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 Personality

The entire world is nothing in comparison with human personality, with the unique person of a man, with his unique fate. (SF, 20)

Personality is like nothing else in the world, there is nothing with which it can be compared, nothing which can be placed on a level with it. (SF, 21)

Man is a personality not by nature but by spirit. By nature he is only an individual. (SF, 21)

The personal in man is just that in him which he does not have in common with others, but in that which is not shared with others is included the potentiality of the universal. (SF, 22)

But personality is not part of the universe, the universe is a part of personality, it is its quality. Such is the paradox of personalism. (SF, 22)

Personality is recognized only as a subject, in infinite subjectivity, in which is hidden the secret of existence. (SF, 22)

The secret of the existence of personality lies in its absolute irreplaceability, its happening but once, its uniqueness, its incomparableness. (SF, 23)

Personality must perform its self-existent, original, creative acts, and this alone makes it personality and constitutes its unique value. (SF, 24)

Personality in man is the triumph over the determination of the social group. Personality is not a substance but an act, a creative act. (SF, 24)

Man often plays a part in life, and he may play a part which is not his. (SF, 25)

Personality is a subject, and not an object among other objects, and it has its roots in the inward scheme of existence, that is in the spiritual world, the world of freedom. Society on the other hand is an object. From the existential point of view society is a part of personality, it is its social side, just as the cosmos is a part of personality, its cosmic side. Personality is not an object among other objects and not a thing among other things. It is a subject among subjects and the turning of it into an object or a thing means death. (SF, 26)

Personality is the absolute existential centre. Personality determines itself from within, outside the whole object world, and only determination from within and arising out of freedom, is personality. (SF, 26)

The worth of man is the personality within him. Human worth consists solely in personality. (SF, 27)

Personality as an existential centre, presupposes capacity to feel suffering and joy. Nothing in the object world, nation or state or society, or social institution, or church, possesses this capacity. (SF, 27)

Personality in man is not determined by heredity, biological and social; it is freedom in man, it is the possibility of victory over the world of determination. (SF, 36)

A person cannot be completely a citizen of the world and of the state, he is a citizen of the Kingdom of God. (SF, 37)

There is no human personality if there is no existence which stands higher than it, if there is no higher world to which it ought to rise. (SF, 37)

... personality is defined above all not by its relation to society and the cosmos, not by its relation to the world which is enslaved by objectivization, but by its relation to God, and from this hidden and cherished inward relation it draws strength for its free relation to the world and to man. (SF, 44)

The image of human personality is not only a human image, it is also the image of God. In that fact lie hidden all the enigmas and mysteries of man. It is the mystery of divine-humanity, which is the paradox that cannot be expressed in rational terms. (SF, 44)

Personality is communal; it presupposes communion with others, and community with others. The profound contradiction and difficulty of human life is due to this communality. (SF, 46)

Freedom ought not to be a declaration of the rights of man; it ought to be a declaration of man's obligations, of the duty of man to be a personality, to display the strength of the character of personality. (SF, 48)

Personality is bound up with the consciousness of vocation. Every man ought to be conscious of that vocation, which is independent of the extent of his gifts. It is a vocation in an individually unrepeatable form to give an answer to the call of God and to put one's gifts to creative use. Personality which is conscious of itself listens to the inward voice and obeys that only. It is not submissive to outside voices. The greatest among men have always listened exclusively to the inward voice and have refused to conform so far as the world is concerned. (SF, 49)

The problem of the one and the many ... is insoluble on rational grounds. It is bound up with paradox; and in its most profound form it is connected with the problem of personality. (SF, 50)

Man is a slave because freedom is difficult, whereas slavery is easy. (SF, 66)

... the particular single personality and its destiny are a higher value than the world order and the harmony of the whole, than abstract being.... (SF, 80)

Personality contains the universe within it, but this inclusion of the universe takes place not in the sphere of the object world but in the sphere of the subject world, that is to say of existentiality. Personality is aware of itself as rooted in the realm of freedom, that is, in the realm of spirit, and from that source it draws the strength for its conflict and activity. This is the very meaning of being a person, of being free. (SF, 135)

The spiritual liberation of man is the realization of personality in man. It is the attainment of wholeness. And at the same time it is unwearied conflict. (SF, 248)

Last revised: February 22, 2008