Nikolai Berdyaev
1874 - 1948

Philosophy ... is the creative perception by the spirit
of the meaning of human existence.
-- Solitude and Society



Biographical Note
    by E. L. Allen
Brief Biography
    by Nino Langiulli

Berdyaev's Philosophy

Berdyaev Quotes
8th Day of Creation

Articles & Essays


Discussion List




On Freedom

Freedom is the ultimate: it cannot be derived from anything: it cannot be made the equivalent of anything. Freedom is the baseless foundation of being: it is deeper than all being. (MCA, 145)

The philosophy of freedom begins with a free act before which there is not, nor can there be, existence, being. If we were to begin with being as the basis, and recognize this primacy of being over freedom, then everything, including freedom, is determined by being. But a determined freedom is not freedom at all. (SC, 109)

Freedom of the spirit which itself gives birth to consequences, which creates life, is revealed to us a bottomlessness, baselessness, as a force from out the boundless deep. We cannot feel a base, a foundation for freedom, nowhere can we find some solid element which determines freedom from within. Freedom of the spirit is a bottomless well. Our substantial nature could not be the basis of freedom. On the contrary, all nature is born of freedom. Freedom proceeds not from nature, but from God's idea and from the abyss which preceded being. Freedom is rooted in 'nothingness'. The act of freedom is primordial and completely irrational. (FS, I,183)

Freedom is not only man's freedom, but man's fate as well. This fated freedom is the most mysterious phenomenon of human existence. (TR, 56)

Truly there is nothing more torturing and unbearable for man, than freedom. (DI, 205)

Man's freedom is indissolubly linked with his obligations. Man's freedom is not a claim, but a duty, not so much what he demands as what is demanded of him. Man must be free. God demands and expects this of him. (CCW, 70)

Our democracy is willing to destroy any or all freedoms for the sake of equality. (CE, 312)

They have no right to speak for freedom, who recognize freedom only for themselves and their friends. (CE, 313)

Every freedom always predicates discipline and asceticism and always perishes if these are lacking. (CE, 313)

Freedom demands that man maintain his dignity and purity, that he control himself. (CE, 314)

The secret of evil is the secret of freedom. Without our understanding of freedom the irrational fact of the existence of evil in God's world cannot be understood. At the basis of the world lies irrational freedom, in the very depths of the abyss. And out of these depths pour the dark currents of life. This abyss hides all sorts of possibilities. This bottomless darkness of being, pre-existent before all good and all evil, cannot be rationalized, fully and completely: it always hides the possibility of the outflow of new, unilluminated energies. The light of the Logos conquers darkness, cosmic order conquers chaos, there is no life, no freedom, no meaning of the process which is taking place. Freedom is founded in the dark abyss, in nothingness, but without freedom there is no meaning. Freedom gives birth to evil as well as good. Therefore evil does not deny the existence of meaning, but rather confirms it. Freedom is not created, because it is not nature; freedom existed before the world began, it is rooted in immemorial nothingness. God is almighty over being, but not over nothingness, or over freedom. And this is why evil exists.... (FS)(CE, 187)

In reality, freedom is aristocratic, not democratic. With sorrow we must recognize the fact that freedom is dear only to those men who think creatively. It is not very necessary to those who do not value thinking. In the so-called democracies, based on the principle of popular sovereignty, a considerable proportion of the people are those who have not yet become conscious of themselves as free beings, bearing within themselves the dignity of freedom. Education to freedom is something still ahead of us, and this will not be achieved in a hurry. (SC, 110)

He truly loves freedom who affirms it for his fellows. (SC, 111)

Last revised: February 22, 2008