A Talk on Evald Vasilyevich Ilyenkov “Personality and collective” with Kyrill Potapov and Corinna Lotz

27 April, 2023 20:00 (London time)

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“…The power of personality is always individually expressedas the power of the collective, that “ensemble” of individuals which were ideally represented, the power of the individualized universality of aspiration, needs, goals controlling it. This is the power of the historically accumulated energy of many individuals, concentrated in it, focused, and therefore capable of breaking the resistance of the historically obsolete forms of human relations, opposing the rigid templates, stereotypes of thinking and action, fettering the initiative and energy of people.”

Evald Ilyenkov, “What is Personality”

In this forthcoming translation of an essay from 1979, Ilyenkov critiques a number of traditional approaches to personality in psychology, philosophy, and popular culture, and presents his own synthesis. His essay is a rich exploration of Marx’s suggestion that a person is “an ensemble of social relations”. In this session we explore this essay, with questions and examples from a range of sources. Together we will try to grasp what it could mean to be a self in a collective.


  1. E. V. Ilyenkov. What is personality? translated by Giuliano Vivaldi
  2. Finding Ilyenkov: How a Soviet Philosopher Who Stood Up for Dialectics Continues to Inspire by Corinna Lotz, 2019
  3. Who Are The International Friends of Ilyenkov by Corinna Lotz


Kyrill Potapov is an organiser at the International Friends of Ilyenkov. He is a researcher in Human-Computer Interaction at University College London with an interest in social practice, agency and learning.

Corinna Lotz co-founded International Friends of Ilyenkov and wrote Finding Evald Ilyenkov: how a Soviet philosopher who stood up for dialectics continues to inspire. She helps organise the Real Democracy Movement.


00:52:48 monika hardy: corinna: ‘reflecting on these changes.. and how they can bring about not just changes but leaps.. absolutely vital when thinking about trying to change the world’ .. huge
00:53:34 Ralph Dumain: I don’t think personalities change n these events.
00:54:40 monika hardy: maybe they just uncover/reveal more.. so appears as change
01:00:25 monika hardy: corinna: ‘perhaps you could suggest what today could change and encourage the power of personality’.. if every voice (itch in the soul) was heard 1st thing everyday (before externals trump that itch) and used as data to connect us.. aka: if we all could listen deeper/nonhierarchically
01:01:26 Mark Fuller: Reacted to “corinna: ‘perhaps…” with 👍
01:01:35 Corinna Lotz: Reacted to “corinna: ‘perhaps yo…” with 👍🏿
01:04:09 Mark Fuller: Do you know in what year Ilyenkov wrote this essay?
01:04:18 Kyrill Potapov: 1979
01:04:32 Mark Fuller: Thank you.
01:04:39 Guga Kiziria: good point!
01:05:10 monika hardy: ai as augmenting interconnectedness..
01:09:06 Daniel Morgen: I’m certainly just a novice in Lacan, but in his terms, could we say that these chat AIs may actually have a more-or-less fully-functioning “symbolic register” but an incomplete “imaginary” and non-existent (or perhaps mechanical) “real”?
As such they have a “literary reality” and can do some limited relations-processing but have none of the “invisible” aspects of cognition which are very difficult to observe – i.e. it lacks the sort of unconscious which lies beyond words and images?
I don’t know if this is a helpful lens of analysis, but I’ll put it out there for ruthless critique
01:10:37 Corinna Lotz: Kyrill and others -AI does not have subconscious?
01:10:56 Daniel Morgen: I’m very indifferent to Zizek for the most part – I check in occasionally to see what he’s saying
01:11:22 Guga Kiziria: what’s your issue with Zizek?
01:11:29 Sascha Freyberg: For those, who are interested in the Stendhal syndrome. I wrote about that and empirical explanations together with the artist-scholar Katahrina Blühm in this paper: https://www.academia.edu/9224624/Bildakt_Demystified_Philosophical_Iconology_and_Empirical_Aesthetics
01:11:43 Mark Fuller: Reacted to “For those, who are…” with 👍
01:12:27 Corinna Lotz: Reacted to “For those, who are i…” with 👍🏿
01:13:33 Corinna Lotz: yes Ralph
01:13:42 Guga Kiziria: let’s keep this toxic free
01:13:47 nika dubrovsky: Yes I will
01:13:57 monika hardy: 6 min video from gabor maté on myth of normal (authenticity & attachment) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JuWg0lBVopg
01:14:01 nika dubrovsky: And I will post it to the recording in youtube
01:14:25 Guga Kiziria: thank you nika
01:14:54 nika dubrovsky: Please, Corina, share the link to the book
01:15:13 Kyrill Potapov: My problem with Zizek is that I don’t think Lacan and Marx are compatible and I think it leads to political empasses
01:15:30 Sascha Freyberg: also, the problem for Ilyenkov is, that the logic is binary instead of dialectical
01:15:58 Ralph Dumain: Yes, that was in the essay.
01:16:15 Guga Kiziria: LARS LARS LARS LARS!!!!!!!!!!
01:16:16 Walter Garcia: Ralph if you have the autodidact site it really changed my life.
01:16:21 Guga Kiziria: GO LARS!
01:18:53 monika hardy: to me.. like kyrill mentioned ‘on ai doing labeling’ i think that’s all it can do.. but as opposed to us.. can do it in a ginormous/small way.. which is what we’d need for a global leap/reset
01:20:11 Ralph Dumain: It’s necessary to develop ilyenkov insights more concretely. He helps to fill a huge gap in philosophical reflection and the further concretization of aspects of the Marxist world view.
01:20:25 Sascha Freyberg: Reacted to “It’s necessary to de…” with 👍
01:21:01 Ralph Dumain: So much of academic production is a huge and very artificial distraction.
01:21:29 Ralph Dumain: Not to mention celebrity intellectuals.
01:21:51 Mark Fuller: Can you speak to Ilyenkov’s work with the deaf-blind students. He seemed very ‘concrete’ as a philosopher — not your ave academic…
01:22:07 nika dubrovsky: Reacted to “Can you speak to Ily…” with ❤️
01:22:33 Guga Kiziria: i don’t believe Zizek is even Marxian anymore. Lacan is clearly his main influence, Marxism being just an aesthetic background even. so incompatibility lies with misunderstanding his works as Marxian and not as Lacanian.
01:25:25 Mark Fuller: One of his students in Zagorsk said how bemused Ilyenkov was that the state still hadn’t dissolved…
01:25:43 Daniel Morgen: This response is so late, ignore it😭

I meant symbolic register (perhaps incorrectly?) like the Other’s language, words and phrases that float around in the mind and influence us as such. It could be considered “social” in the verbal sense… but not in the warm and chemical sense – just the “raw groupthink.”

@Guga – I don’t dislike Zizek, he debates a friend of a friend a lot on metaphysics (and I kind of agree more w/Zizek&Lacan more on subjectivity)

I don’t like the way Zizek wastes so much time on pop culture and rarely addresses better art 😂
He does it for an understanding of the zeitgeist, but it’s still disappointing (and I don’t like the way he handles himself in debates with pop-culture icons)

It sounds like there’s still a lot a common influences between Ilyenkov (Kojéve, Sartre, Spinoza, Hegel) and Lacan – as a mere novice, I’d need more background to know what makes Lacan and Marxism truly incompatible (e.g. Kropotkin is more accepted but he rejects simple narratives on human relationships).
01:26:11 Sascha Freyberg: Interestingly in Germany Wolfgang Jantzen was the main spokesperson for Ilyenkov’s approach, but he wasn’t a philosopher but was a leading figure in disabality studies
01:26:26 Mark Fuller: Reacted to “Interestingly in G…” with 👍
01:26:31 Avram Rips: At the time a center focusing on Vygotsky psychology and education great people like Leontiev, Luria etc in Kharkiv. Shut down under Stalin.
01:26:47 Daniel Morgen: Reacted to “At the time a center…” with 😪
01:27:43 Sascha Freyberg: yes, we are organizing the centenary symposium in Berlin
01:30:16 Corinna Lotz: ilyenkov2020@gmail.com
01:30:19 Barbara Gabriella Renzi: Thank you!
01:30:28 monika hardy: corinna: ‘the concept of human beings developing thru tools.. has enormous potential’ huge..
01:30:30 Sascha Freyberg: thanks Corinna and Kyrill
01:30:31 Daniel Morgen: danielmorgen@outlook.com
01:30:33 Avram Rips: Thank You!
01:30:40 Sascha Freyberg: Graeber and Ilyenkov a good match

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