The Enlightened West – or the Light from the East? Dostoyevski’s Construction of the Other out of Crisis

Christoph Garstka


Accusing Western societies of being, in the words of Voegelin, in “a very complex pneumopathological state of mind” and asserting that a pseudo-humanistic liberalism and a ‘wrong’ enlightenment caused the estrangement of the spirit from his religious ground has been an essential topos in anti-Western civilization criticism in Russia for nearly 200 years. Being an influential intellectual, Dostoevsky supported and amplified that view. In what follows, the roots of this topos will be traced back to its early beginnings in Russian culture in the 1820s/30s. Dostoevsky’s journalistic works, in particular, convey fierce criticism of European spiritlessness and a misconceived enlightenment. Two of his texts will be scrutinized in which the terms ‘enlightenment’ and ‘spirit’ play an important role. Interestingly, those texts also reveal that Dostoevsky’s notion of the latter terms does not really change but is even intensified after his return from Siberia.

Keywords: West-East, Europe and Russia, Voegelin, A Writer's Diary

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