Zhukova Olga: On the Meaning of the “Russian Idea”: Nikolai Berdyaev’s Philosophical Self-Criticism and the Metaphysics of History

Speaker: Zhukova Olga, National Research University Higher School of Economics, Russia, Scientific Director of the Philosophy and Cultural Studies Master's Program, Doctor of Philosophy, Professor

Topic: On the Meaning of the “Russian Idea”: Nikolai Berdyaev’s Philosophical Self-Criticism and the Metaphysics of History

This is a presentation on the issue of translating religious ideas and values significant for the philosophy of N.A. Berdyaev into the language of modern culture in the diversity of its social, intellectual, spiritual and artistic practices. The epistemological battle between modernity and postmodernity leads to a revision of the basic concepts that characterize the subjects of historical and social action: The state, nation, culture, society, and personality. This situation again makes us revisit Berdyaev’s discourse about the “Russian idea” – to look at it as a historiosophical and metaphysical project within the framework of the history of Russian thought, its key onto-epistemological and ethical-social issues. Berdyaev presents his philosophy as an experience of revelation – an insight into the reality of the spirit, symbolized by the historical and cultural process. After “The Meaning of Creativity”, his interpretation of history will finally take the shape of an eschatologically colored metaphysics of history. All highly relevant topics that occupied the minds of the Russian intelligentsia and determined the socio-political and intellectual discourse they supported – people, power, revolution, political and cultural nation, state, society, the specifics of national culture, religious consciousness – were interpreted and rethought by Berdyaev in the metaphysical, eschatological perspective, as evidenced by his key historiosophical work “The Meaning of History”. Having carried out national-historical self-criticism of the revolutionary intelligentsia in the articles of the “Vekhi” cycle, after becomming an immigrant, Berdyaev, together with other Russian ex-Marxists, will continue the difficult work of national self-discovery which he had assigned to himself as a philosophical task and moral duty. Berdyaev's belief in the Creator's plan for Russia is an eschatological overcoming of the moral illness of the Russian people and intellectuals responsible for the expression the “Russian Idea”, which he diagnosed and critically understood.