Subject Object Cognition. V A Lektorsky 1980


We are all aware that man is not only a practically acting being but also a cognizing one.

Recording this fact is no problem. Problems do arise, however, as soon as we attempt to understand what cognition and the cognitive relation are and what are the properties of the specific product of human activity that we call knowledge.

These questions necessarily emerge with the very first attempts of theoretical interpretation of reality and man’s place in it. Formulation and discussion of worldview problems at the theoretical level assume a conscious attitude to the abstractions used, and an understanding of what is genuine knowledge as opposed to false wisdom, that is, mere claim to knowledge.

The terms “to know” and “knowledge” are used in several distinct senses in everyday language. For instance, one may speak of “knowledge” as ability to do something (“I know how to use this instrument,” “I know how to build a house”).

We also speak of “knowledge” in the sense of ability to recognise an object or person (“I know Moscow well,” “I have known this person for twenty years”).

Finally, “knowledge” is taken to mean a product of human activity which characterises (and characterises correctly) a certain state of affairs in reality: the presence of certain properties in definite objects, the existence of some relations, the realisation of certain events or processes, etc. (“I know that such and such things occur”).

It should be noted that analysis of the last type of knowledge has been given preferential treatment ever since men started musing on what knowledge is – and that happened almost at the same time as philosophy appeared. And that is quite understandable, for it is this type that includes theoretical knowledge (though certainly not only theoretical knowledge) which was both the result of philosophers’ activity and the subject of their cogitation. But can the specificity of the last type of knowledge be understood in isolation from the other two?

In particular, what is the relation between knowledge as understanding the content, structure, properties, and relations of the given object, and knowledge in the sense of ability to reproduce this object in human activity, including practical activity?

This question, along with others, kept arising throughout the history of philosophical thought, and various trends and schools in philosophy endeavoured to answer them.

Contemplation of the structure of the cognitive relation leads to the conclusion that it is specified by a certain type of connection between the cognising man (the subject of cognition) and the object cognised (the object of cognitive activity). If I assert that I know something about something else, that implies my simultaneous realisation of the following: first, that my knowledge relates to some object that does not coincide with that knowledge, that is external with regard to it; second, that this knowledge belongs to me, that it is I who implement the process of cognition; third, that I claim to express an actual, or real, state of things in knowledge and can support that claim by some procedure for substantiating knowledge.

Stating these points immediately gives rise to a number of questions. For instance, what is the object of knowledge and what is its nature? Can the cognising subject be the object of cognition himself, and if so, in what sense? How is it possible to know the object that is external relative to the subject and at the same time to be conscious of the subject himself as the “focus” of cognitive activity? And in general, what is “I"? Is it man’s body or something else? What are the modes of substantiating knowledge, the norms and standards which permit to distinguish between that which corresponds to reality and illusion or empty “opinion"? Do such norms and standards exist? If they do, in what way are they substantiated, in their turn? Can unconscious knowledge exist, i.e., the kind of knowledge where I do not realise that I know something? Does knowledge of something coincide with its understanding? Finally, what are the mechanisms of the cognitive process? What is the actual interaction between the two terms of the cognitive relation, subject and object (if this interaction does exist at all, of course)?

It should be stated that for a long time all these questions, which have been discussed in all their aspects since antiquity, were analysed in philosophy (in its special branch termed “epistemology”) largely on the basis of studying the features of such systems of knowledge which were embodied, on the one hand, in everyday knowledge (“common sense”), and on the other, in philosophy itself as the first form of theoretical reasoning (some philosophers also included mythology among the systems of knowledge under analysis). True,’ science also existed in antiquity, first of all as one of the branches of mathematics, geometry. Contemplation of the specificity of the cognitive process in mathematics had from the outset a substantive impact on the modes of formulation and discussion of many epistemological problems. But science became an independent kind of theoretical activity distinct from philosophy only in the 17th century, that is, with the emergence of experimentally based. natural science. From that moment, scientific knowledge, its structure, content and potential, as well as the modes of its substantiation and correlation with everyday knowledge, became, along with other questions, the subject of careful consideration by philosophers. It is thus impossible to understand the specific traits of the epistemological conceptions of Descartes and Kant, which had a significant effect on the development of philosophy, unless one takes into account their relation to contemporary science, of which classical mechanics was a model or paradigm.

At the same time, the epistemological cogitations of the scientists specialising in the particular areas of knowledge were not typical then; they sometimes appeared irrelevant to what they did as professionals. Science is, of course, an area of human activity specialising in obtaining or producing knowledge. However, questions as to what science is, what the ways of substantiating it, the standards of cognitive activity, etc. are, at one time seemed to many natural scientists and specialists in the particular fields of knowledge to be abstruse and even probably scholastic, and in any case not at all obligatory for success in scientific work.

Undoubtedly, every scientist knew that the knowledge he obtained pertained to real objects existing outside this knowledge and independent of it (that is to say, he shared the attitudes of so-called spontaneous materialism). The existence of the objective domain of knowledge was not problematic. As for the standards to be met for the result of the scientist’s activity to be included in the system of scientific (experimental or theoretical) knowledge, they were more or less spontaneously assimilated in mastering the content and the research methods of the accepted theories (in the first place of the model theories that served as research paradigms), in learning to handle apparatus and measuring instruments, to process experimental data, interpret device readings, etc. The question of substantiation of the standards themselves did not, as a rule, arise.

The situation changed radically at the turn of this century, when the problematic nature of the foundations of classical natural science (including mathematics) became apparent. As is well known, an all-sided Marxist analysis of the revolution in natural science was given by Lenin in his famous book Materialism and Empirio-Criticism. Later, Marxist philosophers made a considerable contribution to the study of this phenomenon. We shall not dwell in detail on the essence of the revolution in natural science, referring the reader to available literature.[1]

Let us note merely that changes in the modes of theoretical reasoning and methods of comparing different scientific theories in the wake of the scientific revolution at the beginning of the present century, substantively changed the attitude of workers in the special sciences to epistemological problems. There is literally not a single creator of any major scientific theory in the 20th century who would not endeavour to provide an epistemological substantiation of his special scientific constructions, often raising in the process general questions about the nature of cognition, criteria of knowledge, etc. It is even said that the epistemological problem of the correlation between subject and object, which was for a long time mostly of interest for philosophers, becomes at this time one of the cardinal problems of specialised scientific knowledge as well.

This circumstance is largely due to the actually increased complexity of the relation of scientific knowledge to the corresponding system of objects. The point is that any cognitive process assumes the use of certain mediators between the cognising subject and the cognised object. In pre-scientific cognitive practice, this role was performed, first of all, by the labour implements, by all objects created by man for man and embodying certain socio-cultural values (that is, actually the whole of man-made “second nature,” the artificial environment), and finally various sign-symbolic systems (in the first place the natural language) and various conceptual formations expressed in these systems and terms of these systems. In science, added to this are, on the one hand, a system of devices and measuring instruments, and on the other, the totality of theories standing in certain relations to one another, which are expressed in artificial, specially constructed languages along with the natural language. In these days the system of such mediators in science has become so complicated and their relations to one another and to the object cognised so far from elementary that in some cases a special study is required to single out the objective domain of a theory and to ascertain its objective meaning. In the process, it becomes apparent that the choice of one type of mediators over another (that is, the choice of a definite type of apparatus, modes of description of the research results, frames of reference, etc.) is not indifferent for the objective meaning of the knowledge obtained but essentially affects the singling out of certain aspects of the objective reality that is cognised. Because of this, man himself, as a being constructing apparatus and systems of theoretical knowledge, comes to the attention of specialists in those sciences which deal with nature rather than man.

It was especially noticed, among other things, that the specific physical., psychical, and other traits of man as the cognising being affect the nature of the research instruments used. It should be pointed out in this connection that objective interpretation of scientific knowledge and establishment of its objective meaning is not merely the product of idle philosophical curiosity but a necessary element of scientific work, a condition of successful implementation of a given research programme.

The establishment of significant and essential elements of the cognitive relation and the discovery of an intimate connection between epistemological contemplation and success in the special sciences have in some cases entailed certain losses of philosophical nature. The reasons for that are numerous, one of them being that some major Western scientists who tackle general philosophical problems (and the interrelation between subject and object in the cognitive process is one of them) do not always possess the necessary philosophical training and a knowledge of the scientific philosophy of dialectical materialism. The need for determining the place of the subject in the production of knowledge is sometimes idealistically interpreted as elimination of the distinction between subject and object, as the impossibility of conceiving of objective reality outside its realisation, etc.

In any case, many important and interesting epistemological deliberations of modern Western scientists need a thorough Marxist philosophical analysis for separating their rational meaning from idealistic irrelevancies.

Let us now cite just a few instances of the discussion of the epistemological problem of the subject-object relationship by specialists in the sciences.

Thus, in studying the objects of classical physics one could either ignore the effect of the research instruments on them or take this effect into account in processing the information about the events under study. But in the methodology of quantum mechanics, physical objects are considered in their interaction with the measuring devices,

which significantly affect the behaviour of the objects of study.[2] The mode of describing an individual quantum phenomenon is essentially dependent on the class (inner structure) of the measuring devices used for localising this phenomenon in space-time. Accordingly, “the unambiguous account of proper quantum phenomena must, in principle, include a description of all relevant features of the experimental arrangement.”[3] The well-known Soviet physicist V. A. Fok writes, that “the result of interaction between an atomic object and a classically described device” is “the basic element” constituting “the subject-matter of physical theory.”[4] A number of prominent modern Western physicists (including even such scientists as Werner Heisenberg) inferred from this circumstance that in quantum mechanics the distinction between the cognising subject and the cognised object is obliterated.

Furthermore, the problems of substantiating mathematics, which became very acute in connection with the discovery of set-theoretical paradoxes early in this century, called to life one of the trends in the philosophy of mathematics, intuitionism, which offered a mode of handling the question of the permissible objects of mathematical discourse.

“In [classical mathematics], the infinite is treated as actual or completed or extended or existential. An infinite set is regarded as existing as a completed totality, prior to or independently of any human process of generation or construction and as though it could be spread out completely for our inspection. In [intuitionist mathematics], the infinite is treated only as potential or becoming or constructive..”[5] Intuitionists created new mathematics, including the theory of the continuum and set theory. This mathematics does not use actual infinity as an object of discourse. At the same time it contains concepts and rules that are absent in classical mathematics.

Intuitionists base their conception of the nature and meaning of mathematical discourse on certain philosophical assumptions that intricately interweave attainments of mathematical thought and their idealistic interpretations. Thus, in the view of Heyting, there is for mathematics “no other source than an intuition, which places its concepts and inferences before our eyes as immediately clear.”[6] This intuition, existing as it were before mathematical language and discursive logical reasoning, coincides at the same time with a specific activity of consciousness. As Brouwer remarks in passing, “mathematics is more an activity (Tun) than a theory.”[7] Activity, in its turn, coincides, in his view, with intuitive consciousness of time, so that the objects of mathematics exist only in human consciousness.

Finally, let us cite the so-called conception of ontological relativity propounded quite recently by Willard Quine, a major American specialist in symbolic logic and the philosophy of logic and mathematics. Quine started out directly from problems in the foundations of mathematics, discovering that defining the essence of the objects of a given mathematical theory assumes translation of this theory into another language with a different system of objects, and drawing the conclusion that it is this translation that determines its ontology. He formulates the proposition that one can describe the ontology of a given theory (that is, characterise its objects) not absolutely but only relatively, i.e., relatively to another theory which is the model of the given one. Quine ascribes to this proposition a significance greater than the purely mathematical, believing that it is extremely important for understanding the nature of theoretical knowledge in general.[8]

The development of special scientific knowledge now spotlights other aspects of the problem of the relationship of the subject and the object of cognitive activity. We refer here to the rapid growth of special sciences studying certain forms and mechanisms of the cognitive process (these sciences are sometimes termed “the sciences of man”).

Psychology, undoubtedly, belongs among them.

Psychological thinking goes back quite a few centuries, and psychology as an independent science based on experiment is at least a hundred years old. The concepts of “subject,” “object,” “consciousness,” “self-consciousness” and others have long been fundamental in psychology. As a rule, psychologists borrowed their understanding of the fundamental significance of the relation between subject and object and of the nature of the cognitive process from various philosophical conceptions.

One of the distinctive features of modern psychology is an attempt at extensive experimental investigation of the cognitive process by the methods of the special sciences. Such branches of this science as the psychology of perception and the psychology of intelligence have obtained significant results in the last few decades. The so-called cognitive psychology commences to develop, which endeavours to take a new approach to the study of cognitive processes through studying their integration in complex structures formed in the framework of a definite cognitive task.

The conception of the genesis of the mechanisms of cognitive activity worked out in detail by the well-known Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget has attracted considerable attention. Offering a theoretical interpretation of his experimental data, Piaget claims to have solved the basic epistemological problems. He studies various structures of which subject and object are component elements, and analyses the connections between intellectual and object-related practical activity.

Linguists, ethnolinguists, cultural anthropologists, and psycholinguists still debate with some animation the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis of linguistic relativity that gained wide currency in the late 1940s.

The starting point of the hypothesis is that we cannot be fully conscious of reality without the help of language, the latter being not only a secondary means of solution of some special problems of communication and thinking but also a mode of constructing our world.

Noam Chomsky, a well-known American linguist and author of the generative transformation model in linguistics, propounded a critique of the behaviourist, empiricist theory of language learning. Chomsky believes that this theory does not take into account a number of important aspects of the language, such as the creative character of language using; the existence of an abstract generative structure of language (“the deep structure”); the universal character of certain elements of language structure. To explain these aspects of language, Chomsky postulates the existence of certain fundamental psychological structures – the subject’s innate ideas, consciously reviving certain elements of Cartesian epistemological conception.[9]

Let us finally point out the rapid development of the science of science as a special interdisciplinary area of study whose goal is investigation of science by the methods of the special sciences. The science of science studies not only the economic, sociological, socio-psychological, and communication aspects of scientific activity but also the process of production and transformation of scientific knowledge. There are beginnings of a rapprochement between the science of science and certain aspects of studies in the history of science. Of special interest in this connection is the book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions[10] by Thomas Kuhn, an American specialist in the history of science, which met with considerable response. On the basis of theoretical analysis of extensive historical-scientific materials, the author discloses the important role for scientific research of the so-called paradigms, that is, theories accepted as model ones in the given scientific community at a given time along with their characteristic methods of specifying and solving scientific problems and modes of comprehending empirical facts. Kuhn places special emphasis on the collective nature of scientific activity, pointing out that an individual scientist cannot be regarded as an adequate subject of scientific activity. Kuhn draws far-reaching conclusions from his conceptions, mostly of epistemological and methodological nature. That is precisely the area where the untenability of certain elements of his theory becomes particularly apparent. In Kuhn’s view, there are no logical transitions between the separate paradigms (he likens them to different worlds in which researchers live). The paradigms are incommensurable, which produces gaps between the various fundamental theoretical conceptions in science. Thus, certain aspects of Kuhn’s theory warrant relativist and subjectivist conclusions.

We have cited here only some examples of the discussion in the modern special sciences of fundamental epistemological problems in the interpretation of knowledge and cognition and of the subject-object relation, that is, of the kind of problems that a hundred years ago were believed by most scientists to be the exclusive domain of professional philosophers.

It appears important and fruitful in this connection to compare the implications for general epistemology of the development of modern special sciences with the traditions of formulation and discussion of these questions that took shape in the history of philosophy as a special discipline. Indeed, these problems that have relatively recently become of immediate concern to specialists in the various sciences, have a long history of discussion in philosophy, where different general types of their specification and analysis have been established and tested, a whole series of fundamental difficulties of epistemological research revealed, and ways found (in Marxist philosophy) for fruitful work in this area.

At the same time the development of modern special sciences, and in the first place the sciences of knowledge, provides material for drawing important conclusions of a general epistemological nature, posing new problems before philosophy or throwing light on some new aspects of old problems. One such problem, now again attracting attention, is the question of the nature, status, and methods of epistemological research itself.

A number of scientists, including Piaget, Quine, and some structuralists, believe that epistemology has lost its right to exist as a special philosophical discipline irreducible to the sum total of the data of the special sciences of cognition. All problems pertaining to understanding cognition are solved, in this view, either in psychology or in semiotics or in the general theory of formal structures.

One of the propositions which we shall endeavour to substantiate in the present work is as follows. Epistemology does indeed change its forms and certain methods that have traditionally taken shape in philosophy. The relation of scientific epistemology to special scientific knowledge also changes. The essence of these changes has been analysed by the founders of Marxist-Leninist philosophy which has formulated the basis of a scientific epistemological conception adequate to the development of human cognition. At the same time the fundamental problems in epistemology do not disappear, and the nature of this theory as a special philosophical discipline irreducible to the sum total of scientific knowledge remains unchanged.

Proceeding from the fundamental works of the classics of Marxism-Leninism and generalising the experiences of modern science, Soviet philosophers have made in the past twenty years a considerable contribution to the study of the nature and specificity of the cognitive relation. A whole series of studies have been devoted to the analysis of the place of cognition among other forms of reflection; many works have studied the general nature of the links between cognition and practical activity; great attention has been given to the forms of the activity of the subject in reflecting reality; some works analysed the problem of the interrelationship of the individual and the social in cognition; the relation of the object and the subject-matter of knowledge has been investigated; many works have inquired into the interrelation of the subjective and the objective in the development of knowledge.[11] A considerable number of works deal with the dialectics of the subject and the object in cognition in connection with the analysis of the philosophical problems arising in the development of the modern natural sciences. These works focus on the relationship between the object and the instruments of research, the nature of physical reality, and the objectivity of natural scientific knowledge.[12] Finally, a number of significant aspects of the cognitive relation have been considered in connection with the discussion of the philosophical problems of psychology, such as the interrelations of activity and consciousness, the role of object-related practical activity in the genesis of perception, the nature of the so-called cognitive actions, and the problem of the ego.[13]

The present work attempts, first, to sum up the studies in this field of both the author himself[14] and of other Soviet specialists in epistemology, and, second, to analyse a number of aspects of the given problem that are of a general and fundamental nature and at the same time have not been sufficiently studied in Soviet literature.

We shall try to specify and consider here the main types of conceptions of the cognitive relation, of the subject-object relationship, i.e., the various modes of formulation and discussion of the basic epistemological themes. Our objective is a clear formulation of those conditions of studying this problem which ensure the fruitfulness and scientific quality of the theoretical quest on the basis of the dialectical-materialist epistemology and at the same time accord with the specificity of the cognitive situation created by the development of modern science.

We begin our analysis of the cognitive relation with a critique of the modes of formulation of the problem characteristic of pre-Marxian and present-day non-Marxist, bourgeois philosophy. Our investigation in this part of the work has a double significance. First, it fixes those modes of epistemological analysis which necessarily lead the research into a cul-de-sac, generating contradictions between the philosophical conception and the real facts of cognition and consciousness as well as internal contradictions in the epistemological conception itself. The identification and discarding of the methods of studying the cognitive relation which do not ensure the construction of a genuinely scientific epistemology help to outline more precisely the specific approach to the analysis of cognition which is characteristic of Marxist-Leninist epistemology.

In our critique of the pre-Marxian and non-Marxist theories of knowledge we have endeavoured to carefully separate the actual facts of cognition, with which these theories juggle, from the false interpretation imposed on these facts. As for the interpretations, we believed it necessary to take most careful stock of the arguments used in these theories and to analyse them critically in detail, in order to specify precisely the fundamentally false moves of philosophical reasoning that are responsible for the untenability of these epistemological studies.

An investigation of the methods of inquiry into the cognitive relation characteristic of the pre-Marxian and non-Marxist theories of knowledge has another significance as well. These epistemological approaches are often reproduced abroad in one form or another by specialists in the various sciences (in psychology, in the discussion of the philosophical problems of physics, in studying the foundations of mathematics, etc.). A critical analysis of these types of perception of the cognitive relation of subject and object, therefore, proves to be of great importance for correct philosophical interpretation of many branches of modern scientific knowledge.

The first chapter of the first part critically analyses the interpretation of the cognitive relation as a relation between two physical systems. This conception is characteristic of metaphysical materialism. The basic weaknesses of metaphysical materialism compel its representatives to make concessions to subjective idealism on a number of essential points. In the past, the conception of the subject-object relation as a relation of two physical systems was on the whole materialistic, although it did contain some elements of subjectivism, while in present-day bourgeois philosophy this conception of cognition is formulated, as a rule, in the framework of subjective idealism, only occasionally including elements of mechanistic materialism (Russell). We also consider in a critical light further modifications of this scheme of the cognitive relation produced by the introduction in it of a naturalistically interpreted subject’s activity: Piaget’s genetic epistemology and Bridgman’s operationalism. Prominent specialists in their respective fields (psychology and physics), these scientists established a number of facts essential for understanding the process of cognition. Their attempts at philosophical interpretation of these facts, however, do not go beyond the first type of conception of the cognitive relation, which predetermines serious defects in their epistemological constructions.

The community in the basic understanding of the subject-object relation in cognition justify bringing under one heading the epistemological conceptions which differ in other respects (unlike Locke or Russell, Piaget and Bridgman are not professional philosophers; Piaget is inclined towards mechanistic materialism with elements of subjectivism, and Bridgman, to subjective idealism with certain elements of materialism).

The second chapter of the first part contains critical analysis of a type of understanding of cognition that is extremely influential in bourgeois philosophy – one which endeavours to explain the essence of cognition by analysing the structure of individual consciousness. This conception of cognition was first clearly expressed by Descartes and later developed by various schools of subjective idealistic epistemology. This approach is of special interest in the study of the cognitive relation in transcendentalist conceptions (Kant, Fichte, Husserl’s phenomenology). The main problem of the epistemological conceptions proceeding from the interpretation of cognition considered here is one of substantiating knowledge. In the course of its discussion, a number of important epistemological issues are considered: the interrelation of consciousness and knowledge, knowledge of the world and knowledge of self, the structure of the act of reflection, the interrelation between the ego and the other subjects in the process of cognition. All these questions, however, are interpreted in a fundamentally erroneous way: the real facts of cognition and consciousness which subjective-idealist epistemologists encounter are mystified. The present book considers in detail all those defects of subjectivist epistemological conceptions which make a scientific study of the cognitive relation impossible. Besides, it is shown that all these defects are rooted in the fundamentally erroneous understanding of the cognitive relation itself as one that is determined by the structure of a self-contained individual consciousness.

It should be noted that in the first and second parts of the book we do not pursue the goal of a maximally comprehensive analysis of all those non-Marxist conceptions that could be included under the general epistemological viewpoints under analysis. Our choice of the objects of criticism is guided by a desire to specify and analyse those modes of expression of the epistemological positions considered which, on the one hand, represent their classical form, and on the other, are widespread in modern Western philosophy, affecting also specialists in the various sciences. Thus, the first two chapters are by no means a “historical introduction” to the rest of the work.[15]

These traits of the critical analysis determine the fact that the order in which the conceptions are criticised does not always coincide with the sequence of their emergence in the history of philosophy.

To a considerable extent the materials critically analysed here (e.g., some aspects of Husserl’s epistemology, the epistemology of Sartre) are considered from Marxist positions for the first time. Besides, we endeavoured to specify those aspects of the epistemological conceptions of Descartes, Kant, and Fichte which have not yet attracted the attention of Marxist philosophers.

The second part of the monograph studies the specific traits of the interpretation of the cognitive relation in the system of scientific, that is, Marxist-Leninist, epistemology, and outlines the prospects which open up in this approach for the analysis of a number of fundamental problems now discussed in terms of the dialectical-materialist conception of subject, object, and cognition in works on the methodology of science, the science of science, and psychology.

The work shows that the dialectico-materialist interpretation of the cognitive relation does not only permit an answer to questions that confound non-Marxist epistemology, or provide a scientific explanation of the real facts which bourgeois philosophers encounter and are unable to grasp the meaning of. Marxist-Leninist conception of cognition opens up fundamentally new horizons of epistemological studies, posing before epistemology tasks and problems that are impossible in the type of epistemology that is traditional for bourgeois philosophy.

We undertake a detailed analysis of the basic position of the Marxist-Leninist interpretation of the cognitive relation between subject and object, a position that involves a fundamental recognition of the unity of reflective, object-related practical and communicative activity and a recognition of social mediation and the historical nature of cognition. The dialectico-materialist epistemology provides the basic principles for working out a number of problems raised by the development of the modern special sciences and of scientific epistemology itself. Many of these questions have not been considered in Marxist epistemological literature at all or else have not been studied comprehensively enough; then again, they were studied in aspects different from those analysed in the present work. This applies to the role of object standards in the formation of sensory knowledge, the interrelation of the objective and operational components in the system of knowledge, of different types of links between ideal and real objects, the interrelations of “alternative” conceptual systems and corresponding objects, the connection between continuity and discontinuity of cognitive experiences, the correlation of substantiation and development of knowledge, the relationships between knowledge, self-consciousness, and reflection, between explicit and implicit knowledge, the relations of individual and collective subjects of cognition, of the status and specific traits of scientific epistemological research, its relations to the specialised sciences of cognition, etc. Analysis of these problems is linked up with the philosophical interpretation of the materials of a number of special disciplines (the psychology of perception, cognitive psychology, ethnolinguistics, the science of science, the history of science, formal logical analysis of scientific theories, etc.). Side by side with elaborations of the positive views on the problems considered , a critical analysis is undertaken of some modern non-Marxist conceptions erroneously interpreting the epistemological problems which have arisen from the development of modern science – the conceptions of Kuhn Sapir and Whorf. Quine, Popper, and others.

Some of them (e.g., Quine’s theory of ontological relativity) are analysed for the first time from Marxist positions. The second part also contains a critical analysis of the conception of cognition which was formulated on an objective idealistic basis by Hegel. Hegel came closest to understanding a number of important features of the dialectics of subject and object in cognition but, remaining an idealist, he could not formulate a scientific epistemology.

The monograph substantiates a number of propositions which, in the author’s view, follow from the specificity of the Marxist-Leninist conception of the nature of cognition and are essential for further study of problems in scientific epistemology.

In particular, these include the following propositions:

1) The conception of the subject as a material being and the recognition of the importance of the subject’s material activity in cognition is necessary but in itself is insufficient for a scientific treatment of the cognitive relation. A limited naturalistic interpretation of the subject’s practical and cognitive activity cannot stand up to subjectivism. A scientific conception of the cognitive relation implies a consistent defence of the unity of reflection and activity. But that in its turn only becomes possible if the subject himself and his activity are understood as socio-culturally and historically conditioned, if it is recognised that the subject’s object-related and cognitive activity is mediated by his relation to other subjects.

2) Human cognition as the highest form of reflection of reality assumes not only the subject’s conscious attitude to the object but also a conscious attitude to himself. Elementary forms of knowledge (e.g., perception) are accompanied by a realisation of the place of the individual subject in the system of the spatio-temporal relations of the objective world. Scientific activity is only possible where cognition encompasses the objects under study and where, furthermore, there is a realisation of the modes and norms of cognitive activity inherent in the collective subject.

3) A scientific epistemology is a special kind of reflection about knowledge, one that purports to find out the necessary conditions of any knowledge, to single out universal cognitive norms. One of the important specific features of this theory is that the characteristics of actually existing knowledge are reflected in it in close unity with ascribing definitive norms of cognitive activity. The general image of cognition and science created by epistemology is itself included in the actual course of cognition, restructuring it in certain respects.

It is up to the reader to judge whether the author has coped with his task. The author will gratefully accept any critical suggestions inspired by a desire to deepen the discussion of the problems studied in the book.