Husserl and Shestov: philosophical antipodes


  • Katarzyna Szepieniec


crisis of culture, radical criticism, télos, the alternative either-or, to overcome the crisis, source of knowledge


The paper contains a general characteristics of the relation between Lev Shestov’s philosophy of existence and transcendental phenomenology of Edmund Husserl. The analysis was largely inspired by Cezary Wodziński’s research on Shestov’s writings, including his book published in Polish Wiedza a zbawienie. Studium myśli Lwa Szestowa (1991). In 1931, inspired by Descartes’ Meditationes de prima philosophiae, Husserl began a total transformation of philosophy into a science absolutely founded, assumptionless and developed in the spirit of absolute self-responsibility. Thus, the idea of philosophy as an exact science and Descartes’ idea of a science absolutely founded became the aim. It resulted in a project of universal science which — according to Husserl — has been the aim of European philosophy from the beginning. Ultimately, this philosophy was to rebuild the whole model of European culture. Less than two years after the first edition of Die Krisis der europäischen Wissenchaften und die transzendentale Phänomenologie, Lev Shestov published his Athens and Jerusalem (1938) where he agrees with Husserl’s diagnosis that the whole European culture is in a stage of a deep crisis which goes to its very foundations. However, Shestov points at the radically different sources of that crisis. Paradoxically, a remarkable friendship connecting these two thinkers did not affect the similarity of their views. In fact, they are located at the opposite poles of the contemporary philosophical scene. The friendship of Shestov and Husserl was born in the atmosphere of an intense and uncompromising intellectual debate. Both thinkers are strongly convinced that the fate of European culture and European understanding what it is to be man are decided in the realm of philosophy. So, the philosophical projects they offer are two extremely critical visions of culture. At the same time they suggest a way the European culture should be thoroughly reformed at its very basis