Evald Vasilievich Ilyenkov
Born(1924-02-18)18 February 1924
Died21 March 1979(1979-03-21) (aged 55)
Moscow, Soviet Union
Era20th-century philosophy
RegionSoviet philosophy
Main interests
Dialectics · Epistemology
Notable ideas
Dialectical logic · Dialectics of the ideal · Dialectics of abstract and concrete
  • Vasily Davydov · Valery Kovalenko · Lev Naumenko · Sergei Mareev

Evald Vassilievich Ilyenkov (Russian: Э́вальд Васи́льевич Илье́нков; 18 February 1924 – 21 March 1979) was a Marxist author and Soviet philosopher.


Evald Ilyenkov did original work on the materialist development of Hegel's dialectics, notable for his account of concrete universals. His works include Dialectical Logic (Russian, 1974; English trans. 1977), Leninist Dialectics and the Metaphysics of Positivism (Russian, 1980 (posthum.); English trans. 1982) and The Dialectics of the Abstract and Concrete in Marx's Capital (Russian, 1960; English trans. 1982). Ilyenkov committed suicide in 1979.

David Bakhurst wrote in his article; "Meaning, Normativity and the Life of Mind":

Ilyenkov was important in the revival of Russian Marxist philosophy. In the early 1960s, he produced significant work in two main areas. First he wrote at length on Marx's dialectical method (‘the method of ascent from the abstract to concrete’). This work, though it now seems obscure, has an important political sub-text: its critique of empiricism is aimed at the positivism and scientism that Ilyenkov thought prevalent in Soviet political and intellectual culture. Second, Ilyenkov developed a distinct solution to what he called ‘the problem of the ideal;’ that is, the problem of the place of the non-material in the natural world. The latter involves a resolute defence of the objectivity of ideal phenomena, which are said to exist as aspects of our spiritual culture, embodied in our environment. ... there are important continuities between Ilyenkov’s ideas and controversies in Soviet philosophy and psychology in the 1920s and ‘30s, particularly ... with Vygotsky’s socio-historical psychology... After the insightful writings of the early 1960s, his inspiration diminished as the political climate became more oppressive. ... He died in 1979, by his own hand.

— David Bakhurst, Language and Communication, 17 (1), 33–51

An abridged version of his article, "Marx and the Western World," was published in English in a book of the same name in 1967, but this work is little known.

On the other hand, Ilyenkov's work (especially his masterpiece, the study on Dialectics of the Abstract and the Concrete in Marx's Capital from 1960, and the collection of essays entitled Dialectical Logic from 1974) deeply influenced the reception of Marx' economic writings from the 1960s onwards, in the Soviet Union and the GDR as well as in the West. His influence can be witnessed in the international research effort concerned with the publication of Marx' economic manuscripts (in Marx/Engels: Gesamtausgabe, or MEGA, section II, 1976 ff.). His influence is also evident in the intense debates on economic reform that was going on in the Soviet Union in the 1970s (e.g., in the works of A. K. Pokrytan).

Ilyenkov's works have been published in about 20 languages. His Dialectical Logic (1974) was published in English by Progress Publishers in Moscow in 1977. A German translation of his Dialectics of the Abstract and the Concrete in Marx’s Capital (1960), was published by the same publisher in 1979 (and simultaneously by Das europäische Buch, West Berlin); an English translation of the book was published by Progress Publishers in Moscow in 1982. Leninist Dialectics and the Metaphysics of Positivism (first published in Russian in 1980) was published by New Park Publications in 1982.

Bibliography (English translations)



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