The Concept of Spirituality in Social Philosophy

  • B. A. ErshovEmail author
  • L. S. Perevozchikova
  • E. V. Romanova
  • I. A. Ashmarov
Conference paper
Part of the Smart Innovation, Systems and Technologies book series (SIST, volume 139)


The article deals with the problem related to human spirituality, its internal structure and contradictions in the social and philosophical aspects. Insufficient attention in modern Russian philosophy is given to the structuring, systematization and typologization of components that make up personal and social spirituality. Therefore, an analysis of the contradictions of human spirituality is important. Of particular importance now is the question of approaches to the problem of spirituality, which is considered in this article.

Particular attention is paid to the development of ideas about the spirit and spirituality on the example of philosophical currents, which examine this problem from different positions that illuminate this or that side of the subject of our study.

The article shows the most significant contradictions, the ratio of which contributes to the emergence of a particular type of spirituality. It should be emphasized that not only from existential and social contradictions, but also from cultural, political, economic, ethnic, psychological, physiological and biological and other contradictions, is the process of spiritual development of the individual.

It is shown that the contradictions between secular and religious spirituality are, rather, external in nature and are associated with a certain level of confrontation in the social, cultural and other spheres. The development of civilization is accompanied by the isolation of many spheres of spiritual life both of society and of personality.


Spirituality Society State Man Culture 

1 Introduction

In all cultures and philosophical traditions, the problems of spirit and spirituality have been and are meaningful. The ancient concepts of “spirit”, “soul” etymologically go back to the word “breath”, denoting a life-affirming and life-giving function. The richest mythological and religious symbolism of the spirit and soul, ascending to the fundamental human archetypes, forms the property of every human culture and of all humanity. In this sense, Russian culture is no exception.

There are certain differences between the ordinary, religious and philosophical concept of spirituality. Frequent use of the concept of “spirituality” in the media completely detracts from its value characteristics and to a small extent takes into account the dialectical nature of spirituality. The task of philosophical research is to separate the ordinary and essential from the accidental and limited understanding of spirituality. Moreover, here it is very important to turn to the religious and philosophical tradition, within which the spiritual problem has been systematically developed [1].

Recently, the Russian religious and philosophical tradition has undergone extensive research with a view to restoring, restoring its completeness and identity. Comparison with the theoretical search for significant values in modern philosophy corresponds to the prospects of the current philosophical process. From this general premise follows the relevance of the research topic.

2 Methodology

The theoretical and methodological approach to the problem of spirituality in Russian religious philosophy is the definition of value concepts for the content of “must” and “necessary,” the prerequisites and means for their implementation in the light of this tradition. The main objectives of the study suggest a synthetic approach to the spiritual problem: because it is a problem in Russian religious philosophy and its full comprehension is impossible without comparison with the principles of the traditions of Russian religiosity.

Therefore, the study is based on a combination of historical-philosophical, conceptual-comparative and system analysis.

The historical-philosophical and conceptual-comparative analysis makes it possible to determine with great accuracy the essential core, essence and subject of the problem of spirituality in Russian religious philosophy. The objects of such analysis are the basic concepts of the problem of spirituality, which serve to unfold religious metaphysics in many spheres of philosophical thinking. These concepts are analytically compared between different Russian religious philosophers in order to reveal their fundamental functional and semantic significance in this type of philosophy [2]. System analysis allows us to identify the relationship between individual parts of the problem of spirituality in their unity and contradictions, without which it is impossible to present an adequately holistic concept of spirituality in Russian religious philosophy.

3 Results

Existing up to now in the scientific literature the problem of Russian spirituality are clearly not sufficient.

In addition, if the questions of the genesis of Russian spirituality, its specific features and properties were illuminated at the theoretical and specifically empirical levels, then the dynamics of Russian spirituality in the 20th century, the trends and patterns of its development require scientific development [3].

The existing arsenal of modern philosophical knowledge, the author reconstructs in the picture the origin of Russian spirituality, reveals its qualitative nature and national specifics, and reproduces the evolution of Russian spirituality in the 20th century.

Analysis of the features of Russian spirituality in the XX century accompanied by the identification of the state of modern philosophical knowledge in this area. Moreover, since a certain complexity is associated with a fuzzy characteristic of the concept of “spirituality,” arose the need to develop an understanding of spirituality, relevant to modern science [4].

Spirituality is presented as a complex sociocultural, national, psycho-emotional phenomenon, manifested in the person’s life-experiences through such inner qualities as subtlety, volume, depth, strength, contradictory desire for freedom and harmony with the world around them and their awareness.

Interest in the problems of man’s spiritual being is formed in the extreme antiquity, the phenomenon of spirituality is interpreted in different ways. Because of the analysis, two main approaches to understanding spirituality are highlighted.

In the Western philosophical thought and in the Soviet philosophy, the rationalistic approach predominated, within the framework of which the spiritual was identified with consciousness, thinking, and the psyche and was reduced either to the intellectual-mental activity of man or to the sensually emotional sphere [5].

Russian philosophers in the XIX - early XX centuries. (N.A. Berdyaev, S.L. Frank and others), as well as representatives of Soviet humanitarian thought (D.S. Likhachev, M.M. Bakhtin, S.S. Averintsev, A.F. Losev) developed an axiological approach to spirituality. According to this approach, the spiritual is rooted in the inner world of man, revealed through his self-improvement, inseparable from moral values: truth, kindness, beauty, meaning, freedom [6].

The main characteristics of the phenomenon of spirituality in modern Russian science reflect the continuity of the views of thinkers of the past and present. For modern researchers, as for their predecessors, spirituality is an indicator of a certain hierarchy of values and values. In social and philosophical cognition, spirituality is an integrated unity of the three principles: moral, aesthetic and cognitive [7].

Spirituality is formed when suppressing geopolitical, ethnic, confessional, economic, professional, social and other factors and has a specific historical and specific social character.

The problem of the originality of spirituality is connected with the problems of mentality and national character. Mentality characterizes the unchanging, most stable manifestations of spirituality in various spheres of human life and society. The national character is a component of the mentality, an inalienable characteristic of the mental characteristics of people belonging to a given culture [8].

Russian spirituality is seen as a complex polyethnic formation, formed as a result of the cultural synthesis of Western and Eastern spiritual quest, the achievements of antiquity, the Eastern patristic, traditional Slavic pagan culture and pagan beliefs of some non-Slavic tribes, mixing different value systems and creeds, interweaving historical times and social communities.

Specificity of Russian spirituality is revealed through the content of its archetypes - the main complexes that have a stable syncretic character.

Archetypes are singled out:
  1. (1)

    a pagan that includes such characteristics of Russian spirituality as mythology, anthropocosmism, figurative-intuitive, sensually contemplative perception of the world, anti-rationalism, suitability of nature;

  2. (2)

    Orthodox, the basis of which was the idea of holiness, the ethical principle of non-resistance to evil by violence, a complex of ideas, an ideal, a formed and utopian factor;

  3. (3)

    sovereign, revealing itself in the complex of ideas about the state as the Fatherland, the Motherland, power, in principle holiness, righteousness and moral responsibility of the supreme authority, the idea of the unity of the Russian land, in the ideology “Moscow - the Third Rome”, which formed the notion of a special mission of the Russian state;

  4. (4)

    sobornost, which means the existence of communal, collectivist principles in Russian spirituality and implying the desire of the Russian people for solidarity and mutual assistance, mutual coexistence, exclusion of alienation, enmity and hatred between them, intelligently combining the interests of the individual and the collective [9].


In the modern period, there are tendencies of Westernization and lack of spirituality. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russian society found itself in a crisis. Forms of its manifestation were the crisis of national identity, the loss of a common opinion about the basic values of Russian culture, the denial of traditions, social amnesia, nihilistic attitude to the past [10].

Russian national tradition is a system of values and ideals that characterizes the Russian people and reflects its mission in history. Novation is seen as the reproduction of tradition in new conditions and at a qualitatively new level [11].

Innovations in Russian spirituality in the 20th century. (mythologization of spirituality, the phenomenon of charisma) are conditioned, on the one hand, by the specifics of the industrial society, on the other hand by the peculiarities of Russian historical development. At the same time, in the Russian spirituality during the XX century. Elements of the traditional worldview are preserved, in particular, community thinking. Unlike the mass character of an industrial society that arises from the individualization and atomization of society, the basis of Russian collectivism is the desire for unity, solidarity, which is predetermined by the conciliar archetype of Russian spirituality [12].

In post-reform Russia, traditional values are being replaced by innovative values that have a westernized character. As a result, a new, eclectic type of spirituality emerges, reflecting the tendencies of the primitiveness of spirituality. On the other hand, a number of innovations contain the rehabilitation of old spiritual and cultural forms. This concerns, in particular, the religious tradition [13].

The state of Russian society in the pre-revolutionary period is characterized as a crisis. The destabilization of all spheres of social life marked the split of the Russian society at the end of the 20th century not only on the socio-economic and political, but also on the spiritual basis [14].

4 Discussion

The problem of Russian spirituality is the subject of constant reflection of the national philosophy of the past and the present. Recently, a large number of rather unequal works devoted to this problem have appeared in various branches of the social sciences. The entire spectrum of literature on the subject under study can be divided into several groups [15].

Firstly, these are works of universal content, in which a number of issues related to the definition of specific features and basic values of Russian culture are revealed. These works allow us to recreate the image of Russian spirituality in the previous periods of its development, emphasizing the features of Russian national identity and the idea of historical attempts to solve the problem of the cultural essence of the Russian nation. First, here it is necessary to note the works written in emigration in the 1920s and 1950s, some of them were reissued today in Russia. The authors of the preface to the collection “On Russia and the Russian philosophical culture. Philosophers of the Russian Abroad “believe that emigration created” original cultural, philosophical, historical, and religious-philosophical Russian studies formed at the junction of history, philosophy, sociology and theology. These are philosophical and historical excursions, essays, articles and fundamental research by such authors as P. Vishelslavtsev, V.V. Zenkovskiy, I.A. Ilyin, L.P. Karsavin, A.V. Kartashov, P.N. Milyukov, P.A. Sorokin, G.P. Fedotov, S.L. Frank [16].

Among contemporary books of universal content, it should be noted K. Kasyanova’s work “On the Russian national character,” where an attempt is made to structure the national consciousness, isolating the archetypal and reflective level in it. Especially important is the author’s analysis of the concept of “national archetype.” However, the author’s conclusion about the need for the development of Russian culture in accordance with the Western cultural code is very contradictory. In this paper, a dispute is being held on this issue, and a thesis about the original path of Russian civilization is being asserted [17].

A detailed analysis of the genesis, essence and current state of Russian culture contains a study by I.V. Mozhaiskov “Spiritual image of the Russian civilization.” This work was particularly significant in the formation of the author’s personal position in relation to the Soviet period.

One of the last works devoted to the study of Russian culture and the Russian idea as a whole was the book by Yu.V. Mamleev “Russia is eternal”. The concept outlined in it is clearly esoteric in nature and requires the researcher to make significant efforts to distinguish metaphysical and socio-philosophical plans from the author’s judgments. Especially productive in the theoretical and methodological terms was the author’s analysis of Russian literature as a sphere of embodiment of the national spirit, which reflected the process of “Russian search”, the self-knowledge of the nation [18].

Separately, one can single out articles and monographs of contemporary researchers devoted to the analysis of the views of the thinkers of the past on Russian culture. Their rethinking makes it possible to create an idea of the dynamics of the study of the problem of spirituality, to compare the historical and modern principles of its analysis and to confirm the continuity in the evaluation of national culture by thinkers of different generations. We have in mind such authors as N.K. Bonetskiy, V.K. Cantor, A.V. Guliga, N.K. Gavryushin, V.P. Shestakov, A.I. Abramov, A.F. Zamaleev and others [19].

The works of A. Ivanova, A.V. Makhlaeva, N. Shpaka and others are devoted to the philosophical rethinking and interrelation of the categories “national character”, “national culture”, “national tradition”. In the works of V.G. Belous, E.A. Anufriev, etc. contains interpretations of the concept of “mentality”, which differ in sufficient variety. In the western science in this direction, the French researcher Jacques Le Goff works [20].

The third group of scientific works consists of theoretical studies containing analysis of the category “spirituality” and other related concepts, as well as works devoted to the problem of Russian spirituality. These are articles and monographs of such Russian authors as I.I. Garin, V.A. Kutyrev, A.D. Spirin, Ya.V. Reizem, G.V. Platonov, A.S. Kosichev, V.N. Sherdakov, Avanesov, E.V. Zorin, L.E. Yakovlev and others [21].

We specifically want to mention here the works of N.A. Berdyaev “Spirit and Reality”, “Philosophy of the Free Spirit”, in which the socio-philosophical interpretation of the category “spirituality” is presented.

5 Conclusion

The concept of “spiritual corporeality” is the theoretical basis of this work, which allows us to consider the phenomenon of spirituality in its pure form without the unforeseen contradiction and insignificant application of the concept of “spirituality” in religious philosophy.

The authors explain one unknown through another unknown. But this statement can be attributed not only to this article, but also to the history of philosophy in general, which therefore exists and develops, that it has not yet understood its concept in its final form, that it itself constantly encounters contradictions and problems.

The concept of the essence of man and nature, spirit and spirituality is the subject of philosophy, religion, art almost from the very moment of their appearance.

At the same time, a lot of knowledge is accumulated in the field of theory and practice of “spiritual work”, the philosophical comprehension of which can more deeply understand man as a spiritual being, speak about it something new, develop his spirituality even deeper so that he can more clearly see that he is and can appear. The study of the problem of spirituality in Russian religious philosophy allows one to abstract from private and limited interpretations of both the phenomenon of spirituality and the essence of man, to approach the essential and immanent unity of the spiritual essence of humanity.

The meaning of the problem of spirituality in Russian religious philosophy, as it is revealed in the article, is defined as an active attitude of a person to his own life and to the surrounding world in which he exists. Spirituality manifests itself in a person’s comprehension of the goals of his own being, expresses a person’s attitude to each moment of his life from the point of view of eternity.


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Authors and Affiliations

  • B. A. Ershov
    • 1
    Email author
  • L. S. Perevozchikova
    • 1
  • E. V. Romanova
    • 1
  • I. A. Ashmarov
    • 1
  1. 1.Voronezh State Technical UniversityVoronezhRussia

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