Heart of Reality
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Vladimir S. Soloviev (1853–1900), moral philosopher, social and literary critic, theologian, and poet, is considered one of Russia’s greatest philosophers. But Soloviev is relatively unknown in the West, despite his close association with Fyodor Dostoevsky, who modeled one of his most famous literary characters, Alyosha Karamazov, on Soloviev. In The Heart of Reality, Vladimir Wozniuk offers lucid translations, a substantive introduction, and careful annotations that make many of Soloviev’s writings accessible for the first time to an English-speaking audience. Soloviev worked tirelessly in the name of the mystical body of the Universal Church. The vast bulk of his writings can be construed as promoting, in one way or another, the cause of ecumenism. His essays also display the influence of Platonic and German Idealism and strands of Thomistic thinking. Wozniuk demonstrates the consistency of Soloviev’s biblically based thought on the subjects of aesthetics, love, and ethics, while at the same time clarifying Soloviev’s concept of vseedinstvo (the unity of spiritual and material), especially as applied to literature. Containing many previously untranslated essays, The Heart of Reality situates Soloviev more clearly in the mainstream of Western religious philosophy and Christian thought.



Publié par
Date de parution 15 septembre 2020
Nombre de lectures 0
EAN13 9780268108946
Langue English

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The Heart of Reality
The Heart of Reality

Edited and translated by

Copyright © 2003 by the University of Notre Dame
Notre Dame, Indiana 46556
All Rights Reserved
Paperback edition published in 2020
Published in the United States of America
Library of Congress Control Number: 2002155287
ISBN: 978-0-268-03061-2 (Hardback)
ISBN: 978-0-268-10893-9 (Paperback)
ISBN: 978-0-268-10895-3 (WebPDF)
ISBN: 978-0-268-10894-6 (Epub)
This e-Book was converted from the original source file by a third-party vendor. Readers who notice any formatting, textual, or readability issues are encouraged to contact the publisher at undpress@nd.edu
1. Three Addresses in Memory of Dostoevsky
2. Beauty in Nature
3. The Universal Meaning of Art
4. The Meaning of Love
5. A First Step toward a Positive Aesthetic
6. The Fate of Pushkin
7. Mickiewicz
8. Lermontov
Appendix A. A Note in Defense of Dostoevsky against the Charge of a “New” Christianity
Appendix B. The Russian Symbolists
Supplemental List of Soloviev’s Relevant Writings
General Index
Index of Biblical References
My thanks to Robert L. Jackson for key words of advice and encouragement at an early stage of this project’s development, and to Jeff Gainey, Denise Thompson-Slaughter, and various reviewers, all of whose many helpful comments substantially improved the final product. Thanks are also due to Western New England College for course-related time to complete the project, and to Sandy for providing patience and moral support, something that all writers need. This book is dedicated to her.
Introduction: “Beauty will save the world”
How can Dostoevsky’s enigmatic declaration concerning beauty as the agent of salvation be best understood? A significant portion of the work of Vladimir S. Soloviev, Dostoevsky’s disciple and the bearer of his mantle in Russian fin de siècle intellectual circles, would be dedicated to answering this question. Soloviev approached Christian soteriology from a traditional credal perspective, subscribing to the decisions of Nicea and other church councils, but he modified and reinterpreted biblical wisdom and the experience of the Universal Church in order to make them more relevant for modernity in light of scientific discovery and historical understanding. The significance of his contributions to ecumenical discourse, long recognized among Orthodox theologians, has been officially noted more recently by the Vatican. 1
Soloviev’s unyielding Christian ethos often irritated one social group or another in the Russia of his day, just as his mentor Dostoevsky’s had done. 2 He too endured attacks that centered on the charge of trying to introduce a “new” teaching not consistent with Orthodox Christianity. In answer to accusations of heretical teaching, Soloviev wrote: “I can answer this briefly and definitively: I do not have my own teaching; but in view of the dissemination of harmful counterfeits of Christianity, I consider it my duty to explain the basic idea of Christianity from various aspects, in various forms . . . the idea of the Kingdom of God as the plenitude of human life, not only individual, but also social and political, united through Christ with the fullness of Divinity.” 3 And in response to regular attempts to dismiss him as a mystic, Soloviev confounded his critics by asserting: “I not only believe in all that is supernatural, but properly speaking, it is only in this that I believe. ” 4 These comments provide a reliable frame of reference in which the entire corpus of Soloviev’s work may be interpreted.
Soloviev’s return to Christian faith might be understood as a conversion experience not unlike that of St. Augustine some fifteen hundred years earlier, one that likewise dramatically energized him with an evangelical fervor regarding his new life’s work to explain the message of Christ to a much loved but unbelieving and decadent European civilization. After a brief flirtation with the prevalent ideologies of his day—materialism, atheism, and the political ideas of anarchy and social revolution—Soloviev became an insightful critic of the political movements and social activism that surrounded him in the Russia of his day, and which were linked with names such as Bakunin, Kropotkin, Chernyshevsky, and Herzen, among others. 5 Soloviev showed little concern for reputation, or how he was perceived by others, but instead embarked on a mission to help along what he considered to be the universal process of reconciliation toward the eventual telos of what he called vseedinstvo —“all-unity” or “unity-of-everything”—which represented an overarching and all-encompassing grand unifying theory of spiritual and material forces in the universe, based, however, on traditional Judeo-Christian teachings.
Attempts were made at that time (and sometimes still are) to pigeonhole Soloviev’s diverse intellectual pursuits in the areas of social commentary, theology, moral philosophy, history, poetry, and literary criticism; but his message remained at root Christian and, as he tirelessly sought to explain in myriad ways, squarely set in the tradition of ecclesial apologetics based on the Gospels and the Nicene Creed. 6 His ecumenical, Bible- and Christ-centered writing was permeated with an integrity of vision and humility that no doubt astounded some of those around him; his willingness to endure poverty and champion causes that in one way or another related to human rights added credibility to his words. 7
Although almost all of Soloviev’s writing was accomplished under the scrutiny of what he once termed the “censorship’s terror,” which was part and parcel of a Russian writer’s life at the time, his essays on aesthetics, ethics, and sexual love seem to have passed by the censor’s desk with few, if any, changes. 8 Despite the philosophical language and mode of argument that Soloviev employs, his writing often veers away from the rules of strict philosophical discourse, and this contributes to the problem of categorizing Soloviev, or trying to limit the characterization of his work to “religious philosophy.” The highly erudite Soloviev could shift from the classics to political philosophy, from religion and history to scientific principles, quite easily. And so one categorizes Soloviev’s writing at one’s own risk; it defies such attempts due to its exegetical purpose—to provide a single, indivisible integration point for all of human knowledge and experience. For Soloviev, this was the Resurrected Christ, who embodied in his person the underlying principles of reconciliation of all individual differences and oppositions, and the redemption of reality in its entirety. Soloviev understood Christ as the predecessor of a new, redeemed, perfected and immortalized humanity, epitomizing “spiritual corporeality.” 9
Nicholas Berdyaev’s acknowledgment of Soloviev as “the most outstanding Russian philosopher of the nineteenth century” might be interpreted as containing irony in light of the fact that Russia has produced no universally acclaimed “great” philosophers of the status, say, of a Hobbes, Hume, Rousseau, or Kant. To Soloviev himself, this did not seem to be an important matter. Yet the sheer breadth and scope of his undertakings make this characterization, in fact, indisputable. And it is important to note that this status held by Soloviev in Russian thought derives directly from his work in moral philosophy, and that this work itself was a function of his own Christian faith, with specific reference to the justification of Christian morality and ethics.
All these considerations have led to assessments of Soloviev’s work as rather unoriginal, as primarily derivative from Platonic and German idealism, and somewhat obscurantist in its religious mysticism. While Soloviev was indeed broadly influenced both by Plato and the German idealists, the essays in this volume also appear to be more directly informed by the work of Aristotle, Aquinas, and Dostoevsky. Soloviev the philosopher has been given many labels, ranging from idealist to pantheist to transcendental mystic, but evaluations of Soloviev that fail to recognize the centrality of incarnational Christianity in his thought, of the manifold implications of the appearance of the fully God-man ( bogochelovek ) Christ for the transformation of the world into a perfect and just reflection of the divine will, end up missing the point of his endeavors entirely. For Soloviev, all moral systems based on extra-biblical claims fell short of a comprehensive interpretation of reality and an adequate justification of the necessity of morality, whether they were based on a positivistic scientific or social-revolutionary worldview, or on mystical perspectives outside the realm of biblically revealed truth.
Evaluation of Soloviev’s work as unoriginal or excessively derivative may seem to carry more weight in his formal philosophy than in his other pursuits. The indifference with which his work in this sphere was largely received is reflected, for example, in the novelist Lev N. Tolstoy’s disquisition “What is Art?”. Tolstoy (with whom Soloviev carried on a running debate about just what constituted Christianity) ind

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