On the development of the thinking subject

Table of contents: The Kazakh-American Free University Academic Journal №11 - 2019

Author: Ishchenko Tatiana, Reshetnev Siberian State University of Science and Technology, Krasnoyarsk, Russia

In case we assume that a new notion in science results from a resolved contradiction, or the answer to previously set problems, it appears relevant to look into the problem of how the cognizing subject develops their ability to settle existing contradictions in science throughout the cognizing process in society. Since the development of personality is inseparable from the development of thinking and the ability to reason, the development of the thinking subject becomes particularly topical.

What encourages the development of the thinking capacity of a person? What causes education in the 21st century to lose its fundamentality? When does the cognizing person become a thinking subject? Why does the key contradiction of the cognizing process (between the nature of the content and ways in which it is explored by the learners) require turning to the ideas of Classical Philosophy where the development of thinking is viewed in its connection with scientific methods of cognition and the principle of contradiction? 

According to Evald Ilyenkov, a notion develops in relation to understanding the contradictions that it reflects, which requires certain logical culture of mind and conscious application of logical categories in research of the objective reality [5. 142], as basically those logical categories represent cognized forms of development and ways in which the thought-of material is bound and that are identical to its global interrelations in the process of activity. A smart person is one who can think, reason, make independent judgments about things, people, events, and facts, however 'make judgments based on the highest norms and criteria of the human spiritual culture'! Immanuel Kant dubs this ability 'execution of the power of judgment'!

How does the thinking subject, the acting subject, evolve? As Marx puts it, 'the subject is reality unfolding through its inherent contradictions'. While elaborating on dialectic as logic, Ilyenkov considers the thinking subject to be an individual 'in the midst of social relations, a socially determined individual with forms of vital activity that are not predetermined by nature but are a product of history and the process of emergence of human culture' [4. 185]. Based on these statements, the emergence of a thinking subject is derived from the realization of the principle of contradiction, evolution of thinking culture, and establishment of social relations in which a cognizing subject acquires forms of thinking and becomes able to resolve problems. Transferring readily available knowledge from the teacher to learners without challenging their thinking leads to the appearance of 'impersonal' education process, on the one hand, which in its turn forms a 'subject' who is unable to think independently, a 'subject' who cannot make independent judgments.

The cognizing process is supposed to unfold in parallel to the development of the ability to think that leads to discovery of a new notion as a result of the thinking activity. In Phenomenology of Spirit, G. W. F. Hegel noted that if the path leading to the result is left aside, it is too bad because the result without the path leading to it is nothing but a corpse that left the tendency behind itself. The distinguishing feature of analytical cognition was seen by Hegel in that it is not characterized by mediation, as it implies immediate transfer of notions in their relation to the object. A thinker identifies the mechanism of passing from analytical to synthetic cognition: the necessity to transit from the form of immediacy to mediation, from the abstract equation to distinction [1. 896-897].

Considering the instants of synthetic cognition, Hegel specifies three of its interconnected components: definition, division and scientific proposition. Definition brings an object to its notion, with the instants of learning the notion being universal (nearest genus), particular (specific distinction as a definite kind) and individual (the object itself as an immediate representation; with genus and kind proposed as one). Division of the universal into particulars is a necessary condition for a concept to unfold (be explored), which lays the 'foundation and possibility of synthetic science, a certain system and systematic cognition' [1. 905]. And since the task of dividing is to cognize, it requires a path in accordance with the logic of cognition.

As definition does not yet constitute a fully-fledged notion and only relies on certain identifications of the perceived objective reality or reflections, the task of cognition at the stage of division is to 'sort out the particulars found in the empirical material, on the one hand, and, on the other, apply comparison to find its universal definitions as well,' which suggests the necessity to find different grounds for division into various kinds that will allow us to exhaust the definitiveness of the notion. This mechanism elicits problems inherent in the cognizing process, in which neglected division allows for enormous numbers of kinds, which does not affect the definitiveness of the notion and only suggests a 'game of arbitrariness,' as Hegel believed.

According to the studies that we carried out, eliciting the grounds for division proves to be a rather sophisticated cognitive operation and, thus, whichever way the features get identified (grounds for division) affects the classification and definitiveness of a given notion. This approach makes it possible to handle the notion sensibly, which implies it has been realized and comprehended - only then the cognizing subject is able to generalize and change the object.

Scientific proposition, as the third stage of synthetic cognition, primarily constitutes the transition of particularity into singleness which coincides with the content of the scientific proposition - 'definitiveness corresponding to itself. While a definition contains one definitiveness, and division is definitiveness in relation to other instances of definitiveness, a scientific proposition implies that 'the object is known in its reality, in conditions and forms of its existence. That is why a scientific proposition taken together with the definition represent an idea that is a unity of notion and reality' [1, 911]. A scientific proposition has to be proven. Also, mediation allows for construction of connections between the mediated components.

'Synthetic cognition aims to comprehend what is contained in notions, i.e. to grasp the diversity of identifications in their unity,' concludes the thinker in his treatise Science of Logic (1812-1816). Thinking, the thinking ability of a person, determines their existence, however at the same time, the opposite is also true. 'As is notion, so is labor,' Hegel concludes as a result of the conducted study. Interpreting the absolute idea as the oneness of theoretical and practical ideas, Hegel points out their one-sidedness alongside incoherence when they are considered separately. The notion as the goal of our knowledge, and the method as a means and this knowledge itself, 'for which the notion is given both as an object and own subjective action, as a tool and instrument of the cognizing activity not identical with it' [1. 934-935]. The cognizing subject who can operate the notion possesses all the essence of the objective reality'.

In case analytical cognition is realized - a path in concordance with nature - with the neglect of synthetic cognition - a path in concordance with the logic of cognition - the thinking ability only develops one-sidedly. Moreover, the current situation in the education process concerns neither the logic of cognition nor the nature of the learner that is intrinsically characterized by the curiosity of their intellectual power, which implies interest in problems, thinking competitiveness and subjective activity.

How does the cognizing subject evolve in the course of the cognizing process? Exploring the idea of cognition, Hegel makes the following conclusion: the cognizing subject in their notion possesses all the essence of the objective reality; the process consists of assuming particular content of this reality for oneself as identical to the notion and, the other way round, assuming the notion to be identical to the objective reality' [1. 885]. Nevertheless, in case the learner does not fully operate the notion, the objective reality is inaccessible to them - they are unable to establish relations between the object in interest and other objects. The ability to only operate at the level of assumptions of sensorial nature cannot lead to understanding the essence of things. According to Evald Ilyenkov, thinking, as an active ability to transform objects in a peculiar way (without bringing any actual changes to them or performing tangible actions with them), namely the ideal activity of thinking, is prerequisite to the functional existence of social structures, reproduction of social relations, as well as preservation and development of culture. Therefore, the culture of thought stipulates the development of culture and relations within society. The most powerful means to develop the cognizing subject along this path is the principle of contradiction, exploration of which triggers the process of cognition predominantly moved by the intrinsic impetus. By solving the contradiction, identifying the essential characteristics of the studied entity from its preconditions to the mature form, the cognizing subject develops conscious activity manifesting the forms of human active existence. Given the conditions, discovery of a notion coincides with the process of understanding, the process of thinking ability development and exploration of the thinking subject by the subject herself.

While tackling the problem of contradiction in logic, the philosopher Evald Ilyenkov points out that 'to develop a notion means to develop understanding of contradictions that are found in its core', and it is done 'by exploring how the said contradictions are actually resolved throughout the movement of the notion's foreshadow, and which 'intermediary links' connect the poles of the discovered contradiction' [5. 142]. Viewing the theory of dialectic as logic, Ilyenkov believed that it is basically the theory of cognition itself, and 'scientific worldview that has no philosophy, logic and theory of cognition in its foundation is just as nonsensical as 'pure' philosophy that considers itself to be the worldview, placing a task upon its shoulders that is only possible to be carried out by the whole body of sciences' [3. 319]. In his analysis of cognition problems, the philosopher noted, 'Without spiritual health in our modern time, it is too easy to choke and drown in the avalanche-like flow of information that is daily and hourly dumped onto people from all directions' [3. 21]. In his view, spiritual health is interpreted as a need to think and make sense of what is going on. If we assume that problems of cognition are related to problems of the development of thinking abilities, the ability to make judgements, as well as problems of creativity, we may conclude that the process of cognition not only determines the development of a given person but the entire society as well.

In his studies of the problems of active cognition, the philosopher G.V. Lobastov considers cognition to be a form of activity attributed to the subject, which reflects the ways various entities are transformed in human practice rather than the entity in its immobility, or general abstract properties present in all entities of the same kind at once [8, 9]. In such a context, cognition is a means by which common practice is transformed and it allows to view practice as realized theory. That said, it brings up the challenge concerning logical and didactic tools that encourage learners to become cognizing subjects. Didactic reflects the interconnection between psychology (direct connection) and philosophy (feedback connection) as well as issues of formation of thinking culture.

One powerful way to encourage the thinking ability in a learner is through contradiction that urges them to pursue truth once it is discovered. The ability to withstand the so-called 'pressure of contradictions' that are ingrained in the studied material is what demonstrates the culture of mind attributed not only to the learner but the teacher too, as well as their ability to think dialectically. In case the learning process is reproduction-based, which suggests that it does not entail specifically arranged pedagogical conditions that are aimed to bring about the subject of activity, or develop subjectivity, such conditions are likely to be immoral. By contrast, the productive variant requires the cognitive process to be founded on the key principles of contradiction, action-based mediation, feedback connection, consistency, etc. Taking dialectic as development of the thinking ability of a person through identification and resolution of contradictions stemming from the unity of its contradictive parts, we may just as well conclude that school that is 'supposed to teach how to think' does not involve the logic of cognition, the very nature of the learner and, thus, the potential of dialectic as a method of scientific cognition and means of consciousness transformation. On the one hand, the method is immanent in the studied content (according to Lev Vygotsky), but, on the other hand, the scientific method of cognition results from this content.

It follows from the abovementioned that the present-day didactic system is changing in terms of resolving the tasks of cognition by its intrinsic means. In case the process of cognition manifests dissonance between the content and the form of knowledge, a mismatch between the method and the studied content, it leads to diminished relations both to the logical nature of knowledge and development of the universal ability of the cognizing subject - their thinking. It suggests that throughout the process of cognition thinking does not function as a person's mediated and generalized cognition of entities and phenomena of reality in its essential properties, connections and relations. Therefore, scientific knowledge and theory are left impenetrable to the learner, and transformation of the objective reality and the learner herself is hampered as well.

Transformation of consciousness as a sort of movement from the subjective notion and subjective goal to the objective truth is supposed to involve the following in the process of cognition: levels of generalization (languages - sciences - philosophy); interdisciplinary connections (at the levels of science and philosophy); development of the ability to analyze and synthesize notions as a unity of contradictions; unity of formal logic, dialectical logic and theory of cognition [2. 40]. This approach is aimed at the identification of cognitive means that encourage transformation of a learner's consciousness. Keeping in mind that labor is a purposeful, mediated and transformational activity done by a person, in such conditions the cognizing subject, while exploring a notion, applies tools that are related to the theory of cognition, formal and dialectical logic. The philosophical (methodological) context of this statement not only lies in the foundation of how the process of cognition is arranged and how the tools of cognition are passed over but also in the description of patterns in accordance to which this process is evolving. And that is where we leave the realm of pedagogical activity which is only focused on its own specific properties, because in order to transform both consciousness and relationships we have to deal with the development of culture and economic processes, since the nature of educational activity and the nature of the education process are both stipulated by them. On the one hand, the crisis in education reveals the imperfection of methodical forms, on the other, though, it necessitates bringing about the forms that would comply with the needs for the development of scientific knowledge and human, and respond to the challenges of the current time [6].

In the work Dialectical Logic, Evald Ilyenkov analyzes the path towards creation of dialectical logic and underscores the process of spiritual evolution marked by the names of representatives of German Classical Philosophy of the late 18th and early 19th centuries: Kant, Fichte, Schelling, and Hegel. Namely, based on the analysis of the previous theories, Kant reached the conclusion that 'dialectic is a necessary form of intellectual activity typical of the mind that occupies itself with resolving higher synthetic tasks, or constructing theories' Therefore, Kant, as Hegel put it, stripped dialectic off its apparent arbitrariness and exposed its absolute necessity for theoretical thinking' [4. 78].

In the situation of crisis in ethics, spirituality and economic havoc, contradictions of the education process are impossible to approach exclusively by pedagogical or psychological means. It requires reaching beyond the sphere of education, as problems in education are deeply rooted in the universal problems of humanity.  Ideas of Classical Philosophy, on the one hand, shed light onto the ways of how education is to develop on the basis of introspection of thinking forms and scientific methods of cognition but, on the other hand, it allows to see the limitations of pedagogical activity as it is applied to resolve the key contradictions inherent in the process of cognition.

When considering the substantive component of the process of cognition, the identified problems found in the development of the thinking subject require application of the analytical-synthetic way of cognition, as well as identification of a methodical form that would correspond to the content of the studied material and, therefore, expose the key contradictions inherent in the evolution of the system of notions in question, while preserving historical and logical aspects of the essential knowledge. The cognitive and operational component is aimed at handling the notion: its analysis and synthesis, i.e. exploration in terms of its content and volume; formulation of statements and assumptions in the process of resolving tasks; eliciting new knowledge by way of settling contradictions; construction of problem questions [7]. The realization of functions of intellectual labor will stipulate the development of the thinking subject, with the primary function being the logical one, otherwise called theoretical, that triggers the thinking process. The second function is practical (executive), it performs what has been marked out by the thinking. The supervisory function combines theoretical and practical components. The organizational and communicative component foresees an optimal combination of organizational formats in the process of cognition and forms of communication. Involvement of various labor forms (as those found in economy) will provide meaningful communication and comprehension of essential characteristic of the entity under study. The forms of labor - individual labor, simple cooperation, complex cooperation - will keep the learner involved in the cooperation with others on the basis of their individually performed tasks and generated assumptions. This stage puts a start to formation of the external and internal motivation of cognitive activity. Implementation of these components in the process of cognition will encourage the appearance of cognitive competitiveness, and the transit from the subject-object relations to the subject-object type. In such conditions, the teacher is a subject of the pedagogical activity who professionally makes use of scientific methods of cognition, patterns and logical means of cognition and who is able to consciously determine the right conditions for other thinking subjects to develop in. Evald Ilyenkov provided conclusive proof based on conducted research that as long as dialectic is viewed as a tool to prove a previously accepted thesis, it is bound to remain something 'insufficient,' - it is exactly where a pedantic teacher shows up who was given quite a critical view of in his texts. Logical means of cognition based on formal and dialectical logic, scientific methods of cognition that are complaint with the content under study, as well as problem questions will all be able to improve the situation in case Logic is appointed its deserved role in education, and if Classical Philosophy and its exploration stimulate the process of development of the thought itself, as well as the evolution of notions from their very appearance. If mundane assumptions are processed into a form of notion in the process of cognition, the matter under study proves to be owned by the learner and by way of handling it consciously (the subject matter) the learner exposes their own potential, becoming able to carry out intellectual labor as a purposeful, mediated, and transformational activity. In such conditions, knowledge becomes derivable. Given these conditions, one can speak of a cognizing subject - thinking subject - able to grasp both the real and ideal content of their activity, involved in the process of cognition, and able to retrieve subjectively new results. It is when dialectic becomes a pivot in the process of cognition, its 'active form' [9].


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2. Hegel G.W.F. Science of Logic. M.: Mysl Publishing House, 1998.

3. Ilyenkov E.V. Philosophy and Culture. '.: Politizdat. 1991.

4. Ilyenkov E.V. Dialectical Logic: Essays on History and Theory. 2nd edn., revised. M.: Politizdat, 1984.

5. Ilyenkov, E.V. Problem of Contradiction in Logic // Dialectical Contradiction.  M.: Politizdat, 1979.  pp. 122-143.

6. Ishchenko, T.N. Philosophical and Methodological Foundations of Methodical Form Adequate for the Challenges of Today // Nauchnoye Mneniye. Psychology, Pedagogy and Legal Sciences: scientific periodical / Saint Petersburg University Consortium. SPb, 2015. No. 4. pp. 39-47.

7. Ishchenko T.N. Problem Question as an Intellectual Means of Cognition // Siberian Pedagogical Journal. 2010. No. 1. pp. 92-101. 

8. Lobastov G.V. Dialectic of Sentient Form and Phenomenology of Insanity. Moscow: Russkaya Panorama, 2012.

9. Lobastov G.V. Philosophy as an Action-Based Form of Consciousness. M.: Russkaya Panorama Publishing House. 2018.

Table of contents: The Kazakh-American Free University Academic Journal №11 - 2019

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