unity in diversity, the universal in the particular; the real link between the aspects and facets of an object and knowledge of the object in the full richness of its essential relations, interactions, and contradictions.
The exponents of idealism, for example, I. Kant, J. Fichte, and G. Hegel, proceeded from an interpretation of the concrete as a fundamentally intellectual connection between empirically given phenomena. From their point of view, the concrete exists only in the absolutized concept. The proponents of empiricism reduce the concrete to individual things perceived by the senses, and various positivist schools view the concrete as an individual object, interpreted in a subjective-idealistic way as a complex of sensations.
In dialectical materialism the concept of the concrete is used in two senses: as an immediately given, sense-perceptible, and representable whole. In this sense the concrete is the point of departure for cognition. In theoretical thought the concrete appears conceptually as a system of scientific determinations revealing the essential ties and relations between objects and events, the unity in diversity, and the laws and tendencies of the development of phenomena. Whereas originally the concrete is given to the subject in the form of an immediate sensory image of a whole object, “wrapped in a representation” and not yet conceptually articulated or comprehended in terms of its lawlike connections and mediations, at the level of theoretical thought the concrete emerges as an internally differentiated whole, conceived in its contradictions and development. The concrete is the opposite of the abstract and is interpreted through comparison with the abstract. In the process of cognition, thought moves from an abstract concept, meager in content, to a concrete concept, richer in content. This is the essence of the method of ascending from the abstract to the concrete, by means of which thought appropriates the concrete and reproduces it, combining concepts into an integral scientific theory that reflects the objective articulations of the object and the unity of its essential properties and relations.
The category of the concrete has an important methodological significance in the system of materialist dialectics. Recognition of the concrete nature of truth is one of the fundamental principles of dialectics. Warning against the mistakes resulting from a nonconcrete approach to truth, V. I. Lenin wrote that “any truth, if ‘overdone’ … if exaggerated, or if carried beyond the limits of its actual applicability, can be reduced to an absurdity, and is even bound to become an absurdity under these conditions” (Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 41, p. 46). The principle of concreteness requires that facts of natural and social life be approached not with general formulas and schematas but through a precise taking into account of all the real conditions surrounding the object of cognition and through identification of its main, essential properties, connections, and tendencies, those which determine its other aspects.
A. G. SPIRKIN