By way of countering Tolstoj's reputation as an alogical and inept philosophical thinker, this paper explores the tension between maximalism and reasonableness in his defense of the ethics of nonviolence. Tolstoj's writings of the last decade of his life show that he was perfectly capable of making appropriate conceptual distinctions, recognizing legitimate objections to his position, and responding rationally to them; in so doing, he made valuable points about the unpredictability of human actions, the futility of using violence to combat (...) violence, the equal worth of all humans lives, and the immorality of revenge. Yet his conception of the moral ideal, together with his missionary zeal, led him to exaggerate the absoluteness of his moral message, causing him to predict the unpredictable and demand the impossible of human beings. (shrink)
With the destruction of the Soviet Union and the fall of the Communist Party, Russia in the past few years has experienced a philosophical revolution unparalleled in suddenness and scope. Among the salient features of this revolution are the displacement of Marxism from its former, virtually monopolistic status to a distinctly subordinate and widely scorned position; the rediscovery of Russia’s pre-Marxist and anti-Marxist philosophers, in particular the religious thinkers of the past two centuries; increasing interest in Western philosophical traditions that (...) were neglected or condemned during the Soviet period; and special attention to the philosophy of culture, with particular reference to the role of philosophy in the national culture of Russia. In all of these new directions, a recurring and controversial theme is the widely perceived need for a new “Russian idea,” or something to “fill the ideological vacuum” left by the demise of Russian Marxism. (shrink)
For an American philosopher participating in a cultural exchangeprogram with the Soviet Union in 1964–65, a year spent in thePhilosophy Faculty of Moscow State University, studying and doingresearch in the history of Russian philosophy, provided manyinteresting insights – some of them surprising – into the theoryand practice of Marxism-Leninism and the nature of philosophicaleducation in Russia in the 1960s.