Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Political Science


Derry Novak




Bernstein scholarship has not clearly identified the philosophical intentions of the "arch-Revisionist", but has confined itself to noting general characteristics of his mode of thought and possible influences upon it, as well as situating it vaguely or negatively in terms of contemporary "schools." Justification for not proceeding further with analysis has been sought in the circumstances that Bernstein was self-taught, that he had an enormous range of intellectual contacts, that the Marxism of the Second International was incoherent, and that Marxism is, itself, a protean doctrine.

This thesis attempts to illuminate Bernstein's philosophical intentions by reviewing his development against a much broader intellectual background than has been customary. Following the methods of "comparative philosophy" of Henry Corbin, Hans Jonas, Eric Voegelin and Ernest Tuveson, it outlines several stages in the process of the gradual supplanting of Middle Platonism by the Hermetic gnosis in the modern period, and notes the distinctive attitudes to being characteristic of them. It examines the roots of the Hegelian dialectic, and those of its more philosophically conservative rival, German Romanticism, and points out the affinity of Bernstein's structure of consciousness with the latter movement.

The philosophical content of Bernsteinian Revisionism is presented as the result of the outworking of an essentially Romantic cast of mind, accelerated by Bernstein's period of "socialist scholarship" and close association with Christian Socialists and unorthodox philosophical Naturalists during his years of exile in London.

Bernstein1s "evolutionary socialism" is distinguished from the nationalist-socialism of the Blochian Revisionists, the panpsychic evolutionism popular with the German working-class, Anarchist thought, and monistic Naturalism generally. It is shown to be structurally analogous to the pluralistic notion of progress of the "common sense" component of German Romanticism (a residue of Middle Platonic noetic experience), derived from the Scottish Enlightenment.

The call to go "back to Lange" thus appears to have been little more than a groping attempt, on Bernstein's part, to focus his return to what was, in effect, a Pragmatic version of the Aristotelian "natural law" world-view.

McMaster University Library

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