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Vladimir Solovyov (philosopher)

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Vladimir Solovyov (philosopher)

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, who 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

Vladimir Sergeyevich Solovyov, the son of the historian Sergey Mikhaylovich Solovyov (1820–1879), was born in Moscow on 16 January 1853.[2] His mother, Polyxena Vladimirovna, belonged to a Polish origin family, having among her ancestors the thinker Gregory Skovoroda (1722–1794).[3]

In his teens Solovyov renounced Eastern Orthodoxy for nihilism, but later his disapproval of Positivism[4] saw him begin to express views in line with those of the Orthodox Church.[4]

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, noesis 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, only validates the phenomenon of an object, denying the intuitive reality which people experience as part of their consciousness.[4]

Vladimir Solovyov became a friend and confidant of Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1821-1881). In opposition to Dostoyevsky's views, Solovyov was sympathetic to the Roman Catholic Church. He favored the healing of the schism – (ecumenism, sobornost) – between the Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches – eventually, "through an ethical and social standpoint,"[5] converting to Roman Catholicism.[6]

Solovyov never married or had children, but he pursued idealized relationships as immortalized in his spiritual love-poetry, including with two women named Sophia.[7] He rebuffed the advances of mystic Anna Schmidt, who claimed to be his divine partner.

Solovyov died an apparently homeless pauper in 1900, leaving his brother Mikhail Sergeevich and several colleagues to defend and promote his intellectual legacy.[8]

Vladimir 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 from The Brothers Karamazov.[9] Solovyov's influence can also be seen in the writings of the Symbolist and Neo-Idealist 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). This was also the work where he introduced the concept of 'syzygy', to denote 'close union'.[10]

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


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 Valentinus.[11] 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, Three Encounters and Lectures on Godmanhood among others. Solovyov's fusion was driven by the desire to reconcile and or unite with Orthodox Christianity these various traditions via the Russian Slavophiles' concept of sobornost. His Russian religious philosophy had a very strong impact on the Russian Symbolist art movements of his time.[12] Solovyov's teachings on Sophia, conceived as the merciful unifying feminine wisdom of God comparable to the Hebrew Shekinah or various goddess traditions,[13] have been deemed a heresy by ROCOR and as unsound and unorthodox by the Patriarchate of Moscow.[14]


Vladimir Solovyov by Nikolai Yaroshenko, 1892.

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 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[15] fusion of opposing ideas and / or peoples.[16]


"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."[17]


  • A Story of Anti-Christ, 2012, Kassock Bros. Publishing Co., ISBN 1475136838 ISBN 978-1475136838
  • The Crisis of Western Philosophy: Against the Postivists, 1996, Lindisfarne Books, ISBN 0-940262-73-8 ISBN 978-0-940262-73-7
  • The Justification of the Good, 2010, Cosimo Classics, ISBN 1-61640-281-4 ISBN 978-1-61640-281-5
  • The Meaning of Love, 1985, Lindisfarne Books, ISBN 0-89281-068-8 ISBN 978-0-89281-068-0
  • War, Progress, and the End of History: Three Conversations, Including a Short Story of the Anti-Christ, 1990, Lindisfarne Books, ISBN 0-940262-35-5 ISBN 978-0-940262-35-5
  • Russia and the Universal Church, [1], 1948, G. Bles. (Abridged version: The Russian Church and the Papacy, 2002, Catholic Answers, ISBN 1-888992-29-8 ISBN 978-1-888992-29-8)

See also


  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, page 219. Springer, 1975
  3. ^ Judith Deutsch Kornblatt (2009). Divine Sophia: The Wisdom Writings of Vladimir Solovyov. Cornell University Press. pp. 22, 12.  
  4. ^ a b c d History of Russian Philosophy section on Solovyov «История российской Философии » (1951) by N. O. Lossky, Publisher: Allen & Unwin, London ASIN: B000H45QTY International Universities Press Inc NY, NY ISBN 978-0-8236-8074-0 sponsored by Saint Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary
  5. ^ Von Balthasar, Hans Urs, The Glory of the Lord: A Theological Aesthetics – III: Studies in Theological Style: Lay Styles, Ignatius 1986, pg. 282ff
  6. ^ Falk, Henrich, Wladimir Solowjews Stellung zur katholischen Kirche, in Stimmen der Zeit, 1949, pp. 421–435
  7. ^ The Religious Poetry of Vladimir Solovyov (Semantron Press, 2008)
  8. ^ Samuel Cioran. Vladimir Solov’ev and the Knighthood of the Divine Sophia (Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 1977), 71.
  9. ^ 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.
  10. ^ Felch, Susan M.; Paul J. Contino (2001). Bakhtin and Religion: A Feeling for Faith. Northwestern University Press. p. 44.  
  11. ^ 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
  12. ^ 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
  13. ^ Powell, Robert. The Sophia Teachings: The Emergence of the Divine Feminine in Our Time (Lindisfarne Books, 2007), 70.
  14. ^ OCA labels Sophianism of Solovyov as heresy
  15. ^ Dostoevsky and Soloviev: The Art of Integral Vision By Marina Kostalevsky [2]
  16. ^ History of Russian Philosophy «История российской Философии »(1951), pp. 81–134.
  17. ^ Minding the Monarchical Church. Ignitum Today. Published: 12 November 2013.

Further reading

  • 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

  • Vladimir Solovyov (1853–1900) – entry on Solovyov at Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy
  • Works by or about Vladimir Solovyov in libraries (WorldCat catalog)
  • The Russian Church and the Papacy
  • Dostoevsky and Soloviev
  • ALEXANDER II AND HIS TIMES: A Narrative History of Russia in the Age of Alexander II, Tolstoy, and Dostoevsky Several chapters on Solovyov
  • (address by Cardinal Giacomo Biffi)
  • Tale of the Anti-Christ at the Wayback Machine (archived January 12, 2006) – excerpt from Three Conversations by Solovyov
  • Civil Society and National Religion: Problems of Church, State, and Society in the Philosophy of Vladimir Solov'ëv (1853–1900) – research project at Centre for Russian Humanities Studies, Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen
  • English translations of 5 poems, including 8 of 18 acrostics from the cycle "Sappho"
  • English translations of 2 poems by Babette Deutsch and Avrahm Yarmolinsky, 1921
  • "The Positive Unity: How Solovyov’s Ethics Can Contribute to Constructing a Working Model for Business Ethics in Modern Russia" by Andrey V. Shirin
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