Essay

Friedrich Engels’ Importance for Contemporary Materialist Epistemology

Joost Kircz
Pages 37-67| Published online: 27 Jan 2022

Kircz, Joost. 2022. “Friedrich Engels’ Importance for Contemporary Materialist Epistemology.” Marxism & Sciences 1(1):37–67.

ABSTRACT

In this contribution for Friedrich Engels’ bicentennial birthday, we investigate to what extent the epistemological ideas of F. Engels, based in nineteenth-century science, can serve as stepping stones towards a novel materialistic epistemology given de contemporary state of the sciences. I look at Engels as an historical figure in his nineteenth-century context with strong and pertinent emancipatory ideas, who understood the need of a materialistic epistemology for the emancipatory project he and Karl Marx envisioned. In this contribution I will focus especially on his Anti-Dühring and his Dialectics of Nature, in their nineteenth-century context. Secondly, I will use his intensions in writing these inspirational works as a basis for further reflections on the sciences and their possible contribution to human emancipation. In particular, I will touch upon the issue of to what extent scientific theories represent the known world and to what extent theories in the natural sciences and biology can serve as a model for the humanities and sociology. In other words, if we consider the world materialistically, that is to say, it exists independently of what the human race as offspring of this world makes of it, how can the early inroads of Engels and Marx in making this world intelligible, help us today in rescuing humankind from self-inflicted disaster.

Keywords: F. Engels, materialism, science, biology, human nature.

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