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Re: [xmca] Consciousness: Ilyenkov Epistemology Quiz
I have something fun, entertaining and educational for everyone on xmca!
It just so happens that I took a close look at the Ilyenkov passages
following Andy's quotes, did a little tinkering with the text, and
came up with something fun: the Ilyenkov Epistemology Quiz, which
anyone can take right on their own personal computer!
Ilyenkov asks some fundamental questions regarding epistemology:
"Where is the clear-cut dividing line between … philosophical
idealism and … philosophical materialism? … which of these two points
of departure is determining the direction of all your thought,
regardless of the subject of your reflection … ? Here … is the
question: take your thought, your consciousness of the world, and the
world itself ... what is the relationship between them?"
This can also be called: The How Much Do You Agree With Ilyenkov on
Consciousness? Test ...
(Hmm. Somehow, it doesn't seem likely that this will become the rage
on Facebook ... does it? ... LOL ...)
Taking this "quiz" is very simple. It is comprised of 40 propositional
statements by Ilyenkov, which I edited for clarity, about the
relationship of consciousness and materiality, from the first chapter
of his short book "Leninist Dialectics and the Metaphysics of
Positivism" (1979, New Park). To take the quiz, simply list the
propositions that you agree with, and those you don't agree with,
count them all up, and give Ilyenkov a score.
Read critically like this, sentence by sentence, Ilyenkov is
surprisingly clear. But one still has to think pretty hard about what
he is saying. Hopefully, people will find it worthwhile to do so.
Here is a little explanation of the editing I did to create this (this
is the fine print part - can be skipped). What I have done is edit 15
of Ilyenkov's paragraphs (starting where Andy's quotes began) into
what wound up becoming 40 propositional statements. They read quite
coherently. This material makes for a decent introduction to both
Ilyenkov and dialectical materialism. I eliminated his references to
the Machists to keep things focused on his propositional statements
about epistemological issues, and took out various other (for this
purpose) secondary passages for the same reason. This makes him a
little easier to grasp - he has a tendency to make a lot of side
points as he goes. Also, I did some sentence rearranging to help
clarify the specific proposition that is being made. There are a
couple sentences which could be interpreted in different ways if they
are not read very closely, so I included my interpretations below
them. And I spelled out one or two important implications that
Ilyenkov makes but does not explicitly state. (He makes these points
in many other places in his writings, so they are supportable.)
Everyone will see what I did - I am trying to be completely
transparent. If I have misinterpreted or muddled Ilyenkov in any way,
please let me know!
I would be very interesting to compare notes on what propositions,
formulations, ideas etc. people agree and disagree on. Some may
disagree quite sharply on some points, and others may find themselves
surprisingly in agreement with Ilyenkov on some issues but didn't know
it. Some might find this stimulating ideawise. Others who are bored
by philosophical discourse might save this for later if they need
something to put them to sleep tonight! LOL This little quiz might
even help clarify aspects of this interesting discussion on
consciousness. Fun for the whole family! :-))
Andy, after carefully reading your posts about the how "consciousness
is what is given to us" and "the idea of matter is derived from
consciousness" - as well as other things you have said from time to
time - it will be very interesting to see how you "score" Ilyenkov's
positions on epistemology. I would actually be quite interested in
everyone's thoughts ...
The Internet Ilyenkov Epistemology Quiz also known as The How Much Do
You Agree With Ilyenkov on Consciousness? Test
from **Leninist Dialectics and the Metaphysics of Positivism** by EV
Ilyenkov, edited by Steve Gabosch, Sept 2009
downloaded from http://www.marxists.org/archive/ilyenkov/works/positive/positi.htm
a. Where is the clear-cut dividing line between … philosophical
idealism and … philosophical materialism? …
b. … which of these two points of departure is determining the
direction of all your thought, regardless of the subject of your
reflection … ?
c. Here … is the question: take your thought, your consciousness of
the world, and the world itself ... what is the relationship between
1. … there is no middle here … [no] middle path …
2. In philosophy the 'party of the golden mean' is the 'party of the
brainless', [that is, those that attempt the middle path are destined
to fail if they] ... try to unite materialism with idealism in an
eclectic way, by means of smoothing out the basic contradictions, and
by means of muddling the most general ... and clear concepts.
3. These concepts [the two general concepts which must be clearly
differentiated] are matter and consciousness.
4. [By consciousness we are referring to the] psyche, the ideal,
spirit, soul, will, etc. etc.
5. 'Consciousness' – let us take this term as Lenin did – is the most
general concept which can only be defined by clearly contrasting it
with the most general concept of 'matter', as something secondary,
produced and derived.
6. [[sg interpretation: ‘Consciousness’ [in its most general sense]
can only be defined by clearly contrasting it with ‘matter’ [in its
most general sense.]]]
7. [[sg interpretation: …moreover … [consciousness can only be
contrasted with matter] as something that is secondary, produced and
8. Dialectics consists in not being able to define matter as such …
9. … it [matter] can only be defined through its opposite, and only
if one of the opposites is fixed as primary, and the other arises from
10. [[sg interpretation: Dialectics can only define things through
their opposites, and furthermore can only do so if one of these
opposites is fixed as primary and the other as arising from it.]]
11. [[sg interpretation of an implication made above: In dialectical
materialism, the material is primary; and consciousness, its opposite,
arises from it.]]
12. Lenin's position … [is as follows]: for materialism … matter –
the objective reality given to us in sensation … is the basis of the
theory of knowledge (epistemology) …
13. … for idealism of any type, the basis of epistemology is
14. [Consciousness for the idealist can take a multitude of forms and
can appear] under one or another of its pseudonyms (be it the
'psychical', 'conscious' or 'unconscious', be it the 'system of forms
of collectively-organised experience' or 'objective spirit', the
individual or collective psyche, individual or social consciousness).]
15. [Social consciousness is sometimes described as] … 'collectively-
organised' … experience …
16. … the relationship of matter to consciousness is complicated by
the fact that social consciousness … from the very beginning precedes
individual consciousness as something already given, and existing
before, outside, and independent of individual consciousness.
17. Just as matter does.
18. [[sg interpretation: Just as social consciousness does, matter,
from the very beginning, precedes individual consciousness as
something already given.]]
19. [There is] … even more [to it] than that.
20. This social consciousness – forms ... [the individual’s]
consciousness to a much greater degree than [does] the 'material world'.
21. [Social consciousness] of course, in its individualised form,
[takes] … the form of the consciousness of one's closest teachers, and
after that, of the entire circle of people who appear in the field of
vision of a person …
22. But social consciousness, according to Marx, is not 'primary',
but secondary, derived from social being, i.e. the system of material
and economic relations between people.
23. [[sg interpretation: According to Marx, social consciousness,
which is secondary, is derived from social being, which is the system
of material and economic relations between people.]]
24. It is … not true that the world is cognised in our sensations.
25. In sensations the external world is only given to us, just as it
is given to a dog.
26. ... [The external world] is cognised not in sensations, but in
the activity of thought ...
27. [Dialectical] Logic is defined by Lenin … as the science of those
universal laws … to which the development of the entire aggregate
knowledge of mankind is objectively subordinated.
28. These laws are understood [by dialectical materialism] as the
objective laws of development of the material world, of both the
natural and socio-historical world, of objective reality in general.
29. ... [These laws] are reflected in the consciousness of mankind
and verified by thousands of years of human practice.
d. What is … 'thought'?
30. … [A materialist] line of thought [about what thought is] proceeds
from Spinoza. He understands thinking to be an inherent capability,
characteristic not of all bodies, but only of thinking material bodies.
31. With the help of this capability, a body can construct its
activities in the spatially determined world, in conformity with the
'form and disposition' of all other bodies external to it, both
'thinking' and 'non-thinking'.
32. Spinoza therefore includes thinking among the categories of the
attributes of substance, such as extension.
33. In this form ... [thinking] is, according to Spinoza,
characteristic also of animals.
34. For him [Spinoza] even an animal possesses a soul, and this view
distinguishes Spinoza from Descartes, who considered that an animal is
simply an 'automaton', a very complex 'machine'.
35. Thought arises within and during the process of material action
as one of its features, one of its aspects, and only later is divided
into a special activity (isolated in space and time), finding [the]
'sign' form only in man.
36. A completely different picture arises when, proceeding from
individual experience, it is precisely the verbally formed world which
is taken as the starting point in the theory of knowledge.
37. It is all the more easy to yield to such an illusion, since in
individual experience, words (and signs in general) are in actual fact
just as much given to sensual contemplation as are the sun, rivers and
mountains, statues and paintings, etc. etc.
38. Here are the roots of idealism in its 'sign-symbolic' variation.
39. If one proceeds from individual experience, making it the point
of departure and basis of the theory of knowledge, then idealism is
40. But it is also inevitable if one relies on 'collective
experience', if the latter is interpreted as something independent of
being, as something existing independently, as something primary.
<Ilyenkov moves on to other questions at this point in the text.>
<End of quiz.>
So how did you score Ilyenkov?
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