Nikolai Berdyaev

Last updated
Nikolai Berdyaev
Berdiayev001.jpg
Born
Nikolai Alexandrovich Berdyaev

March 18, 1874
DiedMarch 24, 1948(1948-03-24) (aged 74)
Era 20th-century philosophy
Region Russian philosophy
School Christian existentialism, personalism
Main interests
Creativity, eschatology, freedom
Notable ideas
Core motifs: freedom, the person, spirit, creativity
Berdyaev's grave, Clamart (France). Tombe Berdiaev2.JPG
Berdyaev's grave, Clamart (France).

Nikolai Alexandrovich Berdyaev ( /bərˈdjɑːjɛf, -jɛv/ ; [1] Russian : Никола́й Алекса́ндрович Бердя́ев; March 18 [ O.S. March 6] 1874 – March 24, 1948) was a Russian political and also Christian religious philosopher who emphasized the existential spiritual significance of human freedom and the human person. Alternate historical spellings of his name in English include "Berdiaev" and "Berdiaeff", and of his given name as "Nicolas" and "Nicholas".

Russian language East Slavic language

Russian is an East Slavic language, which is official in the Russian Federation, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, as well as being widely used throughout Eastern Europe, the Baltic states, the Caucasus and Central Asia. It was the de facto language of the Soviet Union until its dissolution on 25 December 1991. Although nearly three decades have passed since the breakup of the Soviet Union, Russian is used in official capacity or in public life in all the post-Soviet nation-states, as well as in Israel and Mongolia.

Old Style and New Style dates 16th-century changes in calendar conventions

Old Style (O.S.) and New Style (N.S.) are terms sometimes used with dates to indicate that the calendar convention used at the time described is different from that in use at the time the document was being written. There were two calendar changes in Great Britain and its colonies, which may sometimes complicate matters: the first was to change the start of the year from Lady Day to 1 January; the second was to discard the Julian calendar in favour of the Gregorian calendar. Closely related is the custom of dual dating, where writers gave two consecutive years to reflect differences in the starting date of the year, or to include both the Julian and Gregorian dates.

Philosophy Study of general and fundamental questions

Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental questions about existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. Such questions are often posed as problems to be studied or resolved. The term was probably coined by Pythagoras. Philosophical methods include questioning, critical discussion, rational argument, and systematic presentation. Classic philosophical questions include: Is it possible to know anything and to prove it? What is most real? Philosophers also pose more practical and concrete questions such as: Is there a best way to live? Is it better to be just or unjust? Do humans have free will?

Contents

Biography

Nikolai Berdyaev was born at Obukhiv, [2] Kiev Governorate in 1874, in an aristocratic military family. [3] His father, Alexander Mikhailovich Berdyaev, came from a long line of Kiev and Kharkiv nobility. Almost all of Alexander Mikhailovich's ancestors served as high-ranking military officers, but he resigned from the army quite early and became active in the social life of the Kiev aristocracy. Nikolai's mother, Alina Sergeevna Berdyaeva, was half-French and came from the top levels of both French and Russian nobility. He also had Polish and Tatar origins. [4] [5]

Obukhiv City of regional significance in Kiev Oblast, Ukraine

Obukhiv is a city in Kiev Oblast (province) of Ukraine. Population: 33,102 (2013 est.). In 2001, population was 32,776.

Kiev Governorate governorate of the Russian Empire

Kiev Governorate was an administrative division of the Russian Empire from 1796 to 1919 and the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic from 1919 to 1925. It was formed as a governorate in the Right-bank Ukraine region following a division of the Kiev Viceroyalty into the Kiev and the Little Russia Governorates, with the administrative centre in Kiev. By the start of the 20th century it consisted of 12 uyezds, 12 cities, 111 miasteczkos and 7344 other settlements. After the October Revolution it became part of the administrative division of the Ukrainian SSR. In 1923 it was divided into several okrugs and on 6 June 1925 it was abolished by the Soviet administrative reforms.

Aristocracy is a form of government that places strength in the hands of a small, privileged ruling class. The term derives from the Greek aristokratia, meaning 'rule of the best-born'.

Greatly influenced by Voltaire, his father was an educated man that considered himself a freethinker and expressed great skepticism towards religion. Nikolai's mother, Eastern Orthodox by birth, was in her views on religion more Catholic than Orthodox. He spent a solitary childhood at home, where his father's library allowed him to read widely. He read Hegel, Schopenhauer, and Kant when he was only 14 and excelled at languages.

Voltaire French writer, historian, and philosopher

François-Marie Arouet, known by his nom de plumeVoltaire, was a French Enlightenment writer, historian and philosopher famous for his wit, his criticism of Christianity, especially the Roman Catholic Church, and his advocacy of freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and separation of church and state.

Freethought is a philosophical viewpoint which holds that positions regarding truth should be formed on the basis of logic, reason, and empiricism, rather than authority, tradition, revelation, or dogma. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, a freethinker is "a person who forms their own ideas and opinions rather than accepting those of other people, especially in religious teaching." In some contemporary thought in particular, freethought is strongly tied with rejection of traditional social or religious belief systems. The cognitive application of freethought is known as "freethinking", and practitioners of freethought are known as "freethinkers". Modern freethinkers consider freethought as a natural freedom of all negative and illusive thoughts acquired from the society.

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel German philosopher who influenced German idealism

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel was a German philosopher and an important figure of German idealism. He achieved wide recognition in his day and—while primarily influential within the continental tradition of philosophy—has become increasingly influential in the analytic tradition as well. Although Hegel remains a divisive figure, his canonical stature within Western philosophy is universally recognized.

Berdyaev decided on an intellectual career and entered the Kiev University in 1894. It was a time of revolutionary fervor among the students and the intelligentsia. He became a Marxist and he was arrested in a student demonstration and expelled from the university. His involvement in illegal activities led in 1897 to three years of internal exile to Vologda, [6] :28 in northern Russia, a milder sentence compared than that faced by many other revolutionaries.

The intelligentsia is a status class of educated people engaged in the complex mental labours that critique, guide, and lead in shaping the culture and politics of their society. As a status class, the intelligentsia includes artists, teachers and academics, writers, journalists, and the literary hommes de lettres.

Marxism economic and sociopolitical worldview based on the works of Karl Marx

Marxism is a theory and method of working-class self-emancipation. As a theory, it relies on a method of socioeconomic analysis that views class relations and social conflict using a materialist interpretation of historical development and takes a dialectical view of social transformation. It originates from the works of 19th-century German philosophers Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels.

Exile event by which a person is forced away from home

To be in exile means to be away from one's home, while either being explicitly refused permission to return or being threatened with imprisonment or death upon return.

In 1904, he married Lydia Yudifovna Trusheff. The couple moved to Saint Petersburg, the Russian capital, and the centre of intellectual and revolutionary activity. He participated fully in intellectual and spiritual debate, eventually departing from radical Marxism to focus his attention on philosophy and Christian spirituality.

Lydia Yudifovna Berdyaev was a Russian poet, member of Russian apostolate and leader of the Russian diaspora in France.

Saint Petersburg Federal city in Northwestern Federal Okrug, Russia

Saint Petersburg is Russia's second-largest city after Moscow, with 5 million inhabitants in 2012, part of the Saint Petersburg agglomeration with a population of 6.2 million (2015). An important Russian port on the Baltic Sea, it has a status of a federal subject.

A fiery 1913 article, entitled "Quenchers of the Spirit", criticising the rough purging of Imiaslavie Russian monks on Mount Athos by the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church using tsarist troops, caused him to be charged with the crime of blasphemy, the punishment for which was exile to Siberia for life. The World War and the Bolshevik Revolution prevented the matter coming to trial. [7] After the October Revolution of 1917, as the Bolshevik régime began consolidating its power with a growing suppression of non-Lenin Marxist Intelligentsia, Berdyaev remained steadfast in his criticism of its totalitarianism and the domination of the state over the freedom of the individual. Nonetheless, he was permitted, for the time being, to continue to lecture and write.

Imiaslavie or Imiabozhie (Имябожие), also spelled imyaslavie and imyabozhie, and also referred to as onomatodoxy, is a dogmatic movement which asserts that the Name of God is God Himself. Although it was condemned by the Russian Orthodox Church in 1913, it is still promoted by many contemporary Russian writers. Many contemporary supporters are affiliated with Bishop Grégory Lourie and St. Sergius Orthodox Theological Institute in Paris. The movement emerged in the beginning of the 20th century but both proponents and opponents claim it to be connected with much religious thought throughout the history of Christianity.

Mount Athos Mountain and peninsula in northeastern Greece

Mount Athos is a mountain and peninsula in northeastern Greece and an important centre of Eastern Orthodox monasticism. It is governed as an autonomous polity within the Greek Republic. Mount Athos is home to 20 monasteries under the direct jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople.

Holy Synod synod comprised of a group of bishops

In several of the autocephalous Eastern Orthodox churches and Eastern Catholic Churches, the patriarch or head bishop is elected by a group of bishops called the Holy Synod. For instance, the Holy Synod is a ruling body of the Georgian Orthodox Church.

His disaffection culminated, in 1919, with the foundation of his own private academy, the "Free Academy of Spiritual Culture". It was primarily a forum for him to lecture on the hot topics of the day and to present them from a Christian point of view. He also presented his opinions in public lectures, and every Tuesday, the academy hosted a meeting at his home because official Soviet anti-religious activity was intense at the time and the official policy of the Bolshevik government, with its Soviet anti-religious legislation, strongly promoted State atheism. [6]

In 1920, Berdiaev became professor of philosophy at the University of Moscow. In the same year, he was accused of participating in a conspiracy against the government; he was arrested and jailed. The feared head of the Cheka, Felix Dzerzhinsky, came in person to interrogate him, [8] :130 and he gave his interrogator a solid dressing down on the problems with Bolshevism. [6] :32 Novelist Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn in his book The Gulag Archipelago recounts the incident as follows:

[Berdyaev] was arrested twice; he was taken in 1922 for a midnight interrogation with Dzerjinsky; Kamenev was also there.... But Berdyaev did not humiliate himself, he did not beg, he firmly professed the moral and religious principles by virtue of which he did not adhere to the party in power; and not only did they judge that there was no point in putting him on trial, but he was freed. Now there is a man who had a "point of view"! [9]

The Soviet authorities eventually expelled Berdyaev from Russia, in September 1922. He became one of a group of prominent writers, scholars and intellectuals who were sent into forced exile on the so-called "philosophers' ships".

At first, Berdyaev and other émigrés went to Berlin, where he founded an academy of philosophy and religion, but economic and political conditions in the Weimar Republic caused him and his wife to move to Paris in 1923. He transferred his academy there, and taught, lectured and wrote, working for an exchange of ideas with the French and European intellectual community, and participated in a number of international conferences. [10]

During the German occupation of France during World War II, Berdyaev continued to write books that were published after the war, some of them after his death. In the years that he spent in France, Berdyaev wrote 15 books, including most of his most important works. He died at his writing desk in his home in Clamart, near Paris, in 1948.

Primary source biographical works in English are Berdyaev's intellectual autobiography, published originally under the title Dream and Reality, and Donald A. Lowrie's 1960 book, Rebellious Prophet: A Life of Nikolai Berdyaev, written in close collaboration with Berdyaev's sister-in-law, Evgenia Rapp, and others of their close acquaintance under the auspices of the Berdiaev Société. [11]

Philosophy

David Bonner Richardson described Berdyaev's philosophy as Christian existentialism and personalism. [12] He emphasized the importance of creativity that requires personal freedom.[ citation needed ]

According to Marko Markovic, "He was an ardent man, rebellious to all authority, an independent and "negative" spirit. He could assert himself only in negation and could not hear any assertion without immediately negating it, to such an extent that he would even be able to contradict himself and to attack people who shared his own prior opinions". [6]

He also published works about Russian history and the Russian national character. In particular, he wrote about Russian nationalism: [13]

The Russian people did not achieve their ancient dream of Moscow, the Third Rome. The ecclesiastical schism of the seventeenth century revealed that the muscovite tsardom is not the third Rome. The messianic idea of the Russian people assumed either an apocalyptic form or a revolutionary; and then there occurred an amazing event in the destiny of the Russian people. Instead of the Third Rome in Russia, the Third International was achieved, and many of the features of the Third Rome pass over to the Third International. The Third International is also a Holy Empire, and it also is founded on an Orthodox faith. The Third International is not international, but a Russian national idea.

Theology and relations with Russian Orthodox Church

Berdyaev was a member of the Russian Orthodox Church, [14] [15] and believed Orthodoxy was the religious tradition closest to early Christianity. [16]

Berdyaev criticized Russian Orthodox Church and described his views as anticlerical, [7] , but this should be considered in the context of an abusive distortion of the "we" aspect of churchly Sobornost by a pseudo "us-them" class divisive Marxist-like mentality.[ not in citation given ] [17] He considered himself closer to Orthodoxy than either Catholicism or Protestantism. According to him, "I can not call myself a typical Orthodox of any kind; but Orthodoxy was near to me (and I hope I am nearer to Orthodoxy) than either Catholicism or Protestantism. I never severed my link with the Orthodox Church, although confessional self-satisfaction and exclusiveness are alien to me." [14]

Berdyaev is frequently presented as one of the important Russian Orthodox thinkers of the 20th century. [18] [19] [20] However, neopatristic scholars such as Florovsky have questioned whether his philosophy is essentially Orthodox in character, and emphasize his western influences. [21] But Florovsky can hardly[ citation needed ] be considered an objective unbiased critic, having been savaged in a 1937 Journal Put' article by Berdyaev, [22] along with Florovsky's own extreme ultra-Byzantine views impelling his 1955 career change. Paul Valliere has pointed out the sociological factors and global trends which have shaped the Neopatristic movement, and questions their claim that Berdyaev and Vladimir Solovyov are somehow less authentically Orthodox. [23]

Berdyaev affirmed universal salvation, as did many important Orthodox theologians of the 20th century. [24] Along with Sergei Bulgakov, he was instrumental in bringing renewed attention to the Orthodox doctrine of apokatastasis, which had largely been neglected since it was expounded by Maximus the Confessor in the seventh century, [25] although he rejected Origen's articulation of this doctrine. [26] [27]

The aftermath of the Russian Revolution and Civil War, along with Soviet interference, caused the Russian Orthodox emigre diaspora to splinter into three Russian Church jurisdictions: the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (in schism from Moscow Patriarchate until 2007); the parishes under Metropolitan Eulogius (Georgiyevsky) that went under the Constantinople Ecumenical Patriarchate; and parishes that remained under the Moscow Patriarchate. Berdyaev was among those that chose to remain under the omophor of the Moscow Patriarchate. He is mentioned by name on the Kosun/Chersonese Diocesan history [28] as among those noted figures who supported the Moscow Patriarchate West-European Eparchy (in France now Korsun eparchy).

Currently, the house in Clamart in which Berdyaev lived, now comprises a small "Berdiaev-museum" and attached Chapel in name of the Holy Spirit, [29] under the omophor of the Moscow Patriarchate. On 24 March 2018, the 70th anniversary of Berdyaev's death, the priest of the Chapel served panikhida-memorial prayer at the Diocesan cathedral for eternal memory of Berdyaev, [30] and later that day the Diocesan bishop Nestor(Sirotenko) presided over prayer at the grave of Berdyaev. [31]

Works

The first date is of the Russian edition, the second date is of the first English edition

Sources

See also

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References

  1. "Berdyaev". Random House Webster's Unabridged Dictionary .
  2. Technically at the time "Obykhov" or "Obuchovo" Lowrie. Rebellious Prophet. p. 14.. https://ru.wikipedia.org/wiki/Обухов_(город)] indicates "В Обухове родились: Николай Бердяев — русский религиозный и политический философ.
  3. Nicolaus, Georg (2011). "Chapter 2 "Berdyaev's life"" (PDF). C.G. Jung and Nikolai Berdyaev : individuation and the person : a critical comparison. Routledge. ISBN   9780415493154.
  4. George M. Young, The Russian Cosmists: The Esoteric Futurism of Nikolai Fedorov and His Followers, Oxford University Press (2012), p. 134
  5. Stefan Berger & Alexei Miller, Nationalizing Empires, Central European University Press (2015), p. 312
  6. 1 2 3 4 Marko Marković, La Philosophie de l'inégalité et les idées politiques de Nicolas Berdiaev (Paris: Nouvelles Editions Latines, 1978).
  7. 1 2 Self-Knowledge: An Essay in Autobiography, by Nicolas Berdyaev (Author), Katharine Lampert (Translator), Boris Jakim (Foreword) ISBN   1597312584
  8. Solzhenitsyn, Aleksandr (1973). "Chapter 3 The Interrogation". The Gulag Archipelago, 1918–1956: An Experiment in Literary Investigation, I–II. Harper & Row. ISBN   978-0060803322.
  9. Cited by Markovic, op. cit., p.33, footnote 36.
  10. Vide Berdyaev, "Dream and Reality", p. 264; also by-Berdyaev 1927 article | A Conference in Austria
  11. Vide Lowrie, "Rebellious Prophet", Preface, p. ix-x
  12. Existentialism: A Personalist Philosophy of History, Berdyaev’s Philosophy of History. An Existentialist Theory of Social Creativity and Eschatology, by David Bonner Richardson, pp 90-137
  13. Quoted from book by Benedikt Sarnov,Our Soviet Newspeak: A Short Encyclopedia of Real Socialism., p. 446-447. Moscow: 2002, ISBN   5-85646-059-6 (Наш советский новояз. Маленькая энциклопедия реального социализма.)
  14. 1 2 Witte & Alexander 2007, p. 111-112.
  15. The Living Church 1948, p. 8.
  16. Berdyaev 1952.
  17. Berdyaev |Discord in the Church and Freedom of Conscience
  18. Noble 2015.
  19. Valliere 2006, p. 2.
  20. Clarke 1950.
  21. Florovsky 1950.
  22. Berdyaev |[http://www.berdyaev.com/berdiaev/berd_lib/1937_424.html Ortodoksia and Humanness (Archpriest Georgii Florovsky. “The Ways of Russian Theology”, 1937, YMCA-PRESS.) Berdyaev.com
  23. Valliere 2006, p. 3-4.
  24. Cunningham & Theokritoff 2008, p. 118.
  25. Blowers 2008, p. 37.
  26. Deak 1977, p. 20-60.
  27. Kirwan & Hidden 2016, p. 41-42.
  28. "ИСТОРИЯ ЕПАРХИИ". Cerkov-ru.eu. Retrieved 17 May 2018.
  29. "Часовня в честь Святого Духа в Кламаре". Cerkov-ru.eu. Retrieved 17 May 2018.
  30. SHESHKO, Prêtre Georges. "Il y a 70 ans, Nicolas Berdiaev (1874-1948), célèbre philosophe russe, était rappelé à Dieu". Egliserusse.eu. Retrieved 17 May 2018.
  31. "Исполнилось 70 лет со дня кончины известного русского философа Николая Бердяева". Cerkov-ru.eu. Retrieved 17 May 2018.
  32. The book is not available in English. For secondary literature in English, see:

Works cited

Further reading