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16 November 2018

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by Leslie Chamberlain

If one wanted to understand the fundamental difference in Russian and American worldviews which lies at the root of the current cooling in relations, the following passage from Lesley Chamberlain’s new book on Russia’s philosophical legacy would be a good place to start:

The Russian moral antipathy to Utilitarianism has been remarkably consistent... [Russia was] less prosperous, technologically less advanced, admittedly, but Russian culture was morally of a higher type because it was interested in something other than crude statements of ‘I want’ and ‘this is mine’... As early as Odoevsky [1840s] the country’s desire not to be Western turned into a vision of itself as a mystical world economy running on selflessness.

Idealism, uniqueness and separateness have long been central elements of the “Russian Soul,” and this superb volume brings a bit of order and understanding to the eclectic and elusive topic that is Russian philosophy, making it approachable for the general reader.

— Paul E. Richardson

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Reviewed in Russian Life: July/August 2007