L.N. Tolstoy's Principle of “Non-Resistance to Evil by Violence” in the Context of Russian Religious Philosophy of the Late XIX - Early XX Century

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The article discusses how the meaning of the principle of “non-resistance to evil by violence” was changing in L.N. Tolstoy's religious and philosophical teachings and how this principle was evaluated in Russian religious philosophy of the late XIX - early XX century. In the first version of Tolstoy’s teachings, set forth in the book “What is my faith?”, the principle of non-resistance was understood in a moral sense, as the norm for all people; its execution should lead to the perfection of earthly life. This idea of L. Tolstoy was sharply criticised by his contemporaries, who noted that there was no truly religious content in Tolstoy’s teachings, it was turning into a utilitarian doctrine of the earthly progress of mankind. Given this criticism, Tolstoy in his later works changed his understanding of the principle of non-resistance. Drawing a distinction between two levels of human life - “animal” and divine, Tolstoy recognised the principle of non-resistance to the law as the divine life of a man. As a result, the principle of non-resistance has acquired a religious rather than moral meaning, since the transition of a man to a divine life means a mystical transformation of his being. He is aware of his super-spatial and super-temporary unity with all people and with all being, and therefore can evaluate the consequences of his actions not only in the limited sphere of his life, but also in all infinite being. In this regard, a person realizes the absolute superiority of good deeds over evil, even if the latter are committed to confront evil. It is shown that some critics of Tolstoy came to a similar understanding of the religious meaning of the principle of non-resistance at the end of their lives (N.A. Berdyaev, L.P. Karsavin).

About the authors

I. I. Evlampiev

St. Petersburg State University

Author for correspondence.
Email: yevlampiev@mail.ru

Sc. in Philosophy, Professor, Institute of Philosophy

5, Mendeleevskaya liniya, St. Petersburg, Russian Federation, 199034

I. Yu. Matveeva

Russian State Institute of Performing Arts

Email: inga.matveeva.spb@gmail.com

Ph.D. in Philology, Associate Professor at the Theatrical department

34, Mokhovaya St., St. Petersburg, Russian Federation, 191028


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Copyright (c) 2020 Evlampiev I.I., Matveeva I.Y.

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