The Origin of Philosophy

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Philosophy is defined as the study of the fundamental nature of knowledge, life, and existence. The field is taught in many schools as an academic discipline. Its origin can be traced back to the fourteenth century. In reference to Russia, philosophy began making its mark during the mid-eighteenth century with the establishment of the first university in Moscow. In light of the above, the period between 1755 to early 19th

century is referred to as the duration of philosophical remark largely due to the fact that philosophy as a discipline started receiving acknowledgement and a renowned area of study (Dahm et al. 112). The 19th century which will form a large part of the following research paper is termed as the philosophical Dark Age since aspects related to philosophy were particularly scarce at that time. Despite the above, there exists significant philosophical activities which transpired at that time. The highlights are worth mentioning. In general terms, not much philosophy was recorded during the period before the 18th century. In essence, accounts of philosophy became apparent during the mid-eighteenth century marking the introduction of higher learning institutions such as the University of Moscow. Lack of scholars to teach the subject in schools was an issue. Russia ended up hunting for expatriate help. In light of all that shall be discussed in the below segment, one thing is apparent; that philosophy was introduced in Russia through stages.

Period of Philosophical Remark (1755-1825)

Before moving to exclusively discuss philosophy as confined to the 19th century alone, it is worthwhile noting origins since the root source played a crucial part in shaping philosophy of forthcoming years (Dahm et al. 112). History evidences that there is no marked presence of study of philosophy as per Russian culture until the year 1755 characterized by emergence of the nation’s first university in Moscow. The first person ever to teach philosophy was N. Popovsky (1730-1760) who was originally a rhetoric and poetry teacher. The university had appointed Popovsky to serve as the head of department of philosophy at the university, a post which he held briefly, for about a year. The above is hence sufficient evidence regarding presence of philosophy in the Russian culture (Chamerlain 208). Additionally, there is a story of Dmitry Anichkov (1733-1788) who submitted a dissertation on the subject of natural religion. The scholarly work also contained notable references to the subject of philosophy and human existence. The dissertation had some atheist views which made it subject to a significant amount of investigation spanning over 18 years. The atheist views held that religion is more or less insignificant in the overall conception of life. Although fate of the dissertation (which contained some philosophical standpoints) is largely unknown, legend had it that it be publicly burned down to serve as a warning to others who may serve to defy religion and its overall purity (Chamerlain 201). The above two instances marked the beginning of philosophical beliefs and standpoints in the general Russian society.

In addition to the aforementioned two instances, 1768 showed the emergence of Kozelsky’s philosophical Propositions which were a collection of statements with some philosophical references. In fact, the notes are argued to have contained extensively little references to philosophy although the existence was apparent (Zenkovsky 59). The notes were well known for going against some of the most commonly believed physical laws of nature. For example, existence of empty space. The vacuum or an empty space is primarily defined as an area with no actual matter. A good example is outer space. The existence of a vacuum was first postulated by Isaac Newton. The same has been proven to be true by all means (Zenkovsky 59). Additionally, the notes also did not support the idea of atomism. In real sense, the writings rejected the idea that matter is made up of tiny units referred to as atoms which are capable of taking part in a chemical reaction. Summarily, existence of notes which were referred to as Kozelsky’s philosophical prepositions had a significant degree of philosophical viewpoints and opinions (Ziegler 11). The texts, however, went against proposed yet unproved meanings regarding the quality of life and physics-based laws. The scribblings deserved mention since they were some of the earliest pointers of philosophy in the Russian culture.

            The late 18th century began the onset of the dark philosophical age in Russian culture. For instance, there was no enough money to establish more universities in the country. The poor state of the nation’s economy was largely attributed to the discussed turn of events. The already established university (University of Moscow) was unable to attract a fair number of students since most of them hailed from poor families. In fact, establishing more universities would affect the country adversely since the infrastructure required a significant amount of monetary value and resources. If the universities were actually established, the student population would have then been small (Ziegler 20). In essence, the existence of universities, let alone study of philosophy was seen as an apparent luxury which not many could afford. As a result, philosophy significantly dwindled leading the coining of the term dark age. The above-mentioned incidents took place within Catherine’s reign. The government, during this period, had concluded that sending individuals to study abroad was more plausible in light of prevailing circumstances. It is important to note that the universities which were initially planned for were eventually established in light of the prevailing circumstances.

            The small number of educational facilities prompted the Russian government to source foreign investors who would, in turn, establish private educational facilities within the institution. One of the scholars and foreign investors dubbed J Schaden opened a philosophy school which not only educated on the principals of philosophy but also other essential disciplines (Ziegler 19). The establishment of private teaching facility did introduce some philosophical elements into the country. The year was during the late 1790’s. It is important to note that the Russian government was widely responsible for gaining German scholars from overseas countries to help in the education process. A German known as Ludwig Mellman introduced Kant’s thought into the University of Moscow and was deemed mentally unfit. Consequently, he was termed as mentally unfit and even forced to leave the country.

            The above insight points to the existence of philosophy from between the year 1755 to the early 19th

century in Russia. As already explained above, philosophy was mostly oriented towards teaching. The field started being learned as a discipline (Rodinov et al. 221). It hence can be concluded that the reason behind the late inclusion of philosophy into Russian culture was due to lack of qualified personnel who would teach it as a subject. The lack of various institutions and unavailability of students at the said institutions also played a major role. Since Russia’s economy was unstable at that time (from mid-17th century to early 18th

century) establishing universities was out of question. Students who were being sent to learn and study abroad often resettled in their new environments and did not carry the knowledge back into the country. In essence, Russia began establishing institutions and sourcing for more foreign scholars.

Philosophy in Russia during Early 19th Century (1800)

Two new universities were established during the year 1804 in Russia under initiative of the new Tsar. Once again, Russia went to source scholars from foreign lands, most notably Germany. Following the dislocations that were as a result of Napoleonic war, Russia stood a better chance of acquiring overseas intellectual knowledge (Rodinov et al. 119). The scholars who were to be recruited would be required to teach philosophy in addition to other disciplines at the newly established universities. Some would be required to move to the University of Moscow and add themselves to the list of already existing scholars. Contrary to their expectations, some of these scholars actually impacted the education sector quite negatively. The most illustrious one was Johann Buhle who had already authored a number of works on the discipline of philosophy. Once in Russia, he stopped publishing the literary titles. In fact, sources reveal that Johann Buhle developed a degree of disinterest towards the subject. Additionally, Johann Buhle did not push himself to learn the local Russian language in order for him to publish literary works which were of Russian culture and origin.

            Despite all of the above, the influx of Russian scholars who were philosophically intelligent served as the driving factor toward success which the nation needed (Karl 33). As a result, philosophy was widely taught. Many students were able to grasp the content. For example, Franz Bronner, who was a Swiss physicist introduced Kant’s epistemology to various students one of them being the future mathematician Lobachevsky. Additionally, Stoikovich who was a Serb scientist developed a text which was arranged in relation to Kant’s categories (Rodinov et al. 221). Philosophy started being a rising discipline thanks to the inclusion of foreign scientists who were well versed in the topic. Consequently, one of the earliest instances of treatment towards a philosophical topic was Lubkin’s publication which was dubbed, “Letters on Critical Philosophy” published in the year 1805. The same scientist (Lubkin) was also known for criticizing Kant’s theory which claimed that the human concept of space and time is obtained solely through experience and nowhere else. Criticism of Kant’s theory did not end there; two years later saw the publishing of a speech by Mathematician Osipovsky. The speech was titled ”On space and time,” which served to critique Kant’s stance on the topic. In essence, the influx of discussions and critiques in regards to a matter related to philosophy was a welcome feat since it signaled the spread of the subject into scholarly institutions and general human thinking. In essence, it can be argued that the early 19th century was the era of optimal philosophical activity in Russia (Karl 38). Aleksandr Galich after many years of studying philosophy in outside countries came back to Russia and was appointed professor of philosophy at the already established university at St Petersburg dubbed the Pedagogical Institute (Robinson 12). He was duly promoted to be chair of philosophy when the institution was transformed into a university. Aleksandr Galich educational career was however short-lived when he was accused of atheism and stripped of his teaching duties. An atheist is primarily anyone who introduces a belief that contradicts that of religion. Since philosophy was primarily known for this feat, great philosophy scholars would often face the ramifications as a result of their beliefs. In essence, it can be concluded that the major threat toward philosophy was the object of religion since it presented a fairly contrasting view (Robinson 12). Galich continued earning an active salary up to the year 1837 despite the loss of his position.

            Conclusively, it can be argued that the early 19th century was the period which philosophical beliefs were at their peak position. The construction of various universities and acquisition of experienced expatriate personnel was a driving factor toward this feat. Concurrently, the publication of various scholarly material on the subject of philosophy was also propelled spread of philosophical beliefs and mindsets (Rodionov, Alexander, and Krivchenia 16). It is worthwhile noting that while many of the foreign scholars contributed immensely towards the spread of philosophy, other local scientists and professors were also involved. The period can hence be concluded to be a philosophical era. The forthcoming years, however, 1825-1860, could only be described as the philosophical Dark Age.

The Philosophical Dark Age (1825-1860)

The spread of philosophy came to an end during the year 1825 when Nicholas first came into power. The above is the sole reason as to why the period is referred to as the philosophical Dark Age (Robinson 19). Nicholas enacted rules and regulations which called for a philosophical silence which was serious beyond anything that was ever seen, even by Russian standards. Fearing that the foreigners would take over and serve to corrupt locals with their rules and ideas, the minister of public education in Russia at that time, (A. Shishkov) came forward and accused the Decembrist uprising, which was staged against the local government as a result of foreign ideas and corruption. In order to combat the above threat, Nicholas, his advisors, together with Shishkov enacted a rule which served to impede access to higher education for non-noble youths over services of various scholars and professors who were enacted to teach (Rodionov et al., 19). In addition to the above, a sponsorship program was enacted serving to impede freedom of speech and publication more so if the published material contained content that in some way threatened the Russian government (Robinson 11). The sensorship program was so strict that even the Lord’s Prayer was interpreted as a revolutionary speech. In general terms, publishers were required to be liable for what they would write, and the content was to vary not in anyway. Such were not to reference foreign ideas that served to corrupt locals.

            As a result of the instituted rule, publications on philosophy which hinged on foreign material and ideas immediately seized. Additionally, scholars who taught philosophy were met with a dilemma. Since the censorship rule required that the scholars justify what they taught and even what they published in general terms, the academicians lacked the means of justifying their discipline and hence in conclusive terms were unable to teach. In addition to, the regulations which were established prevented access to tertiary education for non-noble students in the higher education platforms (Dahm et al. 12). Notably, what this meant was that even if an instructor could be able to fully justify the idea of philosophy and hence teach it to a certain class, there were no students at the higher education institutions to teach the subject to. The Russian government also stopped sourcing for foreign assistance on the subject of education, especially higher education. In general terms, the regulations which were introduced by Nicholas I not only delayed the spread of philosophy but also stopped the process of acquiring tertiary education within the country. Therefore, with no students to teach, the professors, both local and foreign retired and ventured into other means of gaining income (Ziegler 26).

 As already mentioned above, individuals who were required to teach philosophy at the universities struggled with the simple task of having to justify their discipline and why it mattered. Arguably, the factor that led to hardwiring of the above regulations and laws was the European revolutions in Western Europe during the year 1848. Any talk of reform and social revolution was deemed impermissible. Anyone who was to be found engaging in such talks would be dealt with thoroughly. The revolutions in Western Europe were believed result from individuals who developed a different mindset on the subject of change and what mattered to them as a country (Lesley 23). The change and the introduction of divergent mindsets was also thought to be influenced by foreign relations in the region. The Russian government was doing its level best to ensure that it did not suffer the same fate as Western Europe.

            During the year 1850, an ordinance was passed which served to completely hamper the spread of philosophy and philosophical related ideas in public universities (Ziegler 26). Notably, what the above basically meant was that philosophy was completely outlawed in the region and no universities were allowed to teach them by all means. The minister of education was largely responsible for the outlawing of philosophy as a discipline to be taught in schools. The rule was enacted in order to protect Russia from various philosophical systems that served to change the mindset of individuals and expose them to change inducing factors (Rodionov et al. 25). It is worthwhile noting that philosophy was not completely outlawed, on the contrary, the number of instructors who were designated to teach philosophy was reduced significantly. Only logic and psychology were taught but by theology professors alone who were limited to certain institutions only (Lesley 23). The step which was taken by the minister of education in order to completely outlaw education was seen as a step too far in the wrong direction. The oppression continued until year 1863 when philosophy slowly penetrated into the academic disciplines and other eras. It is worthwhile noting that the restriction continued until the year 1889, although it was not as strict as during the previous years. Philosophy was slowly making its way back to the educational system. The Dark Age had come to an end (Deblasio 71).  Notable independent philosophy that emerged during the Nicholas years included Schelling’s influence which was known for dominating abstract discussions. Additionally, D Vellansky and M. Pavolov were known for their interest in German romanticism which had a deep relation to philosophy in every sense of the word. To this effect, Vellansky and Pavolov published a significant number of works, in relation to their ideas and beliefs. Unfortunately, none of their works can be used for today’s study of philosophy due to various reasons. It is important to note that they continued believing in their cause for philosophy during a time when anything related to the subject was vastly discouraged.

            In addition to Vellansky and Pavolov, other scholars who continued teaching and publishing works related to Philosophy. F Sidonsky for example published a book which aimed to treat philosophy differently from theology (Deblasio 71). The overall rule that existed at that time laid emphasis on the fact that philosophy and theology were largely related and hence somehow similar. Sidonsky’s book laid out some groundwork and arguments which served to counter this argument in every sense of the word. Notably, he published this work during the times when specific branches of philosophy were left to theology professors to teach them.  The above is largely attributed to the belief that philosophy and theology were largely related during that time (Lesley 28). Sidonsky was however dismissed from teaching philosophy when his book was discovered by the authorities and deemed to be go against the religious standings of the country. In general terms, it is unclear as to what happened to the book although it is known that Sidonsky began serving as a priest for thirty years that followed.

In essence, the above-mentioned scholars were known for continuing the process of teaching and publishing material related to philosophy despite the presence of strict regulations which warned against such actions. The most notable figure who defended his autonomy of philosophy during the Dark Age was O Novistsky (1809-1885) together with U Mikhnevich (1809-1885) who taught at the Kieve Ecclesiastic Academy. Both the above scholars are well known for their refusal to simply substitute philosophy as a branch of theology or as a discipline related to theology. The academicians held the view that philosophy was a discipline on its own that was independent of theology.

In summary, the Dark Age was the period when the government outlawed any form of philosophy or content related to it. In essence, no one was allowed to publish works or teach philosophy since it was believed to be a mind deterrent agent. The discussed basically means is that philosophy taught people to think by different standards making the students more capable of staging coups and revolutions against the local government (Zenkovsky 95). Nicholas the 1st, together with the minister for public education were responsible for implementing such rules. A person who published material related to philosophy by any standards was deemed responsible for the publication (Zenkovsky 55). Major scholars who were head of departments of philosophy at their respective schools were also stripped of their titles. In essence, the dark period saw little regarding any any mention of philosophy. It was not until the reign of Nicholas 1 came to an end that professional philosophy was re-introduced into the country (Lesley 23).

Rise of Professional Philosophy (1860-1917)

Professional philosophy primarily refers to the form of philosophy that can taught, be understood and even practiced as a career. Notably, when the restrictions towardd it were ruled out at the end of the reign of Nicholas the first, professional philosophy became a reality since it was allowed to grow and expand (Deblasio 79). Professional philosophy can also be taught to overseas students with different views altogether. In essence, the philosophy trained today in major schools is professional by all means. Also, while it has already been discussed above that there were scholars who taught and believed in philosophy during the Dark Age, the scholars formed the pillars of what later came to be known as the light age where philosophy was re-introduced back into the curriculum. In essence, the government during the early 1860’s decided to bring back philosophy to the system (Deblasio 81). The state made the above decision prior to the reign of Nicholas the first. In addition, it governed the spread of free thought by making sure it that did not get out of proportions to the extent that it could lead to an uprising. The government’s wish was to re-introduce philosophy while at the same time make sure that it did not jump out of proportions.

            The most notable icon during this stage was Jurikevich who was appointed to proffesorship at Moscow University. He argued in support of a number of thesis which pointed toward his belief and platonic idealisms which were related to the idea of philosophy. In essence, Jurikevich views held that no physical nor physiological descriptions could do any justice in describing philosophical phenomena such as the concept of time-space and knowledge. It is important to note that his overall belief was Tran scripted into the idea of philosophy as a curriculum (Deblasio 71). In essence, with the re-introduction of philosophy, into Russian culture, most concepts which were taught in class were based on the views made by Jurikivech. In essence, he is one of the most important icons as per the re-introduction of philosophy into Russian culture linked to the reign of Nicholas the first. Jurikivech views, which had some scholary tone to them, however, were subject to a great deal of contradiction since his opinions constantly alluded to the scripture in general. Jurikivech’s contradicting views led the government to sourcing for a more plausible substitute for the philosophy professor position.

            In light of the above, different scholars took on the seat of chief philosophy instructor in the University of Moscow. Each supported views of other scholars while at the same time producing their own views on the subject of philosophy in different areas. Various academicians published books on the subject of philosophy covering all the above-mentioned aspects. For instance, some published books contained their own views on the subject of philosophy and related fields such as Kant’s views and so forth. Other published books which served to critique different views were presented forward in general terms. The result was a logically open-minded view on philosophy and its respected environs. Additionally, the restriction which existed against the act of letting non-noble youth access higher education was lifted, and as a result, more students pursued philosophy as a discipline in the universities. It is important to note that the government was actively vigilant and prevented acts which would serve to change the mindset of the people hence prompting them to stage coups and revolutions (Zenkovsky 55). In essence, philosophy had been duly introduced into the culture after almost half a century without it. In addition, with time, the philosophically based curriculum borrowed extensively from other disciplines in different countries thereby ultimately making philosophy to grow. In essence, the subjects of philosophy were soon transfixed into other disciplines. For instance, logic was transfixed into computer science later on while psychology was incorporated into medicine and health (Zenkovsky 55). A most important element to note is the fact that philosophy had become an important part of the curriculum, even in other disciplines.


Philosophy was introduced into the Russian culture during the mid-eighteenth century; this is the time period where the earliest philosophical activity was noted. Additionally, the region had no resources to build schools which the discipline could be taught to students hence its spread into the culture greatly diminished.  During the early 19th century schools were established, and instructors were sourced from outside states and countries. The instructors came in with their own views on the subject of philosophy and how it applied to everyone in general. Students were taught the principals of philosophy until the year 1825 when King Nicholas the first came into power. He imposed what is remembered as the dark stage of philosophy since he banned any form of teaching or publication of the subject. The Dark Age lasted until the year 1860 when philosophy was slowly re-introduced back to the country. It is important to note that there were some scholars who still practiced philosophy and published books during the Dark Age. Summarily, with the promotion of philosophical scholars into critical positions in universities, philosophy thrived to what it is today and become an integral part of Russian culture.

Works Cited

Dahm, Helmut, Thomas J. Blakeley, and George L. Kline. Philosophical Sovietology: the Pursuit of a Science. Dordrecht: Springer Netherlands, 2012. Print.

DeBlasio. The end of Russian philosophy: tradition and transition at the turn of the 21st century. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014. Print.

Karl. Dordrecht: Springer Netherlands, 2012. Print.

Lesley. Motherland: a philosophical history of Russia. New York: Rookery Press, 2007. Print.

Robinson. The political economy of Russia. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc, 2012. Print.

Rodionov, Alexander, and Maya Krivchenia. Russia survival guide. Place of distribution not identified: XLibris LLC, 2014. Print.

Ziegler. The history of Russia. Santa Barbara, Calif: Greenwood Press, 2009. Print.

Zenkovsky, V. V. A history Russian philosophy. Abingdon, Oxon New York: Routledge, 2003. Prin

December 12, 2023


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