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May I thank your Society for the honour it has done me in inviting me to present to it what it has called, since it came into existence, and what it will doubtless long continue to call, by a disarmingly nostalgic name: A communication and a discussion are only possible if they are scientific.
But a philosophical communication and a philosophical discussion? This term would certainly have made Lenin laugh, with that whole-hearted, open laugh by which the fishermen of Capri recognized him as one of their kind and on their side. This was exactly sixty years ago, in Lenin was then at Capri, as a guest of Gorky, whose generosity he liked and whose talent he admired, but whom he treated nevertheless as a petty-bourgeois revolutionary.
Gorky had invited him to Capri to take part in philosophical discussions with a small group of Bolshevik intellectuals whose positions Gorky shared, the Otzovists. Politically, the Otzovists were leftists, in favour of radical measures: But these leftist proclamations concealed rightist theoretical positions.
These are phenomena which we are beginning to understand. Their spontaneous, everyday philosophy has simply become visible to them. Such crises are chronic occurrences. But we can ignore this. Lenin laid down his conditions: Dear Alexei Maximovich, I should very much like to see you, but I refuse to engage in any philosophical discussion.
To be sure, this was a tactical attitude: If science unites, and if it unites without dividing, philosophy divides, and it can only unite by dividing. All I want to do today is to comment on that laughter, which is a thesis in itself. I venture to hope that this thesis will lead us somewhere.
And it leads me straightaway to ask myself the question which others cannot fail to ask: It is obviously a talk to philosophers.
But as clothes do not make the man, the audience does not make a talk. My talk will therefore not be philosophical. Nevertheless, for necessary reasons linked to the point we have reached in theoretical history, it will be a talk in philosophy. But this talk in philosophy will not quite be a talk of philosophy.
It will be, or rather will try to be, a talk on philosophy. Which means that by inviting me to present a communication, your Society has anticipated my wishes. What I should like to say will indeed deserve that title if, as I hope, I can communicate to you something on philosophy, in short, some rudimentary elements towards the idea of a theory of philosophy.
That is how I ask you to understand my title: In fact, I believe that what we owe to Lenin, something which is perhaps not completely unprecedented, but certainly invaluable, is the beginnings of the ability to talk a kind of discourse which anticipates what will one day perhaps be a non-philosophical theory of philosophy.
As I too am an academic and teach philosophy. I hope that any of our luminaries whom I have forgotten will forgive me, but it seems to me that, if we except articles by Communist philosophers and scientists, I can hardly find more than a few pages devoted to Lenin in the last half-century: Merleau-Ponty dismisses it with a single word: It would surely be unbecoming on my part, even given all the requisite tact, to open a case against the French philosophical tradition of the last one hundred and fifty years, since the silence in which French philosophy has buried this past is worth more than any open indictment.
It must really be a tradition which hardly bears looking at, for to this day no prominent French philosopher has dared publicly to write its history. Indeed, it takes some courage to admit that French philosophy, from Maine de Biran and Cousin to Bergson and Brunschvicg, by way of Ravaisson, Hamelin, Lachelier and Boutroux, can only be salvaged from its own history by the few great minds against whom it set its face, like Comte and Durkheim, or buried in oblivion, like Cournot and Couturat; by a few conscientious historians of philo- sophy, historians of science and epistemologists who worked patiently and silently to educate those to whom in part French philosophy owes its renaissance in the last thirty years.
We all know these names; forgive me if I only cite those who are no longer with us: Only thirty years earlier, these authors were abandoned to literary critics and jurists as left-overs. But French academic philosophy was not mistaken in its radical refusal to learn anything from politicians and politics, and therefore from Lenin.
Everything which touches on politics may be fatal to philosophy, for philosophy lives on politics. It is also lucid: Which means, to speak plainly, that there can be no true path sc.
In the last resort, and more important than all the reasons I have just evoked, this is undoubtedly why Lenin is intolerable to academic philosophy, and, to avoid hurting anyone, to the vast majority of philosophers, if not to all philosophers, whether academic or otherwise.Note: Citations are based on reference standards.
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The relations between Lenin and philosophy are certainly expressed in philosophy, inside the 'game' which constitutes philosophy as philosophy, but these relations are not philosophical, because this 'game' is not philosophical. Lenin and Philosophy attempts to reassert the significance of Lenin as a thinker of historical materialism.
Althusser's structuralist account of the development of historical materialism seeks to demarcate philosophy as praxis-philosophy draws the lines which are to deflect false ideas.
LENIN AND PHILOSOPHY AND OTHER ESSAYS [ - Part 2 - ] T R A N S L A T E D F R O M T H E F R E N C H B Y B E N B R E W S T E R Monthly Review Press New York and London , pp. 12, , ; see also the letter to Tatiana Schucht, 7 September , in Lettre del Carcere, Einaudi, , p.
English-language translation in preparation.
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Source: Lenin and Philosophy and Other Essays, Monthly Review Press ; Transcribed: by Andy Blunden. See Materialism and Empirio-Criticism () and Lenin's Annotations on Hegel ().