UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The philosophical ideas of N. G. Chernyshevsky Pohoral, Georgine Barbara


This thesis deals with three major works by N.G. Chernyshevsky: his first novel, "What Is To Be Done?", and his two philosophical essays, "The Anthropological Principle in Philosophy" and "The Aesthetic Relation of Art to Reality." Chernyshevsky's text is closely examined to present a fair cross-section of his arguments and the manner in which they are formulated, and to point our their shortcomings. "What Is To Be Done?", although written as a form of fiction, lacks psychological intricacies. The purpose of the work is political propaganda; hence its form is a philosophical dialogue, in which Chernyshevsky attempts to formulate his own system of ethics. He grapples unsuccessfully with utilitarianism, adopting some of the principles of J.S. Mill. In "The Anthropological Principle in Philosophy," Chernyshevsky attempts to formulate his own theory of knowledge. He shows himself to be a kind of empiricist, with strong tendencies toward materialism and pragmatism. He also tackles some moral issues, advocating utilitarianism. In "The Aesthetic Relation of Art to Reality," Chernyshevsky offers a critique of Hegelian aesthetics. He then proceeds to develop his own aesthetic theory. The approach to all three works is to lay bare Chernyshevsky's system, point out his philosophical inconsistencies and show where his prejudices lie. Chernyshevsky's work is demonstrated to be of little merit as far as its philosophical depth and literary scope are concerned. Instead, it stands as a monument to the kind of attitudes and concerns of the Russian positivist of the mid-nineteenth century.

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