Ukrainian Philosophy

Lesson   4 (seminar – 6 hours)


 1. The traditions and peculiarities of the development of the Ukrainian philosophical thought.

 2. The classic Ukrainian Philosophy

 Aim: – to explain peculiar features of philosophy origin in terms of history, characteristic features of philosophical thinking the Ukrainian philosophy;

 – to identify the peculiar features of the Ukrainian Mentality

 Professional orientation of students: to enlarge outlook of future medical workers with knowledge about unique ability of human consciousness and thinking; to learn to manage patients of different religious and ethinic communities.

Students’ independent work program

 I. The traditions and peculiarities of the development of the Ukrainian philosophical thought.

 1.     The Ukrainian mythology.

 2.     Christianity in Ukraine.

 3.     Yaroslav the Wise.

 4.     Brtotherhoods.

 ІІ.  The classic Ukrainian Philosophy

 1.     Kyiv-Mohyla Academy.

 2.     Taras Shevchenko.

 3.     Hrygoriy Skovoroda and his “philosophy of heart”.

 4.     Ukrainian mentality.

 Tests and questions for self-control:

 1.     Name the main stages of the historical development of the Ukrainian philosophy.

 2.     Name the main representatives of the Ukrainian philosophy.

 3.     Identify the main features of the Ukrainian mentality.

 4.     Make up the portofolio of the philosophical terms

Ukrainian Philosophy


An intellectual discipline (literally, ‘love of wisdom’ in classical Greek) that, in the course of its history, has been variously defined as the study of the basic principles of being, the testing of the foundations of knowledge, the general guide to the good life, the analysis of basic scientific concepts and methods, and the examination of certain concepts of ordinary language. Unlike the specialized sciences, it does not have its own subject matter or distinctive method. Hence, only a vague definition, such as ‘the critical and systematic reflection on questions of the greatest concern to man,’ may be broad enough to cover the various forms assumed by philosophy.

Because it was adopted from other cultures to address certain pressing political or religious needs, philosophy in Ukraine has been preoccupied with practical rather than theoretical problems. The political calamities and attendant cultural disruptions in the history of Ukraine account to a large extent for the lack of durable philosophical tradition in Ukraine and for the absence of a distinctively Ukrainian system or worldview. For this reason some important Ukrainian thinkers (eg, Hryhorii Skovoroda) have been assigned mistakenly to Russia's more stable philosophical culture; others (Pamfil Yurkevych, Volodymyr Lesevych) did in fact work in a non-Ukrainian tradition. Lacking its own philosophical literature and institutions, Ukrainian culture could be considered to have been incomplete during some periods of its development. At such times writers and poets rather than philosophers were the propagators of philosophical ideas and theories among the Ukrainian public.

Medieval period. The period from the adoption of Eastern Christianity (see Christianization of Ukraine) to the Mongol invasion (10th–13th centuries) was marked by vigorous intellectual development. The assimilation of Byzantine culture was not passive, but an active rethinking that gave rise to original speculation. Because of a common literary language and alphabet, the work of Bulgarian translators and thinkers was readily transferable to Kyivan Rus’. The ideas of Greek philosophers and the Church Fathers entered Kyivan Rus’ through Bulgarian translations of Greek collections or original Bulgarian compilations, including the Izbornik of Sviatoslav (1073), Zlatostrui, Pchela (The Bee), the chronicles of John Malalas and Georgios Hamartolos, the Lives of Saint Cyril and Saint Methodius, the Hexaëmeron of Exarch John of Bulgaria, The Source of Knowledge of Saint John of Damascus, and apocrypha. The new, imported ideas, which themselves were not systematized and were often opposed, did not displace old folk beliefs, but were set alongside them. Thus, many conflicting answers to the same basic questions were found in different and even the same sources. Neither a single dogmatic scheme not a unified worldview was worked out.

Since political motives played a decisive role in the religious conversion of Kyivan Rus’, the emergent philosophical thought was focused on political rather than religious questions. Authors of the first original works produced in Kyivan Rus’ were not concerned much with personal salvation or the defense of Christian doctrine, but with a higher justification of the political order. Metropolitan Ilarion's ‘Slovo o zakoni i blahodati’ (Sermon on Law and Grace), the finest theoretical work written in Kyivan Rus’, shows how the Christianization of Rus’ is the fulfillment of universal history. Grand Prince Volodymyr Monomakh's Poucheniie ditiam (Instruction for [My] Children) and the Rus’ chronicles portray the ideal prince, a combination of the pagan warrior and the fatherly Christian ruler. Besides these works, the sermons of Bishop Cyril of Turiv, the letters of Metropolitan Klym Smoliatych (reputedly the best philosopher in Kyivan Rus’), and the writings of Nestor the Chronicler contain philosophical ideas, but fall far short of the kind of articulated, systematic thinking characteristic of scholasticism. The worldview expressed in the literature and folklore of Kyivan Rus’ was practical, optimistic, and life-asserting. The Church Fathers' Christian Neoplatonism reinforced the sense of divine presence in the world and the expectation of happiness in this life that were characteristic of the earlier pagan outlook. The sharp opposition between God and nature, as well as the spirit and the body, and its attendant rejection of the joys of this world was confined to a relatively narrow class of ascetic works (see Asceticism).

The Mongol invasion of the mid-13th century began a long period of political turmoil and cultural decline in Rus’. For almost three centuries nothing significant was added to the Kyivan intellectual heritage. As a mood of historical pessimism set in, people turned to religion and mysticism for comfort. In the mid-14th century Hesychasm, a form of monastic mysticism, spread from Bulgaria to Ukraine, and in the 15th century a rationalist sect of Judaizers appeared in Kyiv.

Renaissance period. Philosophical ideas and methods of argument gained a new importance in the period of religious struggle in Europe. At the end of the 15th century the ideas of humanism were brought to Ukraine by foreign travelers and by Ukrainians studying at foreign universities. The Reformation, which was carried into Galicia and Volhynia by rationalist sects, such as the Socinians, was very different in origin and purpose from the humanist movement, yet their programs coincided and reinforced each other on many points: the extension of education and learning, the use of the vernacular, the right to individual opinion, and the need to return to the original sources and to reassess critically the traditions built on them. Protestant anticlericalism, public-mindedness, and national awareness had an important influence on the church brotherhoods in Ukraine.

Although these two movements contributed to the cultural revival in Ukraine, it was the Counter-Reformation spearheaded by the Jesuits that threatened the very existence of the Orthodox faith and Ukrainian culture and aroused the Ukrainian Orthodox nobility and burghers to vigorous organized action. At first the Orthodox adopted a defensive strategy: they turned inward toward their own Greco-Slavonic tradition and rejected anything belonging to the Latin-Polish tradition. Returning to the roots of their culture, they revived the use of Greek and Church Slavonic, translated the Bible, and studied patristic theology. The achievements of the Catholic West—scholastic theology, philosophy, and logic—were viewed with suspicion as a devilish ploy to lure believers away from the true faith. New institutions were set up toward the end of the 16th century to carry out this program: the Ostrih cultural center, consisting of the Ostrih Academy and Ostrih Press, a learned circle, and a string of brotherhoods modeled on the Lviv Dormition Brotherhood. The leading Orthodox proponents were Ivan Vyshensky, V. Surazky, Khrystofor Filalet, Herasym Smotrytsky, Ostrozkyi Kliryk, Zakhariia Kopystensky, Kyrylo Stavrovetsky-Tranquillon, Isaia Kopynsky, and Yov Boretsky. To them philosophy was part of theology, and most of their ideas were derived from the same sources on which medieval thinkers had drawn—Pseudo-Dionysius, Saint John Chrysostom, Saint John of Damascus, and Exarch John of Bulgaria (see Polemical literature).

This defensive strategy led to isolation from the larger society and from the dominant culture. Withdrawal from this world for the sake of another world did not appeal to the upper classes of the nobility, clergy, and burghers, who continued to drift away from the Orthodox faith and culture. The Orthodox countered by proposing to study and assimilate the tools (Latin, Polish, rhetoric, and logic) and ideas (scholasticism) of their rivals. This was a dangerous policy, for it diminished the differences between the competing cultures, but it was the only policy that offered some hope of success. The turn to scholasticism was a return to an outlived intellectual tradition, but it created the preconditions for the separation of philosophy from theology and the introduction of modern ideas into Ukraine. The chief proponents of the new strategy were Meletii Smotrytsky, Kasiian Sakovych, Lavrentii Zyzanii, and Petro Mohyla. The Kyivan Mohyla College (later Kyivan Mohyla Academy) was the leading institution to carry out this program.

In spite of royal prohibition, philosophy began to be taught at the Kyivan Cave Monastery School (1631), and the practice was continued when the school was reorganized into the Kyivan Mohyla College, later Kyivan Mohyla Academy (1632–1817). The philosophy courses, read in Latin, usually required three years and covered three main fields, logic, physics (natural philosophy), and metaphysics. Each instructor prepared his own course; hence, the courses differed significantly in content and style. Some of the professors who offered philosophy courses at the academy were Yosyf Kononovych-Horbatsky (1639–42), Innokentii Gizel (1645–7), Yoasaf Krokovsky (1686–7), Stefan Yavorsky (1691–3), I. Popovsky (1699), Y. Turoboisky (1702–4), Kh. Charnutsky (1704–5), Teofan Prokopovych (1707–8), Y. Volchansky (1715–18), I. Levytsky (1723–5), I. Dubnevych (1725–6), Amvrosii Dubnevych (1727–8), S. Kalynovsky (1729–30), Sylvestr Kuliabka (1735–9), Mykhail Kozachynsky (1741–5), Heorhii Konysky (1749), Tymofii Shcherbatsky (1751–3), and Davyd Nashchynsky (1753–5).

The general character of these courses was syncretic—the result of blending elements of Christian Neoplatonism with Aristotelian doctrines. The Kyivan Mohyla Academy's professors drew ideas freely from the ancient philosophers (mostly Aristotle and Plato, but also the Stoics and Ptolemy), the patristic tradition (Origen, Saint Basil the Great, Saint Augustine, Pseudo-Dionysius), medieval scholasticism (Albertus Magnus, Thomas Aquinas, J. Duns Scotus, and William of Ockham), and neoscholasticism (T. Cajetan, F. Suárez, P. Fonseca, L. de Molina, R. de Arriaga, and F. de Oviedo). They often criticized Thomas Aquinas, using the arguments of his scholastic opponents. Aristotle was quoted more than any other thinker but was not treated as an infallible authority. The logic course, which consisted of an introductory part called dialectic or minor logic and a more sophisticated part called major logic, was based on Aristotle's Organon and supplemented with refinements introduced by scholastic logicians. On the central problem discussed in logic—universals—the academy's professors rejected Platonism and accepted some version of Aristotelian realism. In natural philosophy they adopted Aristotelian hylomorphism, but tended to stress the ontological primacy of prime matter over form. Tymofii Shcherbatsky was the first to proffer the Cartesian concept of matter instead of Aristotle's. While accepting creation the Kyiv thinkers tended to minimize God's subsequent intervention in the natural world. This deistic tendency contrasted sharply with their Neoplatonist metaphysics, which emphasized God's immanence in nature. A growing interest in modern science and philosophy is evident in their discussion of Copernican, Galilean, and Cartesian theories (Shcherbatsky first adopted the heliocentric theory and Descartes's vortex theory) and the rejection of Aristotle's distinction between celestial and sublunar bodies (Teofan Prokopovych, Mykhail Kozachynsky, Heorhii Konysky, Shcherbatsky). Some added ethics treatises to their courses (Prokopovych, S. Kalynovsky, Sylvestr Kuliabka, Kozachynsky, Konysky, Shcherbatsky). They tended to reject a narrow, ascetic view of life and to assert the desirability of happiness in this as well as the next life and its attainability in an active, rationally governed life. In style the courses looked much like scholastic treatises: the chief problems of philosophy were discussed one by one by proposing a thesis, listing objections, and replying to the objections.

Modern period. During the second half of the 18th century the Kyivan Mohyla Academy, Chernihiv College, Pereiaslav College, and Kharkiv College were gradually reduced to mere seminaries. At the beginning of the 1760s the Kyiv metropolitan ordered philosophy at the academy to be taught according to C. Baumeister's texts based on C. Wolff's system, and thus discouraged any individual originality and intellectual independence.

Ukraine's loss of the last vestiges of political autonomy under Catherine II and its swift cultural decline account for the weak impression that the Enlightenment made on Ukrainian thought. Without royal encouragement or interest and without vigorous institutions of higher learning independent of church control, the Enlightenment could not grow into a full-fledged movement. It is represented by a few individual thinkers, such as Yakiv Kozelsky, Petro Lodii, Ivan Rizhsky, and Johann Baptist Schad, and propagandists, such as Vasyl Karazyn, Hryhorii Vynsky, Oleksander Palytsyn, and Vasyl Kapnist. A conservative form of Enlightenment based on G. Leibniz's and C. Wolff's ideas was propagated by the higher schools; the more radical form articulated by Voltaire, J.-J. Rousseau, D. Diderot, C.-A. Helvétius, P.-H. Holbach, and Montesquieu was cultivated and propagated by small circles of educated nobles. Some Ukrainians (Hryhorii Kozytsky, Semen Desnytsky, Kozelsky, I. Vanslov, Ya. Kostensky, Hryhorii A. Poletyka, Vasyl H. Ruban, and I. Tumansky) belonged to a society in Saint Petersburg (1768–83) that translated and published books by several French thinkers. Kantianism was propagated by the German thinker L.H. von Jacob, who was a professor at Kharkiv University (1807–9), and by Rev V. Dovhovych, a member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences in Budapest. Kant's moral theory made a strong impression on Schad.

Grounding a doctrine of natural rights in an ahistorical concept of human nature, the enlightened thinkers proposed to realize these rights (to individual freedom, equality before the law, and enjoyment of property) by restructuring society. All of them were opposed to serfdom, but apart from Yakiv Kozelsky and Vasyl Karazyn they urged the restriction of landowners' rights rather than abolition. Karazyn and Petro Lodii preferred constitutional monarchy while Kozelsky preferred a republic. Following Rousseau, Kozelsky advocated not merely equality before the law, but limits to economic disparity. All of them believed in peaceful social reform through education and the moral improvement of the monarch and small elite. Karazyn pointed also to the importance of scientific and technological development for social progress.

In its practical (moral and social) consequences the philosophy of Hryhorii Skovoroda is very close to the teachings of the Philosophes, although it has no direct tie with the Enlightenment. It is rooted not in the new natural sciences, but in the humanist tradition going back to the ancient philosophers and in Christian Neoplatonism. In his writings Skovoroda denounced the injustice and exploitation he observed around him, and in practice he renounced this society by turning down a career in the church. His ideal society, which can be realized only by individual moral rebirth, is based on the fulfillment of each member's inner nature. In this context equality is the full (hence equal) realization by all individuals of their unequal potentialities.

A number of Ukrainians played an important role in the growth of mysticism in the 18th-century Russian Empire. This trend of thought paved the way for the Romantic worldview and German idealism.

The development of Ukrainian culture, particularly literature and art, in the 19th century was influenced decisively by German romanticism. The Romantic outlook attained its fullest philosophical expression in the German idealists—J. Fichte, Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph von Schelling, and G. Hegel—and it was those thinkers who had a determining influence on philosophical thought in Ukraine during the first half of the 19th century.

Fichte's ideas were introduced at Kharkiv University by Johann Baptist Schad (1804) and were spread to other educational institutions by his students. The first translation of Fichte was done at Kharkiv by one of Schad's students in 1813. Schad also acquainted his students with some of Schelling's doctrines, and his successor to the university's chair of philosophy, A. Dudrovych (1818–30), absorbed Schelling's mystical spirit and taught Schellingian psychology. J. Kroneberg, who taught classical philosophy at Kharkiv University (1819–37), attempted to construct his own esthetic theory using Schelling's ideas. Mykhailo Maksymovych, the first rector of Kyiv University, formulated his ideas on nature under the impact of Schelling's and L. Oken's doctrines and was inspired in his later ethnographic work by Schelling's views. K. Zelenetsky, who tried to reconcile Schelling and Kant, N. Kurliandtsev, who translated Schelling, and H. Steffens taught at the Richelieu Lyceum in Odesa in the first half of the century. P. Avsenev followed C. Carus in his psychology lectures at the Kyiv Theological Academy and Kyiv University in the 1840s and probably had some influence on the Cyril and Methodius Brotherhood. But the most influential German thinker was Hegel, whose system encompassed all the diverse trends within romanticism (moral, religious, esthetic) and subsumed them all under reason. Hegel's historicism and dialectic made a strong impression on Orest Novytsky, Osyp Mykhnevych, and Sylvestr Hohotsky. They not only adopted some of his ideas but also tried to apply his methods of interpretation. Hegel's theory of history influenced a number of historians, such as M. Lunin, who in turn influenced Mykola Kostomarov, and P. Pavlov, some literary historians such as Amvrosii Metlynsky and M. Kostyr, and the philosopher of law Petro Redkyn (see Hegelianism).

The Christian Romantic ideology of the Cyril and Methodius Brotherhood is the finest example of a creative response by young Ukrainian intellectuals to new ideas from the West. As expressed in the Knyhy bytiia ukraïns’koho narodu (The Books of the Genesis of the Ukrainian People), their theory was a mixture of Enlightenment political ideals (equality, democracy, parliamentarism), pietist sentiment, and Romantic notions of historical providentialism and national messianism. A religiously colored faith in Ukraine's mission to unite the Slavs in a federation of free national republics inspired the writings of the leading Ukrainian writers of the mid-century and stimulated the growth of national consciousness.

As the prestige of the natural sciences rose, the Romantic Weltanschauung lost its credibility. But the ambition to unify all human experience in one all-embracing philosophical system remained strong throughout the second half of the century. Pamfil Yurkevych, probably the sharpest philosophical mind in Ukraine at the time, set out to reconcile idealism and materialism. Although he did not complete this project, his critique of materialism, interpretation of Platonism, and suggestions for an integrated concept of human nature were promising beginnings. A unified metaphysical system was worked out by A. Kozlov, who taught at Kyiv University from 1876. Influenced by Leibniz, Immanuel Kant, and A. Schopenhauer, he proposed a theory of critical spiritualism that admitted a multiplicity of spirits and denied the reality of matter. A similar system of ‘synechiological spiritualism’ was proposed later by Aleksei Giliarov, who viewed the universe as an infinite hierarchy of organisms.

Positivism was more popular among scientists than among philosophers in Ukraine. A Ukrainian positivist of particular note was Volodymyr Lesevych. He accepted A. Comte's teachings at first, but later rejected them in favor of a stricter empiricism and worked out his own theory of knowledge, which was close to empiriocriticism. Some positivist ideas can be found in G. Chelpanov, who taught philosophy at Kyiv University (1892–1906), Petro Linytsky, and N. Grot, who began his academic career at the Nizhyn Lyceum and Odesa University (1883–6). All of them tried to make room for religious faith without weakening the authority of science. Following Kant they drew a clear line between knowledge and faith; they restricted the first to the realm of phenomena and accounted for it in empiriocritical terms. Mykhailo Drahomanov developed his political and social theory in a positivist framework. The sociologist Maksym Kovalevsky was influenced strongly by A. Comte, while Bohdan Kistiakovsky worked out a neo-Kantian foundation for the social sciences. Fedir Zelenohorsky of Kharkiv University emphasized the importance of the inductive method without denying the role of deduction and imagination in scientific knowledge. Oleksander Potebnia's and Dmitrii Ovsianiko-Kulikovsky's philosophy of language was based on associationist psychology.

After the First World War philosophy developed very differently in Western Ukraine under Polish rule, in Soviet Ukraine under the stifling restrictions of official ideology, and among Ukrainian émigrés. Denied their own university by the Polish authorities, Galicia's Ukrainians were unable to compete with the Poles in the quality of philosophical education and writing. Some philosophy was taught at the Lviv (Underground) Ukrainian University (eg, by Stepan Balei) and at the Greek Catholic Theological Academy by Rev Yosyf Slipy (scholasticism), Mykola Konrad (ancient philosophy), and Havryil Kostelnyk (epistemology). The Western Ukrainian and émigré proponents of different political ideologies, such as conservatism, integral nationalism, socialism, and Marxism, discussed, with varying sophistication and objectivity, the philosophical grounds of their outlook.

Soviet period. In Soviet Ukraine, for the first few years philosophical activity developed in a normal way: philosophers expressed their views freely, formed associations, and published their own journals. In 1922 the government dismissed some of its ideological opponents from their academic posts and banished them from the Ukrainian SSR, thus warning intellectual circles that it would no longer tolerate criticism of the official ideology. Gradually the regime imposed its control over ideas by dissolving all independent associations and publications and by establishing its own institutions for defining and propagating the approved ideology, Marxism-Leninism. As political interference increased, philosophical debate degenerated quickly into servile dogmatism, invective, and denunciation. By 1931 all creative thinking on philosophical issues had been stifled.

The first philosophical institution in Ukraine set up by the Soviet regime was the Department of Marxism and Marxology in Kharkiv. It was established in the fall of 1921, and a year later it was reorganized into the Ukrainian Institute of Marxism, renamed the Ukrainian Institute of Marxism-Leninism (UIML) in 1927. The institute had three divisions, each with three departments. The Philosophy-Sociology Division (chaired by Semen Semkovsky) consisted of the departments of Philosophy (headed by Semkovsky), Sociology (headed by Volodymyr Yurynets), and, from 1928, Law (headed by Yurii Mazurenko). Members of the philosophy department included Ya. Bilyk, Z. Luzina, Petro Demchuk, and T. Stepovy, who also lectured at other institutions in Kharkiv. Philosophical research was published in the institute's journal Prapor marksyzmu (1927–30). In 1927 the Ukrainian Society of Militant Materialists (later of Militant Materialists-Dialecticians) was organized at the institute. At the same time (from 1921) two departments of the Social-Economic Division of the All-Ukrainian Academy of Sciences (VUAN)—those of the History of Philosophy and Law (headed by Aleksei Giliarov) and Sociology (headed by Semkovsky)—functioned in Kyiv. In 1931 they were replaced by the VUAN Philosophical Commission in Kharkiv, which was to prepare a philosophical dictionary. In 1926 the Kyiv Scientific Research Department of Marxism-Leninism (headed by R. Levik and then O. Kamyshan) was set up under the VUAN. Its philosophical-sociological section (chaired by Semkovsky) formed special commissions devoted to scientific methodology, historical materialism, the sociology of law, the sociology of art, the methodology of the history of technology, and atheism. Leading associates of the department were V. Asmus, Ya. Rozanov, M. Perlin, O. Zahorulko, M. Nyrchuk, and Yurynets. In 1930 the department was turned into the Kyiv branch of the UIML.

The Ukrainian Institute of Marxism-Leninism (UIML) and the VUAN departments had two chief tasks: to articulate and propagate Marxism-Leninism and to train political specialists and propagandists for work in higher educational institutions. Besides translating the basic works of Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, and Vladimir Lenin and preparing anthologies and textbooks, their associates conducted prolonged discussions on the nature of philosophy, the place of the Hegelian dialectic in the physical world and the natural sciences, and the weight of Lenin's contribution to philosophy. Since dialectical materialism claimed to be both a scientific theory and a method of studying reality, its relation to the natural sciences and, particularly, the new theories of relativity and quantum mechanics aroused much interest (see Philosophy of science). The third branch of philosophy to receive some attention was the history of philosophy, which was limited to the philosophical traditions from which Marxism-Leninism had sprung: B. Spinoza and the French materialists, Hegel and L. Feuerbach among the German philosophers, and Nikolai Chernyshevsky, Leo Tolstoy, and G. Plekhanov among the Russians. In 1930 Petro Demchuk's book on Spinoza and V. Bon's book on 18th-century French materialism came out. Hegel's Science of Logic was translated in 1929. Although the philosophy department at the UIML had a special commission for the history of philosophy in Ukraine (chaired by Semen Semkovsky), little was accomplished in this area. Only a collection of articles on Hryhorii Skovoroda (1923), some booklets, and a solid monograph on him by Dmytro Bahalii (1926) were published.

The so-called philosophical discussion in Ukraine culminated at a conference in Kharkiv in January 1931, where accusations of nationalism, mechanism, and Menshevik idealism were directed at the leading figures of the philosophical establishment. Despite the absurdity of the charges, everyone admitted his ‘errors’ in a published self-criticism. The Communist Party was thus able to call for a reorganization of the institutional system of research and the eradication of the vestiges of ‘bourgeois science.’ In June 1931 the Ukrainian Institute of Marxism-Leninism (UIML) was converted by Party decree into the All-Ukrainian Association of Marxist-Leninist Scientific Research Institutes (VUAMLIN). The UIML's three divisions were turned into three VUAMLIN institutes—Philosophy and Natural Science, Economics, and History—of the six that were created. Each institute had a three-year graduate program. The Institute of Philosophy and Natural Science (directed by R. Levik and then O. Vasileva, and A. Saradzhev) was divided into four sectors: dialectical materialism (including a section on the history of philosophy in Ukraine), historical materialism, natural science (with the Association of Natural Science), and antireligion. It published the journals Prapor marksyzmu-leninizmu (1931–3), Pid markso-lenins’kym praporom (1934–6), and Za marksysts’ko-lenins’ke pryrodoznavstvo (1932–3). Among its leading associates were Semen Semkovsky, Volodymyr Yurynets, T. Stepovy, O. Bervytsky, Ya. Bilyk, and V. Bon. So-called Red Professors institutes (est 1932) assumed the responsibility of training research and teaching cadres within each of the VUAMLIN institutes. At the Philosophy Institute of Red Professors (directed by Ya. Bludov and then O. Andrianov), Yurynets held the chair of dialectical materialism, T. Stepovy the chair of historical materialism, and O. Bervytsky the chair of the history of philosophy. In 1936 the separate institutes were merged into one Institute of Red Professors, with six departments. The philosophy department was chaired by A. Saradzhev and then Yu. Olman and M. Yushmanov. Philosophical research at the VUAMLIN had been long extinct by the time it was abolished in 1937. Many of the aforementioned leading thinkers perished in the terror of the 1930s.

After the Second World War research and teaching continued to be assigned to two distinct types of institution: research to institutes, and teaching to higher educational institutions, including universities. In 1946 the Institute of Philosophy of the Academy of Sciences of the Ukrainian SSR was established in Kyiv. It published Naukovi zapysky Instytutu filosofiï (1951–61, 7 vols) and the bimonthly Filosofs’ka dumka (est 1969), which in 1989 became the monthly Filosofs’ka i sotsiolohichna dumka. Another research body—the Department of Philosophy of the AN URSR Presidium—was established in early 1950. It was headed by Mykhailo Omelianovsky and then M. Ovander, and I. Holovakha. Since any new work in dialectical and historical materialism was ruled out by Joseph Stalin's treatment of the topic in the offical short course on the history of the Bolshevik party (1938), and since the methodology of the natural and social sciences remained an uncharted mine field, the history of philosophy in Ukraine became the most promising area in philosophy. A few monographs and numerous articles on the philosophical ideas of 19th-century scientists (Mykhailo Maksymovych, Vasyl Danylevsky, and Illia Mechnikov) and the so-called Russian and Ukrainian revolutionary democrats (Aleksandr Herzen, Nikolai Chernyshevsky, Nikolai Dobroliubov, D. Pisarev, Taras Shevchenko, Panas Myrny, Ivan Franko, Mykhailo Pavlyk, Ostap Terletsky, Pavlo Hrabovsky, Lesia Ukrainka, and Mykhailo Kotsiubynsky) appeared. In a crude and obvious manner their authors imposed a predictable interpretation on their subject: materialist, atheist, or social revolutionary. In the 1950s some work, which was equally tendentious, was done also on 17th- and 18th-century writers, such as Ivan Vyshensky, Lazar Baranovych, Hryhorii Skovoroda, and Yakiv Kozelsky. Such studies proliferated in the 1960s; a collection of articles on the history of Ukrainian philosophy came out almost every year. The most important accomplishment of the period was the publication in 1961 of the first full and scholarly collection of Skovoroda's work. The Latin transcripts of philosophy courses taught at the Kyivan Mohyla Academy began to be studied and translated, and excerpts appeared regularly in Filosofs’ka dumka. A Ukrainian translation of Teofan Prokopovych's courses was readied for publication, but appeared more than a decade later, in 1979–81. On the 250th anniversary of Skovoroda's birth a second, improved edition of his works (2 vols, 1973), a new biography by Leonid Makhnovets (1972), and several collections of articles on Skovoroda came out. The more important contributors in the field of Ukrainian philosophy were I. Ivano, Danylo Ostrianyn, V. Dmytrychenko, Andrii Brahinets, I. Tabachnikov, V. Horsky, P. Manzenko, M. Rohovych, V. Yevdokymenko, and Volodymyr Shynkaruk.

A wave of arrests throughout Ukraine in January 1972 launched a concerted campaign to suppress Ukrainian culture and language. At mid-year the Institute of Philosophy of the Academy of Sciences of the Ukrainian SSR was purged: two of its associates, Vasyl Lisovy and Yevhen Proniuk, were imprisoned for criticizing the Party's policy, and a number of junior researchers and graduate students were expelled. The number and quality of the institute's publications declined: hardly anything was printed in Ukrainian, and the Ukrainian accomplishments had to be described as accomplishments of the three ‘fraternal’ (Russian, Ukrainian, Belarusian) peoples. The pace of publication picked up only in the 1980s. Valeriia Nichyk's monograph on the philosophical tradition at the Kyivan Mohyla Academy (1978) was followed by a series of related studies by Yaroslava Stratii (1981), Ihor Zakhara (1982), I. Paslavsky (1984), and Volodymyr Lytvynov (1984), and a catalogue of surviving transcripts of the rhetoric and philosophy courses at the academy (1982). The scope of research was broadened to include the medieval era, on which several collections of articles appeared (1983, 1987, 1988, 1990). Before his untimely death, I. Ivano finished his survey history of esthetics in Ukraine (1981) and his notable study of Hryhorii Skovoroda's thought (1983). Volumes 1 and 2 of the ANU multiauthor three-volume history of philosophy in Ukraine were published in 1987. The most significant recent achievement has been the publication of primary sources of Ukrainian thought of the 16th to 18th centuries in Standard Ukrainian translation: ethics courses at the Kyivan Mohyla Academy (1987), the works of professors of brotherhood schools (1988), and Heorhii Konysky's (1990) and Stefan Yavorsky's (1992) philosophy courses at the academy. Among the leading scholars in the field today are Nichyk, M. Kashuba, V. Horsky, Stratii, Zakhara, Lytvynov, I. Paslavsky, M. Luk, and Andrii Pashuk.

Since 1972 the Ukrainian Philosophical Society has promoted and co-ordinated philosophical studies in Ukraine.

Outside Ukraine. In the interwar period philosophy was taught in Prague at the Ukrainian Higher Pedagogical Institute, at which the Skovoroda Philosophical Society (1925–30) was active, and at the Ukrainian Free University (UVU) by Dmytro Chyzhevsky, who established himself as the leading authority on the history of Ukrainian philosophy with his two monographs on philosophy in Ukraine, two books on Hryhorii Skovoroda, and a study of Hegel's influence in the Russian Empire. Ivan Mirchuk, a historian of Ukrainian culture and philosophy, began his academic career at the UVU. Mykola Shlemkevych, who completed his PH D under M. Schlick in Vienna, developed a philosophical genre of journalism dealing with fundamental psychological-cultural problems of Ukrainian society. After the Second World War Mirchuk continued his work on the history of philosophy. Some contributions were made by his colleagues at the UVU in Munich Oleksander Kulchytsky and Volodymyr Yaniv. Kyrylo Mytrovych, a specialist in contemporary existentialism, has done some work on Skovoroda. Yevhen Lashchyk, a professor of philosophy in the United States, has worked on Volodymyr Vynnychenko's ‘concordism.’ Among Ukrainian émigré scholars who have gained a world reputation are Gregor Malantschuk, for his work on S. Kierkegaard's thought, and Roman Rozdolsky, for his interpretation of Marx's Das Kapital.



Dmytro Chyzhevsky is quite rightly recognized as the founder of the history of Ukrainian philosophy.

 (March 3, 1894 – April 18, 1977)


Not only did he produce the first more or less comprehensive survey of Ukrainian philosophy, which he supplemented with numerous articles on Ukrainian thinkers, such as Ivan Vyshensky, Hryhorii Skovoroda, Panteleimon Kulish, Taras Shevchenko, Mykola Hohol, and Viacheslav Lypynsky, and on the influence of foreign ideas in Ukraine,  as well as a book on Hryhorii Skovoroda, he also laid out the theoretical framework and methodological requirements of the field. No one was more acutely aware of the shortcomings of his pioneering work in the history of Ukrainian philosophy than Chyzhevsky himself. In the preface to Narysy z istorii filosofii na Ukraini (Essays in the History of Philosophy in Ukraine), he remarked, "I should also point out that this work is a fruit of my leisure time, that the history of philosophy in Ukraine is not the principal subject of my studies, and therefore that the material I present cannot be taken as the culmination and completion of scholarly research in this field; rather it is an attempt to arouse interest in and draw attention to this field of research, which so far has been avoided in Ukrainian studies." In my assessment of Chyzhevsky's work in the field I concentrate on what in my opinion are his main contributions and point out their strengths and weaknesses. A much more comprehensive and detailed account of Chyzhevsky's work in the history of Ukrainian philosophy can be found in Iryna Valiavko's recent candidate dissertation.


The Concept of National Philosophy


Chyzhevsky begins his surveys with some brief methodological remarks about the purpose and scope of a history of the philosophy produced by a given nation. He distinguishes two views of philosophy and the corresponding types of history associated with them. According to what he calls the "rationalistic" view, philosophy is a science that discovers universal truths about the nature of reality, truth, justice, beauty, etc. Since there can be only one true answer to every question, a plurality of answers is indicative of falsehood. Insofar as national philosophies are distinguished by differing ideas on the same issues they are false and hence undeserving of serious study by the historian Chyzhevsky calls the other view of philosophy "Romantic" and associates it with Hegel. On this view differences among philosophical doctrines have a positive value. How can that be so? If absolute ideals can be realized only in the limited particular forms (science, religion, morality, law, religion, etc.) of a national culture, and the differences among national cultures manifest different aspects of the absolute, then these differences are important and valuable. Together they constitute a fuller, although never the full, manifestation of the absolute. Viewed from this perspective, philosophy is the self-consciousness of a given culture: it brings out what is distinctive and interesting in a nation's beliefs about reality, justice, and beauty, and in doing so makes the nation aware of itself as a distinct entity; that is, gives rise to national consciousness. Here philosophy is essentially national, and all national philosophies, insofar as they are partial reflections of the absolute, are true. It follows that all cultures and their corresponding philosophies are equal. Obviously, this is the view of philosophy that Chyzhevsky favors for it gives maximal weight to national philosophies and their histories.


But then, surprisingly enough, Chyzhevsky goes on to say that at different stages in the development of world philosophy different nations play the leading role in carrying the process forward. This implies that only the philosophy of some nations reveals something new and valuable about the absolute, while the philosophy of other nations fails to do so and has no world-historical significance. Furthermore, according to Chyzhevsky, it is only when a nation produces a philosophy that marks a significant forward step in world philosophy that that nation fully discloses the distinctive character of its own culture and philosophy. Clearly, these two propositions are inconsistent with the Romantic account of national culture and philosophy.


The inconsistency can be easily removed by renouncing these two propositions and preserving the pluralistic conception of culture and philosophy. An essentially similar conception has been elaborated by a leading contemporary historian of Ukrainian philosophy, Vilen Horsky, into what he calls the "culturological approach to the history of philosophy." On this approach philosophy is an integral part of culture. As a reflection on the possibilities of individual and collective existence, it can be described as the self-consciousness of a national culture.


This conception of the history of philosophy gives rise to two sets of criteria that define the scope of Ukrainian philosophy: first, the criteria for Ukrainian and secondly, the criteria for philosophy. For politically independent nations with a long and continuous cultural tradition and a permanent territory the contours of their culture are quite distinct and the various criteria we use to assign a thinker to a given culture usually coincide and reinforce one another. A French philosopher is normally French-born and raised in the French culture, works in France and uses French in everyday and professional life, and identifies himself as a Frenchman. But often this is not the case with Ukrainian thinkers. Because of Ukraine's long-lasting colonial status within the Russian and Austrian empires her educated classes have often identified themselves with the ruling culture, and Ukrainian has rarely served as the language of learning. Hence national consciousness and language are not necessary conditions for being counted as a Ukrainian thinker.  Sometimes, however, they are sufficient conditions. On the other hand, place of birth, upbringing, or work are neither necessary nor sufficient conditions, for some Ukrainians have been born, educated, or employed outside Ukraine, while non-Ukrainians have worked in Ukraine and have had very little contact with Ukrainian culture. What is decisive, according to Chyzhevsky, is a thinker's relation to the Ukrainian philosophical tradition and in the last analysis to Ukrainian culture. The problem is to identify this tradition and culture in a logically non-circular way.


This is a problem Chyzhevsky did not consider. To avoid a logical circle, traditions, whether philosophical or cultural, must be identified not by their properties, but by the place (territory) and the time (period) in which they originate or exist. To speak of a national tradition or culture there must be at least a period in a people's history when it freely created its culture and institutions and these must endure in some way as the touchstone of national identity. Memory may suffice to maintain historical continuity and a sense of national identity over gaps in the independent life of a nation. In Ukraine's history periods of cultural autonomy and creativity sometimes outlasted periods of political independence and it is the former that are crucial for determining the national affiliation of intellectual traditions.


Chyzhevsky is certainly aware of the importance of intellectual traditions for determining the Ukrainianness of various thinkers. A few of Chyzhevsky's brief comments give the impression that likenesses in the content or the form of thought are sufficient to establish the existence of a tradition. I do not think that they are: to show that a tradition exists we must establish actual influence and to do this it is necessary to establish not only similarities in ideas or patterns of thinking but also causal links.


Chyzhevsky's concept of national philosophy implies quite generous criteria for philosophy. Without explicitly formulating the conditions for counting a thinker as a philosopher and a work as philosophical, Chyzhevsky includes in his surveys of Ukrainian philosophy not only academic philosophers and philosophical treatises but also writers such as Mykola Hohol, Panteleimon Kulish, and Taras Shevchenko and scientists such as Oleksander Potebnia and Bohdan Kistiakivsky. He has been taken to task for this by Andrii Khrutsky (Andrew Chrucky) who argues for a narrower criterion of philosophy as the "critical investigation of worldviews" and a stricter selection process. Khrutsky's argument has found little sympathy among historians of Ukrainian philosophy and for good reason. His criterion would not only reduce the field of philosophy to a few academic thinkers, it would also practically ignore, contrary to the culturological approach to national philosophy, the influence of philosophical ideas in Ukrainian culture. To bring out fully the role of philosophical ideas in a given culture the historian must consider not only the texts of professional philosophers but also various literary and scientific texts reflecting popular worldviews and containing philosophical ideas. He should also take into account various attempts to define the distinctive features of the national worldview or character, which have the effect of raising national consciousness. This broad and rather complex criterion captures the range of texts and thinkers discussed by Chyzhevsky in his surveys of Ukrainian philosophy and by later specialists in the field.


Philosophy of the Heart


Chyzhevsky is the source of the often repeated and, in my estimate, meaningless claim that "'the philosophy of the heart' … is characteristic of Ukrainian thought." In making this claim he immediately explained that "the philosophy of the heart" stands for three distinct theses:


1.     that emotions have not only ethical and religious but also cognitive significance,


2.     that conscious experience arises from a deeper source, a mysterious "abyss," and


3.     that man is a microcosm.


One or another of these theses has been held, as he indicates, by Kyrylo Tranquillion-Stavrovetsky, Paisii Velychkovsky, Hryhorii Skovoroda, Semen Hamaliia, Mykola Hohol, Panteleimon Kulish, and Pamfil Iurkevych, but only Hohol seems to have held all held all three theses. Even if Chyzhevsky were to assert that these thinkers are somehow "representative" of Ukrainian philosophy, it would not be clear how any one or all three theses are characteristic of Ukrainian thought. Chyzhevsky can hardly claim that any one (let alone all three) of these theses was first proposed by a Ukrainian thinker or is accepted by all Ukrainian thinkers. It is not the case that the three theses are logically connected or that the seven thinkers mentioned in this context constitute a school or tradition of thought. In fact they were very different in their world outlook and in their philosophical interests. They used the common word "heart" not as a concept, but as a symbol for very different things. Thus I cannot imagine what Chyzhevsky might have meant by "characteristic" here, and he made no attempt to explain what he meant.


There have been some recent attempts to defend Chyzhevsky against my criticisms of his claim about the philosophy of the heart, which in my opinion have not been successful. Mykhailo Skrynnyk argued that Skovoroda, Iurkevych, Hohol, and Kulish share the view that there is something deeper in man than reason, and therefore they constitute a tradition of thought.  But agreement on a very general and vague point such as this is not enough for a tradition. The fact is that the four mentioned thinkers were very different in their worldviews and intellectual interests. But even if they did represent a single tradition why would that tradition be more characteristic of Ukrainian philosophy than some other one? 


Another of my critics, Iryna Valiavko, admits (1) that no one theory or trend can be representative of the thought of a nation and (2) that there is nothing distinctively Ukrainian about the first and second theses into which Chyzhevsky breaks down the philosophy of the heart. According to her, only the third thesis on man as a microcosm is characteristic of Ukrainian thought, and she tries to show that, although it is not found in Iurkevych, this conception of man is found in Skovoroda, Kulish, Taras Shevchenko, Mykola Kostomarov, Lesia Ukrainka, Mykhailo Kotsiubynsky, Bohdan Ihor Antonych, Oleksander Dovzhenko, and Pavlo Tychyna.


There are several fatal flaws in her argument. First, she reduces the idea of microcosm to the distinction between "inner" and "outer" man or between soul and body. Although historically the conception of man as microcosm has been closely associated with the dualistic conception of man, it is not logically equivalent to or logically connected with the latter. There is no hint in Chyzhevsky that what he really meant by microcosm was dualism. Secondly, the idea of two natures or substances in man is almost universal. Even the language of "inner" or "internal" and "outer" or "external" man is widespread. Chyzhevsky points out that these very terms can be found in the Bible and in the works of ancient and Christian thinkers such as Philo Judaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Gregory of Nyssa, Macarius of Egypt, Anthony of the Desert, Meister Eckhart, Jakob Boehme, Sebastian Frank, Angelus Silesius, Heinrich Suso, Johannes Tauler, and Thomas б Kempis. Many more names could be added to the list. Obviously, the language and the ideas behind it did not originate with  and are not unique to Ukrainian thinkers and writers. Furthermore, the dualistic terminology that is used in describing man is part of ordinary language. Hence, the fact that some writers use this terminology does not indicate that they have the same or even any definite philosophical conception of man in mind. 


Philosophy at the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy

 Mykhailo Hrushevsky

Mykhailo Serhiyovych Hrushevsky was a Ukrainian academician, politician, historian, and statesman, one of the most important figures of the Ukrainian national revival of the early 20th century. He was the country's greatest modern historian, foremost organizer of scholarship, leader of the pre-revolution Ukrainian national movement, head of the Central Rada (Ukraine's 1917–1918 revolutionary parliament), and a leading cultural figure in Soviet Ukraine in the 1920s. He died under mysterious circumstances in 1934.

 Ivan Yakovych Franko

Ivan Yakovych Franko was a Ukrainian poet, writer, social and literary critic, journalist, interpreter, economist, political activist, doctor of philosophy, ethnographer, the author of the first detective novels and modern poetry in the Ukrainian language.


He was a political radical, and a founder of the socialist and nationalist movement in western Ukraine. In addition to his own literary work, he also translated the works of such renowned figures as William Shakespeare, Lord Byron, Pedro Calderón de la Barca, Dante, Victor Hugo, Adam Mickiewicz, Goethe and Schiller into the Ukrainian language. Along with Taras Shevchenko, he has had a tremendous impact on modern literary and political thought in Ukraine.

Taras Shevchenko

 T.Shevchenko  Self-portrait with candle, 1861

 T. Shevchenko  Self-Portrait in Fur Hat.  Etching. 1860


Taras Hryhorovich Shevchenko, the great Ukrainian poet, artist and thinker, was born on March 9, 1814, in the village of Moryntsi in central Ukraine, then part of the Russian Empire.


Apprising the comparatively brief but very fruitful creative path of Shevchenko the artist, - authoritative sources indicate that he produced over 1,000 works of art - he is acknowledged as one of the most outstanding realist painters in mid-19th century Ukrainian and Russian art.


For over 150 years his writings - especially his poetry - have been published in thousands of volumes, including translations into the major world languages. Taras Shevchenko, founder of the new Ukrainian literature, is justifiably considered one of the greatest humanist writers of all times.



In one area of the history of Ukrainian philosophy—the development of philosophy in Ukraine in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries—Chyzhevsky's views were well ahead of his time. While Ukrainian scholars, such as Mykhailo Hrushevsky, Ivan Franko, and MykhailoVozniak believed that the philosophy taught at the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy was an obsolete and lifeless scholasticism, Chyzhevsky asserted that, on the contrary, in the seventeenth century this was an up-to-date, intellectually vibrant neoscholasticism and in the eighteenth century the professors of the academy were familiar with modern European thought. Furthermore, he argued that the philosophy cultivated at the academy was not remote from the cultural life of the time but an important part of the distinctive Baroque culture that flourished in Ukraine. Philosophy was involved in the religious polemics of the time and the defense of the Orthodox faith, which in turn was closely associated with national consciousness. Since in his time the manuscripts of the academy's courses had not been studied yet and Chyzhevsky himself lacked access to them, he did not have the empirical data for a fuller, more detailed account of the academy's philosophical tradition, but the account he did give has been largely confirmed by later researchers. Since the 1960s this area of the history of Ukrainian philosophy has been the most exciting and rapidly developing branch of philosophical research in Ukraine.


Grigory Savvich Skovoroda


  (3 December 1722 – 9 November 1794)


Skovoroda was Chyzhevsky's favorite Ukrainian philosopher. The works he devoted to Skovoroda outnumber by far his writings on any other philosopher: a monograph and over twenty articles. His works are an almost inexhaustible mine of information and interesting observations, but the overall result of all his efforts is rather disappointing. After a lengthy (200-page) and detailed comparison of Skovoroda's philosophical doctrines, terminology, symbols, images, and phrases with those of several German mystics (Franz von Baader, Boehme, Meister Eckhart, Frank, Silesius, Suso, Tauler, and Valentin Weigel), Chyzhevsky reaches the conclusion that Skovoroda is a mystic, or to be more exact, that Skovoroda's philosophical system has all the constituents of a "mystical philosophical system:" it rests on a dualistic metaphysics and includes a doctrine of opposites, a metaphysical interpretation of symbols, a typically mystical anthropology and ethics. Chyzhevsky cautions us that, although Skovoroda's philosophy is mystical, we cannot be certain that Skovoroda himself was a mystic, for we have no solid evidence of Skovoroda's mystical experiences. After analyzing Skovoroda's ideas and biographical data, Chyzhevsky concludes: "Although there may be a shadow of doubt about Skovoroda's own mystical experience, there can be no doubt about the mystical character of his philosophy!" I have no objection to the first part of the conclusion, but I do have some reservations about the second part. First of all, in what sense is Skovoroda's philosophy mystical?


I would claim that it is mystical only in a weak sense; that is, it is a version of Neoplatonism, a type of system that is typical of mystics but also often embraced by religious thinkers who are not mystics. Chyzhevsky admits as much when he says that "Skovoroda's 'methodology' and 'metaphysics' have many analogies in mystical and non-mystical thinkers." To be mystical in the strong sense, his philosophy would have to have not just a dualistic metaphysics and anthropology, but also a special kind of ethics—an ethics that posits mystical experience as the goal of life and outlines the methods or steps for attaining it. Chyzhevsky claims that Skovoroda does have an ethics that shows how the individual can transcend the bounds of his human nature and fuse with God to become divine.  In support of his interpretation Chyzhevsky musters an impressive array of expressions in Skovoroda that are typical of mystical writers and suggest mystical experience. And yet I question this interpretation, and I do so for three reasons.


First, as Chyzhevsky himself points out, there is no doctrine of the degrees of the soul's progress to fusion with God.  Secondly, there is no union or fusion with God that involves loss of self. On the contrary, Skovoroda speaks of union with God as a discovery of one's true self, as a form of self-knowledge. The transfiguration or divinization that one undergoes is a change from one's superficial or false self to one's true self, the inner man. Contrary to what Chyzhevsky suggests this kind of union with God is accomplished not through mystical experience but rather through knowledge and reason. It requires not self-denial, self-mortification, and self-renunciation, but self-knowledge and dialogue. Finally, the key to Skovoroda's ethics lies in his doctrine of congenial work. According to this doctrine the goal of life is happiness, not mystical experience, and the way to happiness lies not in escape from society and the cares of this world but in activity, in self-realization through socially beneficial work. This is not an ethics of escape from either oneself or the world. Hence, there is no room for mystics or even hermits in Skovoroda's ethics.




            It is rather obvious that Skovoroda's philosophy is mystical in the weak sense and this requires no great effort to prove. On the other hand, to contend that Skovoroda's philosophy is mystical in the strong is to give too much weight to his language and to ignore the main thrust of his moral teachings.


            It should be clear from this critical outline of Chyzhevsky's contribution to the history of Ukrainian philosophy that for all his shortcomings it was Chyzhevsky who laid its foundations, which later researchers refined and expanded. Considering the materials available to him and the conditions in which he worked, his single-handed achievement is truly remarkable. During the Soviet period two areas of Ukrainian philosophy received much attention—the philosophical ideas in the culture of Kyivan Rus' and the development of philosophy in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. In the post-Soviet period, while research in these areas continues, historians of Ukrainian philosophy are turning their attention increasingly on the nineteenth century. The framework of the history of Ukrainian philosophy established by Chyzhevsky is being steadily filled in with new facts, texts, and interpretations. 


Dmytro Ivanovych Dontsov was a Ukrainian nationalist writer, publisher, journalist and political thinker whose radical ideas were a major influence on the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists.


 Kyiv-Mohyla Academy

    Petro Mohyla


Metropolitan Peter (secular name Petro Mohyla) was a Metropolitan of Kiev, Halych and All-Rus' from 1633 until his death. He was born into a Moldavian boyar family — the Movileşti — one that gave Moldavia and Wallachia several rulers, including his father, Simion Movilă. His mother, Margareta, was a Hungarian noble lady. From his early childhood, Petro Mohyla and his mother were on the move in foreign lands seeking refuge due to instability in Wallachia (part of modern-day Romania). For a time, they lived in Kamianets-Podilskyi in Ukraine. But in 1608 they moved to Poland and for sixteen years stayed in Stanisław Żółkiewski's castle There he started his formal schooling, which, prior to the arrival to the castle, was often interrupted by frequent moves. Petro’s teachers were monks from the Lviv brotherhood and later, he continued his studies of classical literature in Latin, Greek, Polish, and Ukrainian languages at the academy in Zamość (the Zamojski Academy), founded in 1594 by Polish Crown Chancellor Jan Zamoyski. Later Mohyla continued his studies in Paris.


The original Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, founded by the Metropolitan of Kyiv Petro Mohyla in 1615, was one of the most distinguished and earliest among higher educational institutions in Eastern Europe. Its aim was to master the intellectual skills and learning of contemporary Europe and to apply them to the improvement of education in Ukraine. Taking his most dangerous adversary as his model, Petro Mohyla adopted the organizational structure, the teaching methods, and the curriculum of the Jesuit schools. An objective in establishing this type of school was to raise the standard of Eastern European education to Western European degrees of excellence. From its beginnings, this school was conceived by its founder and first rectors as an institution of higher learning, offering philosophy and theology courses and supervising a network of secondary schools. The academic programme was based on the liberal arts and was organized into fourteen grades.


The undergraduate programme was based on the liberal arts and designed to develop oratorical skills as much as the acquisition of a body of knowledge. It was organized into five grades. The three lower grades were essentially grammarian. The intermediate level consisted of two grades, in which students began to compose Latin prose and verse. Beyond the five grades, higher education consisted of three-years philosophy programme that paved the way to four years of theology.


Open to young men from all social strata, the Academy attracted students and scholars not only from Ukraine but from many European nations. The individual's quest for intellectual, cultural and spiritual development was at the center of its concerns. Many of its graduates continued their studies in European universities. From among those who graduated from Kyiv-Mohyla Academy came forth renowned philosophers, economists, theologians, influential cultural personalities as well as important political leaders of Ukraine, Russia, Poland, Serbia, Bulgaria and other countries.


The political and cultural circumstances in Ukraine were fundamentally altered in 1686, when the city of Kyiv and hitherto autonomous Kyivan metropolitanate were placed under Muscovite jurisdiction. Suddenly, the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy was exposed to the much dreaded regimentation of the Muscovite Partiarch. To Moscow, the conquest of Kyiv and the incorporation of the Ukrainian Church was the culmination of the long-term policy of "gathering the Russian lands". Moscow's expanding political power and increasing interference in Ukrainian affairs threatened the Academy's freedom and well-being. Gaining control of the Kyiv metropolitanate, the Patriach of Moscow attempted to end the intellectual influence of Kyiv of Moscovite society by placing almost all Kyiv publications on an index of heretical books. It was forbidden to print books in Ukrainian. Although in 1693 these linguistic restrictions were eased, Ukrainian books were denied entry into Moscovy.


Nevertheless the Academy flourished at the end of the 17th century and enjoyed its golden age during the glorious Hetman Ivan Mazepa's reign (from 1687 to 1709). The enrollment at the time exceeded 2,000. But the Academy's golden age came to an abrupt end with Mazepa's defeat at Poltava in 1709. The school's properties were plundered by Russian troops. Students from Right-Bank Ukraine, which was under Polish rule, were no longer admitted. By 1711 the enrollment fell to 161. Graduates of the Academy were encouraged to seek positions in Moscow or St. Petersburg. Peter the First's ban on Ukrainian publications and religious texts in Ukrainian was a heavy blow to the Academy.


But after Peter's death, the school revived. Modern new courses were added to its curriculum. Graduates were encouraged to complete their education in European universities and many sons of wealthy Cossack families studied abroad. The Academy continued to educate the civic and ecclesiastical elite. However, Catherine the Second's abolition of the Hetmanate in 1764 and secularization of the monasteries in 1786 deprived the Academy of its chief sources of financial support. The school became a ward of the Russian imperial government and its importance declined rapidly. In 1817 the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy was closed down. In terms of its over-all profile, the Academy's adoption of a specifically European education was largely conditioned by the social and religious demands of early 17th-century Ukrainian society. The Kyiv-Mohyla Academy had an ambitious programme. Church Slavonic, Ukrainian, Polish, Greek, Latin and Hebrew led the list along with rhetoric, mathematics, history, geography, astronomy, economics and medicine. In time, French, German and Russian were added. Language played an important role - not only the study of foreign language, but language as such: a great deal of attention was paid to poetics, rhetoric, world literature.


For its day, the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy had an enormous library made up of over 12,000 books and manuscripts. The library was originally founded by Petro Mohyla but continued to expand. For over 200 years the school served as a center for learning, research, the arts and sciences.


The great historical importance of the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy was expressed by the bishop of Smolensk, Gideon Vysnrtskyj, in a letter requesting the service of Kyivan scholars:


The Kyiv Academy always abounded in learned personages, and it bears the universal honor in that, as the Orthodox Athens, it serves as a sourse of wisdom for entire Russia to draw upon.


Thus the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy played a profound role in the sociopolitical development of Ukraine, in the re-birth of Ukrainian culture, and in exposing Ukrainian youth to world civilization, arts, letters and learning.


The closure of the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy was a tremendous set-back to the development of Ukrainian culture.

Hryhorii Savych Skovoroda (Ukrainian: Григорій Савич Сковорода; Russian: Григо́рий Са́ввич Сковорода́, Grigory Savvich Skovoroda; 3 December 1722 – 9 November 1794) was a Ukrainian philosopher, poet, teacher and composer who lived in the Russian Empire and who made important contributions to Russian philosophy and culture. He lived and worked in Ukraine and passionately and consciously identified with its people, differentiating them from those of Russia and condemning Russia's interference in his homeland.Skovoroda was so important for Russian culture and development of Russian philosophical thought, that he is often recognized as a Russian philosopher. He has been referred to as the "Russian Socrates."

Skovoroda received his education at the Kiev-Mohyla Academy in Kiev. Haunted by worldly and spiritual powers, the philosopher led a life of an itinerant thinker-beggar. In his tracts and dialogs, biblical problems overlap with those examined earlier by Plato and the Stoics. Skovoroda's first book was issued after his death in 1798 in Saint Petersburg. Skovoroda's complete works were published for the first time in Saint Petersburg in 1861. Before this edition many of his works existed only in manuscript form.

Skovoroda was born into a small-holder Ukrainian Cossack family in the village of Chornukhy in Kiev Governorate, Russian Empire (modern-day Poltava Oblast, Ukraine), in 1722. He was a student at the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy (1734–1741, 1744–1745, 1751–1753) but did not graduate. In 1741, at the age of 19 he was taken from Kiev to sing in the imperial choir in Moscow and St. Petersburg returning to Kiev in 1744. He spent the period from 1745 to 1750 in Hungary and is thought to have traveled elsewhere in Europe during this period as well. In 1750 he returned to Ukraine where he taught poetics in Pereyaslav from 1750-1751. For most of the period from 1753 to 1759 Skovoroda was a tutor in the family of a landowner in Kovrai. From 1759 to 1769, with interruptions, he taught such subjects as poetry, syntax, Greek, and ethics at the Kharkоv Collegium. After an attack on his course on ethics in 1769 he decided to abandon teaching.

Skovoroda is known as a composer of liturgical music, as well as a number of songs to his own texts. Of the latter, several have passed into the realm of Ukrainian folk music. Many of his philosophical songs known as "Skovorodyski psalmy" were often encountered in the repertoire of blind itinerant folk musicians known as kobzars. He was described as a proficient player on the flute, torban and kobza.

In the final quarter of his life he traveled by foot through Ukraine staying with various friends, both rich and poor, preferring not to remain in one place for too long.

This last period was the time of his great philosophic works. In this period as well, but particularly earlier, he wrote poetry and letters in Ukrainian language, Greek and Latin and did a number of translations from Latin.

There is much debate regarding the language Skovoroda used in his writings. Skovoroda used a form of written Ukrainian which differed somewhat from the vernacular Ukrainian. As a scholar studying in a religious institution that relied heavily on various forms of the Church-Slavonic language although the foundation of his written language was Ukrainian.

Apart from written Ukrainian, Skovoroda was known to have spoken and written in Greek, Latin, German and Hebrew. His poetry has been analysed for foreign non-Ukrainian elements. After an in depth study of Skovoroda's written works the Slavic linguist George Shevelov was able to deduce that apart from Ukrainian it contained 7.8% Russian, 7.7% non-Slavic, and 27.6% Church Slavonic vocabulary, and that the variant of Church Slavonic he used was the variety used in the Synodinal Bible of 1751.Skovoroda's prose however a higher content of non-Ukrainian vocabulary: 36.7% Church Slavonic, 4.7% other non-Slavonic European languages, and 9.7% Russian.

After an in depth analysis of Skovoroda's language, G. Sheveliov came to the conclusion that the high incidence of Church-Slavonic and the occurrence of Russian words reflect the circle of people with which Skovoroda primarily associated himself with, and on who he was materially dependent - and not the villagers and the village language that he knew and spoke.

Three days before he died, he went to the house of one of his closest friends and told him he had come to stay permanently. Every day he left the house early with a shovel, and it turned out that he spent three days digging his own grave. On the third day, he ate dinner, stood up and said, "my time has come." He went into the next room, lay down, and died. He requested the following epitaph to be placed on his tombstone:

The world tried to catch me, but hadn't succeeded.


"Water does not exist without fish, just as air without birds, just as time without humans"

"Your feet can't help but lose their way, when your heart has lost it"

"Can a person, who is blind at home, see clearly on the marketplace?"

"Wisdom was not created by the books, but the books were created from the wisdom"

On September 15, 2006, Skovoroda's portrait was placed on the largest banknote in circulation in Ukraine, the 500-hryvnia note.

The Hryhoriy Skovoroda Institute of Philosophy, founded in 1946, operates under the auspicies of the National Academy of Science of Ukraine (until 1991 Academy of Sciences of the UkrSSR).

Skovoroda's works during his life were not printed, because the then censor found that his sacred writings were offensive to Monasticism. Brought up in a spirit of philosophical and religious studies, he became an opponent of dead church scholasticism and spiritual oppression of the Moscow centred Orthodox Church, based in its philosophy to the Bible. "Our kingdom is within us" he wrote "and to know God, you must know yourself...People should know God, like themselves, enough to see him in the world...Belief in God does not mean belief in his existence and therefore to give in to him and live according to His law...Sanctity of life lies in doing good to people."

The official Moscowite stance divided humanity into more or less blessed by God and blessed, and those that are cursed, such as the serfs. Skovoroda taught that "all work is blessed by God", but distribution of wealth outside the circle of God called unforgivable sin. The Muscowite Orthodox clergy was intolerant to Skovoroda's teachings as considered them heretical. Skovoroda taught that the only task of philosophy was to seek the truth and to pursue it. But in terms of human life, this goal is unattainable, and human happiness lies in the fact that everything has to find the truth. This goal can go in different directions, and intolerance of those who think differently, has no justification. Similarly, religious intolerance does not find justification for eternal truth revealed to the world in different forms. In relation to himself he was utterly uncompromising however in complete harmony with their teaching and their lives. He was very gentle and observant in relation to others.

Skovoroda defended the right of the individual in each person, but translated this into concrete political language of the time. This meant a strong democratic trend that was associated with sympathy for enslaved peasant masses, with sharp hostility to the Muscovite oppressors.

It was only in 1798 that his "Narsisis or Know thyself" was published in the Russian Empire and even then without the inclusion of his name. In 1806 the magazine "Zion Vyestnyk" printed some more of his works. Then in Moscow in 1837-1839 a few of his works were published under his name, and only in 1861 the first almost complete collection of his works was published. The best and most complete, was published in 1896 in Kharkiv under the editorship of Professor. D. Bahaliy. Here 16 of his works, with 9 of them appearing for the first time! Also published here Pans biography and some of his poems. Another edition of the works in December. A full academic publication of Skovoroda's works still does not exist, because manuscripts are held in various archives and libraries where access to them is difficult.

List of works

·                     Skovoroda, Gregory S. Fables and Aphorisms. Translation, biography, and analysis by Dan B. Chopyk (New York: Peter Lang, 1990) Review: Wolodymyr T. Zyla, Ukrainian Quarterly, 50 (1994): 303-304.

·                     Skovoroda, Hryhorii. Piznay v sobi ludynu. Translated by M. Kashuba with an introduction by Vasyl' Voitovych (L'viv: S$vit, 1995) Selected works (original: Ukrainian language).

·                     Skovoroda, Hryhorii. Tvory: V dvokh tomakh, foreword by O. Myshanych, chief editor Omelian Pritsak (Kiev: Oberehy, 1994) (original: Ukrainian language, translated from other languages).

·                     Skovoroda, Hryhorii (Gregory), "A Conversation Among Five Travelers Concerning Life's True Happiness" (original: Russian language).

·                     Skovoroda, Hryhorii (Gregory), "Conversation about the ancient world".






3.                             Copleston F. С. History of Philosophy, 8 vol. New York: Doubleday, 1966.

4.                             Edwards, Paul, Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 8 vol. New York: Macmillan,1967.

5.                             Oleksiuk, M. Borot’ba filosofs’kykh techii na zakhidno-ukraïns’kykh zemliakh u 20–30-kh rokakh XX st. (Lviv 1970)

6.                             Ostrianyn, D. Rozvytok materialistychnoï filosofiï na Ukraïni (Kyiv 1971)

7.                             Ievdokymenko, V. (ed). Filosofs’ka dumka na Ukraïni (Kyiv 1972)

8.                             Nichyk, V. (ed). Vid Vyshens’koho do Skovorody (Kyiv 1972)

9.                             Nichik, V. Iz istorii otechestvennoi filosofii kontsa XVII–nachala XVIII v. (Kyiv 1978)

10.                         Stratii, Ia. Problemy naturfilosofii v filosofskoi mysli Ukrainy XVII v. (Kyiv 1981)

11.                         Shynkaruk, V.; et al (eds). Filosofskaia mysl’ v Kieve (Kyiv 1982)

12.                         Stratii, Ia.; Litvinov, V.; Andrushko, V. Opisanie kursov filosofii i ritoriki professorov Kievo-Mogilianskoi akademii (Kyiv 1982)

13.                         Zakhara, I. Bor’ba idei v filosofskoi mysli na Ukraine na rubezhe XVII–XVIII vv. (Stefan Iavorskii) (Kyiv 1982)

14.                         Gorskii, V. (ed). U istokov obshchnosti filosofskikh kul’tur russkogo, ukrainskogo i bolgarskogo narodov: Sbornik nauchnykh trudov (Kyiv 1983)

15.                         Lytvynov, V. Ideï rann’oho prosvitnytstva u filosofs’kii dumtsi Ukraïny (Kyiv 1984)

16.                         Paslavs’kyi, I. Z istoriï rozvytku filosofs’kykh idei na Ukraïni v kintsi XVI–pershii tretyni XVII st. (Kyiv 1984)



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