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Alternatives to

by Igor Naletov





1. Metaphysics and Anti-Metaphysics of

2. Metaphysics of "Critical Rationalism"
3. "Scientific Realism." Metaphysics and





1. Positivism: Objectivity as
Observability of Events
2. Objective Knowledge and "Critical
3. From Physicalism to "Scientific





1. Overcoming Hegel
2. Marx and the Problem of Concrete
3. Concreteness of Materialist Dialectics
4. Materialist Dialectics and Special
5. Dialectics and the Integration of
6. Dialectics of the Objective and the




Subjective in Scientific Cognition



Name Index


Subject Index


SOURCE: Naletov, Igor [Naletov, I. Z. (Igor Zinovevich)]; translated from the Russian
by Vladimir Stankevich. Alternatives to Positivism. Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1984.
470 pp.

by Igor Naletov
The scientific and technological revolution which started in the mid-20th century has
proved to be a serious test not only for many scientific theories, but also for a number of
philosophical ideas, concepts and even major trends. It affected, first and foremost, those
philosophical schools which were, or claimed to be, connected with natural science. The
global nature of many scientific problems, the high level of theoretical abstractions, the
wide scope of generalisations and the deep differentiation and integration of scientific
knowledge enhanced by the scientific and technological revolution have increased the
progressive scientists concern about the ethical aspects and humanistic orientation of
research and sharpened their sense of social responsibility for the destinies of mankind. The
acceleration of scientific and technical progress has intensified their natural interest in the
latest achievements of philosophical thought and emphasised the need for a genuinely
scientific philosophical theory that would make it possible to comprehend concrete
scientific problems in a broad theoretical, methodological and social context and provide a
key to the most crucial issues of our time.
It is not fortuitous, therefore, that of all the major philosophical trends and schools those
related more or less closely to science and representing it in some form or other were the
first to weather the storm. And no wonder that positivism and dialectical materialism,
the two teachings that have always professed their adherence to science, recognised its great
mission and expressed their readiness to serve its lofty ideals turned out, as it were, to be
the two poles of attraction for increasingly theory-minded natural scientists.
Which of the two philosophical schools will be able to pass through the crucible of time
and provide reliable guidance for creative thought in the epoch of scientific and
technological revolution? The author of this book undertakes to answer this crucial question
and to substantiate the answer to the extent a task of such dimensions is accomplishable
within the scope of a single monograph.

Many Soviet and foreign philosophers believe that contemporary positivism, despite its
professed adherence to scientific thinking, is undergoing a deep ideological crisis because
of an obvious and ever growing rift between its methodological programme and the tasks,
tendencies and principles of modern science. The nature of this crisis sharpened by the
scientific and technological revolution deserves special attention, the more so as there is a
glaring contradiction between the actual results of the evolution of positivism and its
professed goals, between its pretentious claims and the real contribution to scientific
Speaking of positivism and its crisis, we shall mainly concentrate on the third stage of this
philosophy known as logical positivism and often referred to as logical empiricism or
analytical philosophy, and make occasional digressions to the previous stages in order to
trace certain current concepts to their sources.
Positivism as a philosophical trend is known to derive from radical empiricism which is one
of the pillars of this teaching in all its forms. According to the programme of logical
positivism elaborated by the Vienna circle science begins; with the observation of
similarities and differences between phenomena, i.e. with the observation of -single facts.
Established facts provide a basis for initial empirical generalisations which, after an
additional study of separate phenomena and events, are transformed into broader
generalisations. Universality of statements can only be attained at a theoretical level and
such universal truths are regarded as empirical laws constituting the basis and the core of
all theoretical knowledge. The development of science thus consists in the progressive
expansion of empirical generalisations, and inductive conclusion turns out to be the main
instrument of such development. Expressing the concept of empiricism in a concise logical
form, Rudolf Carnap, one of the leaders of logical positivism, wrote: ... science begins
with direct observations of single facts. Nothing else is observable. Certainly a regularity is
not directly observable. It is only when many
observations are compared with one another that regularities are discovered. [1]
The rapid development of fundamental research in the 20th century has clearly shown the
untenability of logical positivism based on radical empiricism. As a matter of fact, the
entire history of modern science, starting from the development of the quantum theory and
the theory of relativity and ending with cybernetics, is a repudiation of the tenet of
empiricism. It is not accidental that most contemporary philosophers of science reject the
reduction of theoretical knowledge to empirical knowledge. They believe that knowledge
does not begin with observations and sensual experience, since observation is always
preceded or attended by theoretical concepts. Yet this general premise is still a long way
from regular criticism of empiricism as the core of positivist philosophy, as well as from a
comprehensive theory of scientific knowledge and its consistent substantiation. The actual
relationship and unity of the empirical and the theoretical in scientific cognition, their
concrete interaction in the history and logic of science, the passage from lower to higher
levels call for a detailed investigation. Nevertheless, the development of the entire Western
philosophy of science in the 1960s and 1970s is keynoted by a revision of the programme
of radical empiricism found to be untenable both methodologically and theoretically. And
this is a very grave symptom of an ideological crisis of this philosophy.

Another sign of the predicament of the philosophy of science which follows in the wake of
positivist traditions is a drastic change in its attitude towards metaphysics. The struggle
against metaphysics and the attempts to oust it from science and philosophy have had
both positive and negative aspects. The positive effect of the campaign against metaphysics
which was a characteristic feature of early positivism consisted in its opposition to the
traditional speculative, particularly religious and idealistic, philosophy which showed little
interest in concrete problems of scientific cognition and practical life. On the other hand,
positivists rejected as metaphysical practically all most general and, in essence,
traditional problems of philosophy as unrelated to science. These included the problems of
objectivity, necessity, causality, essence, etc. Such problems, according to positivists, went
beyond the limits of experience, did not accord with the basic tenets and criteria of
empiricism and were therefore declared speculative, senseless, non-scientific, etc.
Unlike most pre-positivist critics of the so-called metaphysics who were not opposed to a
philosophical theory dealing with traditional problems in one or another form, positivism
rejects metaphysics in principle both as a method and a specific field of knowledge and
declares all its problems to be irrational by nature. The negative attitude towards traditional
philosophy is regarded by positivists themselves as a characteristic feature of their concept
and as one of its fundamental principles. If one wishes to characterize every view which
denies the possibility of metaphysics as positivistic, wrote Schlick, this isquite
unobjectionable, as a mere definition, and I should in this sense call myself a strict
positivist. [2]
In order to overcome metaphysics, logical positivism advanced an extensive programme
providing for a logical restructuring of the whole edifice of science in order to standardise
the language of science, clear up its logical structure, identify the basic elements of
knowledge and reduce all the other concepts and propositions of science to these elements.
These tasks, according to the exponents of the new theory, were to be accomplished
through the agency of mathematical logic. At this stage the so-called philosophy of science
posed as the logic of science, claiming to give the anatomy of science with the help of
mathematical logic.
Yet all attempts by positivism to become a pure methodology were doomed to failure. In
substantiating the platform of the philosophy of science positivism could not but proceed
from a set of definite philosophical principles, i.e. from a new metaphysics of science.
This metaphysics with its idealistic and anti-democratic premises gave a distorted picture
of the world in. which the existence of the object was made conditional on its sensual
perception by the subject, the reality was construed as an aggregate of elementary facts, etc.
One of the symptoms of the current crisis of positivism consists in that the exponents of the
philosophy of science have renounced yet another tenet of their teaching and are turning
their eyes to what they call metaphysics. Proposals are even made to start developing a new
metaphysics on a more or less regular basis. The concept of metaphysics, however, is
extremely broad and sometimes reflects a stable interest in the problems of materialism and
dialectics. The attempts to solve such problems, though far from being consistent, testify to
a search for a new methodological basis and a new system of values.

Hebert Feigl, for instance, defends the scientific status of such metaphysical problems as
the relationship between consciousness and the brain. Mario Bunge believes that the main
task of the new metaphysics is the construction of scientific ontology. Marx Wartofsky
writes that metaphysics represents the most general method of articulating, in critical and
systematic form, the alternative conceptual frameworks within which theoretical
understanding becomes possible. The heuristic force of metaphysics lies in its closeness to
our primary modes of understanding and explaining (by means of the story, the reenactment of nature in dramatic form). [3] Recognising the methodological (and even the
heuristic) role of metaphysics, Wartofsky, however, fails to give a clear idea of its content.
Despite the obvious tendency towards a more realistic approach to the structure of scientific
knowledge, to general philosophical principles and categories and to their role in the
development of science, it is already clear that the philosophy of science remains and will
evidently remain loyal to some basic traditions laid down by the classics of positivism,
focusing on the problems of the logic of scientific cognition, the language of science and
special problems of the methodology of science, natural science in the first place. Deviating
from some dogmas of positivism, it does not relinquish its claim to the title of the
philosophy of science, thus determining the sphere of its interest. In our subsequent
discourse we shall use this name too, inasmuch as it is associated with Western, particularly
Anglo-American philosophy.
It will also be in place here to define our attitude to the term metaphysics which will be
frequently used in the subsequent text. Though it has acquired a positive sense in antipositivist literature, being almost synonymous to general philosophical problems, we shall
abstain from equating these notions and use the term strictly in the sense it has in the
context of the philosophical doctrines under considerationnegative in positivist
philosophy, positive in the concepts of scientific realism, etc. Each of these doctrines will
be treated separately and the reader will have no difficulty in identifying the context in
which the term is used thus making the inverted commas unnecessary. As regards the
methodological problems discussed in the book, we shall call them all philosophical,
distinguishing each time between their specific types, such as theoretical, philosophicalmethodological, ontological, epistemological, logical and others.
In the already extensive critical literature on positivism the most controversial problems
appear to be those connected with the relationship between theory and sensory experience,
the attitude to metaphysics, and the objectivity of knowledge. The concepts of causality and
determinism, by contrast, have been relegated to a secondary plan and are usually discussed
as separate issues independent of other basic problems, though the most prominent
exponents of positivism have always, at all the stages of its evolution, focused their
attention on causality, the nature of scientific laws and scientific explanation. There is no
doubt that their views on these problems should be critically reappraised.
Besides, the problems of causality and determinism are obviously linked with a number of
general epistemological and methodological issues and influenced by radical empiricism,
reductionism, induction logic, etc. One or another solution of these general issuesand
such solutions, despite the downright rejection or dodging of metaphysics, could never be
avoidedhas had a direct bearing on the concepts of causality and scientific law.
Conversely, any interpretation of the concepts of causality and determinism could not but

affect the general conclusions of the theory of knowledge and the positivist methodology of
Similarly, the negative attitude towards metaphysics has predetermined the rejection of
causality and determinism as pseudo-problems. In turn, the positivist interpretation of
causality was partly accountable for the negative attitude of positivism in general and
logical positivism in particular to general philosophical (metaphysical) problems.
In a lecture delivered at Oxford in 1958, Friedrich Waismann, one of the pillars of
positivism, referred to 1927 as the year of the funeral of causality [4]. Explaining the title of
his lecture The Decline and Fall of Causality, Waismann contended that the collapse of
the principle of causality was not unexpected as it had been prepared by a long period of its
general recognition. According to Waismann, this recognition dated back to the 18th
century, i.e. to the Laplatian concept of determinism which inspired scientists with a hope
that the location of all possible systems in space and time, as well as their physical state
could be accurately predicted given the knowledge of their initial state. Laplace, in
Waismanns opinion, became the exponent of the principle of causal determinism which
had prevailed for more than a century and a half as an ideal of scientific explanation. For all
the power of human intellect, however, such an ideal was unattainable even in the realm of
classical mechanics which was greatly indebted to Laplace. It was called in question as
soon as scientists found it impossible to measure physical values with ideal accuracy
implicit in the Laplatian doctrine. The concept of causality was bound to collapse as was
the Laplatian ideal of scientific knowledge. According to Waismann, causality was dealt a
final blow in 1927 by Heisenbergs principle of uncertainty as it dismissed completely the
possibility of any prediction of events on the subatom level.
Western philosophers were not slow to attack Waismanns views, yet even in the 1960s
most of his opponents stood but for a limited rehabilitation of the principle of causality. Of
late, the criticism of positivist views regarding causality and determinism has become.
sharper, broader and more elaborate. The opposing concepts, inconsistent as they are, tend
to restore causality to some of its methodological and theoretical rights. Nevertheless, it is
still hard to say which path the philosophy of science will follow in treating these issues.
There is no doubt that logical positivism can be credited with posing a number of
interesting scientific problems. No less obvious is the contribution made by its outstanding
representatives to the development of the logic of scientific cognition, the investigation of
some specific problems of the language of science, etc. There is no denying the fact that
this school has helped science to get rid of fruitless speculations and dogmatism. We do not
focus on the deserts of logical positivism deliberately since our interest lies not so much in
positivism per se as in the lessons that could be learned from the analysis of its weaknesses,
limitations and errors.
The sharp criticism of the positivist methodology is not the only obvious symptom of its
current crisis. Using Thomas Kuhns terminology and his approach to the analysis of crisis
situations in sciences, one should attach special significance to the emergence, within the
framework of the contemporary philosophy of science, of a multitude of rival concepts
which go far beyond a critical revision of certain aspects of the positivist methodology of

science and lay claim to a new methodological paradigm. In point of fact, they strive to
develop a more or less complete methodological alternative to positivism and work out a
philosophical programme defying positivism on all or nearly all key issues.
Such alternative programmes are represented by critical rationalism (Karl Popper, Imre
Lakatos, Paul Feyerabend), scientific (or critical) realism (Wilfrid Sellars, J. Smart,
Mario Bunge), historical trend (Tomas Kuhn, Joseph Agassi, Stephen Toulmin) and other,
perhaps less influential, schools of the contemporary philosophy of science in the West.
Which course will the philosophy of science follow, what new theory, if any, is likely to
emerge as a result of the present crisis? To answer these crucial questions one ought to find
out, first and foremost, the real relationship between the above-mentioned schools and
positivist philosophy, i.e. the depth of division between them, the existing traditional and
conceptual links, the ability of these schools to solve the topical methodological and
theoretical problems of contemporary science and the adequacy of the proposed solutions
from the viewpoint of scientific and technical progress.
The crisis of positivism has been brought about not only by the internal contradictions of its
platform, but also by the inadequacy of its understanding of the real nature of scientific
investigation, of the laws and history of scientific knowledge. We shall not concentrate
therefore on the issues that preoccupied positivism at different stages of its evolution, but
give our main attention to the most general, fundamental problems connected with the
world outlook and methodology which are in the focus of attention of scientists,
philosophers and practical workers at the present time. What we mean is therelationship
between philosophy and natural science, the nature of scientific knowledge, the objective
content of notions and theories, i.e. their relation to the outside world, the role of the
subject in the construction of scientific theories, the reliability and verifiability of scientific
concepts, the role of the principles of causality and determinism in research, etc.
The fact that throughout its entire history positivism has either been ignoring some of these
problems altogether or trying to dismiss them as irrelevant to scientific investigation is, in
fact, of little consequence. Willy-nilly, all masterminds of positivism, starting with Auguste
Comte and Herbert Spencer and ending with Rudolf Carnap and Alfred Ayer, were
compelled to come to grips with them. What is more, it is these fundamental problems and
not the specifically positivist issues such as the logical structure of statements, the meaning
of reduction, the structure of explanation, etc. that proved to be the main battlefield where
the fate of positivism as a philosophical teaching was decided.
It should be noted that the above problems will be considered in this book not as separate
subjects divorced from one another and from other problems, but in their logical connection
with other problems and always in the context of the methodology of scientific knowledge.
For instance, the solution of the problem of the source of knowledge predetermines, to a
certain extent, the solution of the problem of causality or the relationship of the philosophy
to science. Conversely, the solution of the problem of causality will influence the specific
form of the analysis of epistemological problems. Hence, we shall try to deal not with some
random distinctions and features of this or that school or some peculiarities in the
interpretation of a problem by different thinkers, but with a more or less connected system

of their basic principles. We shall focus, therefore, either on the essential common features
in the philosophical concepts of different representatives of one and the same school or, on
the contrary, on the basic differences in the views of the adherents of different schools.
Understandably, some specific features of different philosophical trends and some
peculiarities in the views of their representatives will be, of necessity, left out of account.
The controversy over the fundamental problems of philosophical methodology is highly
instructive as it highlights their contemporary significance. Thus, the attitude to science on
the part of the exponents of positivism is a logical consequence of their absolutisation of
the empirical methods of cognition, whereas the attitude to science of critical rationalists
stems from their interpretation of the verification problems. Scientific realism as a
philosophical trend regards science as practically the only source of material for
philosophical analysis and for any concepts of the world. The conflict of opinions reveals
weaknesses in each of the above philosophical teachings, shows how they distort the actual
process of cognition and exposes their prognostication errors.
The present-day significance of the problem of causality, too, becomes more apparent if we,
on the one hand, find out the reason for the negative attitude to it on the part of the
positivists and, on the other hand, show its revival in critical rationalism as expounded by
Popper who displays special interest in the forms of theoretical explanation and in the
deductive models of the process of cognition. Highly instructive is also the collision
between the concept of causality rehabilitated and revised by scientific realism in the
spirit of materialism and the logical concept characteristic of the positivist approach
inasmuch as this collision highlights the specific demands of contemporary science on the
means of a theoretical causal explanation and prognostication and reveals the very essence
of the principle of causality.
It would be impossible to define the prospects of the methodology of scientific cognition
without considering the confrontation between positivism and Marxist-Leninist philosophy.
The history of critical rationalism, scientific realism and other new trends in the
philosophy of science runs into several decades at most, whereas the ideological struggle
between Marxism and positivism dates from the mid-19th century and is in fact as old as
Marxist philosophy itself. Important as they are, the old-time philosophical battles will not
command our attention, since our chief interest lies, as has already been indicated, in a
comparative analysis of the dialectical-materialist methodology and post-positivism [5].
As regards the problems which will be considered in the light of dialectical materialism, the
author has not set himself the task of expounding in a systematic form the commonly
known Marxist concepts or the views of the classics of Marxism-Leninism on these issues.
Proceeding from the basic principles of their solution known from Marxist literature the
author has attempted to reveal their topical aspects and new forms of interpretation and
solution in accordance with the latest scientific data and new philosophical tasks posed by
the scientific and technological revolution. The book, therefore, does not pretend to an
exposition of any set of truths, but rather underscores the need for a further investigation of
the problems of interest from the methodological positions which the author believes to be
the most fruitful and promising. It is the authors conviction that the mutual understanding

of philosophers investigating the methodology of scientific cognition is more and more

becoming a reality.
[1] Rudolf Carnap, Philosophical Foundations of Physics, Basic Books, Inc., Publishers
New York, 1966, p. 6. [> main text]
[2] Moritz Schlick, Positivism and Realism, in: Logical Positivism, Ed. by A. J. Ayer,
The Free Press, Glencoe, Ill., 1960, p. 83. [> main text]
[3] M. Wartofsky, Metaphysics as Heuristic for Science, in: Boston Studies in the
Philosophy of Science, Vol. III, Dordrecht, 1967, p. 123. [> main text]
[4] See A. C. Crombie, Turning Points in Physics, North-Holland Publishing Company,
Amsterdam, 1960, pp. 84154. [> main text]
[5] We shall sometimes use this term to denote all modern schools of the philosophy of
science merely to save space, without implying that they form a single homogeneous whole


by Igor Naletov
There is hardly any trend or school in Western philosophy that could compare with
positivism in the depth and durability of its influence on society, particularly on
intellectuals. Since the first half of the 19th century positivism has suffered many ups and
downs and the interest in this teaching has alternately risen and subsided. Its founders have
had the greatest of triumphs a thinker can dream of and sunk to the depths of the bitterest
humiliation and derision that may fall to the lot of an unlucky philosopher. The powerful
grip of positivist philosophy on intellectuals' minds and the periodic tides of its universal
popularity can only be accounted for by its sincere devotion to, even worship of, science.
However biting today's remarks about the destiny of positivism as a philosophical trend,
one can hardly question the sincerity of its intentions to enter into a firm and durable
alliance with science. Born in the atmosphere of universal ecstasies over the successes of
the natural sciences, positivism has preserved till nowadays its romantic faith in the power

of experimental investigation, its appeal for realism in cognition and genuine interest in the
scientific analysis of everyday experience and language. In the light of contemporary
science and philosophy which have gone far ahead in the understanding of the laws of
scientific cognition and the effectiveness of the interaction of natural and social sciences a
number of its concepts appear now to be naive and sometimes even ill-matched, the more
so as positivism, like any other philosophical trend, assumed different forms in the works of
its exponents: John S. Mill earnestly strove for accurate applied knowledge without
realising the fatal narrowness of his concept of such knowledge restricted within the bounds
of the bourgeois world outlook and system of values; Bertrand Russell hoped to find strict
logical rules for solving philosophical problems, including those in the sphere of ethics;
Rudolf Carnap made persistent attempts to resolve the growing contradictions inherited
from the previous forms of positivism.
In positivism, like in many other philosophical schools, one should always distinguish
between the ideas of the classics and their followers. The former, representing progressive
tendencies in science, can usually be identified, first and foremost, by their profound
devotion to the goddess of philosophy and, alas, by sometimes no less profound delusions.
Unlike the wholehearted founders of positivism, their numerous mediocre imitators lack the
necessary critical spirit of trailblazers in science and, instead of exploiting the success of
their forerunners and rising to a higher level, fall to aggravating their shortcomings and
debasing their fruitful ideas,
For all the delusions of the founders of positivism we cannot but pay tribute to the noble
endeavours of such outstanding scholars of their time, scientists in the proper sense of the
word as Bertrand Russell, Rudolf Carnap and Ludwig Wittgenstein who did everything
possible to bring closer together science and philosophy even at the expense of their
personal self-disparagement. Indeed, there is something unnatural about a professional
philosopher contending for self-destruction of philosophy, its abrogation and dissolution in
"positive" scientific knowledge. People usually regard this either as cunning, or as
reprehensible folly, and are apt to overlook the possibility of the scientist's utter selflessness
in the service of his goddess which goes hand in hand with modesty and complete
indifference to scientific degrees, honorary academic titles, priority and material benefits.
Such selflessness may induce a true scientist of outstanding erudition and talent to be
content with the role of a humble clerk in attendance on an endless flow of scientific papers
the meaning of which will always remain unknown to him. His devotion to science may
even cause him to assume voluntarily the function of a cleaner of scientific Augean stables
and become, so to speak, a scientific scavenger.
In the 1830s, when German classical philosophy with its pledges to explain nature by itself,
to penetrate the very core of the universe and establish eternal control over its mechanism
seemed to be at the summit of glory, the challenge of young positivism and its promise to

rid science of quackery, whoever the genius behind it, came as a gust of fresh wind and
deserved every respect and recognition. Positivism was indeed a tree planted for the benefit
of science and intended to promote its greatness and gloryhowever bitter the fruit that
was eventually born by it.
The rapid development of experimental science in the 18th and early 19th centuries, the
natural attraction held out to scientists by the empirical methods of research gave rise to an
illusion that all problems of natural science and social development could be solved
exclusively by empirical means and that the techniques used in the natural sciences should
be broadly applied to social research. Practicism and utilitarianism characteristic of the way
of life in the developing capitalist countries of Western EuropeBritain, France, later
Germany and still later the USAgradually became a standard of scientific thinking.
Referring to this feature in early positivism in the first half of the 19th century one of its
founders, Herbert Spencer, said that the wish to possess a "practical science" which could
serve the needs of life was so strong that the interest in scientific investigation not directly
applicable to practical activities seemed ridiculous. Enthusiasm over the new methods of
scientific investigation, naturally, went side by side with growing scepticism towards the
knowledge which did not conform to everyday experience, could not be obtained within the
framework of the empirical approach or had no direct practical application.
Nevertheless, the ideology of positivism contributed to some extent to the development of
natural science, particularly experimental investigations, and helped science to free itself
from the fetters of the religious world outlook and various speculative doctrines and
artificial, not infrequently mystic, concepts and theories. Positivism as an embodiment of
this tendency has served as a good purgative. In the 1830s, while still in its cradle,
positivism came out with a demand to oust idealistic philosophers from science and
subjected idealism and religion to sharp criticism regarding them both a product of the
mythological stage in the development of human spirit. According to the positivists,
metaphysics had very much in common with theology and differed from it in form only.
Both of them represented different systems of world outlook and, as such, were outside the
limits of scientific knowledge. Auguste Comte, another founder of positivism, repeatedly
stressed the affinity and, in some important, aspects, even the identity of the theological and
metaphysical methods of thinking. In his opinion, the basic distinction of metaphysical
concepts consisted in regarding phenomena as being independent of their carriers, and in
attributing independent existence to the properties of each substance. He considered it
immaterial whether these personified abstractions were later turned into souls or fluids.
They came from one and the same source and were the inevitable result of the method of
studying the nature of things which was characteristic in every respect of the infancy of
human mind. This method, according to Comte, inspired originally the idea of gods which
were transformed later into souls and finally into imaginary fluids.

Comte rejects metaphysics, i.e. everything that goes outside the limits of science (religion,
mysticism, idealism, materialism, dialectics, etc.) and proclaims the ideal of positive
knowledge and, accordingly, a new philosophy. Yet metaphysics, according to Comte, is not
entirely identical with religious thinking. Moreover, it prepares mankind for a transition to
scientific thinking. A metaphysical thought is, so to speak, an intermediary between the
theological and the scientific ways of thinking and performs simultaneously a critical
function in relation to science. Owing to imagination which prevails in metaphysical
thinking over observation, the thought becomes broader and is prepared unostentatiously
for truly scientific work. According to Comte, another contribution of metaphysics to the
emergence of positive science consisted in that it performed the vitally important function
of theory until the mind was able to develop it on the basis of observations.
Philosophy in its traditional guise is identical with metaphysics. Its existence can only be
justified as long as science is unable to solve certain general problems. Hence, philosophy
is only destined to pave the way for science and ceases to exist as soon as science takes
over. It is only within this brief lifespan, measured off by history, that philosophy
contributes to the emergence of science. Its cognitive value is limited to the preliminary
formulation of problems. The social task of philosophy consists in attracting the attention of
the broad masses, even amateurs in different fields, to these problems, but their solution
should be the concern of the positive sciences and narrow specialists.
Despite the long evolution of positivist philosophy, this understanding of science and of the
relationship of science to metaphysics was shared by all exponents of positivism. The
problem of demarcation between science and metaphysics, in some periods just implied, in
others posed sharply and uncompromisingly, was one of the key issues in the programme of
positivism at all its stages and even the main driving force of its development.
In the 1920s, logical positivism, starting from the investigations of the Vienna Circle,
continued its struggle against "metaphysics" from the positions of empiricism, though less
radical than that of Auguste Comte, John S. Mill, Ernst Mach and Richard Avenarius.
According to the principle of verification first defined by Moritz Schlick [1] and further
generalised by Ludwig Wittgenstein [2] the truth of every scientific statement must be
ascertained by comparing it directly with the evidence of the senses.
In a later version Alfred Ayer described this principle as follows: "The criterion which we
use to test the genuineness of apparent statements of fact is the criterion of verifiability. We
say that a sentence is factually significant to any given person, if, and only if, he knows
how to verify the proposition which it purports to expressthat is, if he knows what
observations would lead him, under certain conditions, to accept the proposition as being
true, or reject it as being false. If, on the other hand, the putative proposition is of such a
character that the assumption of its truth, or falsehood, is consistent with any assumption

whatsoever concerning the nature of his future experience, then, as far as he is concerned, it
is, if not a tautology, a mere pseudo-proposition. The sentence expressing it may be
emotionally significant to him; but it is not literally significant. And with regard to
questions the procedure is the same. We enquire in every case what observations would
lead us to answer the question, one way or the other; and if none can be discovered, we
must conclude that the sentence under consideration does not, as far as we are concerned,
express a genuine question, however strongly its grammatical appearance may suggest that
it does." [3]
Hence, empirical verification was assigned a function which went far beyond its
possibilitiesto appraise the truth-value of all statements without exception. As compared
wilh the previous forms of positivism, the new element here (actually borrowed from Kant)
was the division of all statements into two types: analytical and synthetic. Analytical
statements were regarded as tautological or identical, similar to those often used in
mathematics and mathematical logic. Synthetic statements were regarded as object
judgements characteristic of empirical, factual sciences and claimed to be the only
statements which carried any new information.
Regarding the first two types of statements as being of some scientific significance, logical
positivism not only denies all other statements any scientific, value, but considers them
simply senseless. If one or another statement does not lend itself to direct verification, it
must at least be reducible by logical means, as a theoretical, non-analytical statement, to a
corresponding basic or protocol statement which can be confirmed by direct observation.
Statements which are neither analytical nor synthetic are meaningless and subject to
elimination from the language of science as metaphysical.
The narrowness of the verification criterion induced the positivists to make repeated
attempts at its modification. The watered-down (for instance, Ayer's) version of this
criterion admits of both full and partial verification of statements, i.e. of their
partial confirmation by empirical data. A theory was needed, however, which being itself in
agreement with this criterion, would define more accurately the notion of confirmation, on
the one hand, and correspond to the general programme of positivism (construction of the
logical language of science) and to the traditions of empiricism, on the other hand.
A most significant attempt to develop such a theory was Carnap's inductive logic
expounded by him in Logical Foundations of Probability [4] and in The Continuum of
Inductive Methods, [5] and then, in an enlarged and elaborated form, in A Basic System of
Inductive Logic. [6] A characteristic feature of both versions of his system consisted, first
and foremost, in that the logical probability of the meaningfulness of universal
generalisations was recognised to equal zero and that there existed a theoretically neutral
language of observations. Out of the three phases of inductive inferencethe selection of

the language, the selection of the statements of this language and the assessment of the
degree of confirmation of a given statement by other statementsCarnap focused on none
other than the appraisal of the probability of statements relative to the results of the
observation (empirical data).
As we see, in Carnap's inductive logic the traditional problem of induction undergoes a
considerable transformation. The main task of an inductive conclusion is regarded to be the
formulation of a probabilistic prognostication of a particular event rather than of a universal
assertion. Induction for Carnap is practically any non-deductive conclusion and, primarily,
a metalinguistic statement establishing, on the basis of experimental data, a definite degree
of confirmability of a hypothesis. Consequently, Carnap expands the volume of the
traditional concept of induction, on the one hand, and, on the other, eliminates the problem
of confirmation of universal assertions, i.e. laws, from its content.
According to Carnap, universal laws appear to be senseless from the viewpoint of the
verification principle and inconfirmable in inductive logic. In point of fact, universal
statements are useless: no one, in Carnap's opinion, will make a stand for the universality of
this or that theory in any part of the universe. All a scientist or a practical worker may want
is a hope that the next test will confirm his hypothesis. The logical evolution of Carnap's
views brought him later to an admission that a shift in emphasis from confirmation to
decision-making in the analysis of inductive logic's problems would provide even a more
radical method of ousting universal laws as the last remnants of metaphysics in science.
Such a shift would indeed free science from universal laws replacing them with specific
hypotheses. Finally, in the Foreword to the 2nd edition of Logical Foundations of
Probability (1962), Carnap altogether avoids mentioning the "degree of confirmability" in
connection with the assessment of inductive probability and prefers to speak of the
significance of inductive logic for the theory of solutions only (and not for the theory of
confirmation). This looks like the end of the last hope to construct the methodology of
science on a strictly logical foundation.
The failure to solve this problem cannot but tell on the prospects of the programme of
empiricism, since it affects the two most important and interconnected premises of
positivist philosophy. A question is bound to arise: are the principles of Carnap's inductive
logic purported to be helpful in the solution of the main task of logical empiricism
compatible with the principles of empiricism itself?
It has already been pointed out that Carnap's inductive logic was focused on the evaluation
of the degree of confirmation of hypotheses. It proceeded from the assumption that the
statements concerning such confirmations by empirical data were the result of
metalinguistic analysis and, as such, analytical statements. Carnap emphasised that his
inductive logic excluded any a priori synthetic principles and not only remained loyal to

empiricism but even in some respects corrected its shortcomings, thereby strengthening its
The principle of induction, as formulated by Carnap, was based on the assumption that the
experimental data testified to a very high degree of probability of the world's uniformity.
Since the probability in the formulation of this principle was logical by nature, the
statement as such was analytically true. Its truth was not necessarily conditioned by the
truth of the principle of inductionit was sufficient to know that this principle was
probable. The contradiction inherent in this proposition consisted in that the principle of
induction itself was assigned a role of the foundation of logic and, consequently, its
analytical truth value could not be deduced from the very same logic, but was to be
established within the framework of a more general logical system.
All attempts made before Carnap to develop the logic of inductive conclusion pivoted, as it
were, on the principle of the uniformity of nature which lay at the root of the principle of
induction. Yet this latter principle is ontological rather than logical and cannot be obtained
through inductive generalisation. According to Kant, it could have been classified with
good reason as an a priori synthetic generalisation. Carnap, as we see, could not avoid this
ill-fated dilemma either and had to make his choice between an a priori synthetic
generalisation and an ontological statement (in the spirit of materialism). A detective story
writer skilled at stock phrases could have summed up the situation in these words: "The
fateful shadow of metaphysics has again crossed his path."
It was not fortuitous that Carnap, seeking later to provide a rational substantiation for
induction, pointed out that the axioms of inductive logic could only rest on a priori
statements and argued that inductive logic as such could be constructed in a formal way. Yet
inductive probability could only be justified in the context of the theory or solutions where
the concept of probability is linked with utility and rational action. [7] The search for a
non-inductive foundation of inductive logic as a form of scientific cognition brought
Carnap in the end to the understanding of probability as a reasonable degree of faith. As a
result, the theory of induction turned out to be built on the sand of intuitive and subjective
propositions. Each of the paths tried by Carnap in his attempts to substantiate induction on
the basis of empiricism led him beyond its limits right into the arms of metaphysics.
It is noteworthy that logical positivism seeks to reinforce empiricism in its drive against
metaphysics by a logical analysis of the structure of knowledge. For all the internal
contradictions of Carnap's version of logical positivism, it turned out to be the most
successful of all, as it revealed one of the main trends in the development of positivism and
displayed a characteristic, feature of its understanding of the subject-matter of philosophy.
Significantly, both the adherents and opponents of Carnap's theory often call it "logical
empiricism". The search for new ways in the struggle against metaphysics was by no means

accidental. Already in the 19th century the development of theoretical sciences revealed the
narrowness and inadequacy of the empiricist programme for the revision and restructuring
of science which had been advanced by early positivism. It became clear even in that period
that the programme of struggle against metaphysics ran counter to the interests of science
and hampered the development of theoretical investigation. The theory of the atomic
structure of matter, quantum mechanics and the theory of relativity provided ample proof
that empiricism as a philosophical and methodological programme was useless and even
detrimental to scientific progress.
The rapid development of logico-mathematical studies in that period seemed to indicate an
attractive and promising way out of the difficult situationto treat a theory as an aggregate
of logically interconnected facts. That anti-metaphysical line was started by Russell and
then developed by Wittgenstein in his Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus into an elaborate
theory followed by their successors.
Russell did not yet shun many traditional philosophical problems which he hoped to solve
through the agency of strict rules of mathematical logic. His failure on this path caused
Wittgenstein to take a more uncompromising positionnot only to divorce science from
metaphysics, but also to throw the latter overboard as senseless mysticism. The
centuries-old controversy over certain philosophical problems pertaining to the world
outlook was viewed by him either as a result, of violation of the elementary rules of logic,
or as a linguistic confusion. Alfred J. Ayer, one of the contemporary followers of these
ideas, keeping his allegiance to more or less orthodox logical positivism writes: "We may
accordingly define a metaphysical sentence as a sentence which purports to express a
genuine proposition, but does, in fact, express neither a tautology nor an empirical
hypothesis. And as tautologies and empirical hypotheses form the entire class of significant
propositions, we are justified in concluding that all metaphysical assertions are
nonsensical." [8] According to Ayer, the typical examples of metaphysical assertions are
those underlying the problems of the reality of experience, the unity of the world, the nature
of "true reality" as distinct from sensory experience, etc.
Richard von Mises who regarded his own position relative to traditional philosophy as the
most conciliatory among the neo-positivists, was also of the opinion that metaphysics
constituted the sphere of pre-scientific propositions and was not entirely devoid of future as
people would always ask questions extending beyond the limits of scientific knowledge.
Even in new fields of research, while the adequate scientific language was still nonexistent
and the main linguistic rules and logical forms were not yet known, new questions going
beyond the familiar ground were bound to be at first non-scientific, i.e. metaphysical. To
become truly scientific, new concepts must get a footing in their field, merge with the
formal systems adopted earlier and develop full ability to communicate, so to speak with
other fields of scientific knowledge.

Clearly, this contraposition of scientific and non-scientific or metaphysical knowledge is

rooted in a peculiar understanding of the ideal of scientific knowledge. This ideal,
according to positivism, is represented by empirical science with its principle of empirical
verification of any assertion. To become scientific, a proposition must pass through the
purgatory of sense-perceptions which alone are capable of providing direct. really verifiable
and really objective knowledge.
Metaphysics as a specific set of traditional philosophical problems derives, according to
positivisin, from the recognition of some unique reality which does not lend itself to
scientific cognition and can only be apprehended with the help of the metaphysical,
speculative faculties of the mind. "A more ambitious conception of metaphysics is one that
places it in competition with the natural sciences," says Ayer. "The suggestion is that the
sciences deal only with appearances: the metaphysician penetrates to the underlying
reality." [9] All positivists irrespective of the school to which they belong hold that
traditional philosophy postulates the existence of some transcendental reality which is
different from and independent of the sensual world, but which determines its main
The pretension to know something beyond possible experience presupposes the existence
of an extraempirical source of knowledge. The only method whereby metaphysical
philosophers obtain their truths can be the method of a priori speculative reflection. For
instance, Russell considered that one of the essential features of the classical tradition in
philosophy consisted in a conviction that a priori reflection alone was capable of
penetrating the mysteries of the universe. Nothing but an a priori method was capable of
proving that reality was different from what appeared to direct observation. Emphasising
that the a priori principle was the essence of traditional philosophy, Mises wrote: "As soon
as one speaks of reaching beyond experience and of the disclosure of the true core, one
appeals to the existence of extraempirical sources of knowledge. In spite of all their many
differences, such theories as Husserl's 'Wesensschau' and Plato's 'doctrine of ideas',
Spinoza's 'knowledge through apprehending insight', Kant's 'a priori' and Schopenhauer's
transempirical metaphysics, . . . are things of a similar kind." [10] This stand, despite
certain modifications in different forms of positivist philosophy has not changed till
nowadays. There is nothing, asserts Ayer, that cannot be expressed in the language of
observations, and everything beyond these limits is of a mystic nature. In point of fact,
however, along with mystic entities Ayer throws overboard everything that cannot be
perceived by senses.
According to positivism, the unscientific character of metaphysics springs from its
worldview function or, more precisely, from its social orientation and claim to disclose the
essence of the world, as well as from the fact that its propositions are based on convictions.
On these grounds metaphysics is regarded as a false projection of subjective human

qualities and emotions on knowledge and on the world in general. The possibility of a
scientific world outlook is dismissed altogether, since scientific theories, according to
Positivism, cannot give answers to questions pertaining to world views.
The positivists maintain that metaphysics meets man's psychological need for
understanding the world as a whole and his place in the world, and is called to life by the
fateful questions as to the meaning of human life, moral responsibility, and human values.
Yet science is unable to tackle these questions as they cannot he answered on the grounds
of empirico-mathematical investigation which is regarded by positivism as the only form of
scientific knowledge. These questions, according to the positivists, will always remain the
objects of unscientific methods of comprehension. Man is entitled to use any means to
express his world views, including the least suitable one, i.e. metaphysics, but in that case
he should not claim it to be what it is not and will never becomea science, a system of
knowledge. Carnap regards metaphysics not as actual knowledge , but rather as poetry
giving but an illusion of knowledge.
The world-view character of philosophy is considered by positivism as the main cause of its
incompatibility with science. Justly underlining the inseparable ties between the world
view, on the one hand, and ideology and politics, on the other, the positivists come to the
conclusion that no problems relating to nature, society and cognition can be solved by
philosophy (metaphysics) on a scientific, basis for the simple reason that these problems are
treated in the broad context of the world outlook and their solution depends, in the final
analysis, on the views and ideological stand of the philosopher. "The desire to arrive at
practically useful answers (predictions) in the most difficult and most general questions of
life," says Mises, "leads to the construction of systems of metaphysical propositions." [11]
Ambitious and noble were the aspirations of positivism which set out to free philosophy
from the fetters of religious and idealistic dogmas. The 20th century seemed to have been
destined to become the age of triumph or positivist philosophy. Indeed, it, has started with
fundamental scientific, discoveries and its closing decades are marked by a profound
revolution in the entire system of scientific knowledge, technology and social relations
which are being successfully restructured on truly rational and scientific principles.
Ironically, however, this century has also borne witness to the decline and fall of the
philosophy that has made science its fetish.
Dramatic as it may be, the situation is not likely to rouse our emotions unless we perceive a
human drama behind the ideological vicissitudes. In point of fact, the reverses of fortune in
the realm of ideas are never divorced from the destinies of human beings and usually entail
a drama of a whole galaxy of outstanding personalities, who believed in the viability of the
principles they had advanced and did everything possible to defend and elaborate them.
One can hardly blame any one of them personally for the long and, alas, futile wanderings

in the labyrinths of methodology. If only it were a matter of personal fallacies, mankind

would have long ago found a way to avoid them.
Yet the bitterest irony consisted, perhaps, in that positivism, whose credo was service to
science, failed to find a common language with its master for any appreciable length of
time. True, there were periods when positivism was in vogue. Its shares went up at the turn
of the 20th century with the discoveries of the complex structure of the atom and of the
electromagnetic field. Hopes also soared in the 1920s which were marked by the successful
development of quantum mechanics and the theory of relativity. Another spell of good luck
came with the intensive investigations into the problems of linguistics and psychology in
the 1930s and 1940s. Finally, the last boom was connected with the rapid development of
cybernetics and genetics, neurophysiology and psychophysiology.
The philosophy of science has been favourably commented upon and can even boast of the
homage paid to it by Henri Poincar6, Albert Einstein, Bertrand Russell, Niels Bohr, Werner
Heisenberg and Jacques Monod. Yet it is also known that the heights of their mutual
sympathies invariably coincided with the periods of abrupt breakdown of old fundamental
theories rather than with constructive periods in the history of science. Once a crisis in
science comes to an end and the gulfs are bridged, the philosophy of science in its
logico-empirical version would inevitably reveal its inability to offer a positive programme
for scientific, technological or social progress. Each new upswing of theoretical thought
was a sure sign of approaching depression in positivist philosophy. Yesterday's followers
and adherents of positivism would promptly turn away from the "friends of science" and
the short-lived mutual understanding would give place to even a more profound and lasting
mutual distrust than before. These tides remind one of something like intermittent fever in
Western science, and the blame for it can hardly be put on any particular individual. The
disease must evidently be traced to a source other than the human qualities of each separate
thinkerbe he great or mediocre, honest or hypocritical, egoistic or unselfish. It proved to
be contagious for altruist Einstein and misanthrope Heisenberg, great Bohr and mediocre
Paul Volkmann [12]. The true cause of the illness lies not in the merits or demerits of
individuals. outstanding or at least interesting as they are, but in the conditions of
contemporary society.
The role of social conditions in the emergence and development of positivism is a separate
subject that lies outside the scope of this work. Here I shall confine myself to discussing the
general laws and tendencies of scientific cognition which provide, as it were, an
epistemological background of the developing ideological drama. Paradoxical as it may
seem, this drama is contained in embryo in the basic tenet of positivism determining its
attitude to science. It is precisely the glorification of science and the disparagement of
philosophy that did positivism an ill turn accounting for the scepticism and even for the
downright denial of the value of scientific cognition that are characteristic of positivist

works. How did the extremes meet? To answer this question, let us turn once again to the
positive platform of the philosophy of science.
Rejecting traditional philosophy as unscientific and metaphysical and using many other
disparaging epithets to belittle its role, positivism has never denied the need for philosophy
in general. On the contrary, the exponents of positivism have underscored the significance
of a new, scientific philosophy which was called a "philosophy of science" and given it
many other no less pretentious titles. What was the real meaning of their contentions?
Philosophy as a theory of the most general and essential laws of being was eliminated by
Comte in favour of some universal system of scientific knowledge. All scientific
knowledge, according to Comte, can only be obtained by special sciences through
observation, experiment, description and generalisation with the help of broadly used
mathematical means. There can be no specifically philosophic understanding of nature
different from that ensured by the natural sciences. Whatever the particular distinctions in
the understanding of the subject matter of positivist philosophy revealed by different
representatives of the "first" form of positivism, there is every reason to assert that their
views are in the main identical: new philosophy has in fact nothing in common with old
metaphysics and does not basically differ from other "positive" sciences: both the positive
sciences and scientific philosophy are absolutely neutral in the metaphysical sense, i.e. in
relation to materialism and idealism. The main object of a philosophical investigation is
science, its concepts and method. The methods of "philosophical" investigations are also
borrowed directly from science. In short, science is its own philosophy. It is these ideas,
developed and elaborated during the evolution of positivism that underlie its understanding
of the subject matter of philosophy.
Just. like the rapid development of special sciences and the strengthening of their
experimental base in the 18th century gave the early positivists occasion to contend that
scientific investigation should substitute for philosophic cognition of the world, so the
development of biology and psychological sciences was in the late 19th century interpreted
by Machism as the elimination of metaphysics from the studies of man's cognitive activities
in favour of a scientific theory of knowledge. This idea was clearly expressed by Mach's
follower and commentator V. V. Lesevich, one of the first Russian positivists: "What will
remain of philosophy after the theory of knowledge, too, gains the status of a separate and
independent science?" he asks and proceeds as follows: "When psychology, thanks to its
successes, rose to a truly scientific level, no fragment was left of the old all-embracing and
undivided science, philosophy, which could be said to possess the property of universal and
comprehensive knowledge: its place was taken up by a number of separate independent
sciences, and philosophy in the old sense of the word disappeared." [13]

The achievements of biology and psychology in the study of man, his psychical and
cognitive activity were interpreted by the "second" form of positivism as the emergence of
a scientific theory of knowledge opposing traditional epistemology as unscientific
metaphysics. Machism, like classical positivism, made the concepts and methods of special
sciences the object of philosophy which, consequently, was to be metascientific by nature.
According to Mach, a philosopher differs from a natural scientist in that the former has to
deal with a broader range of facts. Justly stressing the need for a broad approach to
philosophical matters, Mach maintains, in full agreement with the positivist principles, that
it is achieved not through the generalisation of the process of cognition in philosophical
categories and its interpretation on the basis of a definite world view and methodology, but
with the help of some new specialised science which would study knowledge with the use
of special scientific means of investigation. Such means, according to Mach, could best be
borrowed from biology and psychology, since it was precisely these disciplines that studied
man as the subject of cognition and could provide a reliable basis for the understanding of
his cognitive activity.
The most explicit presentation of the positivist concept of the relationship between science
and philosophy can be found in the works of Schlick, Carnap, Wittgenstein and other
members of the Vienna Circle which is usually associated with the emergence of logical
positivism. The representatives of the new trend fully agreed with their predecessors in that
scientific philosophy was an immanent product of the development of science, that
philosophy should give up metaphysical problems if it was to be promoted to a rank of
science and that it should got both its object of inquiry and its method from science itself.
According to neopositivists, the only reason why philosophy had been unable to become
scientific for a long period consisted in the insufficient development of science itself which
could not provide the necessary means for philosophy to fulfil its metascientific functions.
The emergence of "scientific" philosophy at the present stage of the evolution of science
was a result of the development of mathematical logic which devised the technical means
for the analysis of science. The initial methodological models developed within the
framework or positivism were in fact nothing but the application of the ready-made body of
mathematical. logic borrowed from Principia Matematica by Russell and Whitehead to the
logical development of some hypothetical system of "ideal scientific knowledge".
Logical positivism was a full-scale realisation of the analytical tendency in the
understanding of "scientific" philosophy. Yet unlike Mill and Mach, who initiated this
tendency, logical positivism. did not regard philosophy as a theory dealing with the
principles of the classification of sciences, the system of laws common to all sciences and
with cognition as such (interpreted in terms of either inductive logic or the psychology of
cognition), but as an instrument for the analysis of science. This approach reduced
philosophy to a scientific system of actions, a kind of analytical activity. Wittgenstein's
thesis that "philosophy is not a theory but an activity" [14] became the banner of an

influential trend in analytical philosophy. "The great contemporary turning point," wrote
Schlick, "is characterised by the fact that we see in philosophy not a system of cognitions,
but a system of acts." [15] The attempts of the earlier positivists to construct scientific
philosophy as a theory are regarded by neopositivists as a relapse of old metaphysics.
In view of the growing proportion of highly specific logico-methodological problems in
scientific investigations, logical positivism demanded that methodology should be
completely independent of philosophy and that a new "pure" methodology, free from any
presuppositions should be developed that would banish philosophical epistemology
together with other philosophical worldview elements from genuine science. According to
the logical positivists, the "reflection upon scientific knowledge", hitherto the domain of
philosophy, turns into a special field of concrete scientific investigation. In this respect the
only distinction of logical positivism from other forms of positivist philosophy consists in
that it turns into an absolute the logico-methodological analysis of knowledge instead of
empirical science in general and psychology and biology in particular. Logical positivism
regards the use of accurate logico-methodological means in the investigation of the
structure of scientific knowledge as a "scientific" method of the formulation and solution of
philosophical problems. The emphasis on logic as ;in instrument of philosophical research
is the keynote of the latest stage in the realization of the principal aim of positivist
philosophy, viz. discarding traditional philosophical problems and substituting
formal-logical and linguistic methods of analysis for the philosophical approach to science.
It should be noted that positivism denouncing the so-called extrascientific metaphysics is in
effect carrying out a programme based on entirely "extrascientific" principles. It is wrong to
take for granted the assertions of the positivists that their philosophy is free from
metaphysics as the premises of positivism, unlike those of other forms of philosophy, are
allegedly self-evident. Positivism is shy of declaring and exposing to analysis the postulates
underlying the entire system of its arguments.
The metaphysical content of the philosophy of science is admitted retrospectively by the
positivists themselves. It has become a peculiar tradition with the positivist philosophers to
accuse their predecessors of metaphysicism, inconsistency in the struggle with metaphysics,
various concessions to metaphysics and deviations from the principle of "neutrality" in
philosophy. Spencer reproached Comte for concessions to metaphysics, the Machists are
advancing similar charges against both of them. As regards the neo-positivists, they are
laying claims to a final break with metaphysics which allegedly has never been banished
completely from the writings of all positivist philosophers. Defending the concept of
phenomenalistic analysis, Gustav Bergman reproaches physicalists for their inclination to
metaphysics, which term, as it transpires, he applies to some of their materialistic
statements. Even within logical positivism itself the palm of the most consistent fighter
against metaphysics is claimed now by one, now by another of its representatives.

It will be shown later that despite all attempts of positivism to discard such problems as the
relation of man to being, consciousness to matter, interdependence of space, time and
movement, causality, the nature of contradictions, etc. it is in fact unable to ignore them
altogether and has to tackle them in one way or another, often in a disguised form.
Moreover, the more persistent the attempts of each new generation of positivist
philosophers to dismiss the above problems as metaphysical and nonsensical, the more
obvious their importance for science and philosophy. All positivist theories invariably
started from some sort of denunciationbe it the denunciation of metaphysics, idealism,
dualism or materialism. Yet all their criticism designed to clear the way for the new
"scientific" methodology always contains in a hidden form some positive, assertory
The metaphysics of positivism is all the more dangerous as it is concealed behind loud
phrases about the need to fight it and rid science of the cobweb of the past. The
oversimplified idea of scientific knowledge and the disregard of its hierarchical multilayer
structure, as well as the primitive understanding of the nature of the scientific reflection of
the world that leaves no room for the throbbing thought proved detrimental to positivism
even in its self-evaluation and prevented it from understanding the hidden purpose of its
own dogmas. Not only did positivism fail to uncover its social face and state its social aims,
it proved unable even to define its place in the general process of cognition. The hidden
part of the positivist programme, its basic general postulates covered up by loud and
pretentious declarations have never been brought to light for open examination. Yet for the
purpose of this analysis it is advisable that acquaintance he made of these ghosts of
metaphysics kept from the public eye in the backyard.
A curious paradox with the positivist philosophy, besides its unhappy relations with
science, consists in that in its struggle against metaphysics (which happened to be now the
speculations of German classical philosophy, now the philosophical principles of classical
science, i.e. mechanistic materialism, now Freudism, now dialectical materialism which has
synthesised the most valuable achievements of progressive philosophical thought),
positivism at all the stages of its evolution has invariably found itself in a snare of
metaphysical concepts, sometimes not a bit more elaborate than those of the 18th-century
materialism or Hegel's idealistic dialectics.
Incidentally, the metaphysical fallacies of German classical philosophy and the
Enlighteners' materialism have at least the justification that their speculativeness was partly
a result of the immaturity of science and social relations ruling out the possibility of the
profound, truly scientific understanding of the laws and tendencies of social development.
But can there be any justification for positivism wallowing in metaphysics and idealism at
our time when philosophy became a branch of science way back in the middle of the 19th
century, when the problem of the relationship between philosophy and special sciences has

been successfully solved and they have developed their own powerful means of theoretical
If Minerva's night-flying owl had ventured to make its appearance in broad daylight, it
would have inevitably struck against various obstacles and could have hardly become the
ancient symbol of wisdom. Positivism, unlike the mythological bird, has appeared too late
to win the scientists' faith for long and become the foundation of scientific knowledge. It
has never, even in the days of its so-called triumphs, been able to overcome the somewhat
ironic attitude of the scientists to most of its claims.
Positivism combines in itself the belated faith in empirical science which was the
foundation of the industrial power of capitalism in the 18th century with the youthful
illusions of its ideologists that the prosperity of capitalist society was inseparable from
scientific progress. Yet it is already infected with early scepticism in the anticipation of its
inevitable decline and does not believe either in science, industry or in human values. The
metaphysical principles making the foundation of positivist philosophy are similar to those
metaphysical doctrines which were characteristic of both the 19th-century's idealistic
philosophy and mechanistic materialism. How can they tally with the latest versions of
positivism, with its refined "logic of scientific discovery", "semantic philosophy",
pseudo-scientific terms such as "explication", "denotation", "verification" and the like?
The rejection by positivism of such traditional philosophical problems as the relationship of
consciousness to being, spirit to nature is by no means tantamount to the rejection of
idealistic and materialistic metaphysics. Just like in the case of Machism which claimed to
rise above the antithesis between materialism and idealism with the help of "neutral world
elements", "introjection", "the principal coordination", "economy of thought", it simply
means that the only object of scientific investigation is, according to positivism, the
scientists' sensory experience, which allegedly does not represent any metaphysical,
transcendental reality. The true significance of the empirical theory of verification advanced
by neo-positivism consisted in that its adherents, despite all their anti-metaphysical
declarations, were forced in the end to revert to the traditional, essentially metaphysical,
problem of philosophythat of the basic, ultimate elements of knowledge. Instead of the
objective reality the title "absolute" was conferred on sensations. According to the
positivists, man's activity proceeds not in real space and time, but within the narrow
confines of logical formulae binding the sensory experience. Man is incapable of breaking
out of the jail built by positivist philosophers.
The mystification of the relation of knowledge to reality is characteristic of all idealistic
philosophy which regards the world as the materialisation of an ideal form, as logic
incarnate represented in language. Carnap, like Berkeley, Hume and any other subjective
idealist, puts the true relation of knowledge to objective reality upside down. He starts his

analysis not from objective reality, but from the logical structure of the language as it exists
today, i.e. the language which has already taken a definite shape and is no longer a living
organism. In other words, the accumulated factual material represented in the modern
language is the eternal truthnot relative, inaccurate, approximate, but Her Majesty
Reality personified. To be intelligible, reality must have the same parameters as the logical
structure of language. Man cannot go beyond the facts arranged in accordance with the
logical structure of language. Such transcendence would call for a truly mystic ability to
abandon the sphere of language and intellect.
According to Ayer, for instance, the world is a logical structure" made up of sensations,
which, in his modernised parlance, are called "sensuous content. Since the "sensuous
content is inseparable from the forms in which it is expressed, we are unable to pass
beyond the bounds of even our statements of sensations. Ayer does not deny the existence
of material objects, yet such existence, in his opinion, cannot be proved with the same
certainty as the existence of sensuous images.
In the positivist picture of the world, like in a frequently staged play, the action always
follows one and the same pattern set by the producer: subject to change are only the actors,
i.e. concrete facts. Not only do the present logical schemes substitute for real relations
between objects which are infinitely richer, more complex and contradictory than their
logical counterparts; no less important is the fact that such schemes turn out to be even
more speculative than the natural philosophical doctrines of the 18th century, except that
they take into account some results of the scientific progress during the past two centuries.
In other words, the artificial positivist schemes ignore the crucial fact that the logical links
and relations are by no means identical with the real ones.
Positivism sees its main task in binding together the ultimate elements of scientific
knowledge rather than in searching for them. Nevertheless, such elements do have to be
defined, if only vaguely. The more resolute the opposition of positivism to objective reality
as something that stands behind the "elements" and is different from them, the more it turns
these elements into the "absolute source" of knowledge. By the ultimate elements of
knowledge logical positivism understands "facts". For all the ambiguity of this term which
can denote both the fragments of objective reality and events registered by language, the
so-called facts are turned into an absolute similar to Mach's "neutral world elements" or
Berkeley's sensations. The certitude of these original sources of knowledge does not need
any further confirmationit is self-evident. All other structures of knowledge rest on this
solid foundation given directly in experience.
Wittgenstein's selected propositions such as "the world is all that has place", "the world is
an aggregate of facts, but not things", the "atom fact is the connection of objects (things)",
"objects make the substance of the world and therefore cannot be composite", are in fact

nothing but vaguely defined ontology not much different from that of Hume or Berkeley: it
is the ontology of "atom events" given in sensations. The only difference consists, perhaps,
in that in the ontology of the classics the atoms are connected by association, through the
agency of mental links, whereas in logical positivism the connection must be purely logical.
Positivism takes for granted Hume's doctrine that the laws of science do not mean anything
but habitual concomitance of events (conjunction of facts) and sets itself the task of
showing the soundness of this. It has also borrowed the empiricist concept of "observation"
as a simple self-evident act which only calls for distinguishing the observation of objects
from the observation of their properties. Observation is not only the initial, but also the
final point of cognition, since the only method of the verification of knowledge is also
Hence, it would not be correct to regard the positivist doctrine as free from any ontology.
Recognising that observation represents something that exists independent of man and his
consciousness, positivism projects outside the result of observation. The positivist
philosopher's world appears to be made up of separate, unconnected objects united only by
some kind of affinity which, incidentally, is taken for granted and requires no explanation.
These logically independent and empirically indifferent facts are joined with one another
solely through the relation of similarity, just as distinctions are the only form of their
Consequently, each object can change without affecting the properties of other objects or
can remain immutable despite the existing alternatives. This, however, is not the premise,
but rather the conclusion following from the logical independence of statements of facts. In
Ayer's doctrine all facts are particular or represent conjunctions of separate events so that
any generalisation of such facts can only be purely formal. Causality has no other empirical
basis than permanent conjunction since, according to Ayer, there can be no obvious links
between them. Hence, relations between facts can only be external. Even if one speaks of
"internal relations", the phrase can only mean a combination of simple elements as
component parts of larger objects. Ayer avers that even if the process of identifying an
element in the system carries some reference to other elements, there will be no two
elements of which it can be said that they are necessarily related, and this is as much as
Hume's argument requires.
Hence, the obvious paradox consists in that positivism, despite its own declarations about
the need to overcome metaphysics and free philosophy from myths and utopias remains
itself metaphysical and even a mythological system substituting speculative logical
schemes both for objective reality and for the real processes of cognition.

Advocating a strictly scientific approach to knowledge and demanding the elimination of

all a priori propositions from scientific analysis, the positivists proceed from a very definite
system of values which were established way back in the ideological battles with scholastic
metaphysics. We shall yet have not one opportunity to see that positivism, even in its latest
forms, has not been averse to the classical tradition in philosophy and in science in general.
On the contrary, it has proved its strong affinity, remote in time but not in spirit, for this
tradition, attempting to reconcile Locke's and Hume's views, incompatible in many respects
as they are.
The inherent metaphysics of positivist philosophy, incapable of critical self-analysis,
combines in itself some characteristic features of 18th-century natural philosophy and
mechanistic materialism manifesting themselves in the irresistible urge of positivism
towards formal simplicity, rigidity and completeness of scientific knowledge, with the
principles of Hume's and Berkeley's subjective-idealistic philosophy underlying the
positivist absolutisation of empirical facts regarded as the only source of self-evident
certitude and the true foundation of scientific knowledge. Indeed, beware of metaphysics!
The widely advertised neutrality of positivist philosophy is in fact nothing but a
philosophical eclecticism leading inevitably to idealism, just as the proclaimed freedom
from metaphysics is nothing but a smokescreen for more subtle metaphysics. Lucien Sve
has justly observed that "positivism is a typical form of the decline of metaphysics which
has not yet managed to find its way to scientific materialism". [16] It stands to reason that
the inner contradictions of positivism inherent in its basic dogmas, let alone the
contradictions between the premises and conclusions, could not but lead positivism from
one crisis to another and stimulated its attempts to find a way out with the help of one or
another stopgap theory. The philosophy of science was bound in the end to reject the
positivist programme of struggle against metaphysics and give up attempts to discard all
general problems pertaining to being, nature, society and thinking. It is not surprising,
therefore, that the tendency towards the revival of "metaphysics" has at last prevailed in the
philosophy of science itself.
[1] Moritz Schlick, Allgemeine Erkenntnislehre, Springer, Berlin, 1925. [> main text]
[2] See Ludwig Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, Routledge & Kegan Paul,
Ltd., London, 1949, p. 77. [> main text]
[3] A. J. Ayer "The Elimination of Metaphysics", in: Philosophy Matters, Ed. by A. J.
Lisska, Charles E. Merril Publishing Comp., Columbia, Toronto, London, Sydney, 1977, p.
236. [> main text]

[4] Rudolf Carnap, Logical Foundations of Probability, Chicago, 1951. [> main text]
[5] Rudolf Carnap, The Continuum of Inductive Methods, Chicago, 1952. [> main text]
[6] Rudolf Carnap, "A Basic System of Inductive Logic", in: Studies in Inductive Logic and
Probability, Ed. by R. Carnap and R. Jeffrey, Berkeley, 1971. [> main text]
[7] See Rudolf Carnap, "Inductive Logic and Rational Decisions", in: Studies in Inductive
Logic and Probability, op. cit., pp. 5-31. [> main text]
[8] A. J. Ayer, Language, Truth and, Logic Penguin Books, Ltd., Harmondsworth,
Middlesex, England, 1978, p. 56. [> main text]
[9] A. Ayer, The Central Questions of Philosophy, London, 1973, p. 4. [> main text]
[10] Richard von Mises, Positivism. A Study in Human Understanding, Harvard University
Press, Cambridge, 1951, p. 277. [> main text]
[11] Richard von Mises, op. cit., p. 370. [> main text]
[12] Paul Volkmann (1856-1938) was a professor of theoretical physics in Knigsberg and
wrote several philosophical works. [> main text]
[13] V. V. Lesevich, Collected Works, Vol. 2, Moscow, 1915, pp 7-8 (in Russian). [> main
[14] Ludwig Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico- Philosophicus, op. cit., p. 77. [> main text]
[15] M. Schlick, "The Turning Point in Philosophy'', in: Logical Positivism, Ed. by A. J.
Ayer, The Free Press Glencoe, Illinois, 1959, p. 56. [> main text]
[16] L. Sve, La philosophie franaise contemporaine, Editions sociales, Paris, 1962, p.


by Igor Naletov
One of the radical attempts to solve the problem of the relationship between science and
metaphysics on a non-positivist basis has been undertaken by Karl Popper, a prominent
English philosopher, who proposed a doctrine of the structure and development of scientific
knowledge and gave it the name of critical rationalism. It is noteworthy that the main

principles of his doctrine, alternative in a way to logical positivism, were developed by

Popper within the walls of its citadelthe Vienna Circle. The ideas of Popper who had
been a member of this circle from its very foundation foreshadowed, as it were, the
inevitable crisis and disintegration of the new school long before it reached the peak of its
glory when nothing seemed to betoken the impending end.
From the very beginning Popper was a severe critic of the new trend in the philosophy of
science which was budding within the Vienna Circle among the philosophers and natural
scientists interested in the logic and methodology of science. However, Popper was no alien
in this circle, though there is an obvious tendency now to leave this fact out of account in
considering his relation to logical positivism. Poppers alliance with the new school was by
no means accidental even if we put aside his formal membership of the Vienna Circle. One
could evidently speak of a certain difference of opinions concerning the means, yet the aim
as such was undoubtedly common. This is true at least of the early period of Poppers
activity when he advocated the restructuring of scientific knowledge on the basis of an
empiricist interpretation of its laws and categories and underscored the need for complete
elimination of metaphysics from scientific studies. Hence, not only did he identify himself
with the tasks set by logical positivism in that early period of his research, but he strove
wholeheartedly to solve them in a most consistent and effective manner.
True, the way which Popper considered to be the most expedient and logically sound fell
off the tracks chosen by most of the other adherents of the Vienna Circle. Giving him credit
for scientific intuition one ought to note that he sensed the inherent weakness of the
verification theory when it was still in the cradle and discerned the seeds of contradictions
bound to undermine this theory when it was to start revealing its philosophical content,
particularly when the principles proclaimed by the Vienna Circle were to be applied to the
problems of real scientific cognition.
In his polemics with logical positivism Popper stressed, not without reason, that modern
physical theories were too abstract, even speculative, to meet in any degree the criterion of
verification. This criterion, according to which the truth of any theoretical statement must
be confirmed by direct experience, could not provide reliable guidelines even for a most
general appraisal of their scientific value. All attempts to reduce them to experimental data
and to show that such statements, if only in the field of classical mechanics, were based on
direct observation have proved to be futile. Even the basic laws making the backbone of a
theory were too remote from what was called the empirical foundation of science. On the
other hand, the treatises devoted to dreams and spiritualistic seances appeared at first sight
much closer to everyday experience than theoretical propositions and even seemed to use
something like the induction method which held undivided sway in empiricist natural
Popper also noted the fact that many scientific theories had originated from myths. It was
yet another proof that there existed no sharp demarcation between science and metaphysics,
particularly in terms of the verification theory. According to Popper, Copernicuss
heliocentric theory of the Universe was inspired by the neo-Platonists worship of the Sun
which they placed in the centre of the Universe. Ancient atomistics was another example of
a myth that played an extremely important role in the development of science. As opposed

to logical positivism which reduced the difference between science and metaphysics to the
difference between meaningful and senseless propositions, Popper underscored already in
his first mature works that the problem of meaningfulness and senselessness was a pseudoproblem. Metaphysics, according to Popper, was neither a science nor a set of nonsensical
assertions. Hence, already in the early period of his ideological evolution Popper held a
different view of metaphysics than the founders of the Vienna school influenced to a
considerable extent by Wittgensteins and Schlicks ideas.
According to the verification version of logical positivism, the criterion of the scientific
value of different forms of human knowledge is their confirmability by inductive methods:
an assertion can only be regarded scientifically (empirically) valid if it can be confirmed by
inductive methods or an inductive inference. [1] As regards a theoretical proposition, it
must permit logical reduction to a protocol statement confirmable by an experiment. The
basic distinction of Poppers criterion of scientific knowledge from the verification
principle consisted in that he regarded refutability (or falsifiability) and not
confirmability as the main characteristic feature of a scientific statement. Hence, Poppers
solution of the problem of demarcation between scientific and non-scientific assertions is
the direct logical opposite of the neopositivistic criterion. The immunity, even if only
thinkable, of a proposed hypothesis against refutation is a sure sign of its metaphysical
nature. A system of assertions can only be considered scientific if it is at least capable of
being at variance with observation. From this it follows that the verifiability of a theory
coincides not with its confirmability, but with its refutability, and this is just what makes the
difference between science and nonscience. For instance, the existence of God, according
to Popper, is asserted in approximately this form: God is because he is. Since this statement
is practically tautological, the degree of its confirmability is very high. Yet it is quite
obvious that a statement, of this kind is completely immune from refutation and is,
therefore, non-scientific.
Poppers argument against the verification principle and in favour of his falsification
criterion are serious enough, though not at all as original as he claims. Putting aside the
authors pretence, let us take a more close look at his arguments against the verification
version of anti-metaphysical philosophy.
First, Popper contends that observation is always preceded by certain theoretical
assumptions and scientific knowledge, contrary to the positivist concept, does not start with
sensory experience. Second, the traditional problem of empiricism, that of the
substantiation of the inductive conclusion, derives, according to Popper, from
Humes error concerning the nature of the scientific method. In Poppers opinion, Hume
indeed showed that a theory cannot be deduced logically from observation statements, yet
he overlooked a very important circumstance: his arguments do not prove that a theory
cannot be refuted by observation. Therefore, contrary to the expectations of the positivists,
empirical generalizations are immaterial for scientific cognition. A scientist is usually not
guided by generalised observations, but makes a resolute step and puts forward bold
proposals which are subject to subsequent empirical verification. Popper maintains that
scientists test new theories not in an attempt to deduce them from a certain imaginary basis,
but by creating experimental situations whereby they try to refute or falsify them.

One cannot but admit that Popper did pinpoint the vulnerable spot of empiricism. Yet the
full significance of his criticism can only be assessed in the light of the programme which
he proposes as an alternative. It may seem at first sight that his epistemological principles
are radically different from those of positivism. Indeed, according to Popper, knowledge
cannot start from nothingfrom a tabula rasanor yet from observation. The advance of
knowledge consists, mainly, in the modification of earlier knowledge. Although we may
sometimes, for example in archaeology, advance through a chance observation, the
significance of the discovery will usually depend upon its power to modify our earlier
theories. [2]
Refutation in science, according to Popper, is a motive force of progressa refuted
hypothesis gives place to another one intended to eliminate or avoid the error. Some
conclusion ensuing from an adopted theory or from a hypothesis may be refutedthis will
cause the scientists to improve and transform the theory or the hypothesis. It may also
happen that the very premises of a theory will prove to be invalidin that case the theory
should be resolutely rejected. In any case, a scientist himself must always strive to subject
his hypotheses to severe criticism as it stimulates continuous progress of science.
Refute!calls Popper on scientists. A refutation, in his opinion, is a scientists victory
since any act of rejection represents the essence of sciencof elimination of errors and
perpetual progress e: knowledge.
According to Popper, the test of a theory amounts in fact to an attempt to refute it, and
refutability is the fundamental property of scientific knowledge, whereas the critical spirit
is one of the basic characteristics of scientific life, the ethical imperative, so to speak, of a
scientists behaviour. In assessing a hypothesis a scientist should first of all decide whether
it lends itself to a critical examination and, if so, whether it is capable of withstanding a
critical charge. Newtons theory, says Popper, predicted a deviation of the Suns planets
from Keplers orbits owing to their interaction and thereby exposed itself to a possibility of
being refuted by experience. Einsteins theories were tested in a similar manner as the
conclusions they suggested did not follow from Newtons theory.
By contrast with the metaphysicians striving for an ever broader generalisation and
confirmations of their ideas, the scientists do not seek a high degree of probability of their
assertions or, to be more precise, it is not their main aim. The more a statement asserts, the
less probable it is, says Popper. For instance, a theory giving exact quantitative predictions
in relation to the splitting of lines in the atom emission spectrum under the influence of
magnetic fields of different intensity is more vulnerable to experimental refutation than a
theory predicting merely the effect of a magnetic field on such emission. In that respect,
according to Popper, the more definite and refutable a theory is the more verifiable it also
is, as it lends itself to more accurate and exacting tests. In other words, contrary, for
instance, to Carnap, Popper maintains that a high degree of verifiability cannot represent
the aim of science. If that were so, the scientists would confine themselves to tautological
statements alone. Actually, however, their task consists in developing science, i.e. in
enriching its content, and that is bound to lower the probability of its propositions.
As we see, Popper presents rather a dramatic picture of the evolution of science which
consists essentially in a continuous struggle of theories and in the survival of the fittest.

Unlike Carnap who regarded the victory of a theory to be in no way damaging to the
prestige of its rivals, Popper maintains that the triumph of one hypothesis inevitably spells
the doom of all others. With Carnap, scientific theories move in a respectable and civilised
society, whereas Popper sees them waging relentless struggle for existence in which the rise
of a theory can only be achieved by murdering its opponent. Explaining his
understanding of the difference between science and metaphysics, Popper used to say
that a believer perishes together with his false convictions, whereas a scientist sacrifices his
creation, a theory, for the sake of the progress of science.
As regards each individual scientific theory, it begins, according to Popper, with a problem.
Then follows a tentative solution, a conjecture, criticism and correction of errors. The
tentative solution may prove partly or even completely erroneous. Yet this does not mean,
says Popper, that a scientist is entitled to a deliberate error. To avoid it, he must, first of all,
look deeper into the problem and comprehend it. And how can he do this? Popper says:
To understand a problem means to understand its difficulties, and to understand its
difficulties means to understand why it is not easily solublewhy the more obvious
solutions do not work. [3] The step that follows a tentative solution consists in discussing
and criticising the theory. At this stage everybody tries to find faults with it, to refute it or to
correct the errors. Popper writes: The critical attitude may be described as the conscious
attempt to make our theories, or conjectures, suffer in our stead in the struggle for the
survival of the fittest. It gives us a chance to survive the elimination of an inadequate
hypothesiswhen a more dogmatic attitude would eliminate it by eliminating us. [4]
This attitude, according to Popper, is true of the animal, pre-scientific and scientific
knowledge and, consequently, characterises the mechanism of its evolution in general. A
specific feature of scientific knowledge consists in that the struggle for existence in human
society becomes more difficult because of conscious and systematic criticism.
In Poppers opinion, one can only speak of any progress in science (as well as of the
demarcation line between science and metaphysics) in connection with the possibility of
falsification. Poppers falsification concept is closely linked with his peculiar notions of the
genealogical tree of knowledge. If we take a tree in its natural position, i.e. with its crown
up, for a model of the evolutionary process, we shall have, according to Popper, the picture
of the development of applied sciences, since they are characterised by the ever increasing
diversification and specialisation. Yet to visualise the development of pure knowledge, of
fundamental sciences, one should set the tree with the crown down, since the leading
tendency in the sphere of pure knowledge consists in the growing integration and
unification of theories.
From the epistemological viewpoint, Poppers concept is different from the traditional
empiricist stand only in that it dismisses the question of the source of knowledge, since the
logic of a scientific discovery which is what Poppers epistemology boils down to, does not
concern itself with questions of this kind. In point of fact, this question lies on the other
side of the demarcation line which Popper draws between science and metaphysics. Yet
even within the narrow limits of a purely logical model of the process of cognition Poppers
concept gives rise to serious contradictions. Indeed, in investigating the relation between
knowledge in general and a concrete discovery or theory one must answer at least two

questions: (1) which element of knowledge and at which stage of its maturity is taken as the
basic proposition; (2) which proposition in a given specific case can be confirmed or
refuted with the help of an experiment. The second question remains, in fact, unanswered
by Popper. As regards the first one, the answer is as follows: the initial, basic propositions
are a product of arbitrary convention among scientists. Popper does not deny the connection
of basic propositions with experience. In The Logic of Scientific Discovery he writes that
the decision to adopt a basic proposition stands in causal relation to our sense perceptions.
Experience, according to Popper, can only go to the extent of motivating a decision which
is needed for the adoption or rejection of a proposition. Yet any attempt to trace basic
propositions to perceptions would be entirely fruitless.
As we see, despite the ostensible opposition to empiricism, Poppers concept reveals a
curious similarity to logical positivism in at least two aspects: (1) in its tendency to limit the
subject-matter of epistemology to purely logical problems and to reject some general
problems (e.g. the problem of the source of knowledge); (2) Popper, like the leading
theorists of the Vienna school, is forced to resort to conventionalism when it comes to
explaining the origin of basic propositions, though he substitutes conventionalism from
below for the traditional conventionalism from above used by logical positivism in its
attempt to account for scientific laws and theories. Poppers conventionalism is a result of
his far-reaching logicism, leading to the dismissal of philosophical and sociological
problems of science as insoluble. The basic propositions introduced by Popper are intended
to replace the protocol statements of the Vienna school and differ from them in that they
reflect a system of conventional knowledge rather than the transient individual experience.
The rational kernel in Poppers criticism of the verification theory consists in that Popper
considers science as an endless chain of theories that replace one another. He effects a
radical change in the traditional orientation of the logical analysis of scientific knowledge.
Having started with the investigation into the rules of refutation of scientific theories,
Popper made the progress of science the pivotal point of his concept. The problem of the
criterion of scientificity now organically merges with the concept of the development of
science: crises in science, i.e. the collapse of traditional theories are declared to be inherent
in the main postulates of the logic of scientific development. The new logic of science is a
logic of scientific discovery, of the radical transformation of the existing systems of
knowledge. Popper has shifted the focus of attention from the formal logical analysis of
systems and propositions to the problem of the logical reconstruction of historical events in
scientific development.
In his person the logic of science has made a step towards the history of science in the hope
of creating a new tradition in the analysis of scientific knowledge. New horizons have been
opened up before logic both in terms of theory and heuristics. Poppers logical notions
show a clear tendency towards historicism in the presentation of scientific progress.
Historical analysis, of course, would have been highly helpful in the solution of such
problems as the criterion of scientific theories, the role of philosophical knowledge in the
development of science, and many others. But such analysis proved to be beyond Poppers
possibilities. Logicism has got the better of his aspirations.

Development, a traditional metaphysical problem, has also been treated with reference to
scientific knowledge by Thomas S. Kuhn, who gave it even a more pronounced antipositivist turn.
In opposition to Popper, Kuhn put forward a thesis that scientific development cannot be
explained by means of rational logical notions in principle. The sharp controversy that was
initiated by his book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions first published in 1972 is still
unabated centering around Kuhns polemics with Poppers school. This polemics is playing
rather an important role in weakening the positions of critical rationalism.
A crucial feature of scientific life which, according to Kuhn, was ignored by Popper,
consists in the presence of some dogmatic elements in the scientists work which bolster
up their faith in the success of their investigations and help them to persist in their studies
without arguing with their colleagues. As distinct from Popper who underscores the
significance of criticism in science, Kuhn emphasises the function of dogma in scientific
investigation. Contrary to Popper, who avers that bold refutations and tough competition of
theories pave the way for scientific progress, Kuhn sees the starting point of progress in a
transition from debates and competitive theories to a common viewpoint shared by all
According to Kuhn, the true creator of science is the scientific community, a group of
professionals who decide to adopt a certain scientific achievement or theory as a model and
make it a basis for their investigations. No scientific community can start investigating
natural phenomena without a definite system of generally recognised notions. Such a
system of notions also includes certain metaphysical propositions or models of the type:
heat is kinetic energy of particles making a body or all perceptible phenomena are
essentially interaction of qualitatively homogeneous atoms in free space, etc. Within the
scientific community a model theory is a paradigm, whereas the study of nature within the
framework of a paradigm is normal science. If there is a paradigm, the solution of
concrete scientific problems resembles the solution of puzzles: the scientist has a model of
the solution (the paradigm), the rules to be followed, and knows that the problem is soluble.
The conditions being set, his success depends on his personal ingenuity. The secret of
scientific achievements lies largely in the self-organisation of the scientific community. No
other professional group has succeeded to such an extent in fencing itself off from everyday
life and laymens questions as the scientific community. To be sure, such isolation can
never be complete, yet it is very essential. A scientist always does his individual research
with an eye to his colleagues in the first place, whereas a poet or a writer addresses a nonprofessional audience and depends to a great extent on its appreciation. Just because he is
working only for an audience of colleagues, an audience that shares his own values and
beliefs, the scientist can take a single set of standards for granted, [5] writes Kuhn. He
does not even have to select his problems they themselves are waiting for him.
However, this is only the first stage of the scientific process. The next stage consists in a
break-down of old paradigms, a crisis and a formation of a new paradigm. It is a period of
extraordinary investigations and controversy leading to the development of the new
principles of investigation and to the creation of a new picture of the world. The main task
of this period is to select a theory that would play the role of a paradigm. This selection,

according to Kuhn, is not a logical problem as it appears to logicians. The criterion for the
selection lies in a socio-psychological sphere: the scientific community selects for a
paradigm the theory which appears to be best suited to ensure the normal functioning of
the scientific mechanism. Therefore each critical period gives way to a new upsurge of
creative activity and another step forward in the onward march of natural science. To an
individual scientist, however, a change of basic theories (paradigms) is tantamount to
conversion to a new faith: he feels like entering a new world with entirely different objects,
notions, problems and tasks.
Hence, a scientific revolution consists essentially in a change of paradigms. This change
does not yield to rational explanation in terms of logic as it is rooted in the professional
feeling of the scientific community: either the community possesses the necessary means
for solving puzzles, or, if such means are not available, the community has to create
The main turning points in the history of science are associated with the names of
Copernicus, Newton, Lavoisier, Einstein. According to Kuhn, each of these turning points
signified that a group of professional scientists had to discard one age-old theory in favour
of another incompatible with the former.
Paradoxical as it may seem, Poppers logical concept of scientific revolutions and of the
downfall of famous theories has been constructed on the basis of the same historical
material. In this connection Kuhn justly observed that Popper had no reason for
characterising all scientific activity in the terms applicable to its rare revolutionary periods
The severity of the test criteria referred to by Popper is only one side of the medal, the other
one being the tradition of normal science, the solution of puzzles. Subject to testing is
not the basic theory, but the scientists conjecture, his ingenuity. An erroneous conjecture is
a setback for the scientist, but not for his paradigm.
Poppers idea of the elimination of errors which accompanies a change of theories is yet
another concept which meets Kuhns resolute opposition. Popper regarded as erroneous
Ptolemys geocentric astronomy, the flogiston theory, Newtons mechanics. Kuhn refuses to
accept this point of view: no error has been committed in the development of these
theories and the notion of error in general is absolutely irrelevant in the assessment of an
obsolete scientific theory. In his opinion, the most one can say in such cases is that a theory
which had once been correct later became erroneous, or that a scientist made a mistake by
adhering to a theory too long.
In the final analysis the basic distinction between Poppers and Kuhns concepts lies in their
different understanding of the nature of science and progress. Popper has repeatedly
emphasised the need to cast off psychologism in the solution of such problems. He was
never tired of repeating that his concern was the logical rules of scientific progress rather
than the scientists psychological incentives; yet he could not but admit that the rules of
logic followed by scientists in their investigations are something like their professional
imperatives. In contrast to Popper, Kuhn contends that such imperatives alone can account

for a scientists selection of one solution instead of another and that his preference cannot
be explained on purely logical or experimental grounds. In other words, it is only the
analysis of socio-psychological factors in the development of science that provides a key to
the correct understanding of the historical aspects of scientific progress. Poppers science is
impersonal whereas Kuhn strives to introduce a human element into the logical problems
of scientific cognition and highlights its sociological and psychological aspects. Both
concepts, however, are completely divorced from the problem of the interaction between
philosophy and particular sciences. Moreover, Kuhn even makes a special point of
substantiating this indifference. A question, naturally, arises if such an abstraction in the
investigation of the history of science is justifiable and if it is not likely to distort the true
picture of scientific progress.
A serious attempt to save the logical tradition in the analysis of historical changes in
science was made by Poppers disciple Imre Lakatos, a prominent representative of critical
rationalism and a talented expounder of his schools principles.
Lakatos holds that it is necessary to discard completely the tradition of logical positivism
which focused on formal logical means in the analysis of scientific knowledge. [6] He
shares Poppers opinion that the only way in the investigation of the logic of science is to
turn to the real practice of scientific thinking. To substantiate this view he shows
that even mathematics which has long been regarded as the main bastion of the adherents of
formal logical analysis needs the substantive analysis of its history so as to get a basis for
the development of the logical and methodological scheme of scientific discovery.
Each time the historical process of scientific cognition reveals a need for a change in the
existing system of knowledge there appears a possibility for different strategies and for
different ways of development. Being always faced with the necessity of casting lots in
selecting one of the alternatives that would prove the most beneficial for further scientific
progress, the scientists never stop seeking for a guideline. This guideline, according to
Lakatos, must be provided by the modern logic of science. It is precisely for this reason that
it should break off with the tradition of formalism. Formal logical analysis deals with
deductive, formalised theories which represent science in the artificially frozen state,
whereas the real object of logical analysis and explanation should be the methods and
mechanisms of changes in the structure of knowledge. Criticism gives scientists a rich
situation logic, i.e. opens up a broad range of possible lines of behaviour in different
Lakatos points out that Poppers solution of the demarcation puzzle and his criterion of
scientific knowledge have brought about a radical change in the very formulation of the
problem. After Popper, the logical appraisal of a scientific theory turned in fact into the
analysis of conditions under which a given theory or hypothesis can be adopted for
scientific use. In other words, Poppers new approach to the traditional problems of the
logic of science brought to the forefront the question of the acceptability of a scientific
theory or a hypothesis. According to Popper, a theory can only be accepted as scientific if it
is falsifiable. Lakatos, however, regards this criterion as only one of the requirements a
theory must meet in order to become acceptable.

Kuhns controversy with Popper about scientific revolutions raised the crucial question of
the possibility of representing the endless change of fundamental scientific theories as a
rational process interpretable in terms of logic. As for Lakatos, his main object was to give
a logical explanation of the victory of a new paradigm. He is firmly convinced that logic is
capable of giving the scientist a rational guideline for his behaviour during a critical
period in the development of science. Proceeding from this aim, Lakatos develops his
concept known as the methodology of research programmes.
Lakatos sides with Kuhn in his criticism of Poppers rule: having falsifiedreject!.
According to Lakatos, the comparison of a theory with the results of an experiment is a
more complex procedure than Popper originally thought it to be. This comparison involves,
as it were, three layers of knowledge: (1) the theory under test itself; (2) the sensory data
explained by the theory (for instance, the light images observed with the help of an optical
instrument); (3) the so-called background knowledge embodied, for instance, in the
instrument design. We cannot know what the experiment demonstrates and how it can pass
a final judgement on the theory under test. Rather, says Lakatos, we subject to testing a
tangle of our theories and the experiments verdict is: incompatible. Which of the theories
must be rejected is still a big question. Generally speaking, there are no absolutely
indisputable facts which would compel an ardent adherent of a theory to surrender
immediately and unconditionally. On these grounds Lakatos comes to the conclusion that a
theory cannot be invalidated by a single empirical counter-example. Its rejection can only
come about in the process of adoption of a new, better theory.
Broadly speaking, it means that the true object of a logical evaluation is a series of theories
in their succession rather than an individual theory. Several series cluster around
propositions playing the role of something like a dogmahere, according to Lakatos, Kuhn
was right. It can therefore be affirmed with good reason that the scientists in their
investigations of nature translate into reality some more or less developed programmes.
Lakatos understands science as activity aimed at solving concrete problems within the
framework of a certain programme. Each programme can be viewed as consisting of two
components: a rigid core and a safety zone of sacrificial theories. The rigid core consists
of one or several propositions which are not subject to refutation. Such are, for instance, the
three laws of thermodynamics and the law of gravitation for the adherents of Newtons
theory. These propositions must be preserved under any onslaught of falsifying data. The
salvation of the core is achieved at the expense of auxiliary hypotheses which replace one
another and are intended to neutralise counter-examples and preserve the core with the help
of various amendments and modifications.
By way of illustration Lakatos refers to Newtons gradual elaboration of his
theoretical models. [7] Having first worked out his programme for a planetary system with
a fixed pointlike the Sun and one single point-like planet, Newton derived his inverse
square law for Keplers ellipse. But this model was forbidden by Newtons own third law of
dynamics, therefore the model had to be replaced by one in which both the Sun and the
planet revolved round their common centre of gravity. Later he introduced more planets as
if there were only heliocentric but no interplanetary forces. However, the results obtained at
this stage ran counter to observations, and later Newton worked out the case where the Sun

and planets were not mass points but mass-balls and also introduced interplanetary forces.
Such multistage elaboration, according to Lakatos, reveals the true course of the scientists
The history of science, according to Lakatos, is the history of the birth, life and death of
research programmes. While a programme is being realised, science runs its normal course
it is Kuhns normal science. During a change of programmes, or a change of
paradigms, science undergoes a revolution. As distinct from Kuhn, however, Lakatos
believes that programmes are logically commensurable and can be compared to one
another. Their comparative analysis can provide a scientist with a reasonably reliable
guideline for selecting one programme and rejecting another.
According to Lakatos, any theoretical concept of knowledge provides a framework for the
rational restructuring of the history of scientific knowledge. Though not every detail in the
history of science fits in with rational explanation, logico-methodological concepts should
provide the closest possible approximation to real processes in order to permit their
description. For instance, an inductivist who considers Newtons theory an error, and its
lasting prevalence a delusion would find no rational justification for it. Poppers type of
logic would provide a rational explanation for a scientists failure to recognize the collapse
of his theory by referring to his metaphysical views. In Lakatos opinion, preference should
be given to a concept which permits the rational restructuring and interpretation of the
largest possible number of facts in the history of science. Proceeding from this criterion,
Lakatos considers his concepts to be the most expedient. However that may be, his ultimate
conclusion is this: it is the history of science which is the touchstone of any logicomethodological concept, its strict and uncompromising judge.
The controversy between the critical rationalists and the adherents of Kuhns-concept of
the history of science had greatly affected the assessment of the very possibility of
constructing a purely logical concept of scientific knowledge and its development. The
most sceptical views in relation to this problem were expressed by Paul Feyerabend. In one
of his works, after expounding the basic principles of Poppers logic of scientific
investigation, Feyerabend puts two questions which he considers to be of prime
importance: (1) whether it is desirable to live up to the rules of critical rationalism and (2)
whether science can be brought in accord with these rules. [8] Feyerabend gives negative
answers to both questions.
According to Feyerabend, the highly specialised thinking characteristic of modern
civilisation is accountable for a corresponding narrow approach to the study of mans
cognitive activity and for a tendency to rationalise the process of cognition by simplifying
its participants, strictly delimiting the field under investigation and by abstracting from
historical context. Feyerabend contends that such abstraction from the external factors of
scientific development becomes fatal for philosophy, since human inclinations, interests
and ideological influences have a greater effect on the progress of knowledge than is
generally believed. Despite his general opposition to Kuhns understanding of the nature of
scientific activity, Feyerabend, as he himself admitted, had wholeheartedly accepted his
thesis of the incommensurability of basic scientific theories that succeed one another in
history. Incommensurability was the point on which the views of both authors completely

coincided when they were discussing the basic ideas of Kuhns book. Kuhn was fond
of comparing the world as it appeared to Aristotle with the world depicted by the 17thcentury science. Having taken the cue, Feyerabend carries out a detailed comparative
analysis of classical celestial mechanics and the special theory of relativity and strives to
show that even the concepts of length, mass and speed in these theories were entirely
different. According to both Kuhn and Feyerabend, the meaning of observation terms is
completely determined by the theoretical context in which they are used. From this it
follows that theories replacing one another are mutually incompatible and even
incommensurable. They belong to different worlds. The field of application of a new theory
is not necessarily the extended field of application of the previous theory, these fields may
only overlap each other. The view according to which a new theory is bound to be
commensurable with the previous one cannot be accepted as a universal principle.
Incommensurability may be eliminated in one aspect, but holds good or even becomes
more complete in another.
The thesis of the incommensurability of theories succeeding one another is so important for
Feyerabend that he considers it imperative for the logical analysis of scientific theories to
start with revealing and emphasising the qualitative distinction of the new theory over the
old one. A new theory must not only explain new facts, but also show the causes of the
failure of the old theory. It is only on this condition that a new theory can be admitted to the
temple of science. According to Feyerabend, a scientific theory can only be identified by its
novelty and complete break from its predecessor. This criterion shouldalso be applied to
epistemology and to the logic of science.
Feyerabend contends that the history of science testifies to the absence of any norms and
standards of scientific activity valid for all times. Proceeding from his own understanding
of Hegelian dialectics, Feyerabend maintains that any phenomenon can only be investigated
in terms of the dialectics of the subjective and the objective, chance and necessity. Any
absolutisation of norms and rules tends to bar the way to cognition. The true task of
philosophy is to neutralise the baneful trends towards the stability and rigidity of
methodological norms. Philosophy should embody the whole gamut of mans creative
potentialities, all his individual qualities. To achieve this end, however, it must do away
with the stability of all norms of scientific knowledge. Consequently, the logic of science
should renounce the very idea of standards which hold good throughout history. Such
standards can at best be treated as a verbal ornament or, more accurately, as a remembrance
of those happy days when it was believed possible to gain success in science just by
observing a few simple and rational rules and when scientific investigation was not yet
known to be a risky and hazardous venture that it is, with endless upheavals and
Feyerabends methodology calls for rejection of the theoretical monism characteristic of
positivist and some other philosophical doctrines. The plurality of theories, in his opinion,
must not be regarded as a preliminary stage of knowledge which will be replaced later by a
single true theory. Theoretical pluralism is assumed to be an essential feature of all
knowledge that claims to be objective, writes Feyerabend. Nor can one rest content with
a plurality, that is merely abstract and created by arbitrarily denying now this and now that

component of the dominant point of view, as is the plurality created by the various attempts
of modern artists to free themselves from the conventions of their predecessors. [9]
In its methodological orientation the theory of science should proceed from the idea of
epistemological anarchism. The development of science, according to Feyerabend, is a
process of the continuous combination of standards and their violations, dogmas and
heresies, norms and errors. Kuhns normal science does exist, but it has to be opposed in
every way as it reflects the ideology of professional specialist. Kuhns concept of paradigm
is deficient in that it consoles the specialists instead of subjecting their views to criticism.
Feyerabends motto is an uninterrupted revolution.
Proceeding from his own interpretation of Hegels words about human practice, mans
spiritual and practical activity, Feyerabend avers that it excludes any regularities. A theory
of science should only provide some general hints, rules of thumb and heuristic methods,
but not general injunctions. Knowledge is ... an ever-increasing ocean of mutually
incompatible (and perhaps even incommensurable)alternatives. [10]
Nor is philosophy itself amenable to rational analysis in view of the disorderliness,
complexity and wholeness of its structure.
Feyerabend proposes a broad programme of struggle to attain the ideal of anarchic
epistemology and overcome the ideas of critical rationalism which seeks to alienate science
and enslave human spirit. He points out three means to achieve this goal: (1) scrupulous
analysis of the works of such revolutionaries as Galilei, Newton, Luther, Marx and Lenin;
(2) study of Hegels philosophy and its alternative as.expounded by Kierkegaard; (3)
integration of science and art. According to Feyerabend, their present separation is not
natural and results from the idea of professionalism which must be discarded. A poem or a
play can be intellectual and informative in equal degree (Aristophanes, Brecht), whereas
scientific theories are capable of giving pleasure (Galilei, Dirac). In Feyerabends opinion,
we can change science and make it conform to our tastes.
Being indeed anarchical and wide open to all winds of theoretical thought, this model of
scientific knowledge nevertheless leaves enough room for metaphysical ideas. Moreover,
their function, as defined by Feyerabend, makes them a decisive factor both in the criticism
and in the development of what is generally believed and highly confirmed. Hence, they
must be present at any stage of the development of scientific knowledge. Feyerabend
contends that a science free from all metaphysics is on the way of becoming
a dogmatic metaphysical system. Metaphysics performs the role of an instrument of
criticism of existing theories, on the one hand, and, just because of the possibility of such
criticism, is an argument in favour of these theories. The postulate of Feyerabends
philosophy affirming the absence of any certainty, stability and system in methodology
assumes itself the character of a dogma. Its absolutisation results in the restoration of a new
variety of metaphysics which is anything but refined.
Joseph Agassi also shares the view that the claim of logic to the role of the theory of
scientific knowledge can hardly be considered justifiable. As for himself, he is inspired by
the idea of reproducing the real history of science with all its wealth of conflicting

tendencies, and the methodology of science has no special appeal for him. The keynote of
his works is the futility of preconceived viewpoints and the need for a scrupulous and
unbiased reproduction of the entire history of science with all its real conflicting tendencies.
In Agassis opinion, one ought to start with asking himself a question: what do we know
about science in general and about its history? The existing historiography is too raw to
provide a basis even for a most abstract theoretical discussion of the criterion of
scientificity and the logical principles of cognition.
Agassi contends that a broad programme of historiographic investigations of science should
be based on Poppers situation logic which makes it possible to reveal the historical context
of various scientific theories or hypotheses. He warns, however, that such investigations
should not be influenced by any preconceived idea of science, since the present-day task
consists in disclosing and singling out concrete genetic links between scientific theories
rather than in their reduction to some ideal type or logical model.
Agassi holds that the core of science reveals itself in the scientists metaphysical, i.e.
philosophical, views which should therefore be given priority attention in historiographic
studies. He shows that philosophical ideas tend to degrade to current opinions if their
authors are shy of exposing them to criticism. Those and only those scientists can develop
new fruitful theories who are willing to subject their philosophical principles to a serious
examination. According to Agassi, the priority objective of a historian of science is to
disclose the nature of the metaphysical nucleus of scientific theories and doctrines. He
therefore contends that there should be a radical change in the very orientation of the
logical analysis of knowledge which, in his opinion, should be focused on historiographic
investigations. The history of science should be written anew, since the existing
historiography of science is unsatisfactory.
It is evidently for the accomplishment of this task that Agassi sets out to revive
Significantly, Popper, Feyerabend, Lakatos and some other representatives of the modern
philosophy of science follow different paths and are interested in different aspects of
scientific cognition. Yet they have one point in common all of them stand for the
rehabilitation of metaphysics which has been held in contempt by positivism for many
years. Of course, the difference in their approach to the process of cognition and their
different aims cannot but tell on their concepts of metaphysics, their understanding of its
role in scientific cognition and their attitude to traditional philosophical problems. For
instance, unlike Popper who does not go beyond the formal justification of metaphysics,
and unlike Lakatos who confines himself to asserting the irreducibility of theory to the
empirical basis, Agassis doctrine tends to endow metaphysics with certain substance.
Accepting in principle the view that metaphysical proposition can be identified by its
empirical unfalsifiability, Agassi nevertheless brings his metaphysics closer to the
traditional philosophical problems. It is indicative that his assessment of the scientificity of
one or another theory depends to a certain extent on its relation to metaphysics. Thus the
selection of scientific problems which are to be studied should be governed, according to

Agassi, not by the degree or their verifiability or falsifiability, but by their importance for
arising metaphysical problems. Metaphysics is regarded by Agassi as a coordinating factor
in the development of science, since the criterion of the importance of a scientific problem
is its metaphysical significance.
It is noteworthy that Agassis understanding of the concrete historical conditions affecting
the development of science appears to be more profound than that of Popper, as he takes
into account or, at least, shows interest in the factors determining the selection of problems
to be tackled and the change of scientific interests (including the change of vogue in
science). An important role, in his opinion, belongs not only to the techniques and
equipment used in experiments, but also to the general socio-economic situation, to
societys needs, etc. For all that, his doctrine assigns the role of the main factor to none
other than metaphysics. Some scientific problems, he writes, are relevant to
metaphysics; and as a rule it is the class of scientific problems that exhibit this relevance
which is chosen to be studied. [11]
In his analysis Agassi deals not so much with a single theory as with a totality of theories,
problems and methods of investigation characteristic of a given period and viewed by him
as a single whole. It enables him to make comparisons and deduce general principles
governing scientific progress in different fields, e.g. in physics, biology, social sciences in a
given period. In Agassis interpretation, metaphysics is no longer a specialised theory
divorced from science. Hence, the focus of attention should be shifted from the problem of
demarcation between science and non-science to that of demarcation between science, on
the one hand, and metaphysics (bad or good), on the other.
This leads to a corresponding modification of the criterion of such demarcation: the aim of
scientific investigation, according to Agassi and contrary to Popper, is not to find and verify
plausible hypotheses, but to search for and to test those hypotheses which appear to be
relevant to metaphysics.
Reasoning in a purely metaphysical manner, Popper regards the transition from
observations to a good theory not as a result of some inductive conclusion, but as a
tentative solution subject to testing, as an advancement of any new theory. The criterion of
a theory which is to be given priority in testing should be, according to Popper, its
falsifiability. Contrary to Popper, Agassi contends that the choice among rival theories
should be made on an heuristic basis and governed by metaphysical considerations. He also
contends that metaphysics itself takes part in the development of theories considered
important in given problem situations. Scientific physics, he writes, belongs to the
rational debate concerning metaphysical ideas. Some of the greatest single experiments in
the history of modern physics are experiments related to metaphysics. I suggest that their
relevance to metaphysics contributes to their uncontested high status. And yet, I contend,
the metaphysical theories related to these experiments were not parts of science. [12]
Metaphysics for Agassi is not something homogeneous. As has been indicated above, it can
be bad or good. The former merges with pseudoscience, the latter, with science. Bad
metaphysics, such as existentialism or Hegels philosophy is not capable of exerting serious
influence on the development of science. Good metaphysics, on the contrary, not only

provides something like a methodological programme for science in point of fact, it

blends with science and can hardly be distinguished from it.
Agassi regards metaphysics as a programme for future scientific development and stresses
that it cannot be characterised as true or false it can be either commendable or
condemnable. Here Agassi practically follows in Poppers footsteps adopting the main
principles of his doctrine. Metaphysical theories themselves may engender an attractive
programme such as that of Faraday, but the attractiveness or unattractiveness of a
programme is not directly connected with the truth or falsity of the metaphysical theory that
produced it. According to Agassi, the significance of a programme is only determined by
the heuristic value of this theory. At this point, however, we arrive at a contradiction: if the
criterion of demarcation between science and metaphysics holds good, the truth or falsity of
metaphysical theories will not depend on their refutability, or else there must exist a method
for establishing the truth or falsity of theories without resorting to their falsification.
In his concept Agassi strives to fence off bad metaphysics which claims to be on an equal
footing with empirical science. He says: Metaphysics may be viewed as a research
program, and the false claims of pseudo-science as the result of confusing a program with
the finished product. [13] Yet he fails to draw a distinct demarcation line between true
science and the pseudo-scientific style of thinking characteristic of old natural philosophy.
Unlike Lakatos who either merges metaphysics with special sciences and practically makes
it their integral part, or altogether eliminates metaphysics from scientific investigations
regarding it as some obscure source of inspiration for the scientist, some purely subjective
factor akin to his personal inclinations, aesthetic tastes or peculiarities of biography, Agassi
strives to resolve the contradiction by turning this subjective factor into something
immanent in the very substance of science. A scientific theory in his doctrine appears as
some kind of interpretation of a metaphysical concept, but not as its logical consequence.
It should be rioted, however, that this part of Agassis programme of reviving metaphysics
is patently beneath any criticism. What with metaphysical theories being neither true, nor
false, there remains at best but one way out: to assume that there are no practical means, or
even no possibility in general to come to a definite conclusion as regards their status. In that
case, however, one has to give up all attempts at distinguishing between metaphysics and
science and to leave the reader in the dark regarding the ways whereby metaphysics
becomes immanent in scientific theories undergoing strict verification procedures. It proves
impossible to reconcile the understanding of philosophy as an external factor determining
the development of science with its role of an internal factor determining its content. The
sphere of metaphysics, too, though including some traditional philosophical problems,
appears to be both too narrow and too vaguely defined for all Agassis pretensions to
having developed a highly efficient working model, something like a matrix for production
of new theories. All that a scientist now needs, according to Agassi, is but a few
comparatively simple parameters having a purely technical meaning. In Agassis doctrine
metaphysical propositions have no basic distinctions from empirical generalisations. On the
other hand, they must meet the rigid rules of formal logic. This kind of approach which
appears more or less compatible with Lakatos concept does not tally with Agassis
historiographic orientation and runs counter to his intention of giving a sufficiently
accurate, adequate and broad representation of the historical process of scientific cognition.

The history of critical rationalism shows that Poppers initial call to.turn to the analysis
of the development of science has proved, as it were, a Trojan horse for critical rationalism.
Having taken his cue from Popper, Feyerabend comes to doubt the very possibility of
maintaining a logical, normative stand in the analysis of scientific knowledge. The criterion
and the norms of scientificity advanced by critical rationalism prove untenable when
applied to the real practice of scientific thinking, to the study of the history of science. As a
result, Agassi puts forward a new programme of the investigation of science focusing not
on the logic, but on the history of its development.
Would it be correct, then, to draw the conclusion that the history of science indeed attests to
the fallacy of the existing logical concepts of scientific knowledge and its development? It
would rather be more correct to say, paraphrasing Lakatos, that life itself has compared the
logical and historical pictures of science and showed that these pictures are incompatible.
Hence, the conclusion of the critical rationalists about the necessity of radical changes
both in the history and logic of science appears to be quite sound.
Critical rationalism is undoubtedly one-sided in all its variants of scientific
development as it does not strive to present science as an integral part of the life of society.
Yet this school has succeeded in showing one important thing, namely, that the progress of
science is not a simple accumulation of knowledge or a gradual increase of its certainty, but
a complex contradictory process.
The positivist logic of science was only capable of reflecting the norms and standards of a
certain synchronous level of science. Critical rationalism has made an attempt to
construct a logic of scientific development, i.e. a logic capable of reflecting diachronous
transformations. This attempt, however, has called in question the very idea of such a logic.
Indeed, the history of critical rationalism has vividly demonstrated that the traditional
logical approach with its orientation on the natural laws of rational thinking suffers a
complete fiasco whenever it is applied to the problems of growth and development of
knowledge. The critical rationalists cannot accept this fact as all of them, even such a
radical as Feyerabend, have committed themselves to the logical tradition. Nevertheless, the
tendency to tone down the rigours of the positivist attitude to metaphysics and to link
philosophico-methodological analysis (without reducing it to sensory experience) with the
20th-century theoretical investigations clearly revealed itself already in Poppers early
fundamental works. This tendency became even more manifest in his subsequent studies
and particularly in the investigations of other critical rationalists. Poppers concept of
science as a chain of successive theories replacing one another accounts to some extent for
an important change in the traditional positivist orientation of logical analysis. Starting out
with the doctrine of falsification, Popper has come to the problems of the development of
science and reassessed the criterion of scientificity in terms of historical progress. Crises in
science, i.e. the periods of the collapse of its traditional theories, are not only explained by
his logic, but ensue from its main postulates. A theory which is found to be fully
confirmable turns, according to Popper, into technology, know-how or something of the
kind and has no more room in the temple of science.
Poppers logic of science is the logic of scientific discovery, the logic of a radical
transformation of the existing system of knowledge. His emphasis on the history of science

is an important point of his programme of logical analysis marking a considerable deviation

from the positivist traditions if only for the fact that he focused his attention not on the
formal logical analysis of systems of statements, but on the problem of the logical
representation of scientific development. To be sure, his emphasis on the relative
independence of theoretical knowledge afforded greater freedom for creative thinking and
allowed for a possibility of generic links between scientific theories. and metaphysics.
Nevertheless, despite the deductive character of the logical structure of knowledge,
Poppers concept, as has already been pointed out, did not go beyond the limits of
empiricism since it proceeded from the direct dependence of a theory on its empirical
verification, post factum though it was. This dependence on empirical data was perhaps
even more rigid than allowed by the verification version. On these grounds early
Poppers concept should be regarded on the whole as essentially logico-positivistic. Its
assessment by critical realism focusing on the formal structure of Poppers logicomethodological system rather than on its philosophical orientation need not be taken into
account too seriously.
Poppers attitude to metaphysics, i.e. to general ontological problems, as well as his
definition of the falsification principle have been gradually changing. His later works
present a modified falsification variant watered down in accordance with his growing
interest in metaphysical problems and in the question of autonomy of the so-called World 3.
To be sure, from the very beginning Poppers philosophical system as a whole did not fit
the Procrustean bed of the falsification principle devised by him to eliminate metaphysics
and looked, from the viewpoint of this principle, quite metaphysical even in its initial
explication. Yet late Poppers blunt turn to metaphysics was evidently somewhat
unexpected and amusing even for his most ardent adherents despite the obvious trend
towards such a development traceable already in his early publications. Poppers new stand
was clearly expressed in his works Objective Knowledge (1972) and The Self and Its
Brain (1977) in which he set out to construct a cosmic methodological system, though
already in the 1950s and 1960s Popper had criticised the physicalist and behaviourist
theories of consciousness questioning at the same time the fruitfulness of the linguistic
approach to the problems of matter, spirit, the brain and psychological phenomena.
Poppers recognition of refutability as a characteristic feature of scientific knowledge
and his assessment of metaphysics as a historically inevitable, though mythological stage of
scientific cognition were in themselves important steps towards his own metaphysics. No
less important was his idea that the mysterious process of scientific cognition manifests
itself in the strife of hypotheses and theories, i.e. in the sphere of rational thinking, but not
in the depths of the scientists individual consciousness. This concept was also instrumental
in paving the way for metaphysics and contributed to the materialisation of consciousness.
All these fragmentary notions developed later into an evolutionary concept of
consciousness and knowledge, into a metaphysical system of three worlds which shall be
considered in more detail in the next chapter.
Poppers main epistemological or logico-methodological doctrine denies the validity of any
final explanations or final truths. Yet Popper abandons his principles when it comes to the
primary source of objective knowledge. Rejecting Platos metaphysics of ideas, he evolves
his own metaphysics which resembles to some extent 18th-century natural philosophy and

is supplemented by notions borrowed from evolutionism and genetics. Popper maintains

that active human consciousness capable of influencing the environment through the
mediation of culture had its forerunnerthe biological evolution of organisms. The aims
and preferences of the organism influence the environment which, in turn, affects the
evolution of the organism. According to Popper, this emergent process is not only
analogous to the consciousness and vital activity of the organism, but also provides a key to
the understanding of the origin of science.
Already in his Objective Knowledge Popper makes an attempt to reveal the embryo of
science in its incipiency in the vegitable and animal kingdoms. I assert, he writes, that
every animal is born with expectations or anticipations which could be framed as
hypotheses, a kind of hypothetical knowledge. [14] This, according to Popper, is the secret
of the phylogenesis of scientific knowledge which provides a clue to its ontogenesis. In his
opinion, this inborn knowledge, these inborn expectations will ... create our first problems;
and the ensuing growth of our knowledge may therefore be described as consisting
throughout of corrections and modifications of previous knowledge. [15]
Hence, there is no and cannot be any exoteric history of science. Its history is the logic of
scientific discoveries which is nothing but a chain of successive problems or theories.
The genetic structure of man also contains in incipiency the faculty of speech which plays
an important part in natural selection and, according to Popper, participates in some obscure
way in the social process of language study. Thus Popper comes to the problem of the
relationship between consciousness and the brain, spirit and matter, not only from the
logical, but also from the historical viewpoint. However, handicapped by his earlier
commitments, Popper in fact disregards the historical aspect in the development
of consciousness and ignores the real, social context of its formation and progress. The
emergence of language, according to Popper, leads to the formation of the cortex and,
consequently, to the development of consciousness.
Poppers biological approach to the problem of the origin and development of knowledge
prompted by his studies of modern evolutionary biology and genetics must have become
yet another stepping stone towards his concept of emergent realism. In recent years this
concept has been contrasted not only to positivism with its physicalist and behaviourist
tendencies in the approach to the problems of the nature of consciousness, history, etc. but
also to the ideas of the so-called scientific realism and scientific materialism.
Investigating the origin of objective knowledge, Popper has been engaged of late in a
controversy against idealism, phenomenalism, positivism, materialism and behaviourism
simultaneously or, using his own words, against all forms of anti-pluralism [16]. Explaining
the reason for his critical attitude towards reductionism, Popper describes life as an inherent
property of all physical bodies. He declares: If the situation is such that, on the one hand,
living organisms may originate by a natural process from non-living systems, and that, on
the other hand, there is no complete theoretical understanding of life possible in physical
terms, then we might speak of life as an emergent property of physical bodies,
of matter. [17]

Coming out against positivist reductionism, Popper specially emphasises the uselessness of
purely linguistic solutions whereby the behaviour of an individual once explained in terms
of postulated psychical states is translated into the language of physiological states, or an
account of a physiological state is reduced by linguistic means to the Schrdinger equation.
Particularly characteristic in this respect is Poppers reappraisal of the problems which he
recently qualified as metaphysical: We must beware, he writes, of solving, or dissolving,
factual problems linguistically, that is, by the all too simple method of refusing to talk about
them. On the contrary, we must be pluralists, at least to start with: we should first
emphasize the difficulties, even if they look insoluble, as the body-mind problem may look
tosome. [18] According to Popper, the hopes that the objective meaning of a theory can be
reduced to the states of consciousness of those who propound it rest on a trivial error
failure to distinguish between the two meanings of the word thinking. In the subjective
sense thinking describes perceptions or the processes of consciousness, but different
perceptions or acts of individual consciousness cannot be logically related even if they are
causally connected to one another.
Another problem which has come of late to be interpreted by Popper in terms of emergent
realism is the relationship between the self and its brain. Popper agrees with scientific
materialism in that all spiritual activities of the individual are accompanied by certain
brain processes. Yet his concept of the self is entirely different from that of scientific
materialism as he regards it essentially as a self-contained entity identical with what was
earlier called soul and what actually constitutes mans true essence less the religious
envelope. Popper ranks himself among the interactionists who disagree with the materialists
in the understanding of the relationship between the consciousness and the brain and regard
the problem basically in terms of the interaction between two levels of realitythe psychic
and the physical. Moreover, they assign the active role in this system not to the physical
world, i.e. the brain as a material object, but to what they consider to be the self. Popper
even goes so far as to assume that the self is a quasi-substantial entity if substance is
understood as a process or as activity in general.
Traditional materialism, according to Popper, usually linked man to machine, modern
materialism identifies him with computer, whereas the self is in fact the ghost in the
machine and at the .same time the active programmer of the thinking activity. The self is
the embodiment of wishes, plans, hopes, the determination to act and the acute awareness
of its being the acting centre. The self is the motive force of activity. What makes the self is
different from the chemical and biological processes attending the act of thinking and other
kinds of activity by one unique quality the integration and coherence of experience.
Expounding his views, Popper writes: What characterizes the self (as opposed to the
electrochemical processes of the brain on which the self largely dependsa dependence
which seems far from one-sided) is that all our experiences are closely related and
integrated; not only with past experiences but also with our changing programmes for
action, our expectations, and our theories with our models of the physical and the
cultural environment, past, present, and future, including the problems which they raise for
our evaluations, and for our programmes for action. But all these belong, at least in part, to
World 3. [19]

The important conclusion that Popper makes reflects the socio-ethical and ideological
thrust of his concept: the emergence of the self signifies the transition of nature to a sociocultural level of development and the transformation of the laws of evolution and natural
selection in accordance with the new environment. The main function of mind and of
World 3, writes Popper, is that they make possible the application of the method of trial
and the elimination of error without the violent elimination of ourselves... Thus in bringing
about the emergence of mind, and World 3, natural selection transcends itself and its
originally violent character... Non-violent cultural evolution is not just a Utopian dream; it
is, rather, a possible result of the emergence of mind through natural selection. [20]
Hence, Poppers scheme of cognition, his understanding of its sources and trends is falling
under the increasing influence of the concept of natural selection and biological inheritance.
It stands to reason that this concept can in no way be subjected to empirical verification.
Being a simple extrapolation of biological laws to the sphere of scientific cognition it is
postulated as premise which does not have to be proved and is in fact rooted in Poppers
interest in biology. The notions of evolutionary biology are introduced into the system of
epistemological categories by analogy rather than on the basis of a serious investigation
into the nature of cognitive processes. Biological laws are declared to be universal,
governing the development of the world in general and the process of cognition in
particular. Poppers former logicism gives way here to a biologised concept of scientific
development which seems to contain more of a substance than a purely formal logical
theory. Yet this ostensibly more profound concept is essentially metaphysical, and that in
the worst sense of the word, because of its undisguised apriorism, subjectivism and
speculative nature.
Rejecting the principle of the universality of physico-mathematical knowledge which
underlies the concept of logical positivism, Popper comes in the end, as a result of his own
evolution, to the ontologisation of biological knowledge substituting biological laws and
notions for general philosophical principles and traditional philosophical problems. Using
the falsification theory as a foundation, and the notions of special sciences, mainly biology,
as building blocks, Popper erects his own metaphysical building that has no room for
categories and problems with long-standing historical tradition behind them. Even if he
speaks of the active essence of consciousness materialising in culture, i.e. in the universal,
and strives to find some culturological approach to the solution of different problems, this
approach is limited to the self-programmed wholeness of World 3. As to social reality, it
is reduced by Popper to an indefinite combination of physical reality and World 3.
All in all, Poppers doctrine with all its weaknesses inherent in any metaphysical system
and often justly criticised by both positivists and scientific realists, and handicapped by
its speculativeness, apriorism, empirical contestability and dogmatism proves rather a
meagre replica of more profound systems. It offers but very schematic, embryonic versions
of new metaphysics which is far behind 18th-century materialistic natural philosophy and
Hegels idealistic metaphysics in terms of profoundness, informativeness and wealth of
concrete material. It is not improbable that the further evolution of critical realism and
the views of its inspirer, who has evidently embarked on the final stage of his scientific
career, will somewhat enrich and elaborate the schematic solutions proposed so far. Yet the
very return of positivism to metaphysics, and a crude one at that which aggravates the old

weaknesses of natural philosophy by new idealistic fallacies, proves better than anything
else that this philosophical trend has outlived itself and is now, very much in the manner of
a scorpion, stinging itself to death with its own venom.
[1] The weakness of empiricism and inductivism as methodological concepts was noted
long ago. The most exhaustive assessment of these trends was given by Engels who, in
particular, wrote in hisDialectics of Nature: These people have got into such a dead-lock
over the opposition between induction and deduction that they reduce all logical forms of
conclusion to these two, and in so doing do not notice that they (1) unconsciously employ
quite different forms of conclusion under those names, (2) deprive themselves of the whole
wealth of forms of conclusion in so far as it cannot be forced under these two, and (3)
thereby convert both forms, induction and deduction, into sheer nonsense (Frederick
Engels, Dialectics of Nature, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1974, p. 226). [> main text]
[2] K. R. Popper, Conjectures and Refutations: The Growth of Scientific Knowledge,
Harper and Row Publishers, New York and Evanston, 1963, p. 28; see also Karl R.
Popper, The Poverty of Historicism, Routledge & Kegan Paul, London, 1960. [> main
[3] Karl R. Popper, Objective Knowledge. An Evolutionary Approach, At the Clarendon
Press, Oxford, 1972, p. 260. [> main text]
[4] Challenges to Empiricism, Ed. by Harold Morick, Wadsworth Publishing Company,
Ltd., Belmont, California, 1972, p. 149. [> main text]
[5] Thomas S. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, The University of Chicago
Press, Chicago, 1962, p. 164. [> main text]
[6] See I. Lakatos, Changes in the Problem of Inductive Logic, in: The Problem of
Inductive Logic, Amsterdam, 1968, pp. 32530. [> main text]
[7] See Imre Lakatos, Falsification and the Methodology of Scientific Research
Programmes, in: Criticism and the Growth of Knowledge, Cambridge, 1970, pp. 14359.
[> main text]
[8] See Paul K. Feyerabend, Against Method. Outline of an Anarchistic Theory of
Knowledge, London, 1975. [> main text]
[9] Paul K. Feyerabend, Problems of Empiricism, in: Beyond the Edge of Certainty:
Essays in Contemporary Science and Philosophy, Vol. 2, Prentice-Hall, Inc., Englewood
Cliffs, N. J., 1965, p. 149. [>main text]
[10] Paul K. Feyerabend, Against Method, op. cit., p. 30. [> main text]

[11] Joseph Agassi, The Nature of Scientific Problems and Their Roots in Metaphysics,
in: The Critical Approach to Science and Philosophy, Ed. by Mario Bunge, CollierMacmillan, Ltd., London, 1964. p. 192. [> main text]
[12] Ibid., p. 193. [> main text]
[13] Ibid., p. 204. [> main text]
[14] Karl R. Popper, Objective Knowledge. An Evolutionary Approach, Oxford University
Press, Oxford, 1979, p. 258. [> main text]
[15] Ibid., pp. 25859. [> main text]
[16] See K. R. Popper, A Realist View of Logic, Physics and History, in: Physics, Logic
and History, Ed. by Wolfgang Yourgrau and Allen D. Breck, Plenum Press, New York,
1970, pp. 69. [> main text]
[17] Ibid., p. 7. [> main text]
[18] Ibid., p. 9. [> main text]
[19] Karl R. Popper and John C. Eccles, The Self and Its Brain, Springer International,
Berlin, 1977, pp. 14647 [> main text]
[20] Ibid., p. 210.


by Igor Naletov
The internal contradictions of positivism and the growing rift between its concepts and the
real scientific development were bound to lead to a profound crisis which will evidently
mark the end of this school as an independent philosophical trend, though its traditions and
certain achievements in the logic and methodology of science have been adopted by many
schools of the modern philosophy of science. Equally inevitable was a more radical,
compared with critical realism, revision of the notorious positivist demand for
elimination of metaphysics, i.e. concepts, theories and problems that failed to meet the
rigid empirical criterion of verification or falsification. Not only did this demand run
counter to the very essence of positivism which has always rested on certain non-empirical
postulates. It was also untenable from the viewpoint of the laws, problems and tendencies
of scientific cognition as it tended to restrict the scientists outlook to the moles horizons
and kill the very spirit of creative scientific endeavour.

The philosophical platform of positivism despite the periodic revivals of interest in its
evolution was bound sooner or later to arouse dissatisfaction among scientists as it deprived
them of the stimulating effect of theoretical and philosophical knowledge and shut them off
from the wealth of human culture. Discontent with the isolationist concept alienating
science from humanitarian and social values was also to be expected and had in fact been
predicted, e.g. by the Marxist philosophers, among the intellectuals, particularly in the
humanitarian circles. Natural, too, was the antipathy to positivism on the part of various
philosophical schools and trends which could never stomach some or all of its tenets.
The storm which had long been gathering over positivism was precipitated by the scientific
and technological revolution with its imperative demand for immediate solutions to a
number of fundamental problems of scientific, technical and cultural progress, and the
decrepit vessel of the philosophy of science was swept over by a powerful wave of general
discontent. The critical fervour of different schools has been centring largely around the
demand to revive metaphysics. Naturally enough, such a revival, as well as the content of
metaphysics itself, are receiving widely varying interpretations ensuing from no less widely
varying intentions. Idealism, for one, resentful over the hesitating position of positivism
between the objective knowledge of the physical world and subjective perceptions is
insistent on the unequivocal recognition of the primacy of the mind and consciousness. The
scientific community, long deprived by positivism of solid grounds in theoretical
investigations is demanding of the realists a reliable ontology, a materialistic one at that.
The scientists whose interests mainly lie in the sphere of empirical investigations are
expressing their grave concern over the theoretical vacuum, partly traceable to the
antropogenic influence of positivism. All these trends are unanimous in their demand to
concentrate on the solution of fundamental philosophical problems and are keenly aware of
the inability of traditional philosophy to meet the challenge of natural sciences.
It stands to reason that the concept of constructive revivified metaphysics advanced by such
heterogeneous opposition to positivism with its wide diversity of interests and views on the
subject-matter of philosophy cannot but be very vague or at least extremely polysemantic.
Problems regarded as metaphysical include general scientific and metatheoretical doctrines,
the so-called ontology or the general doctrine of being rejected by.positivism, as well as the
traditional eternal philosophical problems of value, ethical norms, etc. Such an approach
will be quite understandable if we take into account the fact that the attempts to revive
metaphysics are based on the specific material of the history of science, history of
philosophy, ethics, psychology, linguistics, etc. In his Afterword to a collection of articles
entitledThe Future of Metaphysics one of its exponents Richard McKeon writes: The
future of metaphysics is determined by the controversies of philosophers as well as by the
ontology of things or the epistemology of thoughts; and its course is often marked more
clearly by suggestive paradoxes than by indubitable certainties. [1] We need not
characterise all the trends of metaphysics, the more so as some of them continuing the line
of idealism and religious philosophy have always fed on such problems and the crisis of
positivism has simply added fuel to their fire. [2] Far more important to us is the variety of
new metaphysics, known as scientific realism, which springs up on the ruins of positivist
philosophy and pretends to the role of its alternative in the methodology of science.

The name scientific realism which is currently used alongside other names, such as
scientific materialism, new ontology, critical realism and others is purely
conventional, since this school has not yet offered its solutions to the problems of scientific
progress, nor defined its objectives or methods of analysis. The name represents what may
be termed the nucleus of the programmethe criticism of positivist views on the structure,
foundation and future development of scientific knowledge. It is noteworthy, however, that
the so-called materialism of the new school proves in some respects to be but a new version
of reductionism, whereas its criticism is sometimes markedly uncritical and its newness
often goes back to the concepts of the 19th or even 18th centuries. Vague as it is, the new
teaching has evidently revealed so far only one positive featurerecognition of the
objective reality as the starting point of scientific cognition. To this can be added its
intention to analyse the real process of scientific development and the real history of
science rather than to indulge in the invention of speculative schemes based on new
metaphysical concepts. It is undoubtedly a sober approach which corresponds to the present
level and to the prospects of scientific development.
To be sure, critical attitude to positivism is an important asset of the new school. Its
criticism is all the more effective as it exposes the inner contradictions of the philosophy
which has in fact been source of the youthful inspiration of practically all modern
prominent expounders of scientific realism. Willard Van Orman Quine, Herbert Feigl,
Wilfrid Sellars, Mario Bunge and many other contemporary leaders of this trend were
under a strong influence of positivist philosophy at least in their early period, even though
they did not completely share its views. Understandably, the general crisis of positivism
whichrevealed itself not only in the internal contradictions of the positivist methodological
programme but also in the conflict with the general trend of scientific cognition marked a
turning point in the attitude towards the ideas of Carnap, Schlick, Reichenbach, Ayer, and
other positivists. No less significant is the opposition of scientific realism to critical
rationalism which is often considered to be the direct successor of positivist philosophy.
One cannot deny, however, the mutual influence of these trends which is manifested, for
instance, in that Popper, Feyerabend and others not infrequently identify themselves with
the realists. True, their statements are not immune from verification.
The realism of the new school implies a critical reappraisal of the positivist
methodological programme prompted, as has already been pointed out, by the practical
needs of the scientific and technological revolution in the late 1940s- early 1950s. This
reappraisal has involved almost all the essential points of this programme: the problems of
the objectivity of knowledge, causality, determinism, the relationship of matter and
consciousness and, to a lesser extent, the problems of the development and structure of
science. To be sure, the actual range of problems requiring a different approach in
connection with the methodological criticism of positivist philosophy is much broader and
extends far beyond the narrow scope of the positivist programme which, in fact, determines
the horizon of scientific realism and prevents it from opening up broader fields of
scientific cognition. We shall consider the attitude of the new trend to these problems later
and concentrate now on its interpretation of the scientificity of philosophy and the
relationship of philosophy and science, the two main topics of this chapter. The antipositivist solution of these issues by scientific realism has led, first and foremost, to the
revival ofontology.

It is noteworthy that realism connects the revival of ontology as a philosophical doctrine

of being and as a philosophical explication of the properties, objects and relations of the
external world with the recognition of the external world, i.e. the reality which existed prior
to and independently of man. Significantly, most of the followers of scientific realism
declare themselves modern materialists, exponents of scientific materialism, etc. But
how true are such declarations? Do the claims of scientific realists correspond to the
content of their doctrine and its premises to its conclusions?
The new school directs its criticism first and foremost at the extremes of the positivist
slogan of struggle against metaphysics under the cover of both verificationism and
falsificationism. According to the realists, this slogan is untenable for several reasons:
first, in everyday practice scientific investigation ignores the facts which contradict theory;
second, facts are not primary in scientific cognition, they are born, so to speak, in
theoretical diapers; third, theories deal not with the objects of observation, but only with
their idealised models; fourth, the verification of a scientific assertion is not, as a rule, a
simple consequence of a theory, but rather follows from a theory combined with additional
assumptions which must also be tested by experience. Hence, neither verification nor
falsification taken separately can provide a satisfactory criterion for establishing the truth of
a theory and recognising its scientificity and, consequently, for distinguishing metaphysical
statements from true science.
Quine, one of the early opponents of positivism representing the views of the new school,
clearly reveals the unsoundness of the main dogmas of the traditional philosophy of
science: its belief in the possibility of sharply demarcating the analytical truths independent
of empirical facts (i.e. deducible from definitions and therefore tautological by nature) from
the synthetic propositions based on empirical facts, and its reduction principle whereby
each meaningful assertion can be reduced by purely logical means to basic empirical facts
or propositions of the protocol-statement type. He points out that the basic concept of
logical positivism which regarded language to be the starting point of analysis was
fallacious, since the so-called physical-object language proposed by this school was at
variance with its own demandto be the language of sensually perceptible physical
phenomena. Including the notions of a logically developed theory, language incorporated of
necessity certain elements of mathematical theories related, for instance, to mathematical
logic. The presence of such notions as a class of objects and a class of classes in the
concept of logical empiricism was in itself a linguistic indulgence incompatible with the
monastic vows of positivism.
Quine admits that ontological problems are unavoidable and emphasises that their
formulation can only be sensible and free from contradictions if ontological statements
meet the demands of modern logical analysis. The adopted ontology can only be regarded
as unambiguous after the confusion resulting from the use of individual terms has been
eliminated with the help of Russells description theory, quantification methods, etc.
According to Quine, the fundamental ontological question can be put as follows: what kind
of objects can be considered real if we believe in the truth of a given theory? The criterion
of being which is the subject-matter of ontology is no less definite: to be is to be the
meaning of the variable. From this it follows that any theory recognises in fact only those

objects which can be classified as variables connected with one another in such a way as to
confirm the truth of the propositions of the given theory.
Quine as a realist declares in favour not only of the existence of objective reality, but also
of a possibility to construct scientific ontology, thus overcoming the general
anthropocentrism of positivist philosophy. In his opinion, no special philosophical system
of knowledge is required for this purpose, since ontology is entirely a product of scientific
Quine contends that our knowledge, on the one hand, maintains contact with the external
world through sense perception. Yet it also comprises entities outside sensory experience.
Mans knowledge is predetermined by his sense perception, but different people need not
necessarily get identical sensory data under identical conditions. This accounts for a
possibility of switching over from the empirical language to the language of theory. It is
precisely the intersubjective language which makes it possible, according to Quine, to
perceive different empirical facts, i.e. to agree or disagree with the observers propositions.
It is this, writes Quine, that enables the child to learn when to assent to the observation
sentence. And it is this also, intersubjective observability at the time, that qualifies
observation sentences as check points for scientific theory. Observation sentences state the
evidence, to which all witnesses must accede. [3]
As distinct from Feyerabend, Quine is ready to go beyond the empirical evidence. Even if
two theories are equivalent in terms of empirical evidence, they may be very different. This
suggests, according to Quine, that the preference in selecting a true theory is determined by
its simplicity rather than by a criterion related to empirical material. Hence, the judgements
regarding the truth of a theory can only be passed after the theory has been accepted or
rejected. It is only within the framework of the existing conceptual scheme that one can
assess the true content of a theory. Consequently, reality as the true content of knowledge is
entirely out of the question, except in the language of the adopted conceptual scheme.
Quine prefers not to speak of things-in-themselves or of some other special philosophical
interpretation of a scientific theory. Reality, according to Quine, is in fact what we
believe to be existing. Therefore he regards science as primary, and epistemology as
secondary, or, as he puts it, as science self-applied. Its task, according to Quine, is to show
how we know what we ought to know about science.
Quine does not concern himself about the metaphysical status of propositions but is rather
interested in what we should do with them. Epistemology, according to Quine, is not
something outside science, it is incorporated in our judgement about it. The decision as
regards what is existent and what is non-existent depends on the contemporary state of
Quine takes special note of Carnaps well-known attempt to water-down the rigid dogma of
radical reductionism by conceding that each proposition taken by itself and isolated from
other propositions can be confirmed or disproved as a whole. Yet even this thesis does not
seem to him quite satisfactory and he contrasts to it his own version according to which our
statements about the external world face the tribunal of sense experience not individually
but only as a corporate body. According to Quine, total science is like a field of force

whose boundary conditions are experience. A conflict with experience at the periphery
occasions readjustments in the interior of the field. [4] Re-evaluation of some statements
entails re-evaluation of others, because of their logical interconnections, but the total field
is so undetermined by its boundary conditions, experience, that there is much latitude of
choice. No particular experiences are linked with any particular statements in the interior of
the field, except indirectly through considerations of equilibrium affecting the field as a
If this view is right, reasons Quine further, there is no ground for speaking about the
empirical content of an individual statement, particularly if it be a statement at all remote
from the experiential periphery of the field. Furthermore, it becomes folly to seek a
boundary between synthetic and analytical statements. Any statement can be held true if the
theoretical system is subjected to drastic enough adjustments.
Mario Bunge, one of the most influential adherents of scientific realism also points out
the sketchy character of the positivist concept of the relation of theory to experience. He
maintains that the procedure of checking a theory is, generally speaking, far more complex
than is suggested by those simplified schemes imposed both by the verification and
falsification principles. The task of the philosophy of science is to bring the description of
this procedure as close as possible to the scientists real work. In one of his articles he
writes: We must start afresh, keeping closer to actual scientific research than to the
philosophical [positivist] traditions. [5] The empirical test alone is far from being
sufficient. A scientific theory must be subjected not only to an empirical, but also to a nonempirical test which should have at least three aspects: metatheoretical, intertheoretical and
philosophical. The object of the metatheoretical checking of a theory should consist in
ascertaining that it is not inwardly contradictory, that its consequences have factual content
and that there exists a procedure for a transition from unobservable causes to observable
ones. The intertheoretical checking consists in ascertaining that the theory in question is
consistent with other theories, already recognised. The purpose of the
philosophical checking is to establish to what extent the new theory corresponds to the
dominant philosophy. Bunge has no doubts about the need to bring our scientific theories in
accord with the dominant philosophical concepts. The world view, according to Bunge, has
a direct bearing on the selection of research problems, the formation of hypotheses and the
evaluation of ideas and procedures. [6] This correspondence has always been sought for
and alleged even if it did not exist, as was the case with the relativist and atomic theories in
relation to positivism. The latter circumstance makes it absolutely imperative to check the
soundness of the philosophical principles themselves.
According to scientific realism, Poppers falsification theory is no less contradictory than
the verification theory and both of them are equally far removed from the real practice of
scientific cognition. Not a single scientist, says Bunge, would like to see his own creation
dead. On the contrary, he would do everything possible to make it viable, i.e. to corroborate
his theory. A closer look at the process of consolidation of a scientific theory reveals in it
two more or less distinct stages. At the first stage, the theory advanced by a scientist gains
ground and his colleagues, no less than the author himself, are busy searching for facts to
support it. At the second stage, the new theory struggling for existence and for the right to

develop comes across phenomena which do not fall within its framework. The theory
becomes the object of criticism and the process of the revaluation of facts begins.
A lot of theories highly beneficial to science have won the right to existence without
applying to the falsification criterion. There are many methods whereby a theory can be
constructed. Theories can adapt themselves to new data which seemed at first
inconvenient, develop additional and auxiliary hypotheses and, once they reached the
necessary level of corroboration, are never discarded at once. A way of building a
scientific theory, writes Bunge, is to surround the central hypotheses with well-meaning
protectors hoping they will eventually turn out to be true. [7] There is nothing wrong about
protecting a hypothesis by ad hoc hypotheses as long as the latter are in principle
independently testable. This method permits building quite a viable hypothetico-deductive
system and may ensue in a new crop of experiments, whereas a strict application of
Poppers criterion would nip the whole development in the bud.
After a detailed analysis of the applicability of Poppers falsification criterion to some
important scientific theories Bunge comes to the conclusion that it is useless in the
assessment of many general theories such as, for instance, the concept of continuum
mechanics, the evolution theory, etc. They can only be tested in combination with
additional (ad hoc) hypotheses or specific data pertaining to the components of the systems,
their interaction or spatial configuration, etc.
Unlike the lever, simple pendulum and other specific theories which lend themselves to
fullscale testing (i.e. to verification and falsification), the field theory or, for instance, the
concept of quantum mechanics cannot be subjected to exhaustive testing. In this connection
Bunge singles out three types of scientific theories: (1) specific theories, such as particle
mechanics or the quantum theory of the Helium atom; (2) generic fully-interpreted theories,
such as classical mechanics, quantum mechanics, general relativity, the evolution theory;
(3) generic semi-interpreted theories, such as games theory, information theory, field theory,
etc. Characterising the third-type theories most of the symbols of which are assigned no
factual interpretation, Bunge points out that such theories are particularly valuable in case
of insufficient, incomplete knowledge of facts. Emphasising also their extremely general
character and empirical untestability, Bunge points out that many such theories seem in fact
to qualify as metaphysical ones. From this he makes the conclusion that there is no sharp
line of demarcation between science and metaphysics. Surely, contends Bunge, there is
a line between wild metaphysics and scienceas well as a boundary between exact
metaphysics and pseudosciencebut there seems to be no frontier between exact
metaphysics and the set of most general (type III) scientific theories: in fact, there is a good
deal of overlap. [8]
Bunge further points out that the term metaphysics had different shades of meaning in the
history of philosophy and concentrates on two of them. Plain metaphysics, according to
Bunge, ranges from elaborate nonsense through archaic common sense to deep and
sophisticated yet outdated good sense. [9] It is removed too far from modern knowledge.
Kant, says Bunge, was certainly right in his day in stressing the difference between
science and metaphysics and in claiming that it was impossible to conceive of metaphysics
as a science. So were probably the Vienna Circle and Popperin their own time,

that is. [10] Now, according to Bunge, the situation has radically changed with the
appearance of exact ontological theories relevant to science. Conditions are now ripe for the
emergence of exact metaphysics which seeks to solve some problems put off by plain
metaphysics and strives to keep tune both with formal and factual sciences.
Bunges requirements to scientific metaphysics on which he dwells at length deserve
special attention. In his opinion, scientific metaphysics should (1) concern itself primarily
with the most general properties of reality and real objects, rather than with spiritual
objects; (2) it should be a systematic theory or a part thereof rather than expound
somebodys views; (3) it should make use of logic and mathematics; (4) it should expound
key philosophical concepts and fundamentals of science; (5) it should contain elements
which can be found among the postulates of scientific theories. Scientific metaphysics can
itself become a scientific theory as a result of specification or additional conditions for its
application. Metatheories, according to Bunge, can also be constructed with the use of
elements borrowed from other fields of knowledge, as well as with the help of analogy and
In Bunges opinion, all means are good for this purpose. He considers in detail the analysis
and synthesis theory as an example of metaphysical theories and maintains that it is
growing beyond the bounds of chemistry where it originated. Among metaphysical he also
rates the automata theory on the grounds that it can be referred to the object-medium
system of any type: mechanical, electrical, biological or behavioural.
The author classifies the problems pertaining to the methodological analysis of scientific
metaphysics under three categories. The first relates to the form of metaphysical theories,
which, in the authors view, must have a mathematical structure to qualify as exact theories.
This structure must be at least algebraic or logical, if not quantitative. The second category
of problems is pertinent to the content of metaphysical theories. Here the author points out
that scientific metaphysics, unlike factual sciences, is concerned primarily with the world at
large. Consequently, the logically possible models of natural processes lie outside its sphere
(in Bunges opinion, scientific metaphysics includes two systems of theories: universal or
multilevel theories and regional theories limited to one integration level. Yet even the most
special of metaphysical theories are not specific enough to cover in detail individual
objects). Finally, the third category of problems is connected with the testing of
metaphysical theories.
Rejecting both the empirical-positivist and Poppers concepts of the testability of scientific
knowledge, Bunge proposes a special criterion of scientificitythe conceptual testability of
theories understood as their compatibility with the fundamentals of our prior knowledge.
What is more, conceptual testability is but the indispensable condition of scientificity. To
qualify as scientific, theories of any type must also meet additional requirements which
depend on the nature of the problem being considered. These additional requirements,
according to Bunge, are as follows: (1) a hypothesis should be at least indirectly
confirmable; (2) a specific theory should include components which are both empirically
confirmable and refutable when enriched with empirical data; (3) a generic interpreted
theory should be susceptible of becoming a specific theory upon the adjunction of
subsidiary assumptions and their interpretation; (4) a generic semi-interpreted theory should

be capable of turning into a generic interpreted theory. Bunge avers that conceptual
testability jointly with any of the above four conditions constitute necessary and sufficient
conditions for a hypothesis or a theory to be called scientific. Hence, testability in the broad
sense is in fact the equivalent of scientificity: testable knowledge is scientific and vice
As regards the testability of metaphysical theories the author does not go beyond
generalities. A metaphysical theory should be enlightening, as well as capable of being
inserted in the nonformal axiomatic background of some scientific theory, i.e. it should be
susceptible of becoming a presupposition of theoretical science. To be scientifically valid,
metaphysical theories, according to Bunge, should be exact, consistent with scientific
knowledge, and capable of clarifying and systematising philosophical concepts (such as
event and chance) or principles (such as law and interdependence of integration levels).
As we see, Bunges testability concept is patently contradictory. Denying a sharp line of
demarcation between metaphysical and generic scientific theories, he nevertheless does not
admit that metaphysical theories, unlike scientific ones, do not lend themselves even to a
conceptual verification. They cannot be true or false, they can be applicable or nonapplicable. They are useful in the sense that they are always motivated and constitute
sweeping generalisations of actual or possible specific theories. The theories of this kind
are corrigible, but not refutable: they can be improved upon formally (logically or
mathematically) or they can be made more complex. In short, theories in scientific
metaphysics cannot be refuted, but, on the other hand, they can be confirmedif not
through prediction but at least by showing that they are compatible with a whole family of
specific theories or that they take part in the design of viable systems. Strangely enough,
writes Bunge, such theories can be adequate and convenient without being true and they
can never be falsified: at most they can be shown to be irrelevant or pointless
or useless. [11]
According to Bunge, the theories of the second and third types can raise the level of
generalisations and serve as a basis for predictions owing to the introduction of additional
specific premises. If that is so, there seems to be no reason why the theories called by him
metaphysical cannot be specified in a similar manner. Sure enough, the general systems
theory or the theory of integration levels classed by the author as metaphysical cannot give
concrete predictions in such fields as, for instance, economics, biology, cybernetics where
they have set up, so to speak, their specialised divisions. Yet it is obvious that these theories
can provide a basis for some general conclusions which, in turn, enable scientists to make
forecasts and inferences of a less general level, and so on. Hence, there is no sharp line of
demarcation between metaphysical theories and the theories of the second and third type
from the viewpoint of their testability either.
Bunge writes: While the Vienna Circle rejected metaphysics as the enemy of science
(which it was in most cases), and Popper tolerated it for its heuristic value (which it often
has), we have come to regard metaphysics as capable of becoming scientific and moreover
as constituting, together with logic and semantics, the common part of philosophy and
science. [12] However, contrasting his viewpoint to the positivist concept, Bunge fails to
take into account that positivism has qualified as metaphysical not only and even not so

much the general theories of science as the most general philosophical principles of
materialism and dialectics. That is why any consistent criticism of positivist philosophy
must of necessity show the real methodological and worldview significance of these
principles for special sciences. Critical as he is of positivism, Bunge undoubtedly makes
here an important concession: bridging the gap between science and metaphysics, he
disregards the difference between philosophical concepts and the general theories of
modern science reducing the former to the latter.
Among the important components of scientific metaphysics Bunge ranks, for instance, the
concept of the structural levels of matter. Giving this concept the conventional
interpretation reflected in relevant scientific literature Bunge, however, treats it not only as
a metaphysical theory, but also as a set of definite epistemological principles. Moreover, he
also presents it in a methodological form as a set of conditions which scientific
investigation must comply with.
One may ask here if other metaphysical theories too must have both the epistemological
and general methodological form. The answer to this question should evidently be in the
negative, since the level of generalisation in the concept of the structural levels of matter is
much higher than in such metaphysical theories as the automata theory or the theory of
games. The automata theory cannot provide a basis for the general methodology of science
and epistemology. Here Bunge, evidently, eliminates the line of demarcation which does
existthat between special scientific theories and philosophical concepts. However broad
the generalisations in such theories as the theory of games, the automata theory and the
general theory of systems, all of them remain within the sphere of special sciences, whereas
the concept of structural levels has long since become the object of philosophical
investigations. Such vagueness in demarcating special sciences and philosophy is by no
means accidental. In the context of Bunges concept it attests to a tendency to reduce
philosophy to the level of metaphysical principles and theories rather than to
include metaphysical theories into the system of philosophical knowledge. This becomes
even more evident when we acquaint ourselves with Bunges attitude towards materialism
and dialectics. Substantiating his views on the scientific value of metaphysical theories,
Bunge evidently intends to dispel in this way the prejudices of positivism against the socalled metaphysical problems. His efforts, however, go wide of the mark since he deprives
materialism and dialectics of their methodological and world-view role in science without
any reason whatsoever and ascribes all methodological functions to general theories, such
as the automata theory, the general systems theory, etc.
This trend towards the identification of ontology with science is characteristic, with some
variations, of many other representatives of scientific realism, though some of them
attempt to distinguish between philosophical and scientific ontology. [13] The task of the
philosopher, writes Errol Harris, is thus two-fold. He must use the evidence provided by
the sciences to construct a comprehensive and coherent conception of the universe, and he
must examine the methods of scientific investigation and discovery and the process by
which the science advances, in order to discern the insignia of reliability that entitle any
discipline to be called by the name of knowledgethat is, science. [14] As a rule, the
defence of a scientific theory by realism is not based on ontological convictionsrather
on the contrary, the reliability of a theory guaranteed by the use of adopted means and

methods of scientific investigation can serve as a basis for ascribing ontological existence
to its postulates, motions and concepts. Of course, besides the scientific perception of
reality by man, there also exists the conventional everyday perception. Wilfrid Sellars, for
instance, even writes about a tragic dualism of the two antagonistic ways of thinking: the
scientific and the manifest. The first makes use of the techniques, methods and language of
natural sciences. The second is guided by the common sense and traditional thinking
adopted in everyday life. In Sellars opinion, the task of philosophy consists in a
harmonious integration of these two ways of thinking. Yet in his ontology he shows
obvious preference for the paradigms of scientific thinking. For him, the worlds ultimate
constituents are primarily the theoretical postulates and principles of science. Speaking as
a philosopher, he notes, I am quite prepared to say that the common sense world of
physical object in Space and Time is unrealthat is, that there are no such things. Or, to
put it less paradoxically, that in the dimension of describing and explaining the world,
science is the measure of all things, of what is that it is, and of what is not that it
is not. [15]
As we see, scientific realism, gradually detaching itself from positivism, step by step
shapes its anti-positivist programme aimed at reviving metaphysics. The central point of
this programme is the relation of consciousness to the brain the problem which was
completely ignored by the former philosophy of science. Indeed, the development of
scientific ontology is impossible without its solution. Positivism has eliminated the
consciousness-brain (or psychophysical) problem as patently metaphysical. Thus Carnap
wrote: Are the so-called mental processes really physical processes or not? Are the socalled physical processes really spiritual or not? It seems doubtful whether we can find any
theoretical content in such philosophical questions as discussed by monism, dualism
and pluralism. [16]
The attempt to get rid of the psychophysical problem, like of other so-called metaphysical
problems, was not and could not be successful it proved to be yet another delusion of
positivism. In point of fact, positivist literature itself gives quite a definite solution to this
problem in the monistic spirit of subjective idealism. This solution which has nothing in
common with materialist views is plainly stated by Moritz Schlick who writes that the
representational models [17], or by Alfred Ayer who tries to substantiate the thesis that
statements of mental phenomena and statements of bodily phenomena are two different
methods of the classification and interpretation of our experience. The authors of these
views are far from asserting the primacy of electromagnetic, thermal, mechanical or other
physical processes which underlie psychic phenomena. They do not deal with the
phenomena of objective realitytheir main intent is to emphasise the unity of science or
sciences which study sensory experience or facts entirely different by nature. All they are
aiming at is to provide a single description of sense data on psychical processes, on the one
hand, and of sense data on the outer world, on the other. They seek reduction within the
framework of a theory only and do not turn to the actual processes taking place in the
physical world. Consequently, sensory experience remains the origin of all origins, the
cause of all causes and the task only consists in harmonising the languages of physics and
psychology within the present framework. The sum total of this reduction is bluntly stated
by Carl Hempel who contends that psychology is an integral part of physics and even

asserts that all sciences have in principle one and the same nature and belong to physics as
itsbranches. [18]
Searching for the ontology of knowledge, scientific realism, naturally, could not sidestep
the problem of the relation of consciousness and the brain not only as a specific issue
directly involved in all the problems being raised by the new trend, but as an independent
problem of crucial importance for the very status of scientific ontology. It is not accidental
that the branch of scientific realism directly concerned with the investigation of this
problem has actually turned into a more or less independent school of scientific
materialism, the name suggesting a definite anti-positivist and anti-idealistic orientation of
the new teaching.
Nevertheless, the difference between positivism and scientific realism is not infrequently
hard to determine, mainly owing to the fact that both schools bear a distinct mark of
reductionism. Logical positivism coming out against dualism strives to overcome it by
reducing psychic to physical phenomena within the framework of scientific descriptions.
The followers of scientific materialism are also engaged in reductions with practically the
same aim as the positivists to eliminate dualism. The difference between these two
schools consists in that scientific materialism, in contrast to positivism, is concerned not
with theoretical reductions, but with ontological ones, i.e. it strives to reduce psychic
phenomena as such to physical phenomena. It is, in fact, the confusion of these two types of
reduction that underlies endless debates in the literature on psychophysical problems.
Positivistic reductionism tends to treat the psychophysical problem within the narrow
confines of the concept of unity of scientific knowledge casting aside all its so-called
metaphysical aspects. The possibility of reducing the psychic to the physical is based here,
and by no means accidentally, on the theory of meaning alone: the description of an object
in psychical terms must have the same meaning as its description in physical terms. The
proof of the unity, naturally, boils down to the logico-semantic analysis of statements.
Logical positivism maintains that psychological statements cannot be directly translated
into physical ones. Yet one can speak of them as being identical if they are considered to be
just different methods of describing one and the same object. The direct experience of
human beings, as well as the experience we sometimes ascribe to some higher animals is
identical with certain aspects of nervous processes in the organism. What is had-inexperience, and (in the case of human beings) knowable by acquaintance, is identical with
the object of knowledge by description provided first by moral behavior theory and this is
in turn identical with what the science of neuro-physiologydescribes. [19] The author of
this statement, as we see, does not accentuate physical identityhe emphasises the fact that
in the two kinds of knowledge, the knowledge through the realisation of ones own raw
sensations and the knowledge by description differing from each other both in the source
of information or language and in the method of verification we in fact deal with one and
the same object which gives us the right to speak of their identity.
Very characteristic is also Feigls pronounced positivistic approach to the problem: he
sincerely believes that the identity thesis eliminates any ontological interpretation of the
psychophysical problem and thereby abolishes psychophysical dualism.

According to Feigl, the mental and the physical are identical in that the mental terms,
on the one hand, and some neuro-physiological terms, on the other, have similar meanings
and, as scientific progress goes on, tend to converge so that their correlation gradually turns
into actual identity. Feigl distinguishes between direct sense experience (raw sensations)
which carries direct knowledge of our mental states, and the experience expressed in some
very personal language. All empirical concepts are based entirely on this personal language,
since they form a higher degree of certainty. [20]
Despite a certain deviation from the positivist paradigm noted by numerous authors, Feigl
nevertheless does not desert it completely. The physicalism of his position is, on the whole,
far removed from consistent, i.e. dialectical, materialism, though Feigl sometimes notes
(hat the term physical in the personal language denotes an aggregate of molecules
whose action produces a sensory impression.
In its solution of the mind-body problem scientific materialism (realism) seeks to
overcome the barrier set up by positivism and find a way to objective reality which is
pictured as having its own existence independent of the process of cognition, yet being
knowable only through the medium of science. Here the function of reduction is different
it consists in creating a scientific image of the world, ontology, representing the real
processes as they actually happen. Determining whether or not materialism can be true,
writes Jerry Fodor, is part of understanding the relation between theories in psychology
and theories in neurologya relation that many philosophers believe poses a stumbling
block for the doctrine of the unity of science. In particular, it is sometimes maintained that
the unity of science requires that it prove possible to reduce psychological theories to
neurological theories, the model of reduction being provided by the relation between
constructs in chemistry and those inphysics [21].
The treatment of the mind-body problem by positivism is also criticised by Australian
philosopher J.J. Smart who unequivocally dissociates himself from its dualism. He writes:
In so far as after-image or ache is report of a process, it is report of a process
that happens to be a brain process. It follows that the thesis does not claim that sensation
statements can be translated into statements about brain processes. Nor does it claim that
the logic of a sensation statement is the same as that of a brain-process statement. All it
claims is that in so far as a sensation statement is a report of something, that something is in
fact a brain process. Sensations are nothing over and above brain processes. [22]
Criticising dualism, Smart counterposes to it what he styles as his materialistic
According to Smart, every year science provides more and more convincing proof that man
is nothing but a psychophysical mechanism. Sooner or later his behaviour will be
exhaustively characterised in the corresponding terms. In point of fact, there is nothing in
the world besides a complex aggregate of physical particles, protons and electrons, and
their interaction, and the only real laws of science are the laws of physics and chemistry.
As we see, unlike former materialism which gravitated towards ontological reductionism,
i.e. tended to reduce real psychic and mental processes to physical phenomena, modern
scientific materialism strives to substitute the knowledge of physical objects for the

objects themselves thereby identifying reality with its linguistic image. The difference of
the approaches to the mental-physical or mind-body problem on the part of Feigl, on the
one hand, and Smart or Sellars, on the other, consists in that the neopositivist faction
focuses on this problem in order to discard it as metaphysical by reducing the mental to the
physical, whereas scientific materialism as a form of scientific realism pursues quite a
different aimto translate the descriptive language used to characterise mental processes
into the language of science in order to be able to construct a scientific ontology of mental
processes. The reductionist approach to the consciousness-brain problem characteristic of
scientific realism and positivism, the attempts of both schools to reduce all spiritual
phenomena exclusively to neuro-physiological processes are largely traceable to their
common traditions. The similarity of the realistic and positivist views also shows up in
their exaggerated emphasis on the analysis of the language used to describe processes in
interest. For all that, one ought to distinguish between positivist reductions and the
reductions proposed by the scientific materialists who sincerely strive for a materialistic
solution of the above problem.
It should be noted that in its approach to the mind-body problem aimed at creating a new
scientific ontology of mental processes scientific materialism, like scientific realism in
general, makes certain concessions to idealism and cannot be credited with consistency.
scientific realism as a whole regards the ontology of mental processes and, for that
matter, ontology at large as a peculiar projection of scientific knowledge on the outer world,
as a certain theoretical assumption which follows of necessity from the adopted system of
scientific knowledge. Hence, reality as understood by realism is identified with the
current scientific picture of the world and even with the language whereby the present or
eventually possible reality is described. The specific input to NPP [new philosophy of
physics] should be the whole of physics, past and present, classical and quantal, writes
Bunge. The corresponding output should be a realistic account (analysis and theory) of
actual and optimal research procedures, of conceived and conceivable ideas, of currently
pursued and possible goals both in theoretical and experimental physics. [23]
As we see, realism offers no criterion for distinguishing between the really existing
objects of science and purely mental, theoretical ones which, consequently, need not
necessarily have their analogues in the material world. It proceeds from the conviction that
reality outside the language of science, i.e. reality as such, is nonsensical since all true
judgements of reality can only be expressed in scientific notions.
According to R. Rorty, the traditional description of psychic and spiritual phenomena in
modern culture must also be replaced by scientific description which is to be given priority.
All other languages are not only inadequate, they are simply anachronistic, akin to demons
and evil spirits. [24] On the face of it, this thesis is directed against phenomenalism and the
later views of Wittgenstein who underscored the decisive significance of the analysis of
everyday language as a panacea for all unpleasant dilemmas of modern science and
advocated the concept of the plurality of languages. Yet it is quite obvious that the language
of science reflects primarily the most general or universal properties and links of being and
is incapable of conveying the boundless richness of relations in the real world. The
deficiencies of scientific knowledge are to be made up for by literature, painting, music,
sculpture and other forms of human culture. The underestimation of the humanitarian forms

of culture by all scientific realism is yet another feature which draws it closer to positivist
philosophy. It is not fortuitous that both positivism and realism seek to reduce the broad
diversity of individual traits to a few rather lean abstractions and show undisguised
scepticism regarding the possibility of penetrating the inmost recesses of human heart. The
conceptual framework of persons, writes Sellars, is not something that needs to be
reconciled with the scientific image, but rather something to be joined to it. [25]
It should be noted that distinguishing between ontology and objective reality as such calls
for analysis of scientific knowledge from the angle of the relation of the objective to the
subjective in its content. The accomplishment of this task, in turn, presupposes a
comprehensive study of the subjects role in scientific cognition, of his intellectual
possibilities and limitations, merits and demerits, the theoretical heritage and the new
concepts and hypotheses, abstractions and assumptions, philosophical and theoretical
premises, etc. It is only through such a comprehensive study that one can reveal the
objective component of theoretical knowledge and regard it as truly scientific ontology. As
to the ontology which is being constructed by scientific realism outside the crucible of
philosophical examination, it does not go beyond the generalisation of special knowledge
and the extrapolation or even direct ontologisation of current scientific theories.
The example of Bunge, Quine and other representatives of scientific realism shows that
this school, having made some obvious concessions to idealism, has also failed so far to
dissociate itself completely from the idealistic understanding of metaphysics as such.
Scientific metaphysics which is identified with ontology by most of the scientific realists
should in fact be regarded as a sphere of general scientific or metatheoretical research. It
lies beyond the limits of theoretical knowledge proper, though its generalisation
level is below the level of philosophical laws and principles as understood by dialectical
materialism. From the viewpoint of scientific realism, the analysis of problems belonging
to this sphere does not call for their serious examination either in terms of materialism or
dialectics, the latter being in special disfavour with this philosophical school.
It is only natural, therefore, that the ontology thus constructed turns out to be indeed
metaphysical, and sometimes in the worst sense of the word at that, as it is not amenable to
any critical analysis in terms of either philosophical (dialectical and materialist) or special
scientific concepts.
Scientific realism makes a very vague distinction between ontological and scientific
theoretical problems and this in fact amounts to postulating a new philosophical discipline.
Philosophy, or what appeals to me under that head, writes Quine, is continuous with
science. It is a wing of science in which aspects of method are examined more deeply, or in
a wider perspective than elsewhere. It is also a wing in which the objectives of a science
receive more than average scrutiny, and the significance of the results receives
special appreciation. [26]
To sum up, the characteristic features of scientific realism are its anti-positivist
orientation and persistent search for non-traditional ways in the development of the
methodology of science. Life shows, however, that this school has no future as an
independent philosophical trend and as a serious alternative to positivism because it

proceeds from the incompatibility of materialism and dialectics within a single

philosophical doctrine. Assessed in general terms, scientific realism represents a certain
tendency of the bourgeois philosophy of science to turn from positivism to the objective
analysis of scientific knowledge.
[1] Richard McKeon, The Future of Metaphysics, in: The Future of Metaphysics, Ed. by
E. Wood, Quadrangle Books, Chicago, 1970, p. 288. [> main text]
[2] See, for instance, E. Sprague, Metaphysical Thinking, Oxford University Press, New
York, 1978, p. 3. [> main text]
[3] W. V. O. Quine, The Nature of Natural Knowledge, in: Mind and Language, Ed. by
Samuel Guttenplan, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1975, p. 74. [> main text]
[4] W. V. Quine, Two Dogmas of Empiricism, Philosophical Review, Vol. 60, No. 1,
1951, pp. 3839. [> main text]
[5] Mario Bunge, Theory Meets Experience, in: Mind, Science and History, State
University of New York Press, Albany, 1970, p. 164. [> main text]
[6] Ibid., p. 142. [> main text]
[7] Mario Bunge, Method, Model and Matter, D. Reidel Publishing Company, Dordrecht,
Holland, 1973, p. 28. [> main text]
[8] Ibid., pp. 3940. [> main text]
[9] Ibid., p. 145. [> main text]
[10] Ibid., p. 41. [> main text]
[11] Ibid., p. 37. [> main text]
[12] Mario Bunge, Method, Model and Matter, op. cit., pp. 4243. [> main text]
[13] See, for example, Roy Bhaskar, A Realist Theory of Science, Hassocks, New Jersey,
1978, pp. 2930. [> main text]
[14] Errol E. Harris, The Foundations of Metaphysics in Science, Humanities Press, New
York, 1965, p. 30. [> main text]
[15] Wilfrid Sellars, Science, Perception and Reality, Routledge & Kegan Paul, London,
1963, p. 173. [> main text]

[16] Rudolf Carnap, Logical Foundations of the Unity of Science, in: Readings in
Philosophical Analysis, Appleton-Century-Crofts, Inc., New York, 1949, p. 413; see also
K. G. Hempel, The Logical Analysis of Psychology, in: Readings in Philosophical
Analysis, op. cit., p. 380. [> main text]
[17] Moritz Schlick, On the Relation Between Psychological and Physical Concepts,
in: Readings in Philosophical Analysis, op cit., p. 403. [> main text]
[18] See Carl G. Hempel, The Logical Analysis of Psychology, in: Readings in
Philosophical Analysis, op. cit., pp. 378, 382. [> main text]
[19] Herbert Feigl, The Mental and the Physical\thinspace, in: Minnesota Studies in
the Philosophy of Science, Vol. II, Concepts, Theories, and the Mind-Body Problem,
University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, 1958, p. 446. [> main text]
[20] Ibid., p. 392. [> main text]
[21] J. A. Fodor, Materialism, in: Materialism and the Mind-Body Problem, Ed. by
D. M. Rosenthal, Prentice-Hall, Inc., Englewood Cliffs, N. J., 1971, p. 128. [> main text]
[22] J. J. Smart, Sensations and Brain Processes, in: Materialism and the Mind-Body
Problem, op. cit., p. 56. [> main text]
[23] Mario Bunge, Philosophy of Physics, D. Reidel Publishing Company, Dordrecht,
Holland, 1973, p. 12. [> main text]
[24] See R. Rorty, Mind-Body Identity, Privacy and Categories, in: Materialism and the
Mind-Body Problem, op. cit., p. 179. [> main text]
[25] Wilfrid Sellars, Science, Perception and Reality, op. cit. p. 40. [> main text]
[26] W. V. Quine, Philosophical Progress in Language Theory, in: Language, Belief, and
Metaphysics, State University of New York Press, Albany, 1970. p. 3


by Igor Naletov
Objectivity of knowledge has been a key issue in the course of the entire history of
philosophical thought. In our time, too, it remains a touchstone of the true attitude of one or

another philosophical school to science revealing the extent of its influence on social and
practical life. Those philosophers who show interest in this problem have always been
aware, vaguely or keenly, that knowledge which cannot be regarded as objective is
powerless or useless, and that the practices relying on such pseudo-knowledge are
adventurist and even harmful. Failing to meet the requirements of objectivity, they are
bound to become arbitrary.
Philosophical schools do not always focus their attention on the problem of objectivity, let
alone placing it in the foreground. Wittingly or unwittingly, it is often overshadowed by
other issues, seemingly more concrete and, at first sight, more pressing. Yet it always
underlies all controversies over the place and role of metaphysics, i.e. over the subjectmatter of philosophy, and has a direct bearing on such problems as the relation of sensory
experience to theory, induction to deduction, truth to error, etc. Therefore the problem of
the objectivity of knowledge sometimes becomes, as it were, a concentrate of many issues
pertaining to different aspects of the theory of knowledge.
It would not be correct to say that this problem has been treated separately from all other
problems of the methodology of science, such as causality, determinism, laws of
development, etc. Yet its solution has always been determined primarily by the answer to
the question if reality exists outside and independently of man. Any answer to this, be it
positive, negative or fifty-fifty, and even abstention from any answer at all, is in itself a
sufficiently clear indication of the philosophers views on the content and nature of
knowledge. Attempts to elude the issue have never helped to make the philosophers and
scientists life easieron the contrary, the muddle has always grown worse.
In its attempts to reject all unscientific, metaphysical problems, including the problem of
the independent existence of objective reality and such absolutes as matter, substance,
space, causality and others, positivism has proved to be no more fortunate than other
philosophical schools. However, it would be interesting and instructive to trace the impact
of the objectivity problem on positivist philosophy in general, and on its specific concepts
and notions in particular. This question deserves special attention if only for the fact that
numerous gullible authors take in all good faith the rejection by positivism of the problem
of the existence of objective reality as metaphysical, whereas others, aware of the latent
contradiction in the views of the positivist writers, suspect them of a crafty intention to
conceal the true meaning of their philosophy and its subjectivism. As a matter of fact,
neither of these views can be accepted without serious reservations. The issue is much more
complicated than is implied by the proposed explanations.
There is yet another aspect to the problem of the objectivity of knowledge in positivist
philosophythe understanding of its true attitude to this problem provides a key to
understanding the modern criticism of the positivist programme by critical rationalism,
scientific realism, scientific materialism, etc.
Being always opposed, as it was, to the discussion of the so-called metaphysical problems
and, in particular, refusing to investigate the relation of knowledge to the objective world
and bother about the origin of scientific knowledge and what lies behind this knowledge,
positivism could not afford to discard completely the principle of the objectivity of

knowledge. Declaring against this principle would be tantamount to opposing the

fundamental scientific tradition, in fact, the entire history of science which has always held
that objectivity was its chief goal and basic trait distinguishing it from other forms of
knowledge and intellectual culture.
Positivism has regarded traditional philosophy to be metaphysical first and foremost
because it postulates the existence of transcendental reality different from and independent
of the sensuous world. The question of the existence of the physical world independent of
sensory experience has always been viewed by positivism from Comte to Reichenbach as a
pseudo-problem at best. Refusing to discuss the origin of scientific knowledge, positivism
has also regarded as metaphysical the question of its development not only from the
historical, but also from the logical angle. Both these negative premises of positivist
philosophy have led to a number of dramatic conclusions. For instance, Mach not only
discards the absolutes of Newtons mechanics, for which he had good reason, but also
declares himself against the atomic theory. Accepting the theory of relativity and quantum
mechanics, Carnap and Reichenbach interpret them merely as logical devices to systematise
and harmonise sensory experience.
In the notes to his article The Elimination of Metaphysics through Logical Analysis of
Language (1957) Carnap comes out against idealism as a metaphysical tendency. At the
same time, expressing his attitude to metaphysics he writes: This term is used for the field
of alleged knowledge of the essence of things which transcends the realm of empirically
founded, inductive science. Metaphysics in this sense includes systems like those of Fichte,
Schelling, Hegel, Bergson, Heidegger. [1] Carnap is evidently not aware of the fact that
this criticism reaches far beyond his target and hits the theoretical pillars of all modern
science, as well as its material foundation. Reichenbach, on his part, ignores the real
dialectical unity of the corpuscular and wave properties of matter which was not known to
classical physics and which is considered in Bohrs concept of complementarity developed
and elaborated, among others, by Vladimir Fock and his disciples. In his philosophical
discourse on quantum mechanics Reichenbach makes certain assumptions regarding the
terms particle and wave which, in his opinion, are neither true nor false and proposes
a theory of equivalent descriptions according to which both the corpuscular and wave
interpretations are admissible under certain conditions as they say the same thing, merely
using different languages. [2]
The independent existence of objects made no serious problem for the researchers in
classical science. First, their attention was mainly focused on the external side of the
physical world and science was only building up strength to penetrate the hidden
mechanisms of phenomena and processes, the structure of physical bodies, the earths
bowels, the intricate heredity carriers and the laws of cosmic processes. Second, the notions
expressing the properties of objects and phenomena under observation differed but little .
from current everyday concepts. Third, the distorting influence of the researcher on objects
and phenomena under investigation was incommensurate, even in terms of energy alone,
with real processes in nature and could not therefore affect to any appreciable degree the
course or direction of these processes. Finally, progress in scientific cognition was very
slow and scientific concepts and theories were not subject to rapid change, at least on a
historical scale. Knowledge accumulated and grew in scope without any serious

breakdowns. Revolutionary changes in science were regarded by scientists themselves as

something quite out of the ordinary.
Positivism as a philosophical teaching was a typical product of its time, though it was not
destined to have a long life. As physics and other sciences were passing on from
macroscopic objects familiar to man from his everyday experience to the inner structure of
matter, the problem of objectivity was acquiring essentially new scope and dimensions.
Scientific notions were more departing from the ideal of sensual certitude, observability.
Particularly heavy was the blow delivered on the principle of sensual certitude by the
discovery of electron and other microparticles at the end of the 19th century.
The crisis in physics at the turn of the century was regarded as crisis of all former scientific
ideals, including the ideal of objective knowledge and, consequently, as a crisis of
materialism. The fact that objects under investigation could be observed no longer was used
by positivist philosophy not for revising its mistaken views, but for confusing the issue,
namely, for rejecting the idea of any reality beyond the limits of sensory experience.
Incidentally, it is precisely this philosophy clinging to the obsolete ideals of empirical
science that bears responsibility for the survival of the dogmas of metaphysical materialism
in natural sciences till the end of the 19th centurythe dogmas which had been discredited
and buried by dialectical materialism half a century earlier.
If objective reality is only what is observable, the task and the function of theory consist
merely in finding as yet unknown observable and measurable objects proceeding from the
available sensory experience and taking into account the body of mathematics. In this case
theory does not play any independent role and its function is confined to purely logical
analysis leading a scientist from one sensory experience to another.
The obvious implication of this approach is that a non-classical theory should be free from
any new notions, i.e. notions having any new physical meaning, new objective content. A
physical theory is merely a new logical means to systematise the observable.
Quantum mechanics, however, proved to be not only far removed from the ideals of
positivismit was a direct challenge to it, despite some temporary rapprochement between
them regarding the principles of causality and objectivity which ended in a complete
alienation, evidently final. The positivists regarded quantum mechanics as an expression of
experience or its elements connected by formal logical means. By contrast, Bohrs aim was
rather to find out the conditions making experience possible, i.e. its necessary premises.
The so-called Copenhagen interpretation is often associated with the assertion that the
non-existent cannot be observable. Its essence, however, will be more accurately summed
up in this statement: the observable is definitely existent, the nonobservable allows of
certain suppositions.
The purpose of research in classical physics was to establish definite phenomena taking
place in space and time and to investigate laws determining the course of processes. A
problem was considered solved if the researcher succeeded in proving that a process did
take place in space and time. The method whereby the process had been cognised, the
observations which had made it possible to ascertain its existence experimentally were

absolutely immaterial. In the quantum theory the physicist is faced with an entirely
different situation. The very fact that the mathematical scheme of quantum mechanics is not
a graphic representation of processes taking place in space and time shows that it can only
permit calculating the probability of one or another result of an experiment based on the
experimental knowledge of the previous state of the atom system, in so far as the latter has
not been subjected to any other disturbances except those needed by the experimentalists
themselves. Even a most complete set of experimental conditions cannot give more than a
mere probability of the result expected in the next experiment on the system. To the
positivists it was a sure sign that any objectivity of the processes in interest was entirely out
of the question. Each observation led to a certain discrete change of the mathematical
values characterising the atomic process and, consequently, to a discrete change of the
physical phenomenon itself. In contrast to the classical theory, where the method of
observation was immaterial for the process under investigation, in the quantum theory the
disturbance produced by each observation of atom phenomena plays a decisive role.
Further, since any observation can only be summed up in probability statements as regards
the results of later observations, the account of the essentially uncontrollable disturbance
component must become, according to Bohr, a decisive factor in constructing a quantum
theory free from contradictions.
As distinct from positivism in general or, at least, from its most radical (or most naive)
versions, Bohr did not consider sensory data to be elementary entities. What he called
phenomena could only be defined within a broader context of reality. This reality as the
context of experience could be set by concepts performing the role of definite conditions or
premises of classical physics. Bohr usually meant two such conditions: spatial-time
description and causality which were only compatible within the classical model of events.
In his opinion, the discovery of the quantum of action had led to a break between them and
to the adoption of the principle of complementarity of descriptions.
Things being as they were, Bohr and a number of his followers made an attempt to combine
the object of observations, the measuring apparatus and the observer into a single quantummechanical system and thus to eliminate uncertainty. In his speech on receiving a Nobel
prize, Werner Heisenberg said that classical physics was the kind of aspiration for the
knowledge of nature in which scientists strove to make conclusions on objective processes
proceeding in fact from their sensations and refusing to take into account the influences of
all observations on the object being observed. Quantum mechanics, on the contrary,
obtained the possibility of considering atomic processes by partly refusing to objectivise
them and describe in terms of space and time.
Despite the controversies lasting many years this interpretation known as the
Copenhagen approach has not yet completely lost its grip on the minds of philosophers
and physicists many of whom are still inclined to think that by breaking with the traditions
of classical science quantum mechanics has opened up a new epoch. Quantum
mechanics, writes, for instance, J. A. Wheeler, has led us to take seriously and explore
the ... view that the observer is as essential to the creation of the universe as the universe is
to the creation of the observer... Unless the blind dice of mutation and natural selection lead
to life and consciousness and observership at some point down the road, the universe could
not have come into being in the first place; ... there would be nothing rather

than something. [3] Hence, quantum mechanics provides a new point of reference for
understanding all events in the universe, including its emergence in the form which
engendered our life itself. Reality, according to Wheeler, can no longer be regarded as
independent of the observer.
Eugene Wigner, too, is inclined to share the opinion that quantum mechanics deals with
nothing else but measurements or observations. He maintains that the equations of
movement both in classical and quantum mechanics do not describe reality but are merely
instruments to calculate the probability of certain results of observations. His opinion is in
full conformity with the positivist views that the observation becomes fulfilled when
the observers consciousness is brought into play and that not a single system has any
definite measurement attributes of its ownthey appear only as a result of the very process
of measurement or simultaneously with it. In this connection Wigner writes: It is the
entering of an impression into our consciousness which alters the wave function because it
modifies our appraisal of the probabilities for different impressions which we expect to
receive in the future. It is at this point that the consciousness enters the theory unavoidably
and unalterably. If one speaks in terms of the wave function, its changes are coupled with
the entering of impressions into our consciousness. [4] There is nothing surprising,
according to Wigner, in that idealism provides the most relevant representation of the
world. Even if it were possible to exclude the observer (or sensations) from the analysis of
a quantum-mechanical situation, it would be necessary, in Wigners opinion, to project him
Indeed, observation and measurement are important requisites for the construction of
quantum mechanics. The admission of this fact, however, leaves open the question of the
relations between the components of this unity the system, the instrument and the
observer. Wigners method reduces the first two to the last one. The independent existence
of physical objects is called in question. To be sure, Wigner does not aver that
consciousness creates its images in absolute vacuum or that physical theories are products
of immaterial elements. His viewpoint, rather, consists in that scientific research is limited
to the sphere of actually existing, i.e. observable, events. Wigner does not simply repeat the
arguments of Machist philosophy but goes further making the object more and more
dependent on observation. This view leads, in fact, to the elimination of the positivist
concept of system-instrument unity in favour of the logical primacy of the observer.
As a result, reality becomes the world of experience or the empirical world. Modern
physicist S. W. Hawking goes even as far as asserting the existence of some impenetrable
curtain which completely shuts out everything that lies behind it. In his opinion,
gravitational collapse sets an obvious barrier to scientific cognition which can hardly be
expected to be overcome even in the distant future. The thing is that the inner state of the
black hole is, according to theoretical calculation, unobservable in principle. Hence,
gravitation provides an example of uncertainty regarding the existence of real objects,
which is even of a higher order than the uncertainty in quantum mechanics. Recalling
Einsteins winged words God does not play dice in his well-known controversy with
Bohr, the author even attempts to strengthen Bohrs arguments. In his opinion, God not
only plays dice, he sometimes throws the dice where they cannot be seen. [5]

Another threat to the objectivity of scientific knowledge comes from the probability
interpretation of the so-called -function. According to Bohr, the wave and corpuscular
theories of microparticles need not necessarily be contradictory in reality despite their
conceptual incompatibility. Both theories are equally important for the physical reality,
each covering a definite type of situations, and consequently, are complementary.
Proceeding from this viewpoint, some physicists and philosophers came to the conclusion
that the -function is a wave function representing the density of probability and,
consequently, is merely a mental projection of theory on a physical situation.
In point of fact, nothing but the form of mathematical equations makes it possible to treat a
particle as a certain density of probability which can represent it in an experiment. The
function provides but a partial description of physical reality and, besides, merges the
object and the subject into a single whole. Though, according to Heisenberg, we can
separate them temporarily in different specific situations, they can never be completely
detached from each other. [6]
Erwin Schrodinger contends that one can hardly assert the existence of waves in nature if
probability is their characteristic feature. In his opinion, one can only speak of the
probability of an event if one believes that it does occur now and then. If the probability
function does not describe any physical reality in an experiment it definitely does not give
any information on what takes place between two experiments.
As we see, some of the above arguments boil down to the assertion that what is not
observable cannot be accepted by science. Others emphasise the fact that wave is the only
form of quantum movement in space, which is attested to by such physical phenomena as
interference, diffraction and others. Since waves represent nothing but probability, doubt is
cast on the existence of particles in the period between the experiments ascertaining their
It should be noted that the above viewpoint leaves out of account two important
circumstances. First, any experimental set is a macrosystem. Analysing the results of
experiments, a physicist cannot but proceed from certain laws governing physical
phenomena. As a rule, he does not have to resort to probability functions. Second, the idea
of the inseparable unity of the subject and the object reflects the simple fact that dynamic
and spatial parameters cannot be defined simultaneously in a single experiment. Indeed,
certainty can only be attained within definite limits. This fact, however, gives no grounds at
all for a conclusion that the unity of the object and the subject is inseparable in general.
Besides, even if particles do appear in the course of an experiment only, as is the case with
excited vacuum (virtual particles), probability as a state is no less objective than actuality.
From the viewpoint of the positivist interpretation of physical reality the very idea of such
objectivity is bound to look preposterous indeed.
The real obstacle confronting the experimentalist and preventing him from
accurately defining the parameters of a moving particle consists at present in the objective
and glaring contradiction between the absense of any system capable of emanating or
absorbing less than one quantum of energy, on the one hand, and the inevitability of the

exchange of energy, however negligible, between the instrument and the object in any
measurement or experiment, on the other. As regards the microworld, where one quantum
of action and the object under measurement are commensurate, any process of
measurement will cause a substantial change in the state of the object. All that does not
prove, however, that the existence of the object in microphysics is completely dependent on
the subject.
It stands to reason that the observability of an object as such does not provide a solid
ground for scientific cognition. The progress of theoretical research and particularly
quantum mechanics and the theory of relativity, have revealed the inadequacy and
limitations of observation as a method of cognition to the positivists themselves. The
development of theoretical science has enhanced the danger of solipsism which was evident
even to the Machists way back in the late 19th century. The very fact that quantum
mechanics and the theory of relativity appear to be equally meaningful to different people
irrespective of their nationality and ideological affiliation has called for a considerable
extension of the notion of objectivity. From the methodological viewpoint, the philosophers
of science have begun to attach ever growing significance to Humes old idea that the focus
of attention should be shifted from the observation of individual phenomena to the regular
repetition of events, their regular concomitance or sequence. A separate experiment can
neither confirm, nor refute a hypothesisit takes a whole series or succession of
observations. Philipp Frank, a representative of late logical positivism, wrote: A single
experiment can only refute a theory if we mean by theory a system of specific statements
with no allowance for modification. But what is actually called a theory in science is
never such a system... Therefore, no crucial experiment can refute any such theories. [7]
From this it follows that one of the main requirements to an experiment is its
reproducibility at different times and in different parts of the universe.
What is the purpose of this methodological principle leading to the denial of the decisive
role of experiments in science? Its aim is to replace the criterion of observability by the
criterion of inter subjectiveverification of knowledge. As a result, objectivity becomes
equivalent to intersubjectivity. Solipsism can be avoided (without resorting, like Berkeley,
to God) by recognising at least the existence of other people. But this is not all, of course. It
must also be postulated that people are alike everywhere, consequently, the reality
constructed by them will also be similar everywhere. Contrary to common sense which
accepts only one physical world, the emphasis on the subject who is the architect of reality
leads to a tempting idea that different scientific theories and, consequently, their authors
represent different worlds which they themselves construct. To avoid absolute relativism
ensuing from this concept, it is necessary to show additionally how one experience can be
compared with another, i.e. to solve the problem of their mutual correction. Naturally
enough, subjective experience may fail to tally with what is regarded true by common
consent. Let us consider at least one of the answers to this question proposed by Max Born
which is sufficiently typical of all attempts of the positivists to find a way out of a difficult
situation without forfeiting their main dogmas.
Expounding his views, Born describes a conversation with his cousin who asked him a
puzzling question way back in his school years: What do you mean exactly when you call
this leaf, here, green or the sky, there, blue? Dissatisfied with Borns reference to the

impressions of other people who all saw green and blue like he did, the cousin said: There
are colourblind people who see the colours differently; some of them, for example, cannot
distinguish red and green. [8]
The answer to this question appeared to be far from simple and the question itself was
evidently not at all as superfluous as it had seemed at first to Born, if he deemed it
necessary to return to it time and again in his declining years. Moreover, Born admitted that
he had found the meaning of this question even more profound after he had got acquainted
with the classical answers to it given by Kant, Russell, Mach, and Hume. Assessing
the positivist doctrine alongside those of other philosophical schools he was to some degree
familiar with, Born wrote: In the most radical interpretation this theory means a denial of
the existence of an external world, or at least the negation of its knowability. In practical
life a follower of this doctrine would hardly behave as if there were no external world. [9]
Born, however, does not accept the materialist view either. In his opinion, dialectical
materialism has so broadened the concept of matter that its initial meaning has been
completely lost and the concept itself has become too far removed from concrete problems
of physics. The existence of the real, objective, knowable world, according to Born, has
turned into a sanctified creed.
Born offers his own solution to the problem of objectivity of knowledge. In his opinion, the
impossibility to prove the objective existence of green leaves and the blue sky is rooted in
the attempt to reach an agreement on a single sensory impression. Such a task, according to
Born, is nonsensical. Objective knowledge can only be reached by obtaining the
perceptions of two communicable impressions which lend themselves to intersubjective
verification. The equality or inequality of such impressions can already be ascertained quite
definitely. Born lays special emphasis on the communicability of impressions. One person
cannot give an adequate description of his sensations which he experiences when looking at
a green leaf, but two persons together can come to an agreement regarding the colour of the
leaf they observe.
Objectivity is thus reduced to the equality of impressions. An important means of
comparing impressions is a symbol, i.e. a visual or a sound signal the exact form of which
is not important what matters is the information conveyed by this symbol. One and the
same set of data can be represented by different signals. Symbols performing the function
of data carriers during intercourse between individuals are of decisive importance in
attaining objective knowledge.
The process of cognition is visualised by Born as follows. A child assimilates language as
the totality of symbols and learns to correlate them with one another. It is worth noting that
Born does not speak of the correlation between symbols and the objective world, but of the
correlation between different symbols with definite meanings. Hence, given the ability to
manipulate symbols, the measurement of heat intensity can be presented as the process of
correlation of the sensation of heat with a geometrical value (the height of the mercury
column in a thermometer). Learning provides man with a dictionary and enables him to
correlate sensations through the agency of thermometer readings, i.e. to correlate his
sensations with other peoples sensations. Similarly, chemistry teaches people to correlate

different substances with a combination of symbols denoting elementary basic components

(atoms). By correlating atomic weights with the symbols of elements one can learn the
corresponding molecular weights, whereas the correlation of valency with the symbols of
atoms makes it possible to forecast the results of chemical reactions.
Such correspondence of sense data (perceptions and the corresponding symbols) is
established, according to Born, in all spheres of experience. Born notes the existence and
coincidence of structures which are identified with the help of the sense organs and
indicates that the corresponding impressions can be passed from one individual to another.
He is even inclined to call these structures after Kant things-in-themselves. Physical
formulae and systems of equations need not necessarily symbolise what is known from
experience and what can be visualised. Yet Born is convinced that all these formulae are
deduced from experience through abstraction and a continuous process of experimental test.
For the sake of objectivity, the scientists should describe the essence of their abstract
formulae in the plain language, using self-evident notions. Yet modern science, according to
Born, cannot avoid subjectivity, no matter how hard the scientists may try to do so. On the
whole, Borns interpretation of the complementarity principle falls in line with the
principles of the Copenhagen school: a scientist is free to choose the experimental
apparatus which is to be used in his experiment. However, the selection of the apparatus
determines the picture of reality. Thus a subjective trend, writes Born, is reintroduced
into physics and cannot be eliminated. Another loss of objectivity is due to the fact that the
theory makes only probability predictions, which produce graded expectations. [10]
As we see, Born in fact substitutes the process of tuition and learning for the cognition of
reality. He proceeds from an already existing system of knowledge which enables the
individual experience of every man to be harmonised. This approach implies that individual
experiences are identical and therefore do not need any comparison, elaboration and
correction of their content. It is quite sufficient to correlate the symbols denoting one or
another totality of impressions. Such a model has in fact nothing in common with the real
process of scientific cognition which aims first and foremost at investigating new, unknown
phenomena, but not at harmonising and systematising individual experiences with the help
of an arbitrarily selected aggregate of symbols described by Born.
Of course, the communicative aspect of scientific cognition is in itself an interesting
philosophical problem, but it should not overshadow the essence of scientific cognition.
Criticising Mach for his attempts to reduce the world to sense perceptions and the scientific
theory to a means for establishing logical links between sense perceptions, Born is in fact
very close to positivism in his understanding of the process of cognition. The world lying
beyond phenomena indeed remains for Born something like the Kantian thing-in-itself
which is not amenable to any determination. As a result, the problems of truth, of the
certitude of knowledge and of the means for improving incomplete and inaccurate
knowledge become superfluous. No reason whatsoever is given for the identity of our
perceptions of reality, except for the reference to the selected system of symbols and to an
agreement on their meaningssuch identity is the more strange as the subjective
perceptions of different people vary to a considerable extent and as there are no similar

people with equal abilities for perception, equal personal experiences, equal interests and
equal stocks of knowledge, let alone many important personal qualities.
The investigation of these problems has long since transcended the bounds of physical
science, though the problems themselves have not become any easier for that reason. On
the contrary in such fields as chemistry, biology, the psychology of public opinion, and
others where the possibilities for observation are limited, it has proved even more difficult
to explain how subjective knowledge can be turned into objective knowledge, verifiable
and applicable for practical purposes as it is. To save the principle of objectivity in these
fields on the basis of empiricism, the philosophy of science had but one way out onlyto
sacrifice its traditional phenomenalist approach in favour of physicalism. This did not
mean, however, a complete break with traditions, since the philosophical thinking of the
positivists has always been characteristic of a peculiar symbiosis of both the phenomenalist
and the physicalist approaches. Whereas the philosophers advocating phenomenalist
analysis contended that sensory experience was the basis of knowledge from the
epistemological viewpoint and that the statements expressing such experience formed the
language of all meaningful propositions, the physicalists believed that the foundation of all
knowledge was the observation of material things and that the statements of observation
made the core of the language which was used for expressing the meaningful propositions
of cognitive value. Carnap, for one, represented both these tendencies in different
periods of his life. Siding up first with the phenomenological branch of positivism, he
became later one of the most persistent and, perhaps, most profound expounders of the
second branch too. As a result of the evolution of his views, Carnap became, willy-nilly, an
instrument for a considerable deflation of the initial claims of physicalism, though the latter
has not lost its ground completely till nowadays.
For later-time Carnap, the foundation of knowledge is not irrefutable statements, as he
believed earlier, but statements which underlie any scientific investigation and provide a
psychological basis of cognition not only for a scientist, but also for any individual in
general. It is these initial statements that can be connected intersubjectively with other
statements and therefore make the objective foundation of knowledge. Carnaps radical
physicalism boils down to the assertion that all meaningful statements can be connected in
one way or another with a statement of the type: the temperature in this place varies within
5 to 10 C. According to Carnap, the statements of such sciences as biology, chemistry,
geology, etc. can be reduced to physical notions because the type of determinism prevailing
in these sciences can be reduced to physical determinism. All laws of nature, he writes,
including those which hold for organisms, human beings, and human societies, are logical
consequences of the physical laws, i.e. of those laws, which are needed for the explanation
of inorganic processes. [11] For instance, the notion of impregnation can be interpreted in
terms of merger of sperm and ovum accompanied by some redistribution of elements.
Similarly, psychological knowledge, in Carnaps opinion, can be reduced to physical
knowledge. Thus, a statement to the effect that somebody has been very angry at 10 a.m.
today can be translated without any detriment to the scientific value of this statement into
the language of physics by stating that the persons breathing and pulse have quickened, the
muscles have strained, etc. True, Carnap concedes that this reduction may perhaps fail to
provide a clear idea of the laws underlying impregnation in the first case, and the emotional
process, in the second. Making this concession, Carnap does not concern himself about the

nature of the impregnation process or the individuals inner world. He views the problem
from the angle of verbal descriptions only. If such descriptions prove to be impossible for
some reason or other, there can be no question of attaining intersubjectivity, i.e. the
objectivity of biological and psychological phenomena as they are understood by different
In turn, the correctness of the initial statements of observation is made by Carnap
contingent on the extent of agreement between the sense data of different observers. If the
sense data of each of the observers are consistent with the interpretation of the indications
of a certain apparatus designed to fulfil a given task, it means that the initial statements
required to form a scientific proposition have passed the test for viability.
True, intersubjective observability has certain advantages over the phenomenologic
language from the standpoint of the development of scientific knowledge. Nevertheless,
one can hardly take seriously the attempt, to construct all sciences, psychology and social
disciplines including, on the basis of physics, arid expect all theoretical concepts and laws
to be derived from physical concepts and laws. Being aware of the weakness of his
position, Carnap later proposed several modified variants of the physicalist programme
limiting it, for instance, to the reduction of all descriptive terms in the languages of
different sciences to terms denoting sensuously perceived properties of things. In his
opinion, the class of observable material predicates can provide a reliable basis for the
reduction of all statements and for language integrity. For instance, the ability to be
dissolved in water is revealed and confirmed by the observation of the fact of dissolution.
It was a significant moderation of Carnaps initial stand, as the sphere of observable
empirical and dispositional predicates is markedly broader than the .sphere of terms
expressing our sense data in purely physical parameters. Finally, in one of his latest works
entitledPhilosophical Foundations of Physics Carnap beats a further retreat and confines
himself to a mere recommendation of a very general character, an admonition rather than an
injunction, advising the scientists to base their language on the language of physics
wherever possible. This is all that remained of his formerly uncompromising physicalism.
Of certain interest in this context is also the position of Ernst Nagel, one of the latest and
sufficiently radical adherents of the physicalist principle of reductibility. Like all other
philosophers siding with the modern philosophy of science and upholding some essential
traditions of positivism, Nagel sees the meaningfulness of empirical statements in their
connection with direct observation, considering logical links between them chiefly formal
or linguistic. In his opinion, a theory can only be meaningful if its statements relate to
potentially observable things and do not run counter to its principles. He denies
meaningfulness to those statements which have no empirical confirmation. According to
Nagel, the data of experience, observation statements and logical links play each their
special role in the process of cognition.
Nagel maintains that any attempt to base the knowledge of physical facts on sensory data is
doomed to failure. If the whole edifice of science were built on direct sensory experience,
knowledge would never go beyond its limits.

Nagel contends that our knowledge includes objective facts, but not simple sensory data or
some of their complexes localised in the sphere of sensory experience. It is only after
investigation and by no means before it that we can claim the possession of sensory data.
Investigation alone enables us to assert that the earth is round and that President Roosevelt
remained in office longer than his predecessors.
In Nagels opinion, the objectivity of our knowledge does not lead to metaphysical realism.
He supports the view of some other physicalists that the doctrine whereby all statements on
directly observable objects can be translated into the so-called physicalist language should
be replaced by semantic realism in which non-observable objects are represented by a
system of nomological statements.
According to Nagel, in proposing the reduction of one theory to another we implicitly
proceed from the assumption that there exist some methods to demonstrate the deducibility
of one theory from another. In reductions of the sort so far mentioned, Nagel writes, the
laws of the secondary science employ no descriptive terms that are not also used with
approximately the same meanings in the primary science. Reductions of this type can
therefore be regarded as establishing deductive relations between two sets of statements
that employ a homogeneous vocabulary. [12] Nagel admits that the secondary science
sometimes includes notions which are absent from the primary science.
Understandably, positivist physicalism is directed against openly idealistic concepts which
not only fail to provide adequate answers to acute theoretical questions, but in every way
hamper the development of modern science. The biologists, for instance, can hardly be
encouraged in their investigations by philosophical doctrines explaining all the processes in
living organisms by the operation of mysterious immaterial agents such as entelechy or the
vital force which do not yield to any rational determination or even description. Central to
all these doctrines from Emil Dubois-Reymonds time till nowadays has been the idea of
blessed ignoranceignoramus et ignorabimus. A prominent biologist Konrad Lorenz says
in his book The Reverse of the Mirror that this view not only acts as a brake on scientific
progress, but is also one of the gravest errors having a dire consequencea doubt about the
reality of the external world. [13] Lorenz deplores the belatedness of his enlightenment and
notes that the practical problems of medicine and natural science have made him an
opponent of idealism. This materialist tendency of modern science causes many biologists
to turn their eyes to philosophical materialism.
Confessions of this kind are not exceptions with prominent representatives of modern
biology. Another well-known biologist, Francisco Ayala, makes this significant statement:
The goal of science is the systematic organization of knowledge about the universe on the
basis of explanatory principles that are genuinely testable. [14] The reappraisal of values is
characteristic not only of modern biology. Idealism is being subjected to devastating
criticism in many works on the physiology of higher nervous activity, on neuropsychology,
neurophysiology, etc.
Contrary to idealistic theories of knowledge the latest investigations in biology and
psychology provide convincing evidence that human thinking is not entirely autonomous.
Viewed from both the psychological and epistemological angles, it represents the ability of

highly organised living systems to reflect, i.e. to cognise, the external world and
How does this materialistic tendency reveal itself in the modern philosophy of science?
Several trends are in evidence here. The beaten track for the adherents of this philosophy is
to restrict the problem of objectivity to the problem of observation and accumulation of
empirical data. Since the observation of intimate biological processes is identified by many
scientists with the analysis of their physical manifestations, their materialism not
infrequently borders on physicalism. When it comes to the analysis of new phenomena,
particularly in biology, psychology and sociology, the researchers seek in the first place to
trace them to the operation of physical or chemical mechanisms. Naturally enough, it is the
only way to transfer many biological, psychological, social, demographic and other
processes to the sphere of the observable. Carnap writes that the physical language is
universal. This is the thesis of physicalism. If the physical language on the grounds of its
universality were adopted as the system language of science, all science would become
physics. The various domains of science would become parts of unified science. According
to Carnap, the laws of psychology are special cases of physical laws holding in inorganic
physics as well. Identifying all materialism with its mechanistic trend, Carnap believes that
the materialist system corresponds to the viewpoint of the empirical sciences, since in this
system all concepts are reduced to the physical. [15]
It is common knowledge that molecular genetics and molecular biology owe their
achievements to modern physics and chemistry. Physico-chemical investigations have
enabled scientists to make the greatest discoveries in modern geneticsto reveal the
molecular structure of DNA (desoxyribonucleic acid) as the carrier of genetic information
and to define the role of nucleic acids, their molecular and sub-molecular structures, in
heredity. These epoch-making achievements of molecular genetics and molecular biology
have given a new impetus to the mechanistic doctrine and mechanistic reductionism
according to which all life processes and properties of living organisms, as well as the
origin and evolution of living matter can be explained with the help of physico-chemical
investigations of microstructures and microprocesses in living organisms.
The history of science shows that the ideas stimulating scientific investigations in their
initial stage do not always prove beneficial for the subsequent progress of science. The
inception of molecular biology was indeed marked by the influence of the physicalist
paradigm. Noting this fact, E. N. Lightfoot, however, seeks to perpetuate it: in his opinion,
the investigations in molecular biology have been based on the view that living organisms
are subjected to the same laws as inanimate objects and can be denoted by terms
corresponding to these laws. Now, says Ayer, he holds the same view, though on a higher
level of complexity and comprehension.
This mechanistic approach has been expressed in a most uncompromising form by the
discoverers of the molecular structure of DNA, John Watson and Francis Crick. In one of
his lectures in 1966, Crick declared that the ultimate goal of the modern development of
biology was explanation of all biological phenomena on the basis of achievements in

physical and chemical sciences. In his opinion, there were very good reasons for that. The
revolution in physics in the mid-1920s provided a solid theoretical basis for chemistry and
for the corresponding departments of physics. According to Crick, it would not be
presumptuous to assert that the quantum theory and the available empirical knowledge in
chemistry provide at present a no less reliable foundation for the construction of biological
Cricks reference to quantum rather than to classical mechanics is indicative of a new trend
in the modern doctrine of physicalism. Nevertheless, the essence of this doctrine does not
change as before, it represents a tendency to express biological phenomena, processes
and laws in the physico-chemical language.
Taking exception to organicism and holism one of the representatives of this trend
Jacques Monod writes: Some philosophical schools (all of them being consciously or
unconsciously under Hegels influence) are known to contest the significance of analytical
approach to such complex systems as living beings. According to these schools (organicists
or holists) which rise from ashes like Phoenix with every new generation, the analytical
approach qualified as reductionist has always been sterile since it tends to reduce, purely
and simply, the properties of extremely complex organisations to a mechanical aggregate of
the properties of their parts. Harmful and useless is any argument with holists which
testifies to nothing but their utter ignorance regarding the scientific method and the
essential part played in it by analysis. [16]
Monod also rejects the general theory of systems [17] and any dialectical description [18]
of living organisms. According to Monod, the cell is indeed a machine which defies any
dialectical description. In its essence it is not Hegelian, but Cartesian. According to
Kenneth Schaffner, regarded to be a typical representative of modern mechanistic
reductionism and physicalism, the discovery of Watson and Crick also contributes to a
general development towards a complete chemical explanation of biological organisms and
processes and substantiates the view that genetics, and other biological sciences, are
reduced to physics and chemistry. [19]
It is noteworthy, however, that while repeating the familiar propositions of radical
mechanistic reductionism in relation to living organisms and biological science, Schaffner
is forced to make reservations after each of his statements thereby confirming the
irreducibility of biological phenomena to physico-chemical ones. Schaffners views are
apparently anti-vitalistic and anti-idealistic. He cannot but admit qualitative distinctions
between the living organisms and the dead nature, yet he persists in his mechanistic
reductionism as he sees no alternative to it except for the idealistic doctrine which he does
not accept.
The crisis of biological chemism and mechanistic reductionism in modern biology is at the
same time the crisis of neopositivistic physicalism, the logico-empirical analysis of
science, whose representatives from Otto Neurath, Rudolf Carnap and Percy W.
Bridgeman to Rudolf B. Braithwaite, M. Brodbeck and Carl G. Hempel have invariably
pursued one and the same aim, viz. to reduce the biological to the physical.

Until recently the neopositivistic philosophy of science was predominantly the

philosophy of physics and made no serious attempts to apply its logico-empirical analysis
to biology. However, the gap has started filling up. The most important contribution in
this direction appears to be Michael Ruses book The Philosophy of Biology, which is
remarkable, for one, in that it convincingly shows the difficulties facing the positivists in
their attempts to apply the logicoempirical analysis of science, i.e. physical reductionism, to
biology. Ruse is out to prove that such application is possible. He stresses, for instance, that
there are now no theoretical barriers in the way of a Nagelian-type reduction and that there
are obvious signposts about how this should be done, as that such a reduction has been
rigorously accomplished... It is only after this development that the physico-chemical and
the biological came into harmony, opening the way for a reduction, or at least, for a
possible reduction. [20]
Ruse obviously strives for a consistent implementation of the logico-empiricist, i.e.
positivist, approach to the present problems of biology and to the future of biological
science. At the same time he is aware of the appeal of organicism to the biologists and
admits that many branches of biological science, such as systematics and palaeontology
seek to develop their own theories, genuinely biological, without resorting to molecularbiological, i.e. essentially physical, explanations. He regards such trends as transient
phenomena and expresses a hope that biology would ultimately take the course of
reductionism and translate its theories into the language of physics and chemistry. In his
opinion, the existing state of affairs can only be explained by the stubborn reluctance of
prominent modern biologists to join the new school of molecularbiological reductionism.
In positivist philosophy empiricism as the criterion of the objectivity of knowledge is
inseparably linked with reductionism. Epistemological reductionism tending to reduce all
scientific knowledge to its empirical basis was supplemented by theoretical reductionism
which revealed itself in persistent attempts to translate all the wealth of accumulated
knowledge together with its theoretical explanations in the language of physics. From the
viewpoint of logic, this transition is understandable: the laws of physics permit
experimental checks of theoretical propositions making them testable. Hence, theoretical
reductionism leads to and finds its logical expression in physicalism. The language used in
the description of physical objects appears to be natural, too, since it is the first language
of man starting to master the external world. The type of experience expressed in this
language precedes chronologically, psychologically and even logically other types
expressed in other languages, the phenomenological one inclusive.
The fallacy of this stand is not hard to expose. The perception of physical objects by man at
an early stage of his development is indeed natural and goes side by side with the mastery
of the physical world. Yet this experience in the childs development is preceded by more
primitive forms of perception, such as the perceptions of colours, smells and tastes which
are very different with the infant from modern physical notions. Besides, the development
of man does not stop at perceptions and his growing knowledge of the external world
extending to the animal kingdom, thinking and psychological processes, the sphere of
social phenomena such as the relations of production, freedom, solidarity, etc. can by no
means be squeezed into the physicalist paradigm.

Seeking to substantiate their doctrine, the adepts of physicalism also refer to the
intersubjectivity of the language of observable physical phenomena as its characteristic
feature. In their opinion, this feature accounts for the fact that it is much easier to ascertain
the objectivity of one or another scientific proposition through physical reduction than
through phenomenalistic analysis. Hence, they make the objectivity of knowledge
contingent on the possibility of its intersubjective expression, i.e. on the community of
notions and their usability with different people and different scientific quarters. In turn,
intersubjectivity is made contingent on the possibility of reducing this knowledge
to physical terms. Such a concept of the objectivity of knowledge is far removed from the
materialistic concept identifying objectivity with independence from man and his
consciousness in general, particularly if we take into account that most physical terms
except those testable by direct sensory experience are considered conventional.
True, the language of physics provides a basis for intersubjective certainty in the sense that
it does not deal with abstract sensory data or even perceptions, but reflects universal or
general, recurrent, stable and therefore regularly observable phenomena, which is in full
accord with the requirements of scientific cognition. Yet the requirements of universality
and recurrence, being important as they are, do not yet ensure the objectivity of knowledge.
Such physicalist views suggest the idea that intersubjectivity is characteristic not only of
objects under observation, but of the observations themselves. Hence, they may be
considered final in the analysis of epistemological problems. Here is, so to speak, a
feedback linkfrom theoretical reductionism back to epistemological reductionism. One
strengthens the other. Yet all observations, no matter how complete they may be and
whatever their objects, remain, from the standpoint of the theory of knowledge, the
perceptions of individuals.
The language of physics is incapable of providing the intersubjective basis for science in
general and for scientific epistemology, in particular, if only for the fact that it constitutes a
smaller part of our language and that the perceptions of physical facts are not more
important indeed, they can sometimes be even less importantthan the perceptions of
biological or psychological phenomena, since the perception of the physical world is
inconceivable outside the human brain. Another weakness of the physicalist programme
which becomes ever more obvious with the advance of science ensues from the growing
differentiation of physical science itself. A question, naturally, arises: where is the limit of
the reduction process? Do we have to reduce biological, psychical and social phenomena to
the physics of the macroworld? Or to molecular physics-chemistry? Or to the atomic level?
Suppose, we adopt the physicalist doctrine and stop at the atomic level. But what about the
future? What if the world of the electron or some other elementary particle indeed opens
into infinity? One can only be sorry for a philosophy which will attempt to shut the door in
the face of a new generation of scientists.
Expounding some of the weaknesses of the physicalist doctrine mentioned above, many
philosophers propose, in fact, to go back where positivism has started. All their ardent
criticism thus turns out to be merely aimed at reinstating the phenomenologic approach (we
leave aside here the numerous pluralistic versions of the combination of the empirical and
the theoretical, the physical and the mental, etc.). Yet the unsuccessful attempts to reduce
the mental to the physical, the biological to the chemical, the theoretical to the empirical,

etc. do not mean that biology is doomed to stay forever in the cradle and content itself with
exclusively empirical approach. Nor does it mean that the irreducible residue of biology
which could not be rationalised by physics and made part of respectable science should
always remain purely empirical.
The dialectical synthesis of the achievements of phenomenological analysis, be it in
biology, psychology, social sciences or elsewhere, with the results of consistent and rational
reduction is the only path to a new theory, a new theoretical fundamental discipline
destined to turn biology, sociology, etc. into independent sciences which will not confine
themselves, on the one hand, to the superficial description of phenomena, too specific in
their external manifestations to be reduced to coarse physical terms, and will not dissolve,
on the other hand, in physical notions degrading to a commonplace.
There has been growing evidence of late that biology, psychology, sociology and other
specific sciences are beginning to turn onto this path and gain independence not as
primitive phenomenological schools, but as full-fledged scientific disciplines. Darwins
phenomenological theory synthesised with the achievements of molecular biology and
genetics exemplifies a solution to the dilemma of reductionism or organicism. The same
path is evidently being taken now by the modern theory of knowledge despite the
predictions of epistemological reductionism. It is emerging as a product of integration of
general epistemological concepts with the results of specific investigations into the nature
of consciousness as such (including the social and historical factors of its development), on
the one hand, and into the neurophysiological mechanisms of conscious and unconscious
activity, on the other. In its advancement new scientific epistemology is casting off both the
phenomenological fetters and the physicalist dogmas.
[1] Rudolf Carnap, The Elimination of Metaphysics through Logical Analysis of
Language, in: Logical Positivism, op. cit., p. 80. [> main text]
[2] Hans Reichenbach, The Direction of Time, University of California Press, Berkeley,
1956, p. 218. [> main text]
[3] J. A. Wheeler, Genesis and Observership, in: Foundational Problems in the Special
Sciences, Ed. by R. E. Butts and J. Hintikka, Dordrecht, 1977, p. 27 ff. [> main text]
[4] E. P. Wigner, Symmetries and Reflections, Bloomington, Indiana, 1967, p. 175. [
> main text]
[5] S. W. Hawking, Breakdown of Predictability in Gravitational Collapse, Physical
Review, Vol. 14, No. 10, 1976, p. 2464. [> main text]
[6] See W. Heisenberg, The Physicists Conception of Nature, London, 1958, pp. 22, 28
29; see also Physics and Philosophy, London, 1959, Ch. III. [> main text]

[7] Philipp Frank, Philosophy of Science, Prentice-Hall, Inc., Englewood Cliffs, N. J.,
1957, p. 31. [> main text]
[8] Max Born, My Life and My Views, Charles Scribners Sons, New York, 1968, pp. 161
62. [> main text]
[9] Ibid., p. 166. [> main text]
[10] Ibid., p. 187. [> main text]
[11] The Philosophy of Rudolf Carnap, Ed. by P. A. Schillp, Open Court, London, 1963,
p. 883. [> main text]
[12] E. Nagel, The Structure of Science, New York, 1961, p. 339. [> main text]
[13] See K. Lorenz, Die Rckseite des Spiegels. Versuch einer Naturgeschichte
menschlicher Erkennens, R. Piper & Co. Verlag, Mnchen, 1975, S. 27. [> main text]
[14] F. J. Ayala, Biology as an Autonomous Science, in: Topics in the Philosophy of
Biology, M. Grene and E. Mendelsohn (eds.), Reidel Publishing Company, Dordrecht,
1976, p. 312. [> main text]
[15] See Logical Positivism, op. cit., pp. 16667, 144. [> main text]
[16] Jacques Monod, Le hasard et la ncessit. Essai sur la philosophic naturelle de la
biologie moderne, Editions du Seuil, Paris, 1970, pp. 9293. [> main text]
[17] Ibid., p. 94. [> main text]
[18] Ibid., pp. 47, 50. [> main text]
[19] K. F. Schaffner, The Watson-Crick Model and Reductionism, The British Journal
for the Philosophy of Science, Vol. 20, No. 4, December 1969, p. 338. [> main text]
[20] M. Ruse, The Philosophy of Biology, Hutchinson & Co. Publishers, Ltd., London,
1973, p. 207


by Igor Naletov
Since the 1920s, when Karl Popper proclaimed his principle of falsification as the basis for
the testability of knowledge and for distinguishing between scientific propositions and

pseudo-science, he has invariably criticised positivist philosophy and its understanding of

objectivity as the observability of events. His arguments against empiricism are serious
enough. Popper maintains, first, that observation is always based on some theoretical
premises and that scientific knowledge, contrary to the positivists, does not start with
sensory data. Hence, the objectivity of knowledge cannot be identified with the
observability of events. Second, the traditional problem of inductive conclusion regarded
by empiricism as the principal argument in favour of the objectivity of a theory is rooted in
Humes error regarding the nature of the scientific method.
However, the true significance of this criticism can only be assessed in the light of Poppers
positive programme. It may appear at first sight that the principles of his epistemology are
indeed radically different from those of positivism. Knowledge, according to Popper,
cannot start from nothingfrom a tabula rasanot yet from observation. Science,
philosophy, rational thought, must all start from common sense. [1]
Yet the main principle of common sense is the faith in the existence of the real world.
Realism which asserts the existence of the world outside and independent of its perception
cannot, in Poppers opinion, be proved or disproved. In other words, it belongs to the
sphere of metaphysics. Realism should be accepted as the only sensible hypothesisas
a conjecture to which no sensible alternative has ever beenoffered. [2] Poppers realism,
however, has little in common with scientific realism or scientific materialism,
particularly in the understanding of objectivity. In Poppers opinion, shared also by
enlightened common sense, realism should be at least tentatively pluralistic. [3] A
rationalist seeks to reduce all the diversity of the world to several fundamental entities or
processes. In Poppers words, Ockhams razor can only be applied after recognising the
plurality of what there is in the world. [4]
As has been indicated earlier, Popper distinguishes three autonomous and relatively
independent worlds noting that the term world is conventional and that there may be
different criteria for their classification. The first world is physical reality, the second
world the subjective knowledge of an individual, and the third world, objective
knowledge as understood by Popper. My first thesis, Popper writes, involves the
existence of two different senses of knowledge or of thought: (1) knowledge or thought in
the subjective sense, consisting of a state of consciousness or a disposition to behave or to
react, and (2) knowledge or thought in an objective sense, consisting of problems, theories,
and arguments as such. Knowledge in this objective sense is totally independent of
anybodys claim to know; it is also independent of anybodys belief, or disposition to
assent; or to assert, or to act. Knowledge in the objective sense is knowledge without a
knower: it is knowledge without a knowing subject. [5] The elements of the third world
comprise, according to Popper, not only theories and ideas, but also problems or problem
situations. By analogy with physical states he also qualifies as the third worlds elements
the states of discussion or the states of critical arguments, as well as information carriers,
i.e. books, magazines, libraries, etc.
It is indicative in itself that Poppers evolution has brought him to the recognition of the
existence of the physical world. Yet the sequence of the worlds as listed above by Popper
does not correspond to their significance in Poppers logic of science. It is not at all the

physical world occupying the first place on Poppers list that constitutes the essence of
scientific knowledge. Nor is the second world, i.e. the world of emotions, sensations and
individual knowledge, of any great significance. In Poppers opinion, it is just because of
its exclusive interest in the subjective knowledge as expressed in everyday phrases I
know or I am thinking that traditional epistemology has lost its influence. It was
concerned with what was not, in fact, scientific knowledge. Popper writes:
For scientific knowledge simply is not knowledge in the sense of the ordinary usage of the
words I know. While knowledge in the sense of I know belongs to what I call the
second world, the world of subjects, scientific knowledge belongs to the third world, to
the world of objective theories, objective problems, and objective arguments. [6] Hence,
the third world or world 3 alone is truly autonomous and objective.
From the epistemological viewpoint this thesis does not offer any new solutions. It only
counters empiricism in that it eliminates the question of the source of knowledge, as the
logic of scientific discovery which is the core of Poppers entire epistemology has no place
for such question. It lies on the other side of the line of demarcation drawn by Popper
between science and metaphysics. Yet even within the narrow limits of the logicotheoretical model of knowledge the concept of the third world gives rise to serious
contradictions. If we analyse the relation of the third world to a concrete discovery or
theory, we are bound to answer at least two questions: first, which element of our
knowledge and at what stage of its maturity is regarded as the initial one? Second, which
elements in a given discovery or theory can be confirmed or disproved by an experiment?
Popper gives in fact no answer to the second question. As regards the first one, the answer
is as follows: the selection of the initial, basic propositions is a conventional one. Popper
does not deny the connection of basic propositions with experience. In The Logic
of Scientific Discovery he writes that a decision to adopt a basic proposition is not prompted
by our sense-perceptions. According to Popper, experience can only motivate a decision to
adopt a proposition or reject it, but any attempt to trace basic propositions to perceptions
will prove completely futile.
Hence, despite Poppers resolute opposition to empiricism, his concept reveals curious
likeness to logical positivism in at least two respects. First, Popper strives to confine the
subjectmatter of epistemology to purely logical problems and to dismiss some problems of
general significance (e.g. the problem of the source of knowledge). Second, like the
representatives of the Vienna school Popper is forced to resort to conventionalism as
regards the origin of basic propositions. In point of fact, he replaces the conventionalism
from above (in relation to laws and theories) characteristic of logical positivism by
conventionalism from below (in relation to basic propositions). His conventionalism
stems from deeply rooted logicism which manifested itself already in his early works by the
rejection of philosophical and sociological problems of science. Understandably, Poppers
basic propositions do not relate to current individual experience, but reflect the system of
established knowledge. His concept has not gone beyond a slight displacement of the
border between our knowledge and the material world. All we know from Popper about our
relation to this world is that our knowledge exerts active influence upon it. He sidesteps the
question of the primacy in this interaction which is embarrassing to both the positivist and
Popperian epistemology and constitutes the key issue of the theory of knowledge.

According to Popper, the third world emerged as a result of the spontaneous activity of
man and this is just what accounts for its objectivity. The unpremeditated build-up of
knowledge by man is akin to the spinning of a web by a spider or to the making of honey
by a bee. And I assert, writes Popper, that even though this third world is a human
product, there are many theories in themselves and arguments in themselves and problem
situations in themselves which have never been produced or understood and may never be
produced or understood by men. [7] Such theories and problem situations, according to
Popper, do not appear according to plan, they are not even needed before their emergence.
Once they have made their appearance, however, they may create new problems or a new
system of ideas. The objectivity of a theory is understood by Popper as its independence
from individual consciousness. In order to substantiate his viewpoint, he concentrates, first
and foremost, on the problem of the acceptance and understanding of scientific discoveries.
It should be noted that this problem is not alien to Marxist philosophy either. It has long
since been the object of serious discussions in Soviet literature relative to concrete
dialectical issues. The true meaning of ideas, theories and projects is indeed often realised
by scientists long after the corresponding discovery or invention is made. This fact,
characteristic of one of the aspects of objectivity, is not regarded byPopper as something
requiring any special attention. Actually, however, the gradual realisation and acceptance of
a discovery is nothing but the result of the objectivity of knowledge understood as the
reflection of objective processes, i.e. as a fact which can only be explained through the
analysis of social factors influencing the development of science and its relation to the
material world.
Ideas, theories and other components of social consciousness are indeed relatively
autonomous and independent of individual consciousness. The existence of the theory of
relativity or Darwins theory of evolution does not depend on anyones consciousness.
Moreover, we can go even so far as to assert that it was not Einstein or Darwin who had to
decide on whether their theories were to be or not to be. These theories were bound to
appear, and not at the scientists wish or by force of coincidence, but mainly because they
reflected the objective processes of reality. Besides, to understand the inevitability of these
discoveries, one ought to take into account the general laws of scientific development
determined in the end by practical needs. Hence, the correct statement of the problem of
objectivity is the following: what is the objective content of scientific theories and what are
their subjective elements?
Frankly speaking, Poppers analysis of a scientific theory cannot boast of subtlety.
Knowledge is construed as both a process of cognition and a result thereof, embodied in
various theories, ideas and problems. In Poppers opinion, however, the process of thinking
lies outside the concept of scientific knowledge which should be mainly understood as the
product of this process, i.e. as theories and their logical relations. The process of thinking is
always individual and subjective, whereas its general results, i.e. problems, ideas and
theories are objective. In Poppers opinion, the incompatibility of certain theories is a
logical fact which is absolutely irrelevant to whether somebody is aware of it or not. These
purely objective logical relations are the characteristic features of entities which are called
by Popper theories or knowledge in the objective sense of the word.

Should we defy Poppers scheme, overstep the boundary set by him and consider the
connection between scientific knowledge (the third world) and material reality in all
details, i.e. in the process, sum, tendency, origin, we shall find out that there is no sharp line
of demarcation between the knowledge of an individual and the system of scientific
knowledge developed by mankind. They differ, as it were, by the objective/subjective
ratios. Hence, both the thinking processes and their results deserve special philosophical
analysis. The electromagnetic theory as developed by James Maxwell was evidently just as
much indicative of its authors subjective demerits (and, for that matter, his subjective
merits), as were his mental processes, notions and ideas. To be sure, science cannot be too
tolerant. The amendments made by Heinrich Hertz and Oliver Heaviside, as well as the
subsequent elaboration of the electromagnetic theory in the light of the theory of relativity
and quantum mechanics have corrected a number of Maxwells errors. Yet it is not criticism
or mutual rational verification which guarantees, according to Popper, the objectivity of the
electromagnetic theory. Such criticism can at best eliminate some subjective imperfections
thereby helping to reveal the objective content of the theory. It does not mean at all that a
scientific theory owes its objectivity exclusively to criticism and falsification of erroneous
Despite the proclaimed objectivity of the third world, Popper fails to provide an
appropriate substantiation for this thesis. His objectivity can only be defined by comparison
with individual experience, and the criterion of the testability of theories is, in fact,
intersubjective by nature. Popper himself makes no bones about his stand when he writes:
Now I hold that scientific theories are never fully justifiable or verifiable, but that they are
nevertheless testable. I shall therefore say that the objectivity of scientific statements lies in
the fact that they can be inter subjectively tested. [8] Intersubjective testing need not go
beyond a mutual rational control which is the common objective of critical discussions.
Such rational control, according to Popper, is only possible through multiple checks and
repeated comparisons with the obvious. No observations should be taken into account if
they cannot be repeated and checked. Such repetitions alone can provide sufficient evidence
that we deal not with accidental coincidences, but with events which are intersubjectively
testable owing to their recurrence. In other words the objective world as defined in
Poppers epistemological scheme is mainly referred to by scientists for falsification of one
or another theory.
According to Popper, the essence of scientific activity, its distinguishing feature consists in
systematic attempts to refute ideas, hypotheses and theories which are being advanced, and
in eliminating errors. The tests should result in the selection of a hypothesis which is more
resistant to criticism than other hypotheses. In other words, all tests should aim at finding
weak points and eliminating untenable theories by their falsification. But just because it is
our aim to establish theories as well as we can, writes Popper, we must test them as
severely as we can... This is the reason why the discovery of instances which confirm a
theory means very little if we have not tried, and failed, to discover refutations. [9] Yet
Popper overlooks the fact that every experiment tests not only a theory as such, but also a
host of its logical and non-logical premises. All of them participate in the interpretation of
an experiment in one way or another. Therefore, if an experiment testifies against a theory,
we can never be sure whether the falsification applies to the theory itself, or to the attending
premises. The conclusion that an experiment falsifies a theory is purely conventional. Any

theory can be saved by introducing additional premises or by modifying the basic ones.
Realising the contradictory nature of the situation, Popper offers, on purely conventional
grounds, to adopt a postulate prohibiting the introduction of hypotheses intended to protect
a theory against a death sentence.
Consequently, in Poppers opinion, theories and ideas must become the objects of merciless
falsification. The refutation of theories becomes for scientific cognition the end in itself.
In accordance with his model of scientific cognition Popper contends that not a single
scientist can claim the truth of his ideas and theories. Scientists act, he writes, on the
basis of a guess or, if you like, of a subjective belief (for we may so call the subjective basis
of an action) concerning what is promising of impending growth in the third world of
objective knowledge. [10] In developing their research programmes scientists, according
to Popper, are guided by their conjectures as regards which trend is likely to be the most
fruitful in the third world. A scientist therefore must once and for all discard the selfconfident I know or I suppose. Since his individual notions are inevitably subjective,
he has but very modest rights which only entitle him to say: I am trying to understand a
problem, I am trying to think of alternatives to this problem, I am thinking of an
experimental check for the given theory, I am trying to axiomise the theory, and the like.
According to Popper, the worlds are real if they can interact with the physical world, and
they are autonomous if their irreducibility to one another is postulated. The main problem
of his pluralistic philosophy hinges upon the relations between the worlds. Of the three
worlds, the two first and the two last ones can directly interact. The second world, the
world of individual experience, subjective knowledge, can interact with the two other
worlds, but the physical world and the world of knowledge cannot directly contact each
other in a similar manner, they have to use the mediation of the second world. In principle,
it is possible to assume the reducibility of the mental world to the physical world, but the
existence of objective knowledge, its obvious influence on the physical world, on the one
hand, and the no less obvious impossibility of the direct causal effect of abstract entities on
physical processes, on the other, force the inevitable conclusion about the plurality of the
worlds and the autonomy of the mental as the necessary mediator between the physical and
the ideal.
One of the important functions of the second world is to comprehend the objects of the
third world, i.e. the objective content of thinking. Almost all subjective knowledge
depends on objective knowledge. The third world is autonomous, though we constantly
act upon it and are subjected to its influence. Cognition is traditionally defined as the
activity of a cognising subject. Popper holds that this definition is only applicable to
subjective cognition which should better be called organic cognition as it consists of
certain inborn dispositions to act, and of their acquired modifications. [11]
Objective cognition does not depend on the cognitive aims, opinions and actions of the
cognising individual. Cognition in the objective sense is cognition without the cognising
individual. Objective knowledge consists of the logical content of scientific theories,
conjectures, suppositions and logical content of their genetic code. Objective knowledge

can be exemplified by scientific theories expounded in journals and books, discussions of

these theories, as well as by problems, problem situations, etc.
From the viewpoint of traditional subjectivist epistemology, the third world can only
exist as the content of some consciousness. For instance, a book only exists as a factor of
culture if somebody reads it. A book remains a book even if it is a table of logarithms
composed by a computer and not written by any man. A book belongs to the third world
provided it can be understood and decipheredeven if such a possibility is never translated
into reality. In Poppers opinion, Plato was the first philosopher who discovered the
existence of the third world, its influence upon us and began to use the ideas of the third
world to explain the phenomena of the first and second worlds.
The history of epistemology knows a far more influential tradition than the one Popper
claims to represent. Epistemological subjectivism, like its antagonist, ontological realism,
are both rooted in common sense. The everyday concept of knowledge rests on the
conviction that sensory data are the source of knowledge. In philosophy this concept is
known as the theory of tabula rasa. It underlies Lockes, Berkeleys and Humes
empiricism, as well as many theories of modern positivists and empiricists. Traditional noncritical rationalism contrasting itself to empiricism and subjectivism has also, proved
unable to overstep the bounds of common sense.
The subjectivist theory of knowledge is incapable of distinguishing between subjective and
objective knowledge. In its attempts to disclose the process of scientific cognition
traditional (positivist) epistemology proceeded either from sense data, or from the selfconsciousness of a cognising individual (I know, I think), remaining in both cases
within the narrow confines of subjective knowledge. Naturally enough, it could not
understand it either, since the comprehension of the second world is only possible from
the positions of the third world.
According to Popper, the theory of knowledge of common sense is almost entirely false, yet
its main error consists in the search for a self-evident starting point of the process of
cognition. Classical epistemology was incapable of understanding that sensory data were
nothing but adaptive reactions of an organism. The organs of sense, such as the eyes, are
not indiscriminate in their perception of the surrounding world; they take in only those
events which are being expected, and no others. Like theories (and prejudices), they must
be indifferent to other events which they do not perceive and cannot interpret. Any
sensuously perceived material, according to Popper, is already an interpretation based on a
theory or on prejudice. There can be no pure sensory experience, just as there can be no
pure language of observation: all languages are full of myths and theories.
Rejecting epistemological reductionism, Popper also comes out against ontological
reductionism (physicalism). Criticising physicalism as a variety of radical materialism,
Popper alleges that the latter is incapable of explaining the qualitative diversity of reality. In
his opinion, materialism could have had some sense before the appearance of life on the
earth. After that, owing to the development of human culture and self-reflection of man,
physicalist explanations lost their universality. As man has created a new objective world,
the world of the products of the human mind, a world of myths, of fairy tales and scientific

theories, of poetry and art and music, the emergent, creative nature of the universe
becomes, in his opinion, quite obvious. [12]
All the three worlds, according to Popper, are real. Speaking of the reality of world 1,
Popper agrees with the physicalist materialists that notions used by a physicist, such as
fields, forces, quanta, etc., refer to real entities. Yet, in his opinion, traditional materialism
with its paradigm of reality in the form of solid material bodies is closer to the truth. He
shares the viewpoint of common sense that physical entities are just as real as
consciousness understood as subjective mental process, as well as the content of
consciousness embodied in culture. The central point of Poppers concept is his assertion of
reality and the relative independence of world 3, the world of the products of human
spirit such as legends, explanatory myths, instruments of knowledge, scientific theories
(both true and false), scientific problems, social institutions and works of art.
It is noteworthy that Popper links the existence of the objects of world 3 with
the embodiment of the products of human intellect in books, sculptures, etc. However, the
mere objectification of these phenomena in material culture and in the systems of signs
does not yet testify to their independence. Poppers crucial argument in favour of the
autonomy of world 3 consists in that the development of theories and ideas follows their
own laws and they produce consequences which cannot be foreseen by their creators. Being
ideal as they are, they can also give rise to material effects: for instance, they can induce
people to produce their own kind and other ideal objects thereby exercising influence on
world 1. All civilisation, according to Popper, can be regarded as the realisation of mans
aims, ideals and plans, i.e. the objects of world 3.
The distinction of Poppers concept from physicalist theories stands out quite clearly here:
he refuses to substitute the epistemological problems of the correlation of the mentalist
and physicalist languages for ontological problems, seeks to deduce the qualitative
diversity of the external world from reality and posits the problem of consciousness in the
context of cosmic and cultural evolution. On the other hand, Popper reveals no less clearly
the inadequacy of his understanding of the interdependence of the subjective and the
objective consciousness. The concept of autonomous world 3 gives grounds for a
supposition that the emergence of new ideas is determined by logical possibilities which
have already materialised in the objects of this world, i.e. in theories, problem situations,
etc. In that case ideas and theories must have ideal existence even before they enter
individual consciousness and the task of the subjective spirit must consist in provoking the
realisation of ideal possibilities lying dormant in human culture, i.e. in translating
possibility into reality. More, if we assume that the activity of the subjective spirit is
confined merely to grasping and manipulating the objects of world 3, we are bound to
deny the spontaneous creative activity of human consciousness and to admit that individual
consciousness and new ideas are products of culture, but not of concrete individuals.
Popper is evidently not completely unaware of this Platonic tendency in his concept and
therefore lays special emphasis on the genetic-biological foundation of consciousness and

Denouncing the philosophy of neopositivism, particularly its claim to the role of the
methodology of modern scientific cognition, Popper in fact offers an idealistic
epistemological alternative.
To substantiate his understanding of the progress of scientific cognition, Popper introduces
a concept of verisimilitude. In his opinion, the verisimilitude of a theory consists in the
superiority of a multitude of true logical consequences of this theory over a multitude of
false logical consequences. From this viewpoint, of crucial importance is the content of a
theory. It includes a class of all logical consequences, both true and false. Popper intends to
divide this system, evidently infinite, into two subclassesthe true and the false
consequences of the given theory, and to discard successively those which themselves
ensue from false consequences.
It should be noted that the very notion of logical consequence is not used by Popper
with due accuracy. Individual statements, some of which are based on or expressed in
theories, evidently have no consequences at all (true or false). A consequence is only
possible in situations where certain initial conditions are indicated. In that case, however,
the number of consequences will be equal to the number of statements contained in the
description of initial conditions. Most of them will probably turn out to be false in the
strictly logical sense of the word, since the accuracy possible under experimental conditions
can hardly compare with the accuracy of mathematical operations associated by Popper
with the notions of truth and objectivity.
Besides, in a situation with the infinite number of consequences there will be only two
degrees of verisimilitude, the maximum and the zero one, depending on whether the true
content is infinite and the false content is finite, or both of them are infinite. The
vulnerability of Poppers concept of verisimilitude is noted, for instance, by American
philosopher G. S. Robinson, who writes: If scientists were to take Poppers conception of
verisimilitude and progress seriously it would have the effect of stultifying growth and
progress because what he calls verisimilitude and progress could be increased or even
maximized by a policy of incurious repetition of safe experiments. [13]
Contrary to Popper, scientists do distinguish between theories and predictions ensuing from
them considering some of them truer than others. For instance, planning a flight to Venus,
they are sure that the theory of relativity is more reliable than the theory of Newton,
Ptolemy or Aristotle and that the predictions based on the former must be more accurate
than those based on the latter. Of course, scientists may err in their judgements of relative
probability. Their inductive criterion of truth may sometimes fail them. Yet they do use it
and rely on one theory more than upon another. If Popper refuses to admit that we can and
must express judgements on comparative probability based on an inductive conclusion, his
theory of verisimilitude and progress proves untenable. If the predictions of an old theory
(except a small number of tested ones) have turned out false and the predictions of a new
theory (except a small number of rejected ones) have turned out true, it is obvious that the
new theory is closer to the truth than the old one. It stands to reason that a scientific theory
owes its reputation for dependability to a successful experimental or practical test. Why,
then, is its rational confirmation not possible? If any and every failure to fit were ground
for theory rejection, Thomas Kuhn justly observes, all theories ought to be rejected at all

times. On the other hand, if only severe failure to fit justifies theory rejection, then the
Popperians will require some criterion of improbability or of degree of falsification. In
developing one they will almost certainly encounter the same network of difficulties that
has haunted the advocates of the various probabilistic verification theories. [14]
[1] See K. R. Popper, Objective Knowledge. An Evolutionary Approach, Oxford University
Press, Oxford, 1979, p. 33. [> main text]
[2] Ibid., p. 42. [> main text]
[3] Ibid., p. 294. [> main text]
[4] Ibid., p. 301. [> main text]
[5] Ibid., pp. 10809. [> main text]
[6] Ibid., p. 108. [> main text]
[7] Ibid., p. 116. [> main text]
[8] Karl R. Popper, The Logic of Scientific Discovery, Basic Books, Inc., New York, 1959,
p. 44. [> main text]
[9] Karl R. Popper, The Poverty of Historicism, London, Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1960,
pp. 13334. [> main text]
[10] Karl R. Popper, Objective Knowledge, op. cit., p. 111. [> main text]
[11] Karl R. Popper, The Poverty of Historicism, op. cit., p. 121. [> main text]
[12] See Karl R. Popper and John C. Eccles, The Self and Its Brain, Springer International,
Berlin, 1977, pp. 1516. [> main text]
[13] G. S. Robinson, Poppers Verisimilitude, Analysis (Oxford), Vol. 31, No. 6, June
1971, p. 195. [> main text]
[14] Thomas S. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, The University of Chicago
Press, Chicago, 1962, pp. 14647.
Poppers concept of the development of scientific knowledge is in fact the opposite of
Kuhns concept. It leaves no room for the normal activity of scientists aimed at the
consolidation and development of a newly created theory. On the other hand, Popper does
not single out a revolution in science as a specific stage of its development. In point of fact,
he regards every new theory, every new discovery as a revolutionary step in science.

Hence, the evolution of scientific knowledge is represented in Poppers concept as an

endless chain of revolutions and can, therefore, be regarded with good reason as a concept
of permanent revolution in science.
This model of scientific development does not reproduce the true course of science. The
lack of historicism in Poppers analysis has been noted by numerous philosophers and
historians of science. For instance, according to Maurice Finnochiaro, Poppers principle is
not sound. All Popper can say on the basis of historical evidence sums up in that the play of
science is endless. In Finnochiaros opinion the one who may once decide that his scientific
assertions need no subsequent test and should be regarded as ultimately correct may be
quite right, from his own viewpoint, that is. Yet it is likely that sooner or later a different
viewpoint will prevail in science and his own one will be refuted.


by Igor Naletov
The turn from positivism to scientific realism is very characteristic of the
modern philosophy of science. This trend, which is only two decades old, has already
managed to define its stand with sufficient clarity despite all the diversity of the individual
approaches and opinions of its adherents. However, none of the current views of scientific
realism as a methodological alternative to positivist philosophy is ripe enough to claim
authority. Representing the materialistic viewpoint, scientific realism somehow falls out
of line with the general historical trend of philosophical development and seems rather odd
because of its apparent spontaneity. Indeed, in its attempt to evolve a new philosophical
doctrine scientific realism has started from scratch and is denying or passing over in
silence any affinity with traditional philosophical trends. This is partly attributable to the
fact that many of the newly converted active exponents of materialistic ideas reflect the
direct needs of science rather than some purely philosophical tradition.
It cannot be said, however, that new materialism is completely free from any philosophical
links in general. The new school, for one, admits in some form or other to its inheritance of
certain aspects, problems and principles from positivist philosophy. scientific realism
represents an obvious attempt to smooth over the contradictions which have led to a
complete break of science with positivist philosophy. This feature also accounts for the
attitude of scientific realism to the problem of the objectivity of knowledge. On the one
hand, the new trend discards the positivist interpretation of objective knowledge, including
its latest versions; on the other, it shows an obvious influence of many positivist dogmas.
Coming out against the concept of intersubjectivity, most of the realists oppose both the
positivist and Poppers doctrines. Neither do they accept the Kuhn-Lakatos concept as
manifestly relativistic. Yet they do not go beyond postulating reality independent of man
and sidestep the main issuethe concrete solution of the question of the nature of

objectivity and relationship between the objective and the subjective in scientific
knowledge. This circumstance essentially weakens the position of scientific realism
exposing it to criticism on the part of its opponents. The realist, writes, for instance,
Roger Trigg, starting from objective reality rather than mans knowledge of it, will not be
surprised if some portions of it elude mans grasp for ever. He will insist that though this
limits mans knowledge, it cannot affect the nature of what exists, since reality is selfsubsistent. [1]
As regards the problem of intersubjectivity, the realists maintain that the presence of
some common elements in different theories is accounted for by none other than reality,
whether perceptible or not. Some realists go even as far as distinguishing between the
ontological and the epistemological aspects of the problem, i.e. between reality as such and
the reality that we know. According to Roy Bhaskar, for instance, the positivists make a
typical epistemological error considering that statements about being can be reduced to or
analysed in terms of statements about knowledge; i.e. that ontological questions can always
be transposed into epistemological terms. [2]
Many adherents of the realistic trend, however, believe that ontological realism should be
supplemented with epistemological relativism. This opinion is based on the well-known
thesis according to which we are incapable of going beyond the limits of the particular, the
concrete, i.e. the knowledge available at a given moment though we are aware of the
existence of being. In Bhaskars opinion, whenever we speak of things or of events etc. in
science we must always speak of them and know them under particular descriptions,
descriptions which will always be to a greater or lesser extent theoretically determined,
which are not neutral reflections of a given world. Epistemological relativism, in this sense,
is the handmaiden of ontological realism and must be accepted. [3]
The confusion regarding the relationship between ontology and epistemology, the objective
and the subjective sometimes leads the realists to counterposing realistic and materialistic
viewpoints. A distinction between them does exist, of course, but its actual significance, in
the realists\thinspace opinion, evidently lies elsewhere. Trigg contends that realism
represents a broader viewpoint than materialism, as it permits accepting the reality of what
is not material. Even a theist, he writes, can assert a realist notion of God existing
independently of mens conceptions of Him, and not espouse idealism, because he also
accepts the independent reality of the material world. [4]
Realism and materialism, according to Trigg, are different in the sense that realism pretends
to be a neutral doctrine taking no interest in the content of reality. In Triggs opinion, many
idealistic trends insist only on the independence of reality from human consciousness or
sensations and do not accept the existence of God, whereas numerous forms of empiricism
could be anti-realistic and atheistic at the same time.
According to Trigg, the controversy between realists and anti-realists was of crucial
importance for philosophy. Realism opposes the doctrine which accepts the dependence of
the external world on man and restricts the world to what man knows about it. Is the
world indeed what we take it for? asks Trigg, and answers emphatically: No! There may
exist galaxies we cannot even conceive of. Besides, many of our scientific beliefs are

probably wrong. It is exceedingly rash, he says, to equate reality with the views we
happen to have at the moment. [5] In a sense, reality is considered to be mental rather than
material, as the reason which comprehends it simultaneously creates it in one way or
Whereas realism underscores the existence of reality independent of our notions of it,
idealism considers everything to be a function of reason and regards being in terms of
mans mental images or perceptions. Hence, subjective experience may be in contradiction
with what is considered
true by general consent. According to Trigg, \thinspacesubjective can be the opposite of
intersubjective rather than objective. To put it another way, the word objective can
refer in a weak sense to what is agreed on, rather than in a strong sense to what is really
the case. [6]
In Triggs opinion, the anti-realist will prefer to emphasise the necessity for intersubjective
agreement. Anti-realists are inevitably forced, if they conceive the problem in terms of the
opposition of mind and matter, to admit the independent reality of other minds. Idealism
inevitably becomes objectivist even when objectivist is understood in its strong sense.
Epistemological realism, according to Trigg, is sometimes distinguished from the
ontological sort, so that one can be an epistemological realist and an ontological idealist.
In that case, he writes, only minds would exist, but there would be an external world
beyond our judgements. What we know would be in no way dependent on our knowing it,
but the reality which is the source of knowledge would be ultimately mental. This means
that reality is not ultimately independent of judgement as such. It may be unconnected with
what you think or what I think, but it is not unconnected with all minds. [7] Trigg asserts
that the only alternative to epistemological realism is solipsism. Epistemological realism
is the inevitable consequence of accepting that the world is not ones own creation, and that
as a result one may be mistaken about its nature.
According to Trigg, the principal disagreement between the realists and their opponents
springs not so much from the difference in their understanding of the relationship between
reality and man in general, as from the distinction between the weak and strong objectivity,
between intersubjectivity and objectivity. In Triggs opinion, one should not identify
objectivity with what one believes in here and now. The history of science shows that even
the most firmly established theories can be modified or even refuted.
Scientific realists generally avoid identifying their stand, even on special issues, such as
the mind-body problem, with the concepts of dialectical materialism.
Expounding his views, Trigg definitely dissociates himself from materialism considering its
approach too narrow. He strives to justify his prejudice against materialism by alleging that
it disregards subjective reality and grants the status of being to matter only. The origin of
this prejudice is not far to seek: Trigg, like many Western philosophers who cannot boast of
too close an acquaintance with the materialist tradition in philosophy, particularly with the
essence of dialectical materialism, equates materialism with physicalism.

As a result, Trigg identifies Lenins views with physicalist concepts widely spread in
Western literature, overlooking the fact that it is just against physicalism and its
understanding of matter, space, time and causality that Lenin has directed its main
philosophical work Materialism and Empiric-Criticism. The irony of the situation consists
in that Trigg, coming out in defence of realism, opens a wide door for fideism and actually
sets it on an equal footing with science. As we see, the response of scientists to the
disintegration of positivism does not always accord with the needs of scientific cognition.
Despite the repeated assurances that he is opposed to idealism and anti-realism, Trigg, in
fact, sees no possibility of passing beyond the bounds of experience and language.
We cannot, he writes, talk or think about reality without talking or thinking about it...
We cannot have a conception of something without employing the conceptual scheme we
have at our disposal... We cannot conceptualize reality and then check the concepts we have
produced against reality. It is self-defeating to attempt to think of reality as it exists beyond
our thoughts. There is no way that we can somehow hold our concepts in suspense, while
we compare them with reality. [8]
Triggs realism consists in that he accepts the existence of real ty beyond the limits of
mans present knowledge, this reality including not only what is not yet known, but also, it
appears, what is unknowable in principle. He writes: Realists leave open what is to be
meant by the world. We have used the term rather broadly to mean what there is. The
realist can accept that mind, matter and even other kinds of entities might exist. His
argument with the idealist is not concerned with the reality of mind. He is merely
concerned to hold that the mental does not exhaust reality. [9] Trigg draws a purely
external line of demarcation between what appears to be two different worldsthe reality
which is independent of man and has not yet become the object of his knowledge and the
reality which has already been drawn into the sphere of mans cognitive activity and is no
longer independent of his thoughts. Such an external border does not seem to be a good
solution, as it makes it impossible to correlate more accurately the objective and subjective
realities and investigate their relationship in the second world. As a matter of fact, the same
applies to Triggs first, unattainable, world, since it exists beyond our thoughts and
cannot, according to his logic, be extracted from our conceptual scheme by any means. The
concept of God, for that matter, can also be regarded as one of the versions of
conceptualising the uncognisable.
Dialectical materialism is far from ignoring the reality of the concept of God as an element
of religious systems. Moreover, it regards this false concept as a reality which should be
eliminated by practical means. Marxism not only admits the reality of religious rites but
also takes it in all seriousness. It is obvious to any Marxist that religion (but not God) is
only one of the elements of a highly complex and heterogeneous subjective reality which
includes mans entire spiritual world with all its diversity and contradictions. Trigg and
other realist authors may rest assured that their intellectual stand as well as the books they
publish are real to us in a no lesser degree.
Triggs realism is a graphic illustration of the confusion resulting from the application of
loose criteria of objectivity and lack of dialectical flexibility in the philosophical analysis
of scientific development. What is more, after such a cultivation vast areas of terra

ignorationis are allowed to lie fallow, grow thick with weeds and spread pseudo-scientific
seeds all over the adjacent areas of science and philosophy. These weeds often infect the
still healthy field of scientific realism which, according to Trigg, is called upon to give an
accurate theoretical description of reality. In Triggs opinion, a scientist will always aspire
for the true knowledge of the world though not all reality can be accessible for observation.
Some theories may be true at all times, others may need modification, yet they all reflect
reality to some extent, though we do not know how profoundly. The realist in science,
writes Trigg, does not merely oppose the empiricists view about the pivotal role of
observations. He also emphasizes that science is about something and that theories attempt
to capture reality as it is. It follows that only one completely correct account of the world is
forthcoming. Different, competing theories will each view the world differently, but the
realist will not be as content with that situation as Feyerabend seems to be and will want to
ask which is the right one. [10]
Contrary to Trigg, Quine contends that competing theories of reality do not give a unique
and simple picture of the world. Defending all the basic propositions of realism he writes:
We have no reason to suppose that mans surface irritations even unto eternity admit of
any one systematization that is scientifically better or simpler than all possible others. . .
Scientific method is the way to truth, but it affords even in principle no unique definition
of truth. [11] Quine also appears to be appreciably closer to positivism in his attachment to
the concept of intersubjective test. In his opinion, intersubjective contact assures a single
dimension deriving from the similarity of sensuous stimuli. This intersubjective contact
provides a basis both for the language of learning and for the construction of a scientific
theory. The relevant circumstances attending the utterance of statements are combined by
Quine in the notion of intersubjective observability. Intersubjective contact enables the
child to learn when to assent to the observation sentence. And it is this also, intersubjective
observability at the time, that qualifies observation sentences as check points for scientific
theory. Observation sentences state the evidence, to which all witnesses must accede. [12]
According to Quine, this rules out solipsism, since the general accessibility of
circumstances attending the utterance of observation statements ensures that we learn one
and the same language and that a scientific theory may have a solid foundation.
The leaning towards realism gets the better of Quine in his concept of self-sufficient reality,
though he underscores that true judgements can only be made after the adoption of a theory.
It causes him, like Feyerabend, to regard theories as being relatively true, but here Quine
escapes relativism characteristic of Feyerabend. Any statements, in his opinion, can only be
made within the framework of a conceptual scheme and serve as its expression. As a result,
no reality is conceivable except through a conceptual scheme which we ourselves
adopt. Hence, the real world which does exist must be described in terms of our conceptual
scheme. Quine avoids speaking of things-in-themselves or of any philosophical
interpretation of scientific propositions. In his understanding, a scientific theory is
something taken at its face value.
As an empiricist, Quine says, I continue to think of the conceptual scheme of science as
a tool, ultimately, for predicting future experience in the light of past experience. Physical
objects are conceptually imported into the situation as convenient intermediariesnot by
definition in terms of experience, but simply as irreducible posits comparable,

epistemologically, to the gods of Homer. For my part I do, qua lay physicist, believe in
physical objects and not in Homers gods; and I consider it a scientific error to believe
otherwise. But in point of epistemological footing the physical objects and the gods differ
only in degree and not in kind. [13]
Quine, thus, refuses to admit that there is any difference between the posits of a theory
and reality. In his opinion, reality is what we believe to be existing.
It is significant, however, that physicalism remains a characteristic feature of scientific
realism and its understanding of the problem of objectivity. This circumstance complicates
the task of distinguishing between the positivist and realist ideas of objectivity. The
distinction, rather a subtle one, consists in that for scientific realism the programme of the
physicalist reduction of scientific knowledge combines with the programme of constructing
a scientific ontology. scientific realism not only strives to reduce the language of any
science to the physical language and theoretical propositions to observation statements
based, in the final analysis, on physical experience, but is bent on reducing chemical,
biological, geographical, psychological and other processes as such to physical processes.
In other words, it seeks to explain all objects and phenomena of reality through their
physical properties and mechanisms. What is more, it regards such reductionism not as a
purely scientific procedure intended for a physical explanation that would be quite
justifiablebut defends it as a universal all-embracing scheme thus giving it a status of a
philosophical or, in relation to the problem of objectivity, an ontological, principle.
Understandably, the true significance of this feature can only be assessed in the context of
the entire philosophical programme of scientific realism. The emphasis on
the objectivity of biological, physiological and other processes and the attempts to explain
them on the basis of the laws of physics represent a manifestly realistic or even
materialistic trend, requiring, however, further methodological development. On the other
hand, the epistemological reductionism, consisting in attempts to interpret biological,
physiological or mental phenomena in terms of physical notions with a view to
overcomingmetaphysics identifies scientific realism with one or another variety of
positivist physicalism. The distinction between them is often quite impalpable and reveals
itself in the general tendency and orientation rather than in some tangibles. But then certain
atavistic features of the new school are not to be wondered at if we bear in mind that the
realistic methodology of science is still in its infancy.
The subtle difference between the positivist and realistic programmes can already be
discerned in the philosophical concept of Herbert Feigl, formerly a member of the Vienna
Circle, whose evolution has reflected numerous contradictions and vicissitudes of the
transition from the positivist paradigm to the scientific-realist world view. The watereddown variants of the main dogmas of the logico-empiricist doctrine, the doubts regarding
the distinction between the analytical and synthetic statements, the greater flexibility in the
interpretation of the empirical criteria of scientific value characteristic of Feigls early
works gradually gave way to a more radical departure from the positivist tradition.
Physicalism which still holds in Feigls concept as the hangover of the early period is
evidently regarded by him as the foundation of the new system.

Having outlined his general methodological views mainly with reference to physics, Feigl
later devoted much attention to the mind-body problem, i.e. to the relationship between the
brain and consciousness. He was at first inclined to regard statements on mental and
physical phenomena as two different languages referring to the same facts, but later gave
preference to the monistic theory or the theory of identity in which the data of experience
and certain deduced notions of neurophysiological structures have one and the same
reference object and are regarded as two different ways of cognising one and the same
thing. Such an identity of the mental and the physical is not yet tantamount to the logical
identity of mind and body. Parallelism between them should be established by science, but
not by philosophy. Feigl believes that such parallelism is already in evidence and the
further drawing together of the two systems is inevitable. From the standpoint of common
sense this eliminates any basis for the hypothesis of the existence of two different entities.
This line of reasoning brings Feigl to the conclusion that the referents of mental terms are
identical with those of physical terms.
Feigls evolution from positivism to realism vividly illustrates all the most essential
stages or steps of this transition: passage beyond the bounds of a purely linguistic approach
to the problem, extension of the scope of semantic analysis, emphasis on objective
neurophysiological processes as referents of the corresponding theoretical terms.
Feigl distinguishes two different meanings of the term physical, the broader and the
narrower ones. He writes: By physical1 terms I mean all (empirical) terms whose
specification of meaning essentially involves logical (necessary or, more usually,
probabilistic) connections with the intersubjective observation languages... By physical 2 I
mean the kind of theoretical concepts (and statements) which are sufficient for
the explanation, i.e. the deductive or probabilistic derivation, of the observation
statements regarding the inorganic (lifeless) domain of nature. [14] According to Feigl, the
mental or the so-called raw sensations are identifiable with physical2.
Feigl regards the volumes of these terms to be equal if the theory of identity is true.
However, in case of emergence, i.e. logical non-deducibility of organic, mental and social
phenomena from physical phenomena, the sphere of physical 2 is obviously narrower than
that of physical1.
As we see, Feigls programme implies the reduction of all sciences to physics. One cannot
but admit, however, that it is not entirely divorced from the existing practice of theoretical
investigations. The peculiarity of this practice was aptly expressed by Einstein who once
said that reason was commonly believed to be an unseemly word that ought to be avoided
in a society of wellbred scientists. Reductionism, as we have already pointed out, is a kind
of a semi-official ideology of the modern biological establishment. The practical
significance of this tradition, however, is not very large as it reflects a transitory stage in the
development of biological, as well as psychological sciences. As Soviet scientists I. Frolov
and B. Yudin have justly observed, reductionism is evidently the natural consequence of
every situation in which investigation methods and experimental facilities come to the
foreground in scientific research and dictate the selection of problems. Under such
conditions the issues prompted by the inner logic of scientific development are relegated to

a secondary plan and preference is given to problems whose solution is made possible
owing to the application of specific research techniques or experimental facilities. [15]
Feigls concept reveals strong links not only with physicalism, but also with empiricism.
According to Feigl, knowledge starts with direct sensory experience, sensory acquaintance,
as it were. He notes that the meaning of scientific statements actually consists in that they
state the conditions of truth. These conditions, in turn, are evidently represented in the
factual content of the relation of the stated knowledge which is represented by sensations.
Hence, Feigl understands the theory of truth as a theory of correspondence. The meaning
of a statement, in his opinion, should be identified in its factual relation, whereas the
meaning of scientific terms should be adapted to the set reality. As distinct from the
positivist concept of the Vienna Circle, according to which the meaning of a statement
determines the method of verification, Feigl lays special emphasis on a different aspect:
After the recovery from radical behaviorism and operationism, we need no longer hesitate
to distinguish between evidence and reference, i.e., between manifestations or symptoms on
the one hand, and central states on the other. [16]
As has already been noted in the first chapter, scientific realism is characterised in most
cases by very arbitrary attempts to join or separate various empirical and theoretical
premises of general philosophical nature. A similar tendency manifests itself in the solution
of the mind-body problem. Underscoring the empirical status of the identity of mind and
body, Feigl, Smart and other realists often resort to metaphysical principles in order to
substantiate the theory of identity. Moreover, the problem itself is regarded by them as
metaphysical. Sometimes the metaphysical nature of the terms mental and physical, as
well as of the problem of their relationship is emphasised deliberately in defiance of the
positivist doctrine. The term physical in this sense apparently acquires a new shade of
meaning which does not fall within the framework of physical 1 or physical2. It
approximates the concept of the world as a whole and can be regarded as physical 3
gravitating to, though not coinciding with, the materialist concept of matter.
The presence of two or even three levels in the understanding of the physical complicates
the mind-body problem, difficult as it is, the more so as the above levels are not defined
accurately enough. As a matter of fact, the description of the physical in terms of spacetime and causal relations is characteristic of any theoretical science. Physical 1 related by
Feigl to this description can be related to any other scientific description. From my
realistic point of view, writes Feigl, it makes perfectly good sense to explain in terms of
physical, psychophysical, and psychophysiological theories how e.g. a bell by reflecting
light, producing sound waves and being a solid, hard body affects our retina, cochlea, and
our tactile nerve endings (under specifiable perceptual conditions) and thus produces the
visual, tactual, and auditory data in our direct experience. This is indeed the causal theory
of perception so much maligned by phenomenalists. [17]
The excessively broad definition of the physical is in fact at variance with the real
meaning of this term in physical science which alone gives it quite definite methodological
significance. The extension of its limits leads to undesirable. methodological paradoxes.
Such an expansion, as is justly noted by Soviet scientist D. Dubrovsky, is tantamount to the
absolutisation of the physicaleither by postulating a single all-embracing physical

substance, or, given the epistemological emphasis, by implying the unavoidable absorption
by physics of all other scientific disciplines. Physicalism is thus linked with the extension
of the concept of the physical and this alone is bound to have an adverse effect on the
development of physics condemning it to endless and futile wanderings. If unduly
extended, the concept of the physical loses its concrete meaning and turns into an empty
Feigls doctrine leads to the identification of any objective reality with physical reality. The
world is nothing but physical reality painted in different colours. All phenomena are
essentially physical processes. This applies also to mental phenomena which are but a
subclass of physical phenomena. The mental is identified with the physiological, i.e. with
the processes which take place in the human brain. In turn, neurophysiological or biological
processes are explained in terms of physical phenomena. This double reduction, given the
extension of the chain, must be applied to developing neurophysiology, biochemistry,
biophysics, etc. The tendencies in modern natural science are alleged to hold out much
promise for such development. According to the new doctrine, materialist philosophy loses
its status of a theoretical premise and turns into just another ontological hypothesis which is
yet to be proved.
This pretentious claim, by the way, underlies the title of scientific materialism assumed
by the new school in an attempt to define its own place among the numerous trends
representing the modern philosophy of science. True, physicalism has also sprouted in
biology and cybernetics, but its models in these fields add but little to the basic physicalist
concepts from the methodological angle. Feigl singles out a theoretical level represented by
physical1 or the physical in the broader sense of the word, linking it with the categories of
causality, space, time, etc. As a result, one may get an impression that this level is identical
with the general philosophical concept of matter. Feigl also links this level with the
intersubjective perception of language, though he gives no clear indication regarding the
scope of such intersubjectivity. For Feigl, it is, evidently, confined within the limits of the
physicalist theory. As regards his interpretation of the category of causality, it is based, as
one can gather, not on a philosophical, e.g. dialectical-materialist concept of cause, but on
the so-called causal theory of perception. This theory, instructive as it is and containing not
a few interesting ideas (which have not received, by the way, due Coverage in Marxist
literature on causality), has not yet been properly elaborated from the philosophical
standpoint. Thus the identity of the mental and the physical in Feigls concept rests on the
identification of cause and consequence as it is assumed that both the causes and their
consequences must of necessity, possess all characteristics of matter.
Hence, Feigls crucial concept of physical 1 is also implicitly based on empirical
observations. This concept is unacceptable, for instance, to a theoretical physicist
investigating the problems of quantum mechanics as it is quite obvious to him that a
physical theory at its present level cannot be adequately translated into the language of
sensory experience even if it is the intersubjective language of observations, as conceded by
Feigl and other advocates of the identity of the mental and the physical. The qualitative
difference between the theoretical and empirical levels in the reflection of objective reality
has made it clear to many theoretical physicists that one cannot be reduced to the other in
principle. The illusions that such a reduction is possible have already revealed their

groundlessness in physical science. The more groundless are such illusions with regard to
the reducibility of, say, the physiological to the physical.
The exponents of the identity of the mental and the physical often refer to their empirical
identity, and that in spite of the fact that the empirical language proves inadequate to
express the theoretical content of unobservable phenomena even in physics itself. It holds
even more true of mental phenomena characterised by a higher level and greater
The vulnerability of Feigls concept lies already in his assumption of the mental identity
of physical1 and physical2, since the former as the theoretical level in the investigation
of phenomena and processes is restricted, on the strength of its definition, to the limits of
intersubjectivity, i.e. the empirical level of cognition. Consequently, this assumption is
untenable even from the viewpoint of physical science itself which has developed a keen
insight into these problems. The controversies in quantum mechanics are in fact much more
instructive in this respect than some authors are inclined to think. These questions will be
discussed later when characterising the dialectical-materialist methodology of science. Of
course, the problem of causality has its own gradations, and qualitative at that, in different
fields of modern science. The analysis of the specificity of this problem in physics, biology,
chemistry, physiology, psychology and other fields could be helpful in preparing scientists
for the acceptance of perhaps even a greater specificity of mental processes and causal
relations in the boundary area of psychic and neuro-physiological phenomena. Yet the
works published by scientific materialists have not revealed, so far, any evidence of such
a tendency, nor any sufficiently differentiated approach to processes which could be
regarded as psychological, psychophysiological, neuro-psychological, neuro-physiological,
biopsychological and biochemicalpsychological.
It stands to reason that the oversimplified idea of the relationship between different levels
of reality falls an easy prey to all critics of scientific materialism ranging from the less
orthodox adherents of physicalism (such as Mario Bunge, Roger Trigg, Joseph Margolis) to
the supporters of psycho physical dualism and interactionism (such as John Eccles, Erik
Polten, and Karl Popper). In the context of such criticism their stand is presented as purely
positivistic. In point of fact, this accusation is not entirely groundless, particularly in the
case of Feigl. His present viewpoint differs from the empiricist programme of positivist
philosophy by its general orientation, promises and expectations rather than by the actual
content. Indeed, Feigl does not go beyond proclaiming the need for an ontology and
accepting, together with the entire school of scientific realism, the ontological existence
of physical reality independent of man and his consciousness though he restricts their
relationship to the extent of identifying the mental with the physical.
Feigls special emphasis on the ontological aspect of the causality problem must serve as a
warning against equating his stand with the paradigm of logical empiricism, i.e. positivism
in its latest variants. Polten, like other Feigls critics, disregards this warning and confuses
Feigls viewpoint now with the positivist stand, now with the dialectical materialist
concept, thereby revealing a not too profound knowledge of the Marxist views.
Nevertheless, he does find the weak spots in the theory of identity. Now, he writes,
scientific materialises are committed to hold that all causes and effects have all

characteristics of matter. Yet I maintain that the causes of what I distinguish as outer sense
are indeed always physical, but the ultimate phenomenal effectsthe data which are
directly experiencedare mental without exception. I go onto claim that the pauses or
grounds of what I distinguish as inner sense cannot be exclusively physical, and that the
ultimate effects are also mental in nature. [18]
In substantiating his viewpoint Polten reasons as follows. Some material [i.e. physical]
cause Z, which is lake Ontario, produces probably identical consequences: similar
perceptions on a sensory, empirical level of two different observers A and B. This does not
mean at all that the same lake will be the cause of similar perceptions of lake Ontario with
other observers. Should we consider not external, but internal perceptions we shall have to
admit that not only the consequence, but the cause itself cannot be subjected to a material
test. When our imagination is building up castles in the air, they have nothing in common
with material objects. They are purely mental attributes of one man and nobody else is
capable of seeing these castles in his brain.
The causal theory of perception is based on the principle identical causesidentical
consequences and does not identify causes if they do not produce identical consequences.
Proceeding from this principle, Polten infers that physical and mental processes are
independent of one another and that mind is not identical with the central nervous system.
But he goes further. Without any profound and concrete analysis he postulates parallel
existence and mutual independence of physical and mental processes, asserting, on the one
hand, the presence of the world of things-in-themselves as the external cause of material
phenomena belonging to the sphere of perceptions of the external world and, on the other,
the presence of the world of mental events as things-in-themselves or the world of pure
Myself as the cause of mental phenomena belonging to the sphere of perceptions of
mans internal state.
Having thus defined his concept, Polten, as is often the case, begins to doubt the soundness
of the dualistic viewpoint, since he proposes in the end to deduce the existence of the
physical world from mind: And it ought not to be supposed that mind is anything
derivative in this relationship. On the contrary, mind matters in perhaps every relevant
sense: psychologically, chronologically, epistemologically, logically, normatively,
and ontologically. [19] True, he hastens to specify that this assertion is not substantiated in
his work which means that he adheres for the present to a more moderate opinion seeking
to prove that mind does exist and that it is different from matter. It goes without saying that
matter is understood by Polten in the purely physicalist sense: It is perhaps of some
interest to note, he writes, that Feigls physicalist definition of existence is quite like the
Marxist-Leninist account of matter. Any Marxist text will repeat the definition of Lenin that
the sole property of matter is the property of being objective reality, existing outside
consciousness, given to us in sensation. Of course, even consciousness is material for
Marxists, as for Feigl. [20]
We do not mean to say that Polten deliberately distorts the Marxist viewpoint. We are rather
inclined to think that Polten has rather a vague idea of it and very scanty knowledge of the
corresponding works by Marx, Engels, and Lenin. In any case, his views on the MarxistLeninist account of matter are very far from the truth. First, the dialectical materialist

concept of matter does not coincide with the notion of the physical as understood by Feigl,
even if we compare it with his more general interpretation of the physical as physical 1.
Besides objective reality, Marxism recognises subjective reality, the reality of senses,
emotions, thoughts, ideas, etc. Moreover, Marxism not only recognises these realities, but
demands that they be considered in their interaction. In this context it would be in place to
recall Lenins well known words: Of course, even the antithesis of matter and mind has
absolute significance only within the bounds of a very limited fieldin this case
exclusively within the bounds of the fundamental epistemological problem of what is to be
regarded as primary and what as secondary. Beyond these bounds the relative character of
this antithesis is indubitable. [21] Second, Lenins stand has very little in common with
positivist empiricism which is characteristic of Feigls views, since sensations to Lenin are
by no means the only source of knowledge and the only means for the cognition of reality,
but they are indeed the only form of mans connection with the surroundings and even with
his own inner world.
Every philosopher more or less familiar with Lenins works knows perfectly well that
Lenin made a clear distinction between the physical concept of matter subject to
elaboration with every new significant discovery in physics and the philosophical or
epistemological concept representing the sole property of the infinitely diverse objects and
phenomena of the worldthe property of being an objective reality. None other than Lenin,
developing the ideas of Marx and Engels, came out against the identification of these
different levels in the cognition of reality. Later on we shall dwell on this aspect of the
problem at greater length but at present our point is to emphasise that Poltens criticism of
scientific materialism in the person of Feigl, Smart, Armstrong and others distorts their
viewpoints in at least three aspects: in their attitude to positivism, i.e. logical empiricism, in
their attitude to dialectical materialism and in the confusion of the methodological and
ontological treatment of the mind-body problem.
As we see, the viability of the programme of scientific realism depends primarily on its
ability to overcome the physicalist viewpoint. It is all the more important as physicalism is
in fact entirely alien to true philosophical materialism and seriously limits its theoretical
and methodological possibilities. Physicalism, as well as reductionism in general, restricts
the scope of scientific investigations and tends to turn them onto a beaten track paved with
elaborate physical theories. Everyone knows how easy it is to tread along such tracks, yet
every true scientist is equally aware that the easiest way is not the shortest one. Science
which represents the forefront of human thought has always followed and will follow
untrodden paths. Widely known are Marxs winged words: There is no royal road to
science, and only those who do not dread the fatiguing climb of its steep paths have a
chance of gaining its luminous summits. [22]
Of course, physicalism and reductionism are not a transient phenomenon. They are not
brought about by some specific concurrence of circumstances in scientific development, but
make themselves manifest each time the philosophers, natural scientists or sociologists
attempt to apply certain general principles and methods of scientific explanation beyond the
sphere where they hold good. Reductionism can be likened to intermittent fever of
scientific cognition which seizes now this, now that field of science. It is essentially
connected with the passage from one level of knowledge to another and plays an important

part in a scientific explanation, though it is evidently not confined to the limits of this
cognitive pattern alone.
Physicalism is but one of the forms of reductionism which seeks to translate specific
phenomena and processes into the language of physical mechanisms and laws. It should be
noted that we do not apply the terms physicalism and reductionism to scientific
explanations which reflect the laws of objective processes and fall in line with the trends of
scientific cognition. With us, these terms always carry a negative meaning denoting an
attempt to squeeze certain phenomena into the Procrustean bed of known laws relating to
different systems and phenomena.
The modern philosophy of science is characterised by complex internal processes and
sweeping reappraisal of values. No sooner had Michael Ruse published his Philosophy of
Biology, advocating reductionist and patently logico-empiricist views, than the scientific
community produced other works, such as David Hulls Philosophy of Biological
Science which treats practically the same range of problems, but from an entirely new
position claiming to represent the realistic approach. Contrary to Ruse who denies
theoretical biology the status of a science, Hull proceeds from the actual status of biology in
a typically scientific realist manner. For him, the existence of a highly ramified and
systematised biological science featuring a high level of theoretical development needs no
proofit is selfevident. Understandably, this initial premise lays a foundation for an
entirely different system of reasoning.
Defining his attitude to positivism and its methodological programme, Hull declares that
the logico-empiricist analysis of reduction is at best inadequate, and at worst utterly wrong.
The paradigm of physicalism proceeds from the possibility of solving all problems at the
lowest level of analysis, i.e. at the level of quantum mechanics, whereas biologists use not
only analysis, but also synthesis to investigate the phenomena in interest since they deal
with highly organised living systems.
Between the living and the dead Hull sees not only a quantitative, but also a
qualitative difference. This is particularly true of man as a living being. It is certainly
true, he writes, that nothing is more obvious in the study of nature than the existence of
complexity and levels of organisation. Now here are the levels of organisation more
stratified and the complexity more complex than in the organic world. But ontological
levels, individuals, parts, wholes, and so forth are hardly the givens of experiencerather
these notions emerge as phenomena are investigated and need not coincide with common
sense notions... Man is qualitatively different from other species. [23] It is also indicative
that Hull stands for the independence of biology as a science not only on the empirical, but
also on the theoretical levels recognising the right of biology to have its own laws and
theories which have not been formulated by physics and are not reducible to physical laws
and theories. Biology, in his opinion, provides convincing evidence that the concept of life
leaves no room for any metaphysical entity. The ability to create and reproduce ever more
complex structures is inherent in the elements themselves which constitute living matter.
The ascent from elementary particles to man includes a series of different integration levels
and interruptions in development. Yet it is a continuous process, both in time and space,
with no vacuum to be filled with immaterial entities. The transition from inanimate

nature to the world of living beings is so continuous that the analysis of molecules and
organels of the cell has already got into the hands of
physicists. This does not mean, however, that biology is turning into an appendage to
physics and that its field of investigations is becoming, so to speak, a subsidiary to a more
complex system. Each level of organisation features new properties and new laws. Not a
single separate molecule can reproduce itself. This ability is only inherent in such a
formation as cell. Yet the emergence of life changes the rules of the game. Natural selection
makes a greater demand on a higher level system, such as a population of cells, yet
simultaneously offers it new forming possibilities. Living organisms remaining subject to
the laws that govern inert systems acquire new properties which do not play any part at a
lower level. Biology calls for a new theory.
Of certain interest is also Hulls criticism of vitalism. In his opinion, the vitalist doctrine
results from the failure to understand the connection between such key categories as things
and substances, on the one hand, and properties, on the other. Life, according to Hull, is
nothing but time, space, gravitation and magnetism. To this must be added the
organisational property of living systems. The materialistic approach to the problem of
life is quite obvious here, at least within the limits typical of scientific realism: Hull
offers to explain life by the specific features of the organisation of living matter itself, but
not by postulating some spirit or vital force. Hull agrees with some anti-reductionists in that
the successful development of biology calls for the ontology of many levels, stressing at the
same time that it is far from sufficient to divide all reality into several layers and levels
the main thing is to determine the specific properties and laws characteristic of each of
Hulls recognition of the existence of specific, qualitatively different levels, important as it
is, cannot yet ensure the solution of the problems facing modern biology. His approach,
though essentially materialistic, is still limited. Hull has inherited from positivism its
special accent on cognitive structures and carries it onto static organic structures. Yet one of
the fundamental properties of living matter at all levels consists in its ability for
development and self-reproduction. Hence, one can hardly expect any essential progress in
the creation of theoretical biology without a general theory of development, i.e. dialectics.
Moreover, such progress cannot be ensured by mechanically applying dialectics to the
analysis of living systemsit calls for a new approach which is to be worked out by
biological science itself. It means that the processes of differentiation should be considered
in unity with those of integration, synthesis, and that the structural approach should be
combined with the historical one.
In order to study differentiation phenomena, the scientist must possess some kind of an
analytical instrument. Good headway has already been made towards this goal in the field
of investigation of molecular-biological mechanisms. More difficult appears to be the
development of a comprehensive approach to such regulating and controlling systems as
the endocrine or nervous system, as it must take into account the specificity of each system
and each level of living matter. Biology could evidently greatly benefit from the principle
of historicism which would help it to explain the reactions of a developing organism
tochanging external conditions in terms of adaptability, i.e. to regard the interaction of the

organism and the environment as a unity resulting from a prolonged adaptive evolution.
Without a historical approach all reactions of an organism may look like a heap of
absurdities determined exclusively by the.internal factors of development, quite fortuitous
at that and in no way connected with external condition. In order to use to advantage all
available analytical means of investigation, the biologists must first of all overcome their
prejudice against dialectics and get down in earnest to studying its real theoretical and
methodological content from classical works permeated with truly creative spirit.
The results achieved in molecular biology could not have been duly appreciated if it had
not been for the intensive development of the idea of selfdevelopment and for the turn to
Darwins theory of evolution. The synthesis of genetics and the evolution theory carried out
in the 1930s and expounded by S. Chetverikov, R. Fischer, S. Wright, and other scientists
undoubtedly played an important part in paving the way for the ideas and methods of
molecular biology. The concept of microevolution, disputable as it is, has had a beneficial
influence on the development of biology if only for its role in preparing appropriate
coordination between structure analysis and evolutionary research, i.e. in the integration of
experimental biology and theoretical investigations. It should be remembered that though
the elimination of the principles of integrity and historism in favour of analytical methods
and means does produce an immediate effect and gives tangible and demonstrable results, it
can never be anything more than just the first, though sufficiently flexible, approximation
to the truth in the process of cognition of living organisms. As A. Szentgjrgji has
figuratively put it, with reductionism employed as a universal method, life passes, as it
were, between ones fingers. The significance of each of the above methods in the
development of modern biology can only be assessed from the standpoint of dialectics as a
science concerned with the most general laws of development.
Numerous philosophers and biologists showing interest in the above problems note the
paradoxical fact that such outstanding physicists as Schrodinger, Bohr, Heisenberg, and
Wigner have sided of late with the most resolute opponents of reductionism in many fields,
including biology which is far removed from their special interests and which is regarded
by some physicists as a kind of their private domain. In making such observations they
overlook the fact that physics has already recovered, in the main if not completely, from
this intermittent fever. There are few physicists now who still hope to reduce the theory of
relativity in its present dominion to the principles of classical mechanics or to translate
quantum phenomena into the language of classical Laplatian determinism [24]. It becomes
increasingly clear to scientists that reality cannot be reduced to the totality of observable
facts and that epistemological reduction as one of the dogmas of positivism is untenable. It
should be noted in this context that physics with its philosophical theories appears to be
again far more instructive to biology than vice versa. As regards the approach to the
problem of objectivity, the solutions offered by physics and its philosophers feature a
notably higher standard of both empirical and theoretical investigations.
It looks as if experimental biology were only approaching the stage at which it will be
confronted with the problems of the inseparable connection between the object, subject and
instrument, and the relations between the object and the means of measurement. So far, we
have not yet come across a philosophical work discussing these problems in the light of
experimental investigations in biology. The theoretical level of biological science is

evidently not yet high enough to permit a serious philosophical analysis of the means of the
objective cognition of biological phenomena. By contrast, all these problems are not only
given extensive coverage, but are also treated at a high theoretical level in the literature on
physical problems, e.g. in the works by scientific realist Bunge. This philosophical trend
occupies far more advanced positions in physics than in other fields of science.
One of the important aspects of Bunges concept appears to be his analysis of the problem
of the conceptual representation of facts in theory. In his opinion, theory can hardly be
regarded as simply an image of reality, something like a picture. It is rather a conceptual
reconstruction of reality. Yet conceptual representations of facts are no less objective,
though they are only partial and provide at best but anapproximation to the truth. Not every
theoretical construct represents something. For instance, logical notions are not
representative at all, even if they have their referents. According to Bunge, reference and
presentation are independent of each other, since non-referential constructs, such as
multitudes, can be used for representation whereas non-referential constructs, e.g. a
tautology, may be completely unrepresentative. The truth is that scientific theories can be
both referential and representative.
The difference between the referent and the representation is of no small significance for
philosophy. According to Bunge, biologists are more and more frequently engaged in
controversies over which of the three biological systems is the true referent of the synthetic
theory of evolutionthe individual organism, the population or the species. No convincing
argument has been presented so far in favour of any of the contending theses. The
difference between the referents and the representations becomes clear in developed
sciences, such as theoretical physics. Here a certain function probability will refer to some
system or state, whereas the values of this function may represent certain dispositions of
this system, like, for instance, the function of mass refers to bodies in general, whereas its
particular value will represent the mass of a given body. In quantum mechanics each
dynamic property of a system, such as a pulse, is represented by a certain operator in the
Guilbertian space, i.e. a given operator represents a certain property of its referent. If the
relationship of reference in factual sciences compares constructs with things or with
aggregates of things, the relationship of representation compares a construct with a certain
aspect or property of a given thing or an aggregate of things. Hence, the purpose and the
result of a theory is not the representation of selected aspects of alleged things. Theoretical
notions are nothing but developed mathematical structures which cannot be defined in
terms of empirical operations or constructed as logical functions on the basis of given
observations. Empirical checks consist of operations planned in the light of subsequent
theories. Besides the experience bridging the gap between theory and reality, there also
exists a semantic bridge constructed with the help of the semantic propositions of the given
According to Bunge, the ideal of objectivity characteristic of factual theory is preserved in
quantum mechanics to no lesser degree than in classical mechanics. The object neither
disappears nor merges with the subject. The only change consists in that our modern
notions of microobjects are incorporated in a whole chain of connecting (mediating) links.
The subject, notes Bunge, does not occur among the basic predicates of our version of
QM [quantum mechanics]. Neither does he occur in the theory of measurement: indeed,

physical theory is unconcerned with the psychical events going on inside the observers
skull: a physical theory of measurement is concerned only with the physical intersection
between two or more physical entities, at least one of which must be a macrosystem. [25]
From Bunges viewpoint, the standard formalism of quantum mechanics can be adequately
expressed in terms of physics without any reference to the subject, i.e. psychology. In other
words, quantum mechanics can be interpreted in the same way as classical mechanics on
the assumption that the entities referred to by theory, such as electrons, atoms, molecules,
etc. have an independent status. That does not mean, of course, that the experimentalist
cannot modify them, for instance, by filtering out certain states or by providing evidence
that some microsystems are purely imaginary. Yet to achieve this aim the experimentalist
must use physical means without summoning the ghost of the Copenhagen school. Bunge
views the observer as an entity capable of influencing physical events with the help of
physical means either directly, through the agency of his body, or indirectly, through the
mediation of automated devices. The physicists mind invents formulae used for prediction
of physical events and for interpretation of physical phenomena under investigation and
therefore has no direct bearing on theory itself.
For objective interpretation of quantum mechanics Bunge proposes to free it, first, from the
notion of observable value and, second, from subjective probability. In his opinion, it is
irrelevant to speak of an observable value, of the observer changing it, of obtaining the
true knowledge of the observable value, etc. All of these notions relate to the subject, as
well as to some of his actions and mental states. Typical quantum properties are not
observable (in the epistemological sense of the word), and changeable values are nothing
but approximations to values calculated theoretically. The notion of certainty is no less
alien to physical theory. The latter must contain the objective interpretation of probability
as an ordinary physical property, but not as a degree of faith or a measure of certainty.
According to Bunge, the axiomatisation of the existing quantum theory is the radical means
of its restructuring. Axiomatic substantiation should rest on such notions as the
microsystem (or quanton), the surroundings (macro- or microphysical systems), the
conventional (configurational) space or the space of states, the property of the
microsystem, the operator representing it (the observable in the Copenhagen version),
etc. These notions will give the quantum theory a kind of an initial basis subject to no
further determination. The postulates of this realistic version of quantum mechanics
determining each of the initial notions must be justified by their ability to give successful
theoretical explanations of experimental facts. Hence, axioms are determined both formally
and semantically. Measurements only come into play at the checking stage. As regards the
properties of the microsystem and their conceptual representation, Bunge always strives to
avoid the term observable. He contends that, first, they cannot be perceived, though they
are amenable to indirect investigation; second, there is no complete clarity about the
specific methods of their measurement. In Bunges opinion, the subject should be barred
from theoretical physics if we do not wish to confuse it with psychology or epistemology.
The subjects role consists in constructing and checking a theory, but not in posing as its
referent. It is for these reasons, according to Bunge, that we should not use the word
observable with dynamic variables in quantum mechanics.

Specific parameters inherent in quantum-mechanical systems are chance variables in the

sense that they are associated with a definite distribution of probabilities. It is true, in
particular, of the position and momentum of a microsystem which should rather be called a
quantum position (quosition) and a quantum momentum (quomentum), to emphasise their
non-classical nature. Bunge points out that the function representing the quantum state
meets the axioms of the calculation of probabilities. It means that quantum mechanics today
contains no latent variables. According to Bunge, Bohms prohibition of latent variables
directly ensues from the conventional approach to the notions of the axiomatic system and
from the proof of the chance character of all dynamic variables.
In Bunges opinion, the fundamentalism of quantum mechanics can be understood in two
different ways. One way is to assume that it refers not to an individual quanton, but to a
statistical ensemble. From this assumption it logically follows that different components of
a certain ensemble in a given quantum state have different values of the coordinates and of
the momentum. Yet quantum mechanics is also applicable to an individual microsystem
(e.g. to an electron passing through a crystal grid and getting onto a screen). The theory is
not checked by means of large quantum ensembles. Thus, a calculated distribution of
positions is compared with a diffraction pattern on the screen when the number of
collisions increases. In other words, the function of the state (like any other
chance variable) refers to an individual quanton and its exact form is checked with the help
of the quanton statistical totalities.
The other way referred to by Bunge consists in regarding quantum-mechanical properties as
latent or potential rather than actual, i.e. as properties which reveal themselves in the
interaction of the system with the measuring instrument. During this interaction the
properties become dependent on the observer, since it is in his power to conduct or suspend
the experiment. Yet here, too, Bunge strives to free quantummechanical properties from the
subjects influence. As a rule, a quanton has neither an accurately defined position, nor a
definite momentum, possessing only point distributions. These distributions change with
time under the influence of the environment irrespective of whether this environment is
included in the experiment or not. Specifically, a quanton can be fairly well localised in
space, for which purpose it is necessary to fulfil appropriate operations in order to prepare a
localised state. Such operations quite often take place under natural conditions. According
to Bunge, we only repeat the experiments staged by nature itself by fixing, for instance, the
position of the atoms or by producing a monochromatic electron beam.
From Bunges viewpoint, the quantum theory does not lend itself to an empirical
interpretation since none of its basic symbols has any empirical content. Moreover not a
single basic symbol of quantum mechanics can be explained in empirical terms whence it
follows that the quantum theory has no empirical content whatsoever. It does not mean,
however, that it is not testable it simply means, in Bunges opinion, that its facts are
quantum transitions lying above the level of sensory experience. Here Bunge somewhat
exaggerates the existing gap between classical and quantum mechanics, sensory experience
and theory, observability and non-observability. Though not directly observable, many
quantummechanical formalisms and symbols can at any rate be visualised and therefore
lend themselves, at least partially, to empirical interpretation. Besides, an empirical test
involves the use of additional theories connecting microprocesses with macroprocesses, as

well as theories explaining the behaviour of the macrosystems included in the process of
measurement. The semantic content of the quantum theory is thus determined not only by
the factual level reflected in theoretical concepts, but also by concepts which can be
translated, at least partially, into the empirical language. To be sure, this circumstance
makes the test of the quantum theory much more difficult and is accountable for the
controversies (still going on) over the possibility of the interpretation of quantum
mechanics. Bunge strives for the simplest and most radical solution of the problem of
objectivity in quantum mechanics proposing complete separation of the empirical and
theoretical levels and banishment of all observable and measurable values from theory. In
point of fact, it is the reverse of ousting metaphysics. This way can hardly lead to a
satisfactory result. Just like an experiment cannot be freed from its theoretical canvas, so
the quantum theory cannot and evidently need not be relieved of all the observables. If
compared with the stand of the Copenhagen school, it is just the other extreme, prompted
by the desire to solve the problem of objectivity in quantum mechanics by surgical means.
One will hardly take exception to Bunges contention that a notion cannot be defined as
primary or secondary outside a definite theoretical context, that the axiomatisation of the
theories of relativity and quantum mechanics has made it clear that they deal with objects
rather than measurements and that these theories are not directly related to the observer and
his mental states. It is not quite clear, however, in which way the axiomatisation of the
above theories helps to reveal their objective content or, the more so, serves as a means for
making knowledge more objective. Nevertheless, Bunges idea appears to be constructive
enough, particularly if the proposed axiomatisation could be supplemented with other
methods of the objective interpretation of the quantum theory. As we shall try to show later,
such possibilities should evidently not be discarded.
Besides the weaknesses noted above, Bunges concept is depreciated by the mutual
isolation of classical and quantum mechanics. He draws a sharp line of demarcation
between the two theories leaving just one connecting linkthe instrument whose
indications are described in terms of classical physics but at the same time do not yield to
empirical interpretation. Here Bunge appears to be unable to fit things to one another and
shape them into a streamlined philosophical-methodological system. He stops in hesitation
when confronted with the need for a more flexible, i.e. dialectical, approach to the
relationship of theories. What is needed, however, is not only a more flexible apparatus to
investigate the relations and links between theories, as well as between a theory and its
empirical basis. Of crucial importance, alongside a greater determination to delimit theory
and sensory experience, is an effective methodological concept of development. A concept
of this kind is necessary not only for understanding the interdependence of the classical and
quantum theories, but also for defining the future trends of the development of modern
physics. It is very important, for instance, to envisage the prospects of the modern nonrelativistic quantum theory and the theory of relativity, as well as the effect of their possible
integration on the theory of elementary particles. It is quite obvious that the solution of
these problems calls for a dialectical approach to the analysis of modern scientific
knowledge and for abandoning the view that the quantum theory revised in accordance with
Bunges requirements is the ideal for all sciences. The materialistic substantiation of the
latest physical theories cannot be complete without dialectical analysis. It is not fortuitous
that the weakness of this link in the system of Bunges views leads him to a number of

idealistic conclusions. As has been shown above, Bunges approach to the interpretation of
quantum mechanics, the general problems of the relationship of philosophy and science, as
well as to the mind-body problem cannot but suffer from certain eclecticism due to his
prejudice against dialectics.
Bunges concept features rather a contradictory and even odd combination of the objective
understanding of probability in quantum mechanics with the mechanistic interpretation of
causality. Bunges mechanicism in this field is traceable to his earlier works and, as his
latest ideas show, has not been completely cured. It must be admitted that Bunge has come
out with argumentative criticism against the Machist concept of causality and opposed the
attempts of Schlick, Frank and Mach himself to substitute functional dependence or the
connection of states for causal relations. He repeatedly disclosed the futility of all attempts
of positivism to contrast causality and quantum mechanics and to undermine the idea of
causality by counterposing it to Heisenbergs correlation of uncertainties. His efforts, given
a most serious attitude to dialectics, could be very fruitful in achieving a common goalto
give an objective substantiation to the microworld theory. However, Bunge has always
refused to avail himself of this methodological support.
Bunges stand is largely attributable to the fact that his concept of causality is based on the
simplest form of causal relations lying on the surface in everyday experience: the action of
one object on another. Expressing the principle of causality in a more strict logical form,
Bunge presents it as follows: If C happens under the same conditions, then (and only then)
E is always produced by it. [26] According to the author, this formula includes all the
obligatory components of causality, namely, the conditionality of the consequence upon the
cause, the uniqueness of the connection, the unilateral dependence of the consequence on
the cause, the constancy of the connection and its genetic nature (or productivity).
Ascribing such features as uniqueness and necessity to causal relations, Bunge discards by
his formula the possibility of one and the same consequence being brought about by
different causes. In his analysis of different definitions of causality Bunge gives preference
to the one identifying the cause with the necessary and sufficient condition. He includes all
the accompanying conditions in the concept of the efficient cause. In his opinion, if the
accompanying conditions were contingent upon the cause, the formula of causality would
express more than a simple, direct causal bond and the cause would then be regarded as the
unchainer or triggerer of a process [27]. Bunges formula, however, complicates the
problem of the relationship of the internal and external conditions in the analysis of some
complex process, particularly in a living organism or any developing system. No less
difficult becomes also the analysis of the behaviour of a quantum-mechanical system which
figures prominently in Bunges works.
The solution to the internal-external dilemma in the causality problem proposed by Bunge
is very, if not too, simple: he identifies both the internal and external conditions either with
the necessary or with the sufficient conditions required to ensure the causal process. This
brings him in obvious contradiction with his own concept of determinism. It should be
noted that Bunge distinguishes between the principle of causality and the principle of
determinism. The latter rests on a broader notion of determination which includes the
processes of simple causality. One might infer from this stand that causality in its simplest

and clearest form must underlie any kind of determination, including the statistical one. Yet
Bunge, though never giving a clear-cut definition of necessity and chance, makes it quite
plain that the changes contingent on the very nature of phenomena and resulting from the
operation of internal factors should be regarded as the necessary ones. Chance, according to
Bunge, is what results from external circumstances. Now let us see if this approach will
help in any way to understand the nature of quanum-mechanical processes or throw
additional light on the problem of completeness of the quantum theory.
In his book on causality Bunge still regards with favour Bohms hypothesis of the existence
of latent parameters determining the statistical behaviour of microparticles and contends
that, once defined, they would enable the scientists to abandon the probability interpretation
of quantum mechanics and of the behaviour of microparticles. Yet in his Philosophy of
Physics, written later, he changes his views and offers a different programme: to eliminate
completely the subject (psychological determinations, measurements, observable values)
from the quantum theory. In this way he evidently seeks to eliminate the subjective
interpretation of probability as well. To this end Bunge uses the expression mean value
instead of the psychological expectation value and prefers the terminology of probability
of quantons presence in a given volume to the vocabulary of the Copenhagen school and
Percy Bridgemans operationalist concept (presence is a given volume when the
measurement is practically completed). Bunge goes even as far as substituting the terms
scatter and spread for uncertainty and indeterminacy.
Here, however, a tricky question suggests itself: is it to be inferred that a statistical process
proceeding at a certain level of the organisation of matter is a direct effect of the cause
operating at a deeper level? Schrodingers equation is known to be in some sense
mechanistic, just like Newtons. Both equations describe the changes caused by external
effects, yet the latter, unlike the former, represents a simple causal relationship. The
quantisation of states brings in a new qualitative element which distinguishes modern from
classical mechanics. The essential difference consists in that the former equation regards
matter as a wave process, whereas the latter one treats it as the totality of particles. The
difference here is brought about by the inner quality and not by external forces. Yet in both
situations the principle of causality is used to explain motion in terms of mechanics (wave
mechanics and classical mechanics respectively). Should it be assumed, then, that simple
causality rejected at one level owing to statistical interpretation must be restored at the next
basic level as being better suited for the explanation and prediction of processes?
When we pass on to microprocesses, we encounter a relative increase in the role of internal
factors and a corresponding decrease in the role of external factors in determining the
properties of physical systems. Here again, how are we to tally necessity resulting,
according to Bunge, from the operation of internal factors of physical and all other
phenomena, and chance regarded by him as a totality of external conditions with the view
that any future theory explaining the mechanical displacement of microparticles in space
and time will be a statistical theory?
Suppose now we still hope that one fine day it will prove possible to describe the behaviour
of microparticles in terms of simple causal relations. All the same, the lessons taught by
quantum mechanics have not been lost on us and we now understand that causality need not

at all be rigidly and for ever linked with necessity and that necessity, for that matter, cannot
be divorced from chance, except by the sheer force of abstraction from concrete conditions.
Hence, any causal connection includes both necessity and chance. If that is so, as surely it
is, causality can never be separated from probability unless it is viewed as a fixed
relationship, something in the nature of a bronze casting, which cannot be different from
what it is.
So, we are again bound to come to the conclusion that disregard for dialectics and the inapt
use of its instruments let down even the most talented representatives of scientific realism
and account, directly or indirectly, for their inconsistencies and concessions to idealism
despite the ostensibly materialistic premises of their concepts.
[1] Roger Trigg, Reality at Risk: A Defence of Realism in Philosophy and the Sciences, The
Harvester Press, Ltd., Barnes & Noble Books, Sussex, N. J., 1980, p. IX. [> main text]
[2] Roy Bhaskar, A Realist Theory of Science, The Harvester Press, Ltd., Hassocks, N. J.,
1978, p. 36. [> main text]
[3] Ibid., p. 249. [> main text]
[4] Roger Trigg, Reality at Risk..., op. cit., p. XIX. [> main text]
[5] Ibid., p. 2. [> main text]
[6] Ibid., p. 22. [> main text]
[7] Ibid., p. 23. [> main text]
[8] Ibid., p. 1. [> main text]
[9] Ibid., p. 28. [> main text]
[10] Roger Trigg, Reality at Risk..., op. cit., p. 66. [> main text]
[11] Willard Van Orman Quine, Word and Object, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., New York,
1960, p. 23. [> main text]
[12] Willard Van Orman Quine, The Nature of Natural Knowledge, in: Mind and
Language, Ed. by S. Guttenplan, Oxford, 1975, p. 74. [> main text]
[13] Willard Van Orman Quine, From a Logical Point of View. Logico-Philosophical
Essays, Harper & Row Publishers, New York, 1963, p. 44. [> main text]

[14] Herbert Feigl, The Mental and the Physical, University of Minnesota Press,
Minneapolis, 1967, p. 57. [> main text]
[15] I. T. Frolov, B. G. Yudin, Preface to the Russian translation of M. Ruses
book Philosophy of Biology, Moscow, 1977, p. 18. [> main text]
[16] Herbert Feigl, The Mental and the Physical, op. cit., p. 28. [> main text]
[17] Ibid., pp. 8485. [> main text]
[18] E. P. Polten, Critique of the Psycho-Physical Identity Theory. A Refutation of
Scientific Materialism and an Establishment of Mind-Matter Dualism by Means of
Philosophy and Scientific Method, Mouton, The Hague, Paris, 1973, p. 19. [> main text]
[19] Ibid., pp. 2122. [> main text]
[20] Ibid., p. 113. [> main text]
[21] V. I. Lenin, Materialism and Empiric-Criticism, Collected Works, Vol. 14, 1977,
p. 147 (here and hereafter Progress Publishers, Moscow). [> main text]
[22] Karl Marx, Capital, Vol. I, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1974, p. 30. [> main text]
[23] D. Hull, Philosophy of Biological Science, Englewood Cliffs, N. J., 1974, p. 131. [
> main text]
[24] Hopes for such a reduction were once expressed by Einstein, and later by David
Bohm and other scientists in the hypothesis of latent parameters. Now these hopes are
considered groundless. [> main text]
[25] Mario Bunge, Philosophy of Physics, D. Reidel Publishing Company, Dordrecht,
Holland, 1973, p. 102. [> main text]
[26] Mario Bunge, Causality. The Place of the Causal Principle in Modern Science,
Harvard University Press, Cambridge (Mass.), 1959, pp. 4849. [> main text]
[27] Ibid. [

by Igor Naletov

While assessing the significance of various schools of the modern philosophy of science
and comparing their programmes and views on fundamental methodological problems, we
have never missed an opportunity to outline, if only schematically, the attitude of dialectical
materialism (or materialistic dialectics) to each issue under consideration. Now, in order to
characterise materialistic dialectics as an alternative to positivism, we ought to take a
somewhat closer look at its basic concepts and present them in a broader perspective.
Of course, it would be presumptuous even to attempt to give an exhaustive account of
Marxist philosophy within the scope of this publication. We shall therefore confine
ourselves to the relationship of philosophy and special sciences, the objectivity of scientific
knowledge and causality, i.e. to the main problems which we have already discussed in
connection with the crisis of positivism and with the programmes of alternative doctrines
within the framework of the modern philosophy of science and which constitute, as we
have shown, the core of any methodological programme.
From its very first steps Marxist philosophy, continuing the materialistic and dialectical
traditions of all previous philosophy has been the antipode of positivism. There is no need
to reproduce here the history of their struggle, the more so as its outcome is well known.
The prestige of materialistic dialectics as the methodology of cognition and as the world
view is steadily growing, winning over to its side the most prominent representatives of
modern science. Marxist philosophy, assimilating every new achievement of social and
scientific progress and constantly enriching itself, is extending its influence to ever new
regions of the world, the only means of its expansion being, as before, the logic of truth.
It is precisely this logic, confirmed by life itself, that underlies its high scientific repute. By
contrast, positivist philosophy, represented now by a dozen or so of its champions, the
living relics of the past, is undergoing a profound ideological crisis evidently marking the
closing stage of its history.
The dramatic story of the struggle between Marxist philosophy and various trends of
positivism suggests certain conclusions which appear to be particularly instructive in the
light of the present-day debate on the methodology of scientific cognition, as they are
directly related to the main controversial issues. In this connection special importance
attaches to the difference between the Marxist and positivist views on the relation of
philosophy to special sciences, as well as on the relation of science in general to the
unscientific forms of consciousness.
As we have earlier indicated, one of the key points in the programmes of all positivist
schools without exception has always been the opposition to metaphysics, i.e. to everything
that passes beyond the limits of scientific knowledge. Indeed, the only difference between
the successive stages or phases of the evolution of positivism consisted, perhaps, in the

difference of the concepts of scientificity and, consequently, in different lines of

demarcation between science and non-science.
This circumstance, however, has nothing to do with the ill luck of positivist philosophy,
since the delimitation of these two spheres of human and social consciousness is indeed
absolutely necessary. No one in our time, except, perhaps, theologists (who are not averse
to partaking in the fruit of science either), would raise any objections to the separation of
science and religion if only for the simple reason that they represent entirely different forms
of social consciousness with their own traditions, specific features and functions in society,
not to speak of the religious prejudices that have always been a formidable obstacle in the
way of scientific progress.
Besides religion, there exist other forms of nonscientific consciousness, such as, for
instance, aesthetic consciousness and common sense. They should also be distinguished
from science as such, though there is no sharp line of demarcation between them. Indeed,
scientific knowledge grows on the rich soil of mans everyday experience, and the artistic
perception of the world inspires creative scientific endeavour. It would be impossible to
understand science, its origin, motive forces and the nature of scientific thinking itself if we
left out of account the blood vessels connecting science with living humanity, its everyday
needs and aspirations, as well as the enormous wealth of labour experience accumulated by
mankind. Said Goethe: All theory, dear friend, is grey, but the golden tree of actual life
springs ever green.
The fact that the links between science and the arts have not yet been properly explored
gives no grounds for ignoring their obvious mutually beneficial influence. On the contrary,
the more complex and uncommon their relations, the greater should be the philosophers
desire to get at the root of their extraordinary alliance, since they may find there a clue to
the mystery of human thinking. The discoveries that may await them on this path are being
eagerly looked forward to by science, as they will essentially affect the further course of
scientific and technological progress, rationalise the development of technology and raise
the intellectual standards of human life.
There is no need to discuss these problems in detail, since our purpose at present is to
underscore the importance of demarcating science and non-scientific knowledge. However,
such a demarcation cannot be an aim in itself. The close links existing between science and
everyday life, science and the arts, common sense and true knowledge, as well as between
science and other fields of social life indicate that it should be but a preliminary stage for
further investigations. When social life and social consciousness are divided respectively
into more or less independent spheres and forms, the next step will be to focus our attention
on their interconnection. This stage, however, will hardly be the final one either, since the
investigation of their links will lead to a more profound and concrete understanding of

differences between them. This process, alas, has no end, just like the process of cognition
in general.
We may sound not very optimistic, but one of the tasks of science, as distinct from religion
and other forms of myths consists in giving man correct ideas of himself and of the
surrounding world, the ideas that would be concrete, connected with reality and therefore
testable, rather than in his illusory consolation. As to the arts and common sense, science
differs from them by the precision of its statements, accuracy of calculations and forecasts,
as well as by the reliability of its conclusions.
As is seen from these considerations, very general and sketchy as they are, the nature of
scientific knowledge can only be understood after it is singled out of other forms of human
consciousness and presented as- a historical process, i.e. with its essential links, both
logical and historical. It should be noted that the rapid scientific development over the past
decades and the crucial changes of many fundamental concepts of the world have exposed
the links between science and other social activities and made their interdependence
common knowledge. The immaturity of these links in the period of the inception of
positivism, however, cannot justify this philosophy for their methodological distortion,
particularly at the later stages of its evolution when these links became more apparent.
As early as the beginning of the 19th century Hegel defined the basic principles underlying
the approach to this question. These principles, though in idealistic attire, carried profound
dialectical meaning which ensured their viability till our time. All that was needed (in
Hegels time at any rate) in order to solve in principle the problem of the relationship of
science to the non-scientific forms of human consciousness was dialectics. It was to show
the complexity and the contradictory nature of this relationship: on the one hand, the
opposition of science and religion, of scientific and pictorial thinking, intuition and logic,
practice and theory; on the other, the diversity of bonds, mediating and intermediate links,
as well as the transitions from one form of consciousness to another.
The question of the scientific value of philosophy aroused Hegels special interest. In 1802,
he emphasised the importance of this question in the Critical Philosophical Journal and
discussed the attitude to it on the part of Kant and Fichte. Philosophy, wrote Hegel,
since it is to be Ordered Knowledge, cannot borrow its Method from a subordinate
science, such as Mathematics. [1] In his opinion, philosophy was capable of being an
objective, conclusive science based on the immanent development of the notion and the
absolute method of knowledge. [2] The content of logic as the highest type of philosophical
science is its scientific method, the notion of science itself which is its ultimate result, as
well as the concept of its subject-matter, thinking in concepts which is engendered in the
course of development of the Science, and therefore cannot precede it. [3] According to
Hegel, the one and only thing for securing scientific progress is understanding that the

method of logic is spontaneous development of its content and that its essence is a
dialectical, i.e. definite negation. [4]
Having mastered Hegels dialectics, Marx and Engels gave a profound comparative
analysis of their own and Hegels views proceeding from the materialistic idea of the
primacy of social being over social consciousness, of the determination of consciousness,
its content and structure by the content and structure of the social, practical activity of man.
Reuniting dialectics and materialism, Marx and Engels turned dialectics into a real science,
and this in the terms that have preserved their validity till nowadays: objectivity, connection
with reality and testability of its propositions in practice. Having retained the universality of
logical categories and principles, materialist dialectics at the same time got rid of the
speculativeness, scholasticism and abstractness which were characteristic of German
classical philosophy.
Disclosing the mystified form of Hegelian dialectics in his Economic Manuscripts of 1857
1859, Marx described his own method as being the direct opposite of the Hegelian method.
One of the features of Marxs method, also contrasting with Hegels idealistic dialectics,
consisted, according to Marx, in that it leads from abstract definitions by way of reasoning
to the reproduction of the concrete situation, ... as a summing-up, a result, and not as the
starting point. [5]
The categories and laws of materialistic dialectics are indeed universal and in this sense
irrefutable. Yet their status is entirely different from the status of a priori, absolute Hegelian
ideas. The universality of the categories and laws of dialectics interpreted materialistically
does not mean that they can be used everywhere, at all times, in all cases and under any
circumstances. They are only universal in the sense that they apply to all fields of reality,
namely, to nature, society and thinking. When we say that they are universally confirmable,
we mean that they are confirmed in all fields of reality. This, and only this is the meaning of
universality characterising dialectical laws and categories. Of course, such an
understanding of universality limits the competence of philosophy which claimed to be the
science of sciences by denying it the right to explain or analyse every individual object or
phenomena, every relationship or dependence. One can speak of dialectics as the science of
sciences in a figurative sense only, meaning that it rises above particulars, trivial problems
and petty everyday situations. If Marx and Engels had not risen above their surroundings,
they would hardly have managed to discern the essence of capitalism, its basic laws and
working of hidden mechanisms behind the Mont Blanc of individual facts. Moreover, had
they not risen above reality, they would not have been able to see the outlines of future
human society.
This looking from above has nothing in common with looking down upon something
and does not by any means imply a derogatory attitude to specialised sciences, everyday

human life and their specific reflection in human consciousness. It is rather an

epistemological position indicative of the relative independence of philosophical
knowledge and of the specific character of the subject-matter of dialectics as a science.
Philosophy and dialectics should be concerned with more general problems than those
which come within the scope of special sciences.
It stands to reason that the links and relationships connecting the most general properties of
objects and phenomena of reality are different from those connecting specific objects and
phenomena. They constitute a specific field of knowledge which cannot be covered in full
measure by physics, chemistry, biology, history or any other particular sciences. On the
other hand, the tree of science would hardly be able to flourish without its crown
transforming the power and tenacity of philosophical ideas into the energy of scientific
Having preserved the universality of dialectical categories which reflect eternal human
problems and link the wonderings of mans spirit in the depths of outer space, atom or
living cell with his earthly existence, Marxism has shown at the same time the real
connection of most general philosophical problems with mans social life, practical activity
and problems of special sciences. In that sense Marxism revealed the specific nature of
philosophical categories and, consequently, showed the way to test them, i.e. to confirm
true ideas and views and to refute false ones. This idea of the unity of the universality
(abstractness) of philosophical knowledge and its concreteness was beyond Hegels
understanding owing to the speculativeness of his philosophy, its detachment from real
(material) being rooted in the conception of the identity of being and thinking. This idea,
however, is also beyond the comprehension of modern positivism with its fixation on the
direct empirical testing of any scientific knowledge and obsession with the struggle against
metaphysics condemned together with dialectics by the positivist court of verification
or falsification.
The irony consists in that dialectics which had provided the real basis for alliance between
philosophy and science way back by the middle of the 19th century has become one of the
main objects of positivist attacks against metaphysics and speculativeness. One of the
greatest achievements of human mind was treated by the philosophy of science equally
with religion and other distorted forms of social consciousness. Fighting against dialectics
and striving to tear it away from science, positivism was at the same time pretending to
give a correct explanation of the nature and essence of scientific cognition, distinguish
science from other forms of human activity and delimit religion and mythology. It is this
paradox that lies at the root of all the misfortunes of positivism.
The evolution of positivism, which is now almost one and a half century old, has not
brought about any appreciable change in its attitude to dialectics. Spencer and Comte

underscored the empirical untestability of the categories and laws of dialectics. Mach and
Avenarius opposed the dialectics of Marx and Engels even more uncompromisingly.
Attempting to disprove dialectics, the logical positivists have seized upon the criterion of
verification, and their arguments, if only slightly modified, are now currently used by all
modern representatives of the philosophy of science. They allege, for instance, that
dialectics is being substantiated by non-scientific methods and that its propositions are just
illustrated by examples instead of being mathematically correlated with experience. In
support of their charges they usually refer to textbooks on philosophy which sometimes do
expound dialectics in an oversimplified didactic manner. Such accusations, however, cannot
be taken seriously. Criticism of dialectics requires a far more profound knowledge of the
subject than just superficial acquaintance with students aids.
The real thrust of positivist criticism consists in the contention that dialectics is nothing but
natural philosophy, since it concerns itself with the most general laws of being. A
philosopher, according to positivism, has no right to express his views not only on reality as
a whole, but even on any of its components. One of the most serious positivist arguments
against dialectics is the assertion that it has no empirical content and that its propositions
are nonsensical in cognitive terms. According to the positivist critics, this conclusion is
borne out by the impossibility of any empirical verification of dialectical statements.
It is commonly argued in present-day positivist literature that dialectics does not disprove
anything and that its propositions are universally confirmable, i.e. not falsifiable. In contrast
to Russell, Schlick and Wittgenstein who underscored the empirical non-testability, nonverifiability of dialectics and therefore qualified it as metaphysics, Popper and his
numerous followers apply a different criterion in the assessment of dialectics. Yet one
would vainly expect them to recognise it as the methodology of scientific cognition.
Significantly, in Poppers system which is based on an entirely different and even, in a
sense, the opposite approach to the problem of testability of scientific knowledge dialectics,
nevertheless, is again classified as metaphysics, this time, however, on different grounds:
since the Occam razor for Popper is falsifiability, he condemns dialectics for universal
confirmability or nonfalsifiability of its propositions and principles.
In Poppers opinion, no facts can be cited which would run counter to the, principles of
dialectics, if only potentially. At the same time, dialectical statements are not analytical like
those of logic or mathematics. Their fallacy therefore is inherent and can be neither
circumvented, nor neutralised. That, according to critical rationalism, means that
dialectics is just another kind of metaphysics and its statements have but a semblance of
empirical content. However, Poppers prolonged debate with the Vienna school was bound
to effect a serious change in his views and to make him reproduce increasingly, though
unconsciously, the ideas of German classical and, in particular, Hegelian dialectics. The
more anti-positivistic he became, the louder sounded the Hegelian notes in his concept

of objective knowledge, inherent knowledge, cosmic, physical, biological and cultural

evolution. Poppers militant anti-historicism was giving way to evolutionism, etc. Seeking a
clue to Poppers spontaneous gravitation to Hegelian metaphysics, one should take into
account the similarity of the situations in European bourgeois philosophy in the middle of
the 20th and the early 19th centuries. Like Hegels dialectics born in the midst of the
struggle against the mechanical-naturalistic and empirical-phenomenological forms of
philosophy, as well as against the reductionist concepts of consciousness, Poppers
evolution towards the dialectical forms of thought takes place in the atmosphere of
criticism of the mechanistic dogmas of neopositivism: the static-cumulativistic concept of
science, the empirical and inductivist methodology, the physicalist theory of cognition, etc.
Referring to the universality of dialectical categories and laws, representatives of the
modern philosophy of science speak of the triviality of its conclusions. In their opinion,
dialectics applicable to all cognitive situations without exception is nothing but a set of
tautological assertions which give no grounds for any differentiations and, consequently,
are devoid of analytical possibilities.
They further argue that a philosopher does not base his conclusions on sensory data and
does not resort to an experiment. He can only reason within the limits of his professional
capability. Hence the conclusion: philosophy must not claim to be anything more than
logic. Since formal logic is the development of its own postulates and not related in any
way to the outer world, it must not be regarded as knowledge of anything. The logician and,
consequently, the philosopher must look after the scientist ensuring that his formal
calculations are not nonsensical, but the calculations themselves should be based on
linguistic agreements. For the philosopher, as an analyst, writes Ayer, is not directly
concerned with the physical properties of things. He is concerned only with the way in
which we speak about them... Philosophy is a department of logic. For we shall see that the
characteristic mark of a purely logical inquiry is that it is concerned with the formal
consequences of our definitions and not with questions of empirical fact. [6]
Whatever the viewpoints as to the scientific value of various propositions (verification or
falsification), the difference between them consists in the adherence to a definite method of
comparing such propositions with sensory experience. Laying aside the details, i.e. the
question of the methods of checking which are in fact diametrically opposite in each of the
concepts and equally one-sided, each concept centres around the problem of testability, at
least in principle, of various statements and refutability of false ideas.
It stands to reason that Marxist philosophy also regards the testability of any assertion, i.e.
its confirmability or refutability, as the main criterion of scientific knowledge. Marxism
holds that the testability of propositions presupposes their concreteness and
meaningfulness, and this is just the crux of the matter.

If philosophy is a system of abstract knowledge, the testability of its propositions, in

contrast to specialised or positive sciences, is entirely out of the question. Since the
categories, laws and principles of dialectics and materialism are indeed expressed in
abstract terms, positivism may seem to be justified in asserting that dialectical propositions
are nonsensical, unscientific and metaphysical.
True, the categories of materialistic dialectics are the most abstract, i.e. the most general
concepts which constitute the initial postulates not only in the system of special knowledge,
but also in philosophy itself. These are the ultimate, most comprehensive concepts, Lenin
wrote, which epistemology has in point of fact so far not surpassed (apart from changes
in nomenclature, which are alwayspossible). [7] These Lenins words characterising the
concepts of matter and consciousness are fully applicable to many other categories of
dialectics. They cannot be deduced in a purely logical way, la Hegel, from other concepts
they are abstracted from reality itself and raised to a level of universal philosophical
generalisations on the basis of centuries-old human experience and scientific knowledge.
Indeed, if we identify the concrete with sensory experience and regard as concrete an
individual object or a phenomenon given us in direct sense perceptions dialectics will
inevitably appear as an abstract science, a field of abstract knowledge free from any
sensory experience and concreteness since it is far removed from the sensuous world and is
least of all concerned with individual phenomena and objects concentrating primarily on
their general properties and relations. It is just this understanding of the abstract and the
concrete in which the former represents the universal properties and relations, and the latter,
the sensually perceived individual objects, that is prevalent in literature and underlies the
attempts to counterpose philosophy and special sciences.
Before we proceed to philosophical categories, let us have a closer look at the most
concrete, at first sight, knowledge, the knowledge of what is given us in everyday sensory
experience, and see how concrete and, consequently, testable it is.
What can be said about sensory experience as the primary source of our knowledge? If we
are to rely upon it for its critical and informative values as proposed by positivism, it must
be the real standard of clarity and we should have no doubt as regards its content or
possible limits. Yet the very first pages of Hegels Phenomenology of Spirit show that there
is nothing more obscure than sensory experience. If we want to get pure sensory experience
and abstract from all rational elements, all structures of the mind, we shall find ourselves
in possession not of the richest, but of the poorest content conceivable. We shall have to
throw away all universal or rational forms, all categories such as quality, contradiction,
necessity, matter, etc. in order to find absolutely possible pure this, here, now.

Having arrived at this point, we shall realise that instead of a well of knowledge we have
got an iridescent soap bubble ready to burst under the slightest whiff of scientific air and
absolutely empty at that. What we find, writes Hegel, is in itself unstable and indefinite,
since even with a minor change of our view or attention we find a different thishere
now. However, even these categories must preserve some remnant of the abstract, if they
are to have any sense at all. This, here and now turn out to be the least definite of all
categories when we attempt to define or fix them with the help of experience. They acquire
their stable meaning due to the work of mind only.
Hegels concepts of the abstract and the concrete are much more refined and promising, if
only for the fact that he does not necessarily connect the concrete with sensual perception.
A murderer is an abstract definition for a crowd of idlers not because it is a legal notion
abstracted from mans other definitions (though it is also true), but mainly because he
ceases to be anything else but a murderer for an onlooker watching the execution. A
handsome murderer? Can one think so badly, can one call a murderer handsome? [8] His
personality with all the richness of his life, his appearance, upbringing, etc. are all squeezed
into a single definition severing all other ties and relations with the world. The abstract for
Hegel is the separate, isolated, alienated from the multitude of ties and relations of an
object. By contrast, the concrete is the richness of the fully reproduced properties and
qualities in their totality. According to Hegel, a wise judge of human heart thinking in
concrete terms will consider the entire course of events shaping the criminals character,
trace the influence of bad relations between his father and mother on his life and his
upbringing, reveal, perhaps, the injustice or cruelty to which he was exposed, etc.
Hegel evidently intended to reconcile society with itself, the society which, on the one
hand, disregards abstract thinking without suffering the pangs of remorse, and, on the other,
feels at heart certain respect for it as for something elevated, and avoids it not because of
contempt for it but because of glorification, not because it seems something commonplace
but because it is taken for something notable or, on the contrary, for something special. [9]
Yet Hegels irony which, for that matter, permeates his entire article, is too obvious to make
the opponents of the abstract more tolerant. The examples of the average mans concrete
thinking displayed by Hegel are too unattractive to make his eulogy of concrete thinking
flattering for the champions of empirical concreteness. Here Hegel hasnt got the slightest
chance to win their sympathy. It is the more regrettable as even this publicistic article is, in
fact, very instructive. Hegel convincingly shows that what appears at first sight very
concrete knowledge with lots of down-to-earth and juicy details turns out to be extremely
incomplete, i.e. abstract.
True, Hegel hardly shows here the depth of the abstract, the concreteness of general
determinations. The abstract and the concrete do not yet merge in organic synthesis. They

are still held apart by the idea that knowledge can be concrete and abstract and that abstract
knowledge can pass into concrete knowledge through ever more substantive
determinations. We should not, however, demand too much from Hegel. What he said gives
grounds for further inferences and suggests, if only implicitly, new ideas. Hegel is known to
be helpful in overcoming Hegel and in enabling his successors to open up new horizons,
standing on his own shoulders.
Hence, none other than Hegel enables us to make the first critical remark about positivism:
the highest positivist criterion of meaningfulness and scientificity proves itself to be
extremely indefinite and badly needing clarification. Yet neither definiteness, nor clarity
can be borrowed from the formal logic which is nothing but a set of conventional rules for
formulating statements. Of course, sensory experience can play the part of a cognitive
method, but it can only be defined and harmonised within a broader rational system, such
as the one conceived by Hegel, but not within sensory experience itself or the logical
syntax. Positivism strives, so to speak, to freeze arbitrarily the cognitive method at one of
the levels, important though it may be.
Since the criterion of sensory experience is itself uncertain, one should not be surprised at
the controversies flaring up now and again within positivist philosophy over the nature of
experience. Experience was first believed to consist of fragmentary sensory data. Later it
became clear that such fragments were themselves abstractions singled out by the mind
from more concrete and continuous whole. What were then the pure sense data? Were they
to include relations having different abstract components?
Nor was it clear which categories expected to be discovered within the sphere of pure
experience were genuine, and which were purely logical, i.e. verbal structures. More, was
sensory experience to be regarded as the manifestation of something called qualities (if
this term had any meaning at all at the given level) and wasnt even the most primitive
experience mingled with our conviction surfacing, for instance, in the vagueness of
assertions and statements on facts and situations? Finally, whence the assurance that
sensory experience was to be placed in the foreground?
It is again Hegel who helps us reveal this important omission of positivist philosophy. The
mind is denied the ability to comprehend reality, since every statement about reality must,
by force of its synthetic nature, express pure chance, and the mind does not produce
anything but only elaborates the conclusions obtained from clear verbal statements. For
Hegel, statements of chance represent but a moment which is barren of any thought and
signifies that mind has already completed its work.
Positivism, on the contrary, regards as meaningful only those statements which relate to
accidental (or probable) facts. Yet to point out a fact does not mean to comprehend it. A

synthetic statement a posteriori is nothing but a record of what has occurred, but it has no
explaining force. Such statements cannot become explanatory through generalisation
processes. They remain synthetic irrespective of whether they refer to one, some, most or
all objects. A statement which is now called law remains a simple assertion that something
is accidental and gives no understanding of the causes of the given occurrence.
It is obvious that the process of generalisation enhances the force of prediction. To speak
of the object as a whole is to give a more reliable prediction of the future state of affairs.
Yet the ability for prediction is something different from comprehension. Even if we
eventually succeeded, through hard work, in obtaining generalisations covering the
broadest possible field of events and were able to predict the course of every experiment,
we would not take a single step towards understanding any of them.
The function of the mind, according to Hegel, is neither the singling out of tautological
statements, nor the generalisation of synthetic statements of facts. Its function is
comprehension. Rational comprehension for Hegel results from at least two factors: the
ontological status of the mind and the impossibility to find something which can be
completely determinable or completely comprehensible. The first factor prevents logic
from being conventional and purely verbal, the second factor does not allow it to bog down
at the very beginning.
One of the obvious meanings of the concept concreteness is that our knowledge reflects
empirical objective reality and that every notion, judgement or scientific theory has quite
definite objective content which we call empirical. The empirical concreteness of our
knowledge is its conformity with sensory experience. Our everyday experience, practical
activity, the experimental side of scientific cognition evidently possess the highest degree
of empirical concreteness. But does it mean that empirical concreteness is not inherent in
the theoretical knowledge of special sciences? Besides, can we make a categorical assertion
that the knowledge resulting from empirical investigation is really the most
concrete knowledge? It is indeed concrete in the sense that it is close to reality and rich in
detail and colour. Yet one cannot help feeling that such knowledge of details can very easily
turn into a useless toy if it fails to distinguish the main, the significant, the essential, the
The empirical knowledge of separate isolated facts permits tearing out individual parts or
features of a whole and turning them into an absolute, a senseless abstraction. If the
concrete is understood as the direct connection with the objective world, as the exact
reproduction of sensually perceived properties and sides of an object, such knowledge will
be the most concrete. On the other hand, if concreteness is understood as the fullness of all
determinations of an object or a phenomenon, as a unity in the diversity or a diversity in the
unity, such knowledge should be regarded with good reason as abstract. Conversely, if

abstract knowledge is characterised by the separation, isolation of one or another element

from the totality of other determinations, empirical knowledge which does not reveal all
links and relations of a given object with the multitude of other objects can also be called
abstract, sometimes even in the worst sense of this word.
A purely empirical idea of a tree growing under my window and having, for instance,
slightly drooping branches, a trunk reaching the height of the first floor and covered with
grey-green bark, with light-green buds on its branches the size of a wheat grain, etc. will be
an abstract description despite the fact that I could add to it lots of such details which are
known to no one but myself, since this tree was and will hardly be interesting for anyone as
a possible object of an empirical description.
Hence, the concepts of the concrete and the abstract themselves need a serious analysis. A
detailed description of a tree growing in front of my window and presented to me in all its
sensual concreteness turns out to be quite abstract since my detailed description based
entirely on the sense-perceptions of the colour of the bark, buds, the shape of the crown, the
size of the trunk, etc. will hardly be helpful in determining its species. Any student of
biology will find my description non-scientific and abstract as it covers millions of trees in
the middle part of Russia. Hence, an empirical description can be justly regarded as
abstract, arbitrarily subjective, non-scientific etc. since it does not permit distinguishing
with certainty one object from a multitude of others.
As we see, even a very detailed description of the external side of objects and phenomena
can .far from always be regarded as concrete knowledge without any reservations. It moans
that the direct relationship between knowledge and reality, i.e. the sensual basis of
knowledge, is not yet sufficient to make it concrete. Such knowledge is still incomplete and
inaccurate since it reflects but partially the real links and relations between a given object
and a multitude of others. As to the reflection of the internal properties,; bonds,
contradictions and laws governing the development of this object, such knowledge is even
less satisfactory. Consequently, the knowledge of separate observable objects and
phenomena, their properties and sides can be regarded both as concrete, in the sense that it
is directly related to reality, and as abstract (theoretically abstract), in the sense that it does
not reveal the latent processes and internal laws and does not single out the main, the
[1] Hegels Science of Logic, Vol. 1, George Allen & Unwin, Ltd., London, 1929, p. 36. [
> main text]
[2] Ibid., pp. 3637. [> main text]

[3] Ibid., p. 53. [> main text]

[4] Ibid., pp. 6465. [> main text]
[5] K. Marx, A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, Progress Publishers,
Moscow, 1977, p. 206. [> main text]
[6] A. J. Ayer, Language, Truth and Logic, op. tit., p. 76. [> main text]
[7] V. I. Lenin, Materialism and Empiric-Criticism, Collected Works, Vol. 14, 1977,
p. 146. [> main text]
[8] G. W. F. Hegel, Smtliche Werke, Band 20, Stuttgart, 1930, S. 44748. [> main text]
[9] Ibid., S. 447. [>


by Igor Naletov
Now we come to the problem of concreteness in theoretical knowledge. If the scientific
value of knowledge, the possibility of its verification and practical use derives from its
concreteness, direct relation to objective reality, then the striving of scientists for ever
broader generalisations, for universal statements and conclusions must seem strange indeed,
since the more general a statement, the farther it is removed from individual (empirically
concrete) objects and phenomena. Again, it is evidently not without reason that theoretical
notions and ideas are commonly believed to be abstract. And this would indeed be so if we
identified concreteness with just one kind of itempirical concreteness.
Of course, it would not be correct to deny concreteness to sensual perceptions. Yet in
dialectical logic the concrete is by no means tantamount to the sensually perceptible. The
concrete in dialectics is regarded as a unity in diversity, as a full representation of different
aspects and relations of objects and phenomena and, understood like this, is one of the
central categories of logic, an expression of the real general, multidimensional which is
inherent both in reality and in our knowledge. Another aspect of the concrete is that it
represents the objective diversity of a whole object, the totality of all its relations, both
internal and external.

As regards the abstract as a logical or epistemological category, it expresses not only the
specific distinction of thinking from reality and its sensual perception, but also represents a
form of development common to both reality and cognition. In Marx, the problem of the
relation of the abstract to the concrete includes not only the .relation of thought to the
sensually perceptible but also the problem of the internal division of any object and its
theoretical reproduction in the movement of notions. The question of the relation of the
abstract to the concrete presents itself in two aspects: first, as the relation between partial
and limited knowledge to fuller knowledge and, second, as the relation of the whole to its
own moments standing out objectively in its content. [1]
For Marx, the abstract and the concrete express internal contradictions, the movement of
which is the life of the object of investigation. It is . not a pure epistemological definition of
the methods of work of the human brain in which one element (the concrete) can be
identified with a sense perception, and the other element (the abstract), with the theoretical
generalisation of the data of sensual experience. It is not a simple definition of the different
poles of cognitive activity, even if they are regarded as connected with each other, but also
an expression of the internal separation of objects and links between separate sides and
phenomena existing objectively outside and * independently of human consciousness.
Hence, the abstract, according to Marx, can express both the particular and the general to
the extent to which these sides stand out objectively in the whole and represent internally
dependent, but externally isolated formations.
Engels shows the same understanding of the categories of the abstract and the concrete. For
him, the formation of general concepts is the process of abstraction from the multitude of
inessential properties, features, objects and phenomena and of the retention of their
common, stable, essential properties and features. On the other hand, the formation of
theoretical concepts is at the same time a process of concretisation, integration, enrichment
and retention in thought of the real content of all relations and links embraced by the given
concept. It was Engels who defined exhaustive knowledge as the transformation of the
single (concrete) into the universal (abstraction, law) and maintained that the general law
of change of the form of motion is much more concrete than any single concrete example
of it.
According to Marx, the coordination and combination of abstractions, the ascent from the
simple to the complex is not the mental reproduction of the concrete. ... The method of
advancing from the abstract to the concrete, he wrote, is simply the way in which
thinking assimilates the concrete and reproduces it as a concrete mental category. This is,
however, by no means the process of evolution of the concrete world itself. [2] Hence,
Marx regards the concrete as the unity of diverse aspects and as diverse aspects of the unity
both in reality itself and in cognition. It is true of dialectically interpreted laws and
abstractions, as well as of the particular phenomena they reflect. If an investigator

proceeding from a general abstract law does not lose sight of the actual circumstances
conditioning the operation of this law, if he takes into account the interdependence of this
law and other laws and the numerous links connecting them, his thinking is concrete. The
concrete concept, wrote Marx, is concrete because it is a synthesis of many definitions,
thus representing the unity of diverse aspects. It appears therefore in reasoning as a
summing-up, a result, and not as the starting point, although it is the real point of origin,
and thus also the point of origin of perception and imagination. [3]
The interpretation of the concrete and the abstract by Marx and Engels was by no means
playing up to the Hegelian manner of reasoning. It was a conscious and deliberate use of
Hegels language, transformed and amended, which conveyed profound dialectical ideas.
Proceeding from his concepts of the abstract and the concrete, Marx, naturally, regards the
ascent from the abstract to the concrete as the only possible and therefore correct scientific
method whereby the concrete can be assimilated and mentally reproduced in theoretical
It should be noted, however, that some philosophers enthusiasm about the method of
Marxs analysis carries them sometimes too far and they begin to absolutise it and even
counterpose the abstract and the concrete which is entirely alien to Marxs analysis. In our
opinion, such absolutisation is traceable to two inaccuracies in the interpretation of Marx.
First, the abstract and the concrete as such are ascribed to reality itself as is evidenced, for
instance, from the commonly used and nonetheless confusing expression this concrete (i.e.
sensually perceived) object. Second, the abstract and the concrete as the starting and the
final points of theoretical analysis are regarded as two poles in the development of
scientific knowledge without taking into account their dialectical unity, mutual penetration
similar to that of the magnet poles which can only exist as a single whole.
It is assumed, for instance, that the abstract and the concrete exist in reality as separate,
isolated objects and phenomena. Marxs abstract labour, abstract man, abstract
wealth are sometimes regarded as objective: entities existing, so to speak, in a pure form.
The analysis of these concepts, objective as they are, calls for a more subtle approach
which would better accord with Marxs conception. The acceptance of the reality of such
things as abstract labour, abstract man, etc. would be tantamount to recognising the
actual existence of matter, space and other special entities alongside definite objects and
phenomena of the objective world.
Speaking of such things as abstract labour and abstract individual, Marx regarded them
as clear-cut abstractions in a definite conceptual context and never treated them as actually
existing independent separate entities.

Some literary critic may seize upon these words in an attempt to substantiate his own
opinion that it is only concrete things which exist in objective reality. To forestall his
argument, we shall state at once that this current view which is often expressed in literature
and has many persistent advocates seems to us one-sided if only for the fact that the
concepts of the abstract and the concrete are correlative and, as such, are only meaningful
in inseparable unity with each other. The elimination of one concept makes its counterpart
nonsensical. Understandably, this only holds true if the problem is treated from the same
epistemological angle and within the framework of one and the same subject.
It stands to reason that the isolation and relative independence of objects and phenomena
makes it in principle impossible to form an absolutely concrete notion of an object, whereas
the objectification of the concrete tends in fact to absolutising it. A given object can never
possess at a given moment all the possible properties and features which may reveal
themselves in a different place and at a different time. One and the same man turns out to
be different or, at least, not quite the same among his friends, in the office and at home. In
which surroundings, then, are we to consider him concrete? Evidently, in all, but each time
differently. Concreteness is relative, but not absolute.
Now, are all these subtleties really so important that we have to accentuate them? May be it
is simply a question of terminology, and the objectivity of concrete objects and
phenomena is identical with the objective foundation of concrete analysis?
We suppose that some philosophers accepting so far our reasoning might just intervene at
this point and add that objective reality has neither abstract nor concrete objects and,
consequently, the concepts of the abstract and the concrete are nothing but the product of
our exalted materialistic imagination inventing the absolutes of the abstract and the
concrete and striving to impose them on the virgin scientific mind with its natural aversion
to metaphysical concoctions. So, they may conclude, we come in the end to what they have
been trying to prove all along.
As regards the real existence of abstract and concrete objects, we might perhaps accept this
view, characteristic of positivist philosophy, even at the risk of being censured by those
who reject any shades and halftones in a philosophical controversy and recognise but one
rigid scheme. We feel obliged, however, to make one important reservation and are ready to
hold on to it as a matter of principle: we are convinced that objects in reality itself stand in
different relations to one another and we can speak of some objects and phenomena as
being relatively abstract (or, to be more precise, isolated, limited, specific), and of others as
being relatively concrete (interconnected, united, integrated). When considering the
relations of the first kind we form abstract notions, categories and ideas and then set about
concretising them. The unity of the abstract and the concrete, i.e. the unity in diversity,

gives a complete idea of an object, an idea which Marx calls concrete-universal as distinct
from just concrete.
The real links between the concrete and the abstract being established, they become
correlated concepts, and not metaphysical absolutes. It is through the interaction with each
other that they get the measure of their truth, as well as the measure of their
concreteness. Each concept turns out to be abstract to the extent to which it reflects the
separateness, isolation and specificity which are objectively inherent in things. Similarly,
category becomes concrete to the extent to which it reflects the integration, unity and
mutual complementarity of things. Logical concepts, wrote Lenin, are subjective so long
as they remain abstract, in their abstract form, but at the same time they express also the
is both concrete and abstract,
supplied], both phenomenon and essence, both momentand relation. Human concepts are
subjective in their abstractness, separateness, but objective as a whole, in the process, in the
sum-total, in the tendency... [4]
The objective interpretation of the categories of the concrete and the abstract not only
makes the presentation of material more difficult and the language more cumbersome. It
brings in new entities which do not exist as independent objects of reality, tends to
absolutise them breaking the inseparable bonds, the unity of mutually penetrating sides of
the material world and is, in fact, incompatible with the dialectics of the abstract and the
This interpretation can at best postulate the transition from one isolated concept to another,
e.g. from the abstract to the concrete. Important as it is, such transition is but one of the
aspects of the dialectical relationship between these categories. However, to understand
their relationship in a stronger, more profound sense as a a inseparable connection of two
different aspects of scientific cognition, as acorrelation, it is necessary to investigate the
relation of these categories to objective reality and to define their counterparts in the
objective world.
Analysing the transition from the abstract to the concrete, Soviet scholar E. V. Ilyenkov
writes: Understandably, concrete knowledge (or, more precisely, the knowledge of
concreteness) can only appear as a result, a sum-total, a product of special work, and the
abstract, as its starting point and material. This is undoubtedly true in relation to some
definite level of knowledge, theoretical knowledge in this particular case. In his analysis of
the system of capitalist production Marx strictly adheres to the principle of ascent from the
abstract to the concrete. Yet in presenting the dialectical relationship between these two
categories one should also take into account the titanic work carried out by Marx in order to
accumulate and screen the Mont Blanc of facts.

The concreteness in the implementation of the principle of concreteness itself calls also for
differentiation between different levels of scientific cognition: empirical, theoretical,
applied, philosophical, etc. At each of these levels the dialectical relationship between the
abstract and the concrete inevitably acquires specific features. In this relationship one thing
only remains constant, invariable, something like the space-time interval in Einsteins
theory of relativity: the inseparable unity of the abstract and the concrete in the process of
There can be no absolutely abstract or absolutely concrete knowledge, just as there are no
absolutely abstract and absolutely concrete notions certain knowledge and certain notions
can be more abstract (less concrete) and more concrete (less abstract) than others. Since all
our knowledge at any stage is realised through the interaction (collision) of the abstract and
the concrete (more abstract and more concrete), it can be viewed as a constant process of
transition from one level of concreteness to another and from one level of abstractness to
another. For instance, from the sensual form of concreteness and its specific form of
abstractness we pass to the empirical form of their interaction at the lower floor of
scientific cognition. Science ascends from the empirical forms of the concrete and the
abstract to the theoretical level of their relationship and further rises to the philosophical
level. It is evidently within the limits of one level of cognition only that we can speak of the
method of ascent from the abstract to the concrete, meaning a strictly definite form of either
The formation of abstractions, the deduction of the general, similar, identical has never
been and will evidently never be a special aim of science. As a matter of fact, it takes no
great effort to find similarity even between most different objects, such as, for instance, a
shoe brush and a mammal. Science, for that matter, is notable for just the opposite tendency
the striving for mental reproduction, restoration of the concrete whole which is split in
the process of abstraction.
Sensual cognition also reproduces an object in its wholeness, joining, however, only
its external aspects and properties in a single sensual perceptible image. Each level of
cognition, be it empirical or theoretical, has its own forms of concreteness and abstractness
and the knowledge at each of these levels develops from the abstract to the concrete. On the
whole, however, it passes on from one form of abstractness to another, and from one form
of concreteness to another.
Generally speaking, the concreteness of a notion or any other form of knowledge should be
linked, in our opinion, not only with the sense perceptions of the object under investigation,
but also with the degree of reflection of all its bonds and relations of mediation with other
objects and phenomena, with other aspects, tendencies and changes. Knowledge is concrete
not only when it gives a detailed reflection of the properties and aspects of the object or

phenomena under investigation, but also when it is capable of reproducing all its links and
relations with other objects and phenomena, including their internal aspects and elements.
Conversely, a notion, an idea or any other element of knowledge are abstract to a degree to
which they are isolated from other objects and phenomena connected with them. An
abstraction is concrete if it mentally reproduces the unity, diversity and manysidedness of
real objects, if it singles out and indicates those aspects of the object or objects of interest
which appear to be topical or important for human activity at a given moment.
An analyst can evidently always find at least one common objective feature of any two
objects or phenomena whereby they can be placed into a single category. Such
generalisations have no methodological value until they acquire theoretical concreteness.
They are also very abstract in the sense that they do not indicate any concrete conditions
under which the generalisation is of any scientific significance.
Scientific abstractions are a powerful means of cognition but they remain useless without
close ties with the concrete, without practice. If an abstraction (a law, a principle) is
combined with the diversity of the objective content of phenomena, and thinking
concentrates on those elements of this diversity which have been placed in the foreground
by life itself, such thinking is concrete, scientific and true. If scientific analysis proceeding
from facts reveals underlying regularities and makes it possible to draw theoretical
conclusions, we have the unity of the abstract and the concrete. Should thinking prove
unable to find the unity, the order in a system, should it fail to single out the prevailing
tendency in the actual diversity of phenomena, in that case a concrete approach to the
problem gives way to empirical vacillations between the .concrete and the abstract and the
investigator cannot see the wood for the trees.
Consequently, knowledge remains abstract, though not in the empirical sense of the word,
as long as it does not distinguish between the essential, necessary and the inessential,
accidental features and tendencies and does not reveal the law governing a given process.
Abstract also will be the knowledge which does not show the opposite aspects and
tendencies inherent in every phenomenon or process.
The number of such abstract, in the methodological sense, generalisations can be increased
indefinitely, yet they would hardly add to the potential of science. Generalisations of this
kind do not carry any new information, they are methodologically barren. Indeed, as Engels
has wittily remarked in Anti-Dhring, a shoe brush grouped with mammals will not grow
mammary glands and, consequently, such a generalisation will hardly do any good to
True, a lot of pseudo-scientific investigations are in fact concerned with inventing ever new
abstract generalisations claiming to contribute to science. Paradoxical as it is, the empirical

soundness of such investigations is usually unquestionable: most of the generalisations of

this kind are indeed based on the common features of real things. It should be noted that
such tendencies are particularly characteristic of philosophical investigations aimed
exclusively at generalising the material of special sciences. The authors of such
investigations can at best claim the invention of new terms of doubtful scientific value. It
hardly needs mentioning that the growing number of abstract generalisations tend to clutter
up knowledge with all kinds of pseudoscientific nonsense and turn science into a depot of
useless ideas that will never be applied to real scientific and life problems.
Every generalisation which is to qualify as scientific (philosophical inclusive) should be
concrete not only in the empirical, but also in the theoretical sense. Giving new
information, it should also have a theoretical value, i.e. indicate ways for the further
progress of scientific knowledge and disclose new links and relations of a given object with
other objects and phenomena.
As long as a concept has a heuristic value and opens up new ways for scientific cognition,
it remains scientifically valid, and not only historically significant. It should be noted,
however, that the actual validity of a scientific concept, a theory or even a law is not an
honorary title conferred on them in perpetuity, since methodological or heuristic value may
not only be acquired, but also lost. Filling up a gap in our knowledge, scientific concepts
give a fresh impetus to thought, but subsequent events may prove their empirical
untenability. This problem, by the way, has given rise to continuous debates among the
historians of science as to whether the concepts of ether, thermogen, phlogiston, vital force
and the like should be regarded scientific. The answer to this question can never be a blunt
yes or no.
In order to qualify as scientific, a concept must possess at least one of the above forms of
concreteness and, besides, must help towards further progress of scientific knowledge. An
abstract generalisation of empirical data is at best a prerequisite for scientificity. It is
concerned with the knowledge already available and gives no new information, thus
providing no basis for the analysis of reality, for distinguishing between separate properties
and aspects of the world. Such concepts and statements result, as a rule, from the striving
for unduly broad generalisations. The concept-of control relating, for instance, to social
phenomena will be quite concrete if used in the analysis of social development. It will
evidently be also concrete when applied to animate nature, since here, too, it can be
connected with the ideas of feedback, data transmission, etc. In this field, like in the field of
social phenomena, a comparatively weak information signal can actuate the feedback
mechanism and bring about considerable changes, and not only in terms of power. Suppose
now we comply with the insistent demands of some authors and extend the concept of
control to the phenomena of inanimate nature. Of course, given the will, we should also
discover here certain analogies with the feedback mechanism. Yet the character of

interaction in inanimate nature (viewed independently from mans activity) is different

from that in living organisms, particularly in what concerns power relationships. Hence, we
cannot speak of anything more than just a formal similarity between physical interaction in
inorganic nature and feedback mechanisms in the organic world and in society. Any attempt
to extend the concept of control to natural physical, geological or geographical processes
will result in an untenable generalisation yielding no scientific results.
Take another example. The scientific value of the concept 01 information is common
knowledge. This concept which is now widely used in different branches of knowledge has
played an important role in the successful development of cybernetics and in the solution of
numerous problems in genetics, neuropsychology and other sciences. It has also proved
very helpful in defining the essence of consciousness and in studying the nature of the
ideal as opposed to the material since it provided a link between the processes of mans
conscious activity and its neurophysiological mechanism. On these grounds some
philosophers propose to regard the concept of information as a universal one and classify it
as philosophical. Here, however, they transgress the demarcation line beyond which the
concept of information loses its scientific concreteness without becoming concrete in the
philosophical sense. A simple generalisation on the basis of empirical analogies deprives it
of the necessary heuristic value. Hooker, for instance, identifies information with
consciousness, on the one hand, and with brain processes, on the other, calling both
information concepts. He in fact discards the problem of the relationship between
consciousness and the brain by simply identifying them as equivalent informationprocessing structures. [5]
This solution, purely phenomenalistic as it is, is nevertheless regarded as sufficient grounds
for proclaiming a new systematic ontology since the proposed concept endows
consciousness with time-spatial and even causal characteristics without depriving it at the
same time of some properties of mental activity. It is not hard to see that Hookers way
leads to an ontology in the spirit of Plato.
The current attempts to identify the concepts of consciousness, the brain and information
often go even further and tend to universalise the concept of information which is alleged to
characterise any existing system in general. To substantiate this viewpoint, references are
made to cybernetics which has purportedly provided conclusive evidence to the effect that
the concept of information expresses the property of any moving matter. Such a broad
interpretation of the concept of information, however, deprives it of its analytical
possibilities and obliterates the border between inorganic processes in nature and the
processes of control which are distinguished by the transmission, reception and coding of
signals rather than by a specific power relationship.

As is evidenced from the above, the scientific value of a concept or other form of
knowledge is directly connected with its concreteness and depends on whether it gives new
information in the field where it is introduced. In modern science fruitless abstractions are
still very numerous and constitute what may be called pseudoscience or metaphysics in the
bad sense of the word. They are a useless ballast and science should get rid of them. In its
struggle against the anti-metaphysical positivist programme dialectics definitely dissociates
itself from fruitless abstractions. It should always be borne in mind, however, that the weak
sprouts of new knowledge are sometimes not easy to distinguish from stunted and useless
metaphysical concepts and that they can only turn into full-fledged concrete concepts of
great scientific value as a result of subsequent development.
Abstract generalisations and metaphysical conclusions should by no means be regarded as
just a nuisance having no serious effect on scientific cognition. In social sciences such
abstractions are not infrequently connected with quite definite ideological aims. In view of
their pseudo-scientific form and apparent empirical certainty they are taken for a solution to
one or another problem, whereas they in fact detract science-from the true course. The
seeming concreteness of a proposed concept is but empirical concreteness which levels up
all facts and features relevant to this concept and equates the main and the secondary, the
necessary and the accidental, the external and the internal traits. Such a concept, of course,
is a platitude in the first place as it gives no grounds for some differentiation and analysis in
a given field of knowledge. Yet it becomes something more than just a truism, a
meaningless phraseit turns into an instrument for deliberately juggling with facts instead
of conducting a concrete scientific investigation. With positivism, by the way, it was a
common and rather well elaborated trick which was time and again exposed by Marx,
Engels, and Lenin.
Formally imitating the external features of the specialised language used in mathematics,
linguistics, physics and biology, the positivist philosophers create an illusion that the
representatives of these sciences understand the language of their philosophy. It sometimes
escapes the natural scientists that the terms borrowed from their language lose their
concreteness and turn into verbal dummies preserving, however, the form and the
reputation of scientific certitude and clarity. It is not fortuitous that Lenin has always been
intransigent to play with words. The application of various terms borrowed from biology
and energy physics, such as exchange of substances, assimilation and dissimilation,
power balance, enthropy and the like to such socio-economic phenomena as crises,
class struggle, competition, capital, etc. is in a sense a verbal ornament which adds nothing
to the understanding of these phenomena for all its seeming newness. Yet it is not a
harmless play, particularly when it comes to analysing the trends of social development.
Such a terminological confusion tends to mislead a biologist or a physicist just as much as a
sociologist or a political economist. With an indiscriminate approach to philosophical
generalisations it becomes, in fact, inessential whether new scientific data are translated

into the language of some special science or are given a philosophical interpretation: in
both these metaphysical variants the concrete meaning of the scientific data is reduced to
Modern bourgeois philosophy also abounds in the substitutions of special scientific terms
for concrete concepts in sociology or political economy. It is true not only of positivism,
but also of other philosophical trends which claim to offer alternative solutions.
For instance, according to Jurgen Habermas, historical materialism is a one-sided,
excessively concrete doctrine badly in need of a generalisation i.e. of a broader, more
general, outlook. This generalisation, as proposed by Habermas, boils down to replacing
Marxs concept of productive forces by a concept of labour or purpose-oriented rational
actions covering both the selection of means for given purposes and the selection of
purposes themselves out of a multitude of possible variants. The concept of the relations of
production is to be eliminated in favour of such concepts as interaction, communicative
activity, institutional framework, organisational principle, etc.
In Habermass opinion, labour is the sphere of learning and assimilation of useful technical
information, whereas interaction is characterised by the processes of socialisation and
moulding of personality on the basis of the generally recognised system of social norms.
Hence, the first sphere corresponds to technical interest, and the second, to practical
interest. The Marxist concept of superstructure becomes irrelevant. Some phenomena
classified as superstructural, such as culture, social norms, and educational establishments,
are to be transferred to the sphere of interaction. Other components of the superstructure,
such as power and ideology are interpreted either as a deviation or a distortion and,
consequently, as some secondary phenomenon in the sphere of communicative relations.
This kind of interpretation of history, its inner content cannot be accepted, first of all, from
the methodological viewpoint, the more so as it claims to restructure the Marxist concept.
Habermas seeks to consider classes, power and ideology from the theoretical-informative
aspect, qualifying them at that as a distortion of the normal process of human relations.
Being restricted to .the appearance of things, such an approach is at best superficial. But it
is not so harmless as it may seem: speaking of the distortion in the communicative
systems, Habermas completely ignores the real, essential differences between
communicative processes in the opposite social systems capitalism and socialism.
Starting with a seemingly modest proposal to amend Marxs concept of the determining
role of the mode of production in the historical process and to supplement it with a second
dimension, the communicative one, Habermas actually seeks to turn Marxs concrete
definition into an empty abstraction and thus deprive it of its scientific value. The
interpersonal communicative factor introduced by him by way of supplementing the

dialectical understanding of the nature of man immediately calls for a new sacrifice: the
generalisation of the Marxist understanding of mans nature. The new way of thinking
advocated by the Frankfurt School is obviously constrained by the concepts of the mode of
production, social relations and the socio-economic formation, particularly when it comes
to the analysis of such concepts as capitalism and socialism, the bourgeoisie and the
working class. The concept of communicative processes is more congenial to this way
of thinking if only for the fact that it is abstract.
Habermas goes even as far as claiming certain affinity between Marxism and positivism,
alleging that they both reduce, restrict history to its one dimensionlabour and
production activity. According to Habermas, the dimension of communication,
intersubjectivity and interpersonal relations obvious in Marxs concrete analysis completely
disappears in his philosophical and historical generalisations resolving in the concept of
practical actions aimed at nature.
This model, according to Habermas, had an adverse effect on Marxs understanding of
anthropogenesis. The process of labour and production activity regarded by Marx as the
determining factor in the evolution of man from the animal world is confined exclusively to
the sphere of instrumental activity characteristic of the animal world. Contrary to Marx,
Habermas maintains that the determining factor in the process of anthropogenesis was the
emergence of the communicative dimension (language), i.e. the replacement of the
institutional control by the behavioural control effected with the help of norms and
linguistic incentives. Thus mankind regarded by Marx as the object of evolution becomes,
according to Habermas, its subject.
There are absolutely no grounds for regarding Marxs view on anthropogenesis as limited
or lopsided. He has developed a consistent theory of mans practical activity directed to the
external world as the motive force of anthropogenesis. This activity contributed to the
formation of erect gait, the appearance of the first signs of the community of interests and
joint labour, as well as to a considerable weakening of the instincts that determined
primitive mans behaviour. It also accounted for such new phenomena as the deepening
process of socialisation, the development of consciousness and language, the emergence of
a new type of behavioural control, etc. The factors singled out by Habermas were operative
either in the first, or in the second group of changes accompanying the process of mans
evolution. Neither of them would anyway be regarded by Marx as having an independent
value. Habermass views do not supplement, but distort Marxism.
Habermas and other philosophers make a serious error believing that Marxs concept of
the essence of man can be supplemented by introducing at least one more featurethe
factor of personal intercourse. This insignificant, at first sight, addition turns the Marxist
conception of man into an empty abstraction which gives no methodological guidelines for

understanding mans nature as the concrete expression of social relations. Yet it would be
even more naive to think that the introduction of this abstraction does not do any harm to
social sciences. The new concept of man shifts the emphasis and substitutes a secondary
feature for an essential one. It can hardly be expected to provide a solid basis for a more
profound understanding of social development.
What complicates the matter is that such an approach seems to be quite relevant and even
necessary from the empirical viewpoint: it ostensibly concentrates on those aspects of the
concepts of man and society which have not received sufficient attention and appears
therefore scientifically valid. However, for all the seeming empirical soundness and even
appropriateness of the proposed amendments they are basically fallacious: the fault lies
with the methodology itself which presents the empirical material in an entirely wrong light.
It would probably be unnecessary to focus attention on such attempts to complement
Marx if they were merely aimed at filling up gaps in our concepts of society and man and
did not represent a methodology incompatible with Marxism. In point of fact, they remind
one of the behaviour of a cuckoo trying to lay an egg into another birds nest. The eggs do
look very similar, yet the nestlings are quite different. Since the methodological principles
of Marx (and Habermas, too) do not always lie on the surface, one might get an impression
that the point at issue is a purely factual one. Let us see if it is really so.
Suppose, you allow your minds eye to dwell on an array of well-known personalities:
Pushkin and Dantes, Gandhi and Goebbels, Raskolnikov and Pyotr Zalomov, Mozart and
Salieri... Nothing seems to be simpler than to define the essence of man by passing from
one personality to another. Similarities and differences, differences and similarities, the
twists of characters, the vicissitudes of life... It may be that we shall succeed in determining
the general traits and the specific features of each mans character. Having thus defined
mans essence, we may turn our attention to his surroundings and project his behaviour in
different circumstances in order to reproduce the make-up of every single individual and
thus to understand the relations between people. After that we may go even further and try
to understand the nature of society as a whole, proceeding again from the obtained
definition of man.
Such an approach appears to be quite relevant by virtue of its empirical concreteness.
Indeed, we are seemingly concerned with concrete individuals, concrete biographies
reproducing each mans life story with all its details, both significant and otherwise. One
would naturally expect it to be the only correct path that would lead us to the
comprehension of a concrete living being... Yet it is precisely this path that leads nowhere.
True, the real scientific value of empirical concreteness is not quick to reveal itself. We only
find it out after discovering that the single standard needed for comparing the heroes of our

general biological characteristic. The only catch that the empirical net thus brings us is a
lean and meagre abstraction indicating that each of our heroes belongs to the species
of Homo sapiens. And that is all that remains of the living, thinking, feeling and acting
After the empiricist has thus stripped his Man of every possible garment, he desperately
starts covering him up with interpersonal intercourse, thinking ability, and what not...
Then comes the turn of logic. Following its strict rules and proceeding from the obtained
definition of Man, the empiricist sets about reconstructing society at large.
David Hilbert once noted that every man has a definite horizon and when it narrows down
to a point, the man starts talking about his viewpoint. We do not think Hilberts statement is
applicable to the whole of mankind, but in the situation we are dealing with his joke
evidently hits the nail on the head. What can the empiricist see from his viewpoint?
Evidently, what appears to Marcuse (or Adorno, or Habermas) and what he is horrified by.
The biological nature of manonce we decide to start with it in accordance with Marcuses
logicis, first and foremost, the sphere of instincts and attractions which have always been
kept in check, at least till nowadays. Repression, in Marcuses opinion, marks the entire
history of man. Speaking of repression, Marcuse distinguishes basic repression connected
with the general conditions of human existence, i.e. with the environmental influences, and
the additional repression, resulting from the system of class domination and state power.
According to Marcuse, it was the mind .or human intellect alone that succeeded in escaping
the effect of this omnipotent press. However, representing a pure cognitive ability and
being free from the bodily functions of physical enjoyment and satisfaction of natural
needs, intellect can be put to the task of practical and technical conquest of the world. The
mind, alas, betrayed the pleasure-oriented body. Human sensuality was also seriously
affected, though the senses are suppression-resistant too. Their power of resistance derives
from the dual nature of the senses: they are the source of knowledge, on the one hand, and
the instrument of pleasure and physical satisfaction, on the other. The system of
suppression is therefore unable to cope with the senses and keep them in check by
restricting their sphere to investigation activities only. As a result of the general distortion
of mans sensuality, the cognitive function of the organs of perception was separated from
the pleasure-seeking function. The senses were generally distrusted as a source of
information, the data provided by them had a limited cognitive value, and they were
suppressed by the mind. Above all, the senses could not serve as a basis for technical
This withering influence was exercised by civilisation on practically all sides of the
individual. Suppression was in fact the only, or at least the main feature of socialisation.

Labour is treated by Marcuse in a similar vein. One of the results of the total suppression of
the individual in all extant industrial civilisations was the transformation of man from an
instrument of pleasure into an instrument of labour. It was just to prepare man for
productive activity that history remoulded both his biology and his psyche. The concept of
production is brought in by Marcuse for the sole purpose of putting a finishing touch to the
sombre picture of the suppression of the individual by industrial civilisation which adds yet
another set of restrictions to the natural repressive forces. Marcuses Conclusions are based
on a conviction that man as a biopsychical system is predestined to live exclusively for
pleasure. Later, however, the author has substantially modified this view. Pleasure as
understood by Marcuse cannot be derived from productive labour, nor from the extension
of mans domination over matter. It must be, first and foremost, a result of the complete
satisfaction of mans natural needs and of the free play of the natural forces inherent in the
human body.
In Marcuses opinion, dialectics must free itself from the abstract universal forms of
objectivity, as well as from the abstract universal forms of thinking. To this end, it should
conceive its world as a definite historical whole in which present reality is a result of the
historical practice of man. [6] Yet practice is understood by Marcuse in accordance with
his productivity principle, i.e. as activity detrimental to man. History thus turns into a
continuous process of mans own enslavement, the restructuring of his whole organism
aimed at suppressing to a maximum his biological pleasure centres. This process goes side
by side with the expansion of the possibilities of using man as an instrument of labour, a
working machine and a means for conquering nature.
Marcuse comes out with great fervour against industrial civilisation, the technological
mode of thinking, scientism, etc., and also criticises positivism, linking it with modern
trends toward rationalisation. Yet it needs no special insight to perceive that Marcuses own
methodology underlying his criticism is a typical expression of the very rationalisation he
speaks about with such disfavour. Indeed, his empirical approach, the denial of objective
laws in nature and society, the atomised picture of social life (cf. the atomisation of the
world by Hume, Ayer and the Vienna Circle), etc. are nothing but the characteristic features
of the positivist method. Ironically, despite the premises which are not typically positivist,
Marcuses methodology reflecting the standard patterns of the technical style of thinking,
is indeed eloquent proof of the existence of a powerful ideological press acting on such
different people as Ayer and himself.
Marcuses reasoning, like that of all positivists, is traceable to the old empiricist tradition.
Roughly speaking, its logic boils down to the following. To form a concept of society, a
philosopher takes the features common to every individual and supplements them with
other features conditioned by the environment, thus obtaining human nature. Proceeding
from this basis, he constructs the ideal model of relations among people fitting it as close

as possible to his abstract concept of man. Then he compares this ideal model with the
actual relations interpreted in the light of his theoretical premises and proposes to
restructure the actual relations, i.e. society, bringing it in conformity with human nature.
The starting point in such concrete analysis is nothing but the abstract inherent in each
single individual, i.e. the features common to all people. This approach, seemingly very
concrete, is in fact extremely abstract if only for the fact that the analysis concentrates on
the personal qualities of a single individual taken at that outside the process of their
formation and development and regarded as something static, immutable, accomplished.
If the abstraction of man is to be scientifically valid, it must represent him not as an atom,
but as a social being, and take into account both his place in society and the system of
social relations. Another essential, though subordinate, characteristic of this abstraction is
that it must reflect mans relation to nature. Speaking of man as an individual, we have no
right to ignore the general factors determining his personal qualities. This is just a
paraphrase in terms of methodology of what Marx wrote almost a century and a half ago:
... the essence of man is no abstraction inherent in each single individual. In its reality it is
the ensemble of the social relations. [7]
Taking typical atomised individuals, outstanding or otherwise, for the starting point in the
analysis of mans essence is attempting to revive obsolete methodological standards, long
since discredited. To be sure, it is not easy to carry out the investigation in such a way as to
start from the concept of the system of social relations and, using it then as a premise,
proceed to the analysis of mans essence, nor is it easier to start analysing social relations
abstracting them from an individual. To arrive at this starting point in theoretical analysis,
this elementary cell of the socium, Marx and Engels had to study all the history and
prehistory of human society. It was titanic work indeed.
The essential characteristic of Marxs analysis is that it permits revealing not only the
general qualities inherent in every individual, but also the necessary features and
relationships reflecting the laws of mans historical development. It is the analysis of the
sum total, the ensemble of the socio-historical forms of social relations which reveals the
real trend of this development in its concreteness from the theoretical, and not empirical
point of view. The universal is not equivalent to the similar represented in each individual
object and regarded as their common feature. It is, first and foremost, a law-governed
relationship of two or more individuals in which they pose as the moments of one and the
same concrete and real, and not only formal, unity. According to Hegel, whose view was
also shared by Marx, the form of universality as a law or the principle of connection of
details within a whole which is totality. The universal can only be obtained through
analysis, and not through abstraction.

A single individual is essentially a man only because his unique make-up embodies
historical necessity, and not because he possesses certain features, sometimes of secondary
importance, common to other individuals. This viewpoint makes it possible to regard an
individual as a personality not in the abstract sense, but as an embodiment (more or less
adequate) of the entire history of mankind, of human civilisation as a whole. This viewpoint
alone provides a basis for understanding every single individual as a human being since it
reveals a core in the totality of his personal traits. This viewpoint, too, will undoubtedly
prevent us from placing in the same category Mozart and Salieri, Gandhi and Goebbels
who may appear to be absolutely similar from the viewpoint of abstract logic.
The concreteness understood dialectically has nothing to do with the establishment of such
similarity of individuals. It represents the unity of all features and qualities of a man in
their real connection with one another, in their dependence both on the biological nature of
man and on the totality of all social conditions which play the dominant role. This approach
alone can give us a theoretically concrete, and not an abstract concept of man. In other
words, the theoretical definition of the universal in man is called upon to correct all the
fallacies, contradictions and errors of empirical analysis without denying its role in
principle. Attempting in our times to construct a philosophical system or even a concept of
man on an empirical basis is very much like starting to advocate the idea of the earths
flatness. The concrete concept of man can only be developed if we proceed from the
dialectical unity and interaction of the diverse forms, of specifically human activity, mans
social abilities and social needs.
According to the materialistic concept of the essense of man, the universal form of mans
existence is represented in labour, in social mans direct transformation of nature (his own
nature inclusive) with the help of instruments which he himself makes. It is not accidental
that Marx was of such a high opinion of Benjamin Franklins famous definition: Man is a
tool-making animal. In making tools man does not simply accept natures demands, but
creates a new system of relations; however, these relations on which he depends are out of
his control. Such is Marxs viewpoint. The definition of man as a tool-making animal is a
characteristic example providing a vivid illustration to the Marxist understanding of the
universal as concrete and as related to necessity.
The universal understood as concrete is opposed to the multitude of individuals not as an
abstraction, but as their own substance, as a concrete form of their interaction. It is only in
this capacity that the universal as concrete determination embodies all the richness of the
particular and the individual, and this not only as possibility, but also as necessity. The
universal therefore cannot be understood as the abstract identity of a multitude of events
which serves as a basis for their classification under a single category. It implies
additionally the singling out of essential links and relations and becomes, as it were, the

substance of law. The universal is thus conceived as divided internally, as the identity of
contradictions, i.e. as a living, concrete unity.
The universal, as we see, turns out to be concrete only if it reflects the essential features of
the objects and phenomena of reality and does not take into account the inessential,
accidental features and properties. Thus, we can speak of theoretical concreteness which
consists not in direct connection with objective reality, not in the detailed representation of
individual aspects and properties, not in direct sensual perception, but in the singling out of
the main, the essential, the necessary, the regular. From the empirical viewpoint, theoretical
knowledge is indeed abstract in the sense that it is removed from sensual perceptions and
its links with the external world are mediated. Yet it is concrete in the sense that it reveals
those links and relations which are outside the sphere of empirical knowledge. In point of
fact, theoretical concreteness includes empirical concreteness which is preserved in the
body of a deeper and more concrete conception not in the sense that theory is specific
and demonstrative in accordance with the requirement of empirical concreteness, but only
in the sense that it preserves in most cases more or less direct links with experience,
experiment, practice. Without revealing the main, the essential, the necessary, i.e. the
substance of scientific law, knowledge would remain quite abstract from the theoretical
Lenin wrote: Essentially, Hegel is completely right as opposed to Kant. Thought
proceeding from the concrete to the abstractprovided it is correct (NB) (and Kant, like all
philosophers, speaks of correct thought)does not get away from the truth but comes
closer to it. The abstraction of matter, of a law of nature, the abstraction of value, etc., in
short all scientific (correct, serious, not absurd) abstractions reflect nature more deeply,
truly and completely. [8]
Indeed, without the knowledge of law individual facts, even a multitude of them, remain
abstract. They may be snatched out of the context and their significance may be arbitrarily
overemphasised, they may be opposed to all other facts and events. It stands to reason that
such knowledge would not be truly scientific. Moreover, one and the same fact or a totality
of facts may be interpreted in entirely different ways in the context of different theories.
Hence, one and the same empirical basis may be used to construct very different scientific
(not to speak of speculative and pseudo-scientific) theories. It should also be borne in mind
that the significance of various facts, their real scientific value cannot be established if we
ignore laws.
The thing is that facts characterising one or another object or event prove, as a rule,
contradictory. If we see an apple falling and trust our own eyes, we should expect it to fly
upward or sideways on the other side of the planet. Standing on the shore, we can see the
ocean retreating and then advancing again, we can observe a bird soaring up or falling or

evenly descending. Examples of this kind can be cited ad infinitum, and in any of them the
correctness of our observation, the scientific value of our knowledge can only be proved if
we reveal the operation of laws behind them: the law of gravitation in the first example, the
law of tidal motion in the second, the aerostation law in the third, etc. In other words, in
each of the phenomena we observe we must define the internal links which do not lie on the
surface. The knowledge of laws, undoubtedly, makes our cognition more concrete, though
it is quite obvious that laws are abstract statements.
[1] For detailed analysis of this question see E. V. Ilyenkov, The Dialectics of the Abstract
and the Concrete in Marxs Capital, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1982. [> main text]
[2] Karl Marx, A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, op. cit., p. 206. [
> main text]
[3] Ibid. [> main text]
[4] V. I. Lenin, Conspectus of Hegels Book The Science of Logic, Collected Works,
Vol. 38, 1972, p. 208. [> main text]
[5] See C. A. Hooker, The Information-Processing Approach to the Brain-Mind and Its
Philosophical Ramifications, Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, Vol. XXXVI,
No. 1, September 1975, p. 1. [> main text]
[6] Herbert Marcuse, Der eindimensionale Mensch. Studien zur Ideologie der
fortgeschrittenen Industriegesellschaft, Luchterhand, Neuwied, 1967, S. 156. [> main
[7] Karl Marx, Theses on Feuerbach, in: Karl Marx, Frederick Engels, Collected Works,
Vol. 5, Progress Publishers. Moscow, 1976. p. 4. [> main text]
[8] V. I. Lenin, Conspectus of Hegels Book The Science of Logic, Collected Works,
Vol. 38, p. 171. [>


by Igor Naletov

We have been concerned so far with special sciences or, more precisely, with those forms of
concreteness which are characteristic of empirical and theoretical investigations in physics,
biology, psychology, etc. What about the concreteness of philosophical categories
themselves? This is, in fact, the essence of the matter, the more so as the very idea of
concreteness of such laws and categories of dialectics as the transformation of quantitative
into qualitative changes, the unity and struggle of opposites, the negation of negation,
necessity and chance, cause and effect seem to be quite paradoxical at first sight.
The question of the concreteness of philosophical knowledge (laws, categories, principles)
evidently calls for special investigation which goes beyond the scope of this work. Since
our object is to compare the basic principles of the philosophy of science and dialectical
materialism, we feel justified in confining our analysis to just a few laws and categories.
It is not at all accidental that Lenin has taken special note of this idea in Hegels Lectures
on the History of Philosophy: If the truth is abstract it must be untrue. Healthy human
reason goes out towards what is concrete... Philosophy is what is most antagonistic to
abstraction, it leads back to the concrete... [1] To Lenin, this statement has evidently
carried profound meaning, as is evidenced not only from his philosophical ideas, but also
from numerous economic and political works. As regards Lenins philosophical works
proper, he has always placed special emphasis on the principle of concreteness and pursued
it with remarkable consistency. This particular aspect of his philosophical heritage
deserves special attention. Do we always realise, for instance, the profoundness of his wellknown statement that the contrast between matter and mind is meaningful within the
framework of the fundamental question of philosophy only?
The assertion of positivist philosophy that the concepts of matter and consciousness are
metaphysical and can be replaced by more concrete notions of special sciences, such as
physics, mechanics, biology, psychophysiology, neuropsychology and others results, in the
final analysis, from its inability to understand the philosophical concreteness of the
concepts of matter and consciousness. At all stages of the evolution of positivism its
adherents have persisted in declaring the concept of matter to be a fruitless abstraction, an
absolute and useless symbol, on the grounds that all materials needed for scientific
investigation are given to man in the senses, in individual experience. Hence, there is no
need, according to positivism, to project something transcendental, something that extends
beyond the limits of sensual perceptions. It is significant that the concept of matter or of the
physical world proves to be a useless abstraction within the framework of positivist
philosophy only. Recognising formally the existence of this world, none of the adherents of
this philosophy goes beyond the abstract, metaphysical understanding of matter. Setting up
an impassable barrier between matter and the cognising subject, positivism, naturally, is
unable to provide a concrete solution to the problem of the relationship between the
material world and the world of human consciousness. In this field positivism did not go

beyond Kant, and Hegels assessment of Kants philosophy is fully applicable to positivist
views: "The essential inadequacy of the standpoint at which philosophy halts consists in
this, that it clings to the abstract Thing-in-itself as an ultimate determination; it opposes
Reflection, or the determinateness and multiplicity of the Properties, to the Thing-in-itself;
while in fact the Thing-in-itself essentially has this External Reflection in itself, and
determines itself as an entity endowed with its proper determinations, or Properties; whence
it is seen that the abstraction of the Thing, which makes it pure Thing-in-itself, is an untrue
determination. [304 1]
No one denies that matter is given man in his sensations and that we should resort to a very
high degree of abstraction in order to oppose mentally matter to consciousness, sensations,
perception. Yet such abstraction is inevitable if we want to have a more concrete
understanding of their relationship. Positivism makes a stand for the inseparable connection
between matter and consciousness knowing, in fact, nothing about what is connected with
what. By contrast, Marxist scientific analysis is aimed at creating abstractions in order to
obtain a concrete understanding of the real, specific forms of the interconnection of matter,
the objective world, with consciousness.
As is evidenced from the above, the concepts of matter and consciousness are only valid
within the framework of the fundamental question of philosophy. In order to get a profound
understanding of the relationship between matter and consciousness, it is necessary to
reveal all the forms of their interaction which is not confined to the reflection of objective
reality in our consciousness, but also includes the influence of consciousness on the outer
world (to the extent to which the reflection of reality is correct). "Of course, Lenin writes,
"even the antithesis of matter and mind has absolute significance only within the bounds of
a very limited field in this case exclusively within the bounds of the fundamental
epistemological problem of what is to be regarded as primary and what as secondary.
Beyond these bounds the relative character of this antithesis is indubitable." [305 1]
The concept of matter is not correlated with the individual forms of the cognition of reality,
nor with the concepts of information, code or something else of this kind. It is correlated
with the concept of consciousness only. What is more, this correlation has any sense in
connection with the problem of the dependence of consciousness on matter and the
historical formation of matter and consciousness. The concept of matter which is seemingly
extremely abstract as it takes no account of all aspects and properties of things except just
onetheir existence outside and independent of our mindis in fact epistemologically
concrete as it is meaningful in the context of the fundamental question of philosophy only.
Outside these bounds the concept of matter has no independent philosophical meaning
though it can be used as a stylistic substitude for some other, special terms (for instance,
physicists speak of the density of matter in the Universe). At the same time, no knowledge
in general can be concrete without the abstractions of matter and consciousness as the

opposite sides of reality if only for the fact that without the solution of this fundamental
problem it would be impossible to decide which elements of our knowledge can be
regarded as true, objective and independent of man no matter how far our science may
advance, and which elements are connected with consciousness in one way or another, and,
hence, are subject to testing and verification in the general context of human experience
and available scientific data. As we shall try to show later, distinguishing between the
objective and the subjective in our knowledge is absolutely essential for making our
knowledge concrete.
Consequently, no particular experiment aimed at testing the materialist solution of the
fundamental question of philosophy will be of any use if it fails to take into account the
epistemological concreteness of the concepts of matter and consciousness. This question
can only be solved if we abstract from the interconnection of matter and consciousness. Not
many experiments can meet this requirement. Yet if science can provide evidence that
consciousness appears as a result of the activity of the brain, that certain functions of
consciousness can be exercised by a computer and that nature existed prior to man, this
scientific evidence is sufficient to confirm the soundness of the materialist viewpoint.
Conversely, should the reasonable beings who assumed the title of Homo sapience choose
to destroy the abode of their reason, this act, alas, will evidently be the last argument for
Throughout its entire history positivism has been denouncing, in one or another form and
more or less resolutely, the principle of causality as typically metaphysical. Significantly,
Machism and logical positivism rejected this principle and the meaningfulness of the
categories cause and effect on the grounds that they could not be tested empirically, i.e.
verified or confirmed. The new generation of positivist philosophers armed with Poppers
principle of falsification hold the same view yet on different grounds, namely, that this
principle cannot be falsified. Since, they reason, it is confirmed by allhuman experience,
without any exception, the categories of causality are applicable always and everywhere
and therefore turn into commonplace devoid of any analytical, i.e. scientific significance.
Popper does not deny the real scientific value of causal explanations, but presents their
logical schema as follows: there is some universal judgement, i.e. a law, and a proposition
characterising the initial conditions in terms of individual events. From these two
premises we infer a supposition regarding another individual event. The concepts of cause
and effect are eliminated as unnecessary. Popper rejects completely the principle of
causality in the general, philosophical sense. For him causality rather has an instrumental
meaning as an assertion that any event can be explained in terms of causality,
i.e.predicted through deduction, which is the same thing.

Depending on the interpretation of the words can be in this assertion, it may prove either
an analytical statement (tautology) or a synthetic statement (a statement of reality). If we
interpret these words as a logical possibility to construct a causal explanation, this
statement is tautological, since for any prediction we can always find a universal
proposition and initial conditions so. that it can be easily deduced from them. In some
situations, however, the words can be are regarded as an indication that the world is
governed by strict laws and that every phenomenon is an example of universal regularity or
law., In that case the above statement should be regarded as a synthetic one, which is not,
however, verifiable. Proceeding from this consideration, Popper concludes: I shall,
therefore, neither adopt nor reject the principle of causality; I shall be content simply to
exclude it, as metaphysical, from the sphere of science. I shall, however, propose a
methodological rule which corresponds so closely to the principle of causality that the
latter might be regarded as its metaphysical version. It is the simple rule that we are not to
abandon the search for universal laws and for a coherent theoretical system, nor ever give
up our attempts to explain causally any kind of event we can describe. [2]
Thus causality as something elusive is metaphysically identified with the concept of
universal law. The principle of causality is understood in a very trivial manner: it is quite
sufficient to know that the phenomenon in interest belongs to a certain class of phenomena
in order to draw a conclusion that the effect or, more precisely, the predictable event
belongs to just another definite class. Any violation of this necessary relationship indicates
that one of the classes has been determined incorrectly and should be either broadened or
narrowed. Such a concept of causality is indeed trivial from the methodological viewpoint
as it is aimed primarily at bringing every phenomenon in accord with the universal law or,
more precisely, with a universal empirical generalisation. As to its objective content, this
concept does not postulate anything but the regular sequence or regular concomitance of
events belonging to different classes. Oddly enough, such an understanding of causality
underlies the entire logic of scientific discovery, though it is quite obvious that this
methodological scheme rules out in principle the possibility of any discovery of new
phenomena which go beyond the limits of the universal law or, at any rate, sets them in
opposition to it. The universal law understood as regularity of events is incompatible with
any new phenomenon in principle. Inversely, any new phenomenon, i.e. what Kuhn calls an
anomaly in relation to the existing theory is incompatible with the universal law.
Consequently, it is not the principle of causality as such which is metaphysical, but its
narrow, instrumentalist interpretation by Popper. His interpretation in fact eliminates
causality from real science and reflects the ideal of Laplatian determinism, since Popper
identifies causality with logical dependence, logical necessity. It is only natural, therefore,
that such a canonised concept of causality and law has practically no appeal to science,
particularly modern science. As we see, Poppers own errors lead him to the conclusion that
the principle of causality is trivial, unscientific and metaphysical. The truth is that his

interpretation of the concepts of cause and effect are indeed alien to the spirit of real
The scientists, particularly the natural scientists, never understand causality in such a
narrow way as to throw doubt upon it each time an exact prediction proves impossible.
Such a prediction requires the knowledge not only of the causal dependence, but also of the
specific conditions of cognition. The strictly Laplatian ideal of prediction identified by
positivists with causality is generally attainable in such sciences as the mechanics of
macroscopic objects, astronomy, and loses its sense when we pass to such fields as
hydrodynamics and the theory of elasticity.
Despite the universality of the principle of causality, it is by no means simple to establish
the true, objective causal relationship separating it from a multitude of intertwined and
overlapping events and phenomena. The singling out of causal dependence from other
kinds of relations is in itself a difficult problem from the methodological viewpoint. Even if
an observer or an experimentalist have good reasons to expect a causal relationship, they
have to display sometimes a high degree of ingenuity in order to create appropriate
conditions for the identification of causal dependence. Even in those cases when the signs
of causality seem to lie on the surface, it proves to be extremely important
methodologically to define those abstractions and assumptions which have to be adopted
each time the concept of causality is used in scientific cognition. The need for abstractions
in cognising causal relationships has been stressed by Lenin: Hence, the human
conception of cause and effect always somewhat simplifies the objective connection of the
phenomena of nature, reflecting it only approximately, artificially isolating one or another
aspect of a single world process. [3]
For instance, the kinetic theory of gases explained the chaotic motion of molecules, the
distribution of the concentration of molecules in the field of terrestrial attraction, the
emission of electrons from heated metal, the viscosity and heat conductivity of gases and
other phenomena on the basis of the principle of causality. All these explanations proceeded
from the assumption that gas consists of absolutely resilient minute spherical particles, that
these particles possess kinetic energy only, that the magnitude of this kinetic energy
depends on the absolute temperature of gas only and that such molecules do not collide
with one another.
Though such assumptions somewhat distort the objective processes as there are no gases in
nature with the above ideal properties, they nevertheless reflect the conditions under which
these processes actually take place. Indeed, under the conditions of moderate temperatures
and relatively low pressures the distortions allowed for numerous gases do not have any
appreciable effect either on their qualitative or quantitative characteristics.

Hence, the explanations and predictions are based not only on the recognition of causal
relations, but also on certain assumptions presupposing the exact knowledge of conditions
under which the process in interest takes place. These aspects of scientific investigation are
closely connected with one another: explanations and predictions are impossible without
objectively grounded assumptions, whereas the assumptions themselves have any sense
only in the context of the above explanations or predictions. Yet in the philosophical
analysis of the principle of causality it is advisable to distinguish these aspects as more or
less independent objects of investigation which could be called an explanation, a prediction
and a substantiation of assumptions.
The problem of the subtantiation of assumptions in the context of an explanation or a
prediction is not infrequently left out of account in philosophical investigations so that the
analysis is often confined to the concept of causality and to the solution of various
methodological problems arising in natural sciences in connection with explanation and
prediction. The study of initial conditions seems a secondary task which is always
subordinated to explanation and prediction proper. Yet it is not difficult to show that the
exact knowledge of these conditions sometimes turns out to be problem No. 1 which has to
be solved before any explanation or prediction is ever attempted. Besides, if an existing law
or theory suggests the existence of a certain causal relationship, the search for conditions
under which this relationship can materialise becomes quite an independent research
problem and calls for serious creative efforts which may lead to important scientific
discoveries. Such investigations often give a powerful impetus to the development of
experimental facilities, computers, conceptual and mathematical bodies.
An experiment staged by the outstanding Russian physicist, Pyotr Lebedev, was intended,
for instance, to prove the existence of light pressure by demonstrating the effect of a light
beam on a metal blade, and also to compare the obtained value of this pressure with the
value predicted on the basis of Maxwells theory. The most difficult part of the experiment
(like of the experiment staged later by E.F. Nickols and Philip Hall) consisted in creating
the necessary conditions to ensure the fulfilment of the rules of abstraction. There was no
special difficulty in observing the rotation of the experimental blade after switching on the
source of light. Yet it was just here that an error might slip in, since the blade could be
caused to rotate by other factors as well, such as radiometric forces, the forces of gas
convection, etc., the more so as they exceeded many times the weak force of light pressure.
It took not only the experimentalists resourcefulness in developing the appropriate
apparatus, but also called for a profound analysis of the nature of convection and
radiometric forces. Hence, attempts to prove the existence of causal relations may lead to
the discovery of new phenomena, to new interesting and unexpected explanations
pertaining to the conditions under which the main investigation is carried out, and, finally,
to the improvement of experimental equipment, as the scientist always tries to envisage its
response to various side effects.

It may so happen that the forecast of a causal relationship does not come true under the
given set of circumstances. Does it mean that we should question the principle of causality
in general? Of course, not. In that case we are faced with this alternative: either our
prediction of a causal relationship is not correct and the existing correlation is the result of
other indirect links (and we must study them), or the causal relationship does exist, but the
experiment or the observations give wrong results due to the presence of unknown
interfering factors. In both cases the principle of causality leads to new problem and
stimulates new discoveries, often quite unexpected.
Hence, the principle of causality not only fulfils the functions of explanation and
prediction, but is also of great heuristic importance. To assess correctly the heuristic role of
the principle of causality, one should take into account the fact that the scientific
discoveries resulting from the evaluation of specific conditions, the revelation of hitherto
unheeded factors, the rejection of ungrounded assumptions, etc. are of ten more important
than those sought by scientists in their attempts to explain or predict one or another event. It
may seem all the more paradoxical as conditions, according to our own assertion, are
inessential for the causal dependence to the extent making it possible to disregard them
altogether. Yet the dialectics of these two aspects of objective reality consists in that the
conditions inessential for a given causal relationship may prove highly essential for another
One of the main objects of criticism levelled against dialectics by its present-day opponents
is the law of the unity and struggle of opposites. According to an ancient and at the same
time the latest argument against dialectics, an objective contradiction is incompatible with
the logical principle or law of contradiction whereby two opposite statements cannot be
true if they relate to the same time and to the same content. Accordingly, an object of reality
cannot possess two mutually excluding properties or be in two mutually excluding states in
one and the same respect.
It should be noted first of all that the term dialectical is by no means applicable to any
opposites or any contradictions. We can only speak of contradictions within the framework
of a concrete relationshipin which two phenomena, two aspects of one and the same object
can be regarded as opposite and mutually contradictory. Accusing dialectics of
speculativeness, scholasticism and absence of any scientific value, positivist philosophers
and other modern opponents and interpreters of dialectics refer to a vice which is absolutely
alien to Marxist dialectics.
The concreteness of the law of the unity and struggle of opposites is violated each time its
critics tear apart the two inseparable aspects: the unity and the mutual exclusion of
opposites. One cannot speak of the opposition of certain aspects of an object or a
phenomenon until after their unity has been established, the degree of their opposition

corresponding to the degree of their unity. It was senseless, for instance, to speak of the
opposition of the Sun and the Earth before it was found out that both of them are two
celestial bodies belonging to one and the same planetary system. Likewise, it is senseless to
speak of the opposition of science and, for instance, art till we establish that both of them
have the same nature as two forms of social consciousness. Hence, there are no and cannot
be any objects or phenomena which are absolute opposites, opposites in general, in the
abstract sense. Conversely, there are no and cannot be any two absolutely identical
phenomenasuch identity from the dialectical viewpoint is also abstract.
Any knowledge will be abstract, partial, incomplete, if it does not properly reflect the
contradictions inherent in the object under investigation, if it is presented as something
immutable, frozen, lifeless. Lenin has closely linked the question of the concreteness of
knowledge with the question of the mutability and contradictoriness of the objects and
phenomena of reality as is seen from his following emphatic remark: Cognition is the
eternal, endless approximation of thought to the object. The reflection of nature in mans
thought must be understood not lifelessly, not abstractly, not devoid of movement, not
without contradictions, but in the eternal process of movement, the arising of contradictions
and their solution. [4]
From the positivist viewpoint this statement is nonsensical. Limiting the subject-matter of
philosophy to the analysis of existing scientific knowledge, and this mainly in terms of its
correspondence with the standards of formal logic, positivism has once and for all defined
its stand in relation to contradictions. Contradictions are only possible in thinking and
therefore must be removed from our knowledge as their very presence testifies, according
to formal logic, to the falsity of at least one of the opposing statements.
Dialectical contradictions in nature and society differ from the so-called logical
contradictions. In contrast to formal logic, which understands contradiction as
incompatibility of statements, dialectics regards it as conflict of opposing forces or
tendencies. Such dialectical contradictions can be exemplified by the phenomenon of class
struggle, the relationship between nature and society, etc.
In thinking and cognition, the concepts of dialectical and logical contradictions coincide,
i.e. the dialectical contradiction assumes the form of the logical one. It is important,
however, that one should distinguish between the role of contradiction in the development
of cognition as empirical phenomenon, on the one hand, and the consequences of
contradiction for concrete knowledge, i.e. for cognition in the logical sense, on the other. As
regards the former, the revelation and resolution of contradictions is the motive force of
cognition (this applies, of course, to essential contradictions inherent in the very nature of
cognition, but not to the ones resulting from the subjective inability to think correctly). As
to the latter, a contradiction in the logical structure of knowledge is always objectionable as

either one of the two contradicting propositions within a given system can be used for
deducing logically correct statements. Hence, it is not logical contradiction, but the search
for the ways to eliminate it that constitutes the source of the development of scientific
The logical principle of concrete identity, the identity of opposites was for Marx (and
Hegel) the main logical criterion of concreteness in the approach to the objects and
phenomena of the objective world. It was this approach, according to Marx, that made the
difference between the trivial, uncritical description of phenomena as they appeared to
everyone and their theoretical comprehension.
The dual nature of the commodity was by no means Marxs discovery. Even before Ricardo
and Smith, any man in the street knew quite well that a commodity had use value and
exchange value or, in other words, that it could satisfy some human need, or be exchanged
for another commodity, more necessary at the moment for a given owner (though both
commodities were equivalent in terms of money, i.e. their prices were equal). The assertion
that the commodity is a carrier of use and exchange values has nothing in common with the
theoretical proposition disclosing the nature of value in general. The former is a mere
statement of two isolated abstractions in no way connected with each other, whereas the
latter proceeds from the understanding of the use value of a commodity as a method or
form of the manifestation of its own oppositethe exchange value or, more precisely,
simply value. This concept represents a transition from the abstract (from two equally
abstract notions) to the concrete (the unity of the notions of use value and exchange value).
Consequently, knowledge cannot be sufficiently concrete unless it reveals some general
aspects and properties of the objects and phenomena of the objective world: their essence,
main contradictions, content, necessity, etc. Yet it is precisely these aspects and properties
which constitute the subject-matter of philosophical investigation proper. Therefore,
philosophical concreteness is not a contradictio in adjecto, but a profound theoretical
concept. As it turns out, the knowledge given us by physics, chemistry, biology, geography
and other special sciences should also be concrete from the philosophical viewpoint.
Without such abstract (in the traditional sense) categories as quantity and quality, chance
and necessity, essence and appearance, etc. the concepts of atom and elementary particle,
organism and living cell, man and society turn out to be insufficiently concrete.
There is yet another important side to this problem. If we leave out of account the above
categories, any scientific knowledge will only be testable within the scope of the links and
relations that have already been revealed. In other words, the test will be confined to
examining the empirical content of our knowledge, the object or phenomenon in interest
being isolated from other objects and phenomena, and to establishing logical links between
this empirical content and the theoretical knowledge already available. Hence, the

possibility of a comprehensive test of any knowledge for scientific value and authenticity
will be ruled out altogether and, consciously or unconsciously, new concepts or theories
will be left exposed to eventual criticism. Knowledge which has not passed through the
crucible of a philosophical trial is not only vulnerable to critical attacks, but also liable to
various distortions and misinterpretations.
Here is an example. Before the establishment of the contradictory nature of light, its
complex quantum-mechanical properties, it would have been impossible, as we are fully
aware now, to adopt either the wave or the corpuscular theory. Each of these theories could
have been tested by corresponding experiments, yet these experiments contradicting one
another would only have been regarded by the adherents of the rival theory as a temporary
The way of abstract identities leads away from, but not towards dialectics. Dialectics
unfolds the analysis of concrete, living objective contradictions, whereas eclecticism, being
in fact a counterfeit of dialectics, is engaged in the arbitrary combination of any opposites
and identities.
No better appears to be the alternative solution to the problem of contradiction offered by
the representatives of the Frankfurt School. This solution, in contrast to the one proposed
by positivism, is based on the absolutisation of contradiction and negation and on the
rejection of any identity whatsoever. The approach of the Frankfurt School which is
distinguished by utter disregard for the concreteness of the categories of identity and
opposition can be well illustrated by Theodor Adornos proposition concerning nonidentity. According to him, identity is the enemy of all that is factual, single, particular
and, strange as it may seem, concrete. Concreteness, as it turns out, can only be saved
through non-identity [5]. The trouble, however, is that identity itself in Adornos
interpretation loses concreteness and turns into something lifeless, static and absolute. Yet
the identical, as has been pointed out by Hegel, includes the necessary seed of distinction,
discord (Unterschied). Already in his Phenomenology of Spirit Hegel came out against the
understanding of negation as activity consisting only in refuting, nullifying the attained
result. In the preface to that book Hegel calls true that thinking which emerges in the
process of development as a definite negative and therefore as some positive content.
Adornos negative, by contrast, remains abstract and lopsided, pathetically inferior to
Hegels profound concept though, according to good Adorno, Hegel has failed to rise to
the required level of thinking. Adorno interprets Marx in a similar manner, making special
effort to find in his works everything related to the negative or negation and
counterpose it to the positive or negation of the negation. In point of fact, the only
difference between Marx and Hegel in the interpretation of identity and distinction,
positive and negative, assertion and negation is that Marx had placed all these
categories on a materialistic basis. Freed from speculativeness and abstractness, they have

acquired new forms of concreteness and preserved at the same time their interdependence
disclosed by Hegel who has correlated each pair and regarded it as an indissoluble unity.
The creator of negativist logic which is full of contradictions, writes Soviet scientist I.S.
Narsky about Adorno, manipulates, like Proudhon, static antitheses, such as society and
nature, democracy and technocracy, history and theory, criticism and apology, process and
system, action and cognition, practice and reflection, humanism and scientism, discarding,
though, almost any one of these alternatives just as easily or turning them into arbitrarily
interpreted symbols... His method is anti-dialectical, dialectics with Adorno ceases to be
dialectics and turns into the metaphysics of the rigid models of non-identity. [6]
It stands to reason that the exposure of trivial contradictions can little contribute to
scientific investigation except by bringing in a few odd empirical details. Yet even these
meagre scraps of knowledge reveal their utter uselessness when it comes to moulding them
into a single concept. Just imagine for a moment a toy factory run by an eclectic in
accordance with his theoretical notions. The toyshops would be cram-full of little monsters
having an ear instead of an eye and an eye instead of an ear, a kneecap on the shoulder, a
frying-pan instead of a hat, gloves instead of shoes, trousers instead of a shirt, etc. This
comparison, though, perhaps, a little too blunt, is by no means far-fetched.
Of course, from the viewpoint of logic an ear and an eye, a shoulder and a knee-cap are
opposites in a way, just like the right and the left eye, the right and the left foot, hand, etc.
Each object is the opposite of another object in some abstract sense. It would be absurd to
engage in studying such contradictions without specifying the concrete relationship within
which such contradictions are considered.
In his critical analysis of Dhrings book, Engels wrote that his opponents views on the
question of contradiction can be summed up in the statement that contradiction=absurdity,
and therefore cannot occur in the real world. People who in other respects show a fair
degree of common sense may regard this statement as having the same self-evident validity
as the statement that a straight line cannot be a curve and a curve cannot be straight. But,
regardless of all protests made by common sense, the differential calculus under certain
circumstances [italics supplied] nevertheless equates straight lines and curves, and thus
obtains results which common sense, insisting on the absurdity of straight lines being
identical with curves, can never attain. [7]
Referring to the universality of the laws of dialectics, its opponents allege that dialectics
can prove or confirm anything in the world, it can be used to justify any political act. Since
the laws of dialectics are applicable everywhere and at all times, they cannot be of any help
in discovering something new.

Herbert Feigl who honestly confesses to having not read a single Soviet publication in
philosophy over the past few years, regards the laws of dialectics as hackneyed banalities.
The vague .principles of dialectics, according to Feigl, are handicapped by Hegelian logic
consisting, in fact, of illogicalities. They are scientifically useless both in terms of ontology
and methodology. Dialectics, in Feigls opinion, adds nothing new to the special solution of
the mind-body problem or the problem of the corpuscular-wave dualism. All that is needed
to solve such problems is the good old two-valued logic plus the required natural
scientific data. The slogan about the transition of quantity into quality, writes Feigl, is
just as vague as the triad, or the negation of the negation. [8]
No Marxist philosopher would deny the universality of the categories of dialectics. The
crucial point is the understanding of this universality. From the Marxist viewpoint, the
universality of categories and laws consists in that they reflect the processes and
phenomena in nature, society and cognition. It does not mean, however, that the laws of
dialectics are applicable to any situation regardless of conditions and that they exist outside
and independent of the corresponding phenomena and processes to which they relate. The
law of the interdependence of quantitative and qualitative changes is very concrete for all
its universality and abstractness (in the empirical sense). It does not apply to any quantity or
quality, but only to the quantity of a given quality.
It means that not any, but only strictly definite quantitative and qualitative changes can be
linked in a scientific context.
The concrete unity of the quantity and quality of a given object is known to be reflected in
the dialectical category of measure which lays special emphasis on the concreteness of this
unity. The quantitative changes of a given quality are restricted within the limits of a given
measure beyond which the unity under consideration breaks up and is replaced by another
unity having its own measure.
The concreteness of quantity and quality accounts for the relativeness of the
distinction between quantitative and qualitative changes. It is only in relation to a given
quality that one can speak of certain quantitative changes. Outside the bounds of the
measure such a counterposition becomes senseless. The number of the electrons on the
outermost shell of the atom is directly related to its qualitative characteristics, to the quality
as a whole. Yet this number does not affect the aggregate state of the matter which includes
the electrons under consideration. We do not mention here the trivial approach to this
dialectical category exemplified, for instance, by an attempt to link daylight illumination
with the number of stars in the sky.
Proceeding from the abstract logical pattern advocated by the opponents of dialectics, we
might say that any quantitative change in general involves one or another qualitative

alteration. Take, for instance, the budding of leaves on a tree. The appearance of a new leaf
on a branch is in itself a qualitative changeit involves the emergence of a bud, the
concentration of chlorophyll, the absorption of light, etc. One might even speak of many
qualitative changes. Similarly, the evaporation of several molecules of water from its
surface which brings about but a minor quantitative change in the volume of liquid in a
vessel is connected with such a qualitative change as the process of evaporation. The same
quantity of molecules could have been removed from the same volume by means of, for
instance, a sprayer.
Can we indeed speak of quantitative and qualitative changes in this latter case? If we do,
we shall make a common, even a typical mistake which leads sometimes to serious
misunderstandings. Of course, if we speak in an abstract manner, the elimination of a
certain amount of molecules is a quantitative process. But in relation to what? This is just
the point, since the principle of concreteness calls for a very definite reference system
without which any scientific analysis turns into nonsense. Whereas the aggregate state of
liquid in a vessel does not change (the qualitative state of water remains invariable),
molecules pass into a new state, acquire a new quality, the humidity of ambient air
increases, etc., i.e. qualitative changes do take place but in a different system of relations.
The law of the interdependence of quantitative and qualitative changes would indeed turn
into commonplace if we did not define in each particular case the relationship between a
certain quantity and a certain quality, i.e. did not determine the system the development of
which is the object of our analysis.
Taking exception to the law of the transformation of quantitative into qualitative changes,
Herman Wetter writes that if the new quality were of a higher order, it would be bound to
have something which cannot be explained in terms of the laws of the lower order. That
means that the effect would be bigger in some respect than the cause or, to put it another
way, it would have no corresponding cause, at least with regard to the increment.
Consequently, according to Wetter, the law of the transformation of quantitative into
qualitative changes does not explain anything, it merely describes the transition from the
old quality to a new one.
As has been pointed out above, the laws of dialectics, though universal by nature, are not
confirmable under any arbitrary set of conditions. They are operative within quite definite
epistemological limits and become senseless beyond them. In other words, they can be
falsified in principle, if we come across a sufficiently large body of contradicting facts. The
absurd contentions that the categories and laws of materialist dialectics are trivial and
unscientific derive from sheer ignorance. Such contentions are based on the subjective
interpretation of dialectics and have nothing to do with its true nature. In most
contemporary concepts of Western philosophers claiming to carry on the dialectical
tradition, dialectics is replaced by eclecticism, the semblance of dialectics.

To sum up. Philosophical knowledge represents all forms of scientific concreteness:

empirical, theoretical and epistemological. It can be confirmed experimentally, given
conditions for appropriate abstraction, and it can be falsified outside the limits of the
objective field. Philosophical knowledge is theoretically concrete in the sense that it rests
on the theoretical foundation of modern science, formulates its laws and provides answers
to philosophical questions prompted by the development of science itself. Finally,
philosophical knowledge is concrete from the epistemological viewpoint in the sense that
each dialectical category and law is based on and relevant to the entire system of
philosophical knowledge in terms of its logic and history.
[1] V. I. Lenin, Conspectus of Hegels Book Lectures on the History of Philosophy, op.
cit., p. 245. [> main text]
[2] Karl R. Popper, The Logic of Scientific Discovery, Basic Books, Inc., New York, 1959,
p. 61. [> main text]
[3] V. I. Lenin, Materialism and Empirio-Criticism, op. cit., p. 156. [> main text]
[4] V. I. Lenin, Conspectus of Hegels Book The Science of Logic, op, cit., p. 195. [
> main text]
[5] See Theodor W. Adorno, Negative Dialektik, Suhrkamp Verlag, Frankfurt am Main,
1966, S. 138. [> main text]
[6] I. S. Narsky, The Problem of Negation and the Negative Dialectics of T.
Adorno, Filosofskiye nauki, No. 3, 1973, p. 77. [> main text]
[7] Frederick Engels, Anti-Dhring, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1975, p. 144. [> main
[8] Herbert Feigl, Critique of Dialectical Materialism, in: Dialogues on the Philosophy
of Marxism, Ed. by J. Somerville and H. L. Parsons, Greenwood Press, Westport,
Connecticut, 1974, p. 114. [>main text]




by Igor Naletov
The nihilistic attitude towards philosophy and towards broad theoretical concepts in
the period of the inception of positivism is closely connected with (though cannot be fully
excused by) the stormy growth of empirical sciences in the late 18th and the early 19th
centuries. The universal enthusiasm about their remarkable successes created an illusion
that all mankinds problems without exception could and ought to be solved exclusively by
the methods of natural sciences which not only provided the exhaustive explanation of
phenomena, but also predicted the existence of unknown phenomena and thus opened the
way for new discoveries. Of special interest to us, however, is the connection between this
philosophical nihilism and the boom of empirical investigations. This question is the more
topical as in our time, too, the extensive development of empirical methods of investigation
in one or another scientific field brings about a very similar phenomenona certain
estrangement, if not downright victimisation of philosophy.
As is commonly known, empirical investigations usually aim at studying individual,
sensually perceptible objects and phenomena of reality. Besides, the sphere of empirical
investigation includes inductive generalisations and even the formulation of empirical laws.
Most researchers associate theoretical knowledge with a higher level of abstraction, with
the explanation of empirical laws, revelation of their links with other laws and existing
theories, i.e. with their theoretical substantiation, as well as with the discovery of new laws
which do not always lend themselves to empirical interpretation.
The very nature of empirical knowledge, like that of applied knowledge in general,
accounts for the fact that the scientist engaged in concrete empirical investigations is
seldom forced by the specific problems he studies to concern himself with philosophical
generalisations. At any rate, the logic of his research does not lead him to philosophical
concepts of universal significance.
It does not mean, however, that a natural scientist does not concern himself with
philosophical problems and is in general far removed from philosophy. Even in a purely
empirical investigation a scientist cannot make a step without adhering, for instance, to the
principle of objectivity. His task consists in excluding the effect of the subjective factor, i.e.
the influence of his own manipulations, particularly of his personal perception and his
individual experience from the conditions of his experiment or observation. Every
experimentalist knows only too well the difficulties involved in the fulfilment of this task,
as well as the severity of the requirement for the purity of the experiment. Not every
scientist, however, is fully aware of the fact that this requirement does not stem from the
nature of his specific investigation but is of general methodological significance, i.e. that it
is a philosophical principle. Similarly, a scientist cannot disregard the principle of causality
or determinism from the viewpoint of methodology. The experimentalists work largely

consists in a search for the causes of the event or phenomenon under observation, or in
defining its possible effects. Here, too, the patterns of his thinking and experimental
activities are predetermined methodologically so that he proceeds from events to their
causes, then to their consequences, conditions, etc, In such standard situations a scientist
relies on the available philosophical knowledge and seldom questions its validity.
Moreover, not infrequently he is not even aware of the philosophical basis which provides,
as it were, the methodological framework for his research. The problems he is concerned
with cannot be qualified either as purely philosophical or as specifically scientific. The
solution of his problems calls for bridging the gap between philosophical and specialised
knowledge so as to permit philosophical ideas to fertilise his practical work and give it a
new meaning and new dimensions. Such problems can be called philosophicomethodological since they are philosophically oriented and their solution is guided by
general philosophical principles. Yet they are not regarded as philosophical, since their
emergence does not cast doubt on the content of philosophical categories, nor does it
question the role of philosophical laws. It is not surprising therefore that a scientist may
delude himself into thinking that he is completely free of any philosophical propositions or
It should be noted that empirical investigations in one or another specific field are not likely
to add much to the arguments for or against some philosophical trend, even if the facts the
scientist deals with are quite extraordinary. Numerous evidences regarding flying saucers
and the abundance of documentary reports about catastrophes in the area of the Bermuda
triangle give rather impressive data and stir up imagination. On the basis of such
information a layman may come to most fantastic conclusions. Generally speaking, the
thinking of a man in the street is apt to overcome very easily the compatibility barriers
which often make a tremendous problem for a serious scientist.
A laymans imagination can easily carry him from the rumours of flying saucers to a very
plausible image of a visitor from outer space described sometimes in great detail (down to
the number of fingers on his hand) and further to fantastic pictures of the arrival of
reasonable beings on the Earth. Then he may plunge into speculations on the nature of
reason, on the origin of the solar system, etc. Strange as it may seem, what is easily
accessible to the laymans fanciful imagination proves to be beyond the power of thinking
of a scientist who cannot resort either to Pegasus wings or to Hermes sandals but has to
follow his thorny path with a heavy tread of an experimentalist. His every step must be
thought out and well measured. To be sure, science has also learned to build castles in the
air now called orbital stations... Yet how very careful and arduous its every step forward,
how modest its achievements in comparison with the ages of hard work and relentless
struggle against the unknown and therefore terrifying forces of natureand how very
different the sober and restrained approach of true scientists from the unfounded conceit of
dilettantes relishing mans would-be power over nature! Alas, the position of an

empirically-minded natural scientist differs but little from the thinking of a dilettante
venturing to expound his views on the philosophical doctrines he knows only by hearsay...
He is doomed to vacillate from the extreme exaggeration of the significance of his own
achievements and the derogation of the role of theory, particularly philosophy, to the
concoction of astounding theories and original philosophical doctrines...
It is the empiricist style of scientific thinking and investigation, the empiricist standard of
scientific progress that lies at the root of metaphysical ideas and speculative propositions
which fill in the gaps between individual isolated facts torn out of the context and viewed
outside and independent of their links and relationships. It is narrow empiricism in science
that often takes a disdainful and intransigent stand against consistent materialist approach to
reality and tends to replace serious scientific investigation by pretentious, extravagant ideas
without bothering to trace them to the corresponding historical or historical-scientific
anticedents in the age-old history of science and philosophy. This unwillingness to study
philosophical traditions and historical links accounts, above all, for uncritical attitude
toward general theoretical and philosophical ideas which are unavoidable in any scientific
Every researcher seeks to transgress the bounds of his immediate investigation and take a
broader view of the problem he is concerned with. Yet such transgressions need not
necessarily testify to the expansion of his scientific horizons and broadening of his interests
they may also result from scientific adventurism which goes hand in hand with the
condemnation of primitive materialism, theoretical dogmatism, etc. This militant
empiricism which has always chafed under the so-called harshness of dialectics and
complained about the pedestrian style of Marxs thinking and the intransigence of Leninist
materialism proves to be capable of getting on quite well with those theories and
philosophical concepts which suit it in one way or another in a given situation, gratify its
weaknesses. This attitude is usually expressed in overall hostility to any methodology, in
anarchical opposition to any world outlook and results from the absence of a solid
theoretical foundation.
The uncritical attitude to the philosophical environment leads to a paradoxical situation: on
the one hand, ostensible independence, the absence of any philosophical commitments and
freedom to choose any philosophical concept that is suitable from the practical, utilitarian
viewpoint and justifies all sorts of wild digressions into the history of science or depth of
the Universe; on the other hand, actual bondage to current philosophical tastes and
intellectual fashion. The illusion of freedom from philosophical systems turns out to be
overall dependence on obsolete philosophical theories. The champions of the freedom of
intellect find themselves in the position of those natural scientists who were so aptly
ridiculed by Engels: Natural scientists believe that they free themselves from philosophy
by ignoring it or abusing it. They cannot, however, make any headway without thought, and

for thought they need thought determinations. But they take these categories unreflectingly
from the common consciousness of so-called educated persons, which is dominated by the
relics of long obsolete philosophies, or from the little bit of philosophy compulsorily
listened to at the University (which is not only fragmentary, but also a medley of views of
people belonging to the most varied and usually the worst schools), or from uncritical and
unsystematic reading of philosophical writings of all kinds. Hence they are no less in
bondage to philosophy, but unfortunately in most cases to the worst philosophy, and those
who abuse philosophy most are slaves to precisely the worst vulgarised relics of the
worst philosophies. [1]
Among such slaves found itself not only positivism, but also other philosophical schools
which undertook to express the empiricists curtailed world view and carried to excess all
the demerits (and merits, for that matter) of empirical investigation. The empiricists stand
is in fact hypocritical in that his abuse of philosophy and metaphysics often serves as a
smokescreen for his own philosophical system intended to espouse his views.
It would be wrong to think that the tendency to exaggerate the role of sensory experience
characteristic of earlier empirical science will die away by itself in the age of the maturity
of science with its high level of abstractions and complex mathematical formalisation of
whole branches. The empirical investigation of individual objects and phenomena will
always remain an important task of science however attractive and promising theoretical
research may be. It is essential, therefore, that alongside the encouragement of young
scientists in fundamental investigations due attention be paid to experimental work and that
appropriate incentives be constantly sought to improve and stimulate it. Sometimes an
individual fact discovered by mere chance may lead to the emergence of a new scientific
trend or to the reappraisal of current scientific theories.
On the other hand, as long as scientific investigations in certain fields are based on
empirical data, there exists a nutrient medium for empiricism as a philosophical trend.
There is yet another paradoxical aspect of the evolution of positivism. The dominance of
empirical methods in natural science and the universal enthusiasm about its achievements
had come to an end or at least considerably subsided by the mid-19th century. At the turn of
the 20th century the prestige of empiricism was completely undermined by the rapid
development of physics, chemistry, biology and psychology. Yet it is precisely this period
that reanimated the influence of positivist philosophy.
The development of theoretical natural science and elaboration of fundamental theories did
not change the attitude of positivism to general philosophical problems. Logical positivism
that came to the foreground in that period with renewed determination to eliminate
metaphysics from science was nurtured by the hopes that all theoretical propositions

could be reduced to empirical knowledge. This stand was well illustrated by Russells
attitude to the principle of causality in scientific cognition. Characterising this principle as
purely metaphysical, as a relic of the pre-scientific stage of knowledge, he pointed out that
theoretically developed sciences had already got rid of all remnants of causality. Alongside
the principle of causality, positivism threw overboard all other philosophical principles and
laws, first and foremost those of dialectics and materialism, on the grounds that
the categories of quality, matter, necessity, essence and the like are alien to theoretical
Modern philosophers of science in their works devoted to the concept of law and to the
principle of determinism in fact identify law with universal assertions on the grounds that
the language of science does not express any necessity except the logical one. Necessity
itself is identified with universality which, in their opinion, is all that is demanded of
scientific statements, theoretical generalisations and even the most advanced modern
theories. Similar is their attitude to the categories of contradiction, essence and practically
all other main categories and laws of dialectics.
Such oversimplified understanding of the structure of scientific knowledge revealing itself
in present-day positivist literature is a natural consequence of the main premises of the
philosophy of science limiting the philosophy and methodology of science exclusively to
the logic and language of scientific cognition. Regarding the available knowledge as reality
itself embodied in language, the positivists cannot but overlook the infrastructure of
science, i.e. its abstractions, premises and assumptions.
True, the latest variants of positivist philosophy, e.g. critical rationalism and other
postpositivist trends, go as far as recognising the methodological, instrumental role of
some principles of dialectics, such as causality and determinism. Yet they also stop short of
recognising the theoretical significance of philosophical categories and laws pointing out
that they do not reveal themselves openly either in theoretical or in empirical knowledge.
The view that philosophical substratum does not lie on the surface of scientific theories and
empirical investigations is on the whole not objectionable. The question, however, consists
in whether the principles and laws of dialectics are indeed devoid of any scientific
significance and play no part in theoretical investigations.
To answer this question, it is necessary first of all to take into account some specific
features of theoretical knowledge. Understandably, the formulation of philosophical
propositions and principles goes beyond the limits of a special scientific investigation.
Philosophical principles seldom come to the forefront in a scientific system and their
cognitive value is seldom conspicuous. As long as any philosophical principle or, for that
matter, any theoretical premise in general serves the purposes of scientific investigation the

scientist is not confronted with the task of its further elaboration or improvement. And it is
quite natural. His immediate aim is to solve a specific problem within a more or less narrow
field of his interests. He achieves this aim directly, using the means of his particular science
physics, chemistry, biology, psychology, etc. Philosophical principles for the scientist
are something like air which he does not think of as long as his breathing is not difficult.
What is more, this approach is evidently suggested by the very object under investigation
since it appears to be the most promising and likely to yield the best results. As a matter of
fact, the object of investigation often proves, so to speak, more dialectical and more
materialistic than the theoretical views of the investigator himself, particularly if his
philosophical baggage consists of meagre positivist abstractions.
In any case, the scientist does not pose any philosophical problems in his field of
investigations as long as the concepts he relies upon in his practical work perform the
function of the foundation of science. The theoretical significance of philosophical
principles and laws would, perhaps, never come to light if they always remained but
implicit. Yet sooner or later the time comes when philosophical concepts do reveal
themselves to celebrate their victory and claim universal recognition. Unlike experimental
data and theoretical principles which lie at the root of specific theories, philosophical
principles and laws should be regarded as their premises since it is impossible to deduce
from them any particular scientific doctrine. At the same time, no scientific theory is
conceivable without the corresponding philosophical basis. Hence, philosophical premises
are essential, but not sufficient conditions for theoretical and empirical cognition.
As distinct from theoretical concepts which serve as a basis for a nascent theory so that it is
largely deducible from them, philosophical concepts constituting its foundation cannot be
used for deducing one or another variant of this theory. As a matter of fact, there may be
several ways of solving a problem which would meet the requirements of materialism and
dialectics, i.e. scientific philosophy, under given conditions.
Speaking, for instance, of the philosophical foundation of classical physics, we can single
out at least four philosophical ideas deeply rooted in all the theories of 19th-century natural
scientists. They are: (1) the idea of materiality of the world, the identity of matter and
substance, impenetrability of matter, etc.; (2) the idea of the absoluteness of space and time
regarded as receptacles of matter and as having properties not connected with one another
and independent of the movement of material bodies; (3) the idea of absolute
determinateness of all changes and events in nature owing to universal interaction governed
by the dynamic laws of mechanics and expressed in the concept of Laplatian determinism;
(4) the idea of the independence of the object from the subject of investigation, i.e. the
concept of the objectivity of knowledge.

Since these ideas were linked with the theoretical foundation of contemporary science, they
assumed even more concrete forms. For instance, materiality was identified with several
material properties such as constant mass, atomic structure, impenetrability, etc.; space was
assumed to be filled up with hypothetical material medium called ether (hence the
corpuscular and wave theories of light); interaction was believed to spread instantaneously
(hence the idea of remote action); matter and motion were regarded to be indestructible
(hence the law of conservation of energy).
The existing philosophical premises allowed of several alternative solutions to theoretical
problems making equally plausible the corpuscular and the wave theories, the theory of
ether and the theory denying the existence of any mechanical elastic medium, Laplatian
determinism and statistical physics, etc. Metaphysical materialism with its one-sided
mechanistic conceptions of motion and matter brought natural science to a crisis which was
not confined to just one or several fields but affected the very foundation of scienceits
instinctively materialistic world view. Radium, the great revolutionary, according to
Henri Poincare, cast doubt on the law of conservation of energy and, consequently, on the
idea of the indestructibility of matter. The electron shook the concepts of the indivisibility
of atoms and the immutability of the mass of a body thus undermining the idea of
materiality. Albert Michelsons experiments (1881) called in question the existence of ether
and absolute space in which the velocity of light should have been higher in the direction of
the movement of the source of light, but proved to be variable and independent of the speed
of the source of light. In 1901, Pyotr Lebedevs experiments revealed the pressure of light.
The discovery of X-rays in 1895 followed by the discovery of the electron as the atoms
main component (in 1897) and of radioactivity refuted the idea of the indivisibility of
atoms. Other philosophical foundations of classical physics were undermined too: the
concept of the immutability of natures primary substances and attributes, of the
universality and absolute identity of the operation of mechanical laws both on the infinite
and infinitesimal scales.
It became obvious that the philosophical doctrines inherited from the mechanistic
materialism of the 17th-18th centuries could not provide a reliable theoretical foundation
for the solution of the pressing problems of physics and natural science in general.
The essence of the crisis in modern physics, wrote Lenin, consists in the break-down of
the old laws and basic principles, in the rejection of an objective reality existing outside the
mind, that is, in the replacement of materialism by idealism and agnosticism. Matter has
disappearedone may thus express the fundamental and characteristic difficulty in
relation to many particular questions which has created this crisis. [2]
Turning to the philosophical premises of 19th-century physics, the physicists unfamiliar
with dialectics could not but identify metaphysical materialism with materialism in general.
We need not enlarge on this subject, as it has received extensive coverage in relevant

Marxist literature and is not, in fact, directly connected with the main point we want to
make here, namely, that the philosophical premises of science have no independent
significance as long as they do not come in a more or less sharp conflict with the results of
scientific investigations and the latest theoretical views.
However, an impending crisis in science causes scientists to start revising its theoretical and
experimental principles.
Yet a crisis may sometimes go deeper and involve also the philosophical foundation of
science if it fails to meet the latest requirements. Hence, crises in the development of
science can only be avoided if scientists are fully aware of the philosophical principles
which underlie the fundamental theories in their fields of investigation. Of special
importance here is not only a profound theoretical background of scientific personnel and a
thorough knowledge of the history of science, but also sufficient philosophical culture and
good acquaintance with the historical sources of philosophical problems. Most serious
attitude to the philosophical foundation of a given science is extremely important.
It is no secret that the philosophical principles of modern physics were formulated in a
general form by Marx and Engels way back in the middle of the 19th century. The
definition of matter as a philosophical category denoting the objective reality which exists
independently of consciousness provided the necessary guideline for scientific
investigations in the late 19th and the early 20th centuries. Progress in physics could only
be attained if the electron was regarded not as a purely theoretical construct, not as an
object with free will, but as a component part of the atom with a complex structure of its
own. The dialectical solution of the problem of the relationship between necessity and
chance constituting a single whole laid or was to lay the foundation for the probability
approach to the interpretation of quantum-mechanical processes, for the correct
understanding of probability and the relationship between indeterminacies, i.e. the
discoveries made in the first half of the 20th century. The concept of the unity of space,
time and motion advanced by Marx and Engels also gave a clue to the special and general
theories of relativity.
It stands to reason that the implementation of these philosophical concepts required of
natural scientists conscious assimilation and further development of the philosophical ideas
of Marx and Engels providing a theoretical basis for dialectical interpretation of concrete
physical, biological, chemical and other data. Of great importance for the accomplishment
of this task was close cooperation between philosophers and natural scientists. However,
conditions at that time were not yet ripe for such cooperation.

Even this short historical survey shows that philosophical knowledge is not doomed to
remain forever behind the scenes. Sooner or later it is bound to come to the forefront of
scientific progress.
An essential distinction of fundamental theoretical investigations from empirical cognition
consists in that theory is capable of setting and solving a number of philosophical, tasks on
its own. This feature, naturally, is largely accountable for the difference in the attitude of
scientists representing the two tendencies in the development of science to the significance
and value of philosophical problems and to philosophy in general. The task of fundamental
investigations consists in explaining the established laws, revealing the links between them,
predicting and foreseeing new facts and new trends in the development of science.
Theoretical laws and concepts .therefore express necessity and are of a general nature.
Theory no less than empirical sciences rests on a philosophical basis in the form of adopted
and tested philosophical doctrines and principles, instrumental methodologically in the
formulation and explanation of new laws and relationships.
Hence, theoretical investigations also involve problems which we call philosophicomethodological and which are mainly connected with the use of the available philosophical
propositions, principles and laws in the solution of methodological problems and in the
fulfilment of concrete theoretical tasks. To be sure, the philosophico-methodological
approach to the problems dealt with in a theoretical investigation is essentially different
from the approach to the same problems in an empirical investigation aimed at revealing
and explaining individual facts of scientific importance. For instance, the problem of the
objectivity of knowledge viewed from the philosophico-methodological angle at the
theoretical level of cognition may boil down to deciding on whether the theoretical analysis
of a quantummechanical ensemble should be carried out with the help of a certain apparatus
or whether a basically new means of investigation should be sought in order to make the
process under observation independent of the observer. Of course, the effect of an apparatus
on the micro-object is an objective phenomenon, but the nature of the apparatus and the
form of its influence cannot but tell, in one way or another, on the subjective perception of
the processes in interest. It would be wrong, therefore, to deny the fact that object-subject
problems do arise in such investigations. Moreover, it can be asserted that no effective
solution has been found to this problem so far. The problem of causality regarded from the
philosophico-methodological viewpoint at the level of theoretical cognition may consist,
for instance, in the theoretical explanation of discovered laws, in the logical deduction of a
certain proposition from several premises, in the forecasting scientific and technological
progress, etc. Here, too, the content of the principle of causality, the meaning of the
categories are not subject to any special analysis.
Hence, the problems which we call philosophico-methodological have to be solved both by
a theorist and an empirical scientist. Just like in the case of empirical investigations, they

are not regarded as philosophical problems mainly due to the fact that the solutions sought
are expected to help in the fulfilment of a specific scientific task rather than in the
formulation of a philosophical conclusion. The solution of the specific problem in question
is subordinated to the- principal aimthe solution of a definite puzzle, a special theoretical
Similarly to empirical knowledge, theoretical knowledge also has its limits. A theorist takes
over where the empiricist leaves off. He formulates empirical laws, explains them, links to
other laws having the same degree of universality or to even more general laws, gives them
a theoretical substantiation. Scientific conclusions have different degrees of universality
expressing the necessary links and relationships at different levels of generalisation. Some
theories, e.g. the lever theory, differ but little from empirical generalisations as they
describe the properties of concrete objects and phenomena. Other theories, such as the
general systems theory, the set theory, the games theory, the modern cosmological theories,
and others come very close to philosophical concepts and conclusions.
As is known, a scientific principle can only be refuted by another one if they represent
similar or at least comparable degrees of generalisation. Consequently, critical attitude to
existing philosophical concepts, as well as real interest in the development of philosophical
knowledge which is indicative of the growing understanding of its role and significance in
modern science can only appear at the theoretical level of scientific cognition. It does not
mean, of course, that the responsibility for developing philosophical knowledge rests
exclusively with the natural scientists. The point is that the revision of philosophical
principles, however partial, calls for their reassessment and creative development, since the
problem is not confined to the concrete expression or application of current philosophical
laws. It is laws themselves, their content, that become the object of scrutiny. The problems
which arise in such situations can be called theoretico-philosophical or world-view
The very nature of these problems makes it impossible for the natural scientists to tackle
them on their own, though their solution may predetermine the results of investigations in
the specific fields they are concerned with. The professional philosophers, for their part,
need profound theoretical knowledge in highly specialised fields of positive science in
order to undertake this task. They must have a clear understanding of the conflicting
theoretical views in the given branch, know its history and traditions. History knows many
examples when the natural scientists set themselves the task of solving philosophicotheoretical problems arising in their fields in order to help overcome the crisis. Among
prominent natural scientists who made invaluable contribution to the theory and philosophy
of science are such famous names as Albert Einstein, Wolfgang Pauli, Niels Bohr, Werner
Heisenberg, Vladimir Bekhterev, Ivan Pavlov, Nikolai Vavilov, Ernst Bauer, Vladimir Fock,
Dmitri Blokhintsev, and others.

In this context utterly absurd appear to be the repealed attempts of the positivists to lay the
blame for unsolved philosophico-theoretical problems and deadlocks in science on none
other than philosophy, Marxist philosophy in the first place. Positivism has always been
trying to make Marxist philosophy the scapegoat for the difficulties encountered in the
process of scientific cognition. Be it the comprehension of the philosophical problems of
the theory of relativity or the painful process of consolidation of the quantum theory, the
guilt for the protracted debates and controversies was invariably laid at the door of
materialist dialectics and the Marxist philosophers who were allegedly opposed to the
adoption of new ideas in physics. The development of genetics, too, purports to have been
hampered by ill-intentioned dialectics which, according to the positivist historians of
science did not serve as a guide for scientific thought but acted as a brake on its progress.
The history of science shows that theoretico-philosophical problems emerge as an
expression of contradictions between the available theoretical basis of science and its
philosophical foundation. Philosophical arguments are only resorted to when a theoretical
problem cannot be solved by purely theoretical means and when it becomes necessary, on
the one hand, to analyse its scientific roots and, on the other, to formulate its essence in
philosophical terms and to indicate the possible ways for its solution. This, in turn, calls for
a sufficiently high philosophical culture. The history of science knows a great many
examples when the natural scientists proved incapable of solving important philosophical
problems only because they allowed themselves to be enslaved by obsolete or basically
false philosophical doctrines. On the other hand, cases are on record when even prominent
philosophers adhering to an advanced philosophical teaching were unable to understand the
significance of pressing theoretico-philosophical problems as they lacked sufficient
scientific background or specific knowledge in the particular field of science.
Neither physics, biology, nor any other special science can be blamed for the inability of
individual scientists to provide correct answers to topical problems of world-view
significance. Physics cannot be held responsible for the inability of such scientists as Mach
and Poincar to interpret materialistically the results of their own scientific investigations.
Similarly, it is not the fault of Marxist philosophy that some of its ill-starred representatives
abused and denounced cybernetics as a bourgeois pseudo-science because they were unable
to distinguish between its real scientific content and the misrepresentation of its discoveries
in Western philosophical literature.
Hence, neither side alone can be held responsible for inability to understand and overcome
one or another crisis in the theoretico-philosophical field: the fault lies both with natural
scientists and philosophers. Once physicists misjudge a certain discovery, their error is
seized upon by philosophers and becomes a source of groundless philosophical illusions
and absolutisations leading, as a rule, to idealism and priestcraft. Should a slip be made by
philosophers, their delusion will immediately tell on the relations between the rival schools

in the corresponding field of positive science. Any controversy over methodological or

philosophico-theoretical problems is equally sensitive to both philosophical and specifically
scientific arguments.
Of course, it always takes scientists some time to realise that they are faced with a
theoretico-philosophical problem. If any symptom of an impending crisis in science
becomes evident, philosophical concepts and principles are always the last to be called in
question. A wrong prediction or explanation in some specific field of science leads first of
all to the revision of theoretical principles and corresponding scientific theories. Such a
revision takes several years of scrupulous and wearisome work even in our age of the
scientific and technological revolution. The turn of the philosophical concepts constituting
the foundation of a given theory comes only after scientists complete a most exacting test
of the empirical basis and axiomatic premises of the theory in question. There are many hot
areas in modern science where philosophical concepts and ideas are tested for strength by
new scientific discoveries. As in Engelss time, nature remains the touchstone of dialectics
and gives ever new evidence that it is governed by the laws of dialectics, and not
The intensive development of modern science characterised by the ever increasing
complexity of its structure and growing sophistication of its theoretical framework expands
further the sphere of mans knowledge. Scientific investigations extend to ever new fields,
new objects, phenomena and properties of the material world. This statement may seem
quite trivial, yet it is not always realised that the expansion of scientific horizons is a
transgression not only of the bounds of available knowledge, but also of the bounds of the
current theories and adopted paradigms. This latter circumstance is of special significance
since the current view tending towards some kind of pantheorism maintains that practically
all new facts discovered by modern science do not go outside the framework of commonly
professed theories, at least the fundamental ones, such as the theory of relativity, the
quantum theory, the theory of the atomic structure of matter, and the Darwin theory.
True, so far as the modern means of scientific investigation are concerned, there are no
grounds to question the validity of at least one of the above fundamental theories both in
the macro- and microworlds. Nonetheless, it is rather a weak argument in favour of
pantheorism. First of all, science has already received certain empirical data and theoretical
conclusions which are not quite compatible with current theories, even with such a
comprehensive one as the general theory of relativity. The explanation of these facts calls
for a special scientific investigation. It is quite likely that a more thorough analysis will
bring these facts in full conformity with the theory in question. Yet a possibility cannot be
excluded altogether that it will have to be modified, generalised or even replaced by a
basically new theory.

Besides, it is never to be forgotten that all current theories, however broad they may be,
cannot claim to account for all the properties and aspects of the objective world. In other
words, science can still reveal vast areas, explored but partially or unexplored at all, even in
those fields where one or another fundamental theory appears to be indisputable. Take, for
instance, the complex ecological processes or meteorological phenomena we are still trying
to find a clue to and sometimes get the badly needed answers when they are already
useless. The earths bowels, too, are full of mysteries, not to speak of our nearest
neighbours, the Moon and Mars, which are to be explored in the near future here we have
no proven theoretical concepts whatsoever to rely upon.
One can hardly expect to get the right perspective of the relationship between philosophy
and science if he ignores the present trends of scientific development, however
inconspicuous and insignificant they may seem. One should take into account the fact that
the relations between philosophy and some natural sciences or their departments concerned
with these latest trends tend to become ever more direct and unmediated.
The point is that, in the absence of a developed theory providing a direct and specific
explanation of a given phenomenon and predicting its consequences, the functions of such a
theory largely pass to general philosophical concepts and principles. To be sure, an essential
role in the development of specific scientific theories giving an exhaustive and concrete
interpretation of facts belongs also to theoretical or general scientific categories and
principles. Yet philosophy plays an independent theoretical part, too, and advances
problems which may be called philosophico-theoretical.
What are, for instance, those basic scientific principles which constitute now the theoretical
core of ecological knowledge, the embryo of the future special theory? They are nothing
but a set of philosophical categories concretised to meet specific conditions.
In geography, these basic categories represent the concepts of structure, dynamics,
development and others. Thus, the landscape axiom is formulated as follows: In each point
of the earths surface individual elements, components and factors of geographic substance
are interconnected within a system of diverse and law-regulated orderly ties. The
chorological axiom postulating spatial interdependence reads thus: All geographical
phenomena are related to some geographical places which are identified by their location
and particularly by the connection of this location with neighbouring places and areas.
Here is the distinguishing feature of geographical objects: In geographic reality there are
no objects which do not possess such geographical properties as location and spatial ties.
As one can see, all these initial theoretical propositions are essentially concretised basic
methodological and world-view principles. Alongside the world view and methodological
functions dialectico-materialist philosophy performs an important theoretical role.

Such an understanding of the functions of philosophical knowledge may at first seem to be

a revival of the concept of natural philosophy discarded by Marxism way back in the 19th
century. Yet the emphasis on the theoretical significance of philosophy has nothing in
common with old natural philosophy if only for the fact that materialist dialectics providing
the initial theoretical basis for natural science does not by any means claim to substitute
philosophical principles and speculative hypotheses for the subsequent detailed
investigation of the object and for the specific laws governing its functioning and
development. The absolutisation of philosophical knowledge, the speculativeness
characterristic of the natural philosophy of the 17th and 18th centuries are ruled out by
dialectical materialist methodology itself. Marxist-Leninist philosophy points the way for
science to a more profound knowledge of the world, stressing the need to pass from general
philosophical principles to concrete objects, and proves the necessity of discovering ever
new aspects and empirical laws of reality. According to dialectical materialism, philosophy
should not keep aloof from this process letting science stew in its own juice and expecting
it to ripen all by itself, evolve true philosophical principles or provide yet another proof of
Bad natural philosophy cannot spring from the methodology of dialectical materialism. It
flourishes where the theoretical progress of science is made contingent on pseudophilosophical generalisations and ontological interpretations of physical, chemical,
biological and other specific data. Such generalisations and interpretations claiming the role
of philosophical categories actually tend to replace true philosophical knowledge by
speculative, natural-philosophical concepts.
It would be a mistake to presume that the appearance of natural-philosophical concepts can
be effectively prevented in our time by the spontaneous development of science and by
Marxist criticism. That is not so. When propounding the Marxist-Leninist understanding of
philosophy, it is necessary to analyse not only the positivist views, but also the natural
philosophical concepts, e.g. within the framework of so-called scientific realism, even if
they spring up from a seemingly materialistic soil. This circumstance deserves special
attention, since the present crisis of positivist philosophy tends to stimulate the revival of
metaphysics as one of the alternatives to the positivist methodological programme. It is
precisely this alternative offered by Western specialists in the methodology of science that
leads to the reanimation of natural philosophy in its modern form. Numerous publications
by American and British authors confirm it with utmost clarity.
It has already been pointed out in philosophical literature that the mere process of the
generalisation of scientific data resulting in the creation of universal theories and concepts
does not yet produce any increment in philosophical knowledge. In point of fact, such an
increment gives grounds for various speculative, scholastic concepts and hypotheses.

This approach is untenable for several reasons. First, the conclusions based on the simple
generalisation of concrete scientific data cannot but be trivial as they do not solve any real
philosophical or special scientific problems. In fact, any generalisation can only be
regarded as scientifically valid if it ensues from the solution of a real philosophical
problem. Hence, to qualify as philosophical categories or principles, any notions and
generalisations should be interpreted in the light of the basic principles of dialectical
materialism, tested for relevance and consistence with other philosophical categories and
Second, such conclusions are scientifically barren as they do not lead to any new problems.
Third, such conclusions tend to distort the philosophical picture of reality, and this is
perhaps the most serious defect of the method under consideration. Not a single notion can
gain circulation and be used in a philosophical context, in debates or discussions, unless it
is assessed from the viewpoint of the main question of philosophy. Why is it so important?
First and foremost, because philosophical analysis is based, at least in relation to the world
view and methodology, on the already existing concepts and theories which,
understandably, possess both the objective content and subjective elements. One should
clearly understand the dialectics of these two aspects of scientific knowledge and
distinguish one from the other in order to avoid errors in manipulating the new notion and
trying to solve philosophical problems.
Suppose, we discuss the cause-effect problem in the light of the feedback concept. Its
solution can only be obtained if we present the above categories as abstractions. For a
physicist, biologist, a specialist in cybernetics or, for that matter, in any other field of
natural science this problem simply does not exist. Specialists do not deal with the
categories of causality and feedback, but with objective processes themselves. In this
context the above categories are not regarded as abstractions with corresponding
approximations, assumptions, etc. In objective reality feedback links are inseparable from
causal links. Besides, analysing the processes of control in terms of feedback relations, a
scientist practically does not resort to the concept of causality. It means that these concepts
have quite definite epistemological limits which also determine the sphere of their
application. Hence, the applicability of one or another conceptand we are speaking here
about scientific concepts of a very general naturedepends not only on the specific field of
objective reality, but also on the epistemological bounds. The transgression of such bounds,
as well as the use of theoretical categories in an alien field renders them nonsensical.
The solution of one or another question from the philosophical angle requires special
attention to the epistemological bounds of notions and concepts. In this respect the
philosophical approach making a sharp distinction between the objective and subjective
aspects of scientific facts and ideas is essentially different from the approach of the natural

scientists, just like philosophy in general is different from the knowledge accumulated in
physics, biology, chemistry and other particular sciences.
Of course, the basic question of philosophy is not the only filter for scientific
generalisations which are to qualify as truly philosophical categories of world-view
significance. No less important in this respect are the fundamental laws and categories of
materialistic dialectics.
It should never be forgotten that the transition from the special knowledge obtained within
the framework of some positive science to the philosophical level of thinking, like the
process of scientific cognition in general, has very little in common with a linear and
unidimensional process of successive generalisations, something in the nature of
epigenesis. This transition is a qualitative change, a swing to a different level of
universality and, accordingly, to a different level of comprehension of the necessary links
and relations of the objective world.
[1] Frederick Engels, Dialectics of Nature, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1974, pp. 209
10. [> main text]
[2] V. I. Lenin, Materialism and Empirio-Criticism, op. cit., p. 258. [


by Igor Naletov
The contemporary development of scientific knowledge is characterised by certain peculiar
trends very important for understanding the relationship between philosophy and science.
These trends testify to the fact that dialectics is a replica of objective reality and therefore
provides the best method for its cognition. For one, dialectics highlights the objective
character of such a profound intrinsic contradiction of scientific and technical progress as
the unity of integration and differentiation of science. These two processes account to a
considerable extent for the growing complexity of the structure of scientific knowledge and
cannot but affect the progress of philosophy itself. Their objective and veracious
presentation and assessment can only be undertaken by a philosophy which is fully
cognizant of its own dependence on the general trend of scientific development yet is not
susceptible to particular influences within each special science. It is only this kind of

philosophy that is capable of viewing the development of science from the inside by
virtue of its being its integral part and, as it were, its spokesman, and from the outside,
as the exponent of its most general laws, principles and categories.
From the viewpoint of dialectical materialism which is the only philosophy capable of the
above approach, the main and most essential trend in the development of modern science
consists in the growing interdependence of natural, social and technical sciences. This trend
does not fall in with either positivist or any of the post-positivist models of the
development of science. It is highly significant that this fruitful cooperation is based on
modern production and its achievements, on the one hand, and unsolved problems, on the
other. Marxs prediction that science will eventually turn into a direct productive force of
society is coming true and this fact is gaining ever wider recognition. Understandably, this
applies primarily to natural and technical sciences. Their increasingly close interaction
stems not only from the needs of production and from social tasks, but also from the inner
logic of scientific development, from the vital tasks of fundamental and applied research.
The very links between science and production, the effectiveness of scientific investigations
and fundamental research depend to a considerable extent on the depth of integration of
scientific knowledge.
An important feature of scientific progress in our time which is overlooked or deliberately
ignored by all modern philosophy of science is the rapidly increasing significance and
theoretical independence of social sciences. Their growing prestige is connected with
spectacular achievements of Marxist thought in transforming social relations and in the
successful management of society in the socialist countries, with the consolidation of the
principles of socialist ethics and social humanism. Yet the immediate objective cause of this
process is the increasing role of social sciences in the sphere of social production.
Under the conditions of modern scientific and technical progress profound knowledge of
the achievements and problems of social sciences becomes a prerequisite for the successful
development of natural science and should be regarded as an important element in the
general scientific and cultural background of a modern scientist. The role of social sciences
should not be confined to giving a specialist in natural or technical sciences a certain
minimum of knowledge just to broaden his outlook. They should also provide him with
relevant social information to permit solving complex problems he may encounter in his
more or less narrow field of activity, let alone the tasks of preparing him for socially useful
activity, solving organisational problems, broadening his philosophical horizon and
improving ideological education. The very logic of scientific progress, the law of the
development of modern science calls for a broad humanitarian education of the so-called
narrow specialists.

Under the impact of the current scientific and technological revolution social sciences,
particularly some of their applied disciplines, penetrate into the very core of production
processes revealing new possibilities for the solution of important theoretical and practical
problems and for enhancing the efficiency of production. The revolution gives a powerful
impetus to the development of new forms of interaction between theoretical and
experimental investigations within the framework of natural, social and technical sciences.
The current scientific and technological revolution is connected primarily with the
discovery and use of atomic energy for peaceful purposes, with the development of
automation and computers, breathtaking achievements of chemistry, rapid progress of
biology and space flights. Natural science plays today a crucial role in developing
qualitatively new instruments of labour and new materials, in introducing basically new
technological systems, designing automatic machine lines, introducing on a wide scale
automated control systems and in solving many other important problems. Tremendous
achievements of modern science and technology have made it possible to start fundamental
investigations of the structure of matter in micro- and macrocosm, to design and develop
complex technical systems, investigate and reproduce the most intricate systems of living
nature, including the human organism.
The current scientific and technological revolution is also characterised by the essential
enhancement of the human factor in production, i.e. of the role of man as the subject of the
production process, by a radical change in the man-science-technology system and by the
growing complexity of organisation and management. A crucial role in the investigation of
all these phenomena belongs to social sciences whose representatives take an active part in
the development of the theoretical principles of scientific control over socio-economic
processes, in the study of numerous factors stimulating creative activity and in improving
industrial engineering and production schemes. The influence of social sciences in the
sphere of production is constantly growing and its cooperation with natural and technical
sciences is becoming ever closer and more fruitful.
The penetration of social sciences into the sphere of production affects not only the systems
of control and organisation. Changes in the man-science-technology complex go side by
side with the revolution in the very foundation of production processes. The growing
complexity of the design and operation of modern machines, their increasing role in the
automation and management of production make ever more exacting demands not only on
natural, but also on social sciences which have to supply the necessary data for engineering
solutions. The present level of integration of social, natural and technical sciences makes it
incumbent on engineers, designers and specialists in cybernetics to take accurate account of
social, psychological and other human factors in production, in the service industry and
in other fields.

The development of new technology and the extensive use of automation, data-processing
equipment and computers are primarily the result of the labour of mathematicians and
specialists in cybernetics and electronics, yet the achievements in these fields are also
creditable to the creative endeavour of logicians, linguists, psychologists, specialists in
mathematical economy and economic cybernetics. It is common knowledge that computers
which are indispensable in modern production systems cannot be constructed and operated
without the solution of economic, psychological, logical and linguistic problems. As a
result, new sciences come into being, such as applied linguistics, human engineering, and
economic cybernetics, The computerisation of industrial processes is impossible without
the modelling of numerous thinking operations, so far comparatively simple, and without
solving the problems connected with translation from human language into machine
language. The highly accurate operation of automatons is known to be controlled by
algorithm-base programmes representing the models of production and social processes.
The creation of artificial languages, the systematisation of terms and symbols, the
development of modelling systems have expanded the scope of application of linguistics
which was originally confined to the problems of teaching the native or foreign languages
and translating from one language into another, and had very little to do with direct
production processes.
The extreme complexity of systems which include man as their component, calls for new
research methods essentially different from the traditional physico-mathematical analysis.
Linguistics, for instance, holds out much promise in the field of modelling such systems as
it permits using not only digits, but also words and even whole sentences of the natural
language. Profound investigations into the structure of the natural language, the analysis of
the laws governing its formation and functioning are also helpful in the solution of certain
technical problems, such as the improvement of the quality standards and responsiveness of
the press, automation of some editing and publishing processes, etc.
The acceleration of scientific and technical progress, the development of effective control
systems result in the rapid increase of information flows which have to be processed at an
ever growing rate. The participation of linguists in the improvement of production and
social processes with the use of computers finds its expression today in a new linguistic
method of investigationthe modelling of the linguistic system and speech processes. The
results of this modelling are materialised in special artificial languages and various
linguistic algorithms. Particularly accurate should be the modelling of speech processes
when developing dialogue-type systems and other advanced methods of man-machine
Applied linguistics is called upon to make its contribution to the essential improvement of
all systems using the natural language and to the enhancement of their effectiveness.
Specifically, it should enable computers to receive information in its natural forms, without

any preliminary preparation by man. Computers should manipulate semantic units instead
of textual elements, sharply expand the volume of information required for the automatic
solution of intellectual problems and open up new possibilities for its complex logical
processing. To achieve these aims, it is necessary to develop machine languages
approximating to the natural one, create identification devices capable of recognising
human voice or its optical images, and improve the general standard of self-control and
self-perfection of machines within the man-machine system. The solution of this latter task
is now becoming quite feasible owing to the fact that the substance of mans creative
activity yields ever more readily to mathematical description. An important role in this
process belongs, for one, to human engineering which describes mans mental
characteristics and functions in terms of mathematical language. This can be easily
translated into a machine language to fit in human and machine characteristics. A similar
function is performed by bionics, particularly psychological bionics.
The investigation into the role of the human factor in modern technology throws a new
light on such philosophical problems as the man-machine relationship, the specific features
of man-machine languages, substantive and formal moments in reproductive and creative
thinking, artificial intellect and self-organisation, the unity of the algorithmic and heuristic
principles of thinking.
Social sciences play an increasingly important role in the solution of questions pertaining to
the development of a single classification system for various items and terms, to the
unification and standardisation of documents with a view to producing uniform information
for various control systems in production and other fields of social life. In this connection a
need arises to start a more profound investigation into the theoretical problems of
terminology, the language of science, and to join the efforts of scientists studying these
problems. The creation of such classifiers, as well as the development and introduction of
uniform documents, single systems of technical, economic, financial and other indices
should not only reflect the growing information unity of social, natural and technical
sciences, but also take into account new trends in the improvement of the organisational
structure of the economy, the new level of the development of democratic centralism in the
sphere of management and control. Classifiers not only record essential balance links
between the economy and control systems, but also serve as the source material for
economic and mathematical modelling in all spheres of the national economy.
Automation of production and many other problems of social, scientific and technical
progress provide yet another channel for the penetration of social sciences into the sphere
of production and for their drawing closer to natural sciences. The more difficult the tasks
and the more complex the processes subject to automation, the more imperative the need
for studying man and the full diversity of his individual qualities, the social ones inclusive.
The focus of attention is shifted on mans activity, and the results achieved in these studies

determine to a considerable extent the solution of many crucial problems, both practical and
From the viewpoint of theory, the investigation of human activity acquires special
importance in modelling mans actions and thinking processes. Computers can only
simulate the operational and technical functions of human thinking. The procedures
characteristic of the actions of machine and man are entirely different, let alone the
difference of the mechanisms themselves. The extremely complex nature of human activity
cannot be reduced to logico-mathematical algorithms. Attempts at formalising certain
elements of thinking processes, extremely useful as they are, do not yet give grounds for
excessive optimism about the possibility of all-round modelling of mans mental activities,
developing a full-scale artificial or hybrid intellect, etc. Computers can essentially facilitate,
speed up and improve the accuracy of the decision-making process, yet they can also
accelerate the implementation of an incorrect decision.
The experience gained in the operation of computers has provided convincing evidence
that, in contrast to the solution of simple and similar type problems when mans role in
automated control systems is limited to setting a task, inserting initial data into the
computer and interpreting the formal decision, the attainment of substantive solutions is
only possible on the condition that man intervenes in the decision-making process at each
stage of the machine operation. It has turned out that the elements of creative approach to
the solution of complex problems, particularly in unforeseen circumstances and in cases
when logical and mathematical formalisation proves difficult, are needed much more often
than in the case of simpler problems. Such operations as the identification of new targets in
research, the breaking up of the general task into subtasks, the development of new criteria
for a new situation, the selection of the classification base and methods of equivalent
transformations and many others include numerous elements which do not yet lend
themselves to formal and algorithmic presentation. Therefore the need for direct interaction
between man and machine, i.e. for the man-machine dialogue becomes more and more
As a result, social and technical sciences find themselves confronted with the extremely
interesting problems of the organisation and design of human activity in its unity with
automation facilities ranging from elementary means to most complex and sophisticated
The difficulties and miscalculations in the development of automatic control systems and
automatic devices are not infrequently traceable to the underestimation of the data provided
by social sciences. The specificity of economic processes characteristic of a given industry,
industrial amalgamation or enterprise is not always taken into account by automation
development engineers who tend to concentrate on secondary problems, mainly related to

accounting, rather than to tackle the key issues of control such as scientific prognostication,
scientific and technical progress, etc.
New technical means not only make work easier, they change essentially the very nature of
labour and shift the emphasis onto mans intellectual abilities by complicating the process
of data apprehension and analysis and increasing demands on his ingenuity, creative powers
and ability to make quick decisions in a changing situation. These features of modern
production account for the need to extend scientific investigations beyond the traditional
field of physical and chemical characteristics of the instruments of labour, quality of
materials and energy problems, and to enlist the services of social sciences. Scientific
investigations in the field of labour activity should not be confined to technical facilities as
such and to man as the subject of production. They should concentrate more and more on
the correspondence between mans physical and mental possibilities, aesthetic tastes and
other social qualities, on the one hand, and the properties of modern technical systems, on
the other.
The problem of man, his concrete role in the transformation of nature and society is
becoming one of the key issues stimulating the most profound integration of social, natural
and technical sciences. Therefore, in considering the task of optimising human activity as
part of the general problem of the rationalisation of labour, philosophers jointly with
sociologists, psychologists and engineers ought to think of how to avoid the restriction of
mans creative activity by the further automation of production. Non-automated and semiautomated production processes not only limit the workers freedom of action, but also
make it difficult to change from one occupation to another. While projecting new trades and
professions in connection with the deepening processes of automation, special measures
should be taken to neutralise these negative trends. Seeking to make work easier and more
interesting, the development engineers engaged in the rationalisation of production
processes and technical means and in the improvement of environmental conditions at
industrial enterprises are already confronted with the need for designing specific labour
operations. These should relate both to individual elements of production (a concrete
working place, a specific man-machine system), and to technical complexes (a production
line, a shop, etc). The designing of new kinds of labour activity, of more rational forms of
interaction between man and nature, man and machine, etc. is still behind practical needs.
However, this trend represents yet another important field where natural, social and
technical sciences join their efforts to achieve a common goal.
Modern science regards man, machine and the production environment as a complex
dynamic system, with man playing the leading part. A comparatively new branch of science
known as ergonomics or human engineering studies the role of human factors in modern
production and other spheres of activity and analyses the integral characteristics of the
man-machine system. Investigations in this field cannot be reduced to the analysis of the

characteristic features of man, machine and production environment separately from one
another, even if they are viewed in the aggregate. Ergonomics as a science is evidently
confronted with the task of developing its own theory and devising its specific methods of
investigation into the man-technology-production environment system.
A comprehensive approach to the problem of mans labour activity based on the
achievements of social, natural and technical sciences throws a new light on many
theoretical and practical problems. It makes it possible to correctly assess not only the role
of the instruments of labour, technical means and the real significance of the factors of
production environment, but also the place of man in modern social production. Such an
important category as the quality of labour, for instance, acquires a new meaning.
Economists are at present mainly concerned with such characteristics of labour as its
complexity (calling for the workers appropriate qualification), intensity, physical hardness,
importance for society, etc. All these characteristics are taken into account in wage rating
practices at state enterprises. However, they cannot reveal in full scope the social
effectiveness of labour. The analysis of its quality only from the viewpoint of narrow
practical criteria does not fully reflect the specificity of labour under the conditions of
developed socialism. Yet the quality of labour is an integral characteristic which represents
the product quality and quantity indicators referred to the indicators of mans health and
intellectual level.
At the present stage of industrial development it becomes technically possible to realise
projects on the basis of a comprehensive approach to mans activity. Under the
conventional pattern, design work on a system generally starts from its estimated technical
characteristics which determine the place and the functions of the man-operator, the latters
role being mainly assessed in terms of limitations (a relatively small amount of information
the operator is capable of processing within a unit of time, a relatively slow response, a
comparatively weak resistance to noise, etc.).
Time has evidently come to reverse this order and try the alternative method. Specifically,
in developing a technical assignment the designers should proceed from the idea of the
secondary, auxiliary function of machines and, consequently, take into account, first and
foremost, the positive qualities of man as the real subject of labour, i.e. his advantages over
the machine, but not his demerits. This approach opens up basically new possibilities for
enhancing the efficiency of labour and will eventually make it possible to shift the focus of
attention from the solution of the pressing problems of industrial engineering, the
improvement of available technical means and the adaptation of man to the existing
technological norms onto the design of new forms of human activity based on
comprehensive theoretical investigations into mans physical, mental and intellectual
potentialities now being studied by ergonomics. As has been pointed out in the
recommendations of the Second International Conference of Scientists and Specialists of

CMEA Countries and Yugoslavia on Ergonomics (Bulgaria, 1975), the trends in the
development of modern production will evidently bring about a situation in which the main
design problems will .be connected not with the investigation of equipment characteristics,
but with the search for ways and means ensuring optimal interaction between man and
technical means. The main criteria for such optimisation must be the provision of the most
rational equipment (depending on the concrete achievements of scientific and technical
progress) and the maximum satisfaction of mans need for creative work.
Besides the mutual influence of their ideas and methods, the growing interdependence of
social, natural and technical sciences finds its expression in the emergence of new branches
of knowledge on the borderlines between them. Ergonomics, engineering aesthetics,
applied linguistics, economic cybernetics, etc. can hardly be classified among purely
natural or purely social sciences. They do not study man as such or objective relations
between people, or the technical aspect of production. The subjectmatter of these
disciplines which constitutes the basis for the synthesis of social and natural sciences is the
interaction of man and technical systems, production and natural environments, etc.
In this context special importance attaches to the analysis of complex methodological
problems underlying the synthesis of social, natural and technical knowledge. It is the
diversity of possible approaches to mans labour activity in modern production that presents
the main difficulty in developing a single language for different specialists concerned with
ergonomical problems. Understanding among economists, designers and psychologists can
only be achieved on condition that the synthesis of social and natural sciences is not
reduced to a mechanical combination in some aggregate system or conglomeration of
knowledge, or even to the establishment of some kind of subordination between them,
but is based on the general theory of labour activity.
This task deserves most serious attention and calls for extensive investigations (alongside
the solution of applied problems) into the general principles of human activity. Such
investigations should be aimed at revealing the laws governing the perception of data, the
shaping of combined pictorial-conceptual models, visual thinking and decision-making
processes. Much has already been done in this direction, yet the development of a
comprehensive theory of labour activity is still a matter of the future. As a result of the
weakness of the general theoretical basis technical systems are often designed without due
regard for the human factor. For instance, man is viewed merely as an auxiliary technical
element, and very inconvenient at that, of a control system, and the system is understood
as some kind of a computerised complex differing from the conventional one only by the
number of technical means employed and by the method of its operation. Such an approach
is absolutely untenable from the methodological viewpoint and leads in practice to serious
technical and economic miscalculations.

Ergonomic investigations are mainly aimed so far at attaining specific aims, rather narrow
by nature: the improvement of technical means to meet the requirements of modern
production, the optimisation of machine-tool configurations, the rational arrangement of
instruments or control desks and auxiliary equipment, the improvement of controls, etc.
True, the scope of these investigations is gradually expanding: besides the equipment
improvement and layout optimisation problems, specialists in ergonomics jointly with
designers study the possibilities of domesticating the territory of industrial enterprises so
that it may merge naturally with the city or suburban complex. They concern themselves
more and more often not only with the quality and external appearance of one or another
industrial product, but also with the conditions, both natural and social, under which it is to
be used.
It stands to reason that the scientific solution of the problem of optimal interaction between
man and machine in the socialist countries is directed not only towards enhancing the
efficiency and economic effect of new technology in connection with the new role of man
in the system of modern production. Even a more important aim of this investigation
consists in creating the best possible conditions for the development of man and for freeing
him from the strain of tedious and monotonous work. The new technology, the extensive
use of electronic computers and the overall improvement of production conditions testifies,
first and foremost, to the humanitarian mission of science opening up new possibilities for
improving mans welfare and ensuring his all-round harmonious development.
An important factor in the strengthening of links between social, natural and technical
sciences is the tendency towards the integration of their cognitive potentialities, both
theoretical and experimental, as regards the rational use of nature, environmental protection
and the solution of other global problems.
The synthesis of social, natural and technical sciences in the process of the comprehensive
solution of various problems leads to the emergence of numerous gravitation centres
where specialists in most diverse fields of science join their efforts to achieve a common
goal, and accounts for different levels of analysis, including the highest level of the
integration of social and natural sciences on the basis of materialist dialectics which
becomes in this case the theoretical and methodological basis for complex scientific
investigations. This tendency results in a considerable enhancement of the role of MarxistLeninist philosophy as the most general theory of the development of nature, society,
thinking and the methodology of science. Lenins idea of the alliance between Marxist
philosophers and representatives of special sciences is demonstrating its increasing
viability. Under the conditions of socialism, this alliance derives its strength from the
principles of dialectical materialismthe objectivity of knowledge, development, causality,
existence of objective laws, etc.which provide a solid methodological basis for natural,
social and technical sciences. From its inception, Marxist philosophy has been absorbing

the outstanding achievements of natural and social sciences and developing as the
methodology of natural knowledge, social knowledge and the world-transforming
revolutionary practice.
At the turn of the 20th century Lenin wrote: It is common knowledge that a powerful
current flowed from natural to social science not only in Pettys time, but in Marxs time as
well. And this current remains just as powerful, if not more so, in the twentieth
century too. [1] The truth of Lenins words is once again confirmed by the large-scale
penetration of the mathematical methods of analysis into social sciences which use them as
an important instrument of sociological, economic and psychological investigations, and by
the application of computers and data processing equipment in the sphere of public opinion
studies (opinion polls). The development of science is characterised today by powerful
currents of ideas not only from natural to social sciences but also in the opposite direction
the problems, ideas and methods of social sciences exercise an ever increasing influence
on natural and technical sciences. An important role in their integration belongs to
cybernetics, the probability theory, the games theory and the theory of information. For
instance, cybernetics has not only made a valuable contribution to the development of the
methodology of some social sciences and to the very style of scientific thinking, but has
itself benefited from the alliance with social sciences. As a matter of fact, its very first steps
could not but be influenced by such general concepts of progressive social and
philosophical thought as target setting, control, systems analysis, etc. The concepts of
memory, teaching (in relation to automatons), game, collective behaviour and others made
their way into cybernetics together with the new problems and specific methods of
psychology, sociology and linguistics. The investigation into the so-called artificial intellect
problems also testifies to the influence of humanitarian sciences on the orientation of
cybernetics. The development of data converters and machine programmes in line with
cybernetic concepts emphasises the imperative need for studying the nature of mans
creative activity and heuristic art and highlights the importance of the knowledge of man
and society.
The growing interdependence of social, natural and technical sciences and their methods of
investigation, the emergence and rapid development of the marginal branches of
knowledge, the tendency towards comprehensive investigations of major economic and
fundamental scientific problems by joint efforts of sociologists and natural scientistsall
this tends to enhance the role of dialectical-materialist methodology. The new conditions
causing social, natural and technical sciences to draw ever closer together pose a number of
complex problems of world outlook and methodology before Marxist-Leninist philosophy.
Most serious attention, for one, should be given to such problems as the main directions
and concrete forms of the integration and differentiation of sciences, the use of methods
employed by natural science in sociological investigations, the mathematisation of

The analysis of dialectical transitions between the abstract and the concrete, the general and
the particular, the empirical and the theoretical, the substantive and the formal in scientific
cognition is a necessary condition for the effective implementation of the ideas of
mathematics, mathematical logic and cybernetics in other sciences. Of special importance
is the dialectics of the abstract and the concrete, the general and the particular in the
analysis of social relations carried out with the use of abstract mathematical and cybernetic
notions. In this field the correct subordination of notions, methods and techniques plays a
decisive role. Any formalism and eclectic dovetailing of social, natural and technical
concepts is absolutely inadmissible.
All this shows that the increasing differentiation and deepening integration of scientific
knowledge pose extremely important tasks before dialectical materialism as the
philosophical and methodological foundation of the cooperation of sciences. The
philosophic interpretation of the latest achievements of social, natural and technical
sciences is one of the important prerequisites for the further development of scientific
world outlook and methodology. Yet the task of philosophy cannot be confined either to the
passive registration of these achievements or to their so-called generalisation consisting
essentially in attaching the tags of philosophical categories to some general concepts
worked out by science. The philosophy of dialectical and historical materialism cannot and
must not be just a pedlar of new ideas and data obtained by other sciences. This
philosophy is indeed open for all new and fruitful ideas, yet it does not mean that it is a
mere vessel for accumulating general scientific information. Its function is to give a
creative interpretation and a dialectical synthesis of new data. This, in turn, presupposes the
creative development of Marxist-Leninist philosophy itself, its enrichment with new ideas,
the further concretisation of its categories representing the sum total of the entire history of
mans cognition and transformation of the world.
The complexity of integration processes accounts for considerable difficulties in the
solution of these problems. The rapprochement and close cooperation of some sciences,
such as psychology and physiology, tend -to gradually obliterate the borderlines between
them and lead some scientists to an erroneous conclusion that their objects coincide. This
view is fraught with the danger of overlooking qualitative distinctions between the objects
of investigation by these sciences and this, in turn, may result in the absolutisation of
certain methods and concepts at the expense of others. In fact, such sciences as psychology
and physiology of higher nervous activity study different aspects of the activity of the brain
and, consequently, the objects of their interest must not be confused. The psychologists
task evidently consists in studying the socio-historical origin of the most complex forms of
consciousness regarded as an independent object of investigation which cannot receive an
exhaustive explanation in terms of physiological processes alone, though the latter
constitute the basis of the complex forms of mans conscious actions. It is this task
which determines the basic methodological principle of the interaction between psychology

and physiology. The identification of the subject-matters of the physiology of higher

nervous activity and psychology bars the way for understanding the socio-historical laws
that govern the formation and development of the higher forms of psychic activity and is in
fact tantamount to denying psychology as a separate science. Similar difficulties arise in the
realisation of comprehensive research programmes, since their effectiveness largely
depends on the assignment of the field of activity for each specialist and on the
understanding of his possibilities and advantages in a given investigation.
Such synthesis, however, should not be regarded as the simple summation of knowledge
obtained by individual sciences. The purpose of a comprehensive analysis is not to obtain
data characterising different aspects of an object and to present them in a summarised form.
It consists, first and foremost, in defining the main factor which constitutes the system
under investigation and accounts for its specificity and integrity. It is therefore very
important to assess correctly the significance of the problems of theory, methodology and
world view arising in the process of the integration and interaction of individual sciences in
a complex investigation. The adequate idea of the basic integrated properties of a complex
studied by different sciences can only be provided by a more general theory. Indeed, the
experience gained in the development of comprehensive programmes of cooperation of
natural, technical and social sciences attests to the fact that such programmes, born out of
the needs to solve certain practical, applied problems, tend to advance new theoretical
questions and actualise philosophical problems pertaining to the activity of man in general,
his interaction with machine, the relations between production and the environment, nature
and society, etc.
Complex methodological problems of the interaction of social, natural and technical
sciences arise not only in connection with the definition of their objects of investigation,
but also as a result of the mutual penetration of their concepts and methods. Laying aside
the question of the possible forms of such interaction, we shall merely emphasise here that
each attempt to apply the methods and concepts of one science in the field of another
science should be preceded by a dialectico-materialist analysis of the possibilities of such
extrapolation and, consequently, should be viewed as a philosophical problem. Nothing but
harm will result from the oversimplified understanding of this process and from the
underestimation of those philosophical and methodological principles which underlie the
development of social, natural and technical sciences and their creative possibilities. The
uncritical, mechanistic transfer of the concepts and methods of one science, ungrounded
extrapolations and formal generalisations can only mislead a scientist. The borrowing of the
ideas and methods by one science from another presupposes their creative assimilation and
reassessment in accordance with the specific object and tasks of the former. Under such
conditions special importance attaches to the analysis of dialectical transitions from one
field of knowledge to another. Any underestimation of the importance of the
methodological, philosophical analysis of the borrowed ideas and methods leads either to

negativism regarding the possibility of the integration of the methods of social, natural and
technical sciences, or to a kind of euphoria, ungrounded enthusiasm about the
cybernetisation, mathematisation, formalisation and ecologisation of science often
prompted by nothing more than the desire to keep up with vogue.
Though the positivist concepts of the relationship between philosophy and special sciences,
as well as between social and natural sciences have gone never to return, the reductionist
illusions regarding the relationship between the social and the biological, the social and the
psychological prove to be very tenacious. For instance, striving to trace the roots of crime,
some authors are inclined to see them in genetic, i.e. essentially molecular-biological
mechanisms. Similar tendencies are also in evidence in the interpretation of the so-called
biosocial nature of man. This formula looks attractive enough due to its laconicism, yet it
tends to oversimplify the mediated relationship between the social and the biological,
camouflaging a number of essential intermediate links between them. It is precisely owing
to the complexity of this relationship, its mediate character, that social phenomena do not
yield either to direct biological explanations or to an interpretation in terms of the so-called
parallelism of social and biological factors. To be sure, the dialectico-materialist analysis of
high-level psychological processes or social phenomena with all their links and relations of
mediation should not ignore the natural determinants of human behaviour. Such
determinants, however, must be taken into account in unity with all other factors revealing
the definitive role of social motives in the activity of man.
It stands to reason that the integration and differentiation of science alongside the
increasing importance of theory tend to complicate the structure of modern scientific
knowledge and its further development. The emergence of such sciences as cybernetics, the
games theory, the information theory, and others which study very general laws applicable
to entirely different objects and phenomena of reality partly accounts for an illusion that
positive sciences no longer need a philosophy and that philosophical knowledge can be at
last replaced by general scientific concepts capable of providing the necessary
methodological and scientific basis for more concrete sciences. Some contemporary
Western philosophers go even as far as asserting that the prophecy of positivism has at last
come true and that science assumes the methodological prerogatives which hitherto
belonged to philosophy.
True, modern science can no longer content itself with the means of the local synthesis of
knowledge. A need arises to synthesise the knowledge of interdisciplinary character and to
develop additional means for such a synthesis: special integration theories, new branches of
knowledge and new scientific trends, such as cybernetics, semiotics, system investigations,
a general theory of modelling, a theory of similarity and dimensions, investigation of
operations, etc. The additional means for such a synthesis also include new hardware
automatic data processors, such as cybernetic modelling machines and computers which

essentially enhance the efficiency of brain work by mechanising and automating mental
operations, particularly in the bibliographic information service, which is thus enabled to
solve new complex problems. This intellectual industry permits improving the accuracy
of weather forecasts, developing many branches of the national economy, accelerating
technical progress, etc. Without its aid it would be impossible to carry out extremely
complex calculations, exercise control over space flights and solve many other problems.
The peculiar position of general scientific disciplines which serve as intermediaries
between philosophy and natural sciences results from the two main functions they perform.
First, they provide a theoretical and methodological basis for a number of positive sciences.
Characteristic in this respect is the connection of these sciences with mathematical methods
of investigation which enable them to carry out more general qualitative and quantitative
analyses and to apply the general rules of calculation in a given concrete field of
investigation. Second, they serve as an intermediate methodological link between certain
positive sciences and materialist dialectics as a whole.
For instance, the specific methodological function of the theory of similarity which covers
physical and physico-chemical processes manifests itself in processing and generalising
experimental data and in modelling physical processes. The conceptual body of the theory
of investigation of operations is not limited to mathematics. Its categories and the general
principle of investigation provide a particular methodological approach in the investigation
of any complex goal-oriented activity, its elements being individual operations. This theory
is used in the investigation of many different kinds of human activity, as well as in the
analysis of man-machine complexes representing automated control systems. The main
principles and categories of cybernetics provide particular methodological guidelines for
sciences concerned with living nature and social life, as well as for technical sciences
investigating control processes in terms of data-processing operations. These include the
questions of automatic regulation, self-adjustment, instruction and self-instruction, selforganisation, self-reproduction and the development of natural and artificial systems.
Hence, from the theoretical and methodological viewpoint integrative sciences provide, as
it were, a kind of a bridge to the highest theoretical generalisations and methodological
principles, i.e. to philosophy.
As we see, the growing complexity of scientific knowledge and the emergence of general
theoretical disciplines make the question of the role, of philosophy even more topical.
Scientific progress in our time leads not to the witheringaway of philosophical
methodology, but to the further enhancement of its role. The interpenetration of social,
natural and technical sciences and their methods, the appearance and rapid development of
boundary scientific disciplines, the trend towards comprehensive scientific investigations of
major socio-economic problems which call for joint efforts of social and natural scientists

all these processes attest to the growing significance of philosophical methodology. Such
is the viewpoint of materialist dialectics and such is the trend of scientific development.
Within the province of professional philosophers remain, as before, the investigation into
general trends in the development of science, the study of interaction between new
scientific trends, their relative independence, the applicability of the methods of certain
scientific disciplines in the fields of other disciplines, the extrapolation of theoretical
concepts to new fields of investigation, reduction problems (criticism of reductionism) in
their numerous aspects, the unity of scientific knowledge alongside the extreme diversity
and dissociation of individual scientific schools, etc., not to speak of the eternal problems
arising with new force under the present-day conditions: the objectivity of scientific
knowledge, causality, determinism, the dialectics of scientific cognition, and others. The
solution of these problems not only calls for excellent knowledge of the latest scientific
achievements and of the history of science in general, but also presupposes profound
philosophical background and good acquaintance with the history of philosophy.
The acquaintance with the basic principles of materialist dialectics is far from sufficient to
guarantee success in scientific investigationno less important is the ability to use them.
The successful solution of scientific problems under modern conditions, in the face of
highly complex and widely ramified scientific disciplines, depends on the ability to assess
available knowledge in the light of general scientific concepts which is impossible without
good knowledge of modern theoretical ideas and the history of science. Philosophical
knowledge, owing to its special relations of mediation with concrete empirical and applied
scientific investigations never reveals itself in its pure forms. It is represented in current
theoretical ideas and concepts, in the theoretical knowledge related to a given specific field.
The influence of philosophy on the character and results of scientific investigation is in fact
much more subtle than is purported by some popular scientific and philosophical
publications intended to demonstrate with maximum possible clarity the role of
methodology and world outlook in scientific knowledge. To be really successful and
fruitful, scientific activity must rest on the entire system of dialectical materialist
philosophy understood as a single harmonious, integrated world outlook, but not on
dissociated scraps of philosophical knowledge, interpreted at that in a very primitive
It would be naive to expect that universal theoretical problems can be solved by a specialist
in cybernetics, the general systems theory or by a representative of some other scientific
discipline, however broad its field. No less groundless would be a hope that such a task
could be successfully accomplished by a philosopher who would be capable of digesting
the enormous amount of information obtained by positive sciences. There is no alternative
to the alliance between philosophers and representatives of natural and social sciences. The

problem, if there is any, can only be over the selection and development of the most
effective and adequate form of this alliance.
A modern scientist specialising in boundary problems and investigating the crossroads of
traditional scientific trends can hardly expect to gain any success in his work even if he is
well versed in one of the special fields. It becomes more and more obvious that the more
important discoveries in modern science await not a narrow specialist, but a scientist of
broad theoretical outlook, a thinker, an intellectual. We may be now returning to the epoch
of the Encyclopaedists, but on a new level of scientific knowledge. At any rate, such a
return to the seemingly old appears to us quite possible and certain symptoms of the advent
of a new age of Leonardo da Vinci and French Enlighteners are already in evidence.
In our time, when much of the tedious work required to accumulate and classify facts can
be handed over to machines with their constantly expanding possibilities, the value of
experience in some special field of knowledge stands as high as ever, yet the importance of
philosophical, methodological knowledge increases immeasurably since it is precisely this
knowledge that can bridge the age-old gaps between physics and biology, biology and
physiology, psychology and mathematics, economy and mathematics, etc. The new
disciplines emerging on the borderlines between these sciences are notable for practically
direct scientific application of philosophical knowledge. In contrast to 18th-19th-century
natural philosophy, it plays the role of general theoretical, philosophical principles and
concepts and does not claim to provide final solutions to concrete scientific problems.
Present-day scientific knowledge is highly dynamic. The current scientific and
technological revolution is notable not only for rapid changes in the content of knowledge
itself, but also for abrupt shifts in the value approach to different branches of knowledge. It
was only quite recently that physics was the idol of the youth. The changing tide then lifted
up cybernetics and the representatives of this promising branch of science enjoyed
universal attention. The recent breakthrough in genetics and the acuteness of the ecological
problem have sharply increased the prestige of biology. The value and prestige of one or
another science and, consequently, its impact on social life and on the style of thinking
constantly fluctuate. It is no secret that the current period is marked by a steadily growing
interest among the youth in social, humanitarian sciences. Yet it is not only the young that
turn up in increasing numbers at these sciences enlistment centres. Far more significant
is the fact that humanitarian problems attract more and more full-fledged natural scientists
engaged in their specific investigations. Understandably, the natural scientists attention to
humanitarian issues results, first and foremost, from their social, civic interests. A modern
scientist cannot conceive of activity removed from social problems and the tasks of
scientific, technical and ethical progress.

Under contemporary conditions philosophy alone can provide scientists with an effective
means to cope with the increasing flow of information and expand their theoretical horizon
and world outlook. First, it gives them the necessary methodological instruments for safe
navigation in the boundless sea of scientific theories and concepts and guards against
unfounded hypotheses and unrestrained imagination. Second, it provides guidelines for the
investigation of social problems giving the necessary information on their character and
disclosing the basic principles underlying the development of social, humanitarian
knowledge. Such information is essential for scientists in all fields irrespective of the
particular questions they are concerned with. If we view the progress of science from a
broad perspective and take full account of the modern tendencies in its development, we
cannot but come to the conclusion that success in research and the advance of science as a
whole depends as much on the scientists special knowledge, as on their theoretical
background. The latter implies that a scientist should not only be well versed in the adjacent
fields directly related to his sphere of interest, but also be familiar with the entire complex
of social, natural and technical sciences. The development of science in the 20th century
has convincingly shown that the concepts of the flank and rear in the overall scientific
offensive have become completely antiquated, just as the title of the leading science
which now reminds one of a challenge prize kept by the winner as long as he is in the
heyday of popularity. The prize will inevitably pass on to another science as soon as it
draws the publics eye.
The concepts of adjacent fields and boundary problems are becoming anachronistic,
too. The unidimensional structure of scientific knowledge is giving way to a
multidimensional one. Not long ago physics or, more accurately, mechanics, was
considered to be the only science adjacent to engineering disciplines. Now they have got
other neighbours as well, such as engineering psychology born of the engineering and
psychology borderline problems. The study of the architecture of living organisms
carried out within the framework of bionics has brought closer together engineering and
biological disciplines. Such examples are numerous. The shoots of new scientific
knowledge, new scientific trends are appearing and will appear in most unexpected nodal
points of this crystal lattice. The boundary problems holding out the greatest promise for
scientists should therefore be visualised now in terms of solid rather than plane geometry,
i.e. as being disposed in some imaginary multidimensional space where each science can
find points of contact with any of its counterparts.
[1] V. I. Lenin, Socialism Demolished Again, Collected Works, Vol. 20, 1972, p. 196.



by Igor Naletov
The above critical analysis of the positivist attitude to the problem of the objectivity of
scientific knowledge, as well as the comparison of positivist views with some of the
alternative concepts surfacing in the modern philosophy of science was to highlight, among
other things, the inseparable unity of modern materialism and dialectics. One cannot pursue
the principle of objectivity of scientific knowledge withoutconcessions to idealism and
metaphysics if the materialistic approach is not integrated, merged from the outset with
the dialectical methodology of science. It is highly essential that this integration is not a
mechanical combination of dialectical and materialistic concepts which supplement one
another but that they are blended in the analysis of the real problems of scientific cognition.
The task of blending materialism and dialectics is the more topical at present as not many
investigations can boast integrated dialectical materialist approach to the analysis of
concrete scientific problems. Regrettably, the study of special problems is not infrequently
guided by the principles of didactics rather than by the dialectics of scientific cognition, and
the division of scientific material convenient for its presentation to students often
predetermines the principles of scientific analysis. However, methodical schemes
invaluable in the classroom sometimes turn out to be too rigid to reveal all the aspects of
the interdependence of materialism and dialectics.
The importance of this problem is also highlighted by the analysis of the main
philosophical trends of our time. As has been shown above, modern bourgeois philosophy
reveals an obvious tendency toward materialism. The crisis of the positivist methodology of
science gives rise to new philosophical schools, such as critical realism and scientific
materialism, which proclaim materialism to be their credo.
However, this materialistic trend in Western philosophy does not merge with materialistic
dialectics and remains indifferent to its achievements, Moreover, it is often openly biased
against dialectics. The fact that many representatives of critical realism recognise the
objective reality not only of individual physical objects, but also of general properties and
entities, and speak of scientific metaphysics, the development of scientific knowledge, etc.
is very indicative of a profound crisis of the positivist philosophy of science. Yet it is but
the first stage in the search for new methodological guidelines since the principles of
objectivity and testability of scientific knowledge, correct in general, must be supplemented
or, to be more exact, integrated with the dialectical approach to scientific problems.

The obvious fact that modern materialism is inconceivable without dialectics is again and
again confirmed by concrete investigations. Take, for instance, the old problem of
consciousness whose different aspects are now highly topical. Sociology, pedagogics and
social psychology view this problem mainly from the social angle, i.e. in terms of the
determining influence of social conditions on the genesis of consciousness. Cybernetics
studies the same problem from the viewpoint of the possibility of reproducing the functions
of consciousness by cybernetic machines, psychology and neuropsychology, in terms of the
relationship between consciousness and the brain, etc.
One can declare himself a convinced materialist professing the primacy of social being in
relation to consciousness, indicating that consciousness is a function of the brain, highly
organised matter, or pointing out the possibility of modelling the brain processes with the
help of computers. Yet none of these statements attests to a consistent materialistic stand
unless they represent a dialectical approach to the problem. Once we separate one from the
other, which is sometimes the case in scientific publications, we automatically undermine
the very foundation of the professed materialistic views. It is common knowledge, for
instance, that the content of human consciousness is determined by social factors. One
should bear in mind, however, that the prerequisites for the formation of concepts, mental
images reside in neurodynamic processes. Hence, a consistent materialistic analysis of the
nature of consciousness is only possible if both sides are taken into account in their
interdependence. Should we for a moment lose sight of one of them and rashly state, for
instance, that we owe consciousness to social factors only, the ghost of idealism will
present itself right here and then. Indeed, since individual knowledge is passed on from
generation to generation, our statement would imply the existence of some kind of
primordial knowledge which might well assume the form of absolute or innate ideas.
Furthermore, this is not the only loophole which would be opened for idealism by our
unwary statement. If consciousness is determined by social factors only, how should we
account for such phenomena as talent, good inclinations, natural gifts? How should we
explain Mozarts musical endowments and Lenins genius? We should have either to leave
these questions unanswered, or appeal for help to Providence. In a word, without dialectics
we should not make a step toward materialism.
Materialism has now reached a stage when its further development as the world view and
as the methodology of scientific knowledge is only possible on the dialectical foundation.
Conversely, dialectics cannot be a coherent system of philosophical views unless it rests on
the materialistic foundation.
The merger of materialism and dialectics is embodied in Marxism-Leninism which opened
a new epoch in the development of philosophy. After the emergence of Marxism-Leninism
any deviation from either dialectics or materialism, any concession to idealism, eclecticism

and metaphysics is bound to undermine the unity of philosophy and should be regarded as
essentially regressive.
The entire history of materialism shows that it could not be consistent unless it was
interpreted dialectically. This was particularly obvious when materialist principles were
applied to the explanation of social phenomenasuffice it to recall Feuerbach. In our time,
non-dialectical materialism is simply inconceivable; it cannot but stumble at every step.
Modern science and social processes are so complex and dynamic that any inconsistency in
world outlook and in the philosophical interpretation of one or another phenomenon is
fraught with grave ideological consequences. Each philosophical problem, therefore, should
be treated from the viewpoint of dialectical materialism, i.e. from the materialistic and
dialectical angles. The materialistic principles themselves will turn into an inadmissible
philosophical abstraction if they are divorsed from dialectics. In our time dialectics is
opposed not only to metaphysics, but also to idealism, Conversely, materialism claiming
consistency is incompatible with metaphysics and all sorts of eclecticism.
The positivist concept of objectivity, the Popperian interpretation of objective knowledge
and the stand of scientific realism are notable, first and foremost, for a narrow
understanding of the principle of objectivity. Nevertheless, each of the above trends has
certain rational elements and their comparison will help understand more clearly the
essence of the problem and define the guidelines for its modern solution. The obvious
difficulties encountered by positivism and other trends of the modern philosophy of science
in the interpretation of objectivity show that there are but two methodological alternatives
open before a philosopher: either to give up the search for objectivity altogether and agree
that objective knowledge is unattainable, or to hold on to the materialistic tradition at the
risk of earning the reputation of an outdated and even retrograde thinker attempting to draw
philosophy back to the ideals of classical natural science. The first alternative appears to be
rather attractive: it seemingly complies with the spirit of modern science which continues
blasting one bastion of classical science after another, and relieves the scientists of the need
to rack their brains over metaphysical problems enjoying but little popularity with most
of them. At a closer look, however, it does not help to avoid difficulties, since any attempt
to carry on investigations with the legalised handicap of the subjective brings the
investigator back to the problem of distinguishing between the objective and the subjective
which he tried to escape. This was clearly demonstrated by the fate of the hypothesis of
latent parameters in quantum mechanics which postulated the inevitable presence of the
observer in the quantum-mechanical theory. As regards the second alternative, i.e. the
adherence to the principle of objectivity, it turns out to be a thorny path just as well and
calls for a serious philosophical analysis of the concept of objectivity. What is more, this
analysis appears to be the more difficult as it is to provide a basis for mutual understanding
between the philosophers and the representatives of special sciences.

What was the main weakness in the positivist concept of the objective? In one of the
previous sections devoted to this problem we have shown that positivism identified the
objective with the observable. It was through observation and combination of various
sensations and perceptions that one could form an intersubjective idea of any object. An
individual observation or perception could not, of course, give knowledge independent of
the subject, but a series of observations, the perception of recurrent processes were
evidently sufficient to provide the necessary material for separating the subjective from the
A similar understanding of the objective underlies also the concept of critical rationalism.
In his theory, Popper only eliminates the most obvious weaknesses in the positivist
interpretation of the objective, but sides with the concept of intersubjectivity. According to
Popper, the difference between the objective and the subjective consists only in that the
former has passed through the purgatory of intersubjective criticism which separates the
elements of knowledge immune to falsification from those disproved by constantly
changing experience. The objective is thus identified with the conventional, the immutable,
with what is not questioned by experience at a given moment. The narrowness of such
criteria of objectivity reveals itself, in fact, each time science transgresses the bounds of
habitual, stereotyped phenomena and events. As regards unobservable processes,
relationships and properties, the positivist criterion of objectivity proves to be completely
unsatisfactory. Poppers criterion reveals its untenability and inner subjectivism when one
fundamental theory gives place to another, since the breakdown of a theory signifies the
dissolution of the stable nucleus which cannot be falsified and is, according to Popper, the
refuge of objectivity.
In its search for objective knowledge me modern philosophy of biology strives to reduce
biological knowledge to physical phenomena. Why is it so? Because phenomenalistic
theories proceed from the assumption that the stable nucleus of knowledge immune against
subjective influence or interpretation can only be defined through the analysis of physical
structures on the molecular, atomic or subatomic levels. This mirage still entices scientists
who stake on physicalism and are fascinated by the seemingly clear and tangible outlines of
new theoriesthough this path, as we have shown, is actually a blind alley, and the
scientist who takes it in quest of objective knowledge is soon bound to discover it. True, the
physicalism of scientific materialism is more constructive if only for the fact that it is
oriented on the recognition of objective reality, creation of scientific ontology and its
subsequent verification. In our opinion, it is far less damaging to scientific progress than
positivist physicalism which in fact seeks to pass off the present reduction of scientific
knowledge to physico-chemical concepts as the last word of science.
As we see, the problem of objectivity in the philosophy of science is split, so to speak,
among the existing levels of scientific knowledge, if not among different sciences. We shall

not attempt here to investigate into the general causes of this phenomenon in the
development of science; we shall merely take it for granted as a fact. In each doctrine, the
concept of objectivity is confined within more or less narrow bounds which have a more or
less definite location in the space of modern scientific knowledge and conform to its
existing structure. The concreteness of philosophical categories, as we have shown above,
has nothing to do with this location reflecting the limitations of each doctrine and, in the
end, its subjectivism. The dialectico-materialist interpretation of the objective which is
inseparably linked with the definition of matter as a philosophical category denoting
objective reality independent of human consciousness in general, sets but the
epistemological framework for this concept and has no meaning beyond the limits of the
basic question of philosophythe one concerning the relation of matter and consciousness.
It is not connected with the boundaries of individual sciences or fields or levels of
knowledge. It contrasts everything that is subjective to everything that is independent of
consciousness. It points out the asymmetry (in the epistemological sense) of the
relationship between them.
The contrast between the objective and the subjective has a purely philosophical meaning.
Perhaps like no other conceptual distinction, it sets a clear demarcation line between
philosophy and positive sciences which are in fact indifferent to such a universal division.
The independence of philosophical knowledge, its irreducibility to any special science
stands out here with particular clarity, though the specificity of philosophy can also be
demonstrated on the example of a number of other problems.
The philosophical understanding of the objective as essentially independent of
consciousness in general is evidently much broader than its interpretation in the positivist,
Popperian, physicalist and scientific-realist concepts, which connect objectivity with
observability, intersubjectivity, reducibility to physical notions, etc. It should be noted,
however, that different versions in the interpretation of objectivity are not always
groundless and senseless. The positivist understanding of objectivity, for one, has a certain
value within the framework of empirical investigations, whereas the Popperian
interpretation of objectivity must be given credit for its attempt to view the positivist
solution from a broader socio-cultural perspective and to emphasise the existing
demarcation (tending, however, to absolutise it) between the individual and general
consciousness, etc. It would not be correct to regard them as completely wrong; rather, they
are narrow and deformed.
To view the problem of objectivity from the philosophical angle, one has to universalise the
methods or ideas of special sciences or branches of knowledge and rise above their level,
since this problem assumes one form in physics, another in biology, still others in history,
theoretical sciences, empirical sciences, etc. Each of these disciplines concentrates on its

own specific, topical aspects of the problem and has its own means and ways for its
Hence, the first aspect of the problem of objectivity, as it is posed in contemporary
philosophy, calls for a dialectical analysis and consists in distinguishing, first and foremost,
between its empirical and theoretical levels. Obviously, objectivity cannot be reduced to
observability, coherence, one or another degree of the generalisation of concepts, etc. Any
of the above criteria leads to an unwarranted restriction of the concept of objectivity as it
implies independence of the object of investigation from some special kind, form or level
of consciousness, but not from consciousness in general. Yet the concept of the objectivity
of knowledge in its philosophical sense presupposes the independence of knowledge from
consciousness in general, be it individual or collective. The numerous difficulties involved
in the implementation of this criterion do not by any means attest to its uselessness, they
merely confirm the well-known truth that the path of true science is not a royal road. The
theories asserting the objective character of knowledge but regarding it to be independent
of certain forms of consciousness only imply, willy-nilly, its dependence on other forms of
consciousness, thus leaving a loophole for idealism.
No less untenable are the attempts of some other philosophers proclaiming
themselves adherents of materialism to identify matter and, consequently, objectivity with
one or several properties of material objects except the sole property of matter with
whose recognition philosophical materialism is bound upthe property of being an
objective reality, of existing outside the mind. [1]
The history of philosophy shows that the single problem of the objectivity of knowledge
can and must be solved differently at different levels of scientific cognition. The
recognition of this fact is perhaps the starting point of the process of fusion of materialism
and dialectics which reveals the complex and contradictory character of scientific cognition
and shows that it cannot be confined to the sensuous, empirical stage. Scientific cognition
goes into the depth of processes and phenomena, penetrates the realm of laws and reveals
laws of different orders and different degrees of generalisation. The criterion of objectivity
which may appear simple and explicit to any investigator in his specialised field is bound to
turn into a complex problem when he enters upon the theoretical level of cognition and
finds himself in the jungle of philosophy after the prairie of the macroworld.
It should be stressed, however, that the observance of the principle of objectivity was and
remains the primary objective of modern science. Without the elimination of the subject,
however difficult it may be for the investigator, scientific research will lose all meaning.
Therefore recognising distinctions in the approach to the problem of objectivity at
philosophical, theoretical, empirical and other levels is making but one, though important,
step forward. The next step, which is, evidently, the most difficult one, consists in revealing

their relationship and defining a method for changing over from a philosophico-theoretical
to philosophico-methodological aspect and further to the theoretical and empirical levels of
the problem of objectivity. In point of fact, we need some kind of a bridge to pass from the
philosophical principle of objectivity to its concrete embodiment in the context of a
scientific theory.
We believe that the function of such a bridge leading from one level of knowledge to the
other in the formulation and solution-of the problem of objectivity can be performed
primarily (but only partly) by the idea of invariance.
The principle of objectivity implies, in essence, the elimination of the subject from the
object of investigation. What is the actual meaning of this requirement in the context of a
concrete scientific investigation? Should we understand this phrase literally?
Significantly, dialectical materialism has never maintained that the requirement of the
objectivity of knowledge is equivalent to setting up some kind of an insurmountable barrier
between the subject and the object of investigation. Insurmountable in the sense that it
prevents any influence of man on the object of cognition and only permits the mirror
reflection of reality in his consciousness. Knowledge, wrote Lenin, is the reflection of
nature by man. But this is not a simple, not an immediate, not a complete reflection, but the
process of a series of abstractions, the formation and development of concepts, laws, etc.,
and these concepts, laws, etc. (thought, science the logical Idea) embrace conditionally,
approximately, the universal law-governed character of eternally moving and
developing nature. [2]
Thus the dialectics of cognition presupposes mans active penetration, intrusion into reality,
his, so to speak, aggressive attitude to it. Here one may ask: how can such an attitude agree
with the principle of objectivity?
To eliminate the subject does not mean to fence him off from the object of his
investigation, though sometimes a specific kind of a barrier, e.g. an aquarium wall, can
indeed make for objectivity, like in the case of an observer studying the behaviour of fish or
sea plants. Nor does it mean to dig a ditch which can sometimes separate an investigator
watching wild life. Eliminating the subject means creating conditions which would not so
much prevent him from interfering with objective processes as from distorting them and
causing to deuiate from their normal course. In terms of epistemology the subject is a very
complex notion accounting for the possibility of human errors, inaccuracies and prejudices,
inadequacy of technical and natural means at mans disposal, as well as of the store of
knowledge available to him, the specific features of his perceptions, mentality, etc. It would
evidently take several pages to enumerate the elements which make up the notion subject
and should be excluded from the notionscientific knowledge. What really matters,

however, is not this enumeration, but the obvious fact that mans centuries-old experience
must have already developed reliable mechanisms compensating for the subjective aspects
of the process of cognition. The elimination of the subject is always aimed, in one form
or another, at this compensation and correction of the defects which are inevitably
introduced by man in his exploration of the Universe.
Far from denying the subjectification of reality by man, dialectics considers it inevitable
and shows that man transforms reality through his practical, experimental and even mental
activity, since the world, of course, can never be adequately represented in mans concepts.
Man is unable to embrace the world in all its inexhaustibility; he is bound to limit the
sphere of his investigations to the phenomena which are within his reach. At present, for
instance, man is still unable to penetrate the structure of micro particles and has to be
content to study their external interaction or to split them in a powerful accelerater.
So, insisting on the objectivity of scientific knowledge, dialectics proceeds from the fact
that the subject alters the object in the process of its investigation. Yet the objective can
only be revealed in the surrounding world if the investigator concentrates primarily on the
stable, the recurrent. It is this search for immutable, invariant properties and values that
represents the transition from the general idea of objectivity to the theoretical analysis of
objective processes and phenomena. While revealing the immutable, the stable in the
objects and phenomena under investigation, the natural scientist may not even be aware of
the fact that he attains objective knowledge.
The above does not mean, of course, that changing properties cannot be objective. If we
speak of dynamic processes, the only requirement they should meet from the viewpoint of
the principle of objectivity is the constancy of change. Not the change of constancy, but
vice versa. Just so! The language of objectivity is translated into the language of invariance.
Naturally, a physicist, a biologist or a sociologist cannot divorce the object of investigation
from his consciousness. What he can and what he really does and must do is to distinguish
between the mutable and the immutable properties of the object during his studies. This
bridge from the general philosophical to a particular scientific idea of objectivity has been
operable for centuries though its strength has been frequently subjected to testing. None of
the tests, however, destroyed it, nor could do so completely. As a result, the bridge had only
gained in strength, simplicity and elegance. Why, for instance, was its usability called in
question at the turn of the 20th century? Because the philosophers erroneously identified
matter with the concrete properties of things, but not with their only property of being an
objective reality, of existing outside the mind, whereas the physicists were bewildered by
the collapse of their habitual concepts: the mass of the electron turned out to be variable,
the stationary and impenetrable ether movable, the spatial and time intervals changeable.
The world, once stable and reliable, was falling to pieces, matter had disappeared,

How did philosophy and physics overcome this crisis? Lenin formulated a philosophical
definition of matter in which the criterion of objectivity was connected with the property of
existing independently of mans consciousness. Physics found new invariants giving a new
meaning to this philosophical idea. Invariants, wrote Max Born, are the concepts of
which science speaks in the same way as ordinary language speaks of things, and which it
provides with names as if they were ordinary things. [3]
Invariance is the property of immutability in relation to a definite set of physical or
mathematical conditions, specifically, to a group of transformations. This property is
inherent in individual physical and mathematical values and physical characteristics, as
well as in equations and laws of physics. An invariant value can be exemplified, for
instance, by the distance between two points in geometry, or by valueE2H2 in regard to
Lorentzs transformations in electrodynamics, though the values of the intensity of
electrical fields (E) and magnetic fields (H) prove to be invariant when changing from one
inertial reference system to another. Group invariance (or group symmetry) is a kind of
symmetry which is widely used in modern physics: the invariance of equations in relation
to groups of Galilean, Lorentzs and Poincars transformations, the symmetry of
Schrodingers operator in relation to the rotational group of three-dimensional space, the
symmetry of crystals, the unitary symmetry, etc.
A more general case of in variance is co-variance, i.e. the property of transformation of a
number of physical and mathematical values in accordance with a definite linear law when
passing from one reference system to another. Co-variance reveals itself in relation to
different groups of transformations. It may be inherent both in different values, e.g. vectors,
tensors of relative rotations, and in different equations and functions. A co-variant value is a
value transforming in relation to one of the representations of a group of coordinate
transformations being studied. Co-variant equations are those which, on being recorded in a
co-variant form, do not change their appearance in any system of coordinates, though
individual physical values incorporated in such equations may be different in different
reference systems. The wide use of the notion of transformation group is accounted for by
the immutability of a number of physical objects within one or another group, which
circumstance makes it possible to define the law of their change during such
A transformation group can be exemplified, for instance, by a finite set of projections of a
certain object on other objects known sufficiently well by their properties, e.g. on
measuring instruments, experimental facilities, etc. Thus, if we are interested in a
geometrical form, i.e. in the spatial structure of an object, we can regard its projections on
different surfaces arranged at different angles relative to one another as geometrical
transformations of the form of this object. The selection of a set or series of such
projections making up a certain group of transformations in the mathematical

sense depends on the conditions of the existence of a given system, on its limits or measure,
as well as on the concrete cognitive situation and the nature of the task the investigator is
confronted with. It is the analysis of invariance and structure carried out with due regard for
the objective and subjective aspects of the process of cognition (i.e. for its specificity) that
makes it possible to use the principle of invariance in the solution of such a fundamental
epistemological problem as the problem of the objectivity of knowledge.
To be sure, it would not be correct to identify the invariant with the objective. Both
invariant and variant physical values, as well as their relationships can be objective in equal
measure. Both of them, as has already been emphasised by Einstein, reflect to a degree
objective reality. According to Einstein, the difference between invariants and variants does
not lie in the same plane as the difference between the objective and the real, on the one
hand, and the subjective and the seeming, on the other. If that were not the case, the concept
of objectivity would apparently become superfluous. The revelation of invariants and
variants is not yet equivalent to the establishment of the epistemological nature of each of
these classes of phenomena. The question of the invariant or variant character of different
quantities and of their relationships can only be solved within the framework of each
individual theory and under the strictly defined conditions of investigation.
Invariant values and relationships are direct characteristics of the laws governing the
behaviour and properties of the objects of a given theory which are freed (in the obtained
knowledge) from the characteristics relating to the specific conditions of investigation. This
also applies to those conditions of investigation which are connected in one way or another
with the subject in a given relationship. Hence, the conditions to be additionally eliminated
are only those characterising the subjective aspect of the process of cognition. The object
under investigation should be considered theoretically in all possible transformation groups
so that its objective presentation in theory may be as full as possible. For instance, in the
classical method of description the absolute length characterises the property of a body in
absolute space regardless of the selected reference system. Recognition of the absolute
nature of space and time presupposes the indifference of objects to the subject and to the
reference system. Conversely, the relativist description of the space-time interval
characterises the property of a physical object in relation to the selected system of reference
(provided, of course, it is inertial). The theory of relativity treats simultaneity as a variant
(relative) concept. It means that the simultaneity of two events is not regarded as absolute,
since it represents not only the relation between the events themselves, but also depends to
an essential degree on the selected system of coordinates. It is even more so if the events
are separated spatially. In that case the objectivity of simultaneity (and, to a certain extent,
of space and time themselves) can only be attested to by the invariance of space and time in
one or another relationship.

As we see, variant values characterise relations between the objects of a given physical
theory, on the one hand, and the conditions of investigations (including the observer
himself), on the other. A variant value can have any meaning only within the framework of
a given theory and only in relation to definite conditions of investigation (cognition).
Invariant and variant values represent different aspects of objective reality. Yet for a
concrete physical theory the relationship between them is of paramount importance, as it
determines the concrete measure of objectivity attained by this theory. It is not fortuitous
that the search for invariants constitutes one of the main tasks of every physical and
mathematical theory, and the replacement of old invariants by new ones is indicative of a
transition from the old theory to a new, more general one. As a matter of fact, a transition
from one theory to another covering essentially the same sphere of phenomena is only
possible as a result of transformations revealing new invariants. This mechanism of
transformations ensuring the birth of objective knowledge has long been one of the chief
secrets of science, the veritable philosophical stone so badly needed by the alchemy of
scientific cognition. It is in the process of search for invariants that the system of
knowledge is purged of subjective elements and old scientific theories are replaced by new,
more objective ones.
The change in the relationship between invariant and variant values in favour of the former
testifies to the elimination of subjective elements from physical knowledge and is indicative
of a transition to a higher level of objectivity, to the expansion of the sphere of objectivity
of physical knowledge. The preservation of immutability, invariance of certain values
against the background of the mutability, variance of others is a sure sign of the objectivity
of immutable values. It appears that invariance is always connected, in one way or another,
with objectivity. It does not mean, of course, that invariance always represents the objective
content of a theory, but the probability of their coincidence is very high. Being always
oriented towards the future; the process of cognition must of necessity have a considerable
margin of safety, therefore every invariant in a theory must be regarded as potentially
variable. On the other hand, the variable aspects of a theory are to be studied more closely
with a view to determining the degree of objectivity they may represent, for which purpose
attempts should be made to identify a group of transformations under which certain values
in the equation in interest may prove to be invariant. The presence of invariants and variant
relationships in a given theory determines the degree of its objectivity, i.e. testifies to the
presence of structural characteristics and properties of physical objects whose specific
forms of symmetry are disclosed by the given theory under the specified conditions of
If some values or their relationships prove to be variable relative to given transformations,
this cannot yet be regarded as attesting to the non-objectivity of the corresponding
properties or relationships. It simply means that the question remains open and the
investigation should continue. What is variant in relation to one group of transformations

may prove to be invariant in relation to another group. Besides,account is also taken of the
fact that the very process of change can also be expressed in the language of invariants with
the help of its isomorphic (or homomorphic) transformations. For instance, the melody of a
song can be represented by changes in a continuously modulated signal. During the
transmission of the signal from the sensors to the central processing units its form changes
with the change of the physical carriers, methods of modulation and coding. Yet the content
of the signal, the information carried by it, i.e. the orderliness of the pulses representing the
melody of the song remains invariant, independent of these transformations.
It should be specially noted, even in this cursory survey of the problem, that the principle of
invariance underlying macroworld theories in a latent form plays even a more important
role in the investigation of the microworld. Though the classical theories (mechanics and
electrodynamics) can be restructured in such a way as to place this principle in the
limelight, they are nevertheless based on dynamic principles expressed in the equations of
motion or field. We may assume, without going deep into this subject, that the objectivity
of knowledge in the investigation of the macroworld is best represented by the equations of
classical mechanics. It is not accidental, therefore, that the decisive role in ensuring the
objectivity of knowledge at the macrolevel belongs to experiment. By contrast, theoretical
science has developed its own, specific methods and principles of obtaining objective
knowledge attaching, it appears, special importance, to the principle of invariance.
As is known, invariance or group symmetry originally played but a secondary role in
quantum mechanics, making it possible to obtain only auxiliary data on a quantum system.
With the integration of Schrodingers and Diracs dynamic equations, however, the
situation changed. Soviet scholars Yu. B. Rumer and A. I. Fet write: The development of
physics over the past few years has reversed, as it were, the relationship between the
equations of motion and symmetry groups. Now the symmetry group of a physical system
has come to the foreground; the representations of this group and its subgroups carry the
most important data on the system. Hence, groups turn out to be the primary, the most
profound elements in a physical description of nature. As to the concepts of space and time,
they play the role of material for the construction of the representations of groups and owe
the place they occupy in physics to historical factors only. The equations of motion are
assigned the role of conditions superimposed on the vectors of some functional space for
singling out irreducible representations of a group or equations of the infinitesimal
representation of the same group. This shift of basic concepts does not seem to encourage
the idea that each kind of particles and fields should be represented by some equation of
motion. What is more, the very universality of the scheme known as the theory of field is
called in question. [4]
The principle of invariance is also largely accountable for the considerable degree
of subjectivism in scientific concepts of space and time.

The concept of absolute space and time was used by Newton in two different, though
interrelated, senses. First, by absolute space Newton understood the empty and motionless
(in relation to matter) space of the Universe, and by absolute time, pure duration
corresponding to absolute space. Second, he used the term absolute to characterise the
invariance of lengths and time intervals. It is precisely this latter aspect of the absolute
nature of space and time which we are interested in here, since it is directly connected with
the question of their objectivity.
The development of physics showed that the hypothesis of the absolute nature of space and
time was narrow and contradicted a number of important scientific facts. For instance, it
was not compatible with the principles of electrodynamics. The equations of
electrodynamics were not invariant in relation to the Galilean transformations expressing
the absoluteness of time and space. When applied to the electromagnetic field, Galilean
transformations led to a conclusion that magnetic disturbance was transmitted at different
velocities in two opposite directions from a moving source whereas the equations
themselves excluded such a possibility. Subsequently the narrowness of the Galilean
principle of relativity as applied to electromagnetic phenomena was proved experimentally.
Michelsons experiments in determining the velocity of light in different directions relative
to the moving Earth showed that the classical law of the summation of the velocities
ensuing from the Galilean principle of relativity did riot hold true in relation to the velocity
of light. The contradiction between electrodynamics and the results of Michelsons
experiment, on the one. hand, and classical mechanics based on the Galilean principle of
relativity, on the other, was resolved by the theory of relativity. Proceeding from the
postulate of the constancy of light velocity and using it as the basis of his theory, Einstein
universalised the principle of relativity calling for the invariance of physical laws for
inertial systems and extended it to all physical processes, including electromagnetic ones.
In classical mechanics the concept of absolute time found its expression in the recognition
of absolute simultaneity: if any two events occurred simultaneously in one inertial system
of reference, they were also bound to occur simultaneously in another. The conclusion
ensuing from the principle of the constancy of light velocity was entirely different: two
events which took place simultaneously in one system of reference could not be
simultaneous in another. In other words, simultaneity according to this principle was
relative. The relativeness, non-invariance of simultaneity signified the non-invariance of the
laws of physics in relation to Galilean transformations. According to Einsteins principle of
relativity, the laws of physics are invariant not in relation to the Galilean, but to Lorenzs
transformations, these providing direct substantiation for the concept of relativity of space
and time viewed separately. Thus the length of a rod turns out to be different in the rest
system and in the body axes system of coordinates.
Various authors not infrequently see the philosophical significance of the theory of
relativity in that it showed the variant character of space and time. It is correct in the sense

that this theory indeed revealed new links and relations which had not been taken into
account by classical physics and thus gave a broader and more profound picture of the
dialectics of time-space relations. Such a general appraisal, however, needs to be somewhat
First, it would not be correct to regard the concept of absolute space and time (if by the
absolute we understand their invariance) as an erroneous, metaphysical picture of the
world. This concept stands in the same relation to the objective world as do all classical
physics and its laws. It is a permissible idealisation of reality, its approximate reflection in
relation to speeds which are practically negligible as compared with the velocity of light. It
is applicable to situations in which the velocity of light can be regarded as practically
Second, the significance of the theory of relativity cannot be reduced to establishing the
relativity of space and time. From it ensues not only the invariance of space and time
separated from each other, but also the existence of a new invariant: the time-spatial
interval. Einstein and Infeld write: The world of events forms a four-dimensional
continuum. There is nothing mysterious about this, and the last sentence is equally true for
classical physics and the relativity theory. Again a difference is revealed when two CS
[coordinate systems] moving relatively to each other are considered. The room is moving,
and the observers inside and outside determine the time-space coordinates of the same
events. Again the classical physicist splits the four-dimensional continua into the threedimensional spaces and the one-dimensional time-continuum... The old physicist bothers
only about space transformation, as time is absolute for him. He finds the splitting of the
four-dimensional world-continua into space and time natural and convenient. But from the
point of view of the relativity theory, time as well as space is changed by passing from one
CS to another, and the Lorentz transformation considers the transformation properties of the
four-dimensional time-space continuum of our four-dimensional world of events. [5]
The qualitative distinction between the space-time relationship in classical physics and the
four-dimensional continuum in the relativity theory is that in the first case space and time
are treated as existing independently of matter and motion and separately from each other,
their connection being entirely external, whereas in the second case they penetrate each
other and make a single whole. On the one hand, the concept of time is incorporated in the
definition of the spatial interval which is the distance between two points localised
simultaneously. The relativity of simultaneity makes the spatial interval dependent on time.
On the other hand, spatial components are incorporated in the definition of time. The time
of two inertial systems is expressed through an equation incorporating a spatial coordinate.
Since this coordinate is different for different systems of reference, time turns out to be
dependent on space. Hence, the space-time continuum in the theory of relativity is not a
mechanical combination of space and time connected with each other through external

links, but an integral whole. Fused in a single continuum, space and time do not lose all of
their independence. However, from absolute this independence turns into relative. Space
and time become, as it were, sections of a four-dimensional continuum. The exposition of
the invariance of the space-time interval was simultaneously a substantiation of the idea of
the objectivity of space and time in the context of a new physical theory. A similar function
was subsequently performed by the general theory of relativity.
The second aspect of the problem of objectivity, as distinct from the first, considered above,
calls for special dialectical analysis and pertains to the development of scientific
After the crisis in the late 19th and early 20th centuries the current, scientific and
technological revolution has once again demonstrated the relativity of scientific knowledge,
its concepts and theories. Centuries-old and seemingly inviolable fundamental concepts and
ideas of physics, chemistry, biology, physiology, psychology and other sciences are
undergoing a process of thorough revision. The relativity of fundamental concepts testifies
to the historical character of the process of cognition. As we have seen, the present-day
breakdown of scientific concepts, like in Lenins time, arouses the feelings of uncertainty
among natural scientists and philosophers, particularly those under the influence of
positivist traditions, and makes them question the very foundation of science, the
objectivity, stability and value of scientific knowledge in general.
In this context the relation of the principle of objectivity of scientific knowledge to the
principle of its historical development acquires special significance.
Analysing the crisis in natural science at the turn of the 20th century, Lenin showed that the
relativity of scientific knowledge was a manifestation of its dialectical development. Yet it
is only one aspect of scientific knowledge which must not be torn out of the broad historical
context of the development of science; on the contrary, it should be considered in
connection with other aspects and features, particularly with relativitys opposite, viz., the
absoluteness of scientific knowledge. Should we assume relativism, an objective and
necessary aspect of scientific development that it is, as a foundation of the theory of
knowledge and regard it outside and independent of absoluteness, we shall arrive, as was
pointed out by Lenin, at absolute relativism which sees in the history of cognition a process
of endless change of concepts none of which can give a true reflection of objective reality.
In fact, the recognition of the relativity of knowledge is not equivalent to the denial of its
objectivity. One should not, as Lenin pointed out, confuse the question of the objectivity of
scientific knowledge with the question of its fullness and identify objective knowledge with
exhaustive and absolute knowledge. Absolute and relative truths do not oppose each other
as mutually exclusive, incompatible characteristics, they mutually complement each other:

... for dialectical materialism there is no impassable boundary between relative and
absolute truth. [6] Any knowledge contains objective truth to the extent to which it gives
an adequate reflection of objective reality, and to acknowledge objective truth, i.e., truth
not dependent upon man and mankind, is, in one way or another, to recognise
absolute truth [7]. From this viewpoint, relative truth is also objective truth and only
differs from absolute truth in that it is but a particle, a grain of the latter in the sense that
it represents the content of absolute truth incompletely, partially. Absolute truth, in turn, is
the sum total of relative truths and each stage in the development of science adds new
grains of knowledge to this sum.
Speaking of the dialectics of the relative and the absolute in cognition, one should bear in
mind yet another important feature of their relationship, namely, that it represents
continuity in the process of scientific cognition. In the course of its historical development
science forms a more and more complete and adequate picture of natural and social reality.
The growth of scientific knowledge consists therefore in a steady expansion of the sphere
of truth represented by a succession of theories replacing one another.
Summing up his analysis of the dialectics of the relative and the absolute in the process of
cognition, Lenin wrote: Dialecticsas Hegel in his time explainedcontains an element
of relativism ... but is not reducible to relativism, that is, it recognises the relativity of all
our knowledge, not in the sense of denying objective truth, but in the sense that the limits of
approximation of our knowledge to this truth are historically conditional. [8]
The ideas expounded by Lenin over 70 years ago are not less, if not more, topical today.
Absolute relativism, reanimated in a number of the latest bourgeois concepts of the
philosophy of science, including critical realism and the works of some representatives of
the historical trend, has now acquired some new aspects. As distinct from the earlier
period, when absolute relativism was mainly traceable to gaps in scientific knowledge (this
cause is still operative, though to a lesser degree), the present-day relativists more and more
frequently involve the cultural-historical determinism of theoretical thinking. Justly
emphasising the dependence of scientific knowledge on universal socio-historical factors,
representatives of the above-mentioned and other postpositivist doctrines seek to prove
that theories relating to one and the same sphere of knowledge but developed in different
cultural and philosophical contexts are incommensurate with one another. In their opinion,
scientific revolutions represent so profound a turn in scientists views that there can be no
question of any continuity of old and new theories.
Yet the history of science points to the opposite and demonstrates various forms of such
continuity. The methods whereby a new theory assimilates and deepens the objective
content of its predecessor can be roughly classified under two categories.

In the first category, the continuity of the new and old theories is realised through the
transfer of certain elements of the old theory into the structure of the new one. These
elements may include not only empirical data, but also certain theoretical concepts. For
instance, the general theory of relativity borrows the variation principles, the principle of
the equivalence of inert and gravitational masses from the classical gravitation theory. In
the second category, which is of a more fundamental and general character, the continuity
of the laws formulated in the old and new theories assumes the form of a limit transition,
i.e. the laws of the new theory pass into the laws of the old one regarded at their limiting
case. Thus, if we assume Plancks constant to equal zero, the Schrodinger equation, the
basic one in quantum mechanics, transforms into Hamilton-Jacobis canonical equation of
Scientifically grounded laws and theories have deep roots and exercise lasting influences;
otherwise theoretical knowledge would be simply inconceivable. In this connection a
question naturally arises: what is the source of the tenacity of a scientific theory in general,
why does it preserve its explanatory and forecasting powers over a prolonged historical
The mechanisms pointed out by the well-known American philosopher and historian of
science Thomas Kuhn in his book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions are psychological,
rather than epistemological by nature. Kuhn atributes the stability of a paradigm as a model
for the theoretical explanation of facts to the specific psychology of the scientific
community which shows a guarded attitude to a new theory and is never too fast to support
it, as well as to the unwillingness of some quarters in this community to part with the
habitual stereotype of causal explanations and predictions. Such an explanation appears to
have certain grounds, though the scientists psychological motives need a more careful
examination in each particular case. Yet far more important, in our opinion, is the
methodological aspect of this problem. From the epistemological viewpoint, the stability of
theories derives largely from the fact that each of them participating in causal explanations
and predictions rests on definite premises. Unlike the theory itself which is thoroughly
elaborated, its premises are found with comparative ease and, as a rule, are hypothetical by
nature. Therefore, if the predictions or explanations made on the basis of a given theory
prove to be erroneous, the premises are rejected with comparative ease. Newtons
gravitation theory, for instance, was considered to be irrefutable for over two centuries.
When it sometimes failed to come up to expectations, it was not the theory itself but its
premises that were called to account. Thus the discovery of an error in the calculations of
Uranus orbit based on the theory of gravitation did no harm to the theory; it was shielded
by the premises which performed their function of a lightning rod. As is known, John
Adams and Urbain Leverrier traced the error to the influence of the hitherto unknown
planet (Neptune) which had not been taken into account by the then existing system of

Should a theory happen to lose its ability to predict and explain events, its prerogatives can
be subsequently restored if a new set of conditions is found (and corresponding
assumptions formulated) under which the theory regains its powers. In many theoretical
disciplines scientists prefer to preserve the theorys right to predict and explain events and
put off the question of its incompatibility with certain facts. Hence, theories retain their
explanatory powers (if only potential) even when some explanations prove to be patently
Such theories are later modified in accordance with new data which appeared at first
discordant, and new assumptions are made to support them. The fruitfulness of the
backing hypothesis method can be exemplified by Pavlovs theory of conditioned
reflexes. The analysis of the structure of this theory shows that it is sufficiently resistant to
some contradicting facts. For instance, an animal trained to respond in a definite way to a
certain stimulant far from always follows the exact pattern of behaviour required of it. Its
response is usually slow or even incorrect. That does not mean, however, that the very first
deviation from the forecast made on the basis of the theory of conditioned reflexes should
be seized upon as a pretext for refuting this theory. In such cases the usual tactics of a
scientist consists in shielding the adopted theory with an auxiliary hypothesis and alleging
interference with the required conditions of an experiment rather than in discarding the
theory itself.
A supposition can be made, for instance, that the animals nervous system fails for some
reason or other to pass through the excitation caused by a corresponding stimulant or even
exerts upon it a certain suppressing effect. Indeed, numerous experiments carried out by
neurophysiologists showed that excitation can really be suppressed in the nervous system
owing to feedback via various nervous circuits with their numerous bends and loops. The
hypothesis of the suppression of excitation in nervous circuits serves, on the one hand, as
an additional assumption backing up the idea of conditioned reflexes, and, on the other,
turns out to be an independent theory subject to additional testing (like all assumptions
ensuing from the principle of causality). This hypothesis preserves the validity of the
conditioned reflex theory, making it a durable and effective instrument of causal
explanations and predictions in the physiology of higher nervous activity.
Hence, owing to various assumptions, scientific theories provide a high degree of stability
for explanations and predictions based upon them and cover a broad field of various
phenomena and processes.
As we see, a transition from one scientific theory to another is a much more complex
process than a simple negation of the old theory by a new one; some elements of the old
theory are revised or even altogether excluded from the content of a more developed theory,
other elements are carried over from the old to the new theory without any change or in the

form of a limit transition, ensuring the necessary continuity and comparability of different
stages in the development of science.
The third important aspect of the problem of objectivity or, more accurately, of the
dialectics of the objective and subjective which is ignored both by the critical rationalists
and scientific realists is the relation of the objective content of our knowledge to the
abstractions instrumental |n the development of scientific concepts and theories, i.e. the
dialectics of the objective and the subjective in the very content of scientific knowledge. As
we have seen, positivism regarded sensations, sensory data as the only reality, i.e. identified
them with reality independent of our consciousness and thus discarded altogether the
question of the approximateness, incompleteness of human knowledge. As to critical
rationalism, it defends the thesis of the complete arbitrariness of the abstractions and
assumptions needed to construct a scientific theory. Both these schools, undialectical as
they are, proved unable to solve the problem of objectivity.
The substantiation of the objectivity of scientific knowledge cannot be limited to the
analysis of the relation of the content of this knowledge to the objective world, though it is,
undoubtedly, the major part of the task. As is known, cognition is not a mirror image of
reality, but, using Lenins words, a process of the formation of abstractions, laws, etc. In the
process of cognition, particularly scientific cognition, the investigator sets himself an aim,
defines the object of investigation, disengages himself from all that is inessential and likely
to hamper his reasoning and experimenting, etc. Besides these operations, cognition
presupposes the breaking away of thought from reality, the flight of fancy, the imagebearing thinking. It might seem that all this mental activity is bound to reduce to zero any
objectivity of knowledge since it represents nothing but the subjective factor in the process
of cognition. Moreover, many of the above operations consisting essentially in the creation
of abstractions must lead of necessity to the distortion of reality, to obvious errors and
miscalculations. The objectivity of knowledge might seem incompatible with the
constructive activity of thought, with its active interference in the course of events.
Yet it would be unwarrantable pedantry to disparage scientific knowledge because of its
subjective component which does involve the possibility of errors and distortion of reality.
In point of fact, scientific knowledge would be simply impossible without this component.
Abstractions which are prerequisites for scientific knowledge deserve therefore special
attention, the more so as many difficulties connected with the problem of objectivity derive
from the incorrect understanding of their character and role.
Coincidence of a notion and its object, theory and reality is a complex, dialectically
contradictory process. Between the object and the knowledge of the object lies the sphere
of mans activity, his goal-oriented actions aimed at transforming and cognising the
surrounding world. Lenin wrote: Here there are actually, objectively, three members: 1)

nature; 2) human cognition the human brain (as the highest product of this same nature),
and 3) the form of reflection of nature in human cognition, and this form consists precisely
of concepts, laws, categories, etc. [9] Pointing out that the main drawback of the theory of
knowledge in pre-Marxian materialism consisted in its inability to apply dialectics to the
theory of reflection, Lenin specially emphasised in his Philosophical Notebooks the need
for a dialectical approach to the theory of knowledge, to cognition as a historically
developing complex process mediated by the collective material and spiritual activity of
mankind and by the existing system of relations between the individual subjects of
The elaboration of the concepts of reflection was thus connected with the development of
much more flexible and profound views on the cognitive activity of man. Cognition is
indeed reflection, yet it is the reflection of a special kind which could only be explained
after a radical revision of the epistemological concepts of pre-Marxian materialism. The
revised concept, far from breaking off with the basic principles of the materialist approach
to the process of cognition, was to make materialism even more flexible and consistent. The
new, more profound understanding of the process of cognition was to be based on the idea
of unity of reflection and activity which implied the dependence of human knowledge on
socio-historical conditions. This new concept threw entirely new light on many traditional
problems of the theory of knowledge and made it possible to explain the mechanism of the
reflection of objective reality.
Despite the broad variety of views on the origin of scientific knowledge in pre-Marxian
materialist philosophy, common to all of them was the conviction that the solution was to
be achieved through investigating the direct action of objects on passive individual
consciousness. The formation and growth of knowledge were only attributed to the
operation of those factors which manifested themselves in the influence of objects on the
sensuousness of the individual, and no account was taken of all other determinants of the
process of cognitionthe dependence of the cognitive image on links with other branches
of knowledge, on the existing historical substantive generalisations and schematic ties and
relationships revealing themselves in mans practical experience, on the forms and methods
of investigations, etc. In point of fact, it was not understood that any object could only
become a source of knowledge after being mediated by the practical activity of social man
and by the previous history of cognition with its objectifications, schematisations and
The new ideas constantly emerging in the course of the development of science are always
conditioned, in one way or another, by the cognitive situation in the entire system of
scientific knowledge. The progress of science is based primarily on the available
knowledge, on the existing collective forms of cognitive activity objectified in the
language, in scientific systems, etc. It is the active character of specifically human

perceptions, their unity with social practice, the need for a dialectical integration of
individual sensory data in a single system of perceptions that was referred to by Lenin
when he characterised sensation as a subjective image of the objective world. [10]
The social norms and prerequisites for cognitive activity play even a more important role in
the formation of an objective epistemological image at the theoretical level of investigation.
Theoretical thinking is known to be based on a complex system of idealisations, including a
special layer of mental structures, the so-called ideal objects which have no analogues
among empirical objects, properties or relationships and which function and develop in
accordance with their own laws operative in the field of theoretical knowledge only.
As long as a layman inexperienced in philosophical intricacies remains within the sphere of
conventional ideas, his attempts to see through a tangle of events and find a clue to his
current problems can hardly induce him to take a conscious stand on either side of the
barricade between materialism and idealism. Things begin to clear up when he passes
beyond the limits of his experience and finds himself confronted with unusual phenomena
and processes or encounters violations of habitual causal relationships. Under such
conditions, an individual who is not prone to religious prejudices begins to realise the
complete groundlessness of the illusion that his consciousness dictates laws to nature or
forms a chain of events by determining the order of causes and consequences at his own
It is perhaps after being within a hairbreadth of death in an earthquake or after suffering a
heavy shock from a flood as a result of an unexpected torrential rain that an individual
keenly realises the objectivity of the surrounding world. A scientist, however, attaches far
greater importance, of course, to those arguments which are adduced by Nature for or
against his ideas and theories. Isnt, for instance, the refutation of the once popular theory
of the existence of water canals on Mars, maintained till quite recently, yet another
argument in support of the objectivity of our knowledge? Arent the discoveries of quantum
mechanics and of the physics of elementary particles which shattered the foundation of
classical science convincing proof of the objective nature of scientific cognition? The very
unexpectedness, bizarreness of the most important discoveries of modern science, as well
as the apparent intangibility of many scientific ideas testify to the fact that our knowledge
of nature does not shut itself up in its own shell, but reflects with an ever increasing degree
of accuracy the real, objective properties of reality. As is known, the graphic representation
of the surrounding world is connected with the specific features and conditions of mans
cognitive process. Yet the phenomena under investigation exist independently of human
consciousness and therefore need not necessarily assume the graphic, tangible form as
understood by man.

The objectivity of the existing connections and relationships in the world is also
demonstrated by the fact that man often begins to realise their significance for his life and
practical activity too late and, being unaware of the existence of certain links of extensive
causal chains in nature and society, proves incapable of foreseeing all the consequences of
his interference with natural processes. This aspect of the objectivity problem, for one,
gives mankind no little trouble at present on account of the irrational use of natural
resources by previous generations, the upsetting of the natural balance of water and energy
reserves, and environmental pollution. The very fact that people often find themselves
unable even to formulate a problem before it thrusts itself upon them clearly demonstrates
the objective nature of causal relations, social and natural laws which do not depend on
when and how man becomes aware of their operation.
Scientific knowledge is but a more or less adequate reflection of objective relations
between phenomena which is shaped and mediated by the no less objective needs of
society. Special importance, in our opinion, attaches to the recognition of the objectivity of
links and relations. The existence of objects outside mans mind is seldom negated even by
inveterate agnostics adhering to Humes tradition. Nor is it denied by positivism and
modern philosophical science. What they do not accept is the objectivity of links and
relations, particularly causal relations. This necessitates considering in somewhat greater
detail the objective character of causal explanations, forecasts and laws in the general
context of the problem of objectivity.
The concept of causality represents in the most general form various relations in nature and
society between phenomena one of which (called cause) determines or produces the other
(called effect). Objective in such relations are not only cause and effect as definite objects,
events or phenomena, but also the relations themselves which are independent of
consciousness whatever their nature: material, energetic, informative, etc.
It may look strange to the uninitiated that this brief statement could have caused and is still
causing sharp debates which involve not only the methodology of scientific cognition, but
also extend to the problems of social development and even ideological struggle. Yet
universality is characteristic of all philosophical categories if they are truly scientific and
represent objective reality. Viewed in terms of problem-intensity, they may be likened to
an iceberg with a huge submerged portion: the problems they contain in embryo reveal ever
new facets in each successive historical period.
There is apparently nothing ambiguous about the word produce, particularly when we use
it in the context of our everyday experience or in relation to macroscopic processes. In its
conventional applications it conveys the ideas of the real direction of a process as a result of
which one phenomenon produces another, of the succession of cause and effect in time, of
their real similarity and unity of their nature. Yet each of these aspects of a causal

relationship turns into a complex and difficult problem when we turn to objects studied by
modern science. How can we single out cause and effect from a multitude of other objects
and phenomena accompanying the process under investigation, and this in such a way as to
express correctly the real relation between them? What is the meaning of the word to
produce in a scientific context if there is no possibility to trace the entire process from
cause to consequence? Is this process continuous or intermittent, necessary or accidental,
transitive or intransitive, and so on and so forth? Most of these problems do not even arise
in our everyday consciousness, nor are they implicated in the philosophical investigations
of the positivist and realist schools.
For positivism, which regards sensations or complexes of sensations as the only reality a
scientist is concerned with, causality is a purely psychological problem limited to the
formation of associations in the process of observation of a regular sequence of events.
Hence, from the positivist viewpoint the problem of causality is devoid of any
philosophical meaning and comes within the scope of concrete psychological
Critical rationalism regards causality in terms of the deduction of explanations and
predictions from more general knowledge. It therefore does not recognise the problem of
the correctness, accuracy of these causal explanations and predictions of the effect of one or
another cause, since effect is a logical sequence of cause, provided there is a more general
law. The problem of the relationship between discontinuity and continuity is discarded by
this school in a similar manner: the causal relationship being the result of a logical
inference must be continuous and transitive by virtue of its definition. Popper, for one,
rejects also the problem of the relation of causality to chance and necessity, since the very
concept of causality implies necessity as its logical component.
By contrast, scientific realism recognises the objective existence of causal relations
supposing them to be directly mirrored in scientific knowledge. The philosophers task is
thus restricted to the generalisation of the available knowledge of the physical, biological,
chemical forms of causal relations and to the classification of these numerous forms,
whereas the establishment and investigation of their specificity is left to natural scientists
themselves. The difference between the philosophical and natural scientific knowledge of
causality thus lies in the degree of its generalisation only. Paradoxical though it may seem,
both scientific realism and positivism discard the same philosophical problems. This
coincidence, as we have shown earlier, springs from the identification of knowledge and
reality which ischaracteristic of both positivism and scientific realism despite the latters
obviously materialistic platform. The only difference between them consists, perhaps, in
that positivism deduces reality directly from knowledge, whereas realism deduces
knowledge from objective reality.

Both philosophical trends, as we see, arrive at the same conclusion, though their paths are
different: positivism eliminates materialism as a principle of scientific investigation,
whereas realism eliminates dialectics. One lays the stress on the subjective, the other
denies its role in the process of scientific cognition. Here we can see once again that
materialism and dialectics are inseparable and that one cannot exist without the other.
To be sure, the physicists or biologists are only interested in the objective content of a
process and seek to establish causes and effects, pursuing their immediate practical aims.
As to the philosophers, they have a different problem to solve: they should separate the
objective content of knowledge from those subjective elements which are inevitably
introduced by the scientists in causal explanations and predictions. Assuming the physicists
or biologists attitude, the philosopher not only abandons his field, but attempts to pass for a
philosophical truth something which has absolutely no right to claim this title. Willy-nilly,
this stand is tantamount to the distortion of reality in a philosophical sense.
Of course, in dealing with causality the philosopher should not close his eyes to the
objective content of the knowledge gained within the framework of special sciences, such
as physics, chemistry and biology, otherwise he would open the door for idealism and
subjectivism in science. Yet his real task which has already been considered earlier (see
section 3 of this Chapter) consists in specifying the subjective aspects of causal
explanations and predictions. In the context of the basic question of philosophy, i.e. the
relationship of matter and consciousness, the mind and nature, the philosopher ought to
disclose all subjective prerequisites for scientific investigation, since this task lies outside
the scope of the problems tackled by the scientists themselves. From the philosophicotheoretical viewpoint, the problem of objectivity consists in revealing the subjective
elements of causal explanations and predictions in special scientific investigations and in
disclosing after that the interdependence of the objective and the subjective, their dialectics
in the process of cognition.
Hence, the development of knowledge is characterised by a trend towards comprehending
the real object of cognition as a unity of all its aspects and toward integrating all the
cognised fragments of reality (different systems of relations) in a single objective system
revealing its different aspects before the cognising subject. The realisation of this trend
calls for the investigation of the forms of interaction of each object with other objects (the
latter being regarded in this case as the conditions of the former), as well as with the
cognising subject himself. The objectivity of knowledge is therefore made contingent on
the understanding of the role of the subject in the process of cognition, particularly the role
of measuring operations, the instruments used by the investigator, his system of reference
and methods of coding the attained knowledge.

In his everyday work a physicist, a chemist or a biologist usually encounters this problem in
its philosophico-methodological aspect while seeking for concrete, specific means to single
out the objective content of causal relations in reality itself, in actual processes taking place
under natural conditions. It is the more important as the real problems and difficulties
facing science in the field of methodology often stem not only from the erroneous
understanding of causality, but also from the disregard or underestimation of the
abstractions and assumptions forming the framework of the concept of causal relations.
From the methodological viewpoint, i.e. from the viewpoint of the effective solution of
modern scientific problems pertaining to the principle of causality, it is important to take
account not only of the objective content of the concept of causality, but also of its
subjective aspect or, more specifically, of all the intricacies in the causal relationship
represented by the dialectics of the objective and the subjective.
Indeed, to establish a causal relationship between events A and B and to explain event B by
pointing out its cause A or to predict possible consequences B1, B2, etc. of known
cause A one must not only indicate the corresponding signs of causality, but also disengage
himself from all other events except A and B in the given space-time continuum. In order
to understand ... details, wrote Engels, we must detach them from their natural or
historical connection and examine each one separately, its nature, special causes,
effects, etc. [11] An abstraction of this kind resorted to in the establishment of a causal
relationship is in fact a routine mental operation often performed in everyday life. For
instance, watching the collision of billiard balls we have no difficulty in identifying the
impact of one ball as the cause of the movement of another. In doing so, we discard
mentally such factors as the friction of the balls against the surface of the table, the
convection airflows, and others, since we know from experience that they cannot have any
essential influence on the position of massive billiard balls.
Similarly, we say with certainty that on a summer day a stone is heated with sunbeams, but
not with the light of distant stars, though we know that their light also reaches the earths
surface. Yet its effect is negligible as compared with the radiant energy of the Sun, therefore
we simply disregard it in our explanation.
In dealing with causal relationships such abstractions are used so often that they become
habitual and seem quite natural. The ease with which they are created and their practical
value produce an illusion that, being quite justifiable in one or several cases, they must be
quite relevant in all other similar situations. It is only after we are confronted with a
complex situation that we begin to realise the full extent of the difficulties that have to be
overcome if we want to establish the cause or effect of a given event in the tangle of a
multitude of other objects and phenomena.

What is the cause, for instance, of the appearance of deserts in the once flourishing regions
of Central Asia? No doubt the cause does exist, though it is evidently represented by a
complex system of different factors. To answer this question, we must study a tremendous
amount of natural-history material and use a great many different experimental means and
methods. We must carry out, for one, a geomorphological analysis of water reservoirs,
register the climatic changes in the region in interest, study the structure of the topsoil, and
so on and so forth. It is only after we complete such research that we shall be able to
discard inessential factors and construct a more or less adequate explanation. Why should
the task be so complex in this particular case? Is it because the investigator is required to
exercise special care in order to reveal the signs of a causal relationship? Rather on the
contrary, such signs are too numerous and the problem consists in selecting those of them
(after the assessment of their comparative significance) which are characteristic of the
given concrete situation.
The abstractions used in identifying cause and effect play an essential role in the
explanation and prediction of various phenomena. Should such abstractions prove
impossible for some experimental or theoretical reasons, no correct explanation or
prediction of events on the basis of causal dependence can be provided. In other words, the
establishment of a cause-effect relation is conditional on the accomplishment of all
necessary abstractions.
The abstractions connected with the concept of causality will only be valid if the
investigator observes certain general rules (rules of abstraction) of which we shall indicate
at least three.
First, invariable conditions should always be fenced off, since cause and effect should be
variable factors by definition (their emergence or disappearance may be regarded as a
special case).
Second, if all or many conditions are variable in one or another respect (which is quite
probable), the changes regarded as signs of a causal relationship must be different by their
quality from all other changes in the given space-time continuum.
Third, the influence of attending factors must be far less pronounced than the influence of
the cause on the effect, the difference in their intensity being such that the attending factors
could be disregarded without any appreciable effect on the results of the investigation.
The above rules of abstraction impose certain limitations on the objective (boundary)
conditions of the investigation of relationships in interest and, if observed, warrant the
qualification of such relationships as causal. The observance of these rules takes the form

of various assumptions which relate to the conditions of cognition and are stated in relevant
scientific texts.
The strict observance of these rules when identifying cause-effect relations guarantees the
success of any causal explanation or prediction. A change of B that follows a change
of A cannot yet be regarded as proof of the causal dependence of B on A unless the above
rules are observed.
To be sure, the fulfilment of abstraction rules is often made impossible by objective reality
itself. In many cases the scientists would probably prefer experiments to the conditions
provided by nature for investigation. What is an advantage in one cognitive situation may
turn into an obstacle in others. Noting this specific feature of the process of cognition, the
Soviet scholar, V. A. Ambartsumyan, writes: A physicist confronted with an unknown
phenomenon usually repeats his experiment to establish the dependence of the phenomena
in interest on those conditions under which the experiment is staged. He has a possibility
.not only of studying these conditions in every detail, but also of changing them. Things are
quite different in astrophysics. Having chanced to observe an unusual phenomenon only
once, we .can neither control the external conditions under which it took place, nor repeat it
at will. Sometimes we do not even have any idea of the condition and circumstances
attending the phenomenon we haveobserved. [12]
In most other fields scientists are usually capable of creating artificial conditions which
meet the abstraction rules. The aim of an experiment in this case is to show that a change of
one object or phenomenon (which does not affect the natural processes under the artificial
conditions of the experiment) causes a corresponding change (or emergence) of the other
object with other conditions being invariable. It is precisely the preservation of the
constancy of all other conditions that ensures the observance of the abstraction rules. If the
experimental check of a causal dependence is impossible for some reason or other, the
investigator can meet the requirements of the abstraction rules by resorting, for instance, to
appropriate mathematical means.
Suppose, we want to prove a causal relation between the uniform expansion of a rubber ball
during an increase of its internal pressure and the behaviour of a molecule in a closed
vessel. A uniform expansion of the spherical walls testifies to the equality of gas pressure
on the vessel walls. Now, how shall we account for this equality if it is known that gas
consists of individual molecules moving chaotically within the given volume? In our
explanation of the uniform expansion of the vessel we in fact abstract ourselves from the
details of the trajectory of an individual molecule and from the results of the molecule
collisions. Do we have the right to make such an assumption? It turns out we do. When we
deal with a large number of molecules, we may take it for granted that each molecule stays
in any point of the given volume during equal periods of time, since there are equal

probabilities that any molecule can get to any concrete region irrespective of its location.
As a result of a great number of chaotic collisions not a single molecule can stay next to
another one. Consequently, each molecule acquires a high degree of independence in its
movements relative to other molecules. Since accidental collisions tend towards complete
compensation, conditions are realised for the application of the concept of causality to the
given relationship in full compliance with abstraction rules.
Now, what happens when these rules are not observed? Should the researcher fail to take
them very seriously, the results of his investigation are bound to be distorted and he may
not even be aware of it. Suppose, we want to apply Hooks law to the relationship between
the strain in a steel bar and the pressure applied to it, disregarding the fact that this causal
relationship obtains within definite pressure limits only, which are different for different
metals. It stands to reason that the explanation itself and the predictions of a concrete strain
as a function of the corresponding pressure value will prove erroneous.
A similar problem arises in defining the wing configuration in an airplane design. As long
as the airplane speed was not high, the designer was justified in regarding air as
incompressible liquid. Of, course, this assumption was but a crude approximation to real
processes, but it could be tolerated as the resulting error was practically negligible.
However, when it became necessary to define probable airplane characteristics at high
speeds, the hitherto justifiable assumption lost its validity. Account had also to be taken of
many other forces arising due to friction, air vortices, vibration, etc. The task of accurate
prediction and calculation became much more complex. Consequently, the rules of
abstraction (the accuracy of assumptions given in quantitative terms) have acquired special
importance and failure to observe them is likely to result in serious errors.
The assumptions which relate to the conditions of investigation and are used in the analysis
of any causal relationship constitute a subjective element in the concept of causality. The
admission of this fact calls for a very thorough philosophical analysis of the dialectics of
the objective and the subjective in causal explanations and predictions. It is important to
understand, first, that the share of subjectivity in such explanations and predictions is so
negligible that it cannot jeopardise their objectivity. Second, the introduction of certain
subjectivity in such cases is quite justifiable, since the use of abstractions in scientific
explanations and predictions is necessitated in each particular case by quite definite
objective conditions. It means that the concept of causality calls for at least a twofold
substantiation: first, it is necessary to prove the validity of the very idea of causal
relationship which underlies its definition; second, it is necessary to prove the soundness of
the abstractions and approximations resorted to. Significantly, from the methodological
viewpoint, this latter set of arguments is not less important than the identification of the
causal dependence itself and should be presented independently of the former set of

Here the study of causal relationships reveals one of the most curious manifestations of the
dialectics of the subjective and the objective. On the one hand, the singling out of the signs
of a causal relationship is a subjective act aimed at investigating and analysing the objective
world. Any denial of the subjective character, goal-orientation and selectivity of the
scientific investigation into the cause-effect relationship would be untenable. On the other
hand, this subjective act is by no means arbitrary, it is prompted by objective conditions. As
regards its motives, they are rooted, in the final analysis, in the practical activity of man.
The active role of the subject in the processes of investigation (the subjective aspect) which
manifests itself in experiments, hypotheses, suppositions, assumptions, use of various
theoretical and mathematical means is an indispensable condition of scientific cognition.
The tremendous successes achieved by science in the cognition of the world would have
been impossible without mans selective approach to reality, without his conscious use of
appropriate means and methods in the process of cognition. However inaccurate the
approximations, it should never be forgotten that the final result of the investigators
activity is the creation of a scientific picture of the world which helps man to reflect and
transform reality through his practical activity. All this is fully applicable to the
investigation of objective causal relations.
At the same time one should bear in mind that the singling out of a causal dependence from
the entire system of complex objective relations and the disregard of all other conditions
cannot but distort the integral picture of the world, since there are no absolutely isolated
systems implicitly postulated by the concept of causality. Noting the complex, dialectical
character of the cognition of the universal connection of phenomena, Lenin wrote: The
human conception of cause and effect always somewhat simplifies the objective connection
of the phenomena of nature, reflecting it only approximately, artificially isolating one or
another aspect of a single world process. [13]
Being an abstraction, every concept, causality including, tends to distort reality. The
attitude to this indisputable fact is different on the part of pessimists and optimists in
science. The former say that our knowledge is an endless chain of errors and delusions,
whereas the latter (and we include ourselves in their number) do not view the situation as
tragic, though they do recognise it to be contradictory, sometimes even dramatic.
Indeed, there is no ground for mistrusting science only because its results are not ideal. The
history of science provides numerous examples when such difficulties were successfully
overcome. In view of the extreme epistemological complexity of the concept of causality
we should reconcile ourselves to the inevitable inaccuracies in any causal explanation and
prediction. The scientists task is to reduce such inaccuracies to a minimum and take full
advantage of the effective means (both technical and conceptual) now available to him in
order to neutralise his errors. It should be noted in this connection that inaccuracies can

sometimes be disregarded altogether without any detriment to the validity of causal

explanations. For instance, in everyday life we readily accept the explanation that water
freezes as a result of the ambient temperature decrease to 4C, though more accurate
measurements made under different conditions will undoubtedly reveal a certain scatter in
thermometer readings even if measurements are made in one and the same place but at
different times, or at one and the same time but with different water samples. Why do we
tolerate such an inaccuracy? Only because all other factors we close our eyes to are not
essential in the given situation. We may disregard, for instance, the influence of admixtures
in water and the probable variation of atmospheric pressure which is also known to affect
liquid freezing processes.
In the example under consideration we only single out what we are interested in at the
moment, namely, only two most essential events and neglect all other factors and
accompanying conditions. If the quantity of admixtures in water remains within normal
limits and the ambient pressure is not very much different from normal, the error in the
explanation of water freezing by a decrease of ambient temperature to 4C will not be
essential. Generally speaking, the scientist has every right to change the conditions of his
investigation in accordance with the situation and use to this end any conceptual or
mathematical means at his disposal, provided, of course, that he strictly observes the rules
of abstraction, avoids any arbitrariness in his causal explanations and predictions and takes
care not to distort living reality.
The objectivity of the principle of causality, however, consists not only in that it reflects
certain aspects of reality and that the selection of certain events as causes and effects is
prompted by the objective conditions of cognition. The very motives of this selection are
always rooted in the material, practical activity of people and, in the end, in the entire
system of social production. Moreover, it is none other than this practical activity that
passes the final judgement on the objectivity of causal relations.
This idea has been very clearly expressed by Engels. The first thing that strikes us in
considering matter in motion, he wrote, is the interconnection of the individual motions
of separate bodies, their being determined by one another. But not only do we find that a
particular motion is followed by another, we find also that we can evoke a particular motion
by setting up the conditions in which it takes place in nature... In this way, by the activity of
human beings, the idea of causality becomes established, the idea that one motion is
the cause of another. [14] It is precisely the activity of human beings, their social practice,
that frees our knowledge from subjectivity, gives our abstractions flesh and blood and
integrates them into its great concreteness. It is only through practice, by including the
cognised link of a causal relationship, as we understand it, into the objective, universal
system of relations that we test the truth of our knowledge. Should it fit into the system

without disturbing the course of natural processes, we shall have every right to regard our
mental operations and abstractions, even the most daring ones, as completely justifiable.
[1] See V. I. Lenin, Materialism and Empirio-Criticism, op. cit., pp. 26061. [> main
[2] V. I. Lenin, Conspectus of Hegels Book The Science of Logic, op. cit., p. 182. [
> main text]
[3] Max Born, Physics in My Generation, Pergamon Press, London, 1956, p. 163. [
> main text]
[4] Yu. B. Rumer, A. I. Fet, Theory of Unitary Symmetry, Moscow, Nauka Publishers,
1970, p. 8 (in Russian), p. 424. [> main text]
[5] Albert Einstein and Leopold Infeld, The Evolution of Physics, Simon and Schuster,
New York, 1961, pp. 219, 208. [> main text]
[6] V. I. Lenin, Materialism and Empiric-Criticism, op. cit., p. 136. [> main text]
[7] Ibid., p. 133. [> main text]
[8] Ibid., p. 137. [> main text]
[9] V. I. Lenin, Conspectus of Hegels Book The Science of Logic, op. cit., p. 182. [
> main text]
[10] V. I. Lenin, Materialism and Empiric-Criticism, op. cit., p. 119. [> main text]
[11] F. Engels, Anti-Dhring, op. cit., p. 30. [> main text]
[12] V. A. Ambartsumyan, Philosophical Questions of the Science of the Universe,
Yerevan, 1973, p. 116 (in Russian). [> main text]
[13] V. I. Lenin, Materialism and Empiric-Criticism, op. cit., p. 156. [> main text]
[14] Frederick Engels, Dialectics of Nature, op. cit., 230. [>

by Igor Naletov

The scientific and technological revolution has proved to be a serious test not only for some
general and special scientific theories, but also for many philosophical schools and trends
concerned in one way or another with the scientific explanation of the world. Positivist
philosophy which pulled through many difficult periods in the course of its long history has
evidently entered a new critical stage in its evolution. The general crisis of positivism
started, in effect, with the emergence of Marxist philosophy, its first real alternative, and
has been aggravating ever since. It became particularly acute at the turn of the 20th century
in connection with major discoveries in physics, mathematics and philosophy, summed up
by Lenin. New trials awaited positivism in the 1920s as a result of the emergence of
quantum mechanics and the theory of relativity. No less troublesome were the subsequent
periods of its evolution. All the storms positivism had to weather resulted, as a rule, in
partial modifications of its philosophical programme which took into account the criticism
of its opponents, including Marxist philosophy.
It is noteworthy that the representatives of positivism attributed all these misfortunes of
their philosophy not to its intrinsic weaknesses or to their own fallacies, but regarded them
as symptoms of a crisis of science in general. Moreover, all blame for setbacks and
difficulties in scientific cognition they usually laid at the door of either materialism or
dialectics. The strategy and the tactics of positivism fighting for its prestige in the scientific
community evidently deserves special analysis which goes beyond the scope of our
investigation. What we do need to emphasise here is the fact that it is not some particulars
of the programme of positivism that are called in question by the current scientific and
technological revolution, but the very foundation of positivist philosophy. In point of fact,
the revolution has completely undermined the scientists confidence in the basic
methodological principles of positivismempiricism, conventionalism, indeterminism, the
reduction of philosophy to the logic of science and to linguistic analysis, etc.
The crisis of positivist philosophy manifests itself not only in the disagreement with science
and its main tendencies but also in the emergence of new schools and trends within the
philosophy of science coming out with sharp criticism of some positivist dogmas and
proposing methodological alternatives to its traditions.
The Western philosophy of science does not know a more radical critic of empiricism than
Karl Popper. Critical rationalism as the methodological platform of Popper and his
adherents does appear to be rather a formidable opponent of positivism. Its model of
scientific cognition is essentially different from the positivist model, particularly if we take
into account the views expounded in the latest works of the English philosopher: the
recognition of theory as the most essential component of scientific knowledge, the
deductive system of reasoning (from a problem to a surmise, from the surmise as a tentative
solution of the problem to consequences, from the consequences implied by a hypothesis to
their purpose-oriented refutation, from this to a new formulation of the problem, and so on).

Nevertheless, despite the apparent distinctions from the inductivist model defended by
positivism there is striking resemblance between the two models: both of them postulate
direct and simple connection between empirical knowledge and theory and assert .the
conventional character of basic empirical statements, if not laws themselves.
Another characteristic feature of Poppers stand which seemingly distinguishes it from the
positivist views is the recognition of the so-called World 3 or the world of objective
knowledge. It is very significant, however, that Popper does not relate this world to
objective reality, relying, like the positivists, on the intersubjective criterion of scientificity.
His idea of objective knowledge borders on the idealism of the Platonic, if not
Berkeleian, type.
Critical rationalism also differs from positivism in that it revives the principle of
causality and shows special interest in the explanatory role of scientific theories. Yet even
this difference is watered down by interpreting necessity implied by causal explanations in
the purely logical sense a la Wittgenstein. The theory of regularity adhered to by
Wittgenstein in relation to the problems of causality and determinism is obviously rooted in
the philosophy of Hume and Kant and shows close affinity to the Machist concept of
causality as probability of the expectation of consequences, as well as to the interpretation
of law as functional dependence expressed by a mathematical formula.
Besides the highly critical attitude to empiricism in the modern philosophy of science, the
opposition to positivism also manifests itself in the understanding of the subject-matter of
philosophy. In this field the debates are mainly centred on the status of the so-called
metaphysical problems. Critical rationalism does not go beyond the general legalisation
of such problems though they were implicitly recognised in positivist dogmata, whereas
scientific realism, new ontology and new metaphysics, which have formed within the
framework of the modern philosophy of science as alternatives to positivism, place special
emphasis on the need for the restoration of metaphysics reduced to ashes during the antimetaphysical crusade of positivism and make this issue one of the key points of their
As a matter of fact, the programme of scientific realism boils down to the rebuilding of
the scientific structure of the real worldthe task considered to be worthy of philosophy.
Very characteristic in this respect are the general scientific concepts and metatheoretical
problems which receive extensive coverage in the works of this schools representatives.
They indeed regard their task in terms of resurrection. One gets an impression that
scientific realism is completely unaware of the age-old traditions in the investigation of
these problems and ignorant of the dialectics of nature and social development expounded
in Marxist-Leninist philosophy which has never lost interest in such problems as being, the
structure of matter, the interconnection of space and time, the forms of motion, the laws of

the development of material systems, including society, and carried out fruitful
investigations into the philosophical problems of natural science, social progress, etc. The
attitude of the Western philosophy of science to these and many other problems is
indicative of its confinement within the narrow limits of positivist traditions.
Of course, attempts to start from scratch ought to meet with sympathy and it would be
hardly fair to demand of scientific realism, scientific materialism, new ontology, etc.
that they consider these problems within the framework of more general philosophical
issues and substantiate the new ontology with dialectical and epistemological analysis.
However, any attempt to develop a sound ontology today without fulfilling this requirement
is inevitably doomed to failure. Moreover, an ontology constructed on a tabula rasa basis
tends to reproduce in a crude manner some ideas and concepts of old natural philosophy
gravitating towards mechanicism, speculativeness, the Laplatian ideal of determinism, etc.
It would fail to rise to the level of universal, truly philosophical generalisations and only
strive to replace them by a more or less coherent system of general scientific statements.
Such statements based either on biological and cybernetic ideas, or on the set theory and the
latest achievements of physics would inevitably lose their concreteness and degenerate into
truisms leaving at the same time a lot of loopholes for idealismthe more so as they are
intended to deduce the world from current scientific concepts and tend on the whole to
petrify the present-day knowledge rather than to give a dynamic picture of living reality on
the basis of a truly philosophical approach. Consciousness, too, with all its specificity and
richness of content is deduced from (or reduced to) the interaction of molecules and atoms,
whereas the mechanism of heredity in living organisms is viewed in terms of quantum
transitions. The tabula rasaapproach of new metaphysics to the problem of ontology will
hardly enable the philosophy of science to raise the edifice of new methodology above
ground level in the place of the ruins left by positivism. All attempts to revive ontology as a
doctrine of the objective world and its most general properties and laws will at best remind
one of a recapitulation course of history unless their authors turn in earnest to MarxistLeninist philosophy, to the achievements of modern materialism that has assimilated all that
was best and most progressive in the history of science and culture.
It is for this reason that we set ourselves the task of familiarising the reader with some
principles of Marxist philosophy, showing the essence of dialectical materialism as an
alternative to positivism and considering possible solutions to the present-day pivotal
problems of methodology. It would be presumptuous to claim a more or less complete
exposition of the views of the classics and modern Soviet philosophers in this book, not to
speak of the elucidation of all the problems that have been touched upon in its polemical
sections. The author has only singled out a few most acute problems which have become of
late the object of particularly heated controversies and which have not yet been subjected to
a sufficiently detailed analysis in Marxist literature with due regard for the nuances brought
in the limelight.

As regards the positive content of this book, we attach special importance to the problems
of the scientific value of philosophy and of the concreteness of philosophical knowledge
which are closely connected with each other. In Marxist philosophy concrete knowledge
has always been associated with the completeness of the reflection of objects and their
diverse relations and links with one another. Conversely, the abstract has been regarded as
an equivalent of isolation, particularisation. Any statement represents a dialectical unity of
both opposites, therefore there are no and cannot be any absolutely abstract or absolutely
concrete scientific statements. Any scientific knowledge can only be more abstract or less
abstract. Regarding scientific cognition as a living process unfolding in time and space we
maintain that this completeness of the reflection of links and relations is different at
different stages of scientific investigation. Hence, we distinguish three different levels or
forms of concreteness: -empirical, representing direct, sensual perception of objects and
phenomena; theoretical, concerned with inner laws, essential links, relations and necessary
features; and philosophical, relating to the most general properties and phenomena of
reality, the contradictoriness of development, the diversity and the unity of quality and
quantity, the material and the ideal, etc., as they are reflected in the human mind.
Real philosophical knowledge reflects certain universal properties of the sensually
perceived world and is in this sense empirically concrete. It reveals the most general laws
and relationships of the surrounding world and is therefore theoretically concrete. As
distinct from the knowledge provided by special sciences it also defines the epistemological
limits for the solution of one or another problem, i.e. the concrete form of the relation
between the objective and the subjective in scientific cognition and, consequently, is
epistemologically concrete. In point of fact, philosophical knowledge can only be concrete
if it takes into account the place of a given phenomenon or the property it reflects in the
general system of categories and laws of dialectics and materialism. Concreteness is
demanded by Marxist philosophy of itself in the first place. The concepts of matter and
consciousness are only regarded as concrete (and therefore really scientific) within the
framework of the basic question of philosophy. The category of contradiction can only be
concrete if it is viewed in the context of the unity of the phenomena under consideration.
Dialectics rejects such notions as the opposition in general, quality in general, essence in
general, necessity in general, etc. regarded as absolute entities. It demands that the
opposites be only considered within the framework of unity, quality in relation to a given
quantity, matter in relation to consciousness as its derivative, necessity in relation to
chance, etc. Outside this philosophical concreteness the categories of dialectics and
materialism become nonsensical. The concreteness of these categories is the main proof of
their scientificity.
The specific form of concreteness of philosophical knowledge determines also its relation
to the knowledge provided by special sciences. Philosophy does not stand aloof from them,
it merges with the entire system of human knowledge and actively penetrates all the cells of

this living intellectual organism. Conversely, no special scientific knowledge could be fully
concrete without the support of philosophy, as positive sciences do not concern themselves
with quantity and quality, matter and consciousness, the opposites in objects and
phenomena, etc. It hardly needs mentioning that no truly scientific analysis would be
possible under such conditions.
Possessing its own form of concreteness, philosophical knowledge performs not only the
methodological, but also the theoretical function in the development of science. It is not
something alien to special scientific knowledge, but makes part and parcel of its system. It
stands to reason that philosophical knowledge integrated in the structure of human thought
usually loses its independent meaning or, at any rate, remains in the backgroundit serves
the purposes of a special scientific investigation or some practical action and is entirely
subordinated to it. This inconspicuousness of philosophical knowledge sometimes gives
grounds for erroneous assertions that a well-developed theory has no place for philosophy
at all.
The history of science shows how philosophical principles and laws rise up in all their
magnitude and reveal their power and viability in critical periods, at the crossroads of
scientific cognition, when it becomes necessary to solve crucial problems of social and
scientific development. Fundamental, theoretical sciences find themselves much more often
confronted with such large-scale problems than do empirical or applied sciences, and it is
usually fundamental theories that throw a new light on conventional, generally recognised
philosophical principles. Hence, the cooperation between philosophy and special sciences is
particularly fruitful in the sphere of theory. The attitude of theorists to philosophy is
reverent and critical at the same time. T-heir relations based on mutual confidence leave no
room for parochialism and, consequently, for petty squabbles over their share in the success
of a scientific investigation or, conversely, their measure of responsibility in case of its
failure. Here we have a single science whose only aim untarnished by any prestige
considerations is to serve mankind.
The question of the objectivity of knowledge assumes different forms and requires different
solutions depending on the context. Philosophy provides the most general solution:
everything that exists outside the mind (be it individual or collective) is objective. Special
sciences view the problem from a different angle striving to eliminate the subject from
the results of a scientific investigation. Empirical investigation does not know a more
reliable means for obtaining objective knowledge than an experiment ensuring the
investigators neutrality. Theoretical investigation, in our opinion, pivots on the principle
of invariance. In the theorists language the objective in the first approximation is
equivalent to what is invariant in different systems of transformation. A natural scientist (a
physicist, a chemist, a biologist, etc.) shows but little interest in the problem of objectivity
in its pure, philosophical form, considering it even too trivial (as is evidenced from

numerous publications and verbal statements). His attitude changes when the problem
comes to the foreground, e.g. when the former criteria of invariance fail, generally
recognised theories collapse and the scientists need a reliable bridge to a new theory.
Dialectics does not regard objective knowledge as a challenge prize which passes on from
one generation to another. Objective knowledge must be gained by and for each generation
of scientists separately and may only come as a result of their own labour. It should be
extracted from the rock of subjective assessments, suppositions and delusions just like
precious metal is extracted from ore. It is procured in arduous toilonly to be rejected
there and then and give way to more profound concepts and theories.
In its approach to the problem of objective knowledge dialectical methodology is
characterised, first and foremost, by its constant striving to reflect all the complexity and
dynamism of scientific cognition avoiding any one-sidedness and absolutisation of some
particular methods or levels of cognition. At the same time it firmly adheres to the principle
of objectivity in its most general, philosophical sense, since the disregard of this principle
leads to the erosion and devaluation of the entire system of scientific knowledge.
To be sure, the concrete embodiment of the principles of dialectics offered by one or
another scientist in his works may lack the necessary flexibility, completeness or
consistency. The blame for subjective weaknesses should not be laid at the door of
dialectics itself. It provides a sound basis for the solution of problems facing modern
science, the more so as it calls for creative approach to its own development.