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)
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)
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.
A previous issue of this journal examined the contemporary resurgence, as Russians reflect on the historical fate of their country and its prospects, of the old theme of "Russia and the West," and in particular the question of the relevance and value to Russia of Western ideas and institutions. The articles in that issue, for the most part, reflected the position of thinkers who find the West an appropriate model for Russia's future. The present issue, by contrast, is devoted to (...) the view of those who contend that the Western experience is either dangerous or of questionable value in application to Russia, because Russia has a unique identity that must guide the rebuilding of the country from the ashes of communism. (shrink)
Among the principal manifestations of glasnost' in Soviet intellectual life today is the publication of writers who earlier were denied a broad forum for the expression of their views. In the sphere of philosophy, one such writer is Iakov Mil'ner-Irinin, with whose article on the concept of human nature in ethics the present issue begins. Mil'ner-Irinin, a philosopher who has worked as an editor at the publishing house of the Soviet Academy of Sciences, has long advocated an approach to ethics (...) that is heretical by orthodox Marxist-Leninist standards—a Kantian treatment of the field as a purely normative science that elaborates the universally necessary, prescriptive laws of conscience. In 1963 the Academy considered publishing a book on the subject by Mil 'ner-Irinin, but the project was dropped after heated debate, and when some of Mil 'ner-Irinin's views did find an outlet in an article he published in the Georgian republic, they were criticized severely by the Soviet philosophical establishment. (shrink)
Along with other Soviet publications, Soviet philosophy journals are opening their pages to a greater variety of points of view as part of the campaign for perestroika and glasnost' in the USSR. Mikhail Gorbachev has personally criticized Soviet journals for limiting themselves to like-minded contributors, and has urged the introduction of new voices in the interest of what he calls "socialist pluralism.".
In the past few years, as previous issues of this journal have indicated, the interest of Soviet philosophers in the history of their philosophical heritage has broadened to include figures and topics previously slighted or altogether ignored. Non-Marxist traditions in Russian thought have been rediscovered, and once closed Marxist doctrines have been reopened for questioning. The present issue is devoted to some of the more recent manifestations of this renewed attention to philosophical views that diverge from Marxism or from earlier (...) dogmatic positions. (shrink)
Two of the principal preoccupations of Soviet philosophers in the present day are topics that could not be subjected to serious philosophical examination in the preglasnost period—one because it was considered devoid of intellectual merit, and the other because its merit was held to be beyond question. The first topic is Russian religious philosophy of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and the second is the philosophy of Karl Marx.
A prominent contribution of Soviet philosophy journals to the reform movement now under way in the USSR is the publication of articles analyzing the ills of present-day Soviet society. One of the more outspoken and probing of these critiques is that of the historian Andranik Migranian, published in Voprosy filosofii [Problems of Philosophy] in 1987 and translated as the opening article in this issue of Soviet Studies in Philosophy.
The reforms currently under way in many spheres of Soviet social and cultural life are aimed at altering institutions and practices that have evolved over many decades. For that reason, a significant feature of the thinking behind the reforms is its attention to the past—to the missed opportunities, forgotten values, and accumulated sins and errors that have led to the present predicament of the USSR.
Even before the mass defections from the Communist Party and its ideology that followed the abortive coup of August 1991, many Soviet philosophers had voiced dissatisfaction with Marxist philosophy, as we have seen in previous issues of this journal. Generally, however, it was the Marxism of Stalin and Lenin that bore the brunt of the criticism, with only a few bold writers like Aleksandr Tsipko attacking the Marxism of Marx himself.