Berdyaev and the Russian Idea

Seminars and Colloquia

George Pattison worked on the theme “Reading Russian Philosophy in the Age of Putin.” Pattison’s scholarly formation was within Protestant theology, with special emphasis on nineteenth and twentieth century developments. The center of gravity of his research has been the existential element within modern theology, meaning that dialogue with post-Kantian European thought is a necessary and constant element (in Oxford, Pattison established the Centre for Theology and Modern European Thought as an outcome of this focus). Kierkegaard, Dostoevsky, Heidegger, Berdyaev, Shestov, and French existentialism have been major foci of his work, and the presentation will concentrate on the role of Russian religious philosophy within this larger development.

In the present context, Berdyaev, in his lifetime the best-known of the Russian religious philosophers, has a particular significance: on the one hand, he is clearly anti-imperialist, anti-militarist, anti-nationalist, and anti-theocratic. In exile he had close intellectual friendships with the Catholic philosophers Jacques Maritain and Gabriel Marcel as well as the secular Jewish thinker Lev Shestov and was active in the developing ecumenical movement. Theologically and intellectually, he was strongly cosmopolitan, and his philosophy can be seen as a variant of German idealism, with especially strong influences from Boehme and Schelling. At the same time, he strongly identified as Russian and defined his thought in terms of its relation to Russian religious and intellectual traditions.

A question to be addressed was, therefore, what implications this relation has for the overall evaluation of Berdyaev both as a philosopher and as a point of reference for the contemporary crisis of Russian culture.

George Pattison is one of Britain's leading systematic theologians. Throughout his career as a theology professor, he has taught at the universities of Cambridge, Copenhagen, Glasgow and Oxford, while simultaneously tending to his pastoral obligations as an anglican priest. Pattison´s research in philosophy of religion in the tradition of Hegel and his critics engages with the works of existentialist thinkers such as Martin Heidegger, Søren Kierkegaard, and Fyodor Dostoyevsky. His strong interest for the visual arts and literature has impacted his scholarly writings as well. His recent publications, a trilogy: A Phenomenology of the Devout Life (2018), A Rhetorics of the Word (2019) and A Metaphysics of Love (2021) explore different themes within Christian philosophy such as devotion, vocation, and love, through the lens of existential phenomenology.

Clemena Antonova, Research Director of the program The World in Pieces at IWM, introduced the speaker and moderated the ensuing discussion.


Fellows Colloquia are internal events for the IWM Visiting Fellows and Guests.