Nikolai Lossky

From New World Encyclopedia

Russian philosophy
20th century philosophy
Name: Nikolai Onufriyevich Lossky
Birth: December 6, 1870 (Kreslavka, Russian Empire)
Death: January 24, 1965 (Paris, France)
School/tradition: Intuitionism
Main interests
Notable ideas
Intuitivist-Personalism, gnosiology-Epistemology
Influences Influenced
Hegel, Wilhelm Windelband, Wilhelm Wundt, Pavel Florensky Ayn Rand, Vladimir Lossky

Nikolai Onufriyevich Lossky (Russian: Николай Онуфриевич Лосский) (December 6 [O.S. November 24] 1870 – January 24, 1965) was a Russian philosopher, representative of Russian idealism, intuitionism, personalism, ethics and his intuitivism. His philosophy represents a Neoplatonism based on Leibniz's Monadology.

Lossky was a Russian Orthodox who was, by his own admission, "less concerned with theology than with the task of working out a system of metaphysics necessary for a Christian interpretation of the world."[1]


He was born in the village of Kreslavka, Dinaburg uyezd (region), Vitebsk gubernia (province) of Russian Empire. Lossky undertook post-graduate study in Germany under Wilhelm Windelband, Wilhelm Wundt and G. E. Müller, receiving a Master's degree in 1903 and a Doctorate in 1907. Returning to Russia, he became Lecturer and subsequently Assistant Professor of philosophy at St Petersburg. Lossky called for a Russian religious and spiritual reawakening while pointing out post-revolution excesses. At the same time, Lossky survived an elevator accident that nearly killed him, after which he converted back to the Russian Orthodox Church under the direction of Father Pavel Florensky. These criticisms and conversion cost Lossky his professorship of philosophy and led to his exile abroad the famed Philosophers' ship (in 1922) from the Soviet Union as a counter-revolutionary.

Lossky was invited to Prague by Tomáš Masaryk and became Professor at the Russian University of Prague at Bratislava, in Czechoslovakia. Lossky was part of a group of ex-Marxists, including Nikolai Berdyaev, Sergei Bulgakov, Mikhail Gershenzon, Peter Berngardovich Struve, Semen L. Frank. Lossky, though a Fabian socialist, contributed to the group's symposium named Vekhi or Signposts. He also helped the Harvard sociologist Pitirim Sorokin with his Social and Cultural Dynamics

In 1947 N.O. Lossky took a position at Piously-Vladimir spiritual academy or Saint Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary, a Russian Orthodox seminary, in New York. In 1961, after the death of his son Vladimir, Lossky went to France: the last four years of his life were spent in illness there. He died there from natural causes at a nursing home near Paris. Lossky had four sons, the most famous being the Eastern Orthodox Theologian Vladimir Lossky.[2]


Lossky was one of the few Russian philosophers of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries whose interest was primarily philosophical, not primarily social. His greatest philosophical influence was Leibnitz's Monadology. In The World as an Organic Whole, Lossky lays out a neo-Leibnitzian, neo-Platonic theory based on monads, or "substantival agents." Lossky's monads are radically free to choose their own destiny. Some choose the way of divine righteousness and God's Kingdom, others do not and fall into the material realm, which is inherently "fallen." Lossky's "monad" are not merely individual entities as in most modern Western philosophy; they are already connected in an organic unity. He replaced epistemological individualism with what he calls "intuitivism."

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Lossky's Гносеология or gnosiology called Intuitivist-Personalism in part adapted the Hegelian dialectical approach of first addressing a problem in thought in terms of its expression as a duality or dichotomy. Once the problem is expressed as a dichotomy the two opposing ideas are fused in order to transcend the dichotomy. This transition is expressed in the concept of соборность (sobornost), or mystical communal union.[3] Lossky also followed and developed his ontological and gnosiological interpretation of objective reality from Christian neoplatonism, in which the object, even being a part of an external world, joins the consciousness of the subject directly—this causing different levels of maturing consciousness over time (reinterpretation). This dynamic retention constitutes the process of learning, i.e. reflective differentiation. Consequently the existence of objects can not be completely expressed with logic or words, nor validated with knowledge, due to objects having a supernatural (in a Greek philosophy or Eastern Orthodox understanding of supernatural) component to their make up this is expressed as metaphysics.[4]

One of the main points of Lossky's онтология or ontology is, the world is an organic whole as understood by human consciousness. Intuition is the direct contemplation of objects, and furthermore the assembling of the entire set of cognition from sensory perception into a complete and undivided organic whole i.e. experience—consciousness without thought, raw and uninterpreted by the mind. Where re-action is without processing or is outside of comprehension via the mind, intuition being analogous with instinctual consciousness. Intuition functions without rational or logical thought. Rational or logical thought via the nous then works in reflection as hindsight to organize experience into a comprehensible order, i.e. ontology. Intuitive knowledge or Gnosis (pre-processed knowledge or uninterpreted), then, is history or memory rather than a determining factor of or during an actual conscious experience. Once knowledge is abstracted from conscious experience it is then stored in an ontological format in the mind (the format itself a priori). The manipulation of memory and or reapplication of memory as knowledge being post-processed knowledge, i.e. Epistemology. Сущность (the "essence") expressed as being and or becoming is possible as both the person transcends time and space while being closely connected with the whole world, while in this world.


In biographical reminiscences recorded by Barbara Branden in the early 1960s, Ayn Rand named Lossky as her primary philosophy teacher at the University of Petrograd or University of St. Petersburg until he was removed from his teaching post by the Soviet regime. However, some of Rand's statements have been called into question.[2]


From the introduction of Value and Existence:

Due to the tradition of the Church, Russia had an implicit philosophy, a philosophy that was born of the Neoplatonism of the Church Fathers. This implicit Neo-platonism is the true heritage of Russian thinking.

Selected bibliography

  • The Fundamental Doctrines of Psychology from the Point of View of Voluntarism «Фундаментальные Доктрины Психологии с Точки зрения Волюнтаризма» (1903)
  • The Intuitive Basis of Knowledge «Обоснование интуитивизма» (1906)
  • The World as an Organic Whole «Мир как органическое целое» (1917)
  • The Fundamental Problems of Epistemology «Основные вопросы гносеологии» (1919)
  • Freedom of Will «Свобода воли» (1927)
  • Value and Existence «Ценность и существование» (1931) by Lossky N. O. and John S. Marshall published by George Allen & Unwin LTD, 1935.
  • Dialectical Materialism in the U.S.S.R. «Диалектический Материализм в СССР» (1934)
  • Sensous, Intellectual and Mystical Intuition «Чувственная, интеллектуальная и мистическая интуиция» (1938)
  • Intellectual intuition, ideal existence and creative activity «Интеллектуальная интуиция и идеальное бытие, творческая активность» (1941)
  • Mystical Intuition «Мистическая интуиция» (1941)
  • Evolution and ideal life «Эволюция и идеальное бытие» (1941)
  • God and suffering «Бог и всемирное зло» (1941)
  • Absolute Good «Условия абсолютного добра» (1944)
  • History of Russian Philosophy «История российской Философии» (1951)
  • The world as the realization of beauty «Мир как осуществление красоты» (1945)
  • Dostoevsky and his Christian Understanding of the World «Достоевский и его христианское мировоззрение» (1953)

See also


  1. Lossky, History of Russian Philosophy, p. 206, as quoted in Edie, et. al., Russian Philosophy, p. 316.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Chris Matthew Sciabarra, "Investigation: the Search for Ayn Rand's Russian Roots" Liberty 1999-10. Retrieved May 2, 2008.
  3. Chris Matthew Sciabarra, Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical (Pennsylvania State University Press, 1995, ISBN 0-271-01441-5).
  4. N. O. Lossky and John S. Marshall, Value and Existence (Ценность и существование) (1931) (George Allen & Unwin LTD, 1935).

ISBN links support NWE through referral fees

  • Edie, James M., James P. Scanlon, and Mary-Barbara Zeldin (eds.). Russian Philosophy. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1976. ISBN 9780870492006
  • Lossky, N.O. History of Russian Philosophy «История российской Философии» Allen & Unwin, London, 1951. ASIN: B000H45QTY
  • Kassow, Samuel D. Students, Professors, and the State in Tsarist Russia. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989. ISBN 9780520057609
  • Sciabarra, Chris Matthew. Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical. Pennsylvania State University Press, 1995. ISBN 0-271-01441-5.
  • Shein, Louis J. 1966. N. O. Lossky, 1870-1965: A Russian Philosopher. Russian Review, 25:2, pp. 214-216. ISSN 0036-0341

External links

All links retrieved November 14, 2022.


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