Berdyaev's Philosophy: The Existential Paradox of Freedom and Necessity [Book Review]

Review of Metaphysics 20 (4):727-727 (1967)
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Dr. Fuad Nucho, a native Jordanian and presently a pastor in Yeadon, Pa., provides us with a lucid and illuminating account of the central problem of freedom in the Christian existentialism of Nicolas Berdyaev. Confident that the thought of Berdyaev, while professedly not a "System," suffers no distortion from an organized and systematized explication, Dr. Nucho orders his work around the problem of freedom conceived of as a paradox demanding resolution. He deals in turn with the nature, implications, and solution of the paradox, after a brief, informative discussion of the influences on Berdyaev's thinking. Critical and evaluatory remarks are reserved for a final chapter, so as not to interrupt the progress of his argument. For Berdyaev, man is a citizen of two worlds, divided between an inclination toward material objects which enslave him, and an aspiration toward the transcendent world of divine freedom. Nature, society, and history all tend to enslave man, yet they are also the theater in which his freedom must be exercised. Man himself is conceived of essentially as a free being. Freedom for Berdyaev means creativity, where creativity is taken in the radical sense of production out of nothing. Hence the alliance of freedom with the "nothing," and so with Boehme's Ungrund. The paradox is resolved only when, first, the world of natural necessity is recognized as perfused with symbol and when, finally, the revelation of Christ is taken as the meaning of that symbolization. Such a liberation comes to historical man in metahistorical moments when he grasps the eternal meaning behind the phenomena of nature and history, that is, when he grasps the end of history and nature. Nucho concludes that Berdyaev is a religious thinker in the tradition of the early Christian Fathers—a modern parallel, in particular, to Clement of Alexandria.—J. D. C.



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