Knowledge in Dialectical Materialism

Dialectical materialism asserts the possibility of knowledge and rejects idealism and relativism, as well as skepticism and sophistry. It is here that the author, for the first time in his book, takes up Marxist epistemology for a critical study. All that which was said hitherto on the theory of knowledge, about the views of the Sophists, Descartes, Locke, Berkeley, Hume and Kant was a preparation for examination of the Marxist viewpoint on knowledge. Basing as it does its theory of knowledge on the empirical doctrine, on dialectical movement of thought and synthesis of contradictions, can it refute idealism and avoid relativism and skepticism? The author's purpose is to show that it fails in this venture.

Marxism and Refutation of Idealism:

Marxism fails to refute idealism by its stand that all knowledge is derived from experience. It fails to notice that in the dispute between idealism and realism sense experience cannot be a judge, for the idealist claims that things exist only in sense experience while the realist asserts that they exist independently of sense experience. The realist cannot demonstrate the objectivity of sense experience i.e. of its being representative of another independent reality by sense experience itself. So also arguments from science can be valid only if the objectivity of experience and experiment has already been posited.

The efforts of Marxist ideologues like Engels, Lenin, Roger Garaudy and Georges Politzer are naive in that they try to refute idealism with arguments from science, which are pointless as long as the objectivity of science has not been established on philosophical grounds. Yet this is something that Marxism cannot do, because:

(1) It does not accept necessary rational principles. According to it, the principle of causality, for example, is an empirical principle. Therefore, it cannot be considered a basis for the validity and objectivity of sense experience.

(2) The dialectic explains external events by contradictions internal to matter: natural events do not require an external cause. The idealist can assert the same thing about phenomena and claim that knowledge and experience arise out of their inner contradictions without the need of any external cause in the form of an independent reality.

The author cites some naive arguments advanced by Marxists against idealism which are derived from science or commonsense, but which in fact side step the real issue or beg the question. Once again al-Sadr concludes that it is not possible to base a sound realism except on the basis of the rational theory of knowledge which asserts the presence of necessary rational principles independent of sense experience.