permission of Warren H. Green, publisher. It will appear in vol. 11 of Radical Currents in Contemporary Philosophy. [—> main text]


SOURCE: DeGrood, David H. "The Appearance of Reality and the Reality of Appearance," in: Dialectical Perspectives in Philosophy and Social Science, edited by Pasquale N. Russo et al (Amsterdam: B.R. Grüner, 1983), pp. 215-248.


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The Thunderbolt, Interpenetration and Heraclitus” by David H. DeGrood

Ex Nihilo Nihil Fit: Philosophy's 'Starting Point' by David H. DeGrood

Radical Currents in Contemporary Philosophy
edited by David H. DeGrood, Dale Riepe, & John Somerville

"Education and Revolutionary Change" by Edward D’Angelo

"Theories of Knowledge: A Dialectical, Historical Critique" by Howard L. Parsons

Positivism vs Life Philosophy (Lebensphilosophie) Study Guide

American Philosophy Study Guide

Selections from Contemporary East European Philosophy, Revolutionary World, B. R. Grüner Publishing Co, & Related Publications:
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