Immanuel Kant and Semyon Frank: Convergences and Divergences
From Kant to Frank: The Ethic of Duty and the Problem of Resistance to Evil in Russian ThoughtAbstract
One of the key ethical debates in Russian religious thought, initiated by Leo Tolstoy, concerned the question of nonresistance to evil by force. The purpose of this article is to assess the influence of Kant’s ethics and philosophy of religion on the course of this debate and to determine the place and significance of the arguments and considerations expressed on this issue by Semyon Frank in the early and late periods (1908 and 1940s) of his work. To this end I reconstruct the general course of the debate, notably the positions and arguments of Leo Tolstoy, Vladimir Solovyov, Ivan Ilyin and Nikolai Berdyaev. Beginning with Tolstoy, Russian thinkers introduced the original ethical content of the idea of nonresistance derived from the Gospel into the ethics of duty borrowed from Kant. The Tolstoy version of this idea was challenged mainly from two directions: from the Kantian grounding of the legitimacy of coercion and attempts to bring in styles of moral thinking other than the ethic of duty. Ilyin’s apologia for the use of force in the struggle against evil prompted Russian émigré thinkers to take a closer look at Tolstoy’s ethical concept and pay attention to its positive content. On this basis Berdyaev and especially Frank create their version of the Christ-centered ethic of salvation which, in the perspective of “protecting the world against evil” includes the ethic of duty and links it with the possibility of using force, always a wrongful act, but one justified “in a situation of extreme need”.
Apology of Human Existence vs “Ideal Homicide”: S.L. Frank’s Anthropological Project.Abstract
The emergence of S. L. Frank’s philosophy cannot be understood without clarifying his attitude to Immanuel Kant. Following the early representatives of the theory of cognition of his time who undertook to understand Kant in order to go beyond him (W. Windelband) and their warning against turning Kant’s philosophy into a dogma and allowing for diverse interpretations of Kant (P. Natorp), Frank saw Kant not as a critic and “destroyer” of metaphysics, but as a thinker who laid the foundations of a new metaphysical synthesis. He set himself the task of “transforming” the Kantian philosophy into a new metaphysical system proceeding from the foundational principles of critical thinking. As a result, he managed to overcome the abstract concept of the human being characteristic of Neo-Kantians to put the concrete human in the absolute horizon of being at the focus of philosophical investigations. In his metaphysics anthropology begins to play a system-forming and meaning-forming role, and onto-epistemological reasoning is used as a methodology for revealing the specificities of the human being. Here, too, Frank follows Kant who in his Logic defined the question “What is man?” as the fundamental question of philosophy. Frank’s three books, The Object of Knowledge (1915), Man’s Soul (1915), and The Spiritual Foundations of Society (1930) demonstrate that a metaphysical interpretation of Kantian critique is possible and may turn out to be the foundation of raising and solving topical philosophical problems.
Semyon Frank and the German Neo-Kantianism: Aspects of DebateAbstract
The widespread assessment of the early period of Semyon L. Frank’s work as being influenced by German Neo-Kantianism is in need of a critical scrutiny. There are several reasons why the Russian philosopher’s interest in Neo-Kantianism merits a closer look. First, two systemic theories belonging to different trends exerted a decisive influence on Russian philosophy in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries: German Neo-Kantianism and Vladimir Solovyov’s school of all-unity. Second, Frank himself and the German Neo-Kantians considered Nicholas of Cusa to be one of their forerunners and pointed out the importance of his mathematical ideas for their mathematical studies. Thirdly and lastly, Frank paid particular attention, especially in his formative period as a philosopher, to the leading trend in the early twentieth century, namely German Neo-Kantianism, which led some students of his work to believe that German Neo-Kantianism played the decisive role in Frank’s abandonment of Marxism in favour of religious ontology. Frank’s fundamental disagreement with German Neo-Kantianism was expressed in his work The Object of Knowledge in which he criticised the Neo-Kantian concepts of number and time. Although Frank rightly points out the one-sidedness of the Neo-Kantian definition of number, most notably in the works of the Marburg philosopher Paul Natorp, on the whole his criticism of the Neo-Kantian concept of number and time as being different from his own is not entirely convincing. In my opinion, Frank’s attempt to explain the abstract concept of number through a still more abstract concept of all-unity was not crowned with success because he ignored the experience of Christian theology and the Trinity dogma as well as the profound thoughts of the Rev. Pavel Florensky on this topic.
Semyon Frank and Yakov Golosovker: On Kantian Motives in the Works of DostoyevskyAbstract
Russian philosophy is “a sphere of conversation” in which thought is “divined”. It is a realm of search for “universal meaning” and “cultivation” of historical reality. Such a “conversation” around the work of Dostoyevsky took place in the 1920s among philosophers (including members of the Free Philosophical Association or Volfila in its abbreviated form). The theme takes on added significance at the hands of Ya. E. Golosovker and S. L. Frank whose intellectual affinity manifests itself today in the way they interpret Kantian motives in the work of Dostoyevsky. Reflecting on “the logic of imagination” Golosovker draws attention to the fact that the concrete-metaphysical method of seeing the world is not identical to the amphiboly of Kant’s reflexive concepts. He made it the central theme of his book, Dostoyevsky and Kant, immersing the philosophical component of the novel The Brothers Karamazov in the context of Kant’s antinomies. The later Frank took up the subject of Dostoyevsky’s worldview in response, as it were, to the discussion of the problem of cultural crisis at Volfila (including at meetings “In Memory of Dostoyevsky”). Following Yakov Golosovker, Andrey Bely, Aron Steinberg, Semyon Lurie and others, he continued the discussion of the crisis in its organised forms. In this context, too, Kant is a significant presence. For Frank, as for Golosovker, Dostoyevsky’s world view has a “concrete-metaphysical character”. They come to this conclusion reflecting on the problem of freedom as seen by Dostoyevsky who sought to overcome Kant’s antinomies.
Кant: pro et contra
Angiolini vs Kant: Philosophical Endeavour at the Polotsk Jesuit AcademyAbstract
The movement for the revival of the Scholastic tradition (Neo-Scholasticism) was a reaction to devastating criticism by the representatives of Enlightenment which led to the destruction of traditional metaphysics and of epistemological optimism, the two pillars of European religious philosophy. Reception of Kantian ideas in Neo-Scholasticism varied from total rejection to its use in renewing the philosophical foundation of religious philosophy. In this regard the legacy of the Polotsk Jesuit Academy was one of the first attempts to interpret Kant’s ideas and confront them in the framework of the Scholastic tradition. It is therefore not irrelevant to look at how Kant’s programmatic ideas were perceived at the Polotsk Jesuit Academy, one of the few centres of Jesuit philosophy that survived in the territory of the Russian Empire in the early nineteenth century. The object of this study is the attempt at a critical analysis of Kant made in the Philosophical Instructions for Students at the Polotsk Academy by the Academy’s professor, Giuseppe Angiolini. Angiolini constantly refers to Kant in his reasoning and sees him as his main ideological rival. The ideas articulated in the Philosophical Instructions influenced the philosophical positions of the Academy’s graduates who in turn made a tangible contribution to the development of the Belarusian intellectual tradition. The relationship between Kant’s ideas and the ideas Angiolini drew from the Scholastic tradition is analysed through the use of the concepts that are common to both trends, such as the transcendental, the empirical and the sensible, self-evident truths and common sense.
Immanuel Kant and the “New Enlightenment”. International Conference ReportAbstract
The review surveys the main ideas discussed at the international scientific conference “Immanuel Kant and the ‘New Enlightenment’” hosted by the Immanuel Kant Baltic Federal University (IKBFU) in Kaliningrad on 20-22 April 2022. It was organised by IKBFU’s research unit Academia Kantiana with the support of the Petersburg Dialogue Forum. Speakers analysed the theses of the Report to the Club of Rome, Come on! Capitalism, Short-termism, Population and the Destruction of the Planet (2018), whose authors, Ernst Ulrich von Weizsäcker and Anders Wijkman, initiated a call for a “new Enlightenment”. The participants compared these theses with Kant’s philosophical ideas and looked for an answer to the question whether Kant’s critical philosophy should be consigned to the “old” Enlightenment or whether it has real potential for the desired “new Enlightenment”. The summaries of papers and discussions are arranged in order of their presentation. The Conference has shown that Kant’s Enlightenment has not lost its relevance while the ideas of the “new Enlightenment” need to be further examined philosophically.