Ilyenkov and the Immanence of Logic

David Bedford & Thomas Workman
Pages 29–48| Published online: 17 March 2024

Bedford, David and Thomas Workman. 2024. “Ilyenkov and the Immanence of Logic.” Marxism & Sciences 3(1): 29–48.


The materialist tradition challenges the conventional philosophical understanding that logic is the organon for both science and philosophy. Marx and Engels, building on the materialist tradition that can be traced back to the ancients, inaugurated the direct challenge in the nineteenth century. The dialectic of humanity and nature, they argued, was the matrix of all human culture including its philosophical and logical forms. But as suggestive and compelling as Marx’s and Engels’ bold thesis was, it would fall to twentieth century writers to flesh out the counter-claim that the material world is really the organon for logic. The logician John Dewey, building upon the naturalism and instrumentalism of American pragmatism, theorized the relationship between the continuum of science and the development of logical forms. And Evald Ilyenkov, writing a few decades later, argued that science and logic must conform to the dialectical character of the object world. In Dewey’s writing epistemology is the organon for logic; in Ilyenkov ontology is the organon for logic; and thus in keeping with Marx and Engels both writers see logic as being effectively shaped by the material sphere. Neither writer, however, establishes a clear ontological philosophy commensurate with the claim that the world is dialectical, although Ilyenkov’s writing is much more fecund and suggestive. Building on Ilyenkov, we argue that a theory of entification helps to illuminate claims about the dialectical character of the object world, drawing attention directly to the self-sameness and difference of entities, highlighting their abiding essence and evolutionary character, and so forth. Moreover, we conclude that a clearer philosophy of entification reveals the path through which the material world registers in the upper cultural echelons of science, philosophy, and logic, and helps to show how the dialectical epistemology of Dewey and the dialectical ontology of Ilyenkov complement each other within the materialist tradition.

KEYWORDS: Science, materialism, ontology, dialectic, Marx, logic, entity, Ilyenkov, Dewey.


Bedford, David. 1993. “John Dewey’s Logical Project.” Journal of Pragmatics 19, no. 5 (May 1993): 453–68.

Bedford, David and Thomas Workman. 2023. Marx, Engels, and the Philosophy of Science. London: Routledge,

Dewey, John. 1920. Reconstruction in Philosophy. New York: Henry Holt and Company.

———. 1925. Experience and Nature. Baltimore, MD: Open Court Publishing Company.

———. 1929. Quest for Certainty: A Study of the Relation of Knowledge and Action. London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd.

———. 1938. Logic: The Theory of Inquiry. New York: Henry Holt and Company.

———. 1997. “The Experimental Theory of Knowledge.” In The Influence of Darwin on Philosophy and other Essays, 77–111. Amherst, New York: Prometheus Books.

Hartshorne, Charles. 1984. “Rorty’s Pragmatism and Farewell to the Age of Faith and Enlightenment.” In Creativity in American Philosophy, 252–64. Albany: State University Press.

Hobbes, Thomas. 1994. The Elements of Law Natural and Politic. Oxford: Oxford UP.

Ilyenkov, E.V. 1960. The Dialectics of the Abstract and the Concrete in Marx’s Capital. Delhi, India: Aakar Books.

———. 1977. Dialectical Logic: Essays on its History and Theory. Moscow: Progress Publishers,

Marx, Karl and F. Engels. 1956. The Holy Family. Moscow: Progress Publishers.

———. 1976. The German Ideology. Moscow: Progress Publishers.

McKeon, Richard, ed. 1941. Posterior Analytics, by Aristotle. New York: Random House.

Wootton, David. 2015. The Invention of Science: A New History of the Scientific Revolution. New York: Harper Perennial.