Nikolay Chernyshevsky

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In existographies, Nikolay Chernyshevsky (127-66 BE) (1828-1889 ACM) (IQ:165|#631) (CR:3) (LH:3) (TL:) was a Russian materialistic monism philosopher, novelist, social utopianist, and characterized "nihilist", noted for []


In 1860, Chernyshevsky, in his essay “The Anthropological Principle in Philosophy”[1], his chief philosophical work, a long essay of sorts, argued that, based on the recent chemical vitalism theory (see: vitalism) downfall—i.e. that organic substances, such as urea or acetic acid, could be made outside of organic bodies—and, on the the utilitarianism views of John Mill and the humanistic materialism views of Ludwig Feuerbach, outlined some sort of social materialism monism philosophy (see: materialism).[2]

The article was written an answer to Russian philosopher Pyotr Lavrov, criticizing him for eclecticism, wherein he scorns Fichte (the younger), who Lavrov had quoted, but also Schopenhauer.[3] He called his model the “anthropological principle”.[4] On this principle, Chernyshevsky did away with all dualisms: mind-body (Cartesian dualism), mind-brain, subject-object, etc., and attempted to solve the great question of good and evil and of human actions based thereon, based on his unique version of utility:

“Good is the superlative of utility, a very useful utility.”
— Nikolay Chernyshevsky (1860), “The Anthropological Principle in Philosophy” (§: Moral Science) [5]

Evil, therefore, consists in what is not useful, and theoretical miscalculations in determining utility cause the extreme evil that man perpetual on each other.[5]

In 1863, Chernyshevsky published What is to be Done?, which outlined his philosophy; this was read by Lenin (five times in one summer) among others, and is said to have “supplied the motional dynamic that eventually went into make the Russian Revolution.”[6]


In May 1862, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, after finding the pamphlet “To the New Generation” at his doorstep, paid a visit to Chernyshevsky, who, as the highly influential editor of the literary journal The Contemporary, Dostoyevsky believed to be the leader of the nihilists, which were the people Dostoyevsky believed were responsible for the fires that had destroyed the St. Petersburg Tolchukii Market, and therein sought to reason with Chernyshevsky to curb his writings so to prevent further destruction.[5]

In this period, Dostoyevsky wrote several works, e.g. The Humiliated and the Insulted (1861) and Notes from the Underground (1864), wherein he began to attack the views of Chernyshevsky; in subtle ways:

“You say, science itself will teach man that he does not really have either caprice or will of his own and that he has never had it, and that he himself is something like a piano key or an organ stop, and that, moreover, laws of nature exist in this world, so that everything he does is not done by his ‘will’ at all, but is done by itself, according to the laws of nature. Consequently, we have only to discover these laws of nature, and man will no longer be responsible for his actions and life will become exceedingly easy for him.”
— Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1864), Notes From the Underground (pg. #); a satirical response, supposedly, to the view of Nikolay Chernyshevsky (1860), as summarized by George Scott (1985) in Atoms of the Living Flame (pg. 117)




Chernyshevsky was influenced by: Hegel, Feuerbach, Charles Fourier, Vissarion Belinsky, and Alexander Herzen.


Chernyshevsky influenced: Dostoyevsky, Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin, and Georgi Plekhanov.


Quotes | On

The following are quotes on Chernyshevsky:

“Chernyshevsky maintains that, from a scientific point of view, man is a chemical compound, albeit a highly complex one, and thus is subject to the same laws and necessities as govern all chemical processes.”
— Author (1965), Russian Philosophy, Volume Two: the Nihilists (pg. 14)
“What we call ‘will’ is not free, but only a link in the chain of causes giving rise to human acts. Human ‘will’, therefore, is subject to material natural law. Chernyshevsky did not state it chemically; but, because man was a ‘chemical combination’, he believed that it now was possible to explain all will and behavior on the basis of a rational concept.”
— George Scott (1985), Atoms of the Living Flame (pg. 113); summary of the c.1853 views of Nikolay Chernyshevsky (Ѻ)

Quotes | By

The following are quotes by Chernyshevsky:

“The human organism is but a complex ‘chemical combination’ that goes through an extremely complex chemical process that we call life; human ‘acts’, in their theoretical formula, all come under the same law; the strongest passion gains the upper hand over those that are less strong, which are sacrificed to the former.”
— Nikolay Chernyshevsky (1860), “The Anthropological Principle in Philosophy”; cited by George Scott (1985) in Atoms of the Living Flame (pgs. 112-13)
“Man must be viewed as a being with a ‘single’ nature, otherwise human life is sliced up into separate halves. Each aspect of man’s activity is viewed as the activity is viewed either as the activity of the whole organism or as connected with the whole organism.”
— Nikolay Chernyshevsky (1860), “The Anthropological Principle in Philosophy”[3]
“Great historical events are not dependent upon any one person's will, nor upon any personality. They are realized through a law as immutable as is the law of gravitation, or of organic growth. The rapidity or slowness of the process depends upon circumstances which can neither be predetermined nor foreseen. The most important of these circumstances is the rise of strong personalities , who, by nature of their activity give to the unchangeable trend of events a certain characteristic, and who hastened or retired the course of the trend, and by their superior strength give definite direction to the chaotic forces that move the masses.”
— Nikolay Chernyshevsky (c.1860), Publication; cited by Julian Hecker (1915) in Russian Sociology (pg. 81); cited by Newell Sims (1924) in Society and Surplus (pgs. 350-51) [7]


  1. (a) Edie, James; Scanlan, James; Zeldin, Mary. (1965). Russian Philosophy: the Nihilists, The Populists, Critics of Religion and Culture (§:#, pgs. 29-60; chemical combination, pgs. 14, 43). Quadrangle Books.
    (b) Shen, Ann. (2007). “Nicholas Chernyshevsky: the Anthropic Principle in Philosophy” (Ѻ), Russian 1020.03, Autumn.
  2. Chernyshevsky, Nikolay. (1860). “The Anthropological Principle in Philosophy”, Sovrernennik, no. 4; in: Selected Philosophical Essays (pgs. 49-135), Moscow, 1953.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Zenkovsky, V.V. (2014). History of Russian Philosophy, Volume One (pg. #). Routledge.
  4. Scott, George P. (1985). Atoms of the Living Flame: an Odyssey into Ethics and the Physical Chemistry of Free Will (pgs. 111-14). University Press of America.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 (a) McLachlan, James M. (2000). “From ''What is to Be Done? '' to ''Notes from the Underground: the Man-god Meets the Man-Mouse''” (Ѻ), Thinking About Religion, Volume One, North Carolina Religious Studies Association.
    (b) McLachlan, James. (2005). Dostoevsky’s Polyphonic Talent (editor: Joe Barnhart) (§: Schelling, Dostoevsky, and Chernyshevsky: Egoism, Freedom and Madness in Notes From the Underground, pgs. 185-). Publisher.
  6. What Is to Be Done? (novel) – Wikipedia.
  7. Sims, Newell L. (1924). Society and its Surplus: a Study in Social Evolution. Appleton and Co.

External links

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