Lopatin, Lev Mikhailovich (1855–1920)
LOPATIN, LEV MIKHAILOVICH
Lev Mikhailovich Lopatin, the Russian philosopher and psychologist, was one of a number of Russian thinkers—such as A. A. Kozlov—to advance a pluralistic idealism or personalism inspired by the monadology of Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz. Lopatin was for many years professor of philosophy at Moscow University, president of the Moscow Psychological Society, and editor of the leading Russian journal, Voprosy Filosofii i Psikhologii (Problems of Philosophy and Psychology). He wrote extensively and is famous for the clarity and beauty of his style. His thought owed much not only to Leibniz (and to Rudolf Hermann Lotze) but also to his longtime friend, the Russian philosopher Vladimir Solov'ëv.
Lopatin held that every activity or process presupposes an agent. In his metaphysics there is a plurality of agents, which are spiritual entities (monads), supratemporal, and thus indestructible (since destruction involves cessation of existence in time). He held that God is related to this plurality as its unifying ground, but he did not develop fully the character of this relationship. Lopatin's chief contributions to the general doctrine of monads are his view of the substantiality of the individual spirit and his doctrine of "creative causality." According to the former, the individual spirit is neither a substance that is separate from its phenomena nor a pure succession of absolute states; each of these conceptions is fundamentally self-contradictory. Rather, the spirit is a substance that is immanent in its phenomena; its phenomena are the direct realization of its nature. Each individual spirit, moreover, is a "creative" or productive cause; temporal, mechanical causality, and necessity, as well as all material properties—such as extension—are derivatives of the primary causality of supratemporal spirit.
Lopatin was the first of the Russian Leibnizians to give thorough attention to the moral sphere. The doctrine of creative causality gave him a basis for asserting the freedom of the will and for developing an ethical personalism in which moral phenomena represent the highest manifestation of the creative activity of individual spirit. Thus moral phenomena have metaphysical significance, and despite the evil and the inefficacy of good that we observe in the world, reality contains a moral order and is not "indifferent to the realization of the moral ideal."
Just as in ethics Lopatin maintained that unaided experience is not an adequate guide, so in epistemology generally, he discounted pure empiricism in favor of "speculative" principles, defining speculative philosophy as "the knowledge of real things in their principles and in their ultimate signification." Man's immediate inner experience is the source of his knowledge of real things, but philosophy works on this experience and goes beyond it through rational speculation.
works by lopatin
Polozhitel'nyye zadachi filosofii (The positive tasks of philosophy). 2 vols. Moscow, 1886–1891.
Filosofskie kharakteristiki i rechi (Philosophical characterizations and speeches). Moscow: Academia, 1995.
'The Philosophy of Vladimir Soloviev." Mind 25 (October 1916): 425–460.
works on lopatin
Ognev, A. Lev Mikhailovich Lopatin. Petrograd, 1922.
Zen'kovskii, V. V. Istoriia russkoi filosofii. 2 vols. Paris: YMCA Press, 1948–1950. Translated by George L. Kline as A History of Russian Philosophy. 2 vols. New York: Columbia University Press, 1953.
James P. Scanlan (1967)
Bibliography updated by Vladimir Marchenkov (2005)