Vladimir Solovyov (philosopher)

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This article is about the Russian philosopher. For others with the same name, see Vladimir Solovyov.
Vladimir Sergeyevich Solovyov
Vladimir Solovyov
Born (1853-01-28)January 28, 1853
Moscow, Russian Empire
Died August 13, 1900(1900-08-13) (aged 47)
Uzkoye, Moscow Governorate, Russian Empire
Era 19th-century philosophy
Region Russian philosophy
School Platonism, Christian Mysticism, Russian symbolism
Notable ideas
Revived and expanded the idea of Sophia, the feminine manifestation of Divine Wisdom, in Orthodox theology

Vladimir Sergeyevich Solovyov[1] (Russian: Влади́мир Серге́евич Соловьёв; January 28 [O.S. January 16] 1853 – August 13 [O.S. July 31] 1900) was a Russian philosopher, theologian, poet, pamphleteer and literary critic. He played a significant role in the development of Russian philosophy and poetry at the end of the 19th century and in the spiritual renaissance of the early 20th century.

Life and work[edit]

The son of the historian Sergey Mikhaylovich Solovyov (1820–1879), and the brother of historical novelist Vsevolod Solovyov (1849-1903), he was born in Moscow.[2] His mother Polyxena Vladimirovna belonged to a Polish origin family and had, among her ancestors, the thinker Gregory Skovoroda (1722–1794).[3]

In his teens, Solovyov renounced Eastern Orthodoxy for nihilism, but later,[when?] his disapproval of positivism[4] saw him begin to express views that were line with those of the Orthodox Church.[4] Solovyov studied at the University of Moscow, and his philosophy professor was Pamfil Yurkevich.[5]

In his The Crisis of Western Philosophy: Against the Positivists, Solovyov discredited the positivists' rejection of Aristotle's essentialism, or philosophical realism. In Against the Postivists, he took the position of intuitive noetic comprehension, or insight. He saw consciousness as integral (see the Russian term sobornost)and requiring both phenomenon (validated by dianonia) and noumenon validated intuitively.[4] Positivism, according to Solovyov, validates only the phenomenon of an object, denying the intuitive reality that people experience as part of their consciousness.[4] As Solovyov's basic philosophy rests on the idea that the essence of an object (see essentialism) can be validated only by intuition and that consciousness as a single organic whole is done in part by reason or logic but in completeness by (non-dualist) intuition. Soloyvev was partially attempting to reconcile the dualism (subject-object) found in German idealism.

Vladimir Solovyov became a friend and confidant of Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1821-1881). In opposition to his friend, Solovyov was sympathetic to the Roman Catholic Church. He favored the healing of the schism (ecumenism, sobornost) between the Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches. It is clear from Solovyov's work that he accepted papal primacy over the Universal Church,[6][7][8] but there is not enough evidence, at this time, to support the claim that he ever officially embraced Roman Catholicism.

Solovyov never married or had children, but he pursued idealized relationships as immortalized in his spiritual love poetry, including with two women named Sophia.[9] He rebuffed the advances of mystic Anna Schmidt, who claimed to be his divine partner.[10]

Solovyov by Ivan Kramskoy, 1885.


It is widely held that Solovyov was one of the sources for Dostoyevsky's characters Alyosha Karamazov and Ivan Karamazov in The Brothers Karamazov.[11] Solovyov's influence can also be seen in the writings of the Symbolist and Neo-Idealist writers of the later Russian Soviet era. His book The Meaning of Love can be seen as one of the philosophical sources of Leo Tolstoy's The Kreutzer Sonata (1889). It was also the work in which he introduced the concept of 'syzygy', to denote 'close union'.[12]

He influenced the religious philosophy of Nicolas Berdyaev, Sergey Bulgakov, Pavel Florensky, Nikolai Lossky, Semyon Frank, brothers Sergei Nikolaevich Trubetskoy and Evgenii Nikolaevich Trubetskoy, the ideas of Rudolf Steiner, and the poetry and theory of Russian Symbolists (Andrei Belyi, Alexander Blok, Solovyov's nephew, and others). Hans Urs von Balthasar explores his work as one example of seven lay styles, which reveal the glory of God's revelation, in volume III of The Glory of the Lord (pp. 279–352).


Main article: Sophiology

Solovyov compiled a philosophy based on Hellenistic philosophy (see Plato, Aristotle and Plotinus) and early Christian tradition with Buddhism and Hebrew Kabbalistic elements (Philo of Alexandria). He also studied Gnosticism and the works of the Gnostic Valentinus.[13] His religious philosophy was syncretic and fused philosophical elements of various religious traditions with Orthodox Christianity and his own experience of Sophia.

Solovyov described his encounters with the entity Sophia in his works, such as Three Encounters and Lectures on Godmanhood. His fusion was driven by the desire to reconcile and/or unite with Orthodox Christianity the various traditions by the Russian Slavophiles' concept of sobornost. His Russian religious philosophy had a very strong impact on the Russian Symbolist art movements of his time.[14] His teachings on Sophia, conceived as the merciful unifying feminine wisdom of God comparable to the Hebrew Shekinah or various goddess traditions,[15] have been deemed a heresy by Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia and as unsound and unorthodox by the Patriarchate of Moscow.[16]


Vladimir Solovyov by Nikolai Yaroshenko, 1892.
Main article: Sobornost

Solovyov sought to create a philosophy that could through his system of logic or reason reconcile all bodies of knowledge or disciplines of thought, and fuse all conflicting concepts into a single system. The central component of this complete philosophic reconciliation was the Russian Slavophile concept of sobornost (organic or spontaneous order through integration, which is related to the Russian word for 'catholic'). Solovyov sought to find and validate common ground, or where conflicts found common ground, and, by focusing on this common ground, to establish absolute unity and or integral[17] fusion of opposing ideas and/or peoples.[18]


Solovyov died at the Moscow estate of Nikolai Petrovitch Troubetzkoy, where a relative of the latter, Sergei Nikolaevich Trubetskoy, was living. Solovyov was apparently a homeless pauper in 1900. He left his brother, Mikhail Sergeevich, and several colleagues to defend and promote his intellectual legacy. He is buried at Novodevichy Convent.


"As long as the dark foundation of our nature, grim in its all-encompassing egoism, mad in its drive to make that egoism into reality, to devour everything and to define everything by itself, as long as that foundation is visible, as long as this truly original sin exists within us, we have no business here and there is no logical answer to our existence. Imagine a group of people who are all blind, deaf and slightly demented and suddenly someone in the crowd asks, "What are we to do?"... The only possible answer is "Look for a cure". Until you are cured, there is nothing you can do. And since you don't believe you are sick, there can be no cure."

"But if the faith communicated by the Church to Christian humanity is a living faith, and if the grace of the sacraments is an effectual grace, the resultant union of the divine and the human cannot be limited to the special domain of religion, but must extend to all Man's common relationships and must regenerate and transform his social and political life."[19]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ The name Solovyov derives from "соловей", "solovey", Nightingale in Russian.
  2. ^ Dahm, Helmut and Wright, Kathleen. Vladimir Solovyev and Max Scheler: Attempt at a Comparative Interpretation, p. 219. Springer, 1975.
  3. ^ Judith Deutsch Kornblatt (2009). Divine Sophia: The Wisdom Writings of Vladimir Solovyov. Cornell University Press. pp. 22, 12. ISBN 978-0-8014-7479-8. 
  4. ^ a b c d History of Russian Philosophy section on Solovyov "История российской Философии " (1951) by N. O. Lossky,[page needed] Publisher: Allen & Unwin, London ASIN: B000H45QTY International Universities Press Inc NY, NY ISBN 978-0-8236-8074-0, sponsored by St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary.
  5. ^ The Teachings of Modern Orthodox Christianity on Law, Politics, and Human Nature by John Witte Jr., Frank S. Alexander, Paul Valliere Columbia University Press August 7, 2007 ISBN 978-0231142649
  6. ^ Vladimir Sergeyevich Solovyov, Russia and the Universal Church, trans. William G. von Peters (Chatanooga, TN: Catholic Resources, 2013).
  7. ^ Vladimir Sergeyevich Solovyov, The Russian Church and the Papacy: An Abridgment of Russia and the Universal Church, ed. Ray Ryland (San Diego: Catholic Answers, 2001).
  8. ^ Ray Ryland, “Soloviev’s Amen: A Russian Orthodox Argument for the Papacy,” Crisis 21, no. 10 (November 2003): 35–38.
  9. ^ The Religious Poetry of Vladimir Solovyov (Semantron Press, 2008)
  10. ^ Samuel Cioran. Vladimir Solov’ev and the Knighthood of the Divine Sophia (Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 1977), 71.
  11. ^ Zouboff, Peter, Solovyov on Godmanhood: Solovyov’s Lectures on Godmanhood Harmon Printing House: Poughkeepsie, New York, 1944; see Czeslaw Milosz's introduction to Solovyov’s War, Progress and the End of History. Lindisfarne Press: Hudson, New York 1990.
  12. ^ Felch, Susan M.; Paul J. Contino (2001). Bakhtin and Religion: A Feeling for Faith. Northwestern University Press. p. 44. ISBN 9780810118256. Retrieved 8 November 2012. 
  13. ^ Russian Religious Thought by Judith Deutsch Kornblatt (editor), Richard F. Gustafson (editor), pp. 49–67, Publisher: University of Wisconsin Press (October 1, 1996) Language: English ISBN 0-299-15134-4 and ISBN 978-0-299-15134-8
  14. ^ Russian Religious Thought by Judith Deutsch Kornblatt (Editor), Richard F. Gustafson (Editor), pp. 49–67 Publisher: University of Wisconsin Press (October 1, 1996) Language: English ISBN 0-299-15134-4 and ISBN 978-0-299-15134-8
  15. ^ Powell, Robert. The Sophia Teachings: The Emergence of the Divine Feminine in Our Time (Lindisfarne Books, 2007), p. 70.
  16. ^ OCA labels Sophianism of Solovyov as heresy
  17. ^ Dostoevsky and Soloviev: The Art of Integral Vision By Marina Kostalevsky [1]
  18. ^ History of Russian Philosophy "История российской Философии "(1951), pp. 81–134.
  19. ^ Minding the Monarchical Church. Ignitum Today. Published: 12 November 2013.

Further reading[edit]

  • du Quenoy, Paul. "Vladimir Solov’ev in Egypt: The Origins of the ‘Divine Sophia’ in Russian Religious Philosophy," Revolutionary Russia, 23: 2, December 2010.
  • Finlan, Stephen. "The Comedy of Divinization in Soloviev," Theosis: Deification in Christian Theology (Eugene, Or.: Wipf & Stock, 2006), pp. 168–183.
  • Gerrard, Thomas J. "Vladimir Soloviev – The Russian Newman," The Catholic World, Vol. CV, April/September, 1917.
  • Groberg, Kristi. "Vladimir Sergeevich Solov'ev: a Bibliography," Modern Greek Studies Yearbook, vol.14–15, 1998.
  • Kornblatt, Judith Deutsch. "Vladimir Sergeevich Solov’ev," Dictionary of Literary Bibliography, v295 (2004), pp. 377–386.
  • Lossky, Nikolai. History of Russian Philosophy «История российской Философии »(1951)
  • Mrówczyński-Van Allen, Artur. Between the Icon and the idol. The Human Person and the Modern State in Russian Literature and Thought - Chaadayev, Soloviev, Grossman (Cascade Books, /Theopolitical Visions/, Eugene, Or., 2013).
  • Stremooukhoff, Dimitrii N. Vladimir Soloviev and his Messianic Work (Paris, 1935; English translation: Belmont, MA: Nordland, 1980).
  • Sutton, Jonathan. The Religious Philosophy of Vladimir Solovyov: Towards a Reassessment (Basingstoke, UK: Macmillan, 1988).
  • Zernov, Nicholas. Three Russian prophets (London: SCM Press, 1944).
  • Thomas Nemeth: The Early Solov'ëv and His Quest for Metaphysics. Springer, 2014. ISBN 978-3-319-01347-3 [Print]; ISBN 978-3-319-01348-0 [eBook]

External links[edit]