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Solov’ëv, Vladimir Sergeevich (1853–1900)

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-E037-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved September 21, 2019, from

Article Summary

It has been widely acknowledged that Vladimir Solov’ëv is the greatest Russian philosopher of the nineteenth century; his significance for Russian philosophy is often compared to the significance of Aleksandr Pushkin for Russian poetry. His first works marked the beginning of the revolt against positivism in Russian thought, followed by a revival of metaphysical idealism and culminating in the so-called Religious-Philosophical Renaissance of the early twentieth century.

Unlike the Russian idealists of the Romantic epoch, Solov’ëv was a professional, systematic philosopher. He created the first all-round philosophical system in Russia and thus inaugurated the transition to the construction of systems in Russian philosophical thought. At the same time he remained faithful to the Russian intellectual tradition of reluctance to engage in purely theoretical problems; his ideal of ‘integrality’ postulated that theoretical philosophy be organically linked to religion and social practice. He saw himself not as an academic philosopher, but rather as a prophet, discovering the way to universal regeneration.

One of the main themes of Solov’ëv’s philosophy of history was Russia’s mission in universal history. Owing to this he was interested in the ideas of the Slavophiles and, in the first period of his intellectual evolution, established close relations with the Slavophile and Pan-Slavic circle of Ivan Aksakov. He was close also to Dostoevskii, on whom he made a very deep impression. At the beginning of the 1880s he began to dissociate himself from the epigones of Slavophilism; his final break with them came in 1883, when he became a contributor to the liberal and Westernizing Vestnik Evropy (European Messenger). The main reason for this was the pro-Catholic tendency of his thought, which led him to believe that Russia had to acknowledge the primacy of the Pope. In his view, this was a necessary condition of fulfilling Russia’s universal mission, defined as the unification of the Christian Churches and the establishment of a theocratic Kingdom of God on earth.

In the early 1890s Solov’ëv abandoned this utopian vision and concentrated on working out an autonomous ethic and a liberal philosophy of law. This reflected his optimistic faith in liberal progress and his confidence that even the secularization of ethics was essentially a part of the divine–human process of salvation. In the last year of his life, however, historiosophical optimism gave way to a pessimistic apocalypticism, as expressed in his philosophical dialogue Tri razgovora (Three Conversations) (1900), and especially the ’Tale of the Antichrist’ appended to it.

Citing this article:
Walicki, Andrzej. Solov’ëv, Vladimir Sergeevich (1853–1900), 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-E037-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
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