The Problem Of Understanding The Dialogue In Russian Philosophical Thought


The issues of dialogue and dialogical thinking have recently come to the fore in both theory and practice. On the one hand, this is due to globalized world development, when the relationships are meaningful not only of individuals and organizations but of entire nations and even civilizations. On the other hand, philosophical science has accumulated a significant proportion of conceptual solutions to the problems of dialogue, which urgently require the most versatile application. The object of this study is the topic of communication in Russian philosophical thought of the first half of the 20th century. The subject of the research is a comparative analysis of the phenomenon of communication in the philosophical views of S.L. Frank and N.A. Berdyaev. The theoretical and practical significance of the work is predetermined by a comparative approach to the study of communication in Russian philosophy, as well as the relevance of the phenomena examined by the above scientist's nodal factors and conditions for establishing communicative contacts. As a result, it seems permissible to explain certain social and ethical phenomena that have taken place in the past, and to determine the essential tendencies of their development in the present.

Keywords: BerdyaevcommunicationdialogueFrankRussian philosophy


Over the past few years, the problems of communication and dialogue have been the focus of attention of specialists in the field of Russian philosophy, psychology, anthropology and some other humanitarian areas. This is due to the theoretical interest on the part of the scientific community in dialogism as a worldview and the specific problems of communication, dialogue and communication in the work of Russian thinkers of the twentieth century, as well as the real problems of our time, largely related to the intercultural dialogue of people, countries, civilizations. The problem of dialogue is directly linked to such an important (not only from the point of view of theory, but most of all in terms of practice) problem, as tolerant coexistence of people, peoples, and states. The interest of modern scholars in the dialogic theories of Russian thinkers of the twentieth century is largely due to the influence of some of them on the modern cultural, political, anthropological directions of modern humanitarian thought both in Russia and abroad.

Problem Statement

The search for spirituality, the thirst for a spiritual connection between a person and a person, the hope of its saving role made mankind in the 20th century turn to an analysis of social reality from the point of view of a person and human relationships. Dialogue has been recognized by many researchers as a form of such a relationship, a universal and endless form of existence and development of spiritual culture. According to Russian philosophical thought of the second half of the nineteenth - the beginning of the twentieth century сulture makes dialogue a living need of everyday life of people, a way to test life itself and its ability to feel it in its entirety. Semyon Ludwigovich Frank and Nikolai Alexandrovich Berdyaev referred to the phenomenon of communication as “my inner being as a subject” (Frank, 2016a). The philosopher noted that the problem of communication is closely related to the nature of perception of someone else's spiritual life. The widespread idea about everything that exists outside of a man himself, that he has only some indirect knowledge, or rather, a representation, has led to the necessity of raising the question of the justification for the presence of “alien animation”.

Research Questions

The Russian thinkers critically evaluate the reflection that a human being, possessing some of his spiritual life, uses the inference hypothesis by analogy, i. e., a person believes that the same mental life is inherent in another “alien” human being. “The unity of society, the commonality of order and life forms are determined in the closest way by the human community, and this community is a genuine real unity” (Frank, 2014) of needs, human nature. The conclusion that the sign of "animation" can be transferred by analogy with oneself to another external object, since this sign can be interpreted as a general, transferable to many individual subjects, seems to Frank to be unreliable. The Russian thinker further cites the theory of “animation” or “participation” of the German psychologist Lipps, the essence of which is that when one encounters a foreign personality, a person seems to become infected with this foreign personality, alien spiritual content, which is partly characteristic of him at this particular time but with a specific sign of alienness. This is what the individual experiences as belonging to another “I”. The philosopher agrees that there is nothing left but to admit that there is a specific, special perception of someone else's "I"; the doctrine of this in various forms was developed by Max Schaller and Lossky.

Berdyaev (1990b) notes that not everything that happens to the "I" should be experienced as akin, and sometimes even the "I" should, as far as possible, be abstracted from the pseudo-close. In this case, we are talking about a society in which people are forced to exist, about a “deceptive social cover of being ...”. Society for Berdyaev (1995b) is "not existential"; it is not able to solve the issue of loneliness. Society for the deep "I" is an object, the forced "ejection" of a person into his network is alien to himself. But the fact that a person is “abandoned”, “thrown out” into society is of great importance for the existential fate of the “I”. “Ejection” of “I” into society, into social everyday life is an indicator of a person’s fallenness. Society, according to Berdyaev, is the fate of a person in this realm of disconnected, alien objects. The “I” for some reason can fall away from its inner “I”, from the depth of its existence and fall into the maelstrom of social relations, thus, “the exteriorization of the microcosm of a person can happen ...” (Berdyaev, 1995b). The "I", falling away from its depth, must protect its exclusivity from society as a malicious enemy. After all, it is not “I” that should enter society, as part of the whole, but rather, society is only a small fraction of that universe, which is called a human person. Thus, we can say that, according to Berdyaev, not “I” is in society, but society exists in “I”.

Frank (2016a) writes: “Communication is something different and more than mere discretion or perception of someone else's animation” (p. 108). An external object that we perceive as animate, according to Frank, does not cease to exist in relations with other animated objects. The philosopher in this context draws an analogy with a passerby person on the street. They are also living, animated beings, but not deeply interested in us; they interest us only as moving objects, in relation to their subject is only concerned with not colliding. Semyon Ludwigovich Frank introduces in this context the concept of “it,” “animate being,” denoted grammatically in the third person. As such, “it” enters into the experience of human life as a creature that is not of special interest, being part of an objectively given reality. The situation is changing radically, according to Frank, in any act of communication - even the most superficial. In the case when a person is talking with someone, shakes hands with another person or silently meets a “stranger's” look, the counterparty ceases to be “it”, but becomes “you”. The presence and interaction with “you” no longer fits beyond the framework of an objectively existing reality, ceases to be a dumb, passive object. A one-sided relationship is replaced by a two-sided, true act of communication, where there is a mutual exchange of "spiritual activities." Our inner gaze is fixed on him, and his on us; turning itself into another nature has a qualitatively different character: this is not a purely ideal orientation, but a real spiritual interaction. “The activity of love for one’s neighbor is expressed, first of all, in a peaceful, friendly, benevolent attitude towards all people” (Frank, 2016b, p. 21). Semyon Ludwigovich draws the following conclusion: communication, being a kind of connection with what is outside of us, is at the same time part of our life: “communication is a phenomenon that simultaneously and immediately is something“ external ”for us and something“ internal " (Frank, 2016a).

According to Nikolai Berdyaev (1995a), in order to successfully realize himself in communication with others, a person is forced to play one or another role: the role of the father or mother of the family, the director of a large industrial enterprise, a successful artist, an official concerned about the fate of the country, the role of a secular person, etc. d. Performing this or that social role, a person shows not a real, true self. “... All our conscious cultural and social life, with its innumerable conventions, is a fake, ghostly, false and essentially unnecessary life, ... behind it lies a spontaneous, unconscious first life, genuine, deep and solely necessary” (Berdyaev, 1995a, p. 151), the philosopher writes. Berdyaev (1990a) argues that the problem of loneliness to its highest degree is the essence of the problem of death. Passing through death is passing through an extreme, last degree of loneliness, when there is a final break with everyone and with everything. Absolute solitude, the loss of all ties, threads of communication, a complete break with the entire sphere of existence, being is death (here it should be noted that according to Berdyaev, “an individual dies, but a person does not die ...” (Berdyaev, 1990a).

The man, according to Nikolai Alexandrovich Berdyaev, in fact, remains lonely, not reflected in the Other. Moreover, the presence of pseudo-contacts threatens the subject itself, as the core of the relationship, with decay, decomposition into small disparate components that is the probability of “completely leveling the real self-awareness of an individual person” (Tareev, 1994). The philosopher notes that at present alienation and self-existence dominate the human personality, dictating the wrong laws of life, where the personality is completely leveled, destroyed, where the self of a single being is destroyed. Researchers repeatedly emphasize that “... everyday life prevails, where everything is calculated and planned in terms of efficiency, effectiveness and rationality, where the economy of exchange dominates, where there is no place for sacrifice and generosity, where a person is content with goods, information and references, and forgets about creation and communication ” (Markov et al., 1997, p. 184).

Moreover, any act of communication between the “I” and “you” gives birth to a new reality called “we”. What is “we”? - asks Frank. "I" is, according to Frank, one of a kind, unique. “You” or “the other” is an impossible, unrealizable idea of repeating the “I”. Nothing can make myself not unique. If there are many disparate "I", then this fact is the key to withdrawing myself from genuine being and transfers a person to an alien, objectively existing reality. In this case, instead of the true “I”, “it” appears, which can take the form of “they”. “We”, in the understanding of the philosopher, are not many “I”, “we” are the many “I” and “you” (“you”). The existence of “I” and “you” is not a simple multiplicity of two or more “extra-positive phenomena” (Frank, 2016a). This is a kind of unity that finds kinship in me. “We” is a kind of “expansion of I” beyond its natural limits. For Frank (2017), there is a duty to “treat with reverence for a particular living soul of the neighbor of all its integrity, to consider as sacred the very existence of man, specifically existing in his earthly form”. Frank goes on to say that the realization of “we” is the realization that the “I” exists outside of its own self. In an attempt to explain the essence of communication and the phenomenon of the existence of “we”, the thinker himself sees the impossibility of absolute, logically distinct concepts; there is coincidentia oppositorum. In the fact of a living, life-giving communication with another person through deep contact with her, we enter into a close relationship with ourselves and the mysterious depths of reality that is outside of us. Semen Ludwigovich writes: “Something essentially hidden, internal, supermundane emerges outside and not only touches, but somehow intersects and at least partially and superficially, merges, enters into unity with another carrier of reality similar to it” (Frank, 2016a, p.202). Something qualitative other, new, not mechanical interaction of parts of reality is happening, but something intimate comes into contact.

Berdyaev identifies the concepts of "I" and "you." “Infinite power and infinite knowledge, eternal beauty and harmony - all this enters into the realization and development of the self” (Berdyaev, 1989). With true communication and interaction, “I” and “you” are facing each other, face to face. The essence, the nature of “I” is open in front of “you”, lies in the palm of your hand, “I” has nothing to hide from “you”, “intimate communication with another person, ... conversation together” (Berdyaev, 1990a). This idea is revealed in the philosophy of “existential communication” of Berdyaev, for whom the dialogical nature of communication was important. For “I”, “you” is not an object from the beginning, “I” perceives “you” as an equivalent subject filled with ecstatic content. Professor Nekrasova (1997) characterizes the concept of “you” as “the incomprehensible secret of living reality that touches, invades us, is experienced by us”. When “you” turns into an object, loses its attractiveness for a real deep “I”, then it becomes “it”. The appearance of “it” is, in the opinion of the thinker, the result of the process of objectification. Even God can become “it” if the understanding of the divine essence is subject to objectification. “You” disappears, dissolves, its face dissolves, there are no more secret meetings face to face between “I” and “you”. A cold, frightening, indifferent face of the object appears “it”. And when the human “I” meets “you”, then the ominously steel charms of the material, objective world break and the gates of the world of true existence open.

Berdyaev notes that there are not only the concepts of "I", "you" or "it." He also singles out “not-self” as a possible way of existence, which is characterized by a lack of genuine communication. Do not forget, Berdyaev writes, about the presence of "we." The community “we” is an “existential community”. “We” can also be objectified, become “it”, which happens in the process of socialization of social relations. The objectified "we", understood as "it", is the essence of the social collective, which is imposed on the outside by each "I". But there is “we” as an internal community, communication and unity between the “I”, where the “I” is perceived by the other “I” as “you”.

Purpose of the Study

Research Objectives:

  • To study the role of previous philosophical theories developed on domestic ground in the formation of the Russian philosophy of dialogue of the second half of the nineteenth - the beginning of the twentieth century.

  • To analyze the general provisions of the dialogical concepts of the second half of the nineteenth - the beginning of the twentieth century, presented by Frank and Berdyaev.

  • To identify the original problems considered by Russian thinkers in the framework of dialogic concepts.

  • Present the heritage of Frank and Berdyaev as the direction in Russian philosophy of the second half of the nineteenth - the beginning of the twentieth century.

  • Identify trends in the development of the basic principles of the Russian philosophy of dialogue in various fields of humanitarian knowledge.

Research Methods

The explorative basis of the work as a historical and philosophical analysis is comparative-historical and logical-historical methods. They consist in a retrospective comparison and analysis of the main texts of Russian philosophers. The combination of historical and philosophical analysis of dialogical concepts with a biographical approach in relation to their creators made it possible not only to consider Russian dialogism in its formation and development.


The nature of such a communicative act, such an essentially important meeting, according to Frank, can be infinitely diverse and multivariant. Provided that a deep meeting of the two "I" took place, it can be filled with various moral and aesthetic properties that penetrate into the depths of the spiritual existence, being of the personality. One person from the first meeting can be pleasant, cause a feeling of approval, sympathy; and the other does not like, excites a feeling of discontent, discomfort and protest. From the recurrence of such meetings is formed the phenomenon that is called "relations between people." “We need to snuggle, forever cling to someone’s friendly chest, hold on to someone’s powerful and beneficent hand” (Frank, 2008, p. 87). Such relationships can have the character of friendship, solidarity, love, as well as opposition, hostility (if the divergence of views, mutual repulsion does not lead to alienation and indifference to each other's life, when the living “I” has a chance to turn into “it”, into an object). Frank also agrees that in most relationships between people are complex. The nature of communication can sometimes balance between solidarity and antagonism; being an inevitable part of life, it is also changeable, dynamic, ambiguous, passes through certain stages. Fiction of all centuries is devoted to the image of this infinitely rich, complex, sometimes dramatic world of living human relations.

But, notes Berdyaev, there are other relationships between the "I" and society. When the diversity of "I" and "you" appears, which is the essence of society, when it ceases to be "it", "Essein", then slowly and majestically the image of "we" comes out. Then fear, uncertainty, unaccountable timidity, desire to hide from the outside world disappear from the “I”, on the contrary, the “I” acquires a sincere desire to enter, to join the “we”, to become its integral part. “We” are not an object for “I”, “we” are not imposed on the “I” from the outside. “We” are the essence, content and quality of life of any true “I”, since the existence of every “I” is determined not only by its relation to another “I”, but also by its relation to human multitude and diversity. When "I" is pronounced, we mean "we." The meaning of “I” is revealed in “we”. Berdyaev inextricably thinks of the existence of "I" and "we." In Russian philosophy, the idea of a church, interpreted not as an objectified social institution, but as a church “taken in its ontological purity” belonging to the existential order is connected with such an understanding of the essence of society. Professor Shaposhnikov (1996) writes: “The organic understanding of the church, expressed in collegiality, removes the antinomy of individualism and authoritarianism” (p. 78). But the church, according to Berdyaev, can also be turned into “it”, then the innermost meaning and mystery of “we” disappears.

Semyon Ludwigovich further writes that along with purely personal relationships that preserve the character of living, laid-back, concrete manifestations, plastic, unformed and volatile. There are also relations that take shape in fairly stable forms that take the form of objective reality, which is independent directly from a specific life activity, subject to a specific set of rules and thus forming a social environment (family, state, etc.). Surrounded and permeated with a network, a set of diverse relationships between people, they exist in a special, according to Frank, general spiritual world. This world is basically the world of its own spiritual life, but “in the measurement of its collectivity - is the totality of the individual inner lives of each of us, only interwoven, through relations between people, into a kind of inextricable unity” (Frank, 2016a, p. 112).

"I", as Russian existentialists believe, exists only in dialogue, in communication. Lossky rightly observes: “Personality is a spiritual principle, which assumes the presence of another person and the communication of personalities” (Lossky & Thoughts, 1994). There is no individual without dialogical struggle, contradiction, confrontation with other "I", since human consciousness is socially social in nature, that is, it implies the presence of others. In view of the fact that our consciousness has become adapted to symbolic messages in space and time without real communication, without going into the bright world of the transcendent, in other words, consciousness has become socialized, it even prevents a person from truly communicating, leaving him with a feeling of orphanhood. Socialized consciousness is determined by social routine, the daily course of things, where there is a readiness “... to destroy every personality, cut off the possibility of all its blossoming” (Berdyaev, 1990b). In the act of transcending, the boundaries of consciousness expand and the obstacles to merging, connecting with the "you" disappear. To part with orphans, to quench the tormenting longing for communication, a person sometimes wants to extinguish consciousness, turn it off. Social everyday life with its awesome restrictive framework, strict laws of necessity disappears in a transcendental act. Personal, individual, original thinking, close to the primary source of being is not a denial of the possibility of community and communication, according to the thinker, but the essence of the denial of the dependence of thinking on social everyday life and on society, understood as an object. Personal thinking does not deny communication, but general, according to Berdyaev. Being “I” and the possibility of communication with another “I” is emotional. In general, the essence of “I” is revealed in his emotional life. The conversion of “I” into an object is, first of all, evidence of the action of all-consuming rationalization. Although emotions can also be socialized and attached to the power of everyday life, in this way, the inner world, the depth of the "I" is hidden, withheld. Berdyaev considers erroneous the assumption that communication, through which loneliness is overcome, is only communication between people.


A breakthrough from the world of the socialized world of alienation, fragmented and constrained, involves a way out through communion with the superpersonal. The familiarization of the “I” with the “I,” of the individual to the individual solves the problem of loneliness. But, as Berdyaev rightly notes, “I” is not yet a person, not a ready-made reality. “I” only seeks to become I. The personality becomes, is created in the process of communication between the "I" and "you." Thus, communication helps the “I” to become a person, “... not a fractional part of the universe, not a fragment of it, but an entire small universe, which includes all the qualities of a large universe ...” (Berdyaev, 1989, p. 299), gain depth. The personality grows, strengthens in an exit in "you" and "we". Professor Chukhina writes about this: “On the basis of dialogic interactions with the “you ”, the human principle of man itself is constituted and the “I”, only here speaking in the dialogue, can be pronounced in its entirety” (Chukhina, 1991). But as was said above, there is a sacrament of personality, which is impossible to comprehend, since the "I" wants to remain unsolved to the end. Incomplete openness of the "I", says Berdyaev, is one of the most important conditions for its existence as a measure of protection and precaution against the cold-lifeless face of objects. Here, there is a difference from the philosophical views of Berdyaev, who argued that the "I" should be fully open to the "you", which is the condition and the guarantee of real communication. When the "I" wants to meet the "you", go out and open into it, and it faces the "it", it tries to protect its "I" from the rude and tormenting touch of the "it", since, in the opinion of Chukhina (1991), penetrating into the sphere of “it”, “a person infringes on the possibilities, realization of his truly human nature, drowns out the spiritual and moral potentialities inherent in him, and perverts the proper nature of his interactions with the world” (Chukhina, 1991).

The subject or “it”, according to thinkers, has its own inner existence and deep, comprehensive content, the object exists for the subject and has a secondary character in relation to it. To be an object, according to philosophers, means to be for the subject, the object as it were for something else, not having an internal independent being. When it comes to the transcendental, one cannot talk about the object, since the concepts of “transcendence” and “transcendental” have nothing to do with the object. The act of transcendence, according to the views of Berdyaev and Frank, can be committed by the subject, since the ability to transcendental is present only in him.


  1. Berdyaev, N. A. (1989). The meaning of creativity. Pravda Publ. House.
  2. Berdyaev, N. A. (1990a). Self-knowledge: The experience of philosophical autobiography. Thought.
  3. Berdyaev, N. A. (1990b). The philosophy of inequality. Composition. IMA-press.
  4. Berdyaev, N. A. (1995a). About slavery and human freedom. The experience of personalistic philosophy. In: The kingdom of the Spirit and the kingdom of Caesar. Republic.
  5. Berdyaev, N. A. (1995b). The experience of eschatological metaphysics (Creativity and objectification). In: The kingdom of the Spirit and the kingdom of Caesar. Republic.
  6. Chukhina, L. A. (1991). Man and his value world in religious philosophy (2rd ed., Revised). Zinatne.
  7. Frank, S. L. (2008). The collapse of idols. Direct Media.
  8. Frank, S. L. (2014). The spiritual foundations of society: an introduction to social philosophy. Direct Media.
  9. Frank, S. L. (2016a). Friedrich Nietzsche and the ethics of “love for the far”. Direct Media.
  10. Frank, S. L. (2016b). Reality and Man: Metaphysics of Human Being. Direct Media.
  11. Frank, S. L. (2017). Light in the dark: the experience of Christian ethics and social philosophy. Direct Media.
  12. Lossky, N. O., & Thoughts, N. A. (1994). Berdyaev on the appointment of a person. In: Berdyaev: pro et contra. Prince 1. Comp., Entry Art. and note. A. A. Ermicheva. RKHGI.
  13. Markov, B. V., Kolesnikov, A. S., & Korneev, M. Y. (1997). Communication, phenomenology and existence. In K. Jaspers, M. Heidegger The history of modern foreign philosophy: a comparative approach. DOE.
  14. Nekrasova, E. N. (1997). Living truth. Metaphysics of human existence in Russian religious philosophy of the XX century. Martis.
  15. Shaposhnikov, L. E. (1996). The philosophy of collegiality: essays on Russian identity. Publ. House of St. Petersburg Univer.
  16. Tareev, M. M. (1994). Religion and the public. In the book. In: Berdyaev: pro et contra. Prince 1. Comp., Entry Art. and note. A. A. Ermicheva. RKHGI.

Copyright information

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

About this article

Publication Date

27 February 2021

eBook ISBN



European Publisher



Print ISBN (optional)


Edition Number

1st Edition




National interest, national identity, national security, public organizations, linguocultural identity, linguistic worldview

Cite this article as:

Bagaeva, O. N. (2021). The Problem Of Understanding The Dialogue In Russian Philosophical Thought. In I. Savchenko (Ed.), National Interest, National Identity and National Security, vol 102. European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences (pp. 77-84). European Publisher.