Deadline: April 1, 2020
Socrates in Russia
Editors: Victoria Juharyan (Middlebury College) and Alyssa DeBlasio (Dickinson College)
In a philosophical fragment titled “Socrates in Russia,” the Ukrainian philosopher Gregory Skovoroda (1722-1794) writes: “In Russia there are many men who would be Platos, Aristotles, Zenos, Epicuruses; but they don’t stop to think that the Academy, the Lyceum, and the Stoa developed from the thought of Socrates, as a chick grows from the yolk of an egg. So long as we do not have a Russian Socrates we shall have no Russian Plato or any other philosopher.” Under the guise of a prayer for a Russian Socrates, this fragment reveals Skovoroda’s own self-conception as that very Socrates in Russia. His life and works only reconfirm this notion: Skovoroda left us 33 Platonic dialogues and led the life of a peripatetic philosopher. The introduction to Gregory Skovoroda’s collected works begins with a quote by the legendary Georgian philosopher Merab Mamardashvili (1930-1990), who was himself dubbed as “the Georgian Socrates.” Mamardashvili writes: “…In the history of philosophy, in general, there are these strange cycles, something akin to a play of correspondences… Let’s put it this way: Greek philosophy after all started essentially with Socrates, and for some reason always, when philosophy begins again, it begins with Socrates… Just under a different name… And so, Socratic experience underlies these cycles. It repeats…” There are many other such Socratic figures in the history of Russia’s philosophy, especially as the practice of not writing became an act of resistance against Tsarist and, later, Soviet ideology.
This collected volume will explore the figure of Socrates, both literally and figuratively, in Russian and Soviet intellectual history. A first potential line of investigation involves Russian philosophy’s engagement with the Socratic legacy. Where does the figure of Socrates appear in Russian philosophical thought and what role does Socrates’ “poetic persona” (as Søren Kierkegaard called him) play? A second line involves an attempt to answer Skovoroda’s question. If there is a Russian Socrates, then who might that be? Socratic figures in Russia’s philosophical history could include Aleksandr Radishchev, Aleksandr Herzen, Petr Chaadaev, Mikhail Bakhtin, or Evgenii Shiffers, whose oral discourse had a significant impact on artists and philosophers in the 1960s and 1970s. There are also lesser-known thinkers like A. V. Kartashev, A. A. Meier (and the Voskresenie Circle), G. P. Fedotov, A. P. Smirnov, N. V. Pigulevskaia, N. P. Antsiferov, P. F. Smotritskii, S. A. Alekseev-Askol’dov, N. I. Konrad, N. A. Kryzhanovskaia, D. D. Mikhailov, N. V. Mokridin, L. F. Shidlovskii, and many others who worked according to the Socratic model. We might also consider a different approach to the topic: If there is no Russian Socrates, then why has Russia’s philosophical tradition failed to make good on Skovoroda’s prayers?
We invite contributions that address these and/or the many other questions connected to the broader theme of “Socrates in Russia.” Preliminary abstracts (no more than one page) should be submitted to the editors by April 1, 2020. Full-length submissions will then be requested by summer 2021.
Please send questions or submissions to:
Victoria Juharyan, firstname.lastname@example.org
Alyssa DeBlasio, email@example.com
Current contributors and their topics include:
Mikhail Epstein (Emory University) on Yakov Abramov
Victoria Juharyan (Middlebury College) on Grigorii Skovoroda
Brian Armstrong (Augusta University): What does it mean to be a Socrates?
Alyssa DeBlasio (Dickinson College) on False Socrateses, Merab Mamardashvili, and Pushkin