Dissertation, University of Glasgow (2020)

At the beginning of the twentieth century the thought of the Russian émigré philosopher Lev Shestov challenged traditional philosophical norms and brought the individual experience of the anxiety of death to the forefront of philosophical investigation. Based on my research in the Lev Shestov Archives at the Sorbonne, the Library Archives and the Special Collections of the British Psychoanalytical Society at the Institute of Psychoanalysis and my translations of Lev Shestov’s unpublished manuscripts and correspondence, the thesis represents a new interpretation of the philosopher’s work. Considering the development of Shestov’s worldview within the context of a historical and biographical narrative, I have carried my inquiry into the roots of Shestov’s philosophical position, looking through the conceptual prism of the parable of the Angel of Death. The comparative and hermeneutical analysis of the key notions in Shestov’s philosophy – the problems of truth, revelation and death was attained by way of examining the key concepts of his philosophy in relation to the ideas of some of the most influential figures of his time, such as William James, Edmund Husserl, Karl Jaspers, and Sigmund Freud, and with reference to major thinkers in the Western tradition from Plato, Plotinus, and Tertullian to Arthur Schopenhauer, and from Søren Kierkegaard and Fyodor Dostoevsky to Friedrich Nietzsche, Leo Tolstoy, Martin Heidegger, and Martin Buber. The construction of a network of hermeneutical interactions thereby aims to bring Shestov’s philosophy into a meaningful and mutually informative dialogue with other disciplines. The main conclusion of this work is that the parable of the Angel of Death constituted a key element in Shestov’s methodology and played a synthesizing role in the development of his philosophical vision. Another important conclusion is that the discourse of the parable of the Angel of Death conveyed the notion of death as the awakening to life, which is a central theme in Shestov’s philosophy. This finding not only placed the Russian thinker’s ideas in the context of the Judeo–Christian theological tradition, but it also provided a connection to Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytic theory, the philosophy of Jacques Derrida, and the current revival of apophatic theology.
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