All posts in category Russian Thought

Russian thought lecture 10: Utopias in Russian culture: of palaces and panopticons

Reading: Dostoevsky, “Dream of a Ridiculous Man” (1877) So we come to the end of this lecture series, and a slightly different focus than previously, as theoretical works take a back seat, and we look instead at Russian literature and culture to explore the utopian theme. There are clearly strong utopian aspects to the work […]

Russian thought lecture 9: Nikolai Fedorov and the utopia of the resurrected

Reading: “The Question of Brotherhood or Relatedness, and the Reasons for the Unbrotherly, Dis-Related, or Unpeaceful State of the World, and of the Means for the Restoration of Relatedness” (from Philosophy of the Common Task) So we come to the penultimate lecture for this course, and turn our attention more fully to the question of […]

Russian thought lecture 8: Vladimir Solov’ev: Godmanhood, Sophia, and erotic utopianism

Readings: Solov’ev, “The Meaning of Love” Vladimir Solov’ev (1853-1900) is a very significant figure in the history of Russian thought as well as being a very prominent poet, but in terms of his ideas, he is also a very challenging figure, whose work many people find difficult to understand.The text on which we are going […]

Russian Thought lecture 7: Tolstoy: from Christian love to Christian anarchism

Readings: L. N. Tolstoy, “A Confession” (1879), “The Law of Violence and the Law of Love” (1908), “Postface to The Kreutzer Sonata” (1889) We now move onto Lev Tolstoy (1828-1910) who was not only one of the most important novelists in the nineteenth century, but also one of Russia’s most important thinkers. But while nobody would […]

Russian Thought lecture 6: Populism: the Intelligentsia and the People

Readings: Alexander Herzen, “The Russian People and Socialism” (1851); Petr Lavrov, “Historical Letters” (1868-9); Nikolai Mikhailovskii, “What is Progress?” (1869); Mikhail Bakunin, “Statism and Anarchy, Appendix A” (1873) Unlike the other movements we have studied in this course so far, which have been purely theoretical, the subject of today’s lecture – Populism (narodnichestvo), and related […]

Russian thought lecture 5: Dostoevsky and the anti-rationalist argument

Reading: Dostoevsky, Notes from Underground (1864) This week we turn to the main response to the Nihilists’ ideas of rational egoism and social reorganization, in the form of Dostoevsky’s 1864 novel, Notes from Underground. Dostoevsky is the only writer whose fictional texts we are examining in any detail, but I think this is justified in […]

Russian thought lecture 4: Nihilism and the birth of Russian radicalism: from science to art

Readings: Nikolai Chernyshevsky, extracts from “The Anthropological Principle in Philosophy” (1860); Dmitry Pisarev, “The Realists” (1864) and “The Thinking Proletariat” (1865) We’re now moving away from the debate that arose initially out of Chaadaev’s “First Philosophical Letter” and dominated Russian intellectual life in the 1830s and 1840s. In the next generation a different set of […]

Russian thought lecture 3: The Westernizers and concepts of the self: from reconciliation to action

Readings: Vissarion Belinsky, “Society and the Individual” (1839) extracts from “Letters to Botkin” (1840-1841) and “Letter to Gogol” (1847); Alexander Herzen, extracts from “Dilettantism in Science” (1843) “From the Other Shore” (1848-9) and “Robert Owen” (1861). Having examined the Slavophiles and the development of the idea of communality as a specifically Russian phenomenon, we now […]

Russian thought lecture 2: the Slavophiles and Russian communality

Readings: Aleksei Khomiakov, “On Humboldt” (1849) and “On the Church” (1855); Ivan Kireevskii, “A Reply to A. S. Khomiakov” (1839) and “On the Nature of European Culture and its Relation to the Culture of Russia” (1852); Konstantin Aksakov, “Memorandum to Alexander II on the Internal State of Russia” (1855) The Slavophiles were a group of […]

Russian Thought Lecture 1: Petr Chaadaev and the Russian Question

Readings: Petr Chaadaev, “First Philosophical Letter” and “Apologia of a Madman” Before we get on to Chaadaev, the first question we must address is why he acts as the starting point for our exploration of Russian intellectual history. Chaadaev did not invent Russian philosophy; there was already a significant tradition of philosophical and polemical writing […]