‘The Power of Cognition is Kin to the Universe’ (1887) by Joseph Dietzgen from the Positive Outcome of Philosophy. Charles H. Kerr Publishers, Chicago. 1906.

‘The Power of Cognition is Kin to the Universe’ (1887) by Joseph Dietzgen from the Positive Outcome of Philosophy. Charles H. Kerr Publishers, Chicago. 1906.

The way of Truth, or the true way, is not musing, but the conscious connection of our thoughts with the actual life – that is the quintessence of the teachings of philosophy produced by evolution. But this is not everything. If I know that a tanner makes leather, I do not by any means know everything he does, because there still remains the manner and method of his manipulations. In the same way, the doctrine of the interrelation of mind and matter, which is the product of the entire social development, requires a better and more specific substantiation, so that its true quality as a positive achievement of philosophy, or of the theory of knowledge may be better understood. If the matter is represented in this bare manner – it does, indeed, resemble the egg of Columbus – one does not see why so much should be made of it. But if we enter into the details that have produced the result, we do not only learn to better respect the prominent philosophers, but their works also reveal a rich mine of special and comprehensive knowledge.

All sciences are closely related, for advances in one branch are preparations for advances in others. Astronomy is unthinkable without mathematics and optics. Every science has begun unscientifically, and in the course of the accumulation of individual knowledge a more or less exact systematic organization of this knowledge has resulted. No science has as yet arrived at completeness and perfectness. We have as yet more the results of experimental effort than accomplished perfection. Philosophy is no better off in this respect. We rather believe we are doing something to overcome a deeply rooted prejudice when we state that philosophy is no worse off than other sciences, so long as we succeed in ascertaining that it has accomplished positive results and in pointing them out.

It is a positive accomplishment of philosophy that mankind to-day has a clear and unequivocal conception of the necessity of the division of labor as a means of being successful. Our present day philosophers no longer make excursions into dreamland in the quest of the True, the Beautiful, and the Good, as did the ancients. The True, the Beautiful, and the Good, are nevertheless the objects of all modern science, only, thanks to evolution, these objects are now sought by special means. And the clear consciousness of this condition of things is a philosophical consciousness.

It is a part of the theory of understanding to know that in order to accomplish something one must limit oneself to a specialty. That is a fundamental demand for the use of common sense, which the primitive musing brain did not realize. Thinking must be done with wide open and active eyes, with alert senses, not with closed eyes or fixed gaze. This is a part of logic. We do not deny that men have always done their thinking by means of the senses. We only claim that they did not do so from principle, otherwise the old complaint about the unreliability of the senses as a means of knowledge would not have lived so long. Neither would the inner man have been so excessively overestimated, nor abstract thought so much celebrated, just as if it alone were the child of nobler birth. I do not wish to detract from the merits of the power of abstraction, but I simply claim that the clay of which Adam was made was no less divine than the spiritual breath that gave him his life. Nor do I mean that it is due to philosophy alone that mankind learned not to strain “understanding” in abstract vaporings, but instead to introduce the division of labor and to take up the various specialties with open senses. The technique of understanding is the product of the entire movement of civilization, and as such a positive accomplishment of philosophy. The total process of evolution has placed the philosophers on their feet.

There is no doubt that up to the present time, philosophy partook more of the character of a desire and love of science than of world wisdom. This wisdom does not amount to much, even to-day. This is plainly demonstrated by the dissensions of the educated and uneducated on all questions pertaining to wisdom of life. Socrates in the market of Athens, and Plato in his dialogues, have probably said better things about the questions: “What is virtue? What is justice? What is moral and reasonable?” than the professors of philosophy would know how to say to-day. Kant has well said that the unanimity of the experts is the test by which one may decide what is a scientific fact and what is mere dispute. From this it is easy to judge that wisdom of life is still in a bad way and will have to wait for its scientific transformation.

We declared understanding itself to be the special object of philosophy and shall now attempt to outline the results so far obtained by it.

One of the first requirements for the education of the object of philosophy is to recall its various names. The understanding, or the power of knowledge, is also called intelligence, intellect, mind, spirit, reason, power of cognition, of conception, of distinction, of imagination, of judgment, and of drawing conclusions. The attempt has frequently been made to analyze understanding or to dissect it into its various parts and to specialize them by the help of those names. Especially logic knows how to give particular explanations of what is imagination, a conception, a judgment, and a conclusion. It has even divided these sections into subsections, so that a trained logician might reproach me with being ignorant for applying various names to intelligence, because only the common people confound those names and use them as synonyms, while science has long used them in their proper order for designating special parts of intelligence.

To such a reproach, I answer that Aristotle and the subsequent formal logicians have made some pretty pointed observations and excellent arrangements in this field. But these proved to be premature or inadequate, because the observations on which the ancient intellectual explorers relied were too scanty. This scantiness of the observations made in regard to intelligence, and by intelligence, has kept the human race in the mazes of intellectual bondage and by this mysticism has even prevented the most advanced minds from penetrating deeper into this obscure question. The history of philosophy is not the history of a useless struggle, but yet a history of a hard struggle with the question: What is, what does, of what parts consists, and of what nature is understanding, intelligence, reason, intellect, etc.? So long as this question is unsettled, the questioner is entitled to dispense with any and all sections and subsections of the intellectual object and to regard the various names as synonymous.

The main accomplishment in the solution of this question is the ever clearer and preciser knowledge of our days that the nature of the human intellect is of the same kind, genus or quality as the whole of nature. In order that the theory of understanding may be able to elucidate this point, it must divest itself, more or less, of the character of a speciality and occupy itself with all of nature, assume the character of cosmogony.

It is principally an achievement of philosophy that we now know definitely and down to the minutest detail that the human mind is a definite and limited part of the unlimited universe.

Dieztgen’s graves, Waldheim Cemetery, Chicago.

Just as a piece of oak wood has the twofold quality of partaking not alone, with its oaken nature, of the general nature of wood, but also of the unlimited generality of all nature, so is the intellect a limited specialty, which has the quality of being universal as a part of the universe and of being conscious of its own and of all universality. The boundless universal cosmic nature is embodied in the intellect, in the animal as well as in man, the same as it is embodied in the oak wood, in all other wood, in all matter and force. The worldly monistic nature which is mortal and immortal, limited and unlimited, special and general, all in one, is found in everything, and everything is found in nature – understanding or the power of knowledge is no exception.

It is this twofold nature of the universe, this being at the same time limited and unlimited, this reflection of its eternal essence and eternal truth in changing phenomena, which has rendered its understanding very difficult for the human mind. This intricate quality has been represented by religion in the fantastic picture of two worlds, separating the temporal from the eternal, the limited from the unlimited, too unreasonably far. But nowadays the indestructibility of matter and the eternity of material forces is a matter of fact accepted by natural science.

The positive outcome of philosophy, then, is the knowledge of the monistic way in which the seeming duality of the universe is active in the human understanding.

The Positive Outcome of Philosophy by Joseph Ditezgen. International Library of Social Science. Charles H Kerr Publishers, Chicago. 1906.

Contents: Introduction by Anton Pannekoek, PART ONE) The Nature of Human Brain Work (1869), Preface, Introduction, Pure Reason or the Faculty of Thought in General, The Nature of Things, The Practice of Reason in Physical Science, Cause and Effect, Matter and Mind, Force and Matter, “Practical Reason” or Morality, The Wise and Reasonable, Morality and Right, The Holy, PART TWO) Letters on Logic I-XXIV (1870s), PART THREE) The Positive Outcome of Philosophy (1887), Preface, Positive Knowledge as a Special Object, The Power of Perception Is Kin to the Universe, As to How the Intellect Is Limited and Unlimited, The Universality of Nature, The Understanding as a Part of the Human, Consciousness Is Endowed With the Faculty of Knowing as Well as With the Feeling of the Universality of All Nature, The Relationship or Identity of Spirit and Nature, Understanding Is Material, The Four Principles of Logic, The Function of Understanding on the Religious Field, The Distinction Between Cause and Effect Is only One of the Means to Facilitate Understanding, Mind and Matter: Which Primary Which Secondary?, The Extent to Which the Doubts of the Possibility of Clear and Accurate Understanding Have Been Overcome, Continuation of the Discussion on the Difference Between Doubtful and Evident Understanding, Conclusion. 440 pages

The Charles H Kerr publishing house was responsible for some of the earliest translations and editions of Marx, Engels, and other leaders of the socialist movement in the United States. Publisher of the Socialist Party aligned International Socialist Review, the Charles H Kerr Co. was an exponent of the Party’s left wing and the most important left publisher of the pre-Communist US workers movement. It remains a left wing publisher today.

PDF of original book: https://archive.org/download/positiveoutcomeo00diet/positiveoutcomeo00diet.pdf

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