Kantian Journal

2017 Vol. 36. No. 2

Back to the list Download an article

Time in Sergey Trubetskoy’s and Boris Chicherin’s metaphysical concepts: A discussion on Kant



This article analyses the controversy between Sergey Trubetskoy and Boris Chicherin, which followed the publication of Trubetskoy’s monograph the Foundations of Idealism. This analysis focuses on the philosophers’ understanding of the metaphysical nature of time. The relevance of the work is that the philosophical reflections of the opponents took place against the backdrop of an impending change in science and philosophy — the transition from the classical to neo-classical paradigm. This transition encouraged philosophers to revise the traditional approaches (Kant’s teaching of time as an a priori form of sensibility, the post-Kantian idea of time as a manifestation of the absolute spirit, and the empiricist concept of time as an ordered flow of events), on the one hand, and to seek new criteria for the philosophical understanding of time, on the other. Chicherin suggested that metaphysics resort to the methods of natural sciences. He believed that the rigour and logic of natural sciences would rule out subjectivism and help to marry the temporality of the phenomenon and the object. For Chicherin, time is both an attribute of the absolute spirit and a scientific and philosophical category that is used in both exact physical calculations and natural-philosophical descriptions. Loyal to classical metaphysical traditions, Trubetskoy placed emphasis on the role of the subject, stressing that ‘there is no object (phenomenon) beyond the perceiving subject’ and that time (in a purely metaphysical sense) is possible only as a form of sensory perception of phenomena. At the same time, Trubetskoy argued that, due to the sobornost of consciousness, the subject is not an individual person but the humanity as a community of sentient and intelligent beings. In addressing Platonism, the Kantian tradition, and the philosophy of all-unity, Trubetskoy argued that the purpose of metaphysics was not to search for and formulate the laws of nature but rather to uncover new levels of the understanding of the interaction between thinking and being.


1. Gajdenko P. P. 2001. Vladimir Solov’ov i filosofia Serebrianogo veka [Vladimir Soloviev and the philosophy of the Silver age]. Moskow, 2001.
2. Zinchenko V. P. 2010. Soznanie I tvorcheskiy akt [Consciousness and the creative act], Moskow, 2010.
3. Kalinnikov L. A. Kant v russkoy filosofskoy culture [Kant in the Russian philosophical culture]. Kaliningrad, 2005.
4. Mihailov P. B. 2015. Kategorija vremeni v hristianskoj metafizike: Grigoriy Nisskiy i Maksim Ispovednik [Category of time in Christian metaphysics: Gregory of Nyssa and Maximus the Confessor], ΣΧΟΛΗ Vol. 9. 1. 2015. p. 119—136.
5. Trubetskoy S. N. 1908а. Osnovanija idealizma [The Foundation of idealism] in: Trubetskoy S. N. Sobranie sochineniy kn. S. N. Trubetskogo v 5 t. [Works in 5 volumes], Moskow, 1908a, vol. 2.
6. Trubetskoy S. N. 1908б. O prirode chelovecheskogo soznanija [About the nature of human consciousness] in: Trubetskoy S. N. Sobranie sochineniy kn. S. N. Trubetskogo v 5 t. [Works in 5 volumes], Moskow, 1908б, vol. 2.
7. Trubetskoy S. N. 1908в. V zash′itu idealzma (otvet B. N. Chicherinu) [In defense of idealism (in response to B. N. Chicherin)], in: Trubetskoy S. N. Sobranie sochineniy kn. S. N. Trubetskogo v 5 t. [Works in 5 volumes], Moskow, 1908в, vol. 2.
8. Chicherin B. N. 1895. Prostranstvo I vrem′a [Space and time], Voprosy filosofii i psihologii [Questions of Philosophy and Psychology]. no. 26 (1). Moskow, 1895, p. 1—56.
9. Chicherin B. N. 1897. Sush′estvo i metodi idealizma [Genesis and methods of idealism], Voprosy filosofii i psihologii [Questions of Philosophy and Psychology]. no. 2 (37). Moskow, 1897, p. 185—238.