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Idealism and Materialism in the Conception of History

By Paul Lafarge (1895)

The following extract is taken from a lecture delivered by Paul Lafargue, under the auspices of the Group of Collectivist Students of Paris, this lecture being a reply to one given by Jean Jaurès on the above-named subject. The terms Idealism and Materialism are used here to designate the “two opposite views regarding the nature of human thought, that it is to say, concerning the ultimate sources of intellectual cognition, concerning the origin of ideas”, the former designating “the doctrine of innate ideas, of ideas a priori”, and the latter “the doctrine of cognition through experience, through the senses, the doctrine of ideas a posteriori” (Heine).

Whose thoughts are you thinking?

Richard Dawkins, the biologist, has become something of a celebrity through his outspoken advocacy of atheism as in his new book "The God Delusion". But his approach to religion is
still an idealist one.

The Dawkins approach to the question of religion is, like religion itself, an idealist one: religion is false, rationally unsustainable; morally enfeebling and a basis for hatred and division. Presumably Dawkins sees the death or meaningful diminution of religion by means of secularist persuasion just as religion hopes to resist secularisation by what it sees as ethical persuasion.

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