Background of the Discussions
The origin of the philosophic schools of materialism and idealism is to be found in the basic questions, What is the world made of? and How does man learn about the world? These questions are among the most important ones that philosophers and scientists ask. They have been posed by man for at least twenty-five hundred years, from the time of such pre- Socratic philosophers as Thales and Anaximenes.
Materialism and idealism were two of the schools of thought that developed as attempts to answer these questions. Materialists emphasized the existence of an external reality, defined as "matter," as the ultimate substance of being and the source of man's knowledge; idealists emphasized man's mind as the organizing source of knowledge, and often found ultimate meaning in religious value. Both schools of thought have usually been connected with political currents and often been supported by political establishments or bureaucracies. This political element has not, however, always destroyed the intellectual content of the writings of scholars addressing themselves to important philosophical questions. For example, the support of the Catholic Church for the scholastic system of the Middle Ages, despite the well-known restrictions of that system, was one of the causes for the innovations in Aristotelian thought in Oxford and Paris in the fourteenth century. This new scholastic thought had an impact on subsequent scientific development, leading to a new concept of impetus, or inertia. It is the thesis of this book that despite the bureaucratic support of the Soviet state for dialectical materialism, a number of able Soviet scientists have created intellectual schema within