The Two Reasons of Shestov

Michał Węcławski

The text is an attempt to examine the notion of reason in Lev Shestov’s philosophy and to show that it is not as clear as it usually seems. It is therefore about what is visible and what is hidden, yet not meaningless. On the one hand his critique of reason uncompromisingly dispels any doubts about the harmful nature of all rationalism; on the other hand, however, it indicates that the notion of reason conceals only a specific attitude towards the world and a certain way of philosophising. Although Shestov himself would not speak of the two reasons, careful reconstruction of his views justifi es such an idea. To better grasp the meaning of the issue, the article looks at the ideological background, reminding that in the history of philosophy reason had also been understood in different ways, and that the ‘two reasons’ have their historical equivalents. The qualities that Shestov attributes to reason are enumerated. It is also emphasized that the negation of knowledge and reason should not be regarded as a nihilistic manifesto; Shestov does not discourage all knowledge, but under the outer layer of negation he announces a positive message about the shape of reason and its proper role in authentic philosophy. Hence Shestov’s thought is not a mere critique of reason in general, but only of its certain historical form, and it is also an appeal to replace it with a different one.


Keywords: Lev Shestov · reason · faith · heart · Athens and Jerusalem · rationalism

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