Narrow-Minded Compilers

As a rule, leading phylosophical encyclopedias of the West have been notorious for their arrogance towards Soviet, Latin American, and Asian thinkers. With the few exceptions like Confucius and Al-Kindi, Western experts and publishers have consistently ignored non-European scholars. Usually their bibliography has been limited with the sources in Western languages. Their contents have been markedly imbalanced. For example, the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy contains indecently verbose entries about outdated views of Pierre Abelard or an insignificant political scientist Hannah Arendt.

At the same time, it says nothing about the great Kazakh geographer, historian, painter, and ethnologist Shoqan Walikhanov (1835 – 1865), who wrote valuable papers on religious policy in Central Asia and Kazakhstan, history of local paganism. His original researches clearly show that the backwardness of the region has been caused mainly by a fanatical version of Islam, which was a quite progressive religion during the Middle Ages. He was a close friend of the great Russian author Fyodor Dostoevsky. Soviet leader Joseph Stalin also should have been mentioned in the encyclopedia as an outstanding thinker, who scholarly proved that the thinking is impossible without the language and energetically refuted the «class character» of language. He also prophetically proclaimed that the further the country would move forward, the more acute forms of struggle will be used by the doomed remnants of exploiter classes in their last desperate efforts. The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 was caused mainly by exactly these remnants, who had been denounced by Stalin several decades earlier.


Daniyar NAURYZ and the original Le Penseur, Berlin, 2010


Subjects, encompassed by Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, are much broader than the Stanford’s ones and its entries are readable at least. But, the Routledge also failed to be a genuinely universal edition. For instance, it mentions Kazakhstan only twice. First, it says that Russian philosopher Mikhail Bakhtin was exiled there. Then, it makes reference to various experiments, conducted by Soviet psychologists, on Kazakh peasants. But, even ten volumes of the Routledge hasn’t much space to tell about Kazakh genius Abai (1845 – 1904), who was a great poet, thinker, translator, and songwriter. Among other things, his The Book of Words («Қара сөздері») passionately demonstrated to compatriots the advantages of settled way of life over nomadism. The Book of Words has remained a dramatic evidence of the situation, when the civilization shift is ripe for the entire nation.

To my mind, the best encyclopedia of philosophy ever published is the Soviet edition in five volumes (1960 – 1970). Even its Communist propaganda overtones don’t depreciate unbelievably wide range of topics, regions, and personalities covered by The Soviet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. It is a truly global review of ideas and thinkers, sciences and arts, based on the authoritative sources from all over the world.

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