Institute of Philosophy
of the Russian Academy of Sciences

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  • Shcherbatova I.F. VladimirPecherin: the Pilgrim of Freedom. M.: IP RAS, 2018.



This book is dedicated to the philosophy of Vladimir Pecherin. Vladimir Pecherin (1807–1885) was a Russian émigré and a Catholic priest. He belonged to the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer and was a famous preacher inEnglandandIrelandin the 1840s and 1850s. In this book, he is considered from a philosophical-methodological point of view for the first time in the history of philosophy. The book analyses his mystical, philosophical, and humanist worldview as it is reflected in his life, published works, and letters. The author makes a distinction between his life and biographical myths. The book argues that every choice Pecherin made, from his emigration, to his becoming a monk, to his exit from the Congregation, was dictated by his longing for external and internal freedom that would be acceptable for him as a supporter of extreme individualism. The resulting conflict between duty and freedom was a moral choice issue for Pecherin. The author adheres to contemporary international scholarship’s interpretation of Pecherin as an archetype of the nonconformist, whose life is an incarnation of the idea of moral freedom. The book’s aim is to portray authentic Pecherin in the complexity of his worldview, and the psychological and philosophical struggles he faced in order to serve the world.


Pecherin’s life reflects the ideas and ideals of the generation of Russian intellectuals of the 1830s: their romanticism, individualism, philosophical dilettantism, utopian historicism, abstract heroism, and their rejection of any paternalism. The philosophical awakening of that time gave birth to many forms of para-philosophical self-expression. Pecherin himself is an embodiment of his philosophy of the person. There is no need to look for his philosophical system or proper philosophical texts, as his life is the ultimate expression of a remarkable feature of his generation: the search for truth is not made through abstract theory, but through personal experience of loss and achievement. Yet philosophy as an active life subordinated to aims and meanings was not a common phenomenon in the first half of the 19th century. Pecherin longed for such a unity of the being of his vita activa, where the will of theProvidence could meet human moral actions.


The book attempts to understand the deep motives of Pecherin’s divergence from the Catholic Church. He became a Catholic for multiple reasons: he was interested in the idea of the renewal of the Catholic Church in the context of social and utopian theories, he wanted to embody the ideal of austerity, he was unconsciously striving for social status, which an immigrant of that time could only get in the Church. Pecherin’s vision of Catholicism was remote from any religious, historical, or theological reflections. He was fuelled by live and concrete aesthetic and existential experiences. This could be the reason why Pecherin fully ignored Petr Chaadayev’s letters.


During the first year of immigration, inSwitzerland, Pecherin became disillusioned with the socialist idea and with the revolutionary method, but not with ideals of democracy or humanism. Democracy and humanism would endure as his guiding principles even during his full immersion into Catholicism when Pecherin was oriented towards active and miraculous faith of the first centuries of Christianity and did not take into account the historicism of the Church. Pecherin’s exit from the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer was caused by his disenchantment with those forms which the real-life Church reproduced, and which Pecherin saw as the abandonment of its mission. His critique of theVaticandid not mean that he stopped being a believer. Pecherin’s ideal of the moral attitude towards the world did not change. He believed in the possibility of a marriage between ideas of democracy and Catholicism, he was against the dogma of Papal infallibility and civic power. The first half of the 1860s was the most constructive period of his liberal Catholicism, which was transforming into progressivism without changing its nature. Pecherin remained an opponent of proselytism, except for a short period in the 1840s and in the beginning of the 1850s. Proselytism contradicted Pecherin’s understanding of Catholicism as a solely Western religion.


After Pecherin became disillusioned first in the politics of the Congregation, for it neglected democratic principles of the Catholic Church, and then in the bureaucratic side of theVatican, Pecherin experienced the bitterness known by all humanists. Pecherin sacrificed all the joys of the world for monkhood and found the truth of the humanist transformation of the world and of humankind. This truth was quite eclectic and included conservatism, liberalism, democratic ideas, and it did not contradict the Christian truth.


Pecherin’s intuitive search for freedom andProvidenceguided him though errors and remorse, gave him the freedom of being stronger than he was, the freedom to serve, self-limitation without self-oblivion, and, finally, brought him to the position of the capelin at theMaterHospitalinDublin. For over 20 years he was the Comforter: he pacified pangs, terror, and loneliness that comes with death. Pecherin confessed that this was the best time of his life, when he was independent and could grow personally and console people. This compromise does not reveal the nature of his relationships with religion. At that time, Pecherin was separating the idea of a historical church and his own Christian service, which marked the transformation of his piety.


Starting from the second half of the 1860s, Pecherin started to sympathise with positivism and became a non-atheist materialist; he declared his rather naïve belief in the progress of science, and showed professional interest in ancient Eastern languages. By the end of the 1860s and throughout the 1870s, his positivism grew and the intensity of his accusations of theWesternChurchgrew as well. This critique was rather private and was a form an internal dissidence. Unclear youthful reveries about freedom became a distinct liberal code of conduct by the beginning of the 1860s. His support of the parlament, private property, freedom of worship, and human rights are easily detectable in his letters of that time.


In the 20th century, the Catholic Church was able to acknowledge sincere piety where it was easy to see blasphemy, and could rise benevolently above Pecherin’s insult, realised that his unacceptable scolding was a reflection of the pain Pecherin experienced when he saw ruins of the harmony he spent his life building. Pecherin was against the imitation of spiritual life, based on the discrepancy between the real and phantom missions of the Church. He was strongly convinced that faith should not be manipulated. This was the essence of his nonconformism.



Keywords: Vladimir Pecherin, personalist philosophy, Catholicism, freedom, biographical myth, morality, nonconformism, utopian socialism, individualism.





Shcherbatova I.F. Nikolay Karamzin's choice: from the Masonic anthropology and European humanism to providentialism and moral freedom // VOX. Philosophical journal. 2017. December. No. 23, pp. 89-113.

DOI: 10.24411/2077-6608-2017-00030



The article discusses the influence of Nikolay Novikov’s humanism on Nikolay Karamzin. Karamzin was a member of the Moscow Mason Society from 1784 to 1789. This membership allowed him to better understand the Masonic anthropology. The masonic anthropology was one of the most developed philosophical teachings in Russiain the 18th century. However, it was not a static doctrine. It was undergoing a transformation which consisted in the growth of its mystic element. By the 1780s, Novikov had developed a specific humanistic theory which he made public in his treatise “Dignity of Man in Relation to God and the World” published in 1777. The interpretation of the human being which he offered there can be seen as closely related to Renaissance humanism. Gradually the masonic discourse had focused on the idea of “The Old Man” and the concept of sin. However, this mysticism did not influence Karamzin. Karamzin remained loyal to the humanism of Novikov who would praise the human being and emphasize the ideas of virtue and dignity, which were important for ethics of the early modern period. The French Revolution deeply shocked Karamzin and made him a supporter of the idea of providentialism. The result of Karamzin’s intellectual crisis was the conservative utopia. He started to justify an extra-legal system of power which would be based on the conscious of the sovereign who would be guided by theProvidence through his intuition. Karamzin replaced Kant’s idea of the moral law with the idea of the inner moral freedom. This idea is very close to the concept of the moral sense which was an element of the ethics of sentimentalism. Karamzin’s abandonment of the principles of the Enlightenment signify his unchangeable and organic adherence the paternalist model of consciousness which, in its turn, does not exclude abstract humanism. The author of this article concludes that Karamzin’s argument of the extra-legal, merely ethical, regulation of power led to the limitation of the humanistic meaning of the process of personal and social improvement. He relied on abstract humanism and saw moral philosophy as a rather practical tool. It is important to emphasise that Karamzin did not develop a philosophical doctrine in a strict sense. He was preoccupied with a number of practical moral issues, and therefore, it would be more accurate to put him in the context of studies of social consciousness rather than in the context of the history of moral philosophy.


Keywords: Karamzin, Novikov, Kant, Shakespeare, Lafater, Freemasonry, humanism, moral freedom, providentialism, mystical anthropology.




Shcherbatova I.F.  Wladimir Weidlé’s philosophy of history as a trauma of Russian émigrés // VOX. Philosophical journal. 2017. June. No. 22. pp. 199-217.

DOI: 10.24411/2077-6608-2017-00013


Abstract: This article deals with Wladimir Weidlé’s philosophy of the Russian history. Wladimir Weidlé was a Russian émigré, a conservative intellectual, and a cultural history scholar. The article aims at an interpretation of the form and the content of Weidlé’s philosophical concept. The analysis is based on a series of articles published in the 1930s in the Paris-based journal Sovremennye zapiski. In these articles, Weidlé is trying to justify the cultural unity ofRussia and Europe at the time whenUSSR was drifting away fromEurope. Weidlé describes this unity as absolute. This article conceptualises Weidlé’s philosophy as an articulation of the trauma of emigration by the means of literature. Weidlé’s style is imaginative, metaphorical, and aphoristic. As many other Russian intellectuals, Weidlé’s personifiesRussia, which makes his writing more aesthetic than theoretical. He emphasises persistently the unity ofRussia andEurope in these publications, however, a bit later, in 1938–1939, he was undergoing a deep intellectual crisis which made him a historical pessimist who denies European roots of the Russian history. Weidlé’s philosophy of this time becomes close to the philosophy of Petr Chaadayev. This article argues that Weidlé shares a lot of Chaadayev’s premises, even the idea of the messianic role ofRussia. Weidlé had become resentful towards the modern European culture. He saw it as a sign of the degradation of the West, as did many other Russian intellectuals who moved toEurope. Fundamental principles of Weidlé’s philosophy of history are schematism and aestheticism.


Keywords: V. Weidle, P. Chaadaev, culture, emigration, historiosophy, eurocentrism, trauma, messianism, fatalism, metaphorism, metahistory.





Shcherbatova I.F.  Vladimir Pecherin on re-unification of the Christian churches // Herald of the Russian Christian Humanitarian Academy. 2017. Vol. 18. No. 2, pp. 34–40.



Abstract: In the development of Pecherin’s religious views there is a period when he argued for the re-unification of the Christian churches in East and Westin. Influenced by the events of 1848 Pecherin came to the idea that the revolution can force the elites and the society of the Russian Empire to join the Roman Catholic Church. Pecherin’s views on the re-unification, the theocracy, and the role ofRome in the history of nationalistic movements are similar to the positions held by Vladimir Soloviev. However, Pecherin changed his opinions on the re-unification and on the Catholic church in general changed again later on, even though he was a member of the Catholic clergy until the end of his life. This fundamental contraction is interpreted as a consequence of Pecherin’s nonconformist position and his understanding of the religious memberships as a moral choice. Pechirin was not a typical Russian Catholic: he was against proselytism and he perceived the Catholicism as the religion of the Western world.


Keywords: V. Pecherin, V. Solovyov, Catholicism, christian socialism, union of churches.





Shcherbatova I.F.  Factor of Philosophy in the System of Values of Catherine II // History of Philosophy. Vol. 21. No 1 / 2016, pp. 41–52.


Abstract: The article raised the question of the adequacy of understanding of the concepts of broadcast inRussia, emerged in different historical conditions. To this end, the situation is reconstructed mobile penetration mature ideas of the Enlightenment in the intellectual environment of the traditional society. Syncretism of worldview nature of society. Autocratic and paternalistic worldview with notions of class structure of society is largely distort the meaning of the Enlightenment philosophy. The weak development of the personal factor. This created difficulties in understanding the anthropocentrism of the Enlightenment. The central figure of the study appears Empress Catherine II, whose inclusion in educational theory has been more consistent than that of its surroundings. Its policy is evidence, at best, a partial perception of democratic ideas with a rather significant distortion of their meaning. Shown ambivalence and contradictions of her personal perception. On the one hand, Catherine II, driven by the ideas of community education, the creation of a new man, happiness allows penetration into the public consciousness the concepts of natural law, civil service, anti-clericalism, on the other, - thwart any attempts to use these ideas. The same place where Catherine receives the entire Enlightenment model of happiness and its moral example looks very vulnerable to traditional consciousness. Conclusion: The intensive development of European culture in the last third of the XVIII century had a contradictory character, precisely because the basic concepts of ideology and philosophy of the Enlightenment broadcast those meanings, which do not correspond to the level of philosophical and political culture of Russian society.


Keywords: Catherine II, education, philosophy, humanism, concepts, morality, traditional society, retranslation meanings.