Sofia A. Yanovskaya: The Marxist Pioneer of Mathematical Logic in the Soviet Union

Transversal: International Journal for the Historiography of Science 6:49-64 (2019)
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Abstract

K. Marx’s 200th jubilee coincides with the celebration of the 85 years from the first publication of his “Mathematical Manuscripts” in 1933. Its editor, Sofia Alexandrovna Yanovskaya (1896–1966), was a renowned Soviet mathematician, whose significant studies on the foundations of mathematics and mathematical logic, as well as on the history and philosophy of mathematics are unduly neglected nowadays. Yanovskaya, as a militant Marxist, was actively engaged in the ideological confrontation with idealism and its influence on modern mathematics and their interpretation. Concomitantly, she was one of the pioneers of mathematical logic in the Soviet Union, in an era of fierce disputes on its compatibility with Marxist philosophy. Yanovskaya managed to embrace in an originally Marxist spirit the contemporary level of logico-philosophical research of her time. Due to her highly esteemed status within Soviet academia, she became one of the most significant pillars for the culmination of modern mathematics in the Soviet Union. In this paper, I attempt to trace the influence of the complex socio-cultural context of the first decades of the Soviet Union on Yanovskaya’s work. Among the several issues I discuss, her encounter with L. Wittgenstein is striking.

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Dimitris Kilakos
University of Athens

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