Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, and Nietzsche

Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, and Nietzsche

Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, and Nietzsche

Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, and Nietzsche

Excerpt

The first of the essays in the present volume, The Good in the Teaching of Tolstoy and Nietzsche: Philosophy and Preaching, was published by Lev Shestov in 1900, when he was thirty-four years old, and the second, Dostoevsky and Nietzsche: The Philosophy of Tragedy, three years later in 1903. In them are to be found the beginnings of the passionate assault on philosophical idealism and on conventional morality that Shestov was to maintain uninterruptedly and with ever increasing power throughout his lifetime, as well as the first gropings of the quest for faith in the omnipotent God of the Bible that was to be fulfilled and become the leitmotif of all his thinking and writing in the last decades of his life up to the time of his death in 1938.

It was Shestov's discovery of the works of Friedrich Nietzsche in the late 1890's that decisively destroyed the vague moral idealism that he had adopted in his youth and that is still reflected in his first book, Shakespeare and His Critic Brandes, published in 1898. Henceforth, Nietzsche was to exercise a major influence on his thought, leading him to a relentless questioning of all the certainties that had previously constituted the furnishings of his own mind and that, for others, still retained their authority undisturbed.

In reflecting upon the mass of paradoxical and challenging ideas that he found in Nietzsche, Shestov could not help noting some striking similarities, along with some fundamental differences, between the German philosopher and the two greatest Russian literary figures of the second half of the Nineteenth Century, Leo Tolstoy and Feodor Dostoevsky. A careful comparison of these similarities and differences, as well as a serious . . .

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