Skip to main content

Research Vision

Scholars affiliated with the NU RPLRT Research Initiative pursue research in many aspects of Russian philosophy, literature, and religious thought, and related areas of Russian thought and culture. Russian philosophy, literature, and religious thought have always posed essential questions about meaning and value, questions that go to the heart of the humanities. One remarkable feature of the Russian philosophical tradition is its open humanism. Russian thinkers have sought a deep understanding of what it is to be human, both because of its obvious interest, but also for what it tells us about the nature of reality. Perhaps the most precious theme in the history of Russian philosophy is the defense of human dignity and the nature of personhood. Here Russian philosophical inquiry bears directly on current (and long-standing) debates about the origins and grounding of human rights. Furthermore, nineteenth and twentieth-century Russian philosophers typically drew ontological or metaphysical conclusions from their philosophical anthropology: they believed that certain distinctive human capacities (self-consciousness, reason, free will, creativity) refute materialism and open up richer conceptions of reality, including ones which make room for the divine. In this way the open humanism of the Russian philosophical tradition converged with Russian religious thought, which encompassed other areas of Russian culture such as literature and the fine arts.

The NU RPLRT Research Initiative is guided by the conviction that Russian philosophy, literature, and religious thought should be studied within the broad contexts of world culture and history. This entails dispelling the mistaken impression that these fields are of exclusively specialized, Eurocentric, and North Atlantic interest. The Initiative will foster scholarship on the global contexts and meanings of these traditions. The war in Ukraine raises a related (and pressing) question which will also guide our discussions: What does it mean to study Russian philosophy, literature, and religious thought in a time of catastrophe?