"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Friday, October 30, 2020

Simeon Frank's Unknowable Ontology

Simeon (Semyon) Frank remains a fascinating figure from the so-called Silver Age of Russian letters. I have noticed an upsurge of interest in him over the past decade or so as more of his works are translated and studied, including the publication this year of his The Unknowable: An Ontological Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion, trans. Boris Jakim (Angelico Press, 2020), 346pp. 

About this book and its author the publisher tells us this:

The Unknowable is arguably the greatest Russian philosophical work of the twentieth century. In its density and profundity it is comparable to Pavel Florensky’s The Pillar and Ground of the Truth and Sergius Bulgakov’s The Bride of the Lamb. In 1937 Frank described The Unknowable as “the best and most profound thing which I have so far written.” The Unknowable was the culmination of Frank’s intellectual and spiritual development, the boldest and most imaginative of all his writings, containing a synthesis of epistemology, ontology, social philosophy, religious philosophy, and personal spiritual experience: the soul transcends outward to knowledge of other souls, thereby gaining knowledge of itself, becoming itself for the first time; and the soul transcends inward to gain knowledge of God, acquiring for the first time stable, certain being in this knowledge.  

S. L. FRANK (1877–1950) was one of the leading Russian philosophers of the twentieth century. Some authorities consider him to be the most outstanding Russian philosopher of any age. His active philosophical career spanned the half-century from 1902 to 1950. Over the course of this period he produced seven book-length treatises on philosophy, as well as several long philosophical essays, in addition to a mass of articles and reviews. When young, he took part in a Marxist group and was arrested and banned from major Russian cities. Yet, like a number of other Russian thinkers, he was not satisfied with Marxism and turned first to Idealism and then to religious philosophy. In 1922, along with other major ideological opponents of the Communist State, Frank was expelled from the Soviet Union. He worked in exile until his death in London in 1950.

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