Logical and the Historical

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Logical and the Historical


the essential aspects of the development of the objective world and the methods of its cognition.

The objective logic and history of the development of an object are distinct from the methods by which the object is known. The objective-logical is a general line, the lawlike regularity of development of an object (for example, the development of society from one socioeconomic formation to another); the objective-historical is the concrete expression of a given lawlike regularity in all the diversity of its specific and singular manifestations (for example, the specific history of separate countries and peoples and their unique individual fates).

Two methods of cognition proceed from these two aspects of the objective process: the logical and the historical. Any phenomenon may be correctly known only in its inception, development, and destruction, that is, in its historical development. It is not possible to understand a given result without clarifying its path of development that led to the given result. Historicism constitutes the heart of the method and whole system of dialectical materialism: “The whole spirit of Marxism, its whole system, demands that each proposition should be considered … only historically; … only in connection with others; …only in connection with the concrete experience of history” (V. I. Lenin, Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 49, p. 329). This is true of any object of cognition, including cognition itself.

However, in reality history frequently proceeds by zigzags. If one were to observe history as it occurs, it would be necessary to take into consideration not only the essential phenomena but also phenomena of secondary importance, which would interrupt the logical course of thinking. Therefore, along with the historical method, the logical method of investigation is necessary. The logical is a generalized expression of the historical; it is the historical freed from random occurrences and taken in its essential lawlike regularities. The logical also appears as a concise reproduction of the history in other processes. For example, the development of consciousness in the child is a concise reproduction of the history of human mental development, just as the physical development of an individual is an abbreviated reproduction of the basic stages of evolution. The repetition of the regularities of historical development in the logic of individual development relates not only to objective reality but to thinking as well. The logic of individual thinking repeats, in a compressed manner, the history of social knowledge. In its entirety, the logical coincides with the historical. “The chain of thought must begin with the same thing with which this history begins and its further course will be nothing else than the mirror image of the historical course in an abstract and theoretically consistent form; a corrected mirror image but corrected according to laws furnished by the real course of history itself, in that each factor can be considered at its ripest point of development, in its classic form” (K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch. 2nd ed., vol. 13, p. 497).

The logical is frequently understood as the theoretical analysis of an object in its most developed form, while abstracting from the process of its development. J. Kepler, for example, did not have to study the history of the planets in order to discover the laws governing movement. But in order to discover the laws of society it was necessary to use the logical and historical in their dialectical unity. If the historical method frees the logical from abstract speculation, then the logical method liberates the historical from empiricism. Both methods operate in unison, but, depending on the actual conditions of the investigation, one of them may dominate.

In the idealist world view the logical and the historical are viewed only as something ideal; in this regard, the logical in systems of the Hegelian type is interpreted as genetically primary in relation to the historical, which supposedly represents only an external realization of the logical.

Dialectical materialism gives primacy to the historical in the unity of the logical and the historical. Only the knowledge of actual history makes it possible to identify the main tendencies and laws of historical development.


Engels, F. Anti-Dühring. In K. Marx and F. Engels. Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 20.
Engels, F. “Liudvig Feierbakh i konets klassicheskoi nemetskoi filosofii.” In K. Marx and F. Engels. Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 21.
Lenin, V. I. “Filosofskie tetradi.” Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 29.
Il’enkov, E. V. “Logicheskoe i istoricheskoe.” ta AN SSSR, 1958, Vol. 52.. Moscow, 1960. Grushin, B. A. Ocherki logiki istoricheskogo issledovaniia. Moscow, 1961.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.