Visual Thought in Russian Religious Philosophy : Pavel Florensky's Theory of the Icon book cover
1st Edition

Visual Thought in Russian Religious Philosophy
Pavel Florensky's Theory of the Icon

ISBN 9780367206826
Published September 17, 2019 by Routledge
100 Pages

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Book Description

This book considers a movement within Russian religious philosophy known as "full unity" (vseedinstvo), with a focus on one of its main representatives, Pavel Florensky (1882–1937). Often referred to as "the Russian Leonardo," Florensky was an important figure of the Russian religious renaissance around the beginning of the twentieth century. This book shows that his philosophy, conceptualized in his theory of the icon, brings together the problem of the "religious turn" and the "pictorial turn" in modern culture, as well as contributing to contemporary debates on religion and secularism.

Organized around the themes of full unity and visuality, the book examines Florensky’s definition of the icon as "energetic symbol," drawing on St. Gregory Palamas, before offering a theological reading of Florensky’s theory of the pictorial space of the icon. It then turns to Florensky’s idea of space in the icon as Non-Euclidean. Finally, the icon is placed within wider debates provoked by Bolshevik cultural policy, which extend to current discussions concerning religion, modernity, and art.

Offering an important contribution from Russian religious philosophy to issues of contemporary modernity, this book will be of interest to scholars of religious philosophy, Russian studies, theology and the arts, and the medieval icon.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Florensky’s project of religious modernity 

1 The unity of man and God before the icon: the icon as "energetic symbol" 

2 The unity of the icon in space: on a stage in man’s road to deification 

3 The unity of faith and reason: on an unusual application of Non-Euclidean geometry 

4 The organic unity of the icon and the Church ritual as a synthesis of the arts

Conclusion and implications

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Clemena Antonova is research director of the "Eurasia in Global Dialogue" programme, Institute for the Human Sciences, Vienna, Austria, and author of Space, Time, and Presence in the Icon: Seeing the World with the Eyes of God.


‘This is the first important study that draws attention to the importance of the visual theme in Russian religious philosophy and its contemporary significance. In doing so, the author makes a highly original contribution to the field.’ — Rudolf Prokschi, Professor Emeritus, Department of Historical Theology, University of Vienna, Austria

‘This book is not just of interest to the relatively small circle of experts in Russian religious philosophy, but deserves a much wider readership. The monograph is well researched, lucid, and very accessible, but without oversimplifying the complexity of the material. Antonova convincingly argues that the intermediation between Christian theology, philosophy, and aesthetics, characteristic of Florensky’s writings, was a response to the crisis of modernity and an attempt to evade the erosion of Christian metaphysics. Florensky’s daring and creative engagement with Byzantine theology, Cubism, Non-Euclidean geometry, and set theory was motivated by the need for a consistently Christian vision of the world.’ — Christoph Schneider, Academic Director, Institute for Orthodox Christian Studies, Cambridge, UK

‘Florensky’s religious philosophy has great relevance for understanding pictorial art. In particular, his theory of the icon comprehends the spectator-image relation in a way that challenges familiar Western notions of pictorial representation. Clemena Antonova’s fine book throws much light on these issues, and presents Florensky’s ideas in a sparkling way that illuminates their relevance for many other aspects of religious thought in the contemporary world.’ — Paul Crowther, Professor Emeritus in Philosophy, National University of Ireland, Galway, and member of the Royal Irish Academy

‘In this important book, Antonova offers a comprehensive analysis of what one may call the new theology of visuality of Pavel Florensky, which has influenced thinkers in Russia and beyond.’ — Alexei Lidov, Professor at Moscow State University, Russia, member of the Russian Academy of Arts, and member of St. Catherine’s College, Oxford, UK