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Victor A. Kanke: I had no choice but to start writing
An interview with a renown Russian philosopher and the author of our 2022 bestseller "50 critical essays on the philosophy of science".

In the foreword to the "50 critical essays on the philosophy of science" you say that the book is the result of “rethinking” of the “Encyclopedia of Metascience and Special Philosophy of Science” that we had a pleasure to publish in 2021.

VK: People create their history, including cognition, in cycles, increasing the productivity of theories - a wonderful and imperishable characteristic of a human being. The more relevant a theoretical project is, the greater is continuation initiated by it. Current theory has no end. It needs reflectionitself.

Having published the “Encyclopedia”, I had many options for its continuation. The immediate question was “What exactly have I done?” The continuation was necessary to help the reader understand the meaning of the encyclopedia. Without forgetting about pedagogy, it was necessary to present the new theory not only in an updated, but also in the shortest form. It was in this regard that I implemented the essayist version of the encyclopedia's understanding. Jean-François Lyotard argued in “The Postmodern Condition” that in the modern age, short agonistic language games replace big scientific stories. As a result, he lost sight of the scientific and, along with it, the ethical perspective.

My idea is different: science is vital only when it functions in various forms that develop and complement each other. As such, it has no alternative. Otherwise, humanity will in no way escape its own foolishness, which can be clearly seen during the wars.

Does the “50 critical essays” relate to your other books as well?

VK: Of course. Six dozen of my books form a single whole. I fell in love with the philosophy of science at the age of 25. Without it, Einstein's relativistic mechanics seemed to me extremely vague. Not only it, but also Marx's “Capital”. I had two areas of interests, physics and economics. And in both cases, I was especially interested in the nature of time, physical and economic.

And at this point, a fateful surprise awaited me: all my interlocutors were competent either in physics or in economics. Unlike them, I saw the unity of both. The peculiarity of my work set me the task of understanding all the sciences as a whole. I had no choice but to start writing. Each new book added yet another science to this“whole”. And this is how,decades after the first book was published, the “Encyclopedia” and thenthe “50 Critical Essays” saw the light. I also want to point out that I have never repeated myself: for example, the vast corpus of English-language sources that I used in the “Encyclopedia” was not used for my other books.

My main focus is refined conceptuality and, alongside, the ethics of justice and responsibility.

Victor A. Kanke

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

VK: First and foremost, my own enthusiasm. An irresistible desire to implement the project that I previously described. It became my life's work. This project did not bring me the desired well-being, but it extraordinarily sharpened my sense of belonging to the authenticity of the meaning of human existence.

What is your message to the reader?

VK: I strive to introduce him, to the maximum possible extent, to that single strategy of existence, which ensures the steady progress of humankind through the mechanisms of its own self-regulation, ethical in nature. In the Second World War Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer saw signs of the decay of the Enlightenment instead of decayof its enemies. Such a substitution of meanings happens every time people forget the philosophy of science.

We live in an era when the philosophy of science is the antidote to all those hardships and troubles the humanity suffers from. My books are designed to convince the reader that the philosophy of science will become his reliable companion in life. It is not just for a narrow circle of elected people.

Which other authors (contemporary or not) inspire you?

VK: The authors who not only consistently defend the institutions of science and the philosophy of science, but who are also encyclopedists. There are very few authors like that. Of course, one of them is the Canadian philosopher Mario Bunge. However, I do not share his commitment to scientific realism. I am quite tolerant of the founders of metaphysical systems, be it Martin Heidegger or Jacques Derrida, insofar as I am able to transfer their ideas to scientific ground.

Would it be correct to say that your project is, at its core, ethical?

VK: To some extent, yes, because for me the ethics of justice and responsibility isan inalienable part of the body of sciences. For me, ethics is not the result of metaphysical insights, but rather the one of the refined conceptuality that the philosophy of science embodies. This is neither found in the ethics of justice of John Rawls nor in the ethics of responsibility of Hans Jonas. Both of them do without the philosophy of science and, as a result, the concepts of justice and responsibility remain unclear. My main focus is refined conceptuality and, alongside, the ethics of justice and responsibility. If in this regard I had to name one name from the history of philosophy, then I would name Socrates.

What difficulties did you encounter while writing the book?

VK: There were no significant difficulties. The “Encyclopedia” cleared the way forthe “50 Critical Essays”. There were short-term blockages on the way of translation of encyclopedic material into the form of essays, but I overcame them relatively easily. I faced enormous difficulties in the creation and publication of “Encyclopedia”. Iprepared its three versions, but could not publish any of them for two decades. Russian publishing houses willingly published my university textbooks, but not the “Encyclopedia”. Then I decided to go on an extremely risky undertaking, to write an encyclopedia anew with an English-speaking reader in my mind. A year and a half of hard daily work ended in a miracle (I cannot find another word!), the Eurasian Scientific Editions published the “Encyclopedia”, and then the “50 Critical Essays”. As a result, my entire project received a relatively finished form that was not earlier the case.

What are your next plans as a writer?

VK: Difficult question. Obviously, at my respectable age, it is«a time to gather stones» (Ecclesiastes 3:5 – ed.).How to do it? This is what I think about almost on a daily basis. I believe that the new book will be a continuation of the "50 Critical Essays".