The Teachings of Yakov Abramov

as Interpreted by his Disciples


Compiled, commented and edited by Mikhail Epstein.


Published in Symposion. A Journal of Russian Thought (Charles Schlacks , Jr., Publisher), vol. 3, 1998,  pp. 29-66.


Key Premises


Who or What? The Prime Identity.

Connective Words. The-ism

Difference and Contradiction


The name of Yakov Abramov (1893-1966) remains virtually unknown to scholars of philosophy, sociology, and linguistics, although each of these disciplines could be enriched by his expansive and original ideas. The name is still less known to the broader public, despite a growing interest in the life and works of such thinkers as Daniil Andreev, Mikhail Bakhtin, Aleksei Losev and Yakov Golosovker. Yakov Abramov—or, as he was known among his friends and discussion partners, Ya. A.—belonged to that pleiad of martyred thinkers who were shadowed by thousands of kilometers of blizzards and barbed wire.

As a young man, he attended the lectures of Viacheslav Ivanov and Nikolai Berdiaev; in old age he was surrounded by the respectful attentions of youthful listeners, several of whom later became recognized contributors to our national culture. But the better part of Ya. A.'s life passed in the terrible years of our history, and as a result, he never had a study or writing desk where he could have set down his thoughts calmly and consistently. Ya. A. was a speaking and—which is especially rare and valuable—a listening thinker. In conversing with him, it was as if riddles and propositions arose everywhere at once, only later to take on grace and form in the hands of his followers, in their treatises and articles.

So far as we know, even after his return from out there, Yakov Isaevich never once attempted to give his views systematic form, nor even to put them down on paper. Thus, all the more responsible is the task that falls to those who would re-create the unity of his thought from the numerous traces and imprints that survive in the works of his disciples and followers. Ya. A. himself frequently called the integral essence of his teaching "Unidiversity," marking a contrast with the teaching of "All-unity," which he so deeply respected in the work of Vladimir Solovyov, and which forms the foundation of our national philosophical tradition. For this reason, it is worthwhile to begin with Unidiversity, as we acquaint the reader with the intellectual legacy of Ya. A., gradually branching out to its various parts and sections.

Below we offer a series of selections from works in which Ya. A.'s ideas are presented either directly or obliquely, normally without mention of his name. This is in accordance with his last wish: Ya. A. considered that the category of authorship, which is properly applied to the fruits of literary activity alone, should not extend to the sphere of pure thought. Nonetheless, even though these selections belong to various authors, they reveal an indisputable consistency and applicability—as regards both terminology amd philosophical method—that mark them as originating in Ya. A.'s unforgettable discussions, in the unity of his creative personality.

In those cases where no source is given, quotations belong to Ya. A. himself and were recorded by Mikhail Epstein, who compiled these selections.



A word cannot be precise, so it must be daring.

—Ya. A.


We strive for the firmest grounding of the strangest assertions.

From Agreement of the Followers


Ya. A.'s teachings resist systematic exposition. He himself often said that the best system is one which pushes back all systematic elements, as the largest possible polyhedron pushes back its own angles. Nonetheless, in Ya. A.'s work, one finds a great many "angles," painstakingly sharpened judgments, that seem to strive for the creation of a system without ever reaching this goal. Ya. A. once said that, "the stubborn avoidance of system can also become a system and one of the worst kind. We habitually call it "chaos," though it would be more correct to say "a system of refusals, or of indulgences."

Ivan Solovyov elaborates this thought in his monograph, Aesthetics and Logic:


As in any message, words alternate with pauses and letters with spaces, so thought is effective only when its systematic aspects alternate with unsystematic ones. The more the former are systematic and the latter are unsystematic, the more brilliantly they set the thought in relief. Let the pencil be blacker and the paper whiter.


And, indeed, Ya. A. used system as but one contrastive device in his picture of the universe: so that tension in some areas would set off its absence in others. "The more exertion it takes to create a system, the more we may be sure that this creation is impossible. Exertion is a perfect witness to impossibility. Impossibility attracts as an end point of exertions."

This indicates that exertion is indispensable to the same degree that its goals are unattainable: indispensability and unattainability make up the perfect wholeness of thought in its daring hopelessness.

Again from Ivan Solovyov, in his work, "On the Triune Defeat":


Truth demands the fullness of proof to reveal its unprovability. Then it is perceived as beauty.

Beauty demands the most intense inspection to reveal its invisibility. Then it is achieved as goodness.

Goodness demands the concentration of all powers to reveal its powerlessness. Then it is comprehended as truth.


And so, what is truth?



Key Premises


In all of Ya. A.'s teachings, the experience and concept of Unidiversity is certainly the most elaborated feature. In contrast to the stunningly nontraditional nature of his work, Ya. A. felt it was essential to begin his deductions from some single, primary foundation, as most philosophers have done since the time of Phallus. Certain of his followers express skepticism as to this "dogmatic" framing of the question. Thus, Andrei Tarsky writes (in "On Nonoriginary Thinking"):


The idea of a "primary difference" is the most traditional and least interesting part of Ya. A.'s teaching. Although the content of his idea on this point is entirely original and places Ya. A. above most scholars who have pondered this question, the question itself is trivial, frozen in the framework of dogmatic philosophical systems. Perhaps it was this very link to tradition that attracted Ya. A., who sometimes lost his breath in the rarified atmosphere of lofty thoughts and hurried back to earth, to the crush of well-trodden paths. In any case, he had a desire to depart, of necessity, from tradition, to break it at the point where its roots were sunk the deepest. After all, a subversion of foundations is possible only from the depths of those foundations, from the most primary of them.


To most of his followers, the very question as to which is primary—spirit or matter, feeling or reason, good or evil—seemed inappropriate, but Ya. A. insisted on posing it pointedly: What is the first principle from which all others are derived? He considered indifference to this question as a sign of laziness of soul and slackness of mind. He regarded pluralism, with its recognition of infinitely multiple principles, as a superficial philosophy, since an apparent multiplicity of phenomena and properties is mechanically transformed into a multiplicity of philosophical principles, nullifying the distinction between phenomenon and foundation, surface and depth. The foundation which truly lies at the basis of everything can only be one,  since it is called upon to explain everything; if it were not one, then it would not explain everything, since it would not be the foundation. But this one and only foundation must be such that from it is derived—in that it gives rise to—all the multiplicity of existing and potential things.




We present this initial portion of Ya. A.'s teaching on the basis of work by his closest disciples. First, from the lyrical introduction to Konstantin Averin's remarkable book, From All-Unity to Unidiversity: the Evolution of Pan-Sophic Ideas.


I come into this world, and I see only differences, nothing but differences. One is darker, another lighter; one is nearer, another farther; one frowns, another laughs. One is "I", another is "it". Only differences are perceptible; only in them is truth and meaning. Nothing exists except differences, which are united only by their existence. That which has not been differentiated seems not to be on this earth. /.../ There is nothing other than differences, through which faces emerge. The face of the sky, the face of a cloud, the face of grass, the face of grains of sand. By means of differences, all becomes Face. To look into the Face of the world is to comprehend it as the sum of endlessly multiplying differences…

Thanks to these differences, that emerge one through the other, the world becomes ever more faced, more animate. It is created with the quality of Face. And then we understand, that at the basis of this universal difference, there can but reside facedness, or Identity.[1] Identity is neither being, nor spirit, nor matter, but that which distinguishes being from non-being, matter from spirit and spirit from matter. It is the origin of universal differentiation that cuts like a sharpened sword through the features of the world, endowing them with its "image and likeness." The principle of creation, in which all philosophies cannot but coincide—however much they differ in the definitions they give to this principle—is Identity itself, that which differentiates as it brings ever new identities into being. Each difference is the creation of yet another face./.../

Identity alone is sacred, and only to her can one truly pray, since all that is, acquires face and becomes identity thanks to her, as her image and likeness. Any creature, different from another, becomes itself as it manifests the all-differentiating Identity. But where can we find it? How can we be sure of it? Identity is not in any substance, nor in any attribute, nor in any dialectic, nor in any unity, nor in any multitude. It lives only in differences. When we find the difference between two leaves fallen from the same tree, or between two grains of sand stuck together on the shore, the discovery of Identity comes over us. We must delve into it with the zeal of an acolyte and an expounder. For these differences are the sacred text of creation—they are language, in which there is nothing other than differences. And in the world there is nothing but differences, because the world was made through the Word, which separated light from darkness and water from dry land. And what is the Word but a sword that divides, by which Identity enters into the flesh of things and the hearts of creatures, differentiating the tiny portion from the still tinier and the cherished notion from the still more cherished? It has been said, "As your sword, take what the Spirit gives you—the words that come from God" (Letter of Paul to the Ephesians, 6:17). And it also has been said, "For the word of God is alive and active. It cuts more keenly than any two-edged sword, piercing as far as the place where life and spirit, joints and marrow, divide. It sifts the purposes and thoughts of the heart" (Letter to Hebrews, 4:12).[2] Thus, division attains to its mystical limits where the spirit is separated from the soul, and the last from the next-to-last. These are the depths where Identity abides and is understood as the division of branches on a tree.

In the words of the Scriptures, "to make holy" means to divide. "Kadesh" means both "sacred" and "divided," or "singled out." Isaiah cries, "Kadesh, kadesh, kadesh"—Holy, holy, holy is our lord. "He is holy in space" means he is separate from space. "He is holy in time"—separate from time. To make holy is to separate, and all that is separated is holy. To the extent to which a thing is separate from all others like it, it becomes the likeness of the Creator, the eternal Prime Identity that separates all from all. We cannot comprehend Identity other than in all of these divisions, whereby each differs from each. We cannot serve the will of the Identity in any other way than by differentiating, ever finer and deeper, all that surrounds us, thereby bringing into the world the greatest possible sum of differences. /.../

The world, in its visible manifestation, has the property of clarity, of sharpness. There are also dim worlds, sunk in a twilight where the degree of differentiation between things is reduced to nil. These worlds seem buried in sleep, and the people there live weakly distinguished from one another, all of one face, ground down and smoothed over, like the things around them. These are worlds of dream and oblivion. As the world awakens, it is permeated with ever newer differences, as if a blade were passing through it unseen, leaving everything sharp and distinct that before was merged as one. The world becomes brighter, and Identity becomes more manifest, creating by its very presence the fullness of differences. As we awaken, we take this Identity into our being, we become permeated with it and are no longer lost in our surroundings. As we become ourselves, we joyfully recognize the face of each one around us…


Here, Averin illustrates Ya. A.'s manner of thinking, or rather, those episodes in his discussions when thought crosses the boundary of philosophizing and becomes a hymn or prayer. But even as it spanned great distances in the twinkling of an eye, Ya. A.'s thought would then return to its starting point in order to cover the same ground again, no longer on the wing, but step-by-step, even crawling, feeling its way through every dip in the soil to lay it arduous, winding path.

Next, we consider an excerpt from Petr Florsky's manuscript "Heroic Thinking":


At the beginning of every philosophical system there lies some first concept from which all others are derived. In ancient Greek philosophy, the role of such a first principal was filled by the elements of water (Phallus) or fire (Heraclitus), the concept of number (Pythagoras) or being (Parmenides) /.../ European philosophy greatly multiplied these principles: for Decartes it was thought; for Fichte—"I"; for Hegel—the absolute idea; for Schopenhauer—will; for Marx—praxis… Each sought for something that would precede all else, containing within itself the basis for all existence. But in this there lies a danger that is not just philosophical in nature. If one type of existence is preferred to all others and established as their basis, then a hierarchy of subordination is constructed that inevitably leads to logical, and in some circumstances, political coercion. If, for example, we set out from the supposition that material existence is the primary basis of things and all ideational constructions are secondary, then soon the ideal will be conflated with the material in a process, not only of theoretical, but of practical reductionism. The intelligentsia, as a thinking social class, will either be destroyed or subordinated to the demands of material production, which in turn will find itself at a dead end or crisis occasioned by the shortage of ideas. But a system governed by an Idea, or by Will, or by the Ego, or by Number also possesses these destructive—and ultimately self-destructive—properties. It is not possible to select one aspect of being, separate from all others, and categorically grant it primacy without distorting the natural system of relations inherent in the world, where every essence is qualitatively irreducible to any other and thereby justified in and of itself. Monism represents the imposition of the dictates of one force of being on all others, and thereby it acquires the practice it needs for total destruction, reducing the many differentiated forms of being to one—the basis, with its supposed ontological priority /.../

If the principles, so authoritatively affirmed by the greatest philosophers, prove so diverse, then does it not follow that Diversity itself should be deemed the principle of all philosophical principles? The paradox is inescapable: in trying to establish a single principle that would precede all differences, we come up against the difference among principles and, consequently, arrive at Difference as the first principle. Indeed, whichever principle we might consider, it cannot be absolute, since it emerges as something definite only through its distinction from all others. Consider Being—obviously, it is defined as such only in its distinction from non-Being, and so Difference precedes both one and the other. Consider Sameness—it is defined by its distinction from Difference, and so Difference precedes Sameness, finding within it a distinction from its very self. Hegel rightly observed that "The question, 'How does identity arrive at distinction?' presupposes that identity, taken as mere (i.e., abstract) identity is something on its own account. But this presupposition makes it impossible to answer the question raised, for when identity and distinction are regarded as diverse, then what we have in fact is only distinction..."[3]

Unfortunately, Hegel himself disregarded this conclusion in constructing his own philosophy, the indirect results of which we can still feel, not in abstract matters, but on our own hides. It would seem that in distinguishing being from non-being, and both of these from becoming, Hegel de facto introduces difference as a first principle. That "difference" which appears in his paragraph §116, Encyclopedia of Philosophical Sciences, is but the objectivization and recognition de jure of the Difference that initially defines the very order in which other categories arise. It predominates in the first phrase of his first paragraph: "Philosophy lacks the advantage which the other sciences enjoy, of being able to presuppose its objects as given immediately by presentation."[4] In distinguishing philosophy from other sciences, Hegel should have seen diversity as precisely that fundamental category whereby philosophy might judge itself and its foundations.

Instead, he begins constructing his system from the undifferentiated state of "pure being," which constitutes the beginning, because it is both pure thought and simple immediacy; the first beginning, however, can neither be mediated nor further determined: "Being, pure being, without any further determination. In its indeterminate immediacy it is equal only to itself. It is also not unequal relatively to an other, it has no diversity within itself nor any with a reference outwards." [5] Clearly, "pure being" is an utterly empty category, as Hegel himself admits, corresponding with nothingness. And here is the expression of the thinker's most profound—although entirely conscious—error, which foreshadowed the absolutist and totalitarian pretenses of his own idealism, as well as the materialism of his followers. For no sooner is a first principle announced as such, than it is reproduced in all the further constructions of the system and its derivative systems, through which it perpetually and unswervingly returns to itself. As Hegel so correctly determined, "[t]he advance is a retreat into the ground, to what is primary and true, on which depends and, in fact, from which originates, that with which the beginning is made. <...> ...[T]hat which forms the starting point of the development remains at the base of all that follows and does not vanish from it. <...> Thus the beginning of philosophy is the foundation which is present and preserved throughout the entire subsequent development, remaining completely immanent in its further determinations."  [6]

And if in the completion of his system, Hegel arrives at the absolute elimination of reality in the idea, the self-sameness of the concept revealing itself in itself, then it is the chosen principle of his system—undifferentiated, absolutely pure and empty being—that inspires this return. "Thus then logic, too, in the Absolute Idea, has withdrawn into that same simple unity which its beginning is; the pure immediacy of being in which at first every determination appears to be extinguished or removed by abstraction, is the Idea that has reached, through mediation, that is, through the sublation of mediation, a likeness correspondent to itself."[7]

What is this simple unity that Hegel posits as a principle of logic? The world around us reveals this through experience in the full development of the Hegelian idea, as it passes through its Marxist negation and returns to the immediacy of being in its bare equivalency to itself, in the rejection of all differentiating definitions. In the assertion of a well-known contemporary author often referred to by the initials "I. Sh.," socialism is a collective attraction to Nothingness, to self-annihilation. I. Sh. is correct but also incorrect, in so far as the Nothingness which he discusses is, at the same time, "pure being," without any further definition. Such, in the socialist world, are labor, property, food, love, and the nation. To the extent, of course, to which these are socialistic, they are pure abstractions of labor, property, food and so on, for which any further definition (What kind of food? Whose Property? Labor for what?) lacks meaning, corresponding to nothing in reality. If we follow the logic of the historical development of socialism, from Hegel's thought through the intermediary of Marxism, then we find that socialism is the immediacy of "pure being," which is also nothingness. Hunger is the nothingness of food, the abstraction of its sensory and nutritive properties, its quality of diversity; hunger is pure calories. Poverty is the nothingness of property, the abstraction of its belonging to some actual subject; it is pure collectivism, "all-in-common," or "belonging to no one." Indolence—the nothingness of labor—is the abstraction of labor's concrete goals and needs, its transformation into a universal obligation for passing time, i.e., "work time" (with its abstract result, the "work day"). "Being, the indeterminate immediate, is in fact nothing, and neither more nor less than nothing."[8]  "This pure being, in so far as it is pure abstraction, is also the absolute negative, which if taken similarly in an immediate sense, is nothingness."[9] Hunger, poverty, indolence—these are the forms of nothingness as undifferentiated being.

Hegel's idealism passed through the self-negation of Marx's materialism and became the triumph of materialistic ideology, which (in accordance with Marx) asserts the primacy of matter, while also constantly demonstrating (in accordance with Hegel) the superiority of the idea. As a result, it concludes with their mutual annihilation. Idea negates itself in the primacy of matter, and matter negates itself in the primacy of the idea, leading to the nondifferentiation of both: the draining of idealism and materialism into a state of "pure being," which is neither more nor less than nothingness. This is why beginning with nondifferentiation—with being as such—and ending up with the destructive consequences of this principle is hasty at best, and at worst, criminal…

And so, if we are inspired by the very spirit of philosophy to seek one single principle that would precede all others without subjecting them to coercion, then this can only be Diversity. From the beginning, it brings out the definition of any principle, distinguishing it from all others, as well as from itself. Diversity contains endless self-differentiation, the power of enfacement—the capacity to create new faces—multiplying essences while preserving difference itself as the single generative principle of principles. Difference is the sole universal principle, since it not only allows, but assumes the existence of principles other than itself, be they materialistic, idealistic, monistic, dualistic, dialectical, dogmatic, critical, rationalistic, voluntaristic, or any other kind. In asserting and differentiating them, Difference affirms its own predominance. /… /

Are our assertions new? No, they are not. Let us recall Plato's discussion of the One (therefore also the First), through which he reaches the surprising conclusion that, in order to be One, the One must be distinguished from itself; moreover, its distinction from the Other and the distinction of the Other from the One are said to be the same distinction. This is the distinction that we call the first Difference. "The one must be different from itself… in so far as the one is different from the others and the others are different from the one, just in respect of having the character 'different' the one and the others have precisely the same character, and to have the same character is to be alike."[10] What is "one" and common to all things is their difference from each other. Essentially, this indicates that "the one" is also distinction itself as a prime foundation, allowing for the distinction of one from the other, and of the other from one. Plato's logic is naive and brilliant: whether or not the one is distinguished from anything else, it still contains difference within itself. If the one is distinguished from the not-one, then alongside it, there exists something other; if it is not distinguished from the not-one, then it contains something other within itself. It is either distinct from something other, or it is distinct from itself.

Both these aspects of difference are enfolded in the first Difference, from which they later unfurl as the forms of space and time. Space is nothing other than the sum of all divisions distinguishing one from another, while time is the sum of all changes distinguishing a given thing from itself. But the difference between these two forms of differentiation, between space and time, arises later, when the turn comes for the first Difference to differ within itself and in its further variations.

Thus, our propositions are not new. But it is noteworthy that in the practical conclusions to his thinking, Plato also gave priority to "that which clings to what is ever like itself… and that which is itself of such a nature and is born in a thing of that nature."[11] This notion is crowned by the idea of tyrannical socialism. Here, it is even more evident, more graphic than with Hegel: Eternal sameness, which forms the principle of the universe, finally emerges in the image of the ruler whose instructions bring total sameness to the lives of his subservients.


...The principal is this—that no man, and no woman, be ever suffered to live without an officer set over them, and no soul of man to learn the trick of doing one single thing of its own sole motion, in play or in earnest, but, in peace as in war, ever to live with the commander in sight, to follow his leading, and take its motions from him to the least detail… in a word to teach one's soul the habit of never so much as thinking to do one single act apart from one's fellows, of making life, to the very uttermost, an unbroken consort, society, and community of all with all.[12]


Plato exposes the secret of the philosophical principle that resides in sameness or in "pure being"—in essence, it is the ruler with his need for obedience and subservience: "'Tis this lesson of commanding our fellows and being commanded by them we should rehearse in the times of peace, from our very cradles. Anarchy—the absence of the commander— is what we should expel root and branch from the lives of all mankind, aye, and all beastkind that is under man's dominion."[13]

Thus, eternal sameness or pure being, those beloved primary concepts of Plato and Hegel, bring these thinkers to the ultimate removal of differences from the structure of being—to the triumph of all-unity as a state of self-sameness and to the corresponding political ideals of the absolute state, realized outside of these teachings but in their spirit.

/…/ And so it is not enough to theoretically recognize the role of difference; we must place Difference at the very basis of practical morality: We must love Difference and seek in it the source of joyful contemplation and courageous action so as to instigate the play of ever newer differences. Difference is remarkable in that it can only be itself by not being itself; it can be true to itself only by continually differing from itself. Sameness excludes the other in order to establish itself. Being, in establishing itself, engenders being; will engenders will; sameness engenders sameness. Only difference must engender the other in order to establish itself. Only difference has its foundation in itself, for all else has its foundation in that from which it differs, since being cannot exist without non-being, nor will without the lack of will. But difference is also that which it is not. Therefore, only difference is fully one with itself and needs no grounding in anything other than what it is. And clearly, difference precedes sameness, in that sameness itself is distinguished from difference, as merely one aspect of its self-distinction. Sameness differs from difference, while difference is not the same as sameness; in this asymmetry lies the truth and priority of difference. It contains the first cause of all, for in endlessly differing from itself, it is able to engender all new distinctions./…/

This is difference, but not multitude. There is a danger in confusing the two. In so far as the spirit seeks its depth by sinking into difference, so it may also be scattered in contemplating multitudes. A multitude of faces in a crowd or of books on a shelf is a great desert of the spirit, whereas the difference between two faces or between two books immediately increases their interest. In both sameness and in multitude, there is something flat, indifferent and joyless, to which the soul responds with fainting or stultification. Only a flash of difference can bring it back to itself. Only difference has a soul and a face. This is why the great multitude of monads in Leibniz's system fails to give us true inner satisfaction; although all the monads differ among themselves, these differences drown in their unfathomable multitude. A multitude of principles (idea, matter, being, nothingness …) results only from the differentiating action of the first principle. Pluralism, as a philosophy of multitude, lacks depth and generative power, for it cannot ascend to the singular first Difference from which multitude originates. Rather, it is content with the evident results of this process. Forms, substances, or cultures (as conceived by Spengler, for example) are regarded as different and irreducible to one another, but the primary and conclusive meaning of difference, its moving force and pathos of the Absolute, remains buried in an indifferent acceptance of this differing.

The essence of a philosophy of Unidiversity is not only a recognition of differences, but a participation in their generative activity. In so far as Difference has its own unconditional value and foundation in itself, so do we all find our foundation in It. We do not recognize a multitude of equal but indifferent and unconnected principles; rather we recognize the sole principle of Unidiversity. Pluralism too often assumes an indifferent acceptance of things that are, in and of themselves, profoundly different. If monism is a philosophy of force, as shown above, which subordinates some principles to others, then pluralism is a philosophy of no force in its simplistic acceptance of all principles without in any way directing their development. Monism and pluralism are quite close, however strange it may seem, in the universality of their views, which is treated in the former as a unity of multiples and in the latter as a multitude of units, while in either case remaining indifferent to the question of why the unitary should differentiate itself into many, or why many are united by their very differences. In the one case, we have enforced equality, and in the other—indifferent acceptance. But an active differentiation that pays to Difference itself the tribute and sacrifice, exertion and suffering, that normally go to the One, the All-in-Common—this is the calling of a new world view. Here is a force that does not become enforcement. There is nothing more forceful than that which differs as it manifests its will to fuller and deeper differentiation, as it senses in this its only right and possibility of communion with the First Principle.


Petr Florsky expounds here a theory that Ya. A.'s other disciple Sergei Eikhenbaum suggested calling "polymonism" (in his article "Polymonism: Not a System—a Heroics.") We should point out that Ya. A. regarded this term  dubiously, even though he himself happened to invent it in the heat of a discussion, by combining these antonymous Latin roots to make a term that would mean something like "many-oneness." Eikhenbaum seized upon the word and, in a month's time, brought in a finished manuscript entitled "Polymonistic Etudes." Ya. A. approved of the contents (as always, after this, one felt like changing everything) but found fault with the term, saying, "Whether it's many or one, the most important relation between them is lost. And, in general, oxymorons are not what we're after. Just look how many the 'powers that be' have come up with: the 'fight for peace,' 'materialistic ideas,' 'everyday heroics,' 'an optimistic tragedy,' and even 'internationalist patriotic education.' It's all from the same opera, where the main part is sung by the Party itself."

Nonetheless, Eikhenbaum kept the term, although he rewrote the article and changed the title. Such was Ya. A.'s influence that it inspired divergent thinking rather than agreement. New possibilities opened up beyond his words, until it seemed unimportant exactly what he had actually said.



Who or What? The Prime Identity[14]


In presenting the teachings of Ya. A. through the works of so many authors, we can avoid neither repetitions nor lapses, because each of his followers heard him speak at different times, or even if we heard him together, we understood, interpreted and developed his words in our own way. Ya. A. never laid out his teachings in ordered fashion, from beginning to end; he presented things in parts that suited one or another of those he conversed with. As for the teaching itself—can we even say that such a thing exists? Perhaps there are only those he taught, who still bring something together among themselves, despite their divergences and, at times, even bitter enmity. I will attempt to re-create those fragments of vanishing unity even as I dare to call it a teaching, if only because, once upon a time, it taught someone something. Since most of Ya. A.'s discussions took place one-on-one, he couldn't help repeating things ten times over, and for that very reason, there is no direct connection nor single line of development between the spontaneously arising topics and interests he discussed. This is also why repetitions and ruptures are both characteristic of the teaching: it is addressed to each of us individually, not to all as a group. Perhaps it isn't really necessary to gather all of these extractions from the various followers, leaving everything as written so each may read the part that speaks to him. For what can express or replace the presence of Ya. A. in these contradictory judgments and endlessly free-ranging, sometimes even whimsical interpretations? I only want the voices of all these writings to speak for a moment as one, with the voice of Ya. A. himself.

From Petr Florsky's book Who and What: Two Teachings on the Prime Foundation:


And so, in our search for the foundation of foundations, we have arrived at Difference. In answer to the question, What lies at the basis of all? we can reply no more precisely than this. Nonetheless, such an answer will hardly satisfy us, for what can represent Difference as such, without the things, phenomena and essences that it differentiates? Clearly, Difference, in and of itself, necessarily assumes that which it differentiates; otherwise, it is merely an abstraction of difference and not difference itself. Now we must pose the question, What is Difference, not as an abstraction removed from differentiated things, but as the real, unitary foundation including in itself that which differs, as well as that which differentiates?

Difference, as a principle that is originary and unitary, can differentiate nothing other than itself. That which differentiates not something from something else, but itself from itself, is Identity, the First Face, or Primary Self that originates the quality of having an inner essence, of having a face. Here we reach the sole possible answer to the original question about the foundation of foundations, and we realize that the question must be more precise: it is not what lies at the foundation of all foundations, but who stands there? For difference that differentiates itself cannot be a what, but only a who, since "what" merely differs from other things, while only "who" can differ from itself. The distinction from oneself, the capacity to have oneself as a quality of otherness—this is a property of Identity. Identity is that which differs from itself; it is the differing and the differed from combined in one person. First, there was Who, and only after was there what; first there was differing from the self, and after—there was differing from another. (Neither in our day-to-day, nor in our spiritual experience, does "who" ever arise from "what," but always "what" from "who"—the inanimate from the animate, the animate from the animating.) Moreover, in this context, "Who" emerges in its own definiteness, not in relation to other creatures or essences, which do not yet even exist, but only in relation to itself, that is, as Identity in its self-defining and self-differentiating capacity. Identity is difference arising from itself and arousing itself; it is the unity of the Diverse and the Diversified. Therefore, it is indeed that foundation from which all others may be derived, as they differ among themselves.


From Petr Florsky's "The First Day of Creation in Mythology, Philosophy and Religion":


The Biblical picture of the universe shows us that, from the very beginning, creation and initiation lie with the act of differentiating. "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth" (Genesis, 1:1). It pointedly does not say, "created the world," or "nature," or "the universe"—not one is created, but two: the heavens and the earth. The distinction between them reveals the essence and aim of creation as differentiation. Nothing precedes this division; it occurs at the beginning of creation and of the Scriptures. Further, these acts of division succeed and enrich each other, producing all the variety of the world as it is known to us. "And God separated the darkness from the light…" Division is carried out in space—between the clouds of the sky and the oceans of the earth, and it is carried out in time—morning is divided from evening, the first day is divided from the second… The world is the divisions and borders that are set into the world. There is no unitary "substance" nor "universum" prior to this division.

There is nothing, but there is someone, from whom these divisions arise, and isn't this so because He first separates Himself from everything else, and even within Himself carries out a division between existence and essence? In the Bible, the word 'difference' is rarely used, for that would point too directly to what it is, precisely, that differentiates. And in relation to the Prime Identity, this must remain a mystery. Instead, we encounter a more precise synonym of an apophatic character: "There is none like me in all the earth" (Exodus 9: 14), and "To whom will you liken me? Who is my equal? …I am God, and there is no one like me" (Isaiah 46:5, 9).

Thus, God has no likeness in anyone or anything, and therefore His sole true characteristic is this very Singularity, this likeness to Himself alone. But in such a likeness, which appears as a definition of the self through itself, the meaning of finitude and the division within the Self mysteriously emerge: When Moses asks for His Name, God answers, "I am who I am.". This very Name twice contains the term "am", and the difference between them reveals the depths of the Prime Identity. The first is a verbal copula, the second a predicate meaning the fullness of being. The term "who" stands between them, marking the boundary where "Am" differs from "am", where oneself differs from itself. As in the beginning of creation, the heavens were divided from the earth, so the Creator divides the self who is—who exists—from who he is—his essence. In order to define itself as truly originary, being distinguishes itself from itself, and only in this self-definition—this self-differentiation—resides the mystery of the first unity. /…/

Is this Hegel's indefinite immediacy of being? No—being begins with a clear self-definition, in which WHO mediates between "am" and "am." Who reveals itself in the difference between being-as-manifestation ("I am") and being-as-identity ("who I am"). In the first instance, "am" is used as a simple copula; in the second, it is a denotative verb: "I am He, Who exists." Being itself is originarily divided, in its own Creator, into manifestation and essence, into "am-1" and "am-2." Is it not from this originary demarcation, drawn by the Creator in His own self-definition, that there arises all further divisions among the parts of nature and segments of time, among the heavenly bodies and the species of creatures, among all the created things and creations that are so abundant on the earth? This very Name, with its double "am"—is it not that all-dividing Word, likened to a two-edged sword, whereby was created and still is created all the world? And this relative pronoun that stands always between, dividing the main and the subordinate clauses—this "Who"—does it not contain the key to the grammar of the universe?[15]


From Nikolai Rozanov's "As Light Falls on a Maple Leaf":


Since the essence of Identity is self-differentiation, by its inaugural act, it divides self from self. The "self" that is set apart is the world, while the "I" that divided itself is Identity. The world is all that is distinct from the Identity, all that it is not. This is why the Prime Identity is always perceived as Someone located beyond the boundaries of the world, and for those who are in the world, this "beyondness" is its main property. As all types of differences develop and multiply, Identity itself moves farther and farther away from us into an unknown beyond, thereby increasing disbelief and hopelessness; the world that it has left behind swells and multiplies in its innumerable divisions, obtaining ever more power over its inhabitants, overshadowing them with its growing mass and complexity, blocking the Prime Identity from view. But the beyondness of Identity is not weakness, strangeness, insufficiency or illusion; on the contrary, in this lies the genuine, ever-growing presence of Identity in our midst, rather than that of "oneness," or "all" or "idea." Indeed, the very distinctness of the world from Identity is a manifestation of its essential property of distinguishing from itself and being distinct from all. It is present in all the differences that multiply the complexity of the world, and the more distant Identity is from us, the more it is close to us. By all the degrees of division, it draws near to us…

Identity lies precisely in that which distinguishes me from it—in that which places between us an endless corridor of time and space. For indeed, time is the very life of Identity in its distinction from itself, and space—in its distinction from another. This is why Identity is always distant, farther than the farthest, billions of light years farther than all the galaxies. But this is an expression of its will to abide with us, while also making us free. Matter, the plant kingdom, animals, human beings—these are the stages of Identity's distinction from itself and of its ever-growing grounding in itself. A human being is farther from Identity than is a plant, but at the same time he is closer to it, for he has an identity of his own. In so far as I endlessly distinguish myself from Identity, I stand farther from it than does any other creature in the world; it hides itself from me behind an impenetrable veil, as absolute Otherness, the Alien, the Incomprehensible. But even as this alien quality, it abides in me more fully and deeply than if it lay within a few steps of me. Addressing himself to Identity, the poet I. Zh., one of Ya. A.'s  disciples, stated, "You are the distance between you and me." It withdraws from me with the same speed as it approaches. This gives rise to the inescapable sorrow a man feels in the world's lonely times and spaces and to an increasing sense of expectation in the face of the inescapably eventual meeting. We depart from Identity as it precedes differences and draw near to it as it is manifest in differences. Therefore, atheism will increase in the world as a measure of this sense of distance from and abandonment by God, while at the same time, there will also increase a new theism of God's appearance—the second meeting.

As Origen wrote in "On First Principles," in the end of the World, there will be a greatness of variety and difference, and they will serve as the reason and pretext for new differences in the new world that is to come after this. The more differences there are in the world, the more fully manifest is the image of Identity, which made the world in distinction from itself. The world that has been engendered by Distinction, will, in the end, conclude with them.

But this will be distinction that not only includes a difference, but also the highest degree of quality, in accordance with the two meanings of the word in our language: "distinctive" is not only that which resembles no other, but also that which surpasses all others. "Good" and "bad" are equally distinct from one another, but this difference is itself a positive sign that augments the good in its predominance over bad. This means that difference is a blessing, in and of itself, as soon as it enables the ripening of other blessings; and from this it follows that, to the extent that blessings and evils become more differentiated, Good becomes greater than Bad. On the side of Good there is an unconquerable soldier whose name is Distinction. Difference is the sign of growing perfection. And this interconnection of two characteristics is reflected in the word "distinction" which means both "a difference" and "deserving merit." For to differ is to deserve merit. This unlikeness of one thing to another becomes the superlative quality of things.

…Thus do we think of the end of the world: any unlike thing will become a superlative thing; each property and phenomenon that differs from another property and phenomenon will become the best of its kind, will achieve distinction, through increasing delimitation. That which is distinct will become distinctive in and of itself,[16] for there will not be any "other" that produces its distinction; rather each thing will be the other for itself by achieving its greatest quality and being the most superior of its kind. Distinctiveness will be the state of the world. Each thing that is distinct from those like it will become all in itself and for itself, and then the world will begin to disappear as a communality, as a homogeneity of space and time, a continuum of substances and attributes. All that is faceless, lacking distinction, will disappear. Quantity will give way into quality. The world as a totality of outward conditions, common to all, will lose its meaning, and Identity will remain with all of the distinctions it has created. The "sublation" (to borrow Hegel's term) of all differences contained within a thing as it becomes most fully itself—not as it becomes the most extensive or the most beautiful, but precisely the most itself, such as it is—this is its superiority as the sum total of all its non-resemblances. The thing may neither lose nor gain a grain of matter, but still it will shine like a crystal when all of its facets have been carved by Difference and set in the light of Meaning. Thing becomes Word as it comes to consist of differences alone.

Thus, differences lead us away from Identity, but they also lead us to it. Identity will be manifest to the world from the world itself, from the fullness of the world's differences, as the first comes to be last and alpha changes places with omega, as that which preceded all, now follows after all, flowing from every drop of water and growing from every sprouting seed. At the crossing of all roads, in the branching of all trees, in the musings of all people, there dawns the light of Difference, the sun of Identity. The world will give birth to the One who created the world, as God the Father is manifest from its depths as God the Child. Whosoever will distinguish the last thing in the world from the next-to-last, and whosoever will teach the last man on earth to distinguish himself from himself—he will reveal Identity as the End. Around this SuperIdentity the world shines more brightly and shows more deeply the relief set in its smallest veins, just as if matter could acquire the resilience of the heart, the complexity of the brain, and the expressivity of the eyes, as if it could be identified to its final foundations and contain the Prime Identity not only as its origin, but as the limit of all differentiations.


. Connective Words. The-ism


One disciple by the name of Andrei Pushnikov noted that in the Russian language, one and the same linguistic root fortuitously connects the words lichnost' ("identity" or "personality") and razlichie ("difference"), which allows for a convincing linkage of these concepts as animate and inanimate hypostases—the "who" and the "what"—of Faceness as the First Principle. Does this mean that other languages are less fortunate and cannot express the primordial quality of difference within Identity in the full purity of truth? The English terms for these concepts, for example, have little resonance between them. In response to these observations, Ya. A. developed his teaching on the wisdom of language, which, more profoundly than any philosophical system, points to what is basic and originary in being. Our presentation begins with an excerpt from Pushnikov's book, In Search of the First Word.


It is not just philosophers who ponder the world, but also ordinary people. They do not seek out a first principle, but simply and solidly consider a multitude of concrete things, using whatever words they need. Thanks to this process, everyday language acquires an enormous value for the philosopher. In the overall volume of word usages relating to concrete things and goals, the first principle cannot fail to express itself, insofar as it can be expressed in words, and philosophy does not claim to say more than that. Therefore, philosophers should listen for the most frequently uttered words, since language itself cannot get along without them. The first principle is primary because it manifests itself as a necessary property in the greatest quantity and variety of phenomena, so that it finds expression in the language, even when no one is thinking about it at all. It is necessary for precisely this reason, that we lack access to anything beyond it. It reveals itself no matter what we may be thinking or talking about, and moreover, it appears with greater objectivity and inevitability, the less we keep it in mind.

If we make a point, as philosophers do, of concentrating on the first principle as such, we may fall into error or whim in choosing one thing or the other. Since everything around us is interconnected, it is a simple matter to start with something and arrive at something else, which proves nothing, except that we have nimble minds. Quite a different matter is the cumulative result of the thinking of millions of people who have directed their minds, not to some first principle, but to shoes, umbrellas, the weather, their neighbors, books, political events and so on. How this result is reflected in the dictionary and in the linguistic elements that prove the most essential for conversing about and considering everything under the sun—this bears witness to the real significance of this or that principle in the structure of the world. Language is an incorruptible judge that alone has the right to decide philosophical disputes. The world, after all, is made up of millions of people who all think about the world in their own way, and whatever takes first place in their common language is a primary determinant of their existence.

Frequency dictionaries for the world's most widely spoken languages reveal several common features among the most often used terms, those that contain the fundamentals of the universe, not as these are delineated by various thinkers, but through the overall work of thought as carried on by all the speakers of these languages. One philosopher may consider spirit to be the most important and primary concept, another—values, a third—existence, a fourth—matter, a fifth—thought, and on and on. But what does the dictionary itself think of this, that most disinterested of witnesses, who views the world with millions of eyes?

…The most often-used terms express the longest surviving, originary properties of being—those beyond which language cannot reach. Thought itself can go no farther than the language within whose boundaries it expresses itself. No philosopher should fancy himself wiser than this or that language in which he writes, and if his philosophy seeks expression, it must accept as its foundation that which language itself considers fundamental. In actual practice, things turn out differently: philosophers distort the picture of the world that language gives us, as they stretch it in all directions and deform it by exaggerating the significance of some concepts and minimizing others. But language endures this violence, the traces of which remain as tiny scars on its millennial history. There is a fresh welt called "materialism," with its "industrial relations," "base" and "superstructure." But even this open wound is beginning to heal.

From the standpoint of language, "matter" and "consciousness," "nature" and "idea"—which many philosophers have placed at the foundation of existence—are secondary, specialized concepts that have arisen only in the process of dividing and making more precise the deeper, all-embracing properties of the universe. Language can easily get along without such words and does get along without them in the vast majority of cases. In the Russian language, the word "matter" shares 2172-nd through 2202-nd place on the scale of usage frequency, along with such words as "samovar," "conference," and "partisan." Thus, language testifies to the fact that the concept of matter is about as important in explaining the structure of the universe as is the concept of a samovara conclusion that will do little to comfort the materialists, who find themselves in the ranks of such minority fetishists as samovar aficionados. Even if other words containing the same root are taken together ("material," "materialism," and "materialistic") this metalexical group reaches the rank of approximately 370th, placing it among such words as "base," "finger," "station," and "officer"—entirely respectable words, but hardly pretenders to metaphysical importance.

To the chagrin of the spiritualists, the meta-lexical group "spirit/spiritual" receives the same or a slightly lower rank, at least according to the Russian frequency dictionary compiled in the Soviet era. True, taken together with "soul/soulful," it moves up to 163-rd place, along with such words as "between," "enter," "nothing," "second," "understand," and "always," which are far more essential for comprehending the foundations of being.

Another important concept, placed at the foundation of many philosophical systems, is "being" or "existence"; ontology as the study of being is a central component in the philosophies of Hegel and Heidegger. But language often gets along without affirming the being or non-being of various items, preferring to discuss their concrete attributes without resorting to "existential" judgments. "To be" is an important, but not a fundamental word: in Russian it is the sixth most often used term; in English and French—the fourth. Other categories, for example, "reason" or "cognition" (for the rationalists), "feeling" or "sensation" (for the sensualists), "use" and "activity" (for the pragmatists and behaviorists), "will" (for Schopenhauer), or "life" (for Nietzsche), are also rejected as fundamental by language in the sum total of utterances.[17]

Martin Buber's concepts of "I" and "thou" are more essential, belonging to the most frequently used words in any language, so that no explanation of the world can get along without them. Buber calls this pair of pronouns a "fundamental term" that defines the dialogical outlook as central to the universe, but if we judge by the dictionary, which places this pair third in both the English and Russian languages, then he was mistaken, although not by much.

We find that language casts the most important philosophical concepts to the periphery of consciousness; they are not essential for the thinking process that language itself carries on in relation to the world through the incalculable totality of its statements. Philosophy tries to struggle with language, rearranging its natural proportions by placing some peripheral, little-used element at the center of its own linguistic subsystem; or else it inserts an entirely inessential, newly invented term, such as Hegel's "sublation" (German Aufhebung) Of course, this struggle is to the advantage of language, allowing it to strengthen its muscles, broaden its potentials and enrich its system of meanings and associative connections. Thus, the meaning of the word "thing" in German (and, indeed, in Russian as well) became more profound as a result of its use and development in the Kantian system, just as the words "life" and "contradiction" enjoy a fuller content, giving off a powerful echo in contemporary culture, thanks to the works of Nietzsche and Hegel. But nonetheless, no matter how this or that system may try to affirm its pattern and hierarchy of meanings, it is natural language that emerges victorious from the struggle, preserving in the consciousness (or subconscious) of its people the unshakable priority of values that trace, without overemphasizing, its holistic image of the universe, which remains one and the same across the centuries.

And so it would be useful for philosophy to take, at least once, as its point of departure the will of language itself and not that of one of its speakers. After all, the resulting disproportion is reflected not only on language, but even more so in the resulting attitude towards life, in which forceful, destructive impulses begin to predominate. If we give "matter" or "will" first place above all other words, we can see the outcome. All of humankind has seen it and has been convinced. Thinking in tune with language keeps thought itself healthy and protects the world from its excesses. Perhaps language as a whole is the very measure that allows for a correct and harmonious understanding of reality. This understanding abides, so to speak, in the subconscious of an entire people or all of humankind. It is the business of philosophy to bring to the conscious awareness of the individual what language has to say as the main "sender" of all messages.

What is the first principle of the world?—not according to the opinion of one thinker, but according to language that can clarify and establish itself through thinkers but cannot be disputed, since its verdict was delivered long before we were born. What mortal gloom this verdict would impose if it expressed itself in any of the nouns, adjectives or verbs the philosophers have chosen to signify the momentous triumph of their systems over reality! "REASON"—but what if I go crazy with love? "SPIRIT"—but I dig in the sand or touch the leaves of a tree? "MATTER"—but other than "printed matter," I've never come in contact with it. "TO BE"—but I don't yet exist; I'm only a possibility. "TO KNOW"—but I don't even know what it is that I know…

O! How much more bountiful than any of these subsystems of thought is the system of language! It places as its cornerstone the quietest, most modest, auxiliary words, liberating us with prepositions, conjunctions and particles. Here are no substantives, attributes or predicates, assigning us a strictly regulated course of conduct for the sake of a concrete lexicon. Let us recall the "self-development of the absolute idea," "historical materialism," "the world as will and representation," "sublimation of the libido," "stimulus and response"—each word rings like an edict, like a sentence to some specific form of hard labor or imprisonment. The difference between them lies only in the shape of the screen through which you will view the world: will it be the twigs of dialectical triangles, or materialistic rectangles, or psychoanalytic circles…?

These are weighty, twilight words, whose lexical concreteness, promoted to the rank of a philosophical universal, torments and tears at all that is living as it drives deadly nails into the Whole of existence, reducing it to just one of its parts. Against the background of these iron cages, the very first words in the frequency list soar effortlessly, giving off a barely audible breeze of pure, bird-like chatter: "in," "and," "not," "on," "I." Here are words whose meaning does not impose obligations and does not push in any direction as it passes through thought like the slight quivering of our first and purest, shy contacts with reality. O, language—the great thinker! It insists on nothing as it casts meanings across the field of possibilities. What conjectures and acts they will grow into is determined by the speaker, while language merely proposes: speak, arrange your thought in what ever way you wish, connect it with whatever you wish, and establish it on whatever grounds you wish.

Language begins by granting a breather and a free choice, in what and with whom I will or will not be—all of these first words are essential merely for allowing a free selection of and combination with any other words. Their usefulness lies in their modest readiness to serve. Without such words, people cannot manage their daily interactions, their thousands of thoughts and utterances about this and that. Without these principles, the world itself could not begin: if there was no "in," no "and," not even a "not." After all, everything exists "in" something else; by means of "and" it connects with something else; with "not" it rejects something else, and by means of "on" it is based on something else… What precisely is located in something or connected with something or rejects something—this is for the speaker to decide, while language—like an inaugural gift of freedom—merely brings to our service these brief, meek words.

Prepositions, conjunctions, particles…and in the lead, through a blessing that is not bestowed on every language, stands the most auxiliary of all parts of speech: the articles. The definite article is the most often used word in all languages in which it exists, and it is in these languages that perhaps the richest and most varied verbal arts of the world have been created: Hebrew, Greek, Arabic, English, German, French, Spanish, Italian, and all the Scandinavian languages. If a supercomputer could ever create a universal frequency dictionary, there is no doubt that the first word in it would be the definite article. Thus, in English, out of every 5 million words used, "the" occurs 373,123 times, while the next most frequent word—"of"—occurs only 146,001 times. Every 13th or 14th word in an English-language text is the definite article. In those languages that lack a definite article, its distinguishing function is taken over, to some extent, by pronouns and particles, from which the article itself historically derived In Russian, this includes the indicatives: etot ("this"), tot ("that"), takoi ("such"), vot ("here"), von ("there"); but it also includes such determinatives as samyi ("the very /one/"), kotoryi ("which") tol'ko ("only"), lish' ("merely"). The sum of their frequencies, brings this "collective" article to the rank of second place. /…/

The definite article, THE, is that sought-after word of all words that language itself advances to first place among all the countless acts of speaking about the world. The world should first be understood through the article—it should be fully articulated. Neither ontology nor epistemology—those teachings of being or knowing—but rather "articulology," a teaching of selectedness and definiteness, should be the central philosophical discipline. The first principle of the world is announced by language, the wisest of the wise. The definite article marks any thing as this one, distinct from all other things in the world, and it is the property of "this-ness" that manifests itself as primary and all-defining, as proven by the multifarious practice of language. No matter what topic areas language enters into, no matter what novices or experts, righteous men or scoundrels it makes use of, without the article as a defining and distinguishing element, the vast majority of utterances could not take place.

Nouns may have abstract or concrete meanings, as in "being" and "table," or "consciousness" and "ribbon." Philosophical language primarily uses the former, while conversational language uses the latter, as the two detach themselves from and disdain each other. But if generalization wishes to enter the flesh of the world and take root in its variety, if the everyday wishes to acquire a philosophical dimension and if philosophy wants to become a part of life—then they must learn from the article as the first word. This is the most abstract element of language, which gives semantic concreteness to the other elements, a concretizing abstraction that is both "mine" for each of us and, at the same time, everyone's. The article moves in a world of meanings, articulating them. If thought is the articulation of the world, and if language is the articulation of thought, then the article is the means for articulating language itself, a word-magnet that draws out a single word from among the others. Without the article, nouns keep silent, but with it, they begin to speak. /…/

"Matter" means only matter and nothing more: it doesn't mean "table" or "ribbon" or "needle," although each of these items is material. When such an abstract noun draws over itself the cloth of other words, it rips the natural fabric of language. Why should one concept, with equal rights among others yet incapable of taking their place, try to deduce those others from itself? The article possesses a unique capacity: it combines with all nouns but never replaces their concrete meanings with its own abstract one; rather it gives them still greater concreteness. From all tables, precisely this one is set off—one table in a world of tables; or one ribbon in a world of ribbons—the one you showed me yesterday, the one you are weaving. Just as the article is the word of all words, so any phenomenon that it indicates manifests itself more fully, becoming a phenomenon among phenomena. The article is the originary word, announcing from the depth of other words the coming likeness of the Logos. 

Language bears witness that the main fact of the universe is its divisibility into numerous definite entities; words exist for the sake of their designation. For the purpose of thinking about the world, this selectedness of every item (and of every quality, etc.) has incomparably greater importance than the issue of being or non-being, knowability or non-knowability and so on. Indeed, both being and non-being, knowability and non-knowability, are forms of definiteness that acquire their utmost essence from the One Who divides them, the great THEOS, from whom all other concepts and words each receive their little "the". Nothing can be without being something, without being this and not that. This "something," whose divisibility and definiteness are indicated by the article, is fundamental to the universe. The Foundation itself is This and no other, or, as the English translation of the Bible has it, The Lord. "And you shall have no other gods before me." The communality that is essential to this Who and What can be defined as "The", which enters into the essence of all that is, as a free act of self-defining and a necessary definiteness.

Alexander Frank also elaborates these ideas in Theism and The-ism:


Such a world view might be called "the-ism," to include the double meaning of the canonical term "theism," denoting a belief in God as a Supreme Singularity, or Thisness, along with the uncanonical idea of "the" as the definitive principle of the universe. The most widespread word in the most widespread languages of the world fully deserves such philosophical recognition. The atypical use of the hyphen serves to indicate the second meaning and to connect in one concept the Greek theos and English "the". "The-ism" entails a marvelous philosophical idea—the belief in a personal God (theism) is at the same time a teaching of the universal definiteness of all things. God reveals himself in every phenomenon as his own differentness, and the ancient theos reveals itself in contemporary language as "the" (without any historical etymological connection, but rather as an essential unity of identity and difference).

Clearly, theism is the most universal of all possible teachings, in that it establishes as a worldwide foundation the selectedness, the "this-ness" whereby "the" gives definiteness to all other concepts.[18]  And definiteness is the fundamental property of all that one can think of: of existing things, that they exist; of nonexistent things, that they don't exist; of knowable things and unknowable things alike; of creating and created things alike—all are thought of in their separateness, the property emphasized not by some thinker, but by Language itself in the totality of its utterances about the world.

Philosophy, logic and ethics operate with other concepts—such as "idea," "matter," "truth," "falsehood," "good," and "evil"—which rise to the top of the hierarchy only within closed professional languages but not in language as a whole, which reflects the order of the universe itself. They appear to be general only in relation to still more particular things, and they can reduce those others to themselves, but cannot deduce them from themselves. "Wall" and "roof" may be reduced to the concept of matter, but the difference between them cannot be deduced from it; on the contrary, the difference is lost in this comprehensive and non-articulate "first principle." If we seek out the basis for things in such abstract essences, it will only lead to a deformation of language, thinking, and the universe itself—its variety thereby corralled into the space of a few concepts whose place is within this variety, not as its basis. It is good that matter also exists, as a level of being irreducible to concrete material objects, distinguishable from them thanks to its abstractness. All abstractions are good in this sense of "also," as something distinct from concrete things but not imposing itself on them as an explanatory, grounding principle. Reduced to matter (or to idea), the world becomes poorer to the same degree as there are individual material objects (or idealistic propositions) within it, irreducible to one another and undeducible from their common material (or ideal) base.

This is why, at the very foundation, there must be individuation and division—a "Primary Elseness" that enables something else to proliferate among all mutually irreducible entities. As the indefinite article distinguishes a wall from a ceiling, and as the definite article distinguishes this wall from other walls, we see that articulation is the common element among the multitude of words denoting concrete objects. But this communality is such that, far from denying, it emphasizes and strengthens their singularity. If we take as a point of departure, not the artificial constructions of logical languages, but the living variety of natural language reflecting the organic harmony of all aspects of reality, then we see that the most common principle is singularity, the quality of being "not like the others." Uncommonness is the most common quality. Language utters a truth that the philosophers disguise or distort when they speak only in the name of one specialized, unidimensional linguistic subsystem.

Language acts contrary to the laws of an intellectual economics intended for poor, busy people. It does not cut back on essences, but rather multiplies them, finding a word and phrasing for each one. Can we suppose that "wall" or even "this wall" is somehow less profound as a philosophical concept than "matter" or "base"? A wall entails so much that is mysterious and indeterminate, even if we consider only one wall—a familiar one—it's nature may be revealed in the multitude of partings, evasions and fears that all of us have known. In this wall we may find the basis for many views and conclusions that gradually let us deduce all the variety of the world: "blot," "drawing," "wall-covering," "isolation," "height," "surface area," and so on. It may begin to seem that the world is not so much "material" as it is "wall-ish," because everywhere and always, even among the most immaterial things, I find myself walking into walls, beginning with the exit from my selfhood and overcoming my shyness, and ending with the final partition that separates the living from the dead (though it remains unresolved, which of them is walled off). Thus we may say that "wallness" is the fundamental property of the world. By the same token, however, we might also say that it is "roofed" by the sky, or "apple-ish" by virtue of being juicy, round and full. Every word contains an entire philosophical project within itself: an entire system of worlds may be deduced from its meaning. And the more commonplace the word, the more amazing and rich it is for contemplation.

And what power thought might attain if it acted in tandem with language, using all the words and differences between them to construct possible worlds! The task of thought is not to explain the world, nor to change it, but to create other worlds and bring them into contact with our own, which could be truly transformed, not destroyed, simply by revealing its interconnection and point of contact with multiple worlds. These need not be "other-worldly," although they would no doubt be other than we might expect, not subject to the powers and laws of this world. All of language is needed to fulfill this task, not just a scholarly selection of ten to twenty terms that by themselves bring the world to a state of impoverishment and monotony.

To "change" the world one need only seize upon some single principle and intensify it to the point that it can squeeze out and annihilate all others. Marx's paradigm of change is essentially no different from the "explanations" offered by earlier thinkers; it merely moves from the contemplative plane to a plane of appropriation. In the one instance, the first principle that explains all others is placed outside the system in order to rule it; in the other instance, the first principle itself is ruled, becoming an instrument of change; in either case, the quantity of essences is substantially reduced.

But it is crucial to increase their number. The only essence that lends itself to multiplying others, rather than dissolving and eliminating them in preference to itself, is the truly originary principle—not by virtue of being appointed as such, but by actually being the first in origin. This essence brings others into being; it does not bring them into itself. This is what makes it difficult to discern: the world cannot be reduced to that from which it originates; it is rendered more multifarious because of its first cause, but this does not mean they are the one and the same—rather the world increasingly develops its own identity, differing from it. This requires an originary disinterestedness, a will capable of setting others at will, a force that does not rule but liberates.

It is the quality of definiteness that makes it impossible to reduce different concepts to any one among them. In so far as they are definite, they cannot be reduced to any other definite concept, not even to the concept of definiteness, which is itself something definite, named by a separate word among other words. The essence and greatness of definiteness is that it imposes a limit on itself: all that can be deduced from it cannot be reduced back to it. It is open for departure and closed for return, like a valved heart, beating at the heart of the world. Blood cannot return to the point from which it flowed without causing illness to the world. Reduction to the fundamental principle is equivalent to philosophical heart failure. /…/

All principles and their relations are deducible from THE, but they are also irreducible to it. Being deduced from definiteness places a limit on such reducibility: truly definite concepts cannot be reduced to the concept of definiteness. "This apple," "this house," "this river"—all are something more than simply "This," although from "This" it follows that the apple, house and river must be these and not some others. Thus, in theism the most difficult philosophical problem is resolved: to deduce all of the world's variety from one foundation in such a way that the reverse operation should not be possible—to reduce all of the variety to any one thing. If such a reduction is possible, then the deduction loses its meaning: multifariousness turns out to be empty of all content, lacking all quality, merely an illusory game of the varying varieties in which sameness clothes itself. If this is the case, then materialism stands alongside Buddhism, since all the forms of being are revealed as mere variations of matter, like the ghostly, ornamental veil of Maya (See Timur Fedorov's "Buddho-Marxism"). By contrast, if the universe has THE as its source, we find a multitude of essences, each separate from all others and definite in itself, in relation to which "the" may be seen as not only primary, but also "one of"—not only the first word that gives definiteness to all others, but also as a word among words. To put it differently, the very concept of THE entails the movement of concepts beyond its own limits.

In the Russian language, due to the absence of articles, the defining, articulating impulse is not expressed so sharply as it is in European (Romance and Germanic) languages. Instead, another fundamental property comes to the fore: placement. Expressed by the preposition v ("in, into, at"), it surpasses all other words in frequency (43 thousand out of every million words used, it occurs as every 23rd word in any written text). Everything that is, is placed within something else. Nothing can be, without being in something. This "in"-structure defines the location of any thing within another: even the smallest something accommodates another inside itself, even the greatest is enveloped by something. A house is in the city, the city is in the country, the country is in the world, the world is in consciousness; consciousness is in the body; the body is in the house… Everything is placed inside another, and nothing can depart from what surrounds it.

The Russian language takes the world in a circle, into a defensive posture, representing it as a system of layers in which everything is overlaid and enclosing. "Everything is in everything," Anaxagoras' ancient law, emerges in Russian as a syntactical habit. The main thing is not "this," but "in," whose structure presents every item as surrounded and surrounding. Moreover, these circles fit into one another, like the links of a chain: Surroundings are surrounded by that which they surround. The universe exists in time, and time exists in the universe. We find our selfhood in the world and the world in ourselves, in our perceptions and cognition. Herein lies the dilemma of the material and the ideal, of the interrelation between acquired sensations and inborn ideas: the one contains the other, like a link within another link.

The Russian language is diffuse in regard to the definiteness of things and concentrated on their surroundings, on the way they abide within something else. A thing is not defined in and of itself, in distinction to another thing, but through that larger thing in which it abides. Placement does not presuppose delimitation, but rather the removal of boundaries, their inclusion in all-embracing being and consciousness. A thing is not known in and of itself, in "this-ness," but only within something else, the link that contains it and through which the ongoing chain stretches out. Such is the world-forming Russian property of enfolding and enclosure. Thus it is that not only the theory but also the practice of Unidiversity is both so difficult and so necessary in Russia—it is an actual theism in the form of the-ism, growing from belief in Identity into the assurance of its self-differences.


Such is a general version of Ya. A.'s teaching on the first difference, the Prime Identity, and the first word.

Terms and By-words


If the article was the first word of Ya. A.'s system, then from all other words he wanted the same differentiation of everything from everything else, the same painstaking work of conceptualization. Ideally, each word should become a term, a signpost at the border of concepts, almost in the religious sense that the ancient Romans attached to Terminus, the god of boundaries and borders. The annual feast of Terminalis was held on February 23 and called for offerings of milk and honey to be poured on a boundary stone or into a boundary pit. A number of Ya. A,'s disciples also gathered on this day to observe the "Feast of Terminalis," in order to convert the recently established, popular holiday of military power[19] into a millennial, although forgotten, holiday of peaceful borders and field boundaries. "Troops of words, armed with tolerance and standing for the defense of boundaries between fields of knowledge and realms of thought—this is an Army of multiplying differences." Thus "terminology" is characterized in the pamphlet, "Concise Directory for the Observance of Terminalis." What is now known as "terminology" is, in essence, the totality of rituals and offerings presented to the god Terminus.

Ya. A. also made abundant offerings to this god by endlessly devising new terms, many of them humorous or parodic, with which he arrayed his speech. It seems likely that there was not a single word, no matter how ordinary and mundane, that Ya. A. could not endow with rigorous conceptual meaning. Below we will examine several of the more common terms of Unidiversity, as they indicate the distinguishing property of all things: to differ or not to differ.


Difference and contradiction


First and foremost, there is the term "unidiversity" itself. Ya. A. consciously linked it to the Neoplatonic term "all-unity," that appears widely in eastern patristic writings and in Russian philosophy. Ya. A. considered "all-unity," the idea of originary unity, to be the original sin of philosophical thought, falling prey to the temptation of totalitarianism. As paraphrased by his followers:


Yes, all-unity is a blissful potential for human arranging, but it can only be reached by setting out from unidiversity. All will be Unified only when it is fully divided, when even the atom announces itself as an individual. Indeed, the ancient Greek a-tom and Latin in-dividual have the same meaning: not divisible. (From Konstantin Averin's "From All-Unity to Unidiversity: The Evolution of a Pansophical Idea")


All-unity without unidiversity is a monism of force and enslavement. In politics, it is the barracks of communism. (From Grigory Krokhin, "The Reactionary Revolution")


The idea of all-unity has always predominated in Russian philosophical thought. Styles changed, and the basis of all-unity was conceived as either an ideal or a material universe, but unity remained the all-defining idea. Is it not time to unite around the idea of unidiversity? We are all united in that which makes us different, that which distinguishes each one from the other. If we seek a first principle to unite all the universe, it is precisely unidiversity. The difference between the material and the ideal is one manifestation of unidiversity. (Ivan Solovyov, "The Perennial Philosophy")


One of the main consequences of Unidiversity had to be casting down the idol that ruled for so long in prevailing theories of cognition and dialectics, known as Contradiction. According to his followers, Ya. A. disliked the very words "contradistinction" and "contraposition," using them only rarely and always having to force himself, pronouncing them with effort and tension, as if afraid of forgetting the next syllable. For him, they were foreign words, disfiguring the native language of thought.

As Nikolai Rozanov states in "Against Contradiction":


If thinking really had need of these concepts, it would express them as easily and freely as "truth," "good," and "beauty." But no, these concepts are imposed by the professional cretinism of philosophers and the political self-interest of ideologues—they are the ones who needed these 14- and 17-letter monstrosities that have appeared like malignant tumors on the body of language.[20] Swallowing the tongue preceded cannibalism, and from the moment when terms like "contradistinction" came into fashion, all the rest could be foreseen. Where has anyone ever seen things in contradistinction or contraposition to one another, except in the distorted imagination of enforcers and power-mongers? Can a chair be placed in contraposition to a table, or a mirror to a shelf? What does this really mean? They can be placed across from one another, but no contraposition or contradiction will arise between them in the process.

These concepts lack applicability, and if one begins to think in terms of them in order to find their embodiment, the entire order of things will be twisted around, subjected to a violence counter to nature. Things cannot be contraposed; they can only be placed alongside each other—perhaps close together, perhaps farther apart. Only traits can be contraposed, when they are abstracted from things: black and white, high and low, cold and hot. But such "heat" and "cold" can neither freeze nor warm anyone, because they do not exist in nature. A thing always has multiple traits and therefore cannot be contraposed to another thing; it can only differ from it. Between "high" and "low" there is a contradistinction, but between a high and a low house, or between a tall and a short person, there is no contradistinction; there is only a difference, that is, an infinite sum of traits, some of them similar and others not. But instead of this wealth of differences, we, with our beloved dialectic, end up with a poverty of contradistinctions. The fabric of being is eaten through by moths of contradiction. This warp and weft of coarse canvas shows through the velvet design, and we call it the sackcloth of historical truth.


And Lev Shvarts observes in "Dialectics in Eden":


…Contradiction is the devil's most refined tool for bringing division and doom into God's world. Contrapositions do not exist in nature; this is a merciless, abstracting action on the part of reason gone astray, in the "knowledge of good and evil" as perfect contrapositions. Only by one trait, singled out from all others, may things be contraposed. But nothing consists of one single trait, and so each thing in its wholeness, as a combination of many traits, can only differ from another. Contraposition is difference deformed to the point of demonism.

In answer to the question, What is contraposition? Ya. A. once replied: It is the same as sameness. Indeed, contraposition is the petrified state of sameness of a thing in relation to itself. If "cold" is only cold, then it is in contraposition to "hot." If A is identically the same as A, it is in contraposition to not-A. But just as no two things can be identically the same, so there can not exist two things in contraposition. Sameness and contraposition are merely abstract assumptions based on specific logical intervals. For example, on the basis of the trait "cold" vs. "hot," all cold things are identically the same as one another in their contraposition to all hot things. But this type of abstraction is attractive to thought only when it falls under the demonic possession of instincts destructive to reality. Thought that is truly creative, that is invested in enriching reality, moves through the logical space between sameness and contraposition, never attaching itself to either of their borders, but rather comprehending and increasing differences.

Once we lose the differences among various cold things, leaving them all the same, then their complete contraposition to hot things becomes evident. Sameness on one end produces contraposition on the other. Thus, when we fully identify ourselves with something, we also contrapose ourselves to something else, and vise versa. This is why the rule of unidiversity, as it acts upon the realm of ethics, states: "Don't identify and don't oppose anything to anything else, for in so doing you destroy their differences." Sameness and contraposition are two abstractions of difference, rending its living heart into dead extremes: Likeness deprived of unlikeness degenerates into sameness, while unlikeness deprived of likeness degenerates into contraposition, leaving them locked in a stillborn game of "unity and the struggle of contrapositions." But why tear apart and then sew together something that was alive to begin with? Is it not to create a lifelike effigy, stuffed with the sawdust of dialectics and equipped with categories to "divvy up" the body of being? The world as ruled by dialectics becomes just such an effigy. Will we soon be able to say, as did Dostoevsky, "Life had taken the place of logic and something quite different must be worked out…"[21]

What is this "something quite different," something other than ever before? It is precisely—the OTHER. Consciousness that works out the OTHER in itself, we call "alternative consciousness…"


However, all of these arguments against dialectics belong primarily to Ya. A.'s followers rather than to Ya. A. himself. He was too subtle a thinker to come out "against," to contradict contradiction. He merely had an aversion to such concepts and avoided using them. Once he remarked that "contraposition," "contradiction" and "contradistinction" would surely unmask themselves, because they strike the ear as contrary to what it wants to hear.[22] This "contra" that they all insist upon will turn against them like a curse in the hearts of those who utter it. Language is made in such a way that lying words pronounce their own sentence.


*   *



Naturally, in this presentation of Ya. A.'s teachings on Unidiversity, it has not always been possible to adequately separate his views from those of his followers. Here and there the voice of Ya. A. is lost among the Germanic precision and pedantry of Alexander Frank or the Byzantine ornamentalism of Petr Florsky, both of which lend his thought substance and unbending direction. But we have no other sources, even though the pure teaching is mixed with a sediment of bookishness or the chatter of the undereducated. But then again, what is purity? According to the stories of his followers, Ya. A. truly strove to mingle his thoughts with those of people he talked to, so that authorship became completely lost—"I didn't say that, you're the one who said it"—so that the flow of conversation grew wider, eroding the shores, until thought alone spoke with two inspired voices. It can't be helped that in the work of the followers only one voice comes through—their own. Ya. A.'s most joyous moments were when a follower would first speak his own thoughts—when he would suddenly find them within him, amazed at the content of his own mind.

Perhaps repetitions have wearied the reader, but they cannot be avoided when thought moves out from one point in various directions. "Thought is a multitude of thoughts. It is born in the form of several thoughts at once." Such is the inevitable embedding and overlapping of various texts and also the peculiarity of Ya. A.'s way of thinking, which often returned to its starting point to play out ever new variations. Ya. A. loved to quote the words of Paul Valerie: "A poem with variations is a true scandal for everyday, pedestrian consciousness. For me, it is a great service. The power of mind is determined by the quantity of its variations." "Precisely," Ya. A. explained. "It is the quantity of variations on a single work, not the quantity of various works. For a multiplicity of works also varies in a certain way, but each one is unaware of this. What is eternal and unchanging remains beyond their borders. But if one work undergoes variations of itself—it can become its own Invariant. When something varies, it steps outside of time and becomes a model, a paradigm… Our well-known proverb—Repetition is the mother of learning—contains an unexpectedly profound meaning. It is not so much that to learn means to repeat, but that to repeat means to learn. Repetition escapes from the power of time and points toward something eternal, in other words—it teaches. The power of mind consists of finding the greatest number of variants, in other words, to extend the process of learning."

Along with their repetitive passages, the texts presented here contain certain unexpected ideas that are developed in detail only in later sections: "Unifaith," "The Dictionary," "The End of the World," and so on. Here again, the awkwardness of our selection process is only partly to blame—after all, Ya. A. himself was not a systematic thinker, and we have surely straightened his thought rather than twisting it by showing its zigzags. Ya. A. often repeated the difference between two types of thinking: one is like a foundation, the other like a trampoline. A foundation is for resting on; a trampoline is for bouncing off of. Such is Ya. A.'s own thought: It did not so much rest upon what came before it as it pushed off from there to reveal the greatest possible distinction from what had already been said. Freedom and anonymity awaited it. Establishing Elseness as the foundation of his thought, Ya. A. essentially transformed it into a trampoline, because to be true to Elseness means to continually think something else. To be wise in otherness, means to think otherwise. (Ya. A. considered Hegel a fundamental thinker, Nietzsche—a trampoline.)

Of course, Ya. A.'s teachings on the first principle are not presented here in complete form; the main thing that is missing is his kindly, almost affectionate attitude toward the object of his contemplations. It seemed as if he could almost stroke this first principle with his own hand—now it would appear as the abrupt edge of some smooth surface, now as an area of roughness or cracks, or as a throbbing vein. Several of those who knew Ya. A. have commented that he loved any sort of border and took pleasure in its touch. From time to time he would run his palm along the rib-like edge of the table top…

In the last years of his life, Ya. A. earned his living at home by gluing together medicine boxes. This image of him is preserved in the memory of those who came to talk with him: "As always, Yakov Isaevich was sorting and gluing his boxes, with mounds of many-colored cardboard flats arranged around him on the table" (Nina Sergeeva, White Pages). It could be that this work appealed to him precisely because of the contact with the boxes' sharp edges. That various planes would suddenly leap up from a flat, inexpressive piece of cardboard, run together and intersect at the corners, folding in to create volume—here, Ya. A.'s hands found the prototype of all creative work as an increase of facets. Perhaps his teaching on Unidiversity embodied this tangible sense of life as a corner, as a sharp edge, whose touch cuts and spares.


              Translated from Russian by Anesa Miller-Pogacar.



[1] The Russian word lichnost', translated as "personality" or "identity," is derived from litso, the contemporary meaning of which is "face," wheras the English "person" derives from the Latin term for "mask." Thus the Russian understanding of personality centers on the notion of having "a face." This etymology explains, for example, why Emmanuel Levinas, a major French philosopher whose first language was Russian (he was born in Kovno, Lithuania, in 1906), placed the concept of "face" at the center of his personalist thought. "The face is by itself and not by reference to a system" (Totalité et infini: essay sur extériorité, La Haye, M. Nijhoff, 1961, p. 47).

[2] Both passages quoted from The New English Bible (Oxford University Press, 1970).

[3] George Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, The Encyclopaedia Logic (with the Zusåtze). A new translation with Introduction and notes by T. F. Geraetz, W. A. Suchting, and H. S. Harris. Indianopolis, Cambridge: Hacket Publishing Co., Inc, 1991, pp. 181-182 (chapter "Distinction," §116).

[4] Ibid., p. 24 (Introduction, §1).

[5] Hegel's Science of Logic. Transl. by A. V. Miller. Atlantic Highlands, New Jersy: Humanities Press International, Inc., 1989, p. 82 (vol. 1, chapter 1, Being. A. Being).

[6] Ibid., p. 71

[7]Ibid., p.842 (vol. 2, section 3, chapter 3. The Absolute Idea).

[8]Ibid., p. 82.

[9] George Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Encyclopedia of the Philosophical Sciences in Outline and Critical Writings (Ernst Behler, ed.), New York: Continuum, 1990, p. 69.

[10] Parmenides, 147e-148a. The Collected Dialogues of Plato Including the Letters (Edith Hamilton and Huntington Cairns, eds.), Bollingen Series, Princeton University Press, 1994, pp. 939, 940.

[11] Republic, 585c.  The Collected Dialogues of Plato, p. 813.

[12]         Laws, 942a-c. The Collected Dialogues of Plato, pp. 1488-9.

[13]  Laws, 942c,d.  The Collected Dialogues of Plato, p. 1489.

[14] In Russian, Pervolichnost'. Alternative translations of this term may be "primary faceness" or "proto-face."

[15] In Russian the compound relative pronoun tot kotoryi  is used.

[16] In Russian, the noun otlichie ("distinction") and the adjective otlichnyi ("excellent") are also derived from the Slavonic root lik ("face"). Thus, a process of "enfacement" leads to an increase of "facets," or "faceness," conceived here as the  highest degree of excellence.

[17] The meta-lexical group "to act/an act/action/activity" falls in 35th place; "to live/life"--45th place; "will"--65th place. Pushnikov presents these data with reference to the Frequency Dictionary of the Russian Language, edited by L. N. Zasorina (Moscow, Russkii iazyk, 1977).

[18] This theory derives from (or can be paralleled with) haecceitism   ("thisnessism"),  the philosophy of Johannes Duns Scotus (c.1266-1308), with roots in Aristotle. As well as ordinary general properties there are special properties (haecceities) necessarily associated each with just one individual. Socrates has the property of Socrateity and Plato that of  Platonity. See Allan B. Wolter, The Philosophical Theology of John Duns Scotus (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1990), ch. 4.

[19] February 23 was designated the official Soviet holiday of the Red Army, which was supposedly created by Lenin's decree on this day in 1918. It is still observed in post-Soviet Russia, both officially as Army Day, and unofficially as Men's Day, a counterpart to International Women's Day on March 8.

[20] In Russian, protivopolozhnyi ("opposite") and protivopostavlenie ("opposition, contraposition").

[21] Quoted from the Epilogue to Crime and Punishment (George Gibian, ed.), New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 1964, p. 527.

[22] In Russian, the expression here is protivnyi, meaning "repellant, disgusting," and using the same prefix protiv- ("against, contra-) that appears in protivorechie ("contradiction") and protivopolozhnyi ("opposite").