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Social being and the human essence: An unresolved issue in Soviet philosophy

A dialogue with Russian philosophers conducted by David Bakhurst

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This is a transcription of a debate on the concept of a person conducted in Moscow in 1983. David Bakhurst argues that Evald Ilyenkov's social constructivist conception of personhood, founded on Marx's thesis that the human essence is ‘the ensemble of social relations’, is either false or trivially true. F. T. Mikhailov, V. S. Bibler, V. A. Lektorsky and V. V. Davydov critically assess Bakhurst's arguments, elucidate and contextualize Ilyenkov's views, and defend, in contrasting ways, the claim that human individuals are socially constituted beings. Issues discussed include: the concepts of activity (dejatel'nost') and community (obščenija) and their relevance to the notions of mind and personhood; self-consciousness and its relation to personal identity; naturalism in Soviet thought. Translated from the Russian.

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Bakhurst, D. Social being and the human essence: An unresolved issue in Soviet philosophy. Stud East Eur Thought 47, 3–60 (1995). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF01075140

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Key words

  • activity
  • community
  • consciousness
  • human development
  • Marxism
  • naturalism
  • person
  • personality
  • self-consciousness
  • social being