John Gray

Romantic Rebel?

The Discovery of Chance: The Life and Thought of Alexander Herzen

By

Harvard University Press 592pp £29.95 order from our bookshop

Born the illegitimate son of a wealthy Russian landowner and a young German Protestant in 1812, Alexander Herzen was part of a generation of intellectuals who grew up under the spell of Hegel. There are many strands in Hegel’s thought, which at times seems wilfully obscure, but what most attracted the philosopher’s Russian admirers was his dictum ‘What is real is rational, and what is rational is real.’ For Hegel, history was not a jumble of events but a rational process culminating in the emergence of the modern state. True freedom was not the arbitrary assertion of human will but submission to this process.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • 'Pollan has no doubt that the use of psychedelics could have a powerfully beneficial effect on a range of condition… ,
    • A memoir about an Untouchable family and the 'formation of modern India': 'Ants among Elephants' by @gidla_sujatha… ,
    • RT : First founded in Edinburgh in 1979, is considered a trusted independent source for reviews of new book… ,
    • 'In different ways Hatherley makes gritty Lódź and poor old which-country-are-we-in-this-week Lviv sound entrancing… ,
    • In this issue Lucy Popescu discusses the miscarriages of justice occurring in the investigation over Maltese journa… ,
    • 'Rodin’s fascination with ancient Greek sculpture is part of a long and distinguished French tradition.' A review o… ,
    • The New Testament, in a new translation by David Bentley Hart, reviewed by Salley Vickers ,