V. A. Lektorsky

So far we have paid attention to the far‑reaching similarity between the objectified kinds of knowledge and that knowledge which is inseparable from the individual subject. In both cases there exists, along with explicit knowledge, implicit knowledge which is only made explicit through reflexion. As for the latter, both reflexion about objectified knowledge (let us tentatively name it objective) and reflexion about knowledge inseparable from the individual subject (let us call it subjective) reveal basically identical relations to their object.

In calling reflexion "objective" we merely refer to the fact that it belongs to the objectified forms of knowledge, ignoring the extent to which it adequately reproduces its  object. Objective reflexion may fail to accord with the thing, being in this sense subjective in its content. Reflexion that is subjective in form can also be both objective and subjective in content. Thus, the designations "objective" and "subjective" reflexion as applied here refer only to form, not content.

Let us point out that objectified knowledge differs in it number of important aspects from the individual's knowledge. If an individual subject possesses some implicit knowledge (e.g., the knowledge of the language he speaks, the knowledge of self, etc.), he realises it in one way or another, although he does not have that knowledge in dissected and reflected form. As for objectified knowledge, elements can coexist in it which are not at the given moment realised by any individual subject. Supposing, for instance, that some scientist established hitherto unknown dependences and wrote an article about them. The article was accepted and published in a scientific journal. It was read by several dozen persons specialising in this field. But. the article failed to affect the subsequent course of re search and was soon forgotten. About a century passed. During that time the author of the article died, as well as the few persons (editors and readers) who once knew its content. At present, no one knows what the article was about, and, moreover, no one even suspects its existence. Does that mean that knowledge objectified in the article does not exist at all? We would hardly dare to assert this, for the article has not disappeared: it rests in libraries among files of old journals, being only temporarily absent from the actual cognitive process. It is quite possible, however, that a researcher in the history of science will discover it, read it, and conclude that its ideas are very much in the spirit of these times. Thereupon knowledge objectified in the article will get a new lease on life: it win become the object of discussion and argument, references to it will be made in scientific journals, and scientists will ponder the ideas expressed in it.

Let us consider another example. Suppose that at a given moment no one thinks about the content of Newton's theory. Does that mean that at a given moment knowledge objectified in this theory does not exist and that it will begin to exist again only when someone thinks about this theory? That would be hard to accept.

Let us further take into account that in any objectified knowledge there is, as a rule, content which is not known to anyone who is using this knowledge. This content may remain unrealised by the producer of this objectified knowledge‑creator of a scientific theory or author of a work of art. This content is manifested only in the historical development of cognition. For example, thermodynamics and the atomic‑molecular theory were originally developed independently from each other. But that does not mean that the links between the theories had not existed objectively until they were established and consciously realised. Further, when Cantor formulated his set theory, he was not yet aware of the paradoxes inherent in it, although the paradoxes already existed in the content of the theory itself. In analysing Leo Tolstoy's works, Lenin showed that they were the "mirror of the Russian revolution", although neither the great writer himself nor his numerous readers had realised before Lenin's works this exceptionally important aspect of the content of the works by the classic of Russian literature. An important point here is that realisation of the content inherent in objectified knowledge does not imply introducing subjective views but only the establishment of the links objectively inherent (though previously unrealised) in the given knowledge.

That is also true of the so‑called interpretation of texts—scientific, philosophical, literary, etc. Of course, any such interpretation inevitably carries an element of subjectivity. But it can claim to interpret the text only insofar as it brings out the content actually inherent in this text without introducing into the latter something that is not (and cannot be) present in it.

Delimitating what the author of some system of ideas wanted to say from the objective content of the latter is one of the fundamental principles of Marxist‑Leninist philosophy in the study of science as well as of other phenomena of social consciousness and culture.

Thus, certain elements of objectified knowledge may not be realised at the given moment by any of the individual subjects of which society consists.

Let us further note another important circumstance. Knowledge that is inseparable from the individual subject is given to the latter as directly coinciding with its object (if it does not coincide with the latter, it is illusion, not knowledge). In other words, knowledge of this kind appears as something static and complete, while the objectified knowledge produced by scientific research is in principle incomplete. Scientific knowledge necessarily implies unsolved problems: the very concept of such knowledge includes the need for further research involving formulation and discussion of new hypotheses, their evaluation according to certain standards, etc. That, in its turn, is only possible under division of research work and organisation of a special system of scientific communication—publications in journals, debates, and other forms of contacts between researchers. Knowledge, inseparable from the individual subject, appears as personally addressed to him, while objectified knowledge explicitly includes its being intended for all subjects concerned with the study of these problems. In other words, the modes of treatment of objectified knowledge are collective in their nature. For this reason, the study of scientific knowledge and cognition associated with it is impossible without an analysis of communication systems functioning in collectives of a special type called scientific communities. The modem science of science is more and more inclined towards this conclusion. [101]

But does it not follow from the above that objectified knowledge is knowledge without a subject, i.e., that it exists independently of any subject and must be understood outside of a relation to the latter? That is the conclusion to which Karl Popper, one of the major modem bourgeois philosophers and methodologists of science, is inclined.

Let us consider his arguments on the subject in greater detail.

Popper sharply distinguishes between "subjective knowledge", i.e., knowledge intimately linked with the individual subject, and "objective knowledge". The latter includes the content of journals, books, libraries, etc. This content is expressed in the form of theoretical systems, problems and problem situations, critical arguments, and also of certain "states of discussion".

Popper insists on the independence of the content referred to here from subjective opinions and views, including this content in a special sphere of reality, a "third world", the world of the objective spirit (this world also comprises the content of belles‑lettres and works of art). The "third world" exists,. according to Popper, side by side with the "first world", the world of real physical objects, and the "second world", the world of individual consciousness.

The "third world" is, of course, the product of man, the British philosopher admits. But, being produced by man, this world nevertheless became autonomous and independent. In any case, it is impossible to understand the characteristics and logic of the development of the "third world" from an analysis of individual human consciousness. The reverse procedure is more fruitful, in Popper's view: many important features of individual consciousness may be correctly understood if one takes into account its continual interaction with the world of the objective spirit independent of it.

To show more clearly the independence of the "third world" from man and his consciousness, the philosopher suggests the following mental experiments.

Supposing all our machines and tools are destroyed in some catastrophe, and simultaneously all our subjective learning of using them is lost, and only libraries and man's capacity to learn from them survive. In this case, after a historically necessary period, the world of culture and technology will be reconstructed and so will the specifically human mode of life associated with it.

Let us now imagine that not only machines and tools are destroyed and the subjective knowledge of how to use them is lost, but all libraries are destroyed too (though man's capacity to read books may. have survived). This time, there will be no re‑emergence of our civilisation for many millennia. [102]

The independence of the "third world" is expressed, according to Popper, not only in that man may not realise some of its fragments. Although that which pertains to the kingdom of the objective spirit is usually created by man, there exists as a matter of principle the possibility of generation of some elements of this world by automata and not man, Popper believes. A series of books of logarithms may be produced and printed by a computer, the logarithms in these books being more exact than in books written by men. The books produced by the computer may lie about in a library for years unused by any person. Nevertheless, these books, of which no subject knows or has ever known, contain indubitably objective knowledge. [103]

True, Popper admits, for the signs contained on the pages of books to be regarded as the carriers of "objective knowledge", the books must have a special characteristic—the possibility of being read and understood. He believes, however, that this possibility need not be realised. It is not impossible that the books will be read by beings other than man. (Suppose that mankind perishes but libraries survive. Visitors from outer space may discover our books, decode and read them.)

Popper regards the biological approach as quite fruitful in the study of the "third world". A biologist studying the behaviour of animals must take into account that they produce "non‑living structures" that are vital for them. Spiders spin webs, birds build nests, wasps build nests, beavers construct dams, animals make paths in forests, etc. Although the "non‑living structures" are produced by animals, they exist quite objectively and independently of their creators, once they emerge. Popper distinguishes between two main categories of problems arising from the study of these structures. The first category pertains to the method used by animals when constructing these structures and the animals' relations to their products. The second category of problems is concerned with the characteristics of the structures themselves: the chemistry of the materials used in the structure, their geometrical and physical properties, their dependence upon special environmental conditions, etc. In analysing these problems we cannot do without studying the structures in terms of their biological functions. Popper believes that problems of the second category are more fundamental, for one may draw conclusions about the possible modes of their production from the knowledge of the objective structures themselves.

The same principle is applicable, according to Popper, to the study of the products of human activity: houses, implements, works of art. This approach proves to be particularly significant in the study of science. Popper asserts that genuine scientific epistemology must be concerned with the study of the "third world", in the first place the content of scientific theories, problems, scientific arguments, etc., rather than with the analysis of the subject, his consciousness, and cognitive activity. That will be epistemology without the cognizing subject.

Popper is undoubtedly right in noting that separate fragments of objectified knowledge may not be realised at the given moment by a single individual, that the laws of development of this knowledge cannot be reduced to the laws of individual consciousness, and that the latter itself must be understood as connected with the world of objectified knowledge. We have already touched on these important properties of cognition. Popper's critique of the traditional approach to epistemological problems in bourgeois philosophy is also to a great extent correct.

But does it follow from all this that the world of objectified knowledge must and can be understood irrespective of the subject?

There are no grounds for such a conclusion. Although objectified knowledge is not the same as conscious knowledge, that is, knowledge possessed by an individual subject, the two kinds of knowledge are closely bound up.

Only man, a concrete individual subject, may be the creator of objectified knowledge. And that means that any objectified knowledge must, at least at the time of its emergence, be to some extent consciously realised, that is, be the property of a subject. This is not at all contradicted by the possibility of production by a computer of separate fragments of objectified knowledge. The results of computer activity can be regarded as knowledge only insofar as behind the programme we discern man setting it down and capable of interpreting its output. For the computer itself, there is no knowledge.

Still less can knowledge exist "in itself", regardless of its being used in the cognitive activity of concrete individuals. The utilisation may, of course, be potential, but it is important that the potential should exist. Its preservation is ensured by the fact that the product in which knowledge is objectified, even if it is not actually a part of the ongoing cognitive process, remains included in social‑cultural links which make it possible for concrete subjects to use it in their activity at any moment. And that means that even those fragments of objectified knowledge which are not at present realised retain close links with what is realised and used in actual activity. If the connection between the fragments of knowledge that are included in the cognitive process and those that are not, is disrupted, the latter ceases to be any kind of knowledge at all.

Assume that a civilisation is dead and no one knows the language once spoken by its subjects. Although the books written in that extinct language survive, no one is capable of decoding them and the connection is thus lost between the defunct culture and the actual social‑cultural process, including the cognitive one. And that means that the books preserved no longer contain any knowledge. Properly speaking, they are not even books but simply objects with strange strokes in them.

Cognition is implemented by real persons, by concrete individual subjects. Knowledge in subjective or objectified form exists only inasmuch as it is directly or indirectly correlated with that activity. At the same time, the cognitive activity itself should be regarded on the social‑historical plane, as activity of interconnected subjects—past, present, and future. For this reason, if certain fragments of objectified knowledge are not consciously realised by a single existing subject; that does not mean that these fragments are in general outside the subjects' consciousness, for these fragments may be associated both with the subjects of the past and those of the future (association with the past is obligatory, for only man can produce knowledge).

The social‑historical and collective nature of the cognitive process is expressed not only in its being implemented by an ensemble of interacting individuals. The interaction itself assumes the existence of specific laws of the development of knowledge, laws that are different from those which characterise individual knowledge. Thus, the individual subject is not the carrier of the collective cognitive process, and neither is a mere agglomeration of subjects. The collective subject may be regarded as such a carrier, to be taken in the sense of a social system irreducible to the agglomeration of individuals constituting it. Let us note that there are many collective subjects of cognition connected by definite relations. For example, the study of the functioning of a given paradigm of theoretical knowledge assumes an analysis of some community; the latter appears in this case as a collective subject of a definite kind of cognitive activity. Different paradigms apparently determine different collective subjects associated with them. At the same time, paradigms are included in a general process of development of scientific knowledge, with its characteristic common standards and norms. And that means that the given scientific community is a sub‑system of a more extensive system the community of all specialists in the given area of knowledge and the community of all individuals engaged in scientific activity, The scientist uses in his activity some national language or other, and that means that he is included in the society speaking the given language. This community, which obviously comprises also those individuals who are not concerned with science, is again a definite collective subject of cognition. The functioning and development of knowledge is determined by the processes in a broader social system than the community of scientists. The social sciences are directly linked with the social position, interests, and practical activity of definite social classes. That means that it is the latter that appear as collective subjects of the cognition of social processes. The type of social practice characteristic of a given class determines the horizon of the cognitive possibilities open to its members. As is well known, the Marxist theory of society expressing the interests of the proletariat provides, for the first time, a scientific basis for the study of the social processes. A person not involved in science is nevertheless involved in cognition and, consequently, connected with various collective subjects.

At the same time if not only the diversity but also the unity of the socio‑historical development of cognition is taken into account, society should also be regarded as a collective subject including a great number of subjects both collective and individual. It is the existence of definite connections between different collective subjects that ensures the unity of the cognitive process. The difference between these subjects is responsible for different conceptions of what should be regarded as cognition.

A complete disruption of connections between collective subjects would result in a disintegration of cognition as a unified process implemented by mankind. In this case, society as a whole would cease to be the subject of cognitive activity.

Each individual subject is simultaneously included in different collective subjects. Different systems of cognitive activity, with their diverse standards and norms, are integrated in the individual into a whole. The existence of the latter is the necessary condition of the unity of "I". The disruption of links between different collective subjects or the impossibility of integration within the framework of the given individual of those systems of cognitive activity which are associated with different collective subjects, would entail the disintegration of the individual subject.

Thus Marxist‑Leninist philosophy asserts that cognition can only be correctly understood if it is considered in connection with the forms of life activity of concrete historical subjects on the basis of studying object‑related practical and communicative activities of collective and individual subjects. "If one considers the relation of subject to object in logic, one must take into account also the general premises of being of the concrete subject (=  life of man) in the objective surroundings",  [104] stated Lenin.

The individual subject, his consciousness and cognition must be understood in terms of their incorporation in different systems of collective practical and cognitive activity. But that does not mean that the individual subject is in some way dissolved in the collective. First, the collective subject itself does not exist outside concrete persons, real individuals interacting among themselves according to the specific laws of collective activity. The collective subject cannot be regarded in the same light as the individual one. The former is not a personality in its own right, it has no individuality of its own and does not perform any acts of cognition other than those performed by the separate members. Second, cognition, which is inseparable from the individual subject, does not directly coincide with the objectified systems of knowledge, though it is closely linked with and ultimately determined by them. The individual traits of my perception, my memories and subjective associations constitute knowledge that is important for me personally and is accessible to me alone. They do not form part of the system of objectified knowledge that is the property of all individuals and is included in the structure of the collective subject. And that means that the types of knowledge intrinsically characteristic of the individual and the collective subjects do not fully coincide with or dissolve in each other but rather mutually imply each other.

We may recall that Kant, Fichte, and Husserl posit, along with the individual subject, the transcendental one. The latter expresses the inner community of the various empirical individuals; in this respect, it may appear similar to the collective subject. Indeed, the conceptions of these philosophers include some steps towards the collective subject idea. But these are merely initial steps, and they could only be discerned after the Marxist doctrine of the socio‑historical nature of the process of cognition was formed. In more concrete terms, the Transcendental Subject as conceived in philosophical transcendentalism is basically different from the collective subject as a concrete socio‑historical community. The Transcendental Subject, as transcendentalists believe, is an individual of a special kind, the supra‑individual "I". At the same time, it is supra­empirical, existing outside time and space. But the collective subject, though different from the individual one, is quite empirical and set in definite spatio‑temporal limits. The Transcendental Subject is accessible only from within, from the inside of individual consciousness, being in fact a deep layer of the latter. As for the collective subject, though non‑existent outside a system of interacting individuals, it exists at the same time outside each separate individual subject, in a sense. The collective subject manifests itself and the laws of its functioning not so much through the inner structures of the individual's consciousness as through external practical activity involving objects and through collective cognitive activity with systems of objectified knowledge. Finally, the collective subject is not singular. A great many such subjects are in a state of change: some collective subjects and the inherent forms of their activity emerge while others die out. The relations between different collective subjects may be complicated enough. [105]

Let us undertake in this connection an analysis of Popper's thesis concerning the importance of the "biological approach" to the study of the relation between man and the "third world" and the assumption that the analysis of the structure of the products of scientific activity determines the study of the modes of their production.

The English philosopher's principal error lies in his failure to understand that the man‑made objects of the “second nature", i.e., objects implementing a specifically socio‑cultural content, beginning with labour implements and buildings and ending with scientific theories, are radically different from those changes in the external environment which animals produce, since man's practical activity involving objects is social in its very nature and assumes the use of labour implements and communicative links between individual subjects. The specific features of this activity also determine its spontaneous development and continual reaching beyond the established confines. Applying the "biological approach" to its study is absolutely fruitless. "In creating a world of objects by his practical activity, in his work upon inorganic nature, man proves himself a conscious species‑being, i.e., a being that treats the species as its own essential being, or that treats itself as a species‑being," wrote Marx. "Admittedly animals also produce. They build themselves nests, dwellings, like the bees, beavers, ants, etc. But an animal only produces what it immediately needs for itself or its young. It produces one‑sidedly, whilst man produces universally. It produces only under the dominion of immediate physical need, whilst man produces even when he is free from physical need and only truly produces in freedom therefrom. An animal produces only itself, whilst man reproduces the whole of nature. An animal's product belongs immediately to its physical body, whilst man freely confronts his product. An animal forms objects only in accordance with the standard and the need of the species to which it belongs, whilst man knows how to produce in accordance with the standards of every species, and knows how to apply everywhere the inherent standard to the object. Man therefore also forms objects in accordance with the laws of beauty." [106]

Of course, books and other man‑made objects in which knowledge is reified exist objectively. If they are to be considered from the standpoint of the chemical composition of the materials, their physical structure and geometrical form, they do not differ basically from natural objects, including "non‑living structures" created by animals. They exist as carriers of knowledge only as long as they are included in the human cognitive activity. Outside the latter, these objects have no structure at all, if the reference is to the structure of knowledge objectified in them and not chemical and physical structure. To understand a book means to reproduce a definite structure of cognitive activity. To assimilate a theory reified in a book means to accept the need for further activity in this field, an activity patterned on a definite model, for a scientific theory is not so much ready‑made knowledge as the activity of problem solving. If a definite kind of cognitive activity is inadequately decoded, we cannot say that we have this knowledge.

Supposing that a book is read not by men but by some visitors from outer space, non‑human reasonable beings (that is the example discussed by Popper). These beings will be able to master the knowledge reified in the book only if they decode its language, i.e., when they are able to reproduce the socio‑cultural communicative and cognitive system of connections in which the book was once included. And that is only possible to the extent in which the visitors from outer space will become reincarnated as human beings, as it were, assimilating the real properties of human cognitive activity.

Cognition and knowledge exist only as long as the specific activity of the collective subject is maintained and consequently the activity of the individual subjects included in it.

If elementary perception implies not only a relation to an external object but also the self‑consciousness of an individual subject, the obligatory conditions of scientific activity are not only the movement of cognition through the domain of objects but also the conscious realisation (not necessarily in the form of reflexion, i.e., explicit knowledge) of the modes and norms of cognitive activity and the standards of assessing its results intrinsically characteristic of the collective subject, for it is only through these modes and norms that the problem field of research can be specified.

Epistemology proves to be impossible without the cognizing subject.

The role of objectified systems of knowledge in the development of cognition, just as all the other questions of understanding the cognitive relation between subject and object, were given a much more precise and profound treatment than Popper's by Hegel, the greatest representative of the German classical idealist philosophy. [107] Of all the pre‑Marxian and non‑Marxist philosophers Hegel came closest to understanding many of the essential features of the problem analysed here, though at the same time strongly mystifying it.

Hegel asserts that individual consciousness and self‑consciousness cannot be understood from within. Although each individual is given his "I" and the unity of self‑consciousness as immediate certainty, this unity is actually mediated by the individual's relation to other individual subjects. The individual consciousness recognises something different in the other self‑consciousnesses and at the same time something that is internally identical to it. The individual subject exists for himself as an "I" only through a relation to others. "Everyone is the mean for the other, through which each mediates and links up with himself, and each [is] for himself and for the other immediately given being existing for itself, which is at the same time thus for itself only through this mediation. They recognise themselves as mutually recognising one another. [108]

The "substance" of the individual, his "inorganic nature”, are forms of the objective spirit, that is, essentially collective modes of activity, reified products of human culture. Assimilating the latter and taking up these forms of activity (the objective spirit exists only insofar as it is an activity), the individual becomes a subject. [109]

Reflexion implies going beyond the limit of individual consciousness: recognition of oneself in the other individuals constituting society and at the same time objectification of man in the artifacts of the world of culture created by him.

But reflexion is not simply a relation to the individual "I". The essence of reflexion consists, according to Hegel, in cognition of the objective spirit itself, in the process of dialectical development of knowledge. This development is substantiation of knowledge, reflexion upon it and deepening in itself. A real foundation emerges at the end and as a result of development, not at the beginning. The movement ahead and development of the content of objective knowledge is at the same time a movement backwards, a discovery of the true hidden basis of the whole process.

"Consciousness is, on the one hand, a realisation of the object, and on the other, consciousness of oneself: the conscious realisation of what is true for it and the realisation of one's knowledge about it." [110] The object appears to the consciousness only in the shape in which it knows that object. The consciousness compares its knowledge of the object with the object itself. "If in this comparison the two do not correspond to one another, the consciousness seems to be obliged to change its knowledge, to bring it in accord with the object; but in this change of knowledge the object itself actually changes for it, for the available knowledge was essentially the knowledge of the object; along with the knowledge, the object too becomes different for it belonged in fact to this knowledge.” [111] The consciousness makes it clear that what previously appeared as being‑in‑itself, i.e., independently from the given consciousness is in actual fact merely being for the given consciousness. At the same time, it is not only the consciousness and its object that change but also the standards and criteria of verifying the agreement between knowledge and its object. "The criterion of testing is changed, when that of which it was to have been the criterion does not stand the test; and the test is not only a test of knowledge but also of its own criterion." [112]

Hegel points out that the new object of knowledge comes into being "through conversion (Umkehrung) of consciousness itself". [113] At the same time, individual consciousness does not know how that occurs, for the emergence of the new object "takes place behind its back, as it were". [114]

Therefore, reflexion of knowledge about itself at each stage of its development (the latter being incomplete) is "untrue", imperfect reflexion, implying the existence of unreflected movements of consciousness "behind its back". Knowledge in some form or other is not yet that which is cognized, Hegel insists.

According to Hegel, cognition is a world‑historical dialectical process in which both subject and object change. The subject is not some ideal object, it is not something primordially equal to itself but eternal motion, becoming, development, sublation of all established boundaries and positing new ones. The subject is inseparable from restlessness and activeness, expressing that activeness in the purest form. He is inconceivable outside a relation with the object he cognizes and changes. At the same time, the object itself is transformed along with the development of consciousness, i.e., it changes in the historical process of cognitive activity. The conception of subject and object as entities isolated from and metaphysically opposed to each other is quite untenable and can only lead into philosophical cul‑de‑sacs.

However, Hegel sees reflexion, the self‑consciousness of the Absolute Spirit, the Absolute Subject, as the essence of the cognitive process, and that is where idealistic mystification of the whole problem starts.

The Absolute Subject, according to Hegel, underlies the whole of reality in general. The substance is to be thought of as the subject, Hegel insists. What appears to the individual consciousness as an object independent from and cognized by it is in actual fact the product of the Absolute Spirit. Hegel tries to show that the development of cognition leads to a sublation of the independence of the cognized object from the cognizing subject, if the latter is to be understood as the Absolute Subject and not an individual one. The Absolute is ultimately the Subject‑Object, thinking about thinking, the cognition of self.

Hegel's attempt to interpret cognition as self‑cognition is also connected with the above thesis. Starting out from the real facts of interaction between consciousness and self‑consciousness, cognition and reflexion, Hegel, following Fichte, endeavours to present all knowledge as reducible, in the final analysis, to self‑cognition. True, Hegel speaks of the self‑cognition of the Absolute Subject and not of that of an individual "I" or even of a Transcendental "I".

Hegel's analysis of the concrete historical development of cognition went far beyond the limits of philosophical transcendentalism, showing the collective nature of cognition, the development of its forms and norms in time, and revealing the dialectics of reflexive and unreflected content of knowledge. At the same time, according to Hegel, fully adequate cognition, that is, cognition that really deserves its name, is only attained when absolute completeness of reflexion is achieved, when the subject (the Absolute Subject) becomes, as it were, absolutely transparent for itself and reflects on itself without going beyond its own limits. It is in this act of coincidence of the cognizing subject with itself that the process of substantiation of knowledge is completed.

Hegel believes that the foundation of knowledge should not be sought for at the source of the cognitive process. This foundation is not given, it is moulded and takes shape in the development of cognition. In this point, Hegel opposes the metaphysical view of the problem of substantiating knowledge, widespread in Western bourgeois philosophy. At the same time, though the foundation of knowledge lies, according to Hegel, at the end rather than at the beginning of the cognitive process, substantiation is interpreted in his system as coinciding with absolute reflexion, with the self‑consciousness of the Absolute Spirit.

Just like Descartes, Kant and Fichte, Hegel believes that only the self‑cognition of the spirit, its knowledge of itself, can reach absolute adequacy. It is in the act of absolute reflexion that the absolute foundation of knowledge is found. Thus Hegel essentially reproduces the traditions of philosophical transcendentalism at this basic point of his epistemological conception. True, Hegel speaks of some supra‑individual, Absolute Subject. But Hegel believes that the individual, too, inasmuch as he became part of the motion of the Absolute Spirit and assumed the standpoint of "absolute knowledge", does not merely comprehend the Absolute adequately but grasps at the same time his own deep essence, i.e., cognizes himself. The individual's self‑cognition coincides in this case with absolute reflexion.

Hegel's philosophy ultimately explains the development of cognition by the self‑cognition of the Absolute. The Absolute, which exists at the beginning of development in itself only, must eventually also become being for itself. And that means that all the historical vicissitudes of the real cognitive process are predetermined in the supra‑human spheres. The real persons, the individual subjects of practical and cognitive activity are merely disappearing elements in the development of the supra‑individual forces.

The relations between individuals, human communication, the real practical activity, man's reification of himself in the works of culture, and the unfolding of the social process , which Hegel includes in the sphere of the objective spirit, all of these elements mediating the spirit's relation to itself are ultimately sublated; the spirit returns to itself as to the "inner". It is in the relation to itself as the "inner", in the existence for itself rather than for others, that the spirit appears in the most adequate form. [115]

Hegel believes that external object‑related activity cannot produce consciousness. This kind of activity achieves merely objectification of consciousness, as a result of which consciousness itself is enriched. But the crux of the matter is that any external mediation of consciousness must be sublated in the unity of the immediate and the mediated, in a dialectical identity of consciousness with itself.

Purely immediate consciousness (whether this is taken to mean empirical knowledge or intellectual intuition) does not exist, Hegel insists. Immediate certainty, inasmuch as it is merely immediate, is not knowledge. The latter implies mediation. Only that knowledge is adequate in which unity is attained of the immediate and the mediated in the form of the new dialectically mediated. In the immediate, which exists at the beginning of the development of cognition, the possibility and necessity of mediation are embedded, and the nature of the latter is predetermined. The result of the development of cognition and mediation is a return to the immediate on a new basis, Hegel believes. "Mediation is nothing but equality to itself in motion, or else it is reflexion in itself. . . The 'I' or becoming in general is, owing to its simplicity, precisely the immediate in the process of becoming and the immediate itself." [116] (In real cognition, however, there is always, in a definite sense, a unity of the immediate and the mediating elements in knowledge. This unity does not in itself guarantee the truth of knowledge.)

In the final analysis, Hegel reduces the essence of any cognition to reflexion. Insofar as the object of reflexion changes in the course of the latter, Hegel concludes that cognition deals with an object which is a product of the Absolute Spirit itself. Hegel's Phenomenology of the Spirit is the story of the struggle of self‑consciousness with the object, as a result of which the object proves to be a proper moment of Absolute self‑consciousness. "As it drives itself towards true existence, it will reach a point where it will discard the appearance of being encumbered with the foreign which exists only for and in the capacity of another, or where appearance will be equal to the essence, its presentation coincides thereby with precisely this point of the science of the spirit properly speaking; and finally, as it captures this its being itself it will express the nature of absolute knowledge itself." [117]

"The main point is," wrote Marx, "that the object of consciousness is nothing else but self‑consciousness, or that the object is only objectified self‑consciousness — self‑consciousness as object. (Positing of man = self‑consciousness.)

"The issue, therefore, is to surmount the object of consciousness. Objectivity as such is regarded as an estranged human relationship which does not correspond to the essence of man, to self‑consciousness. The reappropriation of the objective essence of man, produced within the orbit of estrangement as something alien, therefore denotes not only the annulment of estrangement, but of objectivity as well. Man, that is to say, is regarded as a non‑objective, spiritual being." [118]

As Lenin wrote: "Hegel seriously 'believed', thought, that materialism as a philosophy was impossible, for philosophy is a science of thinking, of the universal, but the universal is a thought. Here he repeated the error of the same subjective idealism that he always called 'bad' idealism." [119]

Thus, although Hegelian philosophy grasps a number of important moments of the real cognitive process, on many fundamental issues it reveals an affinity to the epistemological position of philosophical transcendentalism; remaining within the limitations of idealism, it cannot give an adequate picture of cognition.


101 See e.g. Thomas S. Kuhn, Op. cit.; S. R. Mikulinsky, M. G. Yaroshevsky, "The Socio‑Psychological Aspects of Scientific Activity", Voprosy filosofii, 1972, No. 12; John M. Ziman, Public Knowledge, An Essay Concerning the Social Dimension of Science, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1968. [—> main text]

102 Karl R. Popper, Objective Knowledge. An Evolutionary Approach, Oxford at the Clarendon Press, 1979, pp. 106, 107‑108. [—> main text]

103 Ibid., p. 115. [—> main text]

104 V. I. Lenin, "Conspectus of Hegel's Book The Science of Logic", Collected Works, Vol. 38, 1972, p. 202. [—> main text]

105 For a discussion of collective and individual subjects see also P. V. Kopnin, Introduction into Marxist Epistemology, pp. 58‑65; idem, Dialectics as the Logic and Epistemology of Cognition, pp. 106‑117; V. A. Lektorsky, The Problem of the Subject and Object in Classical and Modem Bourgeois Philosophy, pp. 100‑113 (all in Russian). [—> main text]

106 Karl Marx , "Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844", pp. 276‑277. [—> main text]

107 For an analysis of the Hegelian conception of subject and object see also T. I. Oizerman, Hegel's Philosophy, Moscow, 1956; K. S. Bakradze, The System and Method of Hegel's Philosophy, Tbilisi, 1958; V. I. Shinkaruk, Hegel's Logic, Dialectics, and Epistemology, Kiev, 1964; B. M. Kedrov, V. I. Lenin and Hegel's Dialectics, Moscow, 1975; V. A. Lektorsky, "The Subject‑Object Problem in the Epistemology of Hegel and Marx", in: The Philosophy of Hegel and Modern Times; K. N. Lyubutin, The Problem of the Subject and the Object in German Classical and Marxist‑Leninist Philosophy, pp. 56‑57; A. S. Bogomolov, "The Philosophy of Hegel and the Modern Times", Kommunist, 1970, No. 14; M. K. Mamardashvili, The Forms and Content of Thinking, Moscow, 1968; M. A. Bulatov, Lenin's Analysis of German Classical Philosophy, Kiev, 1974 (all in Russian); E. V. Ilyenkov, Dialectical Logic. [—> main text]

108 G. W. F. Hegel, Phänomenologie des Geistes, Akademie‑Verlag, Berlin, 1964, p. 142. [—> main text]

109 "In this respect education consists, if it is considered from the standpoint of the individual, in that he gains that which is available, absorbs his inorganic nature and takes possession of it" (Ibid., p 27). [—> main text]

110 Ibid., p. 72. [—> main text]

111 Ibid. [—> main text]

112 Ibid., pp. 72‑73. [—> main text]

113 Ibid., pp. 7 3‑74. [—> main text]

114 Ibid., p. 74. [—> main text]

115 In Hegel's view the philosophy of Kant and Fichte "did not attain the level of concept or spirit as it is in and for itself but only that of spirit as it is in relation to another" (G. W. F. Hegel Enzyklopädie der philosophischen Wissenschaften im Grundrisse, Akademie‑Verlag, Berlin, 1975, p. 345). [—> main text]

116 G. W. F. Hegel, Phänomenologie des Geistes, p. 21. [—> main text]

117 Ibid., p. 75. [—> main text]

118 Karl Marx, "Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844", pp. 333‑334. [—> main text]

119 V. I. Lenin, "Conspectus of Hegel's Book Lectures on the History of Philosophy", Collected Works, Vol. 38, p. 278. [—> main text]

Lektorsky, V.A. [Lektorskii, V. A.]; translated by Sergei Syrovatkin. Subject, Object, Cognition (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1984), Part 2, Chapter 4.4, pp. 232-248, 276-277.

Subject, Object, Cognition: Contents & Preface to the English edition by V. A. Lektorsky

Idealised and Real Objects by V. A. Lektorsky

"Cognition in the Context of Culture" by Vladislav Lektorsky

"Man as the Object of Cognition in Arts Subjects" by L. I. Novikova

Vienna Circle, Karl Popper, Frankfurt School, Marxism, McCarthyism & American Philosophy: Selected Bibliography

Salvaging Soviet Philosophy (1)


"The Dialectic of Subject and Object and some Problems of the Methodology of Science" by V. A. Lektorsky
at Marxists Internet Archive &

Subject, Object, Cognition by V. A. Lektorsky
at Marxists Internet Archive &

Home Page | Site Map | What's New | Coming Attractions | Book News
Bibliography | Mini-Bibliographies | Study Guides | Special Sections
My Writings | Other Authors' Texts | Philosophical Quotations
Blogs | Images & Sounds | External Links

CONTACT Ralph Dumain

Uploaded 20 September 2004

Site ©1999-2009 Ralph Dumain