… or Nikolai Fedorovich Fedorov’s Philosophy of the Common Task. One comes across many extraordinary figures and ideas in Russian literature and intellectual history, but Fedorov stands out even in this exalted company. Fedorov’s ‘common task’, to which all human activity should be directed, was achieving immortality for all, including the dead, who would thereby be resurrected. He advocated space flight in order to find cosmic elements that would advance the science of resurrection, and then, once universal resurrection had been effected, to colonize other planets, because obviously all these undead folk would need somewhere to live. And he proposed using technology to transform agriculture in the aid of man’s search for immortality, for example by changing weather patterns. Hence ‘intergalactic zombie agriculture’, the term coined by a non-Russianist friend I was explaining this to, who – not unreasonably, in my view – felt it was quite possibly the best idea ever. Fedorov was extremely influential, and highly regarded by the likes of Dostoevsky, Tolstoy and Solov’ev. Quite a few of the technological developments he envisaged have come into existence or been experimented with, so dismiss him at your peril. And if that wasn’t enough, he rejected copyright and was an early proponent of open access publishing.
Anyway, I’m teaching him on my Russian Thought course next week, which seemed like a good opportunity to gather together a few links.
1. N. F. Fyodorov, What Was Man Created For: The Philosophy of the Common Task. Selected works translated and abridged by Elisabeth Koutaissoff and Marilyn Minto. The key text ‘The Question of Brotherhood or Relatedness…’ (Vopros o bratstve, ili rodstve…’) is available in Russian here, while this site also provides a list of links to Fedorov’s works.
2. Nikolai Fedorovich Fedorov on the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. A useful introduction to his thought.
3. N. A. Berdyaev, The Religion of Resusciative Resurrection. A seminal essay on Fedorov from 1915, Berdyaev’s argument that Fedorov was a pragmatist may seem counter-intuitive at first, but it makes a lot of sense. The Russian text is available here.