Journal Put’,  mar/apr, 1936, No. 50, p. 56-57.


(1936 – #411)

The sad news about the death of Georgii Ivanovich Chelpanov, with whom I was connected by friendship of old, has evoked in me remembrances of my youth. G. I. was the first philosopher, whom I met with in life and whom I conversed with on many a philosophical theme. He was a young lecturer at the Kiev University, and he gave a non-required course, devoted to a critique of materialism, set within an overpacked auditorium. From this course later emerged his book, “The Brain and the Soul”. I was then a young student, a Marxist, yet together with this an adherent of idealist philosophy. I made it to the lectures of but few courses at the University, but I went often to the course of G. I. Chelpanov on materialism. He was an excellent lecturer. I was very open to a critique of materialism, and the scientific philosophic critique at that time was a great service of G. I. It would serve no less a service also at the present time in Russia. I soon made the acquaintance of G. I. and began often to show up at the Chelpanov house, which had open-house on Saturdays. Their house in Kiev was an intellectual centre, and G. I.’s wife was a very talented woman. Many gathered there — L. Shestov, V. V. Vodovozov, A. M. Lazarov, and somewhat later S. N. Bulgakov, having become a professor at the Kiev Polytechnic Institute. The philosophic discussions with G. I. Chelpanov were the source of much for me. G. I. and I belonged to different types, he was a “shepherd” in philosophy, I was a “thief” in philosophy (the opposition between these types derives from Nietzsche). But with G. I. there was a breadth and diversity of mental interests, he had an open mind and with him it was possible to speak about everything. But despite the fact that he was first of all a professor, a teacher, and that his philosophy was very academic in type, yet in him there was none of the professorial stuffiness that is so often to be met with. He was always fine and cordial towards me in attitude, though there was much in me to distress him. Very happy memories have remained with me of the gatherings at the Chelpanov house. His Kiev period was the period of the greatest flourishing and the greatest popularity of G. I. After his selection as a professor at the Moscow University we continued to meet often, and we had very fine relations right up to my expulsion from Moscow. G. I. at Moscow was chiefly involved with the creation of a Polytechnic Institute. The Soviet period brought him much disappointment, although he was quite completely foreign to politics. His disappointment was chiefly bound up with the position of science and philosophy in Russia. Philosophy with us has always had a sorrowful fate, it was under suspicion both from the right and from the left, it was a matter under constraint in Old Russia and indeed the teaching of philosophy was forbidden. In Soviet Communist Russia philosophy is even less free, than in the era of Emp. Nicholas I, in it is permitted only the official state philosophy of dialectical materialism. G. I. was a defender of the freedom of philosophic knowledge, of the freedom of science, and he could live only in the atmosphere of this freedom. He strove especially for the developing of psychological science in Russia, which he connected with philosophy. He was a genuine scholar, he believed in science. G. I. in his books did not develope his metaphysics, his books were devoted chiefly to the theory of cognition and psychology, but with him there was always a metaphysical tendency, even back when metaphysics was heckled. It was with great sadness that I learned about the sorry last years of his life and about his death, and I hold very dear the memory of G. G., and with him is connected a long ago period of life.

Nikolai Berdyaev


©  2003 by translator Fr. S. Janos.

(1936 -411 – en)

PAMYATI  GEORGIYA  IVANOVICHA  CHELPANOVA.  Journal Put’, mar/apr. 1936, No. 50, p. 56-57.