The parable of the learned anatomist (by Stalin)

Not only did Stalin not have much time for useless metaphysical questions …

This reminds me of the Russian metaphysicians of the fifties of the last century who pestered the dialecticians of those days with the question: is rain good or bad for the crops? and demanded a ‘precise’ answer (Collected Works, vol 1, p. 49).

But he also tells a wonderful parable of the learned anatomist:

Once upon a time there lived a ‘learned anatomist.’ He possessed ‘everything’ a ‘real’ anatomist requires: a degree, an operating room, instruments and inordinate pretensions. He lacked only one minor detail—knowledge of anatomy. One day he was asked to explain the connection between the various parts of a skeleton that were lying scattered on his anatomical table. This gave our ‘celebrated savant’ an opportunity to show off his skill. With great pomp and solemnity he set to ‘work.’ Alas and alack, the ‘savant’ did not know even the ABC of anatomy and was entirely at a loss as to how the parts should be put together so as to produce a complete skeleton!

The poor fellow busied himself for a long time, perspired copiously, but all in vain! Finally, when nothing had come of all his efforts and he had got everything mixed up, he seized several parts of the skeleton, flung them into a far corner of the room and vented his philosophic ire on certain ‘evil-minded’ persons, who, he alleged, had placed spurious parts of a skeleton on his table (Collected Works, vol 1, pp. 46-47).

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2 thoughts on “The parable of the learned anatomist (by Stalin)

  1. Haven’t come across that anecdote on the “learned anatomist.” I remember Mao saying the same thing about “useless scholarship” in his article “Oppose Stereotyped Party Writing” and report “Reform Our Study.”

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