Friday book # 24: Motherland

In this week’s book, Lesley Chamberlain charts what she calls the ‘long tradition’ of Russian philosophy from 1815 to 1991. Russia, she says, ‘sits uncertainly on the Western fringe in an alternative cultural space’. Its philosophy has followed a unique path, producing a ‘culture without reason’, rejecting the Enlightenment and the logical pursuit of truth in favour of German Idealism and the desire ‘to find a moral way of being’. Chamberlain believes, however, that the collapse of communism has brought this ‘long tradition’ to an end, and that Russia now stands ‘on the edge of reason’. I suspect that some readers might find this analysis a bit condescending. And given the apparent divergence of Russia and the West in the decade since the book was first published in 2004, I wonder if Chamberlain would reach the same conclusion today.


2 thoughts on “Friday book # 24: Motherland”

  1. “I suspect that some readers might find this analysis a bit condescending.”

    Well, to find it condescending, one would have to assume the superiority of western ‘reason’ (or ‘rationalism’, I’d rather call it). Otherwise, the observation (true or not) that a culture is getting more rationalistic and less spiritual is just that, an observation… No idea how it sounds in the context of the book, though…


    1. As one of mine deeply faithful Orthodox aquaintances explained it:

      “There are countless differences between the us and the West. Some are serious, some are minor, but the core distinction is the mindset. Catholic theology is geared toward intellect, whereas Orthodox theology is geared toward wisdom. Catholic theology is along the lines of Aristotle’s rigor, whereas Orthodoxy is more like Confucius or Zen (again, these are gross simplifications). Catholicism sees sin and redemption as juridical, whereas Orthodoxy sees them as ontological.”


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