History of Literature

Russian literature



Vladimir Solovyov

Vladimir Sergeyevich Solovyov, Solovyov also spelled Soloviev (b. Jan. 16 [Jan. 28, New Style], 1853, Moscow, Russia—d. July 31 [Aug. 13], 1900, Uzkoye, near Moscow), Russian philosopher and mystic who, reacting to European rationalist thought, attempted a synthesis of religious philosophy, science, and ethics in the context of a universal Christianity uniting the Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches under papal leadership.

He was the son of the historian Sergey M. Solovyov. After a basic education in languages, history, and philosophy at his Orthodox home, he took his doctorate at Moscow University in 1874 with the dissertation “The Crisis of Western Philosophy: Against the Positivists.” After travels in the West, he wrote a second thesis, a critique of abstract principles, and accepted a teaching post at the University of St. Petersburg, where he delivered his celebrated lectures on Godmanhood (1880). This appointment was later rescinded because of Solovyov’s clemency appeal for the March 1881 assassins of Tsar Alexander II. He also encountered official opposition to his writings and to his activity in promoting the union of Eastern Orthodoxy with the Roman Catholic church.

Solovyov criticized Western empiricist and idealist philosophy for attributing absolute significance to partial insights and abstract principles. Drawing on the writings of Benedict de Spinoza and G.W.F. Hegel, he regarded life as a dialectical process, involving the interaction of knowledge and reality through conflicting tensions. Assuming the ultimate unity of Absolute Being, termed God in the Judeo-Christian tradition, Solovyov proposed that the world’s multiplicity, which had originated in a single creative source, was undergoing a process of reintegration with that source. Solovyov asserted, by his concept of Godmanhood, that the unique intermediary between the world and God could only be man, who alone is the vital part of nature capable of knowing and expressing the divine idea of “absolute unitotality” in the chaotic multiplicity of real experience. Consequently, the perfect revelation of God is Christ’s incarnation in human nature.

For Solovyov, ethics became a dialectical problem of basing the morality of human acts and decisions on the extent of their contribution to the world’s integration with ultimate divine unity, a theory expressed in his The Meaning of Love (1894).

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Vladimir Sergeyevich Solovyov (Russian: Влади́мир Серге́евич Соловьёв; January 28 [O.S. January 16] 1853 – August 13 [O.S. July 31] 1900) was a Russian philosopher, poet, pamphleteer, literary critic, who played a significant role in the development of Russian philosophy and poetry at the end of the 19th century. Solovyov (the last name derives from "соловей", "solovey", Nightingale in Russian) played a significant role in the Russian spiritual renaissance in the beginning of the 20th century. Solovyov is said to have died a pauper, homeless.

Life and work
Vladimir Solovyov was born in Moscow on 16 January 1853, in the family of well-known Russian historian Sergey Mikhaylovich Solovyov (1820–1879). His mother, Polixena Vladimirovna, belonged to a Ukrainian-Polish family, having among her ancestors a remarkable thinker the 18th century Hryhori Skovoroda (1722–1794).

In his teens Solovyov renounced Orthodox Christianity for nihilism though later Solovyov changed his earlier convictions and began expressing views in line again with the Russian Orthodox Church. What prompted this radical change appears to be Solovyov's disapproval of the Positivist movement. In Solovyov's The Crisis of Western Philosophy: Against the Positivists he attempted to discredit the Positivists' rejection of Aristotle's essentialism or philosophical realism. In Against the Postivists, Solovyov took the position of intuitive noetic comprehension, noesis or insight stating consciousness, in being is integral (Russian term being sobornost) and has to have both phenomenon (validated by dianonia) and noumenon validated intuitively. Positivism according to Solovyov only validates the phenomenon of an object denying the intuitive reality people experience as part of their consciousness. Vladimir Solovyov was also known to be a very close friend and confidant of Fyodor Dostoevsky. In opposition to Dostoevsky's apparent views of the Roman Catholic church, Solovyov has been rumored to have converted to Roman Catholicism four years before his death. It could be said that he did this to engage in the reconciliation (ecumenism, sobornost) between Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy, a reconciliation that Solovyov outspokenly favored, but Solovyov himself always maintained that he was still a Russian Orthodox believer and that he had never left the Orthodox faith. Solovyov believed that his mission in life was to move people toward reconciliation or absolute unity or sobornost.

It is widely held that Solovyov was Dostoevsky's inspiration for the characters Alyosha Karamazov and Ivan Karamazov from The Brothers Karamazov. Solovyov's influence can also be seen in the writings of the Symbolist and Neo-Idealist of the later Russian Soviet era. His book The Meaning of Love can be seen as one of the philosophical sources of Leo Tolstoy's The Kreutzer Sonata (1889).

He influenced the religious philosophy of Nicolas Berdyaev, Sergey Bulgakov, Pavel Florensky, Nikolai Lossky, Semen L. Frank, the ideas of Rudolf Steiner and also on the poetry and theory of Russian symbolism, viz. Andrei Belyi, Alexander Blok Solovyov's nephew, and others. Hans Urs von Balthasar explores his work as one example of seven lay styles that reveal the glory of God's revelation, in volume III of the The Glory of the Lord (pp. 279–352).

Solovyov compiled a philosophy based partly on Hellenistic pagan philosophy (see Plato, Aristotle and Plotinus) and also early church Patristic tradition along with Buddhism and Hebrew Kabblahistic elements (i.e. Philo of Alexandra). Solovyov also studied Gnosticism and seemed to be heavily influenced by the gnostic works of Valentinus. Solovyov's religious philosophy was syncretic and fused many of the philosophical elements of various religious traditions with that of the Eastern Orthodox church and also Solovyov's own personal experience of the Sophia. Solovyov described his encounters with the entity Sophia in his works the Three Encounters and Lectures on Godmanhood among others. Solovyov's fusion was driven by the desire to reconcile and or unite with Eastern Orthodoxy these various traditions via the Russian Slavophiles' concept of sobornost. His Russian religious philosophy had a very strong impact on the Russian Symbolist art movements of his time. Solovyev's teaching on Sophia have been deemed a heresy by ROCOR and condemned as unsound and unorthodox by the Patriarchate of Moscow.

Solovyov sought through his works to create a form of philosophy, that could through his system of logic or reason, reconcile all various bodies of knowledge or disciplines of thought. It was Solovyov's goal to fuse all conflicting concepts into a single systematic form of reason. It was this complete form of philosophy that Solovyov presented as being Russian philosophy. That based on the central components of the slavophile movement, all forms of reason could be reconciled into one single form of logic. The heart of this reconciliation as logic or reason was the concept sobornost (organic or Spontaneous order through integration) which is also the Russian word for catholic. Solovyov sought to find and validate the common ground and or where various conflicts found common ground and by focusing on this common ground to establish absolute unity and or integral[9] fusion of opposing ideas and or peoples.

Solovyov is extensively criticized by Dmitry Galkovsky in the 1988 philosophical novel The Infinite Deadlock. Galkovsky cites Solovyov's early adoption of nihilist views, and later renunciation of them, as evidence of Solovyov's opportunism. He also characterizes Solovyov's writings on theocracy as a "parodic hybrid of slavophilic nationalism with Western nihilism." In Galkovsky's radical interpretation, Solovyov emerges as an impostor whose primary goal was to create a caricatured form of religious conservatism that would draw audiences away from more "authentic" nationalists such as Yuri Samarin.

"As long as the dark foundation of our nature, grim in its all-encompassing egoism, mad in its drive to make that egoism into reality, to devour everything and to define everything by itself, as long as that foundation is visible, as long as this truly original sin exists within us, we have no business here and there is no logical answer to our existence. Imagine a group of people who are all blind, deaf and slightly demented and suddenly someone in the crowd asks, "What are we to do?"... The only possible answer is, "Look for a cure". Until you are cured, there is nothing you can do. And since you don't believe you are sick, there can be no cure."



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