The general concept of thought. A person does not live in the world of direct impressions all the time; he may also be concerned with abstract concepts and live in a world of symbols. He not only accumulates visual and conceptual experience, he also assimilates the experience acquired by mankind and formulated in systems of written memory. So human beings can operate on both the visual and the conceptual planes. How does the shift from the sensuous to the conceptual level come about?
Thought relates the evidence of the senses to all the other knowledge possessed by the individual. And it does this by drawing on the accumulated experience and knowledge of humanity to the extent that these are possessed by or available to any specific individual. The shift from the sensuous to the conceptual, the rational does not mean, however, a shift from reality to the empty darkness of the suprasensuous. Thought is based on the sensuous material of speech, particularly, internal speech, and on symbolised sensuous images.
Thought is goal-oriented, mediated and generalised reflection of the significant properties and relations of things, the creative forming of new ideas, the posing and solving of problems. One can readily understand what is meant by goal-oriented, but what do we mean by mediated? Mediation is the movement of thought towards essence through its manifestations. For example, we cannot see directly, im mediately what a person is thinking about. We know this by perceiving and understanding his words and actions. The experienced psychiatrist can tell from the appearance of his patient alone, from his facial expression, his eyes or his behaviour, what disease he is suffering from. A qualified doctor examining his patient's eyes under a lamp learns a lot about the condition of the other organs from the state of the iris. These are examples of mediated thought. What is inaccessible to sense perception is discovered through the evidence of instruments, by means of various signs, signals, symbols, etc.
Another way in which thought is mediated is through the historically accumulated experience of mankind in general. In the process of thought a person does not rely entirely on his personal experience. He weaves into the fabric of thought various threads from his brain's general store of knowledge of all kinds of things, of all accumulated historical experience. And quite often the most unexpected comparisons, analogies and associations lead to the solution of an important practical or theoretical problem. In scientific cognition one often has to operate with quantities that are not known and the power of logical thought has to fill in the inevitable gaps.
The distinctive feature of thought is the solving of problems. A part of thinking is, in fact, the posing of a problem. In order to state a problem one must have a certain skill, if one does not want to be accused of asking silly questions.
Thought may proceed as a process of problem-solving according to strict rules, algorithms (algorithmic thought), or it may be creative, generating new ideas. Theoretical activity and curiosity is a significant attribute of the thinking mind. The concept of creative thought emphasises the element of its original productivity, its ability to pose new problems and devise unique solutions to them.
To sum up, human thought, based on sense data, is the highest form of the active reflection and intellectual conversion of objective reality and consists in goal-oriented, indirect and generalised cognition by the subject of the essential law-governed connections and relations of things, in the creative production of new ideas, and also in the forecasting of events. It proceeds in various forms and structures— concepts, statements, categories, inferences, hypotheses, theories, etc., which record and generalise the socio-historical experience of humankind.
One of the instruments of thought is language, and also other sign systems, such as the abstract symbols of mathematics, or the concrete images of the "language of art". The elements of these systems support such basic operations of thought as abstraction, generalisation and mediation. Abstraction enables us to ignore an object's inessential properties and relations and concentrate on those that are relevant to the intellectual task in question. Generalisation enables us to classify large numbers of phenomena according to certain essential attributes. For example, one can classify certain symptoms as symptoms of a certain illness.
As a complex socio-historical phenomenon, thought is studied by many sciences: the theory of knowledge (analysis of the relations between the subjective and the objective in thought, the sensuous and rational, the empirical and the theoretical, etc.), by logic (the science of the forms, rules and operations of thinking), by cybernetics (technical modelling of thought operations in the form of the artificial brain), by aesthetics (which analyses thought in the process of the creation and perception of artistic values), by science history (the history, theory and practice of scientific cognition), by linguistics (the relationship between thought and language), by neurophysiology (the cerebral substratum and the physiological mechanisms of thought), by psychopathology (various forms of mental disorder), by ethology (the preconditions and features of the development of thought in the animal world), by psychology (thought examined as a cognitive process connected with certain individual features of the personality, with the influence of emotion on thought), and so on. Innate intelligence differing according to a person's natural gifts develops into the actual ability to think in the process of ontogenesis under the influence of education and training.
The question of the essential nature of thought, its relations to the material world, of the human being as the subject of thought, of the logic of thinking, and of the constructive, creative nature of thought, has always been the central problem of philosophy throughout the history of its develop ment.
The biological substratum of thought is the high level of development of the human brain, which took shape historically in the process of the development of man, of human society and culture.
A human being becomes a thinker only by obtaining command of language, logic and historically accumulated culture. By assimilating culture he learns to construct hypotheses, to test them theoretically and experimentally by means of thinking operations, and to forecast future events.
Knowledge of thought as a special form of cognitive activity came into being in the framework of philosophy and led to the separation of thought as such from intellectual processes taken as a whole. At the very dawn of Oriental and ancient Greek philosophy thought was separated from sensuous knowledge, and thought itself made distinctions between its unreliable manifestations ("opinion" as a manifestation of ordinary consciousness) and the discovery of universal laws that did not depend on individual, human subjectivity (Parmenides, Heraclitus). The idea that the actual atomic structure of things could be discovered only by means of thought was upheld by Democritus. The philosophy of the "teachers of wisdom", the Sophists, shifted the emphasis to analysis of the linguistic and logical means of thought as something derived from individual human qualities (Protagoras). Considering these means without reference to the objective content of thought, the Sophists arrived at relativ ism, which was criticised by Socrates, whose watchword, "Know thyself", required that thought be "purged" of all vague and indeterminate notions in the name of sound and reliable knowledge. Such knowledge, according to Socrates, could be obtained in a dialogue between people who were all seeking truth. In this way a direct link was found between thought and communication and the dialogical nature of thought was discovered. Plato, a pupil of Socrates, decided that the main attribute of thought was its ideality, a special, non-sensuous form of reality, which constituted the essence of thought as distinct from the world of sensuous things. This form was elevated by Plato into a specific entity that could not be related to anything material and, moreover, was primary in relation to the material. Generalising the experience of Greek philosophy, Aristotle created his theory of the forms and structures of thought, thus laying the foundation of formal logic. He also showed the dialectics of the transition from sensation to thought, thus revealing the important role in thought processes of the images of representation ("imagination") as the connecting link between the sensuous and the rational.
In contrast to idealism, certain materialist theories arose even in ancient times. These theories (Epicurus, Lucretius) regarded the ideal content of thought (ideas, concepts, judgements) as being derived from matter, as recording external stimuli. All further theories of thought are permeated with the struggle between these two philosophical approaches.
The scientific revolution of the 17th century led to the rise of empiricism, which gave priority to experience and induction (Bacon and Locke) and also of rationalism, a doctrine which regards abstract thought as the basis of human knowledge and gives priority to the deductive method, i.e., to deduction of particular propositions from general principles (Descartes, Spinoza, Leibnitz).
The advances of natural science in the 18th century led to a theory that thought was a function of the brain, a product of external natural stimuli and the social environment. Consider ation was also accorded to the problems of the development of thought (Diderot) and of individual differences in thought capacity (Helvetius). At the end of the 18th and beginning of the 19th century the systems of classical German idealism (Kant and Hegel) developed the theory that the forms and modes of thought were creative, dialectical, and that individual thought depended on its historical premises. The next period in the history of philosophical theories of thought is dominated by positivism, which denies universal laws of the development of nature, society, and thought, and restricts the function of theoretical thought to establishing facts and empirically observed connections between them. In various new versions (e.g., neopositivism), the positivist approach to thought is typical of contemporary bourgeois philosophy.
In Western philosophy positivism is opposed by the intuitivist (Bergson), phenomenological (Husserl) and existential (Jaspers, Sartre, Heidegger) concepts of thought, which regard thought as the contemplation of spiritual essences (phenomenology) or deny all human ability to rationally comprehend the objective world (intuitivism and irrationalism).
Psychological research into the nature of thought in the 19th century was based on the principles of formal logic and the doctrine of association. It did little more than identify and describe certain thought processes such as abstraction, generalisation, comparison and classification. The main element in thought was considered to be the concept, the nature of which was discussed in terms of formal logic, while thought itself was regarded as being produced by the mechanical summation of sense images or representations, the identification of their general attributes and the elimination of those which did not conform to the general. The process of thought itself was presented as the complex associative combination of representations and concepts in obedience to the laws of formal logic. The concept was equated with the representation and interpreted as a set of attributes connected by association; a judgement was regarded as the association of representations; an inference as the association of two judgements serving as premises with a third deduced from it as the conclusion (syllogism). This conception provided no explanation for the most essential features of thought, namely its goal-oriented and creative character.
With the development of experimental psychology thought became the target of empirical laboratory research. The naturalistic and mechanistic notions of thought were suggested by the behaviourists. Watson, for example, studied the reactions of animals in problematic situations and regarded thought as a form of behaviour consisting of stimuli and motor responses to them. A new rational feature of this theory was the objective approach to thought in contrast to its being regarded as an incorporeal essence, but the mechanistic method prevented the development of a scientific theory of thought, which was ultimately reduced, at the level of human behaviour, to speech reactions formed on the basis of trial and error.
The study of thought led to the discovery that it was conditioned by the social environment and also to discovery of the important role played in its regulation by non-sensory, imageless elements. It was established that thought could not be reduced to the visual-image content of the consciousness. In contrast to the "pure" sensuousness of the associative psychology thought was treated as being "purely" a systematised activity directed at a definite object.
The Gestalt psychologists understood thought as the process of transforming the structure of consciousness in its immediate givenness. They assumed that consciousness was a kind of field whose intensity was increased by any situation that had become a problem for the thinker. The process of thought itself was the relieving of this intensity by transforming the "field of consciousness", by moving from one structure to another. By interpreting thought as a self-generating process, the Gestalt psychologists associated them selves with intuitivism, a theory that denies the determining significance of rational analysis in solving problems.
The beginning of the 20th century saw the appearance of works (by Lévy-Bruhl and others) which generalised and systematised the accumulated data on the thinking of peoples who were at a relatively lower level of socio-economic and cultural development. These works helped to establish the principle of historism in thought research, exploded the proposition that certain structures of thought were invariable, and introduced the idea that thought could change qualitative ly in the process of its development and historical advance. The new genetic approach to thought, which goes back to Charles Darwin, emerged thanks to the successes of experimental research on the behaviour of animals with highly developed brains, particularly apes. This research showed that even animals have the rudiments of thought (analysis, synthesis, the ability to solve situational problems, etc.). Two tendencies emerged in the interpretation of the results of these experiments. One identified intellectual operations of man and those of the higher animals, and the other showed the qualitative difference in their thinking, while admitting the continuity between them. Animal thought was characterised as immediate and active. Coupled with the investigation of immediate and active thought in children this helped to overcome notions of thought as a process contrasted to the actual behaviour of the organism. Investigation of thought activity in the form of external actions in complicated situations, and of operations with diagrams, models, and so on, destroyed the obsolete notion of thought as something purely internal, as a purely verbal and logical process, and led to recognition of the existence in the human beings of various forms and levels of highly developed thinking that were closely interwoven and could pass into one another.
Genetic analysis of thought and the notion of a close relation between logical thought operations and practical actions were made more profound by the investigations of the Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget, who showed that there were definite, law-governed, successive stages in the development of thought from childhood to the age of adolescence.
The peculiarities of thought connected with professional activities in science, technology, art and other spheres of social life were subjected to specialised psychological analysis. One variety of professional thinking is the mental activity pursued in the field of politics, "political thought", which presupposes certain specific forms of analysis and synthesis connected with the politician's need to relate the general picture of international and home affairs to a process he considers particularly important, and to take a quick and timely decision, proceeding from the unity of the components of his experience both known and unknown, logical and intuitive.
This raises the problem of the "style" of thought and its specific nature at various levels in the historical development of society. One particular style of thought is dogmatism, which operates with ossified concepts and ignores the principle of the concreteness of truth. The characteristic thing about dogmatic thought is a blind obstinacy. Disregarding all other considerations, the dogmatist, having once taken a decision or absorbed an idea, regards it as incontrovertible under any circumstances. He ignores the element of the relative in knowledge and tends to absolutise everything. Such thinking is inhibited by the very dogma on which it is based. Accepted techniques and methods of thought, old truths tend to repeat themselves and, when using them, people feel they are protected from the danger of mistakes. This kind of thinking sees nothing in the surrounding world but what it knows from the books, instructions, precepts and statements of a real or imagined authority. Dogmatic thought suffers from a great inertia, taking cover behind platitudes, no matter how patently obsolete. In his day Francis Bacon fought against scholasticism with its blind faith in authority and dogmatic style of thought. Soviet psychologists pay considerable attention to the problem-solving and critical capacity of thought, its creative character and the formation of mental techniques in the process of developing education, and also to the process of transforming external practical actions into internal, mental ones, particularly in reference to programmed learning. Basing themselves on the theory of Sechenov, with its genetic, reflectory and objective approach to the structure and mechanism of thought, and also that of Pavlov on the analytico-synthetic activity of the cortex, Soviet psychologists carry detailed studies of the principle of reflection, determinacy and the genetic approach, the inseparable connection between external-objective and internal-subjective manifestations of thought; the principles and problems of the theory of medicine have been further developed on the basis of these studies. The unity between theoretical principles and practical skills in the doctor's professional activity appears in the unusual form of so-called clinical thought. By this we usually mean the combination of conscious and unconscious intellectual operations by means of which the doctor recreates an integral picture of a disease and, on this basis, predicts its course and probable outcome, and arrives at a rapid decision on the measures needed to influence the patient's organism and the personality taken as a whole. Clinical thought is related to the doctor's ability to comprehend a disease not on a local basis but integrally, taking into account the unique features of its manifestation in each specific case. Clinical thought is not limited to the process of making a diagnosis and certain predictions, and it achieves success in cases when it helps the doctor to get a correct orientation among the whole diversity of separate interacting components (symptoms) in the highly complex system presented by the patient's organism. To be effective clinical thought should be integral, i.e., be able to unite a great number of approaches—etiological, pathophysiological, therapeutic, psychological, personal, and so on.
Clinical thought involves a detailed, differentiated and comparative analysis of complex disease symptoms. Since the exponent of clinical thought is an individual doctor with a specific social and moral responsibility, the effectiveness of his thought depends in some degree on his awareness of his specific professional role. Clinical thought should be regarded as the conscious or unconscious application of the dialectical systems method to the theory and practice of medicine. Its successful application in practical activity presupposes that the doctor has certain psychological qualities, such as skill in relating theoretical knowledge to each specific clinical case, with all unique features. Clinical thought develops in a doctor in the process of his accumulation of medical practice, but also presupposes a special gift of quick orientation and an ability to combine the logical and the intuitive.
By treating thought as a product of socio-historical development, as the highest form of active reflection and creativity, dialectical materialism has revealed the initial connection between thought and human practical activity. "The production of ideas, of conceptions, of consciousness is at first directly interwoven with the material activity..; Conceiving, thinking, the mental intercourse of men at this stage still appear as the direct efflux of their material behaviour". The results of man's cognitive and practical activity, fixed in linguistic forms, are passed on by means of the processes of speech communication from one generation to another and become part of a system of knowledge, the subject of which is society. In the integral process of thought its linguistic means, which acquire a certain relative independence of practical activity, create conditions for the transition from separate stages of external-objective cognitive activity to the internal speech plane of consciousness. As a result, the initial sensuous data and practical actions are mediated by ever more complex sets of thought processes, which acquire the ability to separate themselves from external practical activities and emerge in the form of mental work. The social division of labour, the development of private property and the class differentiation of society separate mental work from physical work. Becoming an important factor in cultural progress, this phenomenon in the conditions of a class-divided society leads to the contrasting of theoretical thought to practical thought and to a one-sided interpretation of the relations between them in the various concepts of idealist philosophy, which elevates theoretical thought and its products to the status of a separate existence.
Thought's acquisition of a certain independence in relation to sensuous-object activity may pave the way for various untrue, illusory notions of reality, and this raises the problem of the criterion of the truth of thought. In practically verifiable historical experience certain definite, relatively independent structures and principles, certain rules of thought, take shape and are studied by logic as a special discipline.
In contrast to the idealist view of logical laws as being immanently inherent in thought, dialectical materialism regards them as a generalised reflection of objective relations of reality that have been assimilated by practice. It was human practical activity that was destined to stimulate man's consciousness to abstract various logical figures that have acquired the significance of axioms. From the fact that thought has its roots in human socio-historical experience it follows that thought cannot be regarded as merely a summation of its putative operations or equated with the "thinking" done by logical machines, which perform only the operations that are fed into it by human beings. Machines are nothing more than auxiliary organs of the human brain created by human hands. The true subject of thought remains the person who creates and controls them as a social being. This is also true of modern computers, which can work only on the basis of programmes made by human beings. In the present era of scientific and technological revolution considerable work has been done on modelling human thought by means of computers. This has stimulated the elaboration of the problems of formal logic from new positions, particularly its mathematical apparatus, which enables us to describe and reproduce complex sets of formalised thought operations by computer techniques. Despite the importance of this trend, it does not replace philosophical theory about the general methods of thought, which is based on dialectical logic. The increasing complexity of the problems confronting contemporary science and technology has further developed the logical apparatus of thought, leading to new trends in logic and widely differentiating this discipline, which is now a theory of the self-movement, development, and contradictions of reality, as reflected in the movement of concepts, and of the unity of the semantic and logical aspects of thought. The task of logic is to generalise the achievements of contemporary science, including those sciences that study thought.
To sum up, beginning with sensations and perceptions, continuing in the form of representations and imagination, and rising to the highest stages of theoretical thought, consciousness is a unified process closely connected with the will and emotions. Scientific research also demands a keen, clear and profound intellect, breadth and depth of imagination, and a passionate devotion, without which there never has been and never can be a search for truth. Thoughts live in close unity with emotions. This is understandable, for it is not thought by itself that thinks but an individual moved by certain passions, needs and inclinations. A person begins to know, to think, when he feels the need to understand something. Under the influence of his emotions he may arrive at results that he passionately desires but that are far from reality. Wishful thinking is a well-known phenomenon. At the same time thought, sharpened and inspired by emotion, may penetrate more deeply than dispassionate contemplation.
Logical thought is impossible when separated from the sensuous, from which it stems. At any level of abstraction it comprises certain sensuous components in the form of diagrams, symbols, signs and models.
It is an ancient maxim that there is nothing in the mind that has not been in the sensations. While emphasising the unity of the sensuous and rational stages of cognition, we must nevertheless remember that they possess a relative independence. Thinking is a qualitatively independent whole, which has its own specific structure differing from that of the emotional sensuous consciousness. Between the sensuous consciousness and logical thought there is not only a difference but also a contradiction: thought, confirmed by practice, removes the illusions created by the sensations, and the evidence of the senses corrects and authenticates the veracity of the work of thought.
The basic forms of thought. As the highest form of cognition, thought has a complex intrinsic structure. The basic forms in which it arose, is developing and is realised in practice are the concept, the judgement and the inference. Built up in the course of thousands of years, these supreme intellectual values — concepts, judgements and inferences — are humanity's most priceless possession.
The concept is a form of thought reflecting the essential properties, relations and connections of objects and phenome na in their contradictions and development; it is thought that generalises, grouping the objects of a certain class according to certain specific attributes that they have in common. Our concepts are objective in their content and universal in their logical form, inasmuch as they are related not to the individual but to the general. The human being, the animal, the plant, and so on, are examples of such concepts.
"To conceive" means to grasp the essence of something, to understand the meaning or purpose of a certain action, of certain natural or historical events. But concepts do more than reflect the general; they also differentiate things, their properties and relations, group them together, classify them according to their actual distinctions. Thus the concept "man" may reflect both the essentially universal (that which is inherent in all people) and the essential difference between human beings and the rest of the world.
There are simple, everyday concepts and scientific concepts. The former identify the universal, similar properties of objects and phenomena and record them in words. They erase from the rough marble of the object everything that is individual, specific and "superfluous". This is not to say that the concept is a kind of collective photograph in which images are superimposed on each other, ultimately forming something average.
Scientific concepts reveal the profound properties, what is general, essential and law-governed in an object. Just as the whole is not merely the sum of its parts, so the concept is not merely the sum-total of certain general features. We move on from the sensuous stage of knowledge to logical thought when we proceed from perception and representation to reflection in the form of concepts and, on this basis, to judgements and inferences. Abstract thinking implies operating with concepts. It is thanks to concepts that thought becomes theoretical as well as practical, because the essence of things is perceived only in concepts. Concepts arise from the summing up of human experience, they are compressed travelogues, digests, of the road that has been travelled towards knowledge. A concept is both the sum and the means of cognitive activity.
To think is to make a judgement about something, to discern certain connections and relations between various aspects of an object or between objects. Concepts acquire logical meaning only in a complete judgement. A concept that we cannot develop into a judgement has no logical meaning for us.
The judgement is a form of thought in which something is asserted or denied about something by linking up certain concepts. For example, the sentence "the maple-tree is a plant" is a judgement in which an idea is expressed about the maple-tree, the idea that it is a plant. Knowledge does not lie in impressions but in judgements, because it is through them that we become aware of truth. As the solution of a certain problem a judgement is a cognitive act, but as a means of achieving the solution it is a logical operation. Logical operations are means of establishing the essential connections and relations between ideas that make thought move cognitively from ignorance to knowledge. Thought is impossible without judgements and judgements are impossible without definitions.
A person may arrive at this or that judgement by means of direct observation of a certain fact or by indirect means, with the help of inference. An inference is a process of reasoning in the course of which from one or several judgements, called premises, or assumptions, a new judgement (conclusion) is reached, which follows logically from the premises. When one infers conclusions from a general correct principle, one may arrive at quite unexpected results. Inferences develop not by arbitrary means but according to the laws of thought.
The operations and modes of thought. Comparison is the mother of knowledge. One cannot know what is good unless one knows what is bad, one cannot recognise what is small without seeing something big. One cannot judge the future in any other way than by comparing it with the past and the present. Everything is known through comparison. A comparison is not an explanation, but it helps us to explain things. For example, in order to find out the weight of a certain body
one must be able to compare it with the weight of another body, which is taken as a standard, a measure. In scientific comparison one compares not attributes and relations that are selected at random, but essential attributes and relations.
Analysis and synthesis. The process of cognition begins by our getting a general picture of the object without paying much attention to details, particulars. When we look at a thing in this way, its intrinsic structure and essence remain inaccessible to us. In order to study the essence we must break down the object into parts. Analysis is the breaking-down of objects into their component parts or aspects, and this is done by both practical and theoretical work. By analysis we also mean mental consideration of the specific nature of the components. The essence of an object cannot be understood merely by breaking it down into the elements of which it is composed and examining these elements as such. The chemist subjects meat to various operations and then says: "I have discovered that it consists of oxygen, carbon, hydrogen, and so on." But he knows as well as we do that these substances are no longer meat.
In every field of knowledge there is a limit to the breaking-down of an object beyond which we pass into a world of different qualities and laws. When the particulars, the elements of an object have been sufficiently studied by means of analysis, we come to the next stage of cognition— synthesis, that is to say, the practical, mental integration of the elements that we broke it down into and examined. Analysis establishes the basic thing that distinguishes one part of an object from another. Synthesis reveals what is essentially universal, what links the parts into a single whole. In our thoughts we can break down something that in reality is a relatively independent whole and link up things that are connected or may be connected in the world itself.
In the process of thought a person breaks down an object into its parts in order to discover what these parts are, to discover the composition of the whole, and then to examine it as something consisting of these parts, which have already been examined separately. After this, in the light of reason the whole presents itself not as it was "from the look of it", but much more profoundly, meaningfully, and comprehensively. Analysis, which presupposes synthesis, is concerned primarily with identifying the essential.
Abstraction and idealisation. One cannot take in all the attributes of objects at one glance. Like a searchlight, human thought picks out and illuminates only a certain part of reality at any given moment, while the rest remains in darkness. At any moment in time we can be aware only of some one thing. But even this one thing may have a large number of attributes and relations. We can understand this "one" only if we take it in order of priority, concentrating our attention on certain qualities and connections and ignoring others.
Abstraction is the mental identification, singling out of some object from its connections with other objects, the separation of some attribute of an object from its other attributes, of some relation between certain objects from the objects themselves. Abstraction is a method of mental simplification, by which we consider some one aspect of the process we are studying. The scientist looks at the colourful picture which any object presents in real life through a single-colour filter and this enables him to see that object in only one, fundamentally important aspect. The picture loses many of its shades but gains in clarity. Abstraction has its limit. One cannot abstract the flame from what is burning. The sharp edge of abstraction, like the edge of a razor can be used to whittle things down until nothing is left. Abstraction can never be absolute. The existence of content shows intrinsically in every abstraction. The question of what to abstract and what to abstract from is ultimately decided by the nature of the objects under examination and the tasks confronting the investigator. Kepler, for example, was not interested in the colour of Mars or the temperature of the Sun when he sought to establish the laws of the revolution of the planets.
What we get as a result of the process of abstracting is various concepts about certain objects, such as "plant", "animal", "human being", ideas about the separate properties of objects and the relations between them ("whiteness", "volume", "length", "heat capacity", etc.).
Idealisation as a specific form of abstraction is an important technique in scientific cognition. Abstract objects do not exist and cannot be made to exist in reality, but they have their prototypes in the real world. Pure mathematics operates with numbers, vectors and other mathematical objects that are the result of abstraction and idealisation. Geometry, for example, is concerned with exact circles, but physical object is never exactly circular; perfect roundness is an abstraction. It cannot be found in nature. But it is an . image of the real: it was brought into existence by generalisation from experience. Idealisation is a process of forming concepts, whose real prototypes can be indicated only to a certain degree of approximation. As a result of idealisation there comes into being a theoretical model in which the characteristics and aspects of the objects under investigation are not only abstracted from their actual empirical multiformity but also, by means of mental construction, are made to stand out in a sharper and more fully expressed form than in reality itself. As examples of concepts resulting from idealisation we may take such things as the "point" (an object which has neither length, nor height, nor breadth); or "the straight line", the "circle", and so on.
The use of idealised objects in research allows us to build the abstract schemes or diagrams of real processes that we need in order to penetrate deeper into the laws of their development.
Generalisation and limitation. In the process of generalisation we move from individual concepts to general concepts and from less general concepts to more general ones, from individual judgements to general ones, from statements of less generality to statements of greater generality, from less general theory to more general theory, in relation to which the less general theory becomes a particular case of the more general. We should not be able to cope with the abundance of impressions that surge over us every hour, every minute, every second, if we were not constantly uniting them, generalising them and registering them by means of language. Scientific generalisation is not simply the identification and synthesising of comparable attributes, it is also a penetration into the essence of a thing: the perception of the individual in the multiple, of the general in the individual, of the law-governed, the uniform in the accidental. In order to discover the general one must ignore what veils, over shadows, and sometimes even distorts it. Individualisation and generalisation taken in their unity are the path along which knowledge moves.
As examples of generalisations we may take the mental transition from the concept "spruce" to the concept "conifer", from the statement "mechanical energy turns into heat energy" to the statement "every form of energy turns into another form of energy".
The mental transition from the more general to the less general is a process of limitation. Without generalisation there can be no theory. Theory, on the other hand, is created so that it can be applied in practice to solve certain specific problems. For example, when measuring objects or building certain technical structures, we must always proceed from the more general to the less general and the individual, there must always be a process of limitation. The grotesque fantastic images of mythology with its gods and monsters are closer to ordinary reality than the reality of the microworld conceived in the form of mathematical symbols. One can see that the turn towards the abstract is a very obvious trend of our time. Recourse to the abstract may also be observed in art, in abstract pictures and sculptures.
The abstract and the concrete. The concept of "the concrete" is used in two senses. First, in the sense of something directly given, a sensuously perceived and represented whole. In this sense the concrete is the starting point of cognition. But as soon as we treat it theoretically the concrete becomes a concept, a system of scientific definitions revealing the essential connections and relations of things and events, their unity in diversity. So the concrete appears to us first in the form of a sensuously observable image of the whole object not yet broken down and not understood in its law-governed connections and mediations, but at the level of theoretical thought it is still a whole, but internally differen tiated, understood in its various intrinsic contradictions. The sensuously concrete is a poor reflection of phenomena, but the concrete in thought is a richer, more essential cognition. In contrast to the abstract the concrete is only one moment in the process of cognition, we understand it by comparing it with the abstract. Abstraction usually suggests to us some thing "mental", "conceptual", in contrast to the sensuously observable. The abstract is also thought of as something one-sided, poor, incomplete, separated, or as a property, a relation, a form, etc. withdrawn from its connection with the whole. And in this sense not only a concept but even an observable image, for example, a diagram, a drawing, an abstract painting, stylisation, a symbol may be abstract. The category of abstraction is contradictory. It is dead, one-sided, separated from the living phenomenon, but it is also an essential step towards the knowledge of a concrete fact brimming with life. We call knowledge abstract also in the sense that it reflects a fragment of reality, as it were, stripped down, refined and thereby impoverished.
Abstractions are "bits" of whole objects, and our thinking works with such "bits". From separate abstractions thought constantly returns to the restoration of concreteness, but each time on a new, higher basis. This is the concreteness of concepts, categories, and theories reflecting unity in diversity.
What do we mean by cognition as a process of ascent from the abstract to the concrete? "... Cognition rolls forward from content to content. Above all, this progress is characterised by the fact that it begins with simple definiteness, and that the subsequent definiteness becomes ever richer and more concrete. Because the result contains in itself its beginning and further movement of this beginning has enriched it (the beginning) with a new definiteness. The universal constitutes the base; therefore forward movement should not be under stood as a flow from one thing to another. In the absolute method the concept is preserved in its other-being, the universal in its particularisation, in a judgement and reality; at each stage of further definition the universal elevates the whole mass of its former content and not only does not lose anything as a result of its dialectical forward movement, not only does not leave anything behind itself, but carries with itself everything that it has acquired, and becomes richer and more concentrated within itself." Seen in this light, the process of abstraction is a realisation of the principle: one must step back in order to get a better view. The dialectics of the cognition of reality lies in the fact that by "flying away" from this sensuously given reality on the "wings" of abstraction, one may from the heights of concrete theoretical thought better "survey" the essence of the object under investigation. Such is the history and logic of scientific cognition. Here we have the essence of the Marxist method of ascent from the abstract to the concrete. According to Marx, this method is the means by which thought assimilates the concrete, reproduces it by linking up concepts into an integrated scientific theory, which reproduces the objective separateness of the objects and the unity of its essential properties and relations. The concrete is concrete because it is a synthesis of many definitions, and, consequently, a unity of the diversity. The principle of concreteness means that we must approach facts of natural and social life not with general formulas and diagrams but by taking into exact account all the real conditions in which the target of our research is located and distinguish the most important, essential properties, connections, and tendencies that determine its other aspects.
Analogy. In the literal sense this word means correspondence, that is to say, an objective relationship between objects that makes it possible to apply the information gained through investigating one object to another object that is similar in certain respects.
Analogy, which links the threads of the unknown with the known, lies at the very heart of our understanding of facts. The new can be understood only through the images and concepts of the old, of what is known. The first aeroplanes were invented by analogy with the behaviour of other, objects in flight, such as birds or kites.
An analogy is a similarity, a probable conclusion about a resemblance between two objects on the basis of a re semblance established in other respects. This conclusion, moreover, is more likely to be true, more heuristic and convincing, the more similar attributes we find in the objects under comparison and the more essential these attributes are. The application of analogy may lead to erroneous conclusions. Hence the aphorism: the principle of analogy is a technique of cognition that limps on both legs. For example, when comparing the Earth and Moon, Kant found a number of attributes that were common to these celestial bodies and drew the conclusion that the Moon must be inhabited. Analogy with something that is already known helps us to understand what is not known. Analogy with that which is relatively simple helps us to understand that which is more complex. For example, by analogy with the techniques of artificial selection used to produce the best breeds of domestic animals Charles Darwin arrived at the law of natural selection in the animal and vegetable world. Analogy with the flow of liquid in a pipe played an important role in the evolution of the theory of the electric current. Observation of the workings of the brain has provided an important heuristic technique for inventing logical machines, computers and so on. The most developed field where the method of analogy is often used is the so-called similarity theory, which is widely used in modelling.
Modelling. A characteristic feature of modern scientific cognition is the enhanced role of the method of modelling, which is used with great effect in the technical, natural, and social sciences. Modelling is the practical or theoretical replacement of the object of research by some natural or artificial analogue whose investigation helps us to understand the essence of the original object. For example, by examining the properties of a model aeroplane we get a better understanding of the properties of the real thing.
Modelling is based primarily on the principle of reflection, on similarity, analogy, on different objects having certain properties in common, and on the relative independence of form.
One starts out to build a theory of modelling by defining the concept "model", which is often identified with theory, hypothesis, image. The model is a materially realised or mentally represented system that replaces the object we wish to know or construct. The model and the original are in a relation of similarity (isomorphism), of analogy, or physical resemblance, as, for example, the model of a gas in the form of elastic balls, the model of an electric current in the form of a liquid flowing along pipes, the "conductors". Any object that reproduces the required features of the original may be a model.
If a model has a physical nature identical to that of the original, we are concerned with physical modelling. When a model is described by the same system of equations as the object itself, such modelling is called mathematical modelling. If certain aspects of modelled objects are represented by a formalised system of symbols, which is then studied in order to transfer the acquired information to the modelled object itself, we are concerned with logic-sign modelling. Cybernetic modelling is functional in character. The model and the original may be different in their substratum, their energy processes and internal causal mechanisms, but they resemble each other in their behaviour.
Modelling inevitably involves a certain simplification of the object that is modelled. At the same time it plays an enormous heuristic role. Modelling is so widely used because it enables us to carry out research into processes characteristic of the original without having the original actually to hand.
Formalisation. The advances of modern science have brought profound changes in the methods of scientific cognition. One of the most important is the method of formalisation—generalisation of the forms of processes that differ in content, abstraction of these forms from their content. Here the form is regarded as a relatively independent object of research. It is sometimes thought that formalisation is connected only with mathematics, with mathematical logic and cybernetics. This is incorrect. Formalisation permeates all kinds of practical and theoretical activity and differs only in degree or level. Historically it arose at the same time as language. Certain techniques of labour activity, certain skills emerged, were generalised, described and passed on from generation to generation in a form divorced from the concrete actions, objects and means of labour. Our ordinary everyday language expresses the weakest level of formalisation. Its other extreme is mathematics, and mathematical logic, which studies the form of a process of reasoning by abstracting from the content. Here formalisation strips thought to the bare bones and leaves only the skeleton of its structure. Any book or article on physics, chemistry, astronomy, impresses the non-specialist by the abundance of its mathematical and other symbols and formulas and at the same time by the amazing compactness of its descriptions of natural phenomena in ordinary language.
When we formalise a line of reasoning, we abstract from the qualitative characteristics of objects and discover the logical form of the statements containing assertions about these objects. The syllogism, the line of reasoning is then transferred from the plane of considering the connections between objects in thought to the plane of operation with statements on the basis of the formal relations between them. The use of special symbols enables us to eliminate the ambiguity of the words used in everyday language. In formalised reasoning every symbol is strictly univalued, unambiguous. Symbols also allow us to record briefly and economically expressions which in ordinary language are clumsy and often difficult to understand. The main advantage of the language of formulas is not so much its brevity and compactness, as its freedom from ambiguity. The word "water" has more than one meaning but the formlua H20 has only one. The use of symbols makes it easier to draw logical conclusions from premises, to test the veracity of hypotheses, to prove scientific statements, and so on.
Despite its enormous importance for modern technology, formalisation has certain intrinsic limits to its sphere of application. It has been proved that there is no universal method that would allow us to replace all reasoning by computation. Only a very meagre content can be completely formalised. Formalisation can deal with only a little bit of ever changing life, taken one-sidedly, within the limits of its relative stability. Formalisation, as we have defined it, cannot be used for describing facts, which is an essential element in any scientific research. Scientific wisdom tells us that we should never be in a hurry to formalise when the subject-matter, the essence of the case is still not clear.
With the growing influence of abstraction and symbolism in the advance of knowledge, the problem of interpretation becomes increasingly acute. Just as abstraction becomes meaningless without concretisation, so formalisation ultimate ly proves sterile without interpretation. Whereas formalisation is the process of the motion of thought from the content of the object to its abstract form, interpretation is the converse, logically opposite process. A formal system is built on the basis of meaning and, once it is built, again returns to the sphere of meaningful relations. Abstraction from content is only a temporary process. The reverse process may be fairly often observed in modern science. At first certain abstract mathematical equations are evolved and studied, a formal system is devised, and then applied concretely.
Historical and logical methods. From the two main aspects of objective process of cognition we draw two methods, the historical and logical. The logical method is used to express the general line, the pattern of development of an object, the development of society from one social formation to another, for example. The historical method is used to describe a concrete manifestation of a given pattern or law in all the infinite diversity of its specific and individual manifestations. In relation to society, for example, this is the real history of all countries and peoples with all their unique, individual destinies.
The logical is a generalised reflection of the historical: it reflects reality in its law-governed development and explains the necessity of this development. The logical is the historical, liberated from the principles of chronology, from its accidental and unique form. For example, when applied to the history of any science, the logical method of research presupposes a generalisation of the historical process, its stripping of all the transient, accidental turns or zigzags evoked by various, often external, relative factors, such as the zigzags of thought of a particular scholar, changes in historical circumstances, and so on.
The logical method of research into the actual historical process is thus a matter of abstracting from the real historical process its intrinsic necessity and analysing that necessity in a logically "purified" form.
The empirical and the theoretical in thought. Observation, experiment, description. The motion of cognitive thought begins with the empirical, with the observation and establish ing of facts, their analysis and classification, and goes on from there to their generalisation, the making of hypotheses, the testing of these hypotheses and, finally, the construction of theories. Observation is an intentional, planned process of perception, carried out in order to identify the essential properties and relations in the object of cognition. Observa tion may be direct or indirect, mediated by various technical devices (molecules, for example, are now visually observed by means of electronic microscopes). Observation acquires scientific significance when it allows us on the basis of a research programme to present objects with maximum precision and may be repeated several times in conditions that we deliberately vary. The important thing is to select the most representative group of facts. Hence the importance of the researcher's intention, the system of methods he adopts and his interpretation of results and their control.
The success of observation depends on how well it has been prepared, on the setting of its targets, the demands that it should fulfil and the preliminary drawing up of a plan and method of observation. This indicates its close connection with thought. Observation registers what is given by nature itself. But it is in the nature of man not merely to observe but also to experiment.
The experiment is a method of research by which the object is artificially reproduced or placed in certain conditions that answer the needs of the researcher. The history of scientific thought, particularly natural science, abounds in examples of brilliant experiments that have allowed us to examine, to have a glimpse into the most profound secrets of nature. By means of experiment Faraday discovered magnetic induction, Lebedev discovered the pressure of light, and so on.
The method of varying the conditions in which the object of research is usually found is the basic method of experiment. This allows us to uncover the causal connection between its conditions of existence and its properties, and also the changes that take place in these properties as we change the conditions, thus revealing new properties that could not be observed in natural conditions. For example, in laboratories of artificial climate one can more or less precisely determine the influence of temperature, light, humidity, etc., on the growth and development of plants. Because certain properties of an object change (or emerge anew) as conditions change, and others do not suffer any essential changes, we can make abstractions, ignoring the latter.
The characteristic features of experiment are control of conditions, measuring of processes and use of a specific instruments and apparatus. The growing sophistication of the methods and techniques of experiment, giving it greater flexibility and precision are largely responsible for current scientific advance.
An experiment may be repeated several times and produce a large number of observations to prove its conclusions. "Observation and experiment are crafts which are systematically taught. Sometimes, by a genius, they are raised to the level of an art. There are rules to be observed: isolation of the system considered, restriction of the variable factors, varying of the conditions until the dependence of the effect on a single factor becomes evident; in many cases exact measurements and comparison of figures are essential." In order to mount an experiment, just as when we are making observa tions, there must be some preliminary knowledge. The researcher must have a certain general notion of the object as something on which to hook the facts. In most cases an experiment is conducted in order to decide whether certain theoretical constructions are true or false. A scientific experiment is usually preceded by some hypothesis, by a mentally devised experimental situation and its possible results, and this predetermines the specific angle from which the object is examined. It is through the prism of these constructs and hypotheses that the scientist examines the object and dissects its structure in his experimental activity. If you look through an electronic microscope at a physical or biological object, without the right scientific qualification and a well thought-out hypothesis you will see nothing but a few blobs of light and colour. For what you see to become meaningful you must have a certain training in the given field of knowledge and certain preliminary ideas. These general notions or suppositions, working hypotheses, are drawn from previous observations, and experiments, and from the general human experience, and provide the guidelines for further experiment. Observation and experiment, whether practical or performed in the mind, cannot produce any effective results without a clearly conceived goal. If you have no ideas in your head, you won't see any facts either.
During and as a result of observation and experiment we arrive at description. Description is done by means of generally accepted terms, visually, in the form of graphs, diagrams, photographs and films and, symbolically, in the form of mathematical or chemical formulas and so on. The basic scientific demand in description is authenticity, precision in reproducing the data of observation and experiment. Description may be complete or incomplete. It always presupposes a certain systematisation of the material, that is to say, its classification and generalisation. Pure description takes place only at the very beginning of scientific work. As scientific knowledge is acquired, the scientist employs the so-called mental experiment, when he operates with certain images in his mind and puts the object of research into certain conditions which, according to his general notion, should help to achieve the desired result. This is the usual process of theoretical thought taking the form of an experiment. An experiment pursues a double purpose, the testing and confirmation of a hypothesis, and also the heuristic factor. The answer given by the experiment may sometimes be unexpected, in which case the experiment becomes the prime source of a new theory. This was how the theory of radioactivity came into being, for example, and it illustrates the heuristic importance of experiment. Experiment and its results are something that we obtain through our senses. Thought judges the nature of the object through experiment. In itself an experiment only establishes certain facts. Thought penetrates into their essence. What the scientist sees through his microscope or observes through a telescope or a spectroscope demands a certain amount of interpretation. This means that experimental activity has a rather complex structure: the theoretical basis of experiment is scientific theory, hypothesis; the material basis of the experiment is the various instruments and measuring devices that are used; then we have the actual conducting of the experiment, the experimental observation of phenomena and processes, the quantitative and qualitative analysis of its results, and their theoretical generalisation. Consequently,. an experiment comprises both practical and theoretical activity, the latter being predominant. Observation and experiment enable us to test the authenticity of a fact or a hypothesis.
What is a fact? A fact is a phenomenon of the material or intellectual world which has become an authenticated part of our knowledge. It is the registering of certain phenomena, certain properties and relations. Science begins and ends with facts, regardless of what theoretical constructs are made in between.
The statement that an object exists is the first but very limited stage in cognition. The establishing of the fact of a criminal case has supreme significance for the court. A court must be certain that the fact which is being investigated did actually take place. Similarly, the surgeon cannot begin an operation or the general practitioner has no right to prescribe a drug and certain treatment without diagnosis, i.e. without establishing the fact of a certain illness.
A scientific fact is the result of reliable observation and experiment. It appears in the form of direct observation of objects, the readings of apparatus, photographs, descriptions of experiments, tables, diagrams, notes, archive documents, authenticated evidence of witnesses, and so on. But in themselves the facts are not yet science, just as building material is not yet a building. Facts are woven into the fabric of science only when they are selected, classified, generalised and explained, at least hypothetically. The task of scientific cognition is to reveal the cause of a given fact, to define its essential properties and establish a uniform link between facts. The facts that science values most are those that do not fit into any existing theories. It is from the explanation of such facts that we may hope for scientific advance.
The fact contains quite a lot of accident. But science is mainly interested in what is law-governed. The basis of scientific analysis is not simply an individual fact but a large number of facts that reflect a basic tendency. There is no limit to the number of facts. From their abundance one must make a reasonable selection of those that are needed for getting at the essence of the problem. The history of cognition tells us that scientific generalisation is performed on the basis of a finite number of facts. Generalisation that leads to the establishing of a law may be achieved even on the basis of only one fact, as long as it is typical or characteristic.
Facts acquire scientific value if there is a theory to interpret them, if there is a method to classify them, if they are studied in their relation to other facts. Only by having mutual connections and integrity can facts serve as the basis for theoretical generalisation. Taken in isolation, facts can prove nothing. From a tendentious selection of facts one can build any "theory", but it will have no scientific value.
Hypothesis. Science begins when we enter the realm of the unknown and start making suppositions, conjectures, hypotheses. It is always much easier to make suppositions than to prove them. The conjecture is a supposition that has not yet been proved but sets out to explain certain facts. Its becoming a hypothesis involves the finding of arguments, the conversion of a miracle into something knowable.
The hypothesis is a supposition based on facts, a starting-point for investigation of a part of reality that has not been sufficiently studied. It is a kind of probe with which the scientist takes his first soundings in the world of the unknown, or, to use another image, the scaffolding which is erected and then taken down when the building is finished. The hypothesis has a purely auxiliary, heuristic significance, it helps us to make a discovery. "If the only laws that you find are those which you have just finished observing then you can never make any predictions. Yet the only utility of science is to go on and to try to make guesses. So what we always do is to stick our necks out.... Of course, this means that science is uncertain; the moment that you make a proposition about a region of experience that you have not directly seen, then you must be uncertain. But we always must make statements about the regions that we have not seen, or the whole business is no use. So we have to make guesses in order to give any utility at all to science."
As a rule, the formulation of hypotheses is the most difficult part of the work of theoretical thinking. No one has yet found a method of stating a hypothesis according to certain rules. A hypothesis is a necessary precondition for the collection of facts, their sorting out and classification.
A hypothesis is substantiated and proved by analysis of accumulated knowledge, its comparison with the already known empirical facts, with new facts, and also with facts that may be established in the future. In other words, the substantiation of a hypothesis presupposes its evaluation from the standpoint of the explanatory effectiveness of the available facts and the previsioning of new facts.
Like a theory, a hypothesis appears as a generalisation of already existing knowledge. At the same time the knowledge contained in a hypothesis does not follow necessarily from previously existing knowledge. A hypothesis is new knowl edge, stochastic knowledge that has not yet been properly proved. In this sense one can say that the essential difference between the hypothesis and the theory is that the content, arguments and conclusions of the former are less definite and reliable.
In its further development the hypothesis may completely or partially become authentic knowledge or it may be utterly rejected. So an essential condition for the truly scientific hypothesis is that it should not be condemned to remain a hypothesis forever, that it should be either provable or refutable.
Testing is done not only by means of facts but also by confirmation, through experiment, of the consequences of the hypothesis that is to be tested.
What is theory? Theory is an internally differentiated, developing system of objectively true, practically tested scientific knowledge that explains a law concerning phenome na in a certain field. Unlike the hypothesis, the theory provides reliable knowledge (including reliable knowledge of the probability of certain events). For example, the idea of the atomic structure of matter remained for a long time only a hypothesis. When confirmed by experiment, this hypothesis became authentic knowledge, it became the theory of the atomic structure of matter.
A mature theory is not only a system of knowledge that is stable or in the process of being realised. It includes a certain thought mechanism for constructing and developing knowl edge, a programme of research. A theory is changed by incorporating in it new facts, ideas and principles. When a contradiction is discovered in a certain theory, a contradiction that cannot be resolved in the framework of its initial principles, the resolving of this contradiction leads to a new theory.
The core of scientific theory is its laws. Theory may be said to have the following essential elements: its initial empirical basis (facts registered in the given field of knowledge, experimental data that require theoretical explanation); various assumptions, postulates or axioms; the rules of logical inference and proof admissible within the framework of a given theory; the conclusions and their proofs which form the basic stock of theoretical knowledge, and finally the scientific laws, and some kind of prediction of future developments.
The multiplicity of the forms of modern theoretical knowledge has a corresponding multiplicity of types of theory and also a wide diversity of classification. We may distinguish descriptive theories, which systematise usually very extensive and heterogeneous material; mathematised theories, which use the apparatus and models of mathematics; theories in which the main role is played by empirical interpretation; deductive theoretical systems, in which both the initial propositions and the logical rules of construction and development are strictly fixed. This kind of theory is also broken down into a number of different types.
Both on the empirical and the theoretical level thought has the power to anticipate events. Even at the elementary, everyday level it is clear that in order to exist people must be able to foresee at least the things that matter for their own survival. And these can only be foreseen on the basis of reliable knowledge of at least certain properties of the whole, a small part of which is the knowing subject. One can foresee or predict only in areas where there is order, an objective logic that can be understood.
Knowledge of causal, law-governed connections and under standing of the essence of things enable us from time to time to break out of the confines of the present and have a glimpse into the mysterious future, to perceive the existence of things not yet known and predict the probable and necessary occurrence of events. Prevision is the crown of scientific cognition. It reveals the far horizons of natural phenomena or historical events. The prognosticating power of our thought increases with the study of historical experience. Without history there can be no theory, and without both of these there can be no true prevision. Prevision shows that scientific thought can make the forces of nature and the forces that control the life of society serve the needs of humanity. "To control is to foresee", states an ancient maxim.
Prevision constitutes the highest stage in the "conversion of the complex into the simple", which is the aim of any gifted scientist, who through the darkness of the unknown and the infinite fluidity of individual phenomena discerns the basic significance of events and senses their main current.
All advance of knowledge is connected with growth in the power and range of scientific prevision. Prevision offers the opportunity of controlling processes and guiding them. Scientific knowledge reveals the possibility not only of foreseeing future but also of consciously shaping that future. The vital importance of any science may be defined as follows: to know in order to foresee, to foresee in order to act.
To foresee, this is what humanity has dreamed of since the very beginning, and it has often endowed the heroes of myth and fairy-tale with this gift. The history of science is in many respects the history of prevision, whose power and range are the evidence of the maturity of theoretical thought. This is quite understandable. In order to make a forecast one must know the diagnosis. Theoretical thought has always needed the guidance of certain precepts, rules and methods. Without them our reason would surely lose its way on its long road through the unknown.
The difficulty of prevision and overcoming the limits of human capacities is particularly noticeable in the sphere of social life, where we are confronted with tendency laws. Because the history of human society obeys not dynamic but statistical laws, it would be unrealistic to demand mathemati cal precision in forecasting the time and character of future events and, even less, the actual form they will assume. And whereas prevision may be precise in relation to events whose occurrence is determined by already existing laws, causes and conditions, the specific features of the future, which depend on circumstances that have not yet come about, cannot be precisely envisaged. The depth of mental penetration into the future and the precision of prognostication in regard to the events of social life greatly depend on the extent to which the conditions that determine these events have been prepared.
The creative power of human reason. By means of thought we not only learn the existing, we also create what should be. The very understanding of reality is a profoundly creative process. Creativity is an activity of the human mind whose result is the creation of unique values, the establishing of new facts, the discovery of hitherto unknown properties and regularities and also methods of knowing and changing reality. The originality of a discovery or invention may be considered objective, if it appears as such in the context of a whole culture, or subjective, if it is original only for the author. The process of creativity begins from the identification of a problem and goes on to the formulating of conjectures and hypotheses. It presupposes the ability not only to state but also to solve problems, to generate new ideas, which in turn presupposes thinking independently of established stereotypes and demands a moral standpoint dictated by the essence of the case and not by opportunistic considerations. Reason constructs image goals which regulate the practical creation of the new. The creative principle in the broad sense is characteristic of nature as a whole. Nature is inexhaustibly creating the new, for example, the fantastic shapes of crystals, living organisms, cosmic systems. Creativity in nature appears as a self-propelling active process of develop ment, as the self-generation of more and more new structures of existence. Creativity is to be found also in animals, particularly the higher animals. It is expressed in their behavioural inventiveness, in their constructive solutions of problematic situations. But the creative power of reason is the privilege of man. Our remote ancestors' invention of the first cutting tool was a creative act. However primitive they may be, their paintings, sculptures, fairy-tales, legends, means of healing and much else are all manifestations of the creative power of reason. This power of the mind is a vital necessity for human existence. It is the human being's essential characteristic. Discoveries in science, technical inventions, works of art, innovation in politics and in all spheres of life are facts of the creative activity of the mind. Without them there could be no social life. Thinking may not always be creative. It may also be stereotyped, moving in a rut, reproducing results that are already known, and bringing about both in method and in result only something that has been learned beforehand, programmed, at best finding only tiny grains of the new as it plods along the beaten track. The rope ladder of stereotyped thinking rules out cultural prog ress. Such a "dormant" life of thought indicates an unhealthy state of the mind and even of the whole socium. The degree of stereotyped or creative thinking may vary from one person to another. The creatively thinking individual experiences in spired moments and moments of depression while the person who thinks in stereotypes may produce something that is not merely trivial. This variation ranges from the total dogmatism of those who blindly and persistently repeat what they have learned by heart, to the eagle flight of the genius, who is always sparkling with originality. Creativity demands tremendous effort and sometimes also an ability to relax completely, so that one can give oneself up freely to the play of associative images and thus become receptive to information which may be, as it were, hovering in the atmosphere. The power of creativity is related to imaginative power, which gives man wings for high-soaring thought. By allowing him to rise above reality, imagination may indirectly bring his thought nearer to it. There is no sphere of the mind where logic alone is sufficient, and often the power of imagination brings us by the most devious roads to the temple of truth. The laws of imagination are still wrapped in mystery. It operates sometimes on the principle of analogy, which has produced quite a number of great discoveries and inventions. Creativity is not only a conscious act of the mind, it is also the unconscious spontaneity of mental phenomena, within which something unusual, something new may come into being. Only later can it be grasped by the controlling power of reason and fitted into the tabulated framework of logic. A person may arrive at the truth both by the power of reasoning and by an instantaneous leap of intuition, when he grasps the essence of the problem without argument or proof. Here previous experience and certain complex bioinformational interactions between people are both at work. Intuition and imagination play an enormous role in creative activity. To them humanity is indebted for much cultural progress, but their power is effective only in alliance with the power of the rationally thinking mind, guided by the standards of a historically formed culture.
Karl Marx, Frederick Engels, "The German Ideology", Collected Works, Vol. 5, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1976, p. 36.
Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel's Werke, Vollständige Ausgabe. Fünfter Band. Wissenschaft der Logic. Berlin, 1834, Verlag von Duncker und Humblot, S. 348-49.
Max Born, The Natural Philosophy of Cause and Chance, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1949, p. 6.
Richard Feynman, The Character of Physical Law. A series of lectures recorded by the BBC at the Cornell University U.S.A. and televised on BBC-2 British Broadcasting Corporation, 1965, pp. 76-77.