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Chicherin, Boris Nikolaevich (1828–1904)


Boris Nikolaevich Chicherin, a Russian philosopher, was educated at Moscow University, where he studied under both K. D. Kavelin and T. N. Granovskii. Until 1868 he was a professor at Moscow University; he also served briefly as tutor to the royal family and as mayor of Moscow (18811883). He was cautiously liberal in politics and, after an early period of agnosticism, devoutly Russian Orthodox in religion.

Chicherin wrote substantial critical studies of Vladimir Solov'ëv (1880) and Auguste Comte (1892), as well as several works on philosophy of law and on the state. His ethical individualism, like that of N. I. Kareev, was close to Immanuel Kant's, but, unlike Kareev, Chicherin was an orthodox Hegelian in logic, ontology, and philosophy of history. This eclecticism generated an unresolved tension in his thought. On the one hand Chicherin asserted that great men are merely "organs and instruments of a universal spirit" and that, under certain conditions, a nationality (narodnost' ) "may become an individual person." On the other hand he insisted that man as a rational creature and "bearer of the Absolute" is an end in himself and must not be "treated as a mere instrument."

Chicherin asserted, with N. K. Mikhailovskii, that "not society, but individuals, think, feel, and desire"; he opposed the "monstrous notion" that society is a higher organism, an all-devouring Moloch, whose function is "to make mankind happy by putting it in chains." Chicherin was alert to encroachments by the social and political spheres on the private and personal realm; he saw the individualthe "foundation-stone of the entire social edifice"as a single spiritual substance, possessed of reason and free will, and hence of a moral worth and dignity that demand respect.

Chicherin saw the dialectical movement of both thought and being as a passage from initial unity to final multiplicity, through the two intermediary stages of relation and combination. Thus, more explicitly than G. W. F. Hegel, he converted the dialectical triad into a tetrad.

See also Agnosticism; Comte, Auguste; Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich; Kant, Immanuel; Kareev, Nikolai Ivanovich; Kavelin, Konstantin Dmitrievich; Philosophy of Law, History of; Mikhailovskii, Nikolai Konstantinovich; Solov'ëv (Solovyov), Vladimir Sergeevich.


Two of Chicherin's works, Polozhitel' naia filosofiia i edinstvo nauki (Positive philosophy and the unity of science; Moscow: n.p., 1892) and Osnovaniia logiki i metafiziki (Foundations of logic and metaphysics; Moscow: n.p., 1894), have been translated as Philosophische Forschungen (Heidelberg, 1899). Chicherin's Filosofiya prava (Philosophy of law) was published in Moscow in 1900.

For discussion of Chicherin, see V. V. Zenkovsky, Istoriia russkoi filosofii, 2 vols. (Paris, 1948 and 1950), translated by G. L. Kline as A History of Russian Philosophy, 2 vols. (New York: Columbia University Press, 1953), pp. 606620.

George L. Kline (1967)

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