Kantian Journal

2022 Vol. 41. №4

Back to the list Download the article

The Ethics of the Categorical Imperative. Lossky under the Influence of Kant



The Russian intuitivist philosopher Nikolay Lossky repeatedly admitted Kant’s substantial formative influence on him as a scholar. Moreover, Lossky was a disciple of the Russian Kantian Aleksander Vvedensky, and was one of the most successful translators of the first Critique. However, his own philosophical project is rather the opposite of the critical programme. While in the framework of Lossky’s epistemology the specificities of his reading of Kant have received a fair amount of attention in Russian scholarship, in the ethical field the Russian philosopher’s comments on Kant have passed largely unnoticed. My task is to reveal the link between Kant’s practical philosophy and Lossky’s ethics. A demonstration of the degree of Kant’s influence in this field will enlarge and concretise the current thinking about Lossky’s perception of Kant. We are looking at a whole range of parallels and borrowings. My comparative analysis focuses on the following aspects: 1) definition and uses of the term “categorical imperative”, 2) free will as the condition of the possibility of moral action, 3) the cause of moral evil, 4) the role of the idea of God in ethics. As a result, I reveal how Lossky used elements of Kant’s practical philosophy as conceptual, terminological and rhetorical resources in his theonomic ethics, and how the Russian philosopher interpreted them in line with his own doctrine. I argue that Lossky’s use of the Kantian moral terminology is incautious and debatable and point out several intersections of ethical argumentations in the light of its projection on radically different ontological and epistemological principles.


Berdnikova, А. Yu., 2017. ‘Back to Kant’ or ‘Back to Leibnitz’? A Critical View from the History of Russian Metaphysical Personalism. Kantian Journal, 36(2), pp. 33-45. (In Rus.)

Blauberg, I. I., 2017. Evolution of Personalistic Ideas in the Work of N. O. Lossky. History of Philosophy, 22(1), pp. 106-120. (In Rus.)

Bonadyseva, P. R., 2020. The Emergence of Onto-Gnoseology among Russian Intuitivists as Criticism of Neo-Kantianism. Kantian Journal, 39(4), pp. 95-123.

Kant, I., 1996. The Metaphysics of Morals. In: I. Kant, 1996. Practical philosophy. Translated and edited by M. J. Gregor, Introduction by A. Wood. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 353-604.

Kant, I., 1997. Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals. Translated and edited by M.J. Gregor, Introduction by C. M. Korsgaard. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Kant, I., 2002. Critique of Practical Reason. Translated by W. S. Pluhar, Introduction by S. Engstrom. Indianapolis & Cambridge: Hackett Publishing Company Inc.

Kant, I., 2009. Religion within the Bounds of Bare Reason. Translated by W. S. Pluhar, Introduction by S. R. Palmquist. Indianapolis & Cambridge: Hackett Publishing Company Inc.

Lewin, M., 2021. Das System der Ideen. Zur perspektivistisch-metaphilosophischen Begründung der Vernunft im Anschluss an Kant und Fichte. Freiburg & München: Alber.

Lossky, N. O., 1932. Freedom of Will. Translated by N. A. Duddington. London: Williams & Norgate.

Lossky, N. O., 1991a. The Conditions of Absolute Good. Moscow: Political Literature Publishers. (In Rus.).

Lossky, N. O., 1991b. The Types of Worldview. In: N. O. Lossky, 1991. Sensual, Intellectual, and Mystical Intuition. Moscow: Respublika, pp. 4-135. (In Rus.).

Lossky, N. O., 1994. God and Evil. Moscow: Republic, pp. 316-409. (In Rus.).

Lossky, N. O., 1995. Sensual, Intellectual, and Mystical Intuition. Moscow: Republic, pp. 136-288. (In Rus.).

Lossky, N. O., 1919. The Intuitive Basis of Knowledge. Translated by N. A. Duddington, with a Preface by G. D. Hickes. London: Macmillan & Co.

Lossky, N.O., 1928. The World as an Organic Whole. Translated by N.A. Duddington. Oxford: Humphrey Milford.

Navickas, J. L., 1978. N. Lossky’s Moral Philosophy and M. Scheler’s Phenomenology. Studies in Soviet Thought, 18(2), pp. 121-130.

Oizerman, T. I., 1994. Kant’s Doctrine of Initial Evil in Human Nature. Kantian Journal, 18, pp. 11-20. (In Rus.).

Popova, V. S., 2015. Kant in the Development of N. O. Lossky’s Philosophical Views: The Case of a Translation. Kantian Journal, 1(52), pp. 62-75.

Puls, H., 2011. Freiheit als Unabhängigkeit von bloß subjektiv bestimmenden Ursachen — Kants Auflösung des Zirkelverdachts im dritten Abschnitt der Grundlegung zur Metaphysik der Sitten. Zeitschrift für philosophische Forschung, 65(4), pp. 534-562.

Rinne, P., 2018. Kant on Love. Berlin: De Gruyter.

Schönecker, D., 1999. Kant: Grundlegung III. Die Deduktion des kategorischen Imperativs. Freiburg & München: Karl Alber.

Titarenko, A. I., 1991. Classical Ethics of the Absolute. Introductory Article. In: N. O. Lossky. The Conditions of Absolute Good. Moscow: Political Literature Publishers, pp. 5-22. (In Rus.)

Zenkovsky V. V., 2001. History of Russian Philosophy. Moscow: Akademicheskiy Proekt, Raritet, pp. 599-642. (In Rus.).