E. V. Ilyenkov 1974

The Universal

Written: 1974;
Source: The Autodidact Project;
First Published: in Philosophical Investigations in the USSR, edited by Frederick J. Adelmann, 1975, pp. 26-51.

What is the “universal”?

What should one understand by this word if vagueness and misunderstanding are to be avoided at least while reading two adjacent paragraphs? In the literal sense of the word “vseobshchee” (universal) means “obshchee vsem” (common to all). “Vsem” (all) stands for the individuals whose infinite multitude makes up the first-glance impression of the world we live in or speak about. But this is perhaps all that is indisputable and similarly understood by one and all about the “universal.” Leaving aside for now the properly philosophical controversies about the “universal,” it will be noted that the very term “obshchee” (universal) is applied rather haphazardly in living language because it has among its “denotations” not only different or non-coincident, but directly opposite and mutually exclusive, objects and designations. The Dictionary of the Modern Russian Language recounts twelve such meanings, with two hardly compatible ones found at the extremes of the spectrum. “Common,” even though to some two, not to mention “all,” is that which belongs to the composition of either, as does the quality of being bipedal and mortal to Socrates and Caius or velocity to electron and train, and cannot exist separately from these two individuals. Also understood as “common” is that which exists apart from these two individuals, precisely as a thing or yet another individual, like common ancestor, common – one for two (for all), field, common motor-car or kitchen, common friend or acquaintance, and so on, and so forth.

Apparently, the same word, the same “sign” does not serve in these cases to designate at all the same thing. Whether this should be regarded as one of the “imperfections” of the natural language or, contrariwise, the advantage of flexibility that the natural language has over the rigid definitions of artificial languages, this remains a fact and a fairly typical one, and, therefore, calls for an explanation.

In the case of the absolute non-ambiguity of a term, the definition (and application) is assumed for the ideal of the “language of science.” The science which seeks an accurate definition of universal logical categories is duty-bound to come to terms with this “ambiguity” of the term “common” in the living language, – at least, in order not to be misunderstood whenever the “common” and “general” come under discussion.

Of course, the fact of ambiguity can be merely brushed off by assuming one of the opposite meanings for the initial one and declaring the other as illegitimate and, subsequently, discarding it on account of the “non-scientific character” of the natural language. But then one would have to coin another term, another “sign” to designate this “illegitimate” meaning and thereupon try to clarify the relationship of the newly-devised sign to the term “common,” i.e., to revive, even though in a different verbal form, the former problem.

Let us make an assumption and grant that one can use “common” as connoting solely the abstract oneness, the identical, or the invariant which can be revealed in the composition of two (or more) sensuously perceived individual “facts” (“extra-lingual facts”). Let us further assume that it has been agreed upon not to use (nor to imply) the meaning that the word has in the word combinations “common field,” “common ancestor,” “common friend (foe),” and so on. Then, the word is quite plainly used to define a solitary object (individual) which exists and is conceived apart from, and independently of, the individuals to which it presents itself as something “common.”

Assuming further that we have also ruled out of “scientific language” expressions such as “Zhuchka is a dog,” “logic is a science,” where the common (in the sense we made legitimate) appears also as the direct definition of an individual (particular) thing or object presented in contemplation (in “sensation,” in imagination, in fact, anywhere but in the language) and we will go on to use the cumbersome verbal constructions invented for this purpose by “relational logic.” Then it would seem as if the difficulties concerned with the relationship of the “common” to the individual would vanish from our language, and would no longer be expressed in it. And just that. For they all will remain and reappear under a somewhat different cloak, as difficulties concerning the relationship of “language in general” to “extra-linguistic facts.” And this admission wouldn’t make them any easier to handle or solve. Once again they would arise in “language” striving to express “extra-linguistic facts.”

We shall not analyze in more detail those innumerable and fruitless attempts to settle the logical problem (of defining the “common”) through its replacement by another one concerned with the techniques of expression in a “language” of “extra-linguistic facts”: the techniques capable, allegedly, of sparing the intellect the difficulties concerned with the inter-relationship of the “common” and the “individual,” and from the “ambiguities” and “dubieties” of the natural language. The entire lengthy and rather ill-famed case-history of neo-positivism comes down to a kind of reciprocal refutation and back-biting. This belated attempt to refurbish nominalism with all its metaphysics (and the interpretation of the object of thinking as an unbound sea of “atomized facts,”) rejecting (on grounds totally unknown) the objective reality of the common and the universal, has proven with sufficient clarity that the solution sought-for cannot be found along these lines.

The “natural language,” in any case, does not exclude the reality of the “common” outside the language; as a result, Plato’s or Hegel’s metaphysics is expressible in this language in no less correct terms than the metaphysics of neo-positivism. Natural language at least allows us to express in words the problem which the “language of science” is vainly attempting to rule out by declaring it “inexpressible.” Yet the “language of science” comes back to it continually in roundabout ways by formulating it inadequately or transporting it to the plane of pure psycho-physiology or linguistics, – as a problem of the relationship of the verbal sign to its “meaning.” For example, the proponents of the language of science try to express the sum-total of the individual, the once-given and unique “experiences,” i.e., the fleeting “states” of the psychophysiology of the human individual.

If so formulated, the issue of the essence of the “common” (universal) becomes irrelevant, but this would be merely to surrender to the problem, not to resolve it. In real life (not least of all the life of a theorist) and, therefore, in the living language called upon to express this life, the problem of the universal and its relationship to the individual by no means disappears.

But then it is pertinent to ask: is it possible to find out anything about the two extreme – and mutually exclusive – meanings of the word “common,” equally valid by virtue of their presence in the living language, and to discover what they have in common, i.e., to find out the source of this difference of meanings?

The way that the word’s interpretation has been proclaimed as “singularly correct” in the tradition of formal logic makes this impossible; in other words, no such “common feature” in the definition of either meaning of the term “common” can be discovered. It is clear nevertheless, and even to neo-positivists, the staunchest supporters of the above tradition, that in the latter case, just as in so many others, we are dealing with relative words, much like human relatives, which may have nothing in common, and still bear – with equal right – the same family name.

Such a relationship between the terms of the “natural language” was recorded by L. Wittgenstein as fairly typical: Churchill-A has with Churchill-B the family likenesses a, b, c; Churchill-B shares with Churchill-C the features b, c, d; Churchill-D has as few as one single feature in “common” with Churchill-A while Churchill-E and Churchill-A have not even one feature, nothing whatever in common, except their name, and their common ancestor, we should add.

In this case it is crystal-clear that the character of the common ancestor and the founder of the Churchill family will be hard to reconstruct by abstracting those – and only those – “common features” which were genetically conserved by all his descendants. These common features are simply non-existent. Meanwhile the common name, the proof of the common origin, is there.

Much the same is true of the very term “common.” The original meaning of the word cannot be reconstructed through a purely formal juncture of “features” into one family, or bringing into one “kin” all descendant terms, for, by way of expanding the analogy, Churchill-Alpha would have to be portrayed as an individual both fair- and dark-haired (= not fair-haired); big and little; snub- and hook-nosed and so on.

But this is where the analogy ends up in all likelihood, for at the sources of the kin-family there are always two genetical lines, so that Churchill-Alpha is not to blame for more than 50 per cent of the family likenesses in his direct descendants. Which ones in particular? That is the question which purely formal means will perhaps fail to answer.

The situation with relative terms is somewhat different. For the ancestor, as a rule, hardly ever dies but continues his life side-by-side with his descendants, as does an individual with other individuals; the question here boils down to finding out, among the available particular individuals, the one who preceded in birth all the others and was able, therefore, to give birth to the rest. This comes about without any contribution on the part of the second, extraneous genetical line and one which could be held responsible for the emergence of “common features” incompatible in any one person; and so their relation to one another will be that of a purely logical negation.

Among the “features” of the common ancestor who continues alive amidst his posteriors, one is bound to suggest an ability to generate something contrary to himself – the ability to generate both, a big man (relative to himself) and, on the contrary, a little man (again relative to himself). Logically, this leads one to infer that the “common ancestor” may well be visualized as an individual of medium height, with a straight nose and light grey hair, i.e., one who “combines,” even though potentially, contrasting definitions; or who contains inside himself as though in a state of solution or mixture – this trait and that, its direct opposite. Thus, grey color can be easily thought of as a mixture of black and white, i.e., as black and white simultaneously, in the same person, and at the same time to boot. There is virtually nothing here incompatible with the “good sense” which positivists like to recruit as their ally in their attacks against dialectical logic.

Nevertheless, this is the one point about which there appears to be two distinctly incompatible viewpoints in logic, especially in trying to understand the “common” (universal). One is that of dialectics, and, the other that which stipulates the ultimately formal conception of the problem of the “common” and is unwilling to admit into logic the idea of evolution as being organically linked to the concept of substance both in essence and in origin. I stress an evolution linked to the concept of substance, i.e., the principle of the genetic similarity of phenomena which at first glance one puts down as basically heterogeneous, because of the failure to find any abstract common “features” between them. This fact accounts for the inimical, not to say spitefully annoyed, attitude of the neo-positivist leaders to this respectable category. Precisely this proposition was seen by Hegel, for one, as the point of divergence, the parting of the ways between dialectical (or “speculative” in his terms of reference) and purely formal thinking. It was this kind of understanding that he identified as the profound and ample advantage of Aristotle’s mind over the minds of those of his followers in the field of Logic who have presumed and are presuming themselves to be the singularly legitimate heirs of Aristotle in the field of Logic while declaring invalid the line of development of Spinoza, Hegel and Marx:

“Was nun das Verhältnis dieser drei Seelen ist, wie man sie nennen kann, indem man sie jedoch mit Unrecht so scheidet, so bemerkt Aristoteles hierüber ganz richtig, dass nicht eine Seele zu suchen sei, welche das Gemeinschaftliche derselben sei und in keiner bestimmten und einfachen Form einer jener Seelen gemäss sei, – als Teile verschiedener Wesen. Dies ist eine tiefe Bemerkung, wodürch sich das wahrhaft spekulative Denken unterscheidet vom bloss logisch-formellen Denken ... ‘Wie unter den Figuren auch nur das Dreieck und die anderen bestimmten Figuren, ...’ Quadrat, Parallelogramm usf, ... wirklich etwas seien. Denn das Gemeinschaftliche ist die Figur; diese allgemeine Figur [more precisely, the figure in general – E.J.], die gemeinschaftlich ist, ist aber nicht, ... ist nichts Wahrhaftes, ist das Nichts, ein leeres Gedankengut, ist nur ein Abstraktum ... ‘Hingegen das Dreieck ist die erste Figur, die wahrhafte allgemeine, welche auch im Viereck usf. vorkommt, ... ’ – die Figur auf die einfachste Bestimmung zurückgeführt. Einerseits steht das Dreieck so neben dem Quadrat, Fünfeck usf., als ein Besonderes neben diesen; aber - und dies ist der grosse Sinn des Aristoteles – es ist wahrhafte Figur, die wahrhaft allgemeine Figur [more precisely, the figure in general – E.J.] ... Aristoteles will dies sagen: Ein leeres Allgemeines ist dasjenige, das nicht selbst existiert oder nicht selbst Art ist. In der Tat ist alles Allgemeine reell als Besonderes, Einzelnes, als seiend für Anderes. Aber jenes Allgemeine ist so reell, dass es selbst, ohne weitere Änderung, seine erste Art ist; weiter entwickelt gehört es nicht hierher, ist überhaupt das Prinzip der Realisierung ...” [1]

If we view from this standpoint the problem of defining “the common in general” as a universal (logical) category which seems to have nothing to do with the problem of theoretical reconstruction of the “common ancestor” of a family of related meanings, then we can only dimly hope to solve it.

The formal-logical guideline which directs one to search for the abstract, i.e., something common to all individual specimens of the same “kin,” (and having the same name) does not work in this case. The “universal” is not to be found in this way, for the sole reason that it is really missing here. It is not to be found either as the “feature” or definition actually common to all individuals, nor as a likeness or identity typical of each of these, if they are taken independently of one another.

Needless to say, a certain linguistic dexterity may help to find the “identity” everywhere but then it would hardly have any significance except a nominal one.

What does the reader have in “common” with a book? That both belong to the three-dimensional Euclidean space? Or that both of them comprise carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, etc.?

What is “common” between the employer and employee? Or consumption and production?

Clearly, the concrete-empirical, apparent essence of the relation that binds together various phenomena (individuals) into some “one,” into a common “set,” is by no means delineated and expressed by their abstract-common feature, nor in the definition equally characteristic of both. The unity (“or commonness”) is provided much sooner by the “feature” which one individual possesses and another does not. The very absence of the known feature ties one individual to another much stronger than its equal presence in both.

Two absolutely identical individuals each of whom possesses the same set of knowledge, habits, proclivities, etc., would find themselves absolutely uninteresting to, and needless of, each other. It would be simply solitude multiplied by two. One wit, as he explained to his young friend the ABC of dialectical logic, advised him to ask himself the question: what is it in his bride that attracts the young man; wherein lie the ties of their “commonness”?

The discussion here is not so much about individualities, but in general about particular (and, therefore, typical in their specialty) objects coming essentially, rather than nominally, under the same genus, for example, in reference to production and consumption.

This is the idea behind the most common, most abstract (and for this reason still poorly defined) conception of the universal in dialectics. It is not the “likeness” numerically recurrent in each separately taken individual object which is represented in the form of the “common feature” and perpetuated with a “sign.”

It is, above all else, that objective relation of two (or more) particular individuals which transforms them into the moments of the same, concrete, real – and not merely nominal – unity which it would be a great deal more reasonable to represent in the form of some totality of various special moments, than by an uncertain “set” of “units” (“atomized facts,” etc.), completely indifferent to one another. The “universal” acts here as the law or principle governing the interrelations of these details within some whole, a “totality” as Marx chose to put it following Hegel. What is required here is not an abstraction but analysis.

This is a problem which one cannot, of course, hope to resolve by searching for the “likenesses,” i.e., the abstract characteristics – the common to “all” details. An attempt toward this goal would be perhaps just as hopeless as an attempt to learn the general arrangement and principles of operation of a radio-receiver by attempting to find out that “common” element which a transformer has with a resistor, a condensor with a loudspeaker diffusor, and all these together with a wave-range switch.

If we come back to the issue of the genetic similarity of the various (and opposite) meanings which the term “universal” has acquired through the evolution of the living language and the mind that expresses itself in language, then the problem is reduced to the task of identifying amongst them the one meaning which can be reliably considered as the originator-meaning. Then one must try to discover why and how this meaning, the first in time, and directly simple in essence, has expanded so much as to include even its opposite, or something which had not been pre-supposed at the very outset.

Since our distant ancestors can hardly be suspected of having had an inclination to invent “abstract objects” and “constructs,” it would seem more logical to assume as original the meaning that the term “common” has retained in word combinations, such as “common ancestor” or “common field.” This is also supported by the extant philological evidence. K. Marx stated positively: “Was würde aber old Hegel sagen, wenn er erfuhre jenseits, dass das Allgemeine im Deutschen und Nordischen nichts bedeutet als das Gemeinland, und das Sondre, Besondre, nichts als das aus dem Gemeindeland ausgeschiedne Sondereigen?” [2]

Now it is self-evident then that given this originally simple or, as Hegel would have put it, genuinely general sense of the words, that the notion which establishes the “common” (the “universal”), both in time and in essence, prior to the “individual,” the separate, the particular or the specific, will not even give a hint as to the refined mysticism which colors the concept of the universal as it appears in neo-Platonists and Medieval Christian scholastics. These made the “universal” synonymous with “thought,” viewed from the very outset as the word, the “logos,” as something incorporeal, spiritualized, and exclusively immaterial. By contrast, the “universal” in its original-universal sense stands out clearly in the mind and, therefore, in the language expressing it, as a synonym for a totally corporeal substance, whether water, or fire or miniscule homogeneous particles (“indivisibles”), and so forth. Such a notion may look naive (though it is far from that in fact), crudely sensuous, and “excessively materialistic,” but there is no mysticism here, not even the slightest tendency toward it.

In this context it looks quite incongruous to accuse materialism, as some of its opponents do continually, of “well-camouflaged Platonism” which, allegedly, is necessarily connected with the thesis about the objective reality of the universal. Naturally, if one should accept from the very beginning (no one knows why) the view that the universal is a thought and nothing but a thought, then not only Marx and Spinoza, but even Thales and Democritus would pass for “crypto-platonists.” Identification of the “universal” with the “thought” is the point of departure for any system of philosophical idealism, whether it belongs to the latter’s “empirical” or patently rationalistic wing, and is to be regarded as an axiom accepted without any evidence whatsoever, or a sheer prejudice inherited from the Middle Ages. Its continuing force is far from accidental. It stems from that really great role that has been attributed to the “Word” and to the verbal “externalization” of the “thought” in the development of spiritual culture. In fact, this role is what creates the delusion that the “universal” possesses its existent being (its reality) only and exclusively in the form of “logos,” in the form of the meaning of a word, term or linguistic sign. Since the philosophical thinking reflecting on the “universal” has been dealing, since its inception, with the “universal” in its verbal expression and verbal being, this tradition begins very soon to regard the dogma about the identity of the “universal” and the “sense (meaning) of the word,” not surprisingly, as the natural premise and the ground it rests on, the air it breathes, in a word, as something “self-evident.”

However, the mere fact that a particular philosophical reflection, since the very outset, has dealt with the “universal” in the latter’s verbal being, is not enough to put an equality sign here.

We would like to note in passing that the prejudice which modern neo-positivists assume as the absolute truth was never regarded this way by Hegel, none-too-dear to the neo-positivists. Hegel, too, believed sincerely that materialism is impossible in principle as a philosophical system, on the theory that philosophy is the science about the universal, while the universal is the thought, – only the thought, and precisely the thought, and can’t be anything but the thought. Nevertheless, Hegel’s profound insights in comparison to the more recent proponents of this prejudice consisted in this, that he understood full-well one simple truth, to the point of banality, namely, that the “thought” (thinking) is expressed (accomplished, objectivized, explicated) not only in the word or chains of “utterances” but also in man’s actions and deeds and, therefore, in the results of these deeds, not the least of which is found in the products of man’s labor, his purposeful – i.e., rational – activity. Hence, the “forms of thinking” can be, according to Hegel, discovered and investigated within man’s rational endeavors in whatever way executed, in whatever form “explicated.” Hence, the “logos,” too, is understood by Hegel as the form, scheme and sense of “speech” and “essence” (Sage und Sache) – both “act” and “actuality” – and not only as a pattern of speech or the constructed pattern of chains of words, utterances and the latter’s formal transformations – as the neo-positivists have asserted to this day.

Having undermined dramatically the prestige of the prejudice whereby thinking (= the universal) was identified with speech (internal or external), Hegel, nevertheless, returns in a round-about way under its captivity, for although he holds the “word” to be perhaps not the only form of “Dasein of the thought,” yet he reserves for it the significance of the first form of its “Dasein” – both in time and essence. The thinking mind awakens, under the Hegelian concept, first as the “naming” force, and only after the mind has realized itself in the “word” and through the “word” does it pass to the “self-embodiment” of it in working tools, political affairs, in the erection of churches and factories, in the making of Constitutions and other “external” actions.

Here, too, the “word” appears, eventually, as the first embodiment of the “universal” and as its last self-presentation, consummating all the cycles of its “embodiment.” Absolute Mind finally apprehends itself in the treatise on Logic.

For the practical and gegenstandliche life of mankind, it constitutes the “middle” term of the scheme, Medius Terminus, a mediating link of the cycle that has the “Word” for its commencement and its end. Here, too, there occurs an identification of the “universal” with the “word,” though in a way not as direct and unrefined as in the Apostle John or Carnap. Hegel, in his characteristic manner, begins by shattering the old prejudice and then restores it with all its former rights, using as he does, a sophisticated dialectical mechanism.

The radically materialistic re-conception of the achievements of Hegelian logic (dialectics), as worked out by Marx, Engels and Lenin, was connected with the affirmation of the objective reality of the “universal,” in its most direct and accurate sense; – but not at all in the sense of Plato and Hegel who identified this “universal” with the “thought” which, they asserted, existed before, beyond and altogether independently of man and mankind and acquired independent being only in the “Word.” The Marxist idea developed, it can be said, in the sense of the regularity of material phenomena, in the sense of the law governing the cohesion within some – always well-defined – whole, and within some self-developing “totality,” all the components of which, are essentially “related” with one another. Thus their idea developed not because “all” of the data possess a common “feature”, but because of the unity of genesis, and a descent from the same “common ancestor,” or, more precisely, because of their emergence as broadly variable modifications of the same “substance” having a positively material (i.e., independent of thought or word) character.

Hence, the phenomena of the “same kin,” – homogenous phenomena – may not necessarily be possessed in the “family likeness” as the only ground for attributing them to the “same kin.” The “universal” in them may outwardly express itself equally well through differences, even opposites, which make these phenomena the mutually complementary component parts of the “whole.” Thus we attain some genuinely real ensemble, or some “organic totality,” rather than an amorphous set of units which are ascribed to that “set” on the strength of some “similarity” or “feature” more or less accidental to each of them, or on the basis of a formal “identity” totally irrelevant to its specific nature, its particularity or individuality.

On the other hand, that “universal” which reveals itself precisely in the particular or individual characteristics of all component parts of the “whole” without exception – in each one of many homogeneous phenomena – is itself as “real as the particular,” as existing along with other “particular” individuals, its derivatives. There is no element of mystery about this, for the father very often lives a long time side-by-side with his sons. And if not present among the living any more, he surely must have existed at one time, i.e., must be conceived necessarily in the category of “existent being.” Thus, the genetically understood “universal” exists, self evidently, not at all in the ether of abstraction, or only in the element of word and thought. Neither does its existence, by any means, nullify or diminish the reality of its modifications, its derivatives or the universally-dependent, particular individuals.

In the Marxist analysis of Capital the concept of the “universal” briefly outlined above is of prime importance methodologically: “Das Kapital, soweit wir es hier betrachten, als zu unterscheidendes Verhältnis von Wert und Geld, ist das Kapital im allgemeinen, d.h. der Inbegriff der Bestimmungen, die den Wert als Kapital von sich als blossem Wert oder Geld unterscheiden. Wert, Geld, Zirkulation etc., Preise etc. sind vorausgesetzt, ebenso Arbeit etc. Aber wir haben es weder mit einer besonderen Form des Kapitals zu tun, noch mit dem einzelnen Kapital als unterschieden von andren einzelnen Kapitalien etc. Wir wohnen seinem Entstehungsprozess bei. Dieser dialektischer Entstehungsprozess ist nur der ideale Ausdruck der wirklichen Bewegung, worin das Kapital wird. Die späteren Beziehungen sind als Entwicklung aus diesem Keim heraus zu betrachten. Aber es ist nötig, die bestimmte Form zu fixieren, auf der es auf einem gewissen Punkt gesetzt ist. Sonst entsteht Konfusion.” [3]

This is a clear-cut declaration of the same “value” versus “capital” interrelationship as is revealed by Hegel in the above quotation between the triangle and square, pentagon, etc., and in a dual sense to boot.

Firstly, the concept of “value in general” is by no means defined here in terms of the sum-total of those abstract-universal “features” which can be identified at will within “all” special types of value (e.g., commodity, manpower, capital, rent, interest, and so on), but is arrived at through an accurate analysis of one single clearly “specific” relation which may exist (and so it did and does) between people – the relation of direct exchange of one commodity for another, the equation, “1 frock-coat = 10 meters of cloth.”

The analysis of this value-type of reality – reduced to the simplest form, – reveals those definitions of “value in general” which are met with (reproduced) at higher stages of development and the latter’s analysis as the universal definitions of money, and labor force, and capital. It is impossible, however, to cull these definitions through a direct abstraction from all these “special forms” of the relationship of value (as “common” to all of them).

Secondly, when the point at issue is the “specific definition of capital in general,” here, too, as Marx very specially points out, allowance has to be made for the following principal consideration “un caractère plus logique qu’économiste.” [4]

“... Das Kapital im Allgemeinen im Unterschied von den besonderen reellen Kapitalien selbst ist eine reelle Existenz. Es ist dies von der gewöhnlichen Ökonomie anerkannt, wenn auch nicht verstanden; und bildet ein sehr wichtiges Moment für ihre Lehre von den Ausgleichungen etc. Zum Beispiel das Kapital in dieser Allgemeinen Form, obgleich einzelnen Kapitalisten gehörig, in seiner elementärischen Form als Kapital, bildet das Kapital, das sich in den Banks akkumuliert oder durch sie distribuiert wird, und, wie Ricardo sagt, sich so bewunderungswürdig verteilt im Verhältnis zu den Bedürfnissen der Produktion. Es bildet ebenso durch loans etc. einen level zwischen den verschiedenen Ländern. Ist es daher z.B. ein Gesetz des Kapitals im Allgemeinen, dass, um sich zu verwerten, es sich doppelt setzen muss, und sich in dieser doppelten Form doppelt verwerten muss, so wird z.B. das Kapital einer besonderen Nation, die im Gegensatz zu einer anderen par excellence Kapital repräsentiert, sich ausleihn müssen an eine dritte Nation, um sich verwerten zu können. Das Doppelt-Setzen, sich auf sich selbst als fremdes beziehn, wird in diesem case verdammt real. Während das Allgemeine daher einerseits nur gedachte differentia specifica, ist sie zugleich eine besondre reelle Form neben der Form des Besondern und Effizelnen.” [5]

“So auch in der Algebra. Zum Beispiel a, b, c, sind Zahlen überhaupt; im Allgemeinen; dann aber sind sie ganze Zahlen gegen a/b, b/c, c/b, c/a, b/a etc., die sie indes als die allgemeinen Elemente voraussetzen.” [6]

Of course, the analogy – just as any analogy – is no proof of the “universality” of the logical interrelationship. In this case it is simply illustrative of the idea discussed above. But here, too, it can be used to remind us about an important aspect of the dialectical conception of “universality.” In this case, the “universal” appears again as a positively determinate, although in a general form, number a, c, b. This is exactly “number in general,” like a number in its elementary form, or as any number “converted to its simplest determinateness,” but without the ultimate loss of determinateness, or “speciality.” By contrast, the formal concept of “number in general,” deprived of “inherence” in the special type of numbers, is merely a name; not a concept, where the “universal” is expressed in terms of its “particular nature.”

Indeed, in mathematics, because of the highly specific nature of its abstractions, the “abstract-universal” coincides with the “concrete-general.” Yet “number in general,” (i.e., a, b, c etc.), is obtained also when the formal operation of the abstraction (extraction) of the “same” has been performed among all types of numbers; “a,” “b,” “c,” etc., i.e., precisely as “bricks,” as “atoms” of sorts, which remain essentially the same regardless of the sign formation of which they become but component parts. The simplicity is gone, however, once we step outside of algebra where the “universal” may not be necessarily present in its modifications (in its own well-developed forms), in the same form as in the simplest elementary case. Incidentally, this happens even in mathematics itself, as when a triangle as a “figure in general,” is never retained as such in a square or pentagon, nor is it given in inherence or contemplation, although it can be identified analytically within their composition. It should be by an analysis, indeed, not by an abstraction which merely sets apart the available “common feature.”

Let us take this situation – the one of the dialectical inter-relationship between the universal and particular and the individual. Here the “universal” cannot be identified in principle within the composition of particular individuals by means of a formal abstraction by revealing the common, the identical in them. This can be shown most demonstrably in the case of the theoretical difficulties associated with the concept of “man,” the definition of “man’s essence” and the search for his “specific generic definition.”

Such difficulties were described with a superb wit in the well-known satirical novel Les animaux de natures, by Vercors. In the thickets of a tropical forest a community of strange creatures was discovered. On the basis of some criteria current in modern physical anthropology, they are apes or other primeval people. Apparently, this is a peculiar, hitherto unobserved, transient form that has developed from the animal, or purely biological world to the social, human world. The question is, whether or not the Tropi (the name the author gives his invented herd-tribe) have passed the hardly discernible, but all-important border-line between man and animal.

At first glance, the question is of purely academic significance and may be of concern, it seems, only to a particular biologist or anthropologist. However, before long it transpires that it is inter-twined with the fundamental problems of our age in legal, ethical and political aspects, as well as with philosophical problems. The novel’s hero deliberately, with a premeditated intention, murders one of the creatures. This act labels him a murderer, provided the Tropi are human beings. If they are animals the corpus delicti is non-existent. The old priest torments himself with the same question. If the Tropi are human beings he is bound to save their souls and subject them to the rite of baptism. If the Tropi are animals, he runs the risk of repeating the sinful deed of St. Mahel who made the mistake of baptizing penguins and caused a lot of trouble to the heavens. Yet another factor enters in due to a selfish manufacturing interest which at once identifies the Tropi as ideal labor power. Indeed, an animal easy to tame, and unable to grow into the awareness of either trade-unions, or the class struggle, or any requirements except physiological ones – is not this a businessman’s dream?

The argument about the nature of the Tropi involves hundreds of people, dozens of doctrines and theories; it broadens, becomes confused and grows into a debate about entirely different things and values. The characters have to ponder over the criterion whereby a categorical and unambiguous answer could be given. This turns out to be far from simple.

With an emphasis on some “human feature,” Tropi come under the category of humans; on another they do not. An appeal to the sum-total of such features is of little help, for then the question arises about their number. By extending the number of the “features” which have defined “human being” thus far and introducing among their number the one feature that sets aside the Tropi from the hitherto known people, the Tropi are left automatically outside the bounds of the human race. By shrinking their number, by confining them to those which are possessed by the previously known Tropi and humans, one arrives at the definition whereby the Tropi are to be included into the human family with all their ensuing rights. The thought is caught within a vicious circle: indeed, to define the nature of the Tropi, it is required that we first clearly define the nature of man. This, however, cannot be done unless it has been decided beforehand whether or not the Tropi are to be approached as a variety of homo sapiens.

Moreover, a new argument flares up at once over every one of those “common features” which have thus far described man. What is meant by “thought”? What is meant by “language” and “speech?” In one sense animals also possess thought and speech, while in another man alone has it. Thus, each human characteristic becomes debated in the same way as the definition of “man.” There is no end to these debates, while the differences of opinion and back-biting reach the plane of the most general and all-important philosophical, ethical and gnoseological concepts, only to be re-kindled there with renewed vigor and violence.

Indeed, things are far from simple with the lawfully established people, as well. Do all people live and act “human-like?” Or often do they not act more horridly than animals? The argument, therefore, evolves into a discussion as to the kind of living that is or is not to be regarded as “genuinely human.”

All attempts to find this “common and essential feature” whereby one could unmistakably tell a man from an animal, from a “non-human,” stumble over and over again into the age-old logical problem. The “common feature” could be abstracted from “all” the individuals of the given race when and if the set that constitutes the genus has been well-defined. But this is impossible unless there is a general criterion available beforehand for identifying such a “set,” i.e., the very “common feature” sought-for. Indeed, hot water is easy to tell from cold. But what about warm water? One stone does not make a heap, and neither do two. How many stones will be then required for a “heap?” Where is the frontier beyond which a balding man becomes bald? And is there any clear-cut frontier at all? Or, on the contrary, is any frontier, any certitude merely an imaginary line to be drawn solely for the purpose of an artificial classification? Where then is it to be drawn? “It will run where the powers-to-be would choose to draw it,” note the novel’s characters ruefully. Indeed, the subjectively idealistic theories of thought delegate this kind of decision-making to the powers-to-be. So, the voice of “the powers” becomes the criterion of truth, and their will the “universal will” behind which title one can clearly discern unmasked arbitrariness and even individual self-seeking interest.

As we now are conscious from experience that the “common and essential feature,” the determinate and specific distinction of the human race, namely, the concrete-universal definition of “man” and the “human” in people, is not as easy to find as they thought it would be from the outset, the characters in Vercors’ novel turn for the solution to philosophical and sociological concepts. But where is the latter’s criterion of truth? Each criterion claimed for itself universal importance, a monopolistic possession of the universal concept, so that there is really nothing “common,” no agreement between them.

The novel ends with a large question mark, while its hero finds him­self in the none-too-enviable position of Buridan’s ass, i.e., with the Marxist concept of the “universal” on the left, and the Christian one on the right; two mutually exclusive concepts of the “universal.” Unprepared to accept either, Vercors’ hero, together with the author, would opt readily for a third alternative, such as would reconcile both teachings, the “common” between them, i.e., the “genuine” understanding of the “universal.”

“Each man is, first of all, a human being, and only after that a follower of Plato, Christ or Marx,” Vercors argues in the post-script to the Russian edition of the novel. “I’d think it rather more important at the present moment to show how, on the basis of that criterion, we can find common points between Marxism and Christianity, than to stress their differences.” [7] Well, from the purely political viewpoint this may be true but does it answer the theoretical problem? It can’t be more true that “human nature,” the universal in man, lies not at all in his adherence to a particular doctrine, whether it be that of the author of “Capital,” or the Sermon on the Mount. But then where does it lie, – in the proposition that a human being is first of all a human being? That’s the only answer Vercors could give to oppose the “lop-sided view” of Marxists who proceed from the “real human relationships in the process of material production.” But any answer, like Vercors’, would push us back to the novel’s beginning, to the starting point of all debates over the essence of man, to the simple naming of the object of contention. To budge from such a standstill, such a tautology, we would have to start all over again.

However, there is one other important conclusion to be made from the Tropi story, which Vercors refuses to make for various reasons, namely, that nothing but tautology can result from the logic with which the novel’s characters seek to resolve the issue, i.e., to find the universal definition of “man” by way of abstraction from the “common,” a feature possessed by every individual representative of the human race, every individual as such. Obviously, a logic based on this conception of the “universal” would fail to lead thought out of its impasse, so as a result the notion of “man in general” remains somewhat elusive. The history of philosophical and sociological thinking proves the point with no less clarity than do the mishaps of Vercors’ characters, described above.

Clearly, any attempt to discover the abstract-common feature equally descriptive of Christ and Nero and Mozart and Goebbels and the Cro-Magnon hunter and Socrates and Xantippe and Aristotle, and so on and so forth, hides the cognitively valuable inside itself, and leads nowhere except to an extremely weak abstraction by no means expressive of the heart of the matter. The only way out of this deadlock, as far as we know, is to turn to Marx with his reliance on a more sound logic, on a more earnest and specific conception of the problem of the “universal”: “... Das menschliche Wesen ist kein dem einzelnen Individuum inwohnendes Abstraktum. In seiner Wirklichkeit ist es das ensemble der gesellschaftlichen Verhältnisse.” [8]

Distinctly pertinent here is not only the sociological, but also the logical principle underlying Marx’s line of reasoning. If translated into logical language, it would mean the following: universal definitions expressing the essence of a genus, whether human or any other, cannot be effectively searched for amidst abstract, common “features,” such as every particular specimen of the genus possesses.

The “essence” of human nature in general – and of the human nature of each particular human being – cannot be revealed, except through a science-based, critical analysis of the “entire totality,” the “entire ensemble” of the socio-historic relationships of man to man, through a case-study approach and apprehension of the regularities which have and are actually governing the process of origination and evolution of human society as a whole, and of a particular individual.

The particular individual represents “man” in the strict and accurate sense of the word insomuch as he realizes – precisely through his individuality – a certain sum-total of historically-developed capabilities (especially human ways of vital activity), a particular fragment of culture which has developed prior to, and independently of, himself and which he absorbs through the process of education (self-accomplishment of man). In this sense, the human person can be rightly regarded as the individual embodiment of culture, i.e., the “universal” in man. Hence, the universal “essence of man” is only real as a culture, as an historically established and evolutionizing aggregate of all specially human forms of vital activity, as the whole of their ensemble. The “universality” so understood represents, indeed, not the mute generic “similarity” of the individuals but a reality dismembered within it­self many times over and in various ways into “special” (“particular”) spheres complementary to, and essentially dependent on, one another and which are, therefore, held together with the ties of common origin as tightly and flexibly as are the bodily organs of a biological species developed from the same ovule.

In other words, the theoretical-logical definition of “the universal in man,” – a concrete generality of human existence, – may and does consist, in view of the above, solely in revealing the extent to which it is necessary for the many and varied forms of specifically human activity, for the social human capabilities and their associated needs to evolve from, and interact with, one another.

Hence in seeking the “most common” definition of the human element in man, the task still cannot be to abstract the formal sameness, or the “abstract” characteristic of each particular individual, but to establish that real and, therefore, special form of human vital activity which is historically and essentially the universal foundation and condition of the emergence of all the rest.

Fully consistent with the data of cultural and physical anthropology and archeology, the materialistic conception of “the essence of man” envisions this “universal” form of human existence in labor, in the direct remaking of nature (both external and one’s own) as accom­plished by social man with the tools of his own creation.

Small wonder then, that K. Marx regarded with warm sympathy Franklin’s well-known definition of man as a being producing labor tools. Producing labor tools – and for this one reason a being who thinks, speaks, composes music, follows moral norms, etc. No better example illustrative of the Marxist conception of the universal as the concrete-universal, as well as the latter’s attitude to the “particular” and the “individual” can be given than the definition of “man in general” as the “being producing labor tools.”

From the standpoint of the canons of the old and traditional formal logic the above definition is too “concrete” to be “universal.” It cannot be stretched to cover directly, by means of a simple formal abstraction, such unchallenged representatives of the human race as Mozart or Leo Tolstoy or Raphael or Kant. Formally, the definition bears on a constricted circle of individuals, e.g., employees at manufacturing plants or workshops. Even the workers who are not the producers but the users of these machines will not formally qualify for it. As a result, old logic with its conception of the “universal” will be right in its judgment of the definition as strictly particular rather than “universal,” as a definition of a particular human occupation rather than of “man in general.”

Nevertheless, Franklin proves to be essentially right in his conflict with this logic since he is led by intuition and the bulk of facts and con­tentions bearing on the problem of the “human in man” to assume the viewpoint of a logic a great deal more earnest and profound; the very Logic which has been ripening for centuries on end in the lap of philosophy and in particular, in the logical discourses of Descartes and Spinoza, Leibnitz and Kant, Fichte and Hegel. In fact it has found its concrete scientific application in “Capital” and Marx’s theory of surplus value and the materialistic conception of history and modern times.

This conception of the “universal” is by no means synonymous with the “concept” or “thought” as it appears more or less explicitly in Plato, Hegel, Thomas Aquinas and Carnap who were preoccupied with the “universal” insofar as the latter had already found its way into the mind, more precisely, into the “word” called upon to express the mind.

The universal (“concrete-universal”) is opposed to the sensuous variety of particular individuals, in the first place as the latter’s own substance and the concrete form of their interaction, rather than to intellectual abstraction. Per se, the universal embodies in itself, in its concrete certitude “the total treasure of the particular and the individual”, and not only as a possibility, but as the necessity for expansion, that is to say, as the “real explication” of a simple form into the diversely dismembered reality.

Precisely for this reason “the universal” is not and cannot be understood here as an abstract identity (similarity) of a broad variety of phenomena which provides the base for the operation of bringing them under the same name or proper name or term. The necessity for the “self-extension” of the universal, the dynamo of its self-movement is comprised in it in the form of “the tension of contradiction,” i.e., the intrinsic contradiction of form; hence, one is led to understand the universal as something distinguishable also within itself into its own particular moments. The relation among them being that of the identity of contraries, i.e., their living concrete unity, or of their transition into one another.

But this is another subject passing far beyond the limits of the defi­nition of “the universal as such” in its dialectico-materialistic conception. Nevertheless keeping within the limits of this paper, it should be added that this conception of the “universal” and the ways in which it is scientifically apprehended, do not constitute a monopolistic possession of philosophical dialectics. Science – indeed, real science rather than its representation in the epistemological and “logical” constructions of neo-positivists – has always proceeded more or less consistently from a similar conception of the “universal.” Not infrequently, it did so contrary to the deliberate logical propositions professed by its spokesmen. The trend can be easily traced throughout the entire case-history of the concept of “value,” a general category of political economy.

The abstraction of “value as such,” just as the word used to describe this abstraction, goes as far back into antiquity as market relations themselves. The Greek “axia,” German “Weyt” and so on, have not been coined by Petty, Smith or Ricardo. A merchant or farmer would at all times apply the name “value” or “cost” to all that could be bought and sold, all that “cost” something. If the theorists of political economy had attempted to develop the concept of “value as such” from the guidelines of a purely nominalistic formal logic offered science to this day, surely they would never have developed the concept. As a matter of fact, the term “value” has never from the very beginning been the result of applying an abstract, common element which hackneyed word usage has led some to think belongs to each of the subjects called “valuable.” If such were the case, it would come to tidying up the ideas that any shopkeeper already has regarding the meaning of “value”: i.e., a simple matter-of-fact enumeration of the “features” of those phenomena to which the word “value” is applicable, and that would be the end of the matter. The entire venture would have been, then, to merely clarify the applicability of the term. The crux of the matter, however, is that the classics of political economy treated the question under an entirely different aspect, and in such a way that the answer to it was found in the concept, i.e., an apprehension of real universality. K. Marx revealed the essence of their formulation of this problem.

William Petty, the first English economist, arrived at the concept of value in the following way:

“Wenn jemand eine Unze Silber aus dem Innern der Erde Perus in derselben Zeit nach London bringen kann, die er zur Produktion eines Bushel Korn brauchen würde, dann ist das eine der natürliche Preis des anderen.” [9]

We would note in passing the absence of the term “value” in this proposition, although mention is made of “natural price.” But we are witnessing here precisely the birth of the concept of value fundamental to the entire subsequent science of the production, distribution and accumulation of “wealth.”

The concept, insofar as it is a real concept rather than a general idea embodied in the term, expresses (reflects) here, just as in Hegel’s example of the triangle, a real phenomenon given “in experience” which, though it is a “particular” among other “particulars” turns out, at the same time, to be universal, thus representing “value in general.”

The classics of bourgeois political economy chanced upon this way of defining value in its universal form. However, in an attempt to use it after the concept had been formed, they tried to “verify” it consistently with the logical canons based upon John Locke’s ideas about think­ing and the “universal,” and found themselves immediately facing some paradoxes and antinomies. The “universal,” whenever an attempt is made to justify the term through an analysis of its own particular modifications, such as profit or capital, is not at all corroborated, but rather is disproved by contradicting them.

Marx was the one who identified the reason generating the paradoxes and suggested a way out precisely because he was guided by the more profound, dialectical conceptions of the nature of the “universal” and its interrelationships with the “particular” and “individual.” The reality of the universal in nature is a law,” (F. Engels), but for all that, a law in reality (a proof of this is modern natural science, particularly micro-cosmic physics). And it is never carried out absolutely as a rule which the movement of each particular particle is expected to follow but only as a tendency manifesting itself in the behavior of some more or less complex ensemble of individual phenomena through a “violation” or “negation” of the “universal” in each one of its particular (individual) manifestations. As a result, the human mind has, in any case, to take this into account.

The universal definitions of value (the law of value) in Marx’s Capital are worked out in the course of analysis by the direct exchange of one commodity for another, i.e., by taking only one and precisely the earliest, historically, and therefore logically the simplest concretion of value. Marx did this by prescinding from all other particular forms, (evolved on the basis of value) like money, profit, rent, etc. The drawback in Ricardo’s analysis of value, as pointed out by Marx, lies precisely in that he “cannot forget about profit” in approaching the problem of value in its universal form. This makes Ricardo’s abstraction incomplete and thereby formal.

For Marx, he seeks to solve the problem in the universal form because all subsequent formations, not only profit but even money, are assumed to be non-existent at this stage of the analysis. What is analyzed is only direct, non-money exchange. It transpires at once that this elevation of the individual to the universal differs on principle from an act of simple formal abstraction. Here the distinctions of the simple commodity form which set it apart specifically from profit, rent, interest and other special “types” of value, are not thrown overboard as being non-essential. On the contrary, the theoretical description of these distinctions is exactly the one coincident with the definition of value in its general form. The incompleteness and the related “formality” of Ricardo’s abstraction lies precisely in the latter’s inability, while constructing it, to abstract from the existence of all other advanced types of “value,” (particularly and especially profit), on the one hand, and on the other, in its being formed through an abstraction from all distinctions, including those of direct commodity interchange. Ricardo’s analysis results in another difficulty, namely, that the “common” appears eventually to be isolated altogether from the “particular” for which it is no longer a theoretical description. Such is the difference between the dialectical and purely formal conceptions of the “universal.”

But no less important is Marx’s distinction of the dialectico-materialist conception from the interpretation it receives in Hegel’s idealistic dialectics. What makes it so important to stress this difference is that in Western literature on philosophy an equality sign is too often placed between Hegel’s conception of the universal and that of Marx and Lenin. It is apparent, nevertheless, that the orthodox Hegelian notion of this category, whatever its dialectical merits, coincides at a decisive point with that very “metaphysical” view which Hegel himself so often rejects. This is revealed with special clarity whenever the principles of Hegelian logic are applied to the analysis of real mundane problems.

Actually, when Hegel comments on his “speculative” concept versus the purely formal notion of the universal, as he does with the use of geometrical figures, for example with his consideration of a triangle as “the figure in general,” then the resulting impression is that this conception already includes within itself, in ready-made form, the entire logical scheme which enabled Marx to cope with the problem of the general definition of “value” or “value as such.” But, it is not as if Hegel’s “genuine universality” as distinct from a meaningless, purely formal abstraction, consisted in his directly-objective meaning or in the fact that the “genuinely-universal” itself existed in the form of the “particular,” i.e., in the form of “being for other,” or as an empirically existing reality given in time and space (i.e., outside of man’s head), and perceived in contemplation.

Although it seems so at first glance, yet Hegel himself insists that the inter-relation between the universal and particular is not by any means to be likened to that between mathematical (including geometry) images, for such a resemblance would be meaningful only as a figural analogy and is liable to distort and obfuscate the true picture.

According to Hegel, the geometrical image called upon to clarify the logical concept (universal) is bad enough, since it is excessively “burdened with the sensuous substance” and, therefore, like biblical myths represents only a well known allegory of the Concept at most. As for the “genuine universal,” which he approaches exclusively as a purely logical category, i.e., as the capitalized Concept, it should be conceived as having been totally cleared of all residues of the “sensuous substance” or “sensuous matter,” and occurring in a refined incorporeal sphere of activity of the “spirit.” With this as his starting point, Hegel reproached materialists precisely for their approach to the universal, which, he alleged, in effect abolished it “as such” by transforming it into a “particular among other particulars,” into something limited in time and space; into something “finite,” whereas the universal ought to be specifically distinct in its form of “internal completeness” and of “infinite” character.

This is the reason why the “universal as such,” in its strict and accurate sense, exists, according to Hegel, exclusively in the ether of “pure thinking” and not at all in either the time or space of “external reality.” In the latter sphere one may encounter only the series of “particular estrangements,” “embodiments,” and “hypostases,” of this “genuine-universal.”

This would make it altogether unacceptable, “logically incorrect,” for Hegelian logic to define the essence of man as a being producing work tools. For the orthodox Hegelian, just as for any proponent of the purely formal logic criticized by Hegel, (indeed, a very significant unanimity!) the definition by Franklin or Marx is too “concrete” to be a “universal.” The production of work tools is seen by Hegel not as the basis of all that is human in man, but as one, even though all-important, manifestation of the latter’s thinking self.

In other words, the idealism of the Hegelian interpretation of the universal and of the form of universality leads in practice to the same result as the “metaphysical” interpretation of this category which he detests so much.

Furthermore, if Hegelian logic in its original form were used to assess the validity of the logical line of reasoning in the early chapters of Capital, this entire Marxian development would appear as “invalid” and “illogical.” The Hegelian logician would be right from his own viewpoint in criticizing the Marxist analysis of value in the sense that it lacks any definition of this category of the universal. Further, he would say that Marx only “described” the definition but failed to theoretically “deduce” any particular form of “value in general,” for “value in general” like any “genuinely universal” category of man’s vital activity, is a form immanent to man rather than to any “external being” in which it is merely manifested, or merely objectivized.

This is only to suggest, however, that Hegelian logic, whatever its advantages over formal logic, was and is unacceptable as a weapon for materialistically oriented science unless some major changes have been introduced and all traces of idealism radically eliminated, above all, in understanding nature and the status of the “universal.” Hegel’s idealism constitutes by no means something “external” with regard to logic, for it only gives direction to a logical sequence of thinking. When commenting on the transitions of opposite categories (including the universal, on the one hand, and the particular, on another), Hegel also assigns a uni-directional character to the scheme of approach. Under the Hegelian scheme, for example, there is no room for the Marxian transition in the definition of value, namely, the transition (transformation) of the individual into the universal. In Hegel, the universal is the only one privileged to “estrange” itself from the “particular” and individual, while the individual appears invariably as merely a product, a “mode” of universality, exclusively particular and, therefore, poor in its composition.

The real case-history of economic (market) relations testifies, however, in favor of Marx who shows that the “form of value in general” has not at all times been the universal form of the organization of production. Historically, and for a rather long time, it remained a particular relation of people and things in production although occurring haphazardly. It was not until capitalism and the “free enterprise society” came into being that value (i.e., the market form of the product) became the general form of inter-relationships among the component parts of production.

Similar transitions, of the “individual and accidental” into the universal is not a rarity, but rather a rule in history. In history – yet not exclusively the history of humanity with its culture – it always so happens that a phenomenon which later becomes universal, is at first emergent precisely as a solitary exception “from the rule,” as an anomaly, as something particular and partial. Otherwise, hardly anything could ever be expected to turn up. History would have a rather mystical appearance, if all that is new in it emerged at once, as something “common” to all without exception, as an abruptly embodied “idea.”

It is in this light that one should approach the reconsideration by Marx and Lenin of the Hegelian dialectical conception of the universal. While highly esteeming the dialectical tendencies in Hegel’s thought, Marxism furthers his conception in depth and in breadth, and thus, turns the category of the “universal” into the foremost category of the logic governing the investigation of concrete and historically evolving phenomena.

In the context of the materialistic conception of the dialectics of history and of thinking, the Hegelian formulas have different significance than in the language of their originator, being shorn of the slightest sign of mystical coloring. The “universal” comprises and embodies in itself “the entire treasure of particulars” not as an “Idea,” but as a totally real, special phenomenon which tends to become universal and which develops “out of itself,” by force of its intrinsic contradictions new but no less real, phenomena, other “particular” forms of actual progress. Hence, the “genuine universal” is not any particular form found in each and every member of a class but the particular which is driven on to emerge by its very “particularity,” and precisely by this “particularity” to become the “genuine universal.”

And here there is no trace of the mysticism of the Platonian-Hegelian breed.


1. G. W. Hegel Werke, Bd. 19, Frankfurt am Main, 1971, S. 203-204. See History of Philosophy - Aristotle).

2. Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, Werke, Band 32, Berlin, 1965, S. 52. (Cf. Russian text: K. Marx-F. Engels, Sochineniia, 2nd ed., Vol. 32, p. 45.).

3. Karl Marx, Grundrisse der Kritik der politischen Ökonomie, Berlin, 1953, S. 217. (Cf. Russian text: K. Marx-F. Engels, Sochineniia. Vol. 46, p. I, pp. 263-264.).

4. Ibid., S. 353 (Russian text, p. 437).

5. Ibid., S. 353 (Russian text, ibid., p. 437.)

6. Ibid., S. 354. (Russian text, ibid., p. 437.)

7. Verkor, Liudi ili zhivognye?, Moscow, 1957, p. 223.

8. K. Marx, F. Engels, Werke, Bd. 3, Berlin, 1958, S. 6. (Cf. Russian text: K. Marx - F. Engels, Sochineniia, 2nd ed. Vol. 3., p. 3).

9. K. Marx, F. Engels, Werke, Bd. 26, Erster Teil, Berlin, 1965, S. 332. (Cf. Russian text: K. Marx i F. Engels, Sochineniia, 2nd ed. Vol. 26, P. I, p. 358).