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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.


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