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Article

Демифологизация как философская задача. Судьба Николая Чернышевского

Философский журнал. 2018. Т. 11. № 1. С. 143-159.

This is a transcript of another installment of the Rejoinders in a dialogue series held in Dostoyevsky Library in Moscow, this time dedicated to discussing Vladimir Kantor’s recent book, The Collapsed Tree of Life, The Fate of Nikolai Chernyshevsky, in which for the first time an attempt is made to demythologize the life and ideas of one of Russia’s greatest thinkers and perhaps the most tragic figure of Russian culture. Russian authorities granted him 20 years of Siberian exile, far away not only from books and literary life but from any educated society. It was only through the workings of myth that reformer and gradualist, speculative thinker and archpriest’s son who reintroduced to Russia Christian values in the guise of contemporary positivism and brought to life, in the words of Mikhail Bakhtin, the ideological novel, – that such a man was made a revolutionary. His idea of rational egoism was mistaken for malicious utilitarianism, being nothing else than a paraphrase of Christ’s maxim: “Love your neighbor as yourself”. It is a striking story of a man who never degraded himself by asking for mercy, the story of a Russian Socrates, someone who
possessed an unusually strong sense of human dignity, unscrupulously misrepresented by the authorities as a seditious character, contributing to the rise of the forces against which Chernyshevsky spoke. Radical activists took the place of a moral reformer. “In one truly remarkable biography we came to the Tree of Life,” wrote Vasily Rozanov, “but they took it and cut it down”. The author’s aim is to give the Russian thought back its essential and
pan-European voice. It is men of the same caliber as Chernyshevsky who highlight the true scale of Russia.