Author Information: Tatiana Sokolova, Institute of Philosophy RAS, Higher School of Economics Moscow, email@example.com
Sokolova, Tatiana. “Scientist as Fiction Writer: Soviet Science-Fiction and Space Exploration.” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 4, no. 1 (2014): 3-13.
The PDF of the article gives specific page numbers. Shortlink: http://wp.me/p1Bfg0-1Of
Image credit: Joe Dunckley, via flickr
Editor’s Note: Tatiana Sokolova graciously provided us with the notes to a presentation she gave at the “Interprofessional and Interdisciplinary Relations in Russia” conference on Friday, September 19, 2014. The presentation notes are presented here.
The successes of the Soviet space programme (Satellite-1, the first man in space, and the first man in open space) are often considered to be the consequence of the arms race during the Cold War. This paper will aim to show that, at the ideological level, these successes were based on the synthesis of two seemingly contradictory philosophies: on the one hand, the philosophy of Russian Cosmism (especially in the version propounded by K. Tsiolkovsky), with the idea of man’s responsibility before all rational beings in the universe; and, on the other, the Marxist thesis about the elimination the gap between manual and intellectual labour.
Such a synthesis was possible thanks to the general orientation of both Marxism and Cosmism to build a new society organized on scientific grounds. Such a society demanded a new type of man, who did not only have advanced technical skills and scientific knowledge, but also had particular moral qualities, such as strong faith in humanity, readiness for self-sacrifice, and the courage to explore outer space. These qualities, as well as highly sophisticated (yet nonetheless fantastical) technologies, were brought together in the science-fiction literature written by Russian scientists (including K. Tsiolkovsky, A. Beliaev, I. Efremov and many others), who in such works did not confine themselves to the simple popularization of the hard sciences.
Inspired by Tsiolkovsky’s ideas, Soviet engineers and scientists (F. Zander, Y. Kondratyuk, S. Korolev and others) opened the new era of USSR’s space exploration. Thus, the paper will examine the interaction between philosophical ideas and technical achievements based on an analysis of Soviet science fiction literature from 1920s to 1957 (the year of the launch of Satellite-1), as well as of its critics from the scientific community.
The report is prepared with the support of RNF, Project № 14-18-02227 “Social Philosophy of Science. Russian Prospects”