Lawrence and John Middleton Murry in England - he did not enjoy any great popularity in his lifetime and now, a quarter of a century after his death, his writings are little read. In America his name is practically unknown to the general public, and even many professional philosophers and theologians are unacquainted with his work. It is regrettable that this is so, and yet the fact itself is hardly surprising. Shestov established no school and had no real disciples [1] to carry on his work. He did not believe that he had created any clearly defined, positive body of philosophic or religious thought that could simply be handed on to students, to be expounded and taught.

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Lawrence and John Middleton Murry in England - he did not enjoy any great popularity in his lifetime and now, a quarter of a century after his death, his writings are little read. In America his name is practically unknown to the general public, and even many professional philosophers and theologians are unacquainted with his work. It is regrettable that this is so, and yet the fact itself is hardly surprising. Shestov established no school and had no real disciples [1] to carry on his work.

He did not believe that he had created any clearly defined, positive body of philosophic or religious thought that could simply be handed on to students, to be expounded and taught. Whatever insights or wisdom his own life-long spiritual striving had brought him could not be transmitted by intellectual processes to others; their appropriation of his existentially acquired "truths" could come about only through the same kind of intensive personal struggle and search on their part.

But perhaps an even more important reason for the relative obscurity into which Shestov has fallen is the fact that he is stubbornly and unrelentingly anti-modern. The gods of Nineteenth and Twentieth Century man - science, technology, the idea of inevitable historical progress, autonomous ethics and, most of all, rationalist systems of philosophy - were for him idols, devoid of ultimate meaning but terrible in their potentiality for destruction.

Some, to be sure, have found that what Shestov has to say is extremely important and worth listening to. His diatribes against the untested assumptions of rationalist metaphysics and positivist science, as well as his superb and penetrating analyses of the singular, the inexplicable and the extraordinary in the human psyche, made a profound impression on at least a few of the important figures of the French Existentialist movement who were developing their philosophical outlook just at the time when his works were appearing in France.

Albert Camus, for example, has noted the intensity and concentrated power of his work in this connection. None of the ironic facts or ridiculous contradictions that depreciate reason escapes him.

One thing only interests him, and that is the exception, whether in the domain of the heart or of the mind. He refuses reason its reasons and begins to advance with some decision only in the middle of that colorless desert where all certainties have become stones.

It was a clearing of the way for his bold and fervent affirmation, in the mature and final phase of his life, of the truth of the biblical message. Only a reappropriation of the faith of Scripture - which proclaims that man and the universe are the creation of an omnipotent, personal God and that this God made man in His own image, endowing him with freedom and creative power - could, Shestov came to believe, liberate contemporary humanity from the horrors of existence.

But such faith, in the face of the mechanist and rationalist assumptions underlying modern scientific and philosophical thought and now entirely dominating the mentality of Western man, is attainable only through agonized personal struggle against what has come to be regarded as "self-evident" truth.

Shestov undertook to show the way by his own battle against the self-evident. With a mastery not only of the entire Western philosophic tradition but also of modern European literature, he used his vast erudition, as well as the ardent passion of his entire being and his extraordinary literary talents D.

American and British readers, to whom the life and work of this great Russian Jewish thinker are now virtually unknown, [5] can profit from becoming acquainted with him. In his youth, spent with two younger brothers and four sisters in a large house in the Podol quarter of Kiev, Lev Isaakovich received instruction in Hebrew and Jewish literature from a tutor engaged by his father.

The father himself, while generally regarded as something of a free thinker by the more orthodox Jews of Kiev, was a lover of Hebrew literature and had a strong loyalty to Judaism and Jewish tradition. At one time there was talk of expelling him from the Kiev synagogue for his alleged blasphemies and for his irrepressible tendency to joke about the narrow-mindedness of his fellow Jews, but Isaak Moisseevich is reported to have said, "At the time of the high holidays, when they carry the scrolls of the Torah into the synagogue, I always kiss them.

In order to obtain for their son the privileges accorded educated Jews by the Tzarist government, his parents enrolled Lev Isaakovich in the Gymnasium of Kiev but, after becoming involved in a political affair, he had to leave. He finished his Gymnasium studies in Moscow, whereupon he entered the university there, studying first under the Faculty of Mathematics and later under the Faculty of Law. After a run-in with the notorious Inspector of Students, Bryzgalov, Shestov was obliged to return to Kiev, where he finished his studies in with the title of Candidate of Laws.

In his university days he was primarily interested in economic and social questions and, while studying in Moscow, wrote a lengthy paper on the problems of the Russian worker with the subtitle "Factory Legislation in Russia. Though accepted by the University of Kiev, the dissertation was suppressed by the Committee of Censors in Moscow as revolutionary. Hence Shestov could not become a doctor of law. He was inscribed on the official list of advocates at St. Petersburg but never practiced the legal profession and later lost most of his interest in the law.

As his lifelong friend Bulgakov wrote: In the hospitable Schwarzmann home at Kiev one could meet many of the representatives of the local intelligentsia, as well as writers and artists from the capital passing through Kiev.

People gathered there to exchange ideas and to listen to music. In those years I had, along with Berdyaev, to struggle with the local representatives of positivism and atheism in defense of a religious outlook. Shestov was in sympathy with us, though he did not himself participate in the discussions. From Kiev our group moved north, and our ties with Shestov were continued and consolidated in Moscow. In the midst of new literary, philosophic and religious movements, Shestov remained his old self, with the same paradoxical philosophy, and invariably loved by all At the same time he maintained his literary interests and began to write for the avant-garde press of Kiev.

He published several articles, including an essay on the work of Soloviev and one entitled "Georg Brandes and Hamlet," [9] which was to serve as the basis for his first book.

Having put the family business on a firm footing, Shestov turned its management over to his brothers-in-law and younger brothers, and in went to Rome. In Shestov and his wife moved to Switzerland where Anna finished her studies under the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Berne. This did not, however, destroy his interest in music. Music and poetry though he was not satisfied with his own attempts at writing verse continued to be his major interests.

In Shestov returned to Russia for a brief stay in St. Here he became part of a circle of talented young writers and artists, including Dmitri Merezhkovsky, Vasily Rozanov, Nikolai Berdyaev, David Levin and Sergei Diaghilev, the great creator of the modern Russian ballet.

Diaghilev welcomed Shestov as a contributor to the noted journal Mir Iskusstva The World of Art which he was then editing. Shestov had brought back with him two completed book manuscripts.

The first, Shakespeare and His Critic Brandes, was published in In it he attacked the positivism and skeptical rationalism of the famous Danish critic and essayist in the name of a vague moral idealism.

The second, Good in the Teaching of Tolstoy and Nietzsche: Philosophy and Preaching, which appeared in , was characterized by a very different outlook. He was greatly moved by the paradoxical ideas of the solitary German thinker and prophet.

We must seek that which is above pity, above Good. We must seek God. The systematic presentation of ideas, however, was growing burdensome to Shestov. In his next volume, The Apotheosis of Groundlessness, published in St. Petersburg in , he turned to the aphoristic style which remained one of his favorite literary forms throughout the remainder of his life.

This was a book containing over brief essays, some no more than a paragraph in length, dealing with philosophy, science and literature. Though at this time Shestov had not even heard of Kierkegaard or of what a few years later came to be called Existenz-philosophie, it is interesting to note that The Apotheosis of Groundlessness already adumbrates a number of the chief characteristics of existentialist thought.

It contains not only a vigorous attack on the speculative metaphysics of the neo-Kantian and Hegelian idealist variety that dominated European academic philosophy at the time but also a radical challenge to the pretensions of scientific positivism and its basic assumptions, namely, the principle of unalterable regularity in the sequence of natural phenomena and the idea of causal necessity that is supposed to govern them.

Shestov further denied the value of autonomous ethics and passionately insisted on the need for subjectivity and inwardness in the search for truth. In this book he also displayed a profound appreciation of those unique insights in the work of Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Chekhov and Ibsen which later critics were to regard as distinctively "existential. Petersburg and Moscow. However, in all fairness it must be admitted that The Apotheosis of Groundlessness is largely a negative work.

Shestov was merely beginning his struggle against the ideas dominating European thought which he felt had to be overcome in order to provide room for what was later to be the chief burden of his positive message - the reality of the living God of the Bible and the possibility of the restoration of human freedom through religious faith.

The Apotheosis of Groundlessness was translated into English by S. In his foreword to this edition, D. Lawrence said of Shestov: "Everything is possible" - this is his really central cry. It is not nihilism. It is only a shaking free of the human psyche from old bonds. The positive central idea is that the human psyche, or soul, really believes in itself, and in nothing else.

Dress this up in a little comely language, and we have a real new ideal that will last us for a new, long epoch. The human soul itself is the source and well-head of creative activity No ideal on earth is anything more than an obstruction, in the end, to the creative issue of the spontaneous soul.

Away with all ideals. Let each individual act spontaneously from the forever-incalculable prompting of the creative well-head within him. There is no universal law. Each being is, at his purest, a law unto himself, single, unique, a Godhead, a fountain from the unknown. This is the ideal which Shestov refuses positively to state, because he is afraid it may prove in the end a trap to catch his own free spirit.

So it may. But it is none the less a real, living ideal for the moment, the very salvation. When it becomes ancient, and like the old lion who lay in his cave and whined, devours all its servants, then it can be dispatched. Meanwhile it is a really liberating word. From to he and his family lived in the German university town of Freiburg and from to in the Swiss town of Coppet on Lake Geneva. These were for Shestov years of continued literary and philosophical study and writing.

In his book Beginnings and Endings, containing two perceptive essays on Chekhov and Dostoevsky as well as a number of striking aphorisms, was published in St. Three years later, in , another book, Great Vigils, appeared.

In his introduction to the English version John Middleton Murry, writing under the deeply felt impact of the war in which Europe was then embroiled, insisted on the need for men to "learn honesty again: not the laborious and meagre honesty of those who weigh advantage in the ledger of their minds, but the honesty that cries aloud in instant and passionate anger against the lie and the half-truth, and by an instinct knows the authentic thrill of contact with the living human soul.

Shestov, he declared, is aware of himself as a soul seeking an answer to its own question; and he is aware of other souls on the same quest. As in his own case he knows that he has in him something truer than names and divisions and authorities, which will live in spite of them, so towards others he remembers that all that they wrote or thought or said is precious and permanent in so far as it is the manifestation of the undivided soul seeking an answer to its question.

He went with his wife and children to Moscow, where they lived through the stormy years of the war. Anna Eleazarovna, who had passed her state medical examinations in Moscow in , worked in a hospital and their daughters attended secondary school. The war brought him one great personal sorrow when, in , his handsome and gifted illegitimate son, Sergei Listopadov, was killed in action.

Shestov traveled to the front to trace him but his mission was unsuccessful. During the war years Shestov remained largely indifferent to political controversies. He continued his writing, working on a book which was to be called Potestas Clavium and which was dominated by the religious interest in the direction of which his thought had been increasingly turning.

He also maintained contact with a group of philosophers and writers including Chelpanov, Gershenson, Bulgakov, Lurie, Berdyaev and Ivanov. Shestov and his family fled to Kiev, which was not yet under Communist rule and there, in January , he finished Potestas Clavium.

By this time Kiev, too, had acceded to the Soviets, and the authorities refused permission to publish the book unless the author added an introduction - be it only half a page - defending Marxist doctrine.

Shestov stubbornly refused and the volume never appeared in Russia.


Lev Shestov

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Amazon Restaurants Food delivery from local restaurants. For this reason, the self-evidence of truth is not, strictly speaking, the visibility of something that is evident in itself, but the evidence that discloses itself — that has always already been disclosed — to reason. Amazon Rapids Fun stories for kids on the go.



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