Vladimir Soloviev and the Spiritualization of Matter

Vladimir Soloviev and the Spiritualization of Matter

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Oliver Smith

Series: Studies in Russian and Slavic Literatures, Cultures and History
ISBN: 9781936235179 (hardcover)
Pages: 324 pp.
Publication Date: November 2010

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While he is widely acknowledged as the most important Russian thinker of the nineteenth century, Vladimir Soloviev’s place in the landscape of world philosophy nevertheless remains uncertain. Approaching him through a single synoptic lens, this book foregrounds his unique envisioning of the interaction between humanity and the material world. By investigating the development of a single theme in his work—his idea of the “spiritualization of matter”, the “task” of humanity—Smith constructs a rounded picture of Soloviev’s overall importance to an understanding. If nineteenth-century thought, as well as to modern theology and philosophy. The picture that emerges is of a writer whose contribution to a Christian philosophy of matter resonates with many of the religious debates of modernity.


Oliver Smith was a lecturer in Russian at the University of St. Andrews in the United Kingdom. His research focused on Russian intellectual tradition as it developed from the beginning of the nineteenth century, and his publications included "The Ecology of History: Russian Thought on the Future of the World", which appeared in Ecological Awareness: Exploring Religion, Ethics and Aesthetics, LIT-Verlag, Studies in Religion and the Environment, 2009 and "Is Humanity King to Creation? The Thought of Vladimir Solov'ev in the Light of Ecological Crisis," published in the Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture, 2008. Dr. Smith passed away in April 2013.


Oliver Smith’s Vladimir Soloviev and the Spiritualization of Matter is one of the best recent works in English about Soloviev, indeed about Russian philosophy in general. It tackles complex philosophical concepts with unusual clarity, lucidity and cohesion, exploring the evolution of Soloviev’s philosophical system, and offering detailed and nuanced analyses of the relationships of Soloviev’s ideas with those of his great predecessors (Plato, Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Kant, Hegel, Jewish Kabbala etc.).
— Lazar Fleishman, Professor of Slavic Languages and Literatures, Stanford University
This book is a welcome contribution to a growing body of literature on Russian sophiology. Weaving his narrative around Soloviev’s spiritual and intellectual biography, Oliver Smith offers a nuanced and erudite account of Soloviev’s metaphysics of all-unity. Smith successfully shows that at the core of Soloviev’s metaphysical project was a consistent integration of spiritual and material aspects of reality, epitomized in the incarnation.
— Paul Gavrilyuk, Associate Professor of Historical Theology, University of St Thomas, Saint Paul, Minnesota
Intelligently, poignantly, and with clear sight, Smith gives us a portrait of Soloviev and his refusal, indeed, his ‘inability to think the divine without the human’; I myself could formulate no better description of this important Russian religious writer, who throughout his multi-faceted career as poet, philosopher, teacher, and journalist sought ever to articulate the ways in which matter can, is, and must be spiritualized. We are all the better for Soloviev’s various writings on the subject, and now for Smith’s cogent analysis of them all.
— Judith Deutsch Kornblatt, Department of Slavic Languages and Literature, University of Wisconsin - Madison