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Motherland: A Philosophical History of Russia [Englisch] [Gebundene Ausgabe]

Lesley Chamberlain

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Kurzbeschreibung

5. Juli 2007
Lesley Chamberlain, novelist, traveller and historian of ideas, has been pondering the enigma of Russia for over thirty years. She finds that over the last two centuries Russian thinkers have tried to answer two fundamental questions: 'what makes a good man?' and 'what is the right way to live?' The nineteenth-century ideal of a happy man living in a just society became, in Russia, a quest to effect wholesale transformation of society. Chamberlain shows how this moral passion, manifesting itself in philosophy and literature, existed in both pre- and post-revolutionary Russia. She reveals that 1917 did not represent the watershed we once thought, and shows how the dream of a plain and simple life reached its negative apotheosis under Lenin. By examining Russian thought over the past two centuries Chamberlain has produced a radical new interpretation of Russian history which, finally, gives us a glimpse in to the soul of that strange country. Motherland is an invaluable introduction to the key Russian thinkers and an eloquently-narrated journey in the history of ideas from a highly original writer.
-- Dieser Text bezieht sich auf eine vergriffene oder nicht verfügbare Ausgabe dieses Titels.

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"'Motherland is a valiant, fascinating and intellectually rigorous attempt to make sense of an extremely difficult subject.' T. J. Binyon, Sunday Telegraph 'Splendid... the pages that Chamberlain devotes to Lenin's dismal monograph are among the sharpest and most keenly felt in the book.' Jonathan Derbyshire, Daily Telegraph; 'Informative and stimulating... Chamberlain can be both enlightening and original... Motherland is well worth reading.' Oliver Ready, Moscow Times; 'Ambitious, challenging and persuasive... Chamberlain excavates whole generations of thinkers in a compelling manner... Meticulously researched and clearly argued.' Scotland on Sunday" -- Dieser Text bezieht sich auf eine andere Ausgabe: Taschenbuch .

Synopsis

Lesley Chamberlain, novelist, traveller and historian of ideas, has been pondering the enigma of Russia for over thirty years. She finds that over the last two centuries Russian thinkers have tried to answer two fundamental questions: 'what makes a good man?' and 'what is the right way to live?' The nineteenth-century ideal of a happy man living in a just society became, in Russia, a quest to effect wholesale transformation of society. Chamberlain shows how this moral passion, manifesting itself in philosophy and literature, existed in both pre- and post-revolutionary Russia. She reveals that 1917 did not represent the watershed we once thought, and shows how the dream of a plain and simple life reached its negative apotheosis under Lenin. By examining Russian thought over the past two centuries Chamberlain has produced a radical new interpretation of Russian history which, finally, gives us a glimpse in to the soul of that strange country. Motherland is an invaluable introduction to the key Russian thinkers and an eloquently-narrated journey in the history of ideas from a highly original writer. -- Dieser Text bezieht sich auf eine vergriffene oder nicht verfügbare Ausgabe dieses Titels.

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2.0 von 5 Sternen Yes, Virginia, to Descartes we prefer Pascal. 1. August 2012
Von Igor Biryukov - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe|Verifizierter Kauf
Lesley Chamberlain is a British journalist who fancy herself an authority on Russia. She is entitled to her opinions, but I think she is being judgmental and patronizing. It seems to me that she suggests that the Russian nation is accountable for obscurantism, at least "guilty" of some kind of tainted second-rate philosophy. But she does it "nicely" - using phrases like "Longstanding Russian practice of adapting truth to hope" or "Naïve poetic Russia was the antidote to Hegel and Marx, to the legacy of the cogito [Descartes]" and "The Russian temptation was perennially to handle truth cheaply". That sounds disparaging to me.

My first criticism - she isn't telling the whole story. There are key books missing from her bibliography, the most noticeable is "The Icon and the Axe", a terrific review of the Russian intellectual life. Secondly, she doesn't mention some key people: Mikhail Lomonosov, Nikolay Novikov, or Grigory Skovoroda just to name a few. Incidentally, the Russian-Ukrainian Skovoroda, who called himself the Russian Socrates, was one of the Russia's first speculative philosophers. Thirdly, she completely ignores the Russian freemasons. This is regrettable. The influence of higher order masonry on the development of intellectual and philosophical life in Russia can hardly be exaggerated.

I am aware of the contemporary fashion of writing where Russia is portrayed as simply a huge, barbarian mass, ruled by despots, where just few pro-western individuals are bravely swimming against the tyrannical and philistine regime. These are biased books denying that Russia is civilization on its own right. The writers like that usurp the honor of having civilized Russia.

I am very much against this point of view. Russia - including philosophical Russia - is not a mere "bent twig" growing out of a tree of the splendid European civilization. Her interpretation of the philosophical history of Russia seems to be a kind of gesso on which she spreads around her own view of the world of a Cartesian rationalist. The hub of her argument is that Russia ostensibly rejected Descartes [a code-word for a "western-type" rational reasoning] and it coused problems for Russia.

Where should I start to refute this silliness of hers? Rene Descartes was the guy who sat in the stove [seriously, he philosophized inside a huge stove - "dans une poêle" by his own account] trying to answer the questions: "What is truth?" and "What is knowledge?". While Socrates used to meditate all day in the snow, Descartes's mind only worked when he was warm. Immediately a suspect to me and my Russians friends. And it's not just weather-wise.

To me, as a Russian, the idea of timeless truths about universal human beings sounds suspicious. Truths of Russians are not truths of Britons, despite our common human nature. I believe Isaiah Berlin, a Riga-born authority on Russia whom she iserts at the end to give valitidy to her ideas, would have been absolutely against abstract reasoning of Descartes and against her thesis. Berlin spent much time writing about the Counter-Enlightenment thinkers, such as Vico, Herder, and Hamann. He saw a lot of truth in their teachings. Vico and Herder [another Riga-born] and Hamann [a friend but intellectual opponent of Kant] were right to assert against Descartes that natural languges and civilisation are the products of imagination and of poetic invention and of metaphor, and not of abstract [Cartesian] reasoning and of clear and distinct ideas. Berlin is constantly insisting on the natural roots of national sentiment and contrasting this naturalness with the artificiality of appeals to universal and timeless standards of rationality, which are appropriate to mathematical reasoning, but not to moral reflection.

The author says about the Russians: "To Descartes they preferred Pascal" (page 139). May be. I surely hope so. Descartes and his followers worshiped reason which for them was a kind of magical eye, which sees non-empirical universal truths. Pascal who was famous for his use of satire and wit, was ever skeptical. He wrote: "The heart has its reasons, of which reason is ignorant". We like to think that reason guides our lives, but reason itself is only - as Schopenhauer puts it, echoing Hume - the hard-pressed servant of the will. Our intellects are not impartial observers of the world but active participants in it. The shape the view of it that helps us in our struggles.

One should take this book with a grain of salt, perhaps after reading "An Anthology of Essays" by Isaiah Berlin first as an antidote.
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4.0 von 5 Sternen Makes Russian philosophy approachable 17. Oktober 2008
Von Paul E. Richardson - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
If one wanted to understand the fundamental difference in Russian and American worldviews which lies at the root of the current cooling in relations, the following passage from Lesley Chamberlain's new book on Russia's philosophical legacy would be a good place to start:

The Russian moral antipathy to Utilitarianism has been remarkably consistent... [Russia was] less prosperous, technologically less advanced, admittedly, but Russian culture was morally of a higher type because it was interested in something other than crude statements of `I want' and `this is mine'... As early as Odoevsky [1840s] the country's desire not to be Western turned into a vision of itself as a mystical world economy running on selflessness.

Idealism, uniqueness and separateness have long been central elements of the "Russian Soul," and this superb volume brings a bit of order and understanding to the eclectic and elusive topic that is Russian philosophy, making it approachable for the general reader. (Reviewed in Russian Life)
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4.0 von 5 Sternen sophisticated approach to intellectual history 7. Mai 2010
Von Bruce P. Barten - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format:Taschenbuch
Many of the basic doctrines of philosophy escape me. I tend to think: I think, therefore I am a thinker, forever removed from the real world in which policy rules among a bunch of spiteful authoritarian thinkers who don't care what I think. Lesley Chamberlain mentions Nietzsche, Rilke, Bakhtin, Heidegger, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, and other thinkers who struggled with problems that are difficult to describe. I think she mentioned a book called The Yawning Heights. Bakhtin's theories on the novel are used as an excuse to mention a novelist who claims that the absurd instances in his writing attempt to capture the kind of experiences that doctrines imposed upon people produce. The ways in which a technocratic society attempts to set things up so they will run forever turns into the problem that the entire world is facing at the end of the book.
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