Problems of Idealism

Problems of Idealism: Essays in Russian Social Philosophy

Translated, Edited, and Introduced by RANDALL A. POOLE
Copyright Date: 2003
Published by: Yale University Press
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  • Book Info
    Problems of Idealism
    Book Description:

    The appearance of Problems of Idealism in 1902 was a watershed in the vibrant cultural renaissance known as the Russian Silver Age. A collection of twelve essays by some of Russia's most important philosophical thinkers, the volume has become a classic in the history of Russian thought. Its exploration of the philosophical foundations of liberalism-personhood , autonomy, law, progress-represents the highest achievement in the rich Russian tradition of social thought. This translation brings the original anthology to English-language readers for the first time. In a comprehensive introduction, Randall Poole places the volume in its historical context and assesses its significance.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-14563-2
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. vii-xviii)

    In March 1993, with the world still bewildered at the collapse of Communism, an international conference was held in Moscow to discuss the recuperable past and future prospects of Russian philosophy. Four of the papers (two by Americans, two by Russians) were later published as a forum in the professional journal Voprosy filosofii (Questions of Philosophy).¹ The Russian entries addressed the “Eternal Values of Russian Culture” and “Russian Philosophy and Religious Consciousness”; the two Western academics, while acknowledging the depth and aesthetic productivity of those quests, were more sober and pointedly secular. James Scanlan had provocatively entitled his talk “Does...

  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xix-xx)
  5. Note on the Text and Translation
    (pp. xxi-xxiv)
  6. Editor’s Introduction: Philosophy and Politics in the Russian Liberation Movement The Moscow Psychological Society and Its Symposium, Problems of Idealism
    (pp. 1-78)

    The appearance in late 1902 of Problems of Idealism was a philosophical watershed in the Russian Silver Age, as the remarkable cultural renaissance at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth centuries has come to be known.¹ The Russian critic Ivanov-Razumnik, in his classic History of Russian Social Thought, described the publication of the volume, a collection of twelve essays by some of Russia’s most important philosophers and philosophical thinkers, as an “event” in the history of Russian thought.² This assessment has endured.³ Problems of Idealism was published by the Moscow Psychological Society, a learned society founded...

  7. From the Moscow Psychological Society
    (pp. 79-80)

    Publishing the present volume of essays, the Moscow Psychological Society takes special pleasure in adding this serious collective work to its series of editions. The expression of the views of only one group of its members, those who belong to the idealist direction, this work was bound, however, to meet the support of the whole Psychological Society, in view of the outstanding interest it represents. Following in its editions the principle of impartiality with regard to different philosophical currents, the Society in this way expresses its faith in the undoubted triumph of truth, which in and of itself carries the...

  8. Foreword to the Russian Edition
    (pp. 81-84)

    Today there can be no doubt that the negative relation to philosophy, only recently so widespread in Russian society, has been replaced by lively interest in its problems. The directions that sought to eradicate philosophy, or else supplant it with constructions based exclusively on the data of experience, have lost their leading significance. Needs that can never disappear have again awoken, and as before thought seeks satisfaction in the authentic sources of philosophic knowledge.

    This awakening of philosophic interest gave rise to the idea, among several people participating in the new movement, to respond to these new searchings with a...

  9. 1 Basic Problems of the Theory of Progress
    (pp. 85-123)

    According to the so-called law of three stages (loi des trois états) established by Auguste Comte,² humanity progresses in its development from the theological to the metaphysical understanding of the world, and from the metaphysical to the positive or scientific. Nowadays Comte’s philosophy has already lost credit, but even so his imaginary law is apparently a basic philosophical conviction in broad circles of our society. Yet this law represents a crude misunderstanding, because neither the spirit’s religious need and the sphere of ideas and feelings corresponding to it, nor the metaphysical requirements of reason and the speculation answering them, are...

  10. 2 Toward Characterization of the Theory of Marx and Engels on the Significance of Ideas in History
    (pp. 124-142)

    The present essay has a more modest goal than giving a detailed analysis of the materialist understanding of history as a whole. Rather, its task is to subject to critical evaluation certain claims of Marx and Engels about the significance of ideas in history. Very much in this direction has been done by contemporary criticism: especially in recent years there have been many valuable works that have pointed to the precariousness of the basic positions of historical materialism, to the incompleteness of its constructions, and to its internal contradictions. And nonetheless the question cannot be considered exhausted: on the one...

  11. 3 Toward Characterization of Our Philosophical Development (Apropos of S. P. Ranskii’s book. The Sociology of N. K. Mikhailovskii)
    (pp. 143-160)
    P. G. and P. B. STRUVE

    We have before us a new book devoted to N. K. Mikhailovskii, by S. P. Ranskii.¹ It will not be superfluous in our literature, despite the existence of Krasnosel’skii’s brochure and Berdiaev’s book.² The burden of Berdiaev’s work consists not in exposition or even in critique of Mikhailovskii’s theories, but in opposing a different Weltanschauung to them.³ By contrast, Ranskii, although he offers a critique of Mikhailovskii’s views — a critique at the basis of which obviously lies the critic’s own more or less definite, positive point of view — undoubtedly saw his main task in a precise and complete...

  12. 4 The Ethical Problem in the Light of Philosophical Idealism
    (pp. 161-197)

    The aim of my article is to attempt to pose the ethical problem on the ground of philosophic idealism. I would like to do this in broad but, to the extent possible, sure strokes. Our theme is congenial to every conscious person, especially now, when ethical questions are again being raised with tormenting urgency and when the idealistic wave that has rushed upon us demands the elucidation of all current social problems from the point of view of the eternal ethical problem. The formulation of a philosophical ethics, as the highest court of human aspirations and acts, is perhaps the...

  13. 5 Friedrich Nietzsche and the Ethics of “Love of the Distant” (Dedicated to P. B. S.)
    (pp. 198-241)
    S. L. FRANK

    The modern science of morals leads to the conviction that the totality of the moral feelings people experience and the moral principles they recognize cannot be reduced to one supreme axiom from which all of them would derive, like conclusions from a logical premise. There exists no single moral postulate from which it would be possible to develop a logical system of ethics encompassing, without exception, all the judgments that bring phenomena under the categories of “good” and “evil.” The complex and intricate pattern of the moral world cannot be unraveled by rinding the end of one of its threads,...

  14. 6 Philosophy and Life
    (pp. 242-257)

    The characteristic peculiarity of post-Kantian philosophical thought is its own conscious subordination to principles from whose influence philosophy had long considered itself completely free. We have in mind principles of a practical-volitional character, and in particular those forming the categories of duty, the good, beauty, and utility. If in the classic epoch of rationalism the reciprocal relation among thought, will, and action was expressed in the formula, “I think and, in accordance with my thought, want and act,” then today’s understanding of this reciprocal relation shows a conspicuous inclination to express it in the reverse order,“I want and act and...

  15. 7 What the History of Philosophy Teaches
    (pp. 258-273)

    Since the time of Socrates, one of the strongest and more obvious objections to the possibility of philosophy has been the universal disagreement among philosophers. Every original philosophical teaching differs from others, diverges from and contradicts them, and is itself fraught with internal contradictions and imperfections. Not one such teaching can satisfy the demands of human reason, because its demands are unconditional.

    Time and again means for the reform of philosophy and philosophical activity have been proposed, and time and again they have led to real transformations in the field of thought. But they have not altered the position of...

  16. 8 Ethical Idealism in the Philosophy of Law (On the Question of the Revival of Natural Law)
    (pp. 274-324)

    When, in 1896, the first pronouncements were made in Russian legal studies about the necessity of the revival of natural law, they were met with mistrust and doubt.² It seemed strange and unlikely that an idea, so firmly condemned by the whole movement of thought in the nineteenth century, would ever again be resurrected as a legitimate and necessary concept in the philosophy of law. The very term “natural law” seemed for the modern view to be such an impossible and improper combination of words that this alone was enough to reject not only the term but also the very...

  17. 9 The “Russian Sociological School” and the Category of Possibility in the Solution of Social-Ethical Problems
    (pp. 325-355)

    Explorations in the labyrinth of questions that come up on the path toward knowledge of the social world have not only failed to decline in recent times, but have even increased.¹ Having arisen with particular force at the beginning of the 1890s, for a while these explorations seemed to find a solution in the strict application to social phenomena of the same research methods that had already long confirmed their exclusive dominance in relation to natural phenomena. Many even rushed to declare the incontrovertibility of the unity they professed in the world order, a unity they saw in the material...

  18. 10 The Basic Principles of Auguste Comte’s Sociological Doctrine
    (pp. 356-415)

    In the course of the first decades of the nineteenth century, enthusiasm for the scientific spirit was perhaps nowhere as strong as in France: there science was enriched by a number of new fields of knowledge and acquired great popularity. At the same time, however, French society during the Restoration began to react against the excesses of individualism and revealed a clear inclination for the establishment of some type of spiritual authority. Such an attitude was felt not only by reactionaries, but also by progressive people, who believed that the time had arrived for the “reorganization”¹ of the social order....

  19. 11 Renan as Champion of Freedom of Thought
    (pp. 416-421)

    The more often dogmatism and intolerance are encountered, especially within the scientific Weltanschauung, the more we learn to value the true free-thinking that corresponds to the critical and progressive spirit of science. In the present sketch we would like to remember one of the most prominent champions of such free-thinking. The dogmatism against which Renan¹ struggled cannot be considered entirely obsolete. In order to be free of it, one needs great tolerance and a deep conviction in the “infinite diversity of tasks the universe presents to us.”² In both respects Renan can serve as an instructive model for our times....

  20. 12 On the Question of Moral Creativity
    (pp. 422-436)

    What is morality? “If we keep more clearly in view the standpoint of the ‘moral’ as we have to take it in the best sense of the word today, it is soon obvious that its concept does not immediately coincide with what apart from it we generally call virtue, conventional life, respectability, and so on. From this point of view a conventionally virtuous man is not ipso facto moral, because to be moral needs reflection, the specific consciousness of what accords with duty, and action on this preceding consciousness. Duty itself is the law of the will, a law that...

  21. Glossary of Names
    (pp. 437-444)
  22. Contributor Biographies
    (pp. 445-456)
  23. Index
    (pp. 457-468)
  24. Back Matter
    (pp. 469-469)