The Moscow Psychological Society and the Neo-Idealist Development of Russian Liberalism

Dissertation, University of Notre Dame (1996)

The Moscow Psychological Society, a learned society founded in 1885 at Moscow University, was the philosophic center of the revolt against positivism in the Russian Silver Age. In 1889 it began publication of Russia's first regular, specialized journal in philosophy, Questions of Philosophy and Psychology. By the end of its activity in 1922, the Psychological Society had included most of the country's outstanding philosophers and had played the major role in the growth of professional philosophy in Russia. ;While the Silver Age mounted a broad-based revolt against positivism, neo-idealist philosophy in the Psychological Society was distinctive in the theoretical depth of its critique. For leading philosophers in the Society , neo-idealism was a compelling defense of the self against positivist reductionism and naturalism, a defense that took the form, moreover, of a modernized, theoretically explicit theism, in which the value of the person is rooted in transcendent being . In this, neo-idealism promoted not only the autonomization and professionalization of Russian philosophy but also the theoretical development of Russian liberalism. ;This dissertation argues: that a learned society of philosophers had special significance in Russia, where the frail social foundations of liberalism made its intellectual defense all the more imperative; that the Psychological Society, especially in its programmatic symposium, Problems of Idealism , was integrally involved in the Russian Liberation Movement; that the neo-idealist development of Russian liberalism drew heavily on Kant, in its substantiation of the possibility of personalism and in its critique of utopianism; and that the neo-idealist critique of utopianism, specifically in the responses of Psychological Society philosophers to their colleague, Vladimir Solov'ev, provides an excellent measure of the distinctiveness of neo-idealism relative to other currents in the Silver Age
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