Subject Object Cognition. V A Lektorsky 1980

Part Two
The Marxist Approach: Cognition as
Socially-Mediated Historically Developing Activity of Reflection

Marxist analysis of the problem of the cognitive relation starts with a recognition of the basic fact that cognition is reflection of the objective reality existing independently of consciousness, that the cognizing and cognizant subject himself is a natural being included in the objective reality, and that cognition is a function of the brain as a specific highly organised material system – and presupposes the action of the external objects on man’s sense organs.

These propositions are shared by all materialist conceptions, and Marxist-Leninist philosophy as the highest form of materialism includes them in its theory.

But we have seen (in Chapter 1 of Part One) that acceptance of these propositions is not by itself sufficient for a comprehensive and adequate understanding of the specificity of human cognition and knowledge. Human cognition is a reflection of a special type, and explanation of its properties requires substantive additions to the epistemological conception propounded by pre-Marxian materialism, the additions being of a kind to radically transform this conception without taking it beyond the framework of materialism but, on the contrary, making it more flexible and at the same time more consistent, that is, dialectical.

The task that we shall here attempt to solve will be to demonstrate the fruitfulness of the mode of interpreting cognition, the cognitive relation between the subject and the object, which is suggested by Marxist-Leninist philosophy. Our goal is to outline, from the positions of dialectical materialism, the principal directions in the solution, on the one hand, of those problems that emerged in the history of philosophical thought, and on the other, of questions actively discussed in connection with the development of modern science, the latest data of psychology, scientology, and logical and methodological studies.

Marxist-Leninist philosophy assumes cognition to be a socially mediated, historically developing activity of reflection. Cognitive reflection, object-related historical activity and communication are regarded in their dialectical unity. “Idea, image, and consequently, consciousness and thought in general,” writes S. L. Rubinstein, “cannot be accepted as an independent term of the epistemological relation. Behind the relation of an idea or image to a thing, of consciousness or cognition to being, there is another relation., the relation of man, in whose cognitive activity the image ort idea arise, to being which he cognizes.”[1] The epistemology of dialectical materialism contains a key to the real facts of cognition and consciousness which metaphysical-materialistic and idealistic conceptions have been unable to explain scientifically. Moreover, Marxist-Leninist philosophy opens up fundamentally new horizons of epistemological inquiry, posing problems that have not been discussed in previous epistemological conceptions. It changes the nature of epistemology, its methods and relation to the special sciences.