Writing the history of Russian philosophy

Studies in East European Thought 63 (3):203-226 (2011)
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Abstract

This article addresses the writing of the history of Russian philosophy from the first of such works—Archimandrite Gavriil’s Russian Philosophy [ Russkaja filosofija , 1840]—to philosophical histories/textbooks in the twenty-first century. In the majority of these histories, both past and present, we find a relentless insistence on the delineation of “characterizing traits” of Russian philosophy and appeals to “historiosophy,” where historiosophy is employed as being distinct from the historiographical method. In the 1990s and 2000s, the genre of the history of Russian philosophy has grown increasingly conservative with regards to content, with histories from this period demonstrating an almost exclusive Orthodox focus. This conservatism, in turn, has contributed to widespread contention in recent years over the status of these philosophical textbooks—disagreements that often lead to either (1) further appeals to “historiosophical” methods; or (2) denials of the domestic philosophical tradition altogether, where the response to the query “Is there philosophy in Russia?” is emphatically negative. This article argues that the contemporary disputes over the development and preservation of the Russian philosophical canon are in many ways part of a larger debate over the roles of Orthodoxy and the history of philosophy in post-Soviet philosophical thought.

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