Mikhail Bakhtin, Russia’s greatest literary critic and arguably its most important philosopher, studied ancient Greek and Latin literature and neo-Kantian philosophy before turning his attention to the Russian classics. So great is the prestige of literature in Russia that philosophers often express their ideas as commentaries on a great writer, and so Bakhtin’s first masterpiece, Problems of Dostoevsky’s Poetics (1929; expanded edition 1963), can be read either as the most insightful book ever written about Dostoevsky or as an essay on ethics and human nature elucidated with examples from Dostoevsky’s fiction. In the present volume, Bakhtin asserts that he always …
This article appears as “Philosopher of Dialogue” in the April 5, 2021, print edition of National Review.
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