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Lossky, Nicholas Onufrievich (1870–1965)

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-E027-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved March 27, 2019, from

Article Summary

In 1922, the Russian neo-Leibnizian idealist Nicholas Onufrievich Lossky, one of his country’s most distinguished professional philosophers, was banished from Russia along with more than a hundred other non-Marxist intellectuals whose influence the communist authorities feared. A prolific writer before his exile, Lossky continued to write and publish widely abroad, becoming not only the dean of the Russian émigré philosophical community but a thinker well known in Europe and the English-speaking world through many translations of his works.

The systematic structure and rationalistic tone of Lossky’s philosophizing set him apart from most of his fellow Russian idealists, but like them he proceeded in his thinking from a strong conviction of the truth of Christianity; he wrote of his commitment to ‘working out a system of metaphysics necessary for a Christian interpretation of the world’ (1951: 266). He adhered to a radical form of theism according to which the created natural order has nothing in common ontologically with the divine order that created it.

Lossky is best known for a set of interrelated views in epistemology and metaphysics connected with what he considered his fundamental philosophical insight – the principle that ‘everything is immanent in everything’. According to his doctrine of ‘intuitivism’ in epistemology, all cognition is intuitive; there is an ‘epistemological co-ordination’ of subject and object such that any object, whether sensory, intellectual or mystical, is immediately present in the mind of the knower. As the heir to a Leibnizian tradition in Russian metaphysics represented before him by Aleksei Kozlov and others, Lossky advanced a theory of ‘hierarchical personalism’ in which Leibniz’s monads became interacting ‘substantival agents’ existing at various levels of development; the choices of these ideal beings generate the material world (hence Lossky’s term ‘ideal realism’ for his ontology) and their reconfigurations and reincarnations move the cosmic process towards the perfection of the Kingdom of God. In his ‘ontological theory of values’ Lossky affirms a metaphysical basis for absolute values and attributes all evil – including diseases and natural disasters – to the misuse of free will by substantival agents, both human and subhuman.

Citing this article:
Scanlan, James P.. Lossky, Nicholas Onufrievich (1870–1965), 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-E027-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2019 Routledge.

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