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Academic Periodical

The Quarterly Journal of St. Philaret’s Institute

ISSN: 2658-7599 (print)
2713-3141 (online)

Thoughts from the Crimea: Father Sergius Bulgakov on the Drama of Ontologism

Victor Granovsky, Cand. Sci. (Philosophy), Associate Professor of the Department of Philosophy, Moscow Aviation Institute (National Research University), Moscow
pp. 171–206
DOI: 10.25803/26587599_2021_40_171
This article reviews Sergey Bulgakov’s critical views of the basic concepts of German idealism. The particular nature of the Russian philosopher’s reconstruction is brought to light, and the author shows that its distinguishing feature is the rejection of gnosiological processes as an existential guide in favour of their replacement with an ontological setting. The author emphasizes that although such demands were typical of the era of ideological transition “from Marxism to idealism”, they were, nevertheless, not the only ideological strategy adopted by Russian philosophical movements of that time. Systems of Russian thought — recognizable as constructions of Russian idealists who did not consider it necessary to abandon the classical philosophical tradition in order to renew Christian philosophy — are critical of Bulgakov’s ontologism. Such constructions include, for example, the neo- Kantianism of Fyodor Stepun and the neo-Hegelianism of Ivan Ilyin, both of whom were contemporaries of Bulgakov. At the same time, mystic-rationalist Vladimir Solovyov was himself a philosophical universalist — at home with both “metaphysical ontology” and idealistic speculation. Solovyov might be called the common ground of these two trends, which when taken together can yield some productive polemic. 
The three-hypostatic character of being, which is Bulgakov’s fundamental theologoumenon in both his “sophiology” and his “philosophy of the name”, is seen in this article as the ontological axiom of Bulgakov’s philosophy during his Crimean period. By providing an original context for the consideration of western European philosophical thought, this “perspective from above” sheds new light on the subject, allowing us to perceive unexpected and productive twists and turns in western European thought. 
This perspective is of interest not only in Russia, but also in the West. Evidence of this can be found in the fact that eminent French thought historian Pierre Hadot (1922–2010) appeals to Bulgakov’s ideas in his own work. 
At the same time, this article stresses that in opposition to the imperative Bulgakov himself sets out, such a view cannot be unconditionally affirmed as Christian-dogma or as foundational for determining where, or where not, heresy is present.
Both ontologism and antinomianism, which Fr. Sergius affirms, bring with them internal philosophical and theological difficulties. First and foremost, they often quite unexpectedly — even for the philosopher himself — lead into the territory of mythological archaism, distancing Bulgakov’s thought not only from rationalism, but also from Orthodox Christian contemplations which have been tried and tested by Holy Tradition. At the same time, Bulgakov’s systematic structures — put to the task of developing such anti-systematic principles — remain a motivation for and the foundation of much active intellectual work both on the reception of Bulgakov’s thought, and on progress in the development of a particularly Russian Christian form of thought.
Keywords: theology, аrchpriest Sergius Bulgakov, ontologism, idealism, sophiology, name-glory, philosophy, myth

Last IssueIssue 45 (winter 2023)

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