Russian Philosophy

The beginnings up to the 18th century

Since the Christianization in 988 and the associated confrontation with Byzantine culture, Russian philosophy was almost exclusively in the service of Orthodox theology until the 18th century. Important personal contributions were in the 11th – 13th Century the writings of the Kiev metropolitan Ilarion and Kliment Smoljatitsch († not before 1164; above all harmonization of ancient philosophy and Christianity) as well as the bishop Kyrill von Turow (* around 1134, † not after 1182; above all orthodox foundation of asceticism). The 14th-16th The century was determined by ideological disputes, in the course of which the political-absolutist (Fyodor I. Karpov, † before 1545; Ivan S. Peresvetov, 16th century; Opponent v. a. A. M. Kurbski) and the direction striving for secular power of the church (Joseph von Wolokalamsk; opponent: Nil Sorski, * 1433, † 1508) prevailed. An important cultural mediator function was played by Maxim Grek, who had studied in Florence in his youth and, after a ten-year stay on Athos, worked in Moscow from 1518 until his death. In the course of the opening of the Russian Empire under Peter I the Great, an increasing number of Russian nobles received a Western education. Catherine II, the great, actively promoted the sciences and was in personal correspondence with Voltaire. M. W. Lomonossow represented the enlightenment ideals of G. W. Leibniz, C. Wolff, R. Descartes and J. Locke. H. S. Skoworoda, who continued the hesychastic tradition of Nil Sorski, held a special position. European moral philosophy came to Russia at the end of the 18th century through widespread Freemasonry. The initially liberal educational policy intensified after the French Revolution, enlightenment thinkers such as A. N. Radishchev were arrested and their writings banned.

19th century

According to agooddir, the 19th century was characterized by the conflict between “Slavophiles” (AS Khomyakov , I. W. Kirejewski, Iwan S. [* 1823, † 1886], K. S. Axakow and K. N. Leontjew) and “Westerners” (P. J. Tschaadajew, A. I. Herzen, Konstantin D. Kawelin [* 1818, † 1885]). The transitions between the two parties are fluid, and there was agreement on the diagnosis of Russian backwardness. While the “Slavophiles” produced a religiously founded community philosophy (“sobornost”), the “Westerners” oriented themselves towards German idealism (especially F. W. J. Schelling and G. W. F. Hegel) and combined it with ideas of French socialism (C. H. Saint-Simon, C. Fourier). At the Russian universities, philosophy was under general political suspicion in the 19th century and was repeatedly subjected to repression; between 1850 and 1863 there were no philosophical chairs at all in Russia. That is why the decisive achievements of Russian philosophy emerged outside the academic institutions, v. a. in philosophical circles such as the Moscow »Wisdom Friends« (W. F. Odojewski, D. W. Wenewitinow, I. W. Kirejewski) or the circle around Nikolai Stankewitsch (* 1813, † 1840), M. A. Bakunin, W. G. Belinsky. In the second half of the 19th century, philosophical drafts from Western Europe were received mainly from the point of view of their socio-political relevance. Materialism (N. Chernyshevsky), positivism (P. L. Lavrov, N. K. Michailowski), anarchism (M. A. Bakunin, P. A. Kropotkin) and Marxism (G. W. Plekhanov, W. I. Lenin) provided the philosophical basis for the development of revolutionary programs. At this time, academic philosophy was belatedly concerned with I. Kant, who did not correspond to the Russian interest in knowledge with its practical relevance in the 19th century (A. I. Vvedensky, Georgi I. Tschelpanow [* 1862, † 1936], Iwan I. Lapschin [* 1870, † 1952]). At the same time, religiously inspired life-philosophy designs were created thatpropagateda “spiritualism” (Lew M. Lopatin, * 1855, † 1920) or a “philosophy of the heart” (P. D. Jurkewitsch). This tendency received its most pronounced expression in the thought of N. F. Fyodorov. He saw the main evil of human existence in death, which must be overcome by scientific means. In his “Philosophy of Common Cause” (published posthumously in 1906 and 1913) he called for the “resurrection of deceased fathers” and the machine “regulation” of blindly angry nature. NF Fyodorov Utopian ideas were received by L. N. Tolstoy, F. M. Dostojewski, W. Solowjow, A. Platonow and B. L. Pasternak. Despite its Promethean content, which was highly attractive to the Bolshevik worldview, NF Fyodorov’s philosophy was largely taboo during the Soviet era because of its explicit Christian basis. – The central figure in Russian philosophy is W. Solovyov. His work shows a strong synthetic impetus and tries to convey the diversity of the world in a sophiological draft (Sophia) with the divine “all-unity”. W. Solovyov wanted to overcome the boundaries between rational reason and religious belief; in his later work he also strived for a unification of the Christian churches. He rejected the philosophical enlightenment (Descartes, Kant) as one-sided and designed his own metaphysics with a pronounced apocalyptic dimension. He exerted a great influence on the subsequent generation of philosophers.

20th century and present

At the beginning of the 20th century, many young thinkers made a turn from Marxism to idealism. S. N. Bulgakow, N. A. Berdjajew, Petr B. Struwe (* 1870, † 1944) and S. L. Frank tried to place the materialistic social criticism of Marxism on a religious basis with recourse to the neo-Kantian critique of knowledge. This common starting point led the individual thinkers to different results: S. N. Bulgakow initially drafted a Christian-inspired “Philosophy of Economics” (1912), but after 1917 got lost in sophiological speculations. N. A. Berdyayev around 1910 called for a theocracy in which the individual’s creative striving for freedom could develop. He later transformed this utopian project into an existentialist personalism and dealt with ethical questions. Frank took up W. Solovyov’s concept of “God-humanity” and developed from it an organic philosophy of life in which man, God and the world are spiritually interpenetrating. SN Bulgakow, NA Berdjajew and SL Frankparticipated in the influential anthology »Vechi« (1909; German »Wegzeichen«), in which they called for constructive political engagement by the passive Russian »intelligentsia«. The takeover of the The Bolsheviks later interpreted it as a consequence of the intellectuals’ self-inflicted sideline in the political process. – P. A. Florenski wanted to achieve a synthesis of mathematics and Christian faith. In his main work »Stolp i utverždenie istiny« (1914; German »The pillar and the foundations of truth«) he argued that one can recognize logical antinomies with the rational mind, but cannot overcome them. L. Schestow summarized the contrast between understanding and belief in the metaphor pair “Athens and Jerusalem” and advocated the thesis that reality can never be fully explained by logical analysis. L. Shestov’s epistemological pessimism was suggested by A. Camus and G. Bataille received. However, L. Schestow differs from French existentialism through the assumption of a metaphysical sphere of salvation that is inaccessible to human knowledge, but still exists. A genuinely national philosophy demanded W. F. Ern (* 1880, † 1917), who during the First World War also won a political punchline from the superiority of holistic Russian thought over German rationalism. Conversely, G. G. Schpet criticized the methodological backwardness of Russian philosophy and wanted to develop a strictly scientific hermeneutics following E. Husserl. Asked as one of the few Russian thinkers N. O. Losski placed epistemology at the center of his philosophizing. He assumed a “gnoseological correlation” between objective world reality and the subjective apparatus of knowledge. From this he developed his »intuitivism«, in which he combined E. Husserl’s interest in knowledge with H. Bergson’s method. A. Lossew dealt with ancient aesthetics, mythology and questions of linguistic philosophy.

The October Revolution put an end to diversity of thought. In 1922, on Lenin’s personal orders, over a hundred intellectuals were expelled from Soviet Russia and first came to Germany on the so-called “Philosophers’ steamer”, later many settled in Paris. Those who stayed in Russia were either shot (PA Florensky, GG Schpet) or imprisoned (A. Lossew) in the 1930s. But the Exildenker also referred to Soviet Russia in their works: NA Berdjajew researched the roots of Bolshevism in Russian culture, Iwan Ilin (* 1883, † 1954) outlined the philosophical vision of a constitutional monarchy in exile. Under Stalin only Marxist-Leninist approaches were allowed (Marxism-Leninism). Border areas such as logic and information theory were able to maintain a relative independence. Early on, had N. I. Bukharin (since 1931 editor of the science political and theoretical journal “Sorena”), Boris Hessen (Russian ; Gessen * 1893, † 1938 inter alia).. striving for a Marxist understanding of science. Especially B. Hessen’s work on the “socio-economic roots” of Newton’s physics(1931) influenced the Western European and American history of science (R. K. Merton, J. Needham, T. S. Kuhn et al.). Apart from the centers of power, M. M. Bachtin developed his dialogical subject philosophy (“K filosofii postupka”, 1920–24; English “Toward a philosophy of the act”). It was only during the political “thaw” of the 1960s that theological topics could be taken up again. However, the intellectual climate intensified again under L. I. Brezhnev – in the 1980s there were still editing projects with texts by NF Fyodorow or W. Solowjow to political scandals. With the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the Marxist service philosophy also lost its right to exist. The old stereotypes were replaced by a post-modern analysis of the conditions of one’s own knowledge culture. Boris Groys (* 1947), Michail K. Ryklin (* 1948), Valeri A. Podoroga (* 1946) and Michail N. Epstein (* 1950) examine the effects of “ideological hypertrophication” on the semiotics of Russian culture. At the same time, contemporary Russian philosophy falls back on the concept of the “Russian Idea” already drawn up by the “Slavophiles” and tries to determine the spiritual place of Russia in European intellectual history.

Russian Philosophy