Sergei Nikolaevich Trubetskoy

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Sergei Nikolaevich Trubetskoy.

Prince Sergei Nikolaevich Troubetzkoy (1863-1905) was a Russian religious philosopher. He was the son of Prince Nikolai Petrovitch Troubetzkoy, co-founder of the Moscow Conservatory, and Sophia Alekseievna Lopouchina. His mother was a big influence on his religious thought. He and his brother, Evgenii Nikolaevitch Troubetzkoy (1863-1920), continued Vladimir Solovyov's work on developing a modern Christian philosophy of the world.


As a teenager S. N. Troubetzkoy was an adherent of the British Positivists, Herbert Spencer and John Stuart Mill. Later he became disappointed with both and turned to Schopenhauer. Study of his philosophy led Troubetzkoy to a conclusion that Schopenhauer's pessimism was the result of denial of God. Troubetzkoy himself described this dilemma the following way: "Either God exists or life is not worth living". He became an Orthodox Christian, and also an adherent of the Slavophiles: his beliefs at that time were influenced by the writings of Aleksey Khomyakov.

In 1885 Troubetzkoy graduated from Moscow University; but he continued to work there until his death, lecturing in philosophy. In 1886 he became acquainted with the philosopher Vladimir Solovyov, who held largely the same views about religion as Troubetzkoy and became his close friend.

In 1890 Troubetzkoy became Professor of philosophy in Moscow University. Later he played a significant role in the Russian liberal movement. In 1905 he was elected rector of Moscow University; but he died just a month later, of brain hemorrhage. Nikolai Trubetzkoy, the linguist, was his son.

S. N. Troubetzkoy's brother, Evgenii Nikolaevitch (1863-1920), was also a philosopher and a Professor at Moscow University, who largely shared S. N. Troubetzkoy's beliefs. Evgenii Troubetzkoy died of typhus in the Crimea while he was trying to emigrate.

Works and beliefs[edit]

Working in the same field as Solovyov, Troubetzkoy sought to establish a philosophic foundation for an Orthodox Christian worldview, which would be equally rooted in faith and reason. In 1890 he defended his Master's thesis, "Metaphysics in Ancient Greece", in which he argued that the Holy Scripture and Christian theology largely stemmed directly from the idealistic philosophy of ancient Greece.

The religious beliefs of Troubetzkoy are sometimes defined as Christocentrism. In other words Christianity and the Church are an incarnation of the personality of Jesus in human society, which convey His teachings to people. These views are set forth in Troubetzkoy's work, The Teaching on Logos. Troubetzkoy believed that the personality of Christ, which combined human and divine conscience, was the crucial problem for the understanding of all aspects of the Christianity. He viewed Christianity not solely as a set of ethical teachings but as one which can be perceived and understood exclusively through special revelation. His viewpoint differed both from the official doctrine of the Orthodox Church and from the beliefs of liberal intellectuals, who reduced the Christian faith to an egalitarian ethical system.

Further reading[edit]