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Russian Empiriocriticism

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-E056-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved February 25, 2024, from

Article Summary

Russian empiriocriticism was an ephemeral movement within Russian Marxism of the early twentieth century. Its brief existence and deep involvement in politics invite the judgment, ’of historic interest only’. But that pat phrase dodges the problem of comprehending history and acting appropriately, which obsessed such thinkers as A.A. Bogdanov (1873–1928) and A.V. Lunacharskii (1875–1933), the best-remembered of the Russians who looked to Mach and Avenarius for philosophic support of Marx. In its German origins empiriocriticism was an academic effort to avoid metaphysics while analysing experience as the source of knowledge. In Russia the focus moved outside of academic cloisters. How is one to relate action to social understanding, if one knows that action and understanding shape each other within an overwhelming process of socioeconomic transformations? Analysis of ’experience’ or ’practice’ in the Russian context – a ’backward’ society under a tyrannical state in an age of total war – nullified the academic calm of Mach and Avenarius. Their Russian admirers wanted to justify Marx’s claims of social knowledge that would be both scientific and revolutionary; they rejected philosophies that merely interpret the world in different ways, while the task, described in Marx’s final ‘Thesis on Feuerbach’, is to change it.

Citing this article:
Joravsky, David. Russian Empiriocriticism, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-E056-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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