Conrad and Philosophy

Sławomir Mazurek

Both Fyodor Dostoevsky and Joseph Conrad were great reformers of the modern novel, who had rejected the existing conventions and proposed their own new aesthetics. There is, however, one important difference between the two (or, at least, there seems to be one at first sight): Dostoevsky’s prose is often called philosophical; it deeply influenced several important thinkers, such as Nietzsche and Camus, and was the source of inspiration for an entire philosophical current known as the Russian Religious Renaissance, while nothing of the kind can be said about Conrad. Does that mean that his prose is devoid of philosophical content or that he did not have his own, original, anthropological and on­tological concept? Certain ambiguities in critical commentaries to his work, especially those written by Polish critics, suggest that Conrad is probably more philosophical than we used to think. The author of the article tries to reconstruct his anthropology, ontology and eth­ics. First, he rejects a certain ‘moralistic’ interpretation of Conrad, common – particularly, but not exclusively – in Polish culture, then he describes three types of existence discerned by the writer (i.e. the natural, immoral, and moral ones) and, finally, emphasises Conrad’s strong sense of the absurdity of nature, its enmity towards the human being, as well as the absence of God in the universe. All this leads us to a conclusion that Conrad – contrary both to the prevailing opinion and his own literary nickname – had rather little in common with the romantic tradition and was actually “a classic in a romantic form”.

DOI: 10.37240/AHFiMS.2022.66.67.7


Keywords: philosophical novel · immoralism · romanticism · atheism · Conrad

Sławomir Mazurek — Associate Professor at the Institute of Philosophy and Sociology of the Polish Academy of Sciences. Expert on Russian Philosophy; author of several books about so called Russian religious Renaissance, among others: Wątki katastroficzne w myśli rosyjskiej i polskiej (Catastrophical Currents in Russian and Polish Thought 1917–1950); Utopia i łaska. Idea rewolucji moralnej w rosyjskiej filozofii religijnej (The Utopia and The Grace. Idea of Moral Revolution in the Russian Religious Thought).   »  

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