'L. TOLSTOI AND DOSTOYEVSKY' BY DMITRY MEREZHKOVSKY. AN ATTEMPT AT A 'METAPHYSICAL CRITIQUE'
The substantial critical work by the poet, prose writer, essayist and philosopher Dmitry Merezhkovsky (1866-1941) entitled 'L. Tolstoi and Dostoyevsky' (1905) is an example of the Russian religious renaissance of the 'silver age'. It is a peculiar synthesis of the author's views on the contemporary secularised culture, conventionalised as a religious and metaphysical treatise, which brings a forecast of its future fate. Looking from the perspective of the 'oeuvre' of the two Russian literary classics, Merezhkovsky sees the dangers of historical Christianity and the poor condition of the state, society and individuals. The point of departure for him are the philosophical questions, familiar to writers, concerning anthropology, ethics, and aesthetics. The study in question testifies to the broad intellectual outlook of the author, but it also brings a highly subjective, religiously inspired and deeply eschatological picture of Russian life of the early 20th century. The present article discusses the most important issues raised in Merezhkovsky's work. He perceived the two writers as representatives of two opposing outlooks: the pseudoreligious, rationalistic (Tolstoi) and the religious, idealistic (Dostoyevsky), which reflect two principally different concepts of both man - his rights, liberties and aspirations - and culture. The thinker considers and assesses the authors' writings in the context of his own religious and metaphysical convictions, in the light of the division of culture into Christianity and paganism. He claims that while in Tolstoi's case the 'earthliness' of man, his bodily nature and soul predominate, in Dostoyevsky it is the aesthetics of 'the interior', spirituality, depth of individual experience seen as 'touching other worlds', and 'the work of the creative, religious thought' that prevail. Merezhkovsky's study, which diagnoses the twilight of culture severed from its religious roots, also illustrates the utopian zeal of the author, his faith in the theocracy of the future, which was to be based on the unity of the spirit - the eternal source of thought and willpower.
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