Evald Ilyenkov: A Cosmology of the Spirit

Searching in Internet information about Ilyenkov and his A Cosmology of the Spirit in English, I found a message on Marxism-Thaxis list:

http://greenhouse.economics.utah.edu/pipermail/marxism-thaxis/1996-May/000655.html

Below is the copy of the abstract of Ilyenkov’s work from the link above.

Evald Ilyenkov

A Cosmology of the Spirit: An Attempt to Establish in General the Objective Role of Thinking Matter in the System of Universal Interaction (A Philosophical-poetical phantasmagoria based on the principles of dialectical materialism)”

I. As there is no thinking without matter qua substance so there is no matter without thinking qua its attribute. Here lies the principle difference of dialectical materialism from mechanical. According to the latter, thinking may not exist at all – because it is more or less an exception, a product of a fortunate confluence of conditions – without any consequence for matter in general.

II. Thinking brain is the highest form and product of matter. Philosophy cannot posit even a possibility of a more highly organized form without making philosophy itself impossible or ending up in positivist skepticism and agnosticism. Thinking brain is thus the absolute upper limit in the motion of matter. And since true infinity cannot be infinitely progressive (bad infinity) the mind necessarily dissolves back into more elementary states in the downward part of each cycle in the eternal rotation of matter. In this grandiose rotation without the beginning and the end, universal matter neither loses any of its attributes nor acquires any new ones. As an attribute, thinking, for some reason, is one of the necessary links in this cyclic and circular motion of matter. In thinking brain, matter reaches the highest point of its development followed by its return to more elementary forms, down to an undifferentiated state of the purely mechanical movement of elementary particles.

III. Every concrete form of existence has its beginning and its end. At some point in the future, mankind will cease to exist. The question: Under what conditions life will necessarily cease to exit? presents theoretical interest. Thinking beings can in principle survive the cold death of the universe by creating necessary conditions for life within a limited space. But they cannot survive the immense temperatures of the cosmic firestorm which marks the beginning of each new cycle in the rotation of matter. Thus the necessary end of thinking matter coincides in time with the rebirth of the dying universe. The conditions for the two events coincide too. But so far the problem of the thermal death of the universe and that of the necessary end of thinking beings have been considered separately.

Physics and astronomy can explain the process of the thermal death but not the process of renewal of the universe. Yet such natural process must exist and take place constantly. Without it the universe could not be reproduced in eternity. If such process does not exist, then “God” does. The problem is to understand how the energy dispersed in intergalactic space gets concentrated again in the form of high-temperature gas nebulae which will again produce suns, planetary systems, etc.

The hypothesis is:

Could it be that this reversal takes place through the conscious intervention of thinking beings and that without them this process is impossible and unthinkable? This hypothesis does not violate a single principle of dialectical materialism. Thinking remains a part of the natural process of the motion of matter, conditioned by it but also reciprocally affecting it. Thinking is not an accident of this process but an “internally posited” condition of its realization. Thinking matter is considered from the point of view of the universal process of quantitative-qualitative transformations of the forms of motion. As one of such forms, thinking is a result of these transformations and facilitates them in its own turn. And since thinking matter is the absolutely highest product of universal development it is reasonable to suggest that in the process of the eternal reproduction of the universe it plays some special role which other, less complex forms of matter cannot play. Solar energy is not just wasted for warming up the space but is stored in the qualitatively highest form of matter and then is used as a “trigger,” a “detonator” to initiate a process of regeneration of the dying worlds.

Thinking then is a necessary mediating link, the “effective cause” which makes possible the rejuvenation of the universe by reactivating the infinite stores of “tied up motion”, similar to what we now achieve by nuclear reaction. Theoretically this is not impossible. The destruction of the infinitely small structural unit of matter produces the proportionally infinite quantity of energy which confirms the idea of Leibniz that the destruction of the smallest speck would result in the collapse of the Universe.

This event can be pictured as follows. At some very high point of its development reached by the time when the universe is near the state of its thermal death, mankind or some other collective of thinking beings intentionally creates a cosmic catastrophe that has a character of a chain reaction and leads to a rebirth of the dying universe. By this mankind pays back its “cosmological debt” to nature who gave birth to thinking spirit. “Its self-sacrifice becomes a truly creative act which turns the dark icy deserts of space into the new white-hot masses of matter which will become the cradles for new life, new thinking spirit immortal as matter itself.”

“The death of the thinking spirit becomes then its immortality. In the infinitely distant future, new beings, in whom nature will develop thinking spirit, will contemplate, as we now, the starry skies with the proud awareness that these cosmic worlds owe their existence to the long-gone thinking spirit and its self-sacrifice….

In contemplating eternal nature, man – as any other thinking being – will be proud of himself, of the cosmic magnitude of his universal-historical mission, of the thinking being’s place and role in the system of universal interaction….

It is clear that thinking spirit will be able to fulfill this mission only at the summit of its development….which will be possible to achieve only on the basis of a truly human, classless society in which spiritual and material culture will fully flourish….

For us, who live at the dawn of humanity’s bloom the struggle for this future remains the only real form of serving the highest goals of thinking spirit.”


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