Irina Sirotkina

A family discussion: the Herzens on the science of man

History of the Human Sciences. 2002. V. 15 no. 4: 1-18.
In 1862, when the Russian writer and revolutionary, Alexander Ivanovich Herzen, turned fifty, and his son, a young MD Alexander Alexandrovich Herzen was contemplating a career in physiology, their friend, Ivan Turgenev, published his most controversial novel. The novel, Fathers and Children, exemplified the relationships of the old and the new generations in Russia, introducing to Russian literature a new figure, the young ‘nihilist’. The nihilist ‘children’ dismissed the older generation, their ‘fathers’, as soft-hearted liberals unable to act and to change the stagnated regime. The new generation, whose lifetime coincided with the modernisation of Russia, saw themselves as active, purposeful, and ‘realistic’ and they believed that progress was on their side.

Nearly decade later Dostoevsky wrote a novel that was perceived as a continuation of Fathers and Children. The Devils (1871) developed the theme of the older generation’s responsibility for the nihilism and dangerous political radicalism of the younger generation. In one of the main characters of the novels readers and critics recognised the figure of Herzen senior; Herzen junior might have well been prototype for one of the nihilist ‘children’. The conflict of generations, depicted in two famous Russian novels, cut through the Herzen family. In Herzen’s case, the conflict was mainly an intellectual one. Father and son differed with their aspirations and lifestyle, but, above all, they had different expectations of science and different understanding of what the knowledge of man should be like. It had become clear when Herzen senior and his son took part in the debates on the issue of the day, determinism and free will. This article attempts to integrate the story of their relationship with the intellectual discussions of mid-nineteenth century.

On the eve of his twenty-first birthday, Sasha Herzen (1839-1906) re­ceived a letter in which his father expressed concern about the son’s future. He wrote:

It would be natural to wish that you went along the path trodden, with difficulties, by the feet of kin. On this path, for instance, you could get as far as one of the greatest public figures in Russia, doctor Pirogov, did – as a state official in Odessa, and then in Kiev, he does a lot of good, at the same time being the first surgeon in Russia. … Your ideal to be a professor in Switzerland – I do not disapprove of it, but I do think that you waste imprudently the opportunities that the others do not have. Be a professor – but for that cultivate in you a scientific comprehension, for a pile of information will not do; best of all, be not a professor, be just a human being – but a developed one.

The last words, ‘a developed human being’, connoted a person with enlightened views and public interests, on a model of Herzen senior himself. Alexander Ivanovich Herzen (1812-1870), an exile from the tsarist Russia, became famous for writing and publishing abroad a literature of opposition. The periodicals, The Polar Star and The Bell, published in London by Herzen and his friend Ogarev between 1853 and 1866, in the decisive for Russia decade, contributed to the county’s reformation.

Herzen dreaded to see his son a narrow specialist, an armchair professor living a philistine life in the comfortable West. To confirm his father’s worst expectations, Herzen junior became a professor in Switzerland, a respectable bourgeois, and never went to Russia. On the only occasion when he tried to visit Russia, he – by that time a Swiss citizen – was refused Russian visa. Moving to Russia would have hardly been an option for a young scientist whose work required proximity of western libraries and laboratories. Herzen junior might have also feared that public activity, which was expected from him in Russia, would interfere with his research. As a result in his native country he was known only to his colleagues-physiologists. After his death a brief necrology in a medical journal expressed regrets that Herzen junior had not followed father’s steps. By contrast, Herzen senior took a prominent place in the Russian Pantheon, especially after V. I. Lenin, in an article written for Herzen’s centenary in 1912, canonised him as the first professional revolutionary.

The father and the son were as far apart as one can get: they had different life styles – the elder Herzen kept changing addresses, while the younger Herzen treasured family stability which he missed so much after his mother’s death. They lived in different countries – the son moved to Italy – and even were divided by the language, as the elder Herzen was never fluent in Italian. This gave Soviet historians a pretext for telling a classic story of the prodigal son. After perestroika, however, the accents shifted so that the ‘revered father’ has lost something in their eyes and the ‘unworthy son’ has probably acquired something. Predictably, the elder Herzen fell into disgrace with contemporary historians for the same reason, for which their Soviet predecessors praised him, that is, his role in the Revolution. If previously historians of science proudly listed Herzen senior amongst scientists and philosophers, later they blamed him for sacrificing science to revolution. One of them argues that Herzen was wrong to criticise armchair scientists and to call Russian youth to attend to the issues of the day. This historian believes that Russia might have been saved by professionalism and specialisation rather than by revolutions. He reproaches Herzen for not understanding it and being a source of confusion for many subsequent generations of Russians. In other words, the elder Herzen overlooked the coming age of modernity in which scientific and technological progress replaced political struggles as the dynamic agent of history. From this point of view, the youn­ger Herzen stands in favourable contrast with the father: he welcomed the ‘age of re­alism’ and contributed to the glorification of modernity with his devotion to science.

In fact, of course, neither the elder Herzen was an obscurantist, nor the younger Herzen a philistine and an armchair pundit. The father at periods seriously took himself to science and gave to his son a scientific education. The son did not consider his academic career an ivory tower. He participate in the contemporary debates on human evolution, vivisection, and free will, went on long scientific trips and tried to set up a business using his own method of preserving meat. Herzen junior might have appeared a model nihilist: he held firm materialist views, dissected frogs and was a member of an illegal political party, Land and Liberty. But the differences between the father and the son existed. Though their personal relationship remained supportive and warm, their disagreement found an outlet in a philosophical argument.
Father and son
In the heated debates over the hot issue of slavophiles, Ivan Turgenev dismissed Herzen senior as ‘romantic’ and contrasted unfavourably with his ‘positive and practical’ son. Similarly, Dostoevsky denigrated his opponent, Herzen senior, by calling him an ‘artist’ and a ‘poet’ rather than a serious thinker. Herzen indeed published several novels, in his narrative preferred dialogue to monologue, and was famous for his eloquence and artistic charm. It has since become commonplace to characterise Herzen as ‘emotional’ and ‘artistic’ rather than ‘rational’ and ‘scholarly’ type. Thus, Isaiah Berlin believed that Herzen ‘had acquired no taste for academic classifications’ and compensated for it by ‘a unique insight into the “inner feel” of social and political predicaments’. A contemporary wrote that, ‘as a passionate revolutionary’, Herzen could not ‘coldly and calmly’ accept the idea of objective social laws. G. N. Vyrubov (Wyrouboff, in French spelling, 1843-1913), a Comtean and co-editor, with Emile Littré, of the Revue de philosophie positive (1867-1883), once remarked that Herzen ‘recognised scientific methods as long as they did not bound the freedom of his worldview… His thought did not obey any frameworks; at the first sight of difficulty it tried to step over the boundaries of strictly scientific knowledge’.

Yet Herzen’s serious engagement with science cannot be doubted. During his years as a science student at the Moscow University and even earlier, he read extensively in the natural sciences, published review articles in scientific journals and enrolled to the Moscow Society of Naturalists. After four years at the University, he defended with excellence his graduate work on Copernicus. But shortly after the graduation, he and his friends were arrested on a suspicion of sharing anti-tsarist views. After several months in confinement, they were exiled to remote provinces; Herzen spent eight long years in the town of Viatka on the Urals, then in Vladimir, north-east of Moscow.

Though Herzen’s exile had disrupted his studies it did not undermine his devotion to learning. In the 1840s, working on his Letters on the Study of Nature inspired by the Hegelian vision of the evolving spirit, Herzen resumed his studies. Attracted now more by life sciences, he attended anatomy lectures and vivisection experiments in the anatomical theatre. To his friends, who criticised his inclination towards physiology at the expense of the social sciences, he replied that the natural sciences clarify the eternal philosophical issues of man and that ‘in our own times, there is no philosophy without physiology’.

Yet Herzen shared with his sceptical friends a suspicion that, left alone, science is too abstract to be of any relevance to life. As a young man, he wrote to his bride-to-be, Natalia Zakhar’ina, that sciences are ‘cold’ and ‘dissect the corps of nature’. Under the influence of German philosophers, he came to think of science as part of the ‘history of the world’, and not the main one. Voltaire, Rousseau, the Romantics, contemporary Russian poets were as important for the ‘history of the world’ as the natural sciences. Herzen ridiculed those who thought otherwise – ‘What use is Hamlet for a chemist? What use is Don Jovanni for a physicist?’ – as narrow-minded ‘guild scientists’ who judge the world out of their studies.

This is not to say that Herzen did not respect hard and selfless work of scientists; he admired professionalism of his friend, the physiologist Karl Vogt (1817-1895). With the same passion he criticised the armchair scholars, he warned about the opposite danger of dilettantism in science. In the semi-autobiographical novel, Who Is To Blame, Herzen ironically commented on the main character’s passion for medicine:

Endowed with a sharp intellect, in his new studies he quickly bumped into those questions about which medicine is silent and on the resolution of which everything else depends. He stopped in front of them and wanted to take them by attack, by a reckless boldness of mind, without noticing that such resolutions are fruits of a long, hard, and persistent work. He did not have a capacity for painstaking labour and grew cooler towards medicine.

Herzen’s own path was different. He partook of the ‘pure love of knowledge’ as a science student at the university, but turned to other things after the first crude collision with the world. During his exile, he leant to appreciate simply ‘educated people’ even more then academics. If the latter had a privileged life in university towns in close contact with civilisation, the former preserved dignity and ability to act under much less favourable circumstances – much like Herzen’s own situation in Viatka, where the ‘old dreams of social action’ tormented him.

Herzen came to believe that science acquires value only when it is ‘rushed into life’. To an armchair scholar he preferred a student – main character of a novel Herzen conceived in Viatka – who studies medicine with the purpose to find the ‘secret of resurrection’ and return his lover to life. To the ‘guild scientists’ Wagner, with his ‘flat, infallible truth’, he opposed the thinker Faust, for whom ‘science is a question of life, “to be or not to be”’. Imitating Goethe’s Faust, Herzen complained that theory is dry: ‘In theory, one can understand any truth, in practice, one cannot manage his own business’. He became even more persuaded in the fruitlessness of abstract rationality after the defeat of the 1848 revolutions in Europe. His polemical From the Other Shore criticised the Enlightenment belief in the inevitability of social progress, an ascending march of history, and offered a new regard on history as not necessarily rational improvisation.

At the same time when Herzen embarked on a professional journalist career and became a prominent public figure, his son Sasha came to the age for a serious education. In order to ‘purify the adolescent’s mind from prejudices and nourish it with this healthy food’ according to the Enlightenment ideal, Herzen began educating his son with the natural sciences. Karl Vogt was invited to lecture to the entire family and to tutor the son. Sasha took fervently to physics and chemistry and, as a present for his father’s birthdays, used to give lectures with demonstrations that the elder Herzen always enjoyed. Sasha started his higher education at the recently founded University College London but after a year went to the Continent. Herzen consulted Vogt about which university to choose, and Sasha ended up studying at the university in Bern and living with the old Vogt’s family; for a while he was even engaged with Wilhelm Vogt’s granddaughter, Emma.

Together with Jacob Moleschott (1822-1893), Karl Vogt is now remembered for his extreme materialist views, according to which ‘thought relates to the brain in almost the same way as bile to the liver or urine to the bladder’. Herzen became close with Vogt during a particularly hard period, when Vogt’s ‘simple and clear understanding of life’ supported him. Later, however, he remarked that their views differed. Herzen had his reservations about the naturalist approach to man wondering, ‘how can one make a human being into an animal only for the reason that the human being has everything that the animal has? … If man should leave all his human qualities to become what he should be, what is human about what is left?’ Physiology interested Herzen by its ‘upper branches’ connecting it to psychology and moral philosophy. If physiology pretends to be a ‘natural history of the soul’, he argued, it should not ignore the issue of animal/human differences.

Herzen wished, after purifying Sasha’s mind with the natural sciences, to open for the boy the ‘human world, the world of history, from which there is a direct road to action’. His own interest in public issues had been awoken by the December 1825 uprising, when a group of aristocrats attempted to overthrow the regime and were mercilessly punished. The teenagers Herzen with his friend Nikolai Ogarev swore in to give their lives to the cause of Russian liberation. When Sasha was of the same age, he received from his father portraits of the five hanged Decembrists as a symbolic present. For the New Year of 1855 his father offered him a copy of the Russian edition of his book, From the Other Shore, with a dedication. Sasha was deeply moved when he read the words addressed to him: ‘do not stay on the old shore. It is better to perish than to shelter in the hospice of reaction’.

Yet there was a great deal of a distance between a young boy who cried over his father’s dedication and a twenty-one-years-old Doctor of Medicine. Although Vogt was not helpful in enlightening Sasha’s mind with historical issues, he was instrumental in emancipating Sasha from his family, where the boy had not found comfort since his mother’s death. Physiology attracted him at first because it gave him the opportunity of being independent, rather than by itself. Already assistant to the physiologist Moritz Schiff (1823-1896) in his laboratory in Florence, the nearly thirty-year-old Sasha complained about the lack of ‘inborn abilities’ for physiology. He spent more time reading Auguste Comte than making experiments. These complaints stopped when he married a young Italian woman, which gave a new meaning to his staying in Florence. His dreams of having a family were fulfilled: in the years to follow Teresina Feliche (1851-1927) bore him nine children. In 1881 he was appointed professor of physiology in Lausanne and spent a quarter of a century amidst his family in Switzerland.
Libre arbitre
The debate about free will in which Herzen senior and his son became engaged started at the informal gatherings in Moritz Schiff’s house in Florence. A circle of intellectuals met twice a week, on Mondays in the house of Herzen junior and his sisters, and on Thursdays at Schiff’s. Each time somebody gave an informal lecture to be followed by a friendly discussion. On one evening in January 1867 Schiff’s opponent was a friend of the Herzen’s family and a teacher of his children, Joseph Domengé. He argued for the impossibility to abandon the notion of free will, or libre arbitre. Schiff intended to prove that our actions were determined by causes outside and within the organism and that free will was an illusion. Herzen, who visited his children in Florence, was present at the debate. Though not sympathetic to the arguments, he left impressed by Schiff’s ‘great talent and great logic’.

Herzen always enjoyed good discussion, it was his natural environment. ‘I rust without polemics. Nothing is duller than a monologue’, he confessed. Yet, the second session of the debates on libre arbitre disappointed him. In his view, the debates were about words, ‘purely nominal’. The issue this time was responsibility of actions, a question whether the criminal is responsible for his actions or whether he was pushed by circumstances? Schifff argued that responsibility in this case is ‘objective’ rather than ‘subjective’, that is, the circumstances and his own physiology determined the criminal’s acts. Herzen tried to distinguish ‘physiological necessity’ from the historical and social one. Dissatisfied, he wrote to Ogarev, with whom he always shared his thoughts, asking to develop Schiff’s argument. Ogarev, ‘grateful to Schiff for sacrificing libre arbitre’, could not have been happier with the suggestion. ‘Your request about a thesis on libre arbitre has blown me up. I sketched it yesterday in Russian in my notebook, rewrote in French today and am sending to you’. Herzen found the thesis ‘good’ but was not persuaded. Ogarev, like the other opponents, believed that the principle of determinism, once accepted, eliminates any need of libre arbitre. In fact, both he and Schiff implicitly referred to physiological causes of behaviour as the better-known ones. Herzen argued that ‘physiological necessity cannot explain much… there are elements, like historical antecedents, which it does not cover’. Wishing to continue the discussion, Herzen asked Schiff whether he would be willing to publish the recorded debates in a journal. He also invited Sasha for a discussion.

In March 1867 the younger Herzen gave at the Museum of Natural History in Florence a public lecture in which he reported on his research of the nervous system. He touched upon the question of what determines behaviour: mind or body, individual will or organism and environment. In his own words, he argued that ‘all animal and human acts developed from the reflex and can be reduced to their original model; that is why the freedom of will is unacceptable and can be considered an illusion’. His sisters, Natalia and Olga, attended the lecture and, in a letter to their father, reported on its ‘complete and deserved success’. By the end of the year Sasha completed a book, Studio fisiologico sulla volonta, which came out in Milan in 1868. Herzen waited impatiently to see the book. He complained to his daughter, whom Sasha succeeded in attracting to his own side, that Sasha ‘sent his brochure to everybody but me’. Indeed, the son, a former conspirator, hesitated to post the book to France out of a fear of political censure. At the beginning of 1868 the French Senate had heated debates over a rejection by the Paris Ecole de médecine of a medical dissertation; its author, someone Grenier, criticised libre arbitre. This, Sasha apologised, had delayed the book’s arrival.

A few days later the elder Herzen sketched his comments. In his view, the word ‘will’ in the title was not appropriate: Sasha had ‘proved that the soul does not exist rather than examined the functions of what is called will’. He was proud with Sasha’s opus and gave copies to his famous friends, George Henry Lewis, Moritz? Lazarus, and Ivan Turgenev. But the son’s arguments again did not satisfy him. He started a long and reflective letter to Sasha. Herzen read the draft to his family and friends when they met in the summer of 1868. When, a few month later, Sasha asked his father to contribute an article to a journal he and his friend were going to publish, Herzen suggested to send his ‘Letter on free will’ In February 1869 Moritz Schiff presented Herzen’s ‘Letter’ at one of his Thursdays.

Herzen began his letter by agreeing that the notion of free will should be demystified but denying that it is at all superfluous. He perceived free will a ‘phenomenological’ or ‘psychological reality’. His argument was not that of the proponents of introspective psychology. In fact, when one of them, a member of the Academie des Sciences Morales et Politiques, Etienne Vacherot, argued that physiologists should not ignore the introspective experience, Herzen vehemently disagreed. ‘If I defended libre arbitre like [Vacherot], you would be right. I fancy giving him a dressing dawn’, he wrote to Sasha. His own argument was different: human beings should be understood primarily as social and historical agents. But Herzen’s argument was rooted in his own sensation of freedom, which he treasured the more the longer it took him to cultivate. In Nicholas I’s Russia, only to say the word ‘freedom’ out loud required extraordinary courage. The tsarist government as well as the elder Herzen’s own despotic and whimsical father persuaded him that non-freedom is no less real than its opposite. Raised on the rebellious Decembrists’ yeast, his notion of freedom bordered on protest.

By contrast, Sasha grew up in tolerant England – politically the freest country at that time – where the notions of human dignity and personal freedom were taken for granted. But that notion of freedom was different: it encouraged neither protest nor satisfaction of any wish. It was a freedom to do what one wanted on the condition that what one wanted was morally right. When, at twenty, Sasha intended to marry and claimed that he is free, the elder Herzen instructed him in a letter that ‘freedom is a very good thing, but an absolutely negative one’. As a result, Sasha’s notion of freedom became duty. In his physiological work he confirmed that ‘an individual is free to do what he wants but is not free to want what he wants’. When now his father argued for the irrefutability of free will, the son was not convinced. He wrote that his father’s letter had made him reflect but it had not altered his mind. Herzen junior set off to write a book on ‘the physiology of the will’, to prove that ‘the problem of free will is essentially a physiological issue’.

The father did not see the book – it appeared four years after his death. It was only then that Herzen junior published, with his comments, his father’s letter first in an Italian magazine, Strenna della Revista Europea, and later in the Revue philosophique de la France et de l’étranger. He included the letter in his major physiological opus, and expanded on the issue of ‘the will, freedom and morality’ in his work for a general audience. Though the younger Herzen did not want to upset his father’s memory, he reproached for hypocrisy all those who, not unlike his father, admitted determinism in nature but denied it in man. Jurisprudence, he thought, splits human life in two parts -- the past and the future -- assuming that the former is free and the latter is determined by our actions. This is in order, he argued, to justify both persecution (for the past actions) and punishment (in order to control the future). Henry Maudsley sympathetically quoted this argument of the younger Herzen.

It has been noted earlier that the so-called nineteenth-century nihilists often were more conscientious people than those who, in a contemporary’s words, ‘declared out loud that man is a primarily spiritual being … which did not prevent them from sinking into moral dirt’. In Russia, the leftist journalist, Nikolai Chernyshevsky, announced that ‘man has only one nature – he is a natural being’ and suggested the ethics of ‘an enlightened egoism’, that of following one’s inner nature. Ivan Sechenov’s Reflexes of the Brain became the young generation’s favourite read. The author set for himself a task to explain by natural causes the behaviour of ‘a man with an ideally strong will, acting out of an elevated moral principle and aware of his every step’, like a hero who put his arm in fire to prove his rightness. When Sechenov had found what he thought to be the centres of reflex inhibition in the frog’s brain, he was convinced that this brought him closer to the much-sought explanation of free will.

Sechenov’s conclusions were potentially so significant, that his experiments with reflex inhibition immediately attracted the attention of his colleagues including. Schiff and Herzen junior were the first to respond. They, however, questioned the existence of special nervous centres. Schiff believed that the inhibition of reflexes in Sechenov’s experiments was due to exhaustion rather than to central influences. This mechanical explanation matched better the prevalent tendency to reduce the biological to the simpler chemical and physical phenomena. Herzen junior rechecked Sechenov’s experiments and found that the results could be explained without the hypotheses of inhibiting centres. This notwithstanding, these physiologists shared the understanding of strategic questions and thought that the medieval notion of free will should be filed in the archives.

The freedom of the will was not the only concept to be made redundant in, as a historian put it, a ‘grandiose nihilist vision’ of Herzen junior. The same happened to consciousness and the self. He suggested a ‘physical law of consciousness’ which stated that consciousness is a ‘disintegrative phase’ of the functioning of nervous centres; the intensity of conscious acts was proportionate to the degree of ‘disintegration’ and to the difficulty of subsequent ‘reintegration’. Herzen junior endowed consciousness with negative characteristics only: it ‘points to novelty, uncertainty, wondering, imperfect associations, lack of speed and precision in conducting the nervous impulse’, and is generally an imperfect transitory stage, when ‘the nervous paths are not cleared up yet’. By contrast, automatic acts represent a positive stage of ‘integration’, so that the ‘automatisation’ of intellectual functions is a ‘necessary condition of progress’. Though strictly speaking he objected to Maudsley’s extreme view that consciousness an ‘arbitrary, unnecessary’ process, this difference was, in the words of Herzen junior, merely an internal affair, a ‘family question of physiologists’.
Dr Leviaphansky’s question
When Sasha was a little boy, his father defended the natural-scientific outlook from the criticism of his humanitarian friends. He enthusiastically compared physiology to history on the ground that both, rather than being abstract speculations, embrace the plenitude of life: ‘Life attracts me no end: physiology and history are the only concrete wealth of science.’ The contemporary physiology, he argued, had made a big step forward compared with the eighteenth-century understanding of thought as a secretion of the brain. He interpreted physiologists’ claims that they could not imagine ‘one strong emotion, one powerful action without the changes in … the brain’ as an attempt to study man ‘von einem Guss’, in totality. Unaware, he projected on physiology his own strive for ‘totality’ that embraces nature and human consciousness, a promise of which he saw in Goethe’s Naturphilosophie. When, however, his son had grown up and became a physiologist, a disappointed Herzen senior reproached the natural sciences for destroying ‘totality’ and for stripping man of his consciousness and the self. He now longed for restoring man, who has disappeared in the ‘whirl of reflective acts’, to his original wholeness, and for ‘his best possessions’ returning to him.

Herzen tried to shelter the dear concepts of consciousness and the self at first in psychology, then in history and the nascent sociology. Besides the natural sciences -- he was persuading his son -- there is a kind of knowledge for which consciousness and the self are indispensable. In the 1840s he saw in psychology a necessary link between the natural sciences and the studies of man. Following the Hegelian hierarchy, he arranged the sciences into a sequence: comparative anatomy and physiology were succeeded by animal psychology, which ‘should provide a pre-human phenomenology of the developing consciousness’. In Herzen’s metaphor, just as the venous blood flows in the lungs to be enriched with oxygen, these disciplines arrive at human psychology, where they are spiritualised and transformed into ‘that scarlet blood, which flows in the arteries of history’.

When Herzen realised that physiology had almost annexed psychology and announced consciousness a fiction, he turned to history and sociology. He discovered, however, that history had not yet established itself as an ‘objective science’ or, using the Comtean term, a ‘physiology of society’: ‘neither conservatives, nor radicals, neither philosophers, nor historians’ had yet done any work towards this goal. The elder Herzen himself would have hardly welcomed a positivist view of history as the realisation of some fixed laws. He was willing to admit laws in nature, but history was a sphere where the free spirit reigned. The thought that history follows a certain scenario bored Herzen to death. He found it hard to accept that people are ‘only puppets, pulled by invisible strings, victims of mysterious forces in a cosmic libretto’. He recognised, though, that ‘the laws of history’ do not contradict ‘the laws of logic’ or ‘the laws of nature’, and that much of human life abides by ‘the physiology, to the dark drives’. But he would insist that ‘man is freer than it is usually thought’.

An ‘ordered history’, sociology appeared the last resort. Herzen senior hoped that the new science would ‘tear man from the anatomical theatre and restore him to history’. Unlike the emptied self of physiologists, ‘the social self presupposes consciousness’. In sociology, he assumed, the self is ‘the first and foremost element, a cell of the social tissue, a necessary precondition’. But sociology’s status was not yet defined. Comte saw it as a continuation of the natural sciences, though he claimed that sociology has an independent subject matter. His followers denied the latter: the younger Herzen translated from Italian a book by the philosopher Pietro Siciliani, who argued that, in order to be a science, sociology should become part of biology. Sasha also referred to Adolph Quetelet, Herbert Spencer and H. T. Buckle, who argued for the regular and law-abiding character of human life and history.

Trapped by the authority of the modern sciences, for which his son became a spokesman, and accused of inconsistency, the elder Herzen had to defend himself. If he was inconsistent, so were the others. Having announced free will an illusion, Herzen argued, physiologists continued to face its significance in everyday life. When Sechenov gave a copy of the Reflexes of the Brain to his partner, he added that the views expressed in it did not exclude morality and especially love. Similarly, Herzen junior sought origins of moral feelings in physiology -- of altruism in the ‘instincts of species preservation’ and of egoism in the ‘instinct of self-preservation’. He replaced the ‘mystical’ concept of the self with a more realistic one of ‘personality’ only to declare that physiologist’s task is to ‘reinforce this unity of morals and actions’. He believed that our ‘inner nature’ could be the source of morality and aspired to translate Kantian categorical imperative into the language of physiology: ‘what other imperative could be more categorical than the one that expresses the inner human nature?’

At one of Schiff’s Thursdays, Herzen was asked to read out some of his literary work. He chose one an early story, Doctor Krupov, recently translated into French. An old wise doctor, Krupov exposed failures of the world by presenting them as different forms of insanity. Everybody liked the satire, and Herzen was happy that his ‘Krupov, like Lazarus, was revived’. This gave him an idea to shape his objections to Schiff as a story that would be a continuation of Doctor Krupov. Thus the Aphorismata: on Doctor Krupov’s psychiatric theory had appeared.

The narrator of the Aphorismata, Krupov’s colleague Tit (Titus) Leviaphansky, performed a post-mortem of his old friend when Krupov died. This put a dot on the their argument. Like Krupov, Leviaphansky believed that the world was mad, but argued that madness was beneficial to it. The notion of free will was an example. It needed a confused mind to comprehend something that had neither clear shape nor logical solution. How could a sane person, Tit asked, integrate an intimate sensation of personal freedom with awareness that his or her actions are caused? ‘Eternity and immortality, honour and glory, human will and God’s will, both free, one submitted to the other without impeding each other in spite of necessity, in which both are moving. Is it possible to comprehend without going mad?’ Leviaphansky promised in the future to write a ‘special argument’ to prove that the combination of ‘complete arbitrariness with complete necessity’ in our heads is surely a symptom of an acute madness.

The Aphorismata was a hymn to the ‘great and protective, guarding and comforting madness’ that saves our minds from controversies like the one of free will. Listening to Schiff’s arguments, Herzen senior was impressed by his impeccable logic but sensed his wrongness. Everybody, even a physiologist, had to believe in his own freedom to act; determinism came afterwards, in reflections. Closely familiar with madness, Dr Leviaphansky, was bold enough to claim that ‘with reason alone we would be reduced to logic and mathematics’. His conclusions were of the same sort that the confessions of the Underground Man. Dostoevsky’s Notes from Underground (1864) had appeared in the same triumphant for the natural sciences decade. In the mechanical world where necessity was infringed upon the freedom of the will, the Underground Man also resorted to in madness. Dostoevsky’s hero believed: if the rationalists keep comparing man with a ‘piano key’, playing according to the laws of nature and devoid of its own will, ‘man will deliberately become mad for this occasion, in order to get rid of reason and insist on his own’.
An unknown science
One day in October 1863 Dostoevsky with his company, Apollinaria Suslova, stood on the deck of a ship ready to depart from Naples to Livorno. Suddenly they noticed Herzen climbing on board with his children. The meeting was unavoidable, and Dostoevsky introduced his young lover in vague terms as a relative. The two young people – Herzen’s son and Dostoevsky’s ‘relative’ – struck a lively conversation. Suslova found her new acquaintance ‘a kind of desperate young man’, who, in response to her opinion that ‘everywhere abroad the situation is more or less disgusting’, ‘went on to prove that it was not “more or less” but equally disgusting everywhere’. A jealous observer of the scene, Dostoevsky nevertheless later insisted that Apollinaria give the young Herzen her address, to show curtesy. Later Dostoevsky reported to Suslova that Herzen junior wrote on the photographic card she gave to him with her address his father’s phrase, ‘people would not go far with reason alone’.

We do not know what Dostoevsky and the Herzens talked about the next day at lunch, but they might have mentioned Sasha’s voyage to Norway and Iceland in the expedition organised by Karl Vogt. Dostoevsky had probably read Sasha’s article about the expedition in a Russian magazine where he himself published. Sasha might also have mentioned his more recent trips to Heidelberg and the south of France, of course keeping quite about the purpose: in fact, Sasha went on a mission from the illegal Russian party, Land and Liberty, which he had joined earlier in 1863. It was not difficult for the sensitive Dostoevsky closely familiar with the elder Herzen’s revolutionary activity, to guess in Sasha a novice revolutionary. The conversation had probably touched upon the young MD’s plans to follow his teacher Moritz Schiff who was moving to Florence and to work in a physiology lab. Later Dostoevsky told Suslova, who was not at the lunch, about a ‘not quite favourable’ impression of the younger Herzen. Perhaps, it was the manners: both Herzen senior and Ogarev complained at that period about Sasha’s ‘arrogant tone’ and ‘self-aggrandised style’.

When, several years later, Dostoevsky started a novel-pamphlet intending to condemn revolutionaries, he might have recalled the encounter on the ship. It is well known that many characters in The Devils were drawn from the Russian émigrés beginning with Herzen senior. The old liberal Stepan Verkhovenskii in The Devils, like Herzen, badly treated by the new generation of revolutionaries, has Herzen’s artistic charm, eloquence and hatred of the uncultured nihilists. The young people in the novel, Verkhovenskii’s son Piotr and his pupil Nikolai Stavrogin turn against the old man and finally destroy him morally and physically. Dostoevsky saw the tragedy as retribution imposed on the ‘fathers’ for the confusion they seeded in the minds of the younger generation. Dostoevsky knew that, at the end of his life, Herzen bitterly argued with the young émigrés, whom he called a ‘syphilis of our revolution’, and regretted that Ogarev and Bakunin ‘nourished these scorpions with [their] own milk’. It is not a chance that Dostoevsky endowed the nihilist Stavrogin in The Devils with some of the younger Herzen’s features. Like Sasha, Stavrogin studied abroad, went to Iceland with a scientific expedition, and exchanged his Russian citizenship against Swiss one.

While working on the novel, Dostoevsky was reading the chapter of Herzen’s recollections, My Past and Thoughts, which mentions the little Sasha. But he hardly needed to be reminded of Herzen junior as he and Sasha lived at that time in one town. Dostoevsky and his wife were spending the winter, spring and part of the summer of 1869 in Florence, where Sasha had already settled. Though the Dostoevskys led an isolated life, and the younger Herzen had an established circle of friends gathered around Schiff, they were likely to meet or at least hear of each other. Dostoevsky spent every afternoon reading newspapers in the Florence public library. In March 1869 Italian newspapers reported on the scandal caused by Sasha’s public lecture on the origins of man. The lecture deeply shocked the head of the Specola, the research centre where Schiff and Sasha worked, and everybody expected that Sasha would have to leave. A friend of Vogt and Moleschott and a Darwinian, Herzen junior might well have haunted Dostoevsky’s imagination at the time when the writer conceived of The Devils.

One of the characters in The Devils erected a home altar where the works of Vogt, Moleschott, and Büchner were exhibited on three pedestals illuminated by church candles. ‘Cursed Bernards’, -- in such words Dostoevsky’s another character, Dmitry Karamazov, addressed physiologists and psychologists. In 1869 the eminent French physiologist Claude Bernard was elected in the Senate. His widely admired experimental work seemed to have proved clearly that the organism is a sophisticated and regularly functioning machine. Bernard’s laboratory in Paris became a pilgrimage place for physiologists, including the Russian, Sechenov. Dostoevsky alone made Bernard’s name into a curse. He, though perhaps reluctantly, would have admitted that the ‘artistic’ Herzen, with whom he disagreed on many issues, was still immeasurably closer to him than Herzen’s son.

We began this article by referring to Turgenev’s Fathers and Children, a novel depicting an intellectual conflict between two nineteenth-century generations. Looking at the Herzen’s family drama with Turgenev’s eyes, one may notice that the conflict had much to do with science. Both generations were faithful to the ideal of science but did not share the same idea about what science should mean. When Turgenev opposed ‘romantic’ Herzen to his ‘scientific’ son, Herzen senior argued that Turgenev and other critics ‘did not understand that we preached science no less than Sasha, as [they] did not understand science in its own right’. The science that Herzen had in mind was different -- explicitly grounded in values and having a moral message. Herzen’s science is about rejecting prejudices and accepting things as they are, ‘science teaches us humility more that the Testament’. His own image of science was more of Spinoza than of Comte: ‘science is love, as Spinoza said of thought and knowledge’. The same image inspired Herzen and his friends to educate their children in the natural sciences. The ‘fathers’ did not expect their ‘prodigal children’, who had different expectations from science, would accuse them in inconsistency.

Caught between Scylla and Charybdis, the Enlightenment ideals of his youth and his son’s positivist ideas, Herzen was indeed inconsistent. It seems, however, that Herzen’s personal inconsistency reflected on the ambivalent position of the knowledge about human agency. Freedom was one point of ambivalence. Individual self was the other. Sasha, Schiff, Maudsley, and Sechenov believed that the natural sciences had accommodated for individual freedom, consciousness and the self with the help of physiology that locates them inside of the organism. Herzen disagreed with the physiologists as he disagreed with the founders of the nascent social sciences. The latter, Quetelet, Buckle, Bentham and J. S. Mill grounded the social sciences in the rationality modelled on Newtonian mechanics. Others, like Condorcet and Comte, gave the social priority over the individual in their search to restore the living tissue of society. The aristocratic and rebellious Herzen senior had found what he looked for neither in Comte nor in Quetelet. Opening himself up to the criticism, Herzen turned to literature. The hard-lined proponents of science transformed his awareness of the complexity of the project into a lack of stamina. Pursuing till his last days a career in physiology, Sasha wanted to find straight answers to the questions that caused, it seemed to him, his father’s confusion.

A. I. Gertsen, Sobranie sochinenii [Complete works in 30 vols.], v. 27 (Moscow: Academy of Sciences, 1963), 13-14. The translation of Russian titles here and below is mine. ‘Sasha’ is short for Alexander.

The leading Russian physiologists, I. M. Sechenov and V. M. Bekhterev, were unwilling to return to the country after having worked in the privileged conditions of western laboratories. See I. M. Sechenov, Avtobiograficheskie zapiski [Autobiographical notes] (Moscow: Academy of Sciences, 1945): 100; V. M. Bekhterev, Avtobiografiia [Autobiography] (Moscow: Ogonek, 1928): 16.

It is interesting that one of A. A. Herzen’s sons, Piotr Alexandrovich (1871-1947), after having received his MD degree from the University of Lausanne, came to Russia to work as a practitioner. He learned the Russian language, forgotten in the family, and had a successful medical career under both the tsarist and the Soviet governments. See P. A. Herzen, Izbrannye trudy [Selected works] (Moscow: Medgiz, 1956).

Iu. L. Mentsin, ‘Diletanty, revolutsionery i uchenye’ [Dilettantes, revolutionaries and scientists], Voprosy istorii estestvoznaniia i tekhniki, no. 2 (1995): 21-34.

See on Russian ‘realists’, Irina Paperno, Chernyshevsky and the Age of Realism: A Study in Semiotics of Behaviour (Stanford: Stanford Univ. Press, 1988).

Isaiah Berlin, Russian Thinkers. Ed. by Henry Hardy and Ailen Kelly (London: Penguin Books, 1978), 207.

G. N. Vyrubov in V. A. Putintsev (ed.), Herzen v vospominaniiakh sovremennikov [Herzen in the memoirs of his contemporaries] (Moscow: Khudozhestvennaia literatura, 1956), 295. In his turn, Herzen wrote about Vyrubov: ‘a good and innocent man, he ate his heart up by his doctrinaire attitude and sees everything as an advocate or a prosecutor’, ibid., 408. The other Herzen’s contemporary was P. D. Boborykin, who witnessed Herzen’s conversation with Emile Littré, quoted in ibid., 313.

Letopis' zhizni i tvorchestva A. I. Herzena [Chronicle of A. I. Herzen’s life and work], v. 2 (Moscow: Nauka, 1974), 39.

Quoted in V. A. Prokof’ev, Herzen (Moscow: Molodaia gvardiia, 1979), 199.

Quoted in A. I. Volodin, ‘Aleksandr Ivanovich Herzen o razvitii nauki’ [Herzen on the development of science], in: N. I. Rodnyi, Iu. I. Slov’ev, and B. S. Griaznov (eds.), Uchenye o nauke i ee razvitii (Moscow: Nauka, 1971), 161.

A. I. Herzen, Izbrannye filosofskie sochineniia [Selected philosophical works] (Moscow: Sotsekgiz, 1940), 37.

A. I. Herzen, Proza [Prose] (Moscow: Sovremennik, 1985), 169.

Herzen quoted in Volodin, op. cit., 168; on the idea of a novel see Letopis', v. 1 (Moscow: Nauka, 1974), 100.

Herzen, Izbrannye filosofskie sochineniia, 56. Herzen on theory quoted in Volodin, op. cit., 187.

Herzen’s view on history struck his contemporaries, beginning with Dostoevsky, and it continued to fascinate philosophers, from Isaiah Berlin to the recent work by Aileen M. Kelly and Ruslan Khestanov. See Aileen M. Kelly, Toward Another Shore: Russian Thinkers Between Necessity and Chance (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1998); Ruslan Khestanov, Alexander Herzen: improvizatsiia protiv doktriny [Alexander Herzen: Improvisation against doctrine] (Moscow: Dom intellektual’noi knigi, 2001).

Herzen, Izbrannye filosofskie sochineniia, 219; on Sasha’s lectures see N. A. Tuchkova-Ogareva, Vospominaniia [Memoirs] (Moscow: Khudozhestvennaia literatura, 1959), 135. In my biographical account of A. A. Herzen I draw in part on A. I. Matiushenko, ‘Alexander Alexandrovich Herzen’, in: Literaturnoe nasledstvo, v. 99, pt. 2 (Moscow: Nauka, 1997), 280-95

Karl Vogt, Fiziologicheskie pis’ma [Physiological letters] (St. Petersburg: Bakst, 1863), 335. Herzen on Vogt quoted in N. M. Pirumova, Aleksandr Herzen: revolutsioner, myslitel’, chelovek [Alexander Herzen: a revolutionary, thinker, man] (Moscow: Mysl’, 1989), 152. The historian Frederick Gregory notes that ‘Vogt was the one scientific materialist who was almost totally uninterested in philosophy’. It was Herzen and their friend in common, George Herwegh, who introduced Vogt to Feuerbach’s work. See Frederick Gregory, Scientific Materialism in Nineteenth-century Germany (Dordrecht, Holland: D. Reidel, 1977), 192.

Herzen, Izbrannye filosofskie sochineniia, 221, 226.

Ibid., 219.

Herzen, Sobranie sochinenii v 8 tomakh [Selected works in 8 vols.], v. 3 (Moscow: Pravda, 1975), 223.

N. P. Ogarev, ‘Pis’ma k A. A. Herzenu’ [Letters to A. A. Herzen], ed. by S. D. Lishchiner, Filosofskie nauki, no. 3 (1966): 95-96. Before Florence, Schiff had taught in Bern, where he had apparently met the younger Herzen. In 1863, Herzen became his assistant in Florence and, already a couple of months later, he was defending Schiff from anti-vivisectionists’ attacks. See A. Herzen, Gli Animali Martiri e i loro Protettori e la Fisiologia. Udienza Pubblica del Tribunale Civile della Ragione. Rapporto Stenografico (Firenza: A. Bettini, 1874). In 1876, the Society for the Protection of Animals demanded to supervise all the laboratory experiments. Schiff resigned in protest, and A. A. Herzen, already a father of eight children, resigned with him. See Patrizia Guarnieri, ‘Moritz Schiff (1823-1896): Experimental Physiology and Noble Sentiment in Florence’, in Nicolaas Ripke, ed. Vivisection in Historical Perspective (London: Croom Helm, 1987): 105-24.

Letopis', v. 4 (Moscow: Nauka, 1987), 346. Domengé possibly presented arguments similar to those by R. B. Drummond in his Free will in relation to statistics (London: E. D. Whitfield, 1860).

Letopis', v. 5 (Moscow: Nauka, 1990), 30.

N. P. Ogarev, Izbrannye sotsial’no-politicheskie i filosofskie proizvedeniia [Selected social-political and philosophical works] (Moscow: Gosudarstvennoe izdatel’stvo politicheskoi literatury, 1956), 574. Only the Russian version of ‘the thesis’ has been preserved, see ibid., pp. 170-71.

Letopis', v. 4, 350-56.

The account of the lecture in, A. I. Herzen, Izbrannye filosofskie proizvedeniia [Selected philosophical works], v. 2 (Moscow: OGIZ, 1948), 426. Reaction of the Herzen sisters in Literaturnoe nasledstvo, v. 99. pt. 1, 373.

Letopis', v. 5, 78.

Quoted in ibid, 82.

Malvida von Meisenbug, letters to A. I. Herzen. Letter of 1 March 1869, in Novoe literaturnoe obozrenie, v. 49, no. 3 (2001): 234.

Herzen, Izbrannye filosofskie sochineniia, 350.

Letter to A. A. Herzen, 11 May 1869, in Herzen, Sobranie sochinenii, v. 30, 107. The article Herzen referred to was E. Vacherot, ‘La science et la conscience’, Revue des Deux Mondes, 81 (1 mai 1869): 56-85.

Literaturnoe nasledstvo, v. 99, pt. 1, 16. The historian E. H. Carr has earlier noted that Sasha ‘grew up not, like his father, in the heady atmosphere of the romantic ‘thirties, but in the solid, prosperous ‘fifties of Victorian England’. See E. H. Carr, The Romantic Exiles: A Nineteenth-Century Portrait Gallery (Boston: Beacon Press, 1961), 152.

A. A. Herzen, Obshchaia fiziologiia dushi [General physiology of the mind] (St. Petersburg: F. Pavlenkov, 1890), 225. This book is an authorised translation of Le Cerveau et l’activité cérébrale au point de vue psycho-physiologique (Paris: Baillière, 1887).

Herzen junior quoted in A. I. Herzen, Izbrannye filosofskie proizvedeniia, v. 2, 426. The book he set off to write first appeared as Studio fisiologico sulla volontà (Milano, 1867), then in an enlarged version, Fisiologia della volontà (Firenze, 1871), and later it was translated into French, Physiologie de la volonté (Paris: Baillière, 1874).

A. A. Herzen, Fiziologicheskie besedy [Physiological conversations] (St. Petersburg: Obshchestvennaia pol’za, 1901), 221. This is a translation from French, Causeries physiologiques (Lausanne: F. Payot; Paris: F. Alcan, 1899). Herzen’s ‘Letter’ was published in French in Revue philosophique de la France et de l’étranger, 2 (1876): 290-93 and in Russian in Herzen’s Obshchaia fiziologiia, 1-8.

Henry Maudsley, Physiologie de l’esprit. Traduit de l’anglais par Alexandre Herzen (Paris: C. Reinwald, 1879), 387.

N. K. Mikhailovsky, Literaturnaia kritika i vospominaniia [Literary criticism and memoirs] (Moscow: Iskusstvo, 1995), 326. N. G. Chernyshevsky, Antropologicheskii printsip v filosofii [Anthropological principle in philosophy] (Moscow: OGIZ, 1944), 83. I. M. Sechenov, Refleksy golovnogo mozga [Reflexes of the brain] (Moscow: Academy of Sciences, 1942), 75.

On the difference between Sechnov’s and Schiff’s approaches see M. G. Yaroshevskii, ‘The logic of scientific development and the scientific school: the example of Ivan Mikhailovich Sechenov’, in: W. R. Woodward and Mitchell G. Ash, The Problematic Science: Psychology in Nineteenth-century Thought (New York: Praeger, 1982): 167-97. On the history of inhibition research, see Roger Smith, Inhibition: History and Meaning in the Sciences of Mind and Brain (London: Free Association Books, 1992).

A. A. Herzen, Expériences sur les centres modérateurs de l’action reflexe (Florence: A. Bettini, 1864). Aware of Sechenov’s high reputation in Russia, Ogarev warned Sasha ‘not to forget in the polemics that [Sechenov] is considered a very good person, especially with students’. Literaturnoe nasledstvo, v. 99, pt. 1, 369. He was right to worry: though Herzen’s polemics was entirely academic and his arguments no less persuasive than Sechenov’s, it damaged his reputation in Russia, especially in the eyes of Soviet historians. The official historian of Russian physiology, Kh. S. Koshtoiants, mentioned A. A. Herzen stingily and mainly critically, see his Ocherki istorii fiziologii v Rossii [Essais on the History of Physiology in Russia] (Moscow: USSR Academy of Sciences, 1946): 212.

Marcel Gauchet, L’Inconscience cérébral (Paris: Seuil, 1992), 149.

A. A. Herzen, Obshchaia fiziologiia, 192.

A. A. Herzen disagreed with Maudsley in his, Le Cerveau, 270. On the insignificance of their differences he wrote in the preface to his translation of Maudsley, op. cit., ii.

Herzen Izbrannye filosofskie sochineniia, 229, 241, 346.

Ibid., 222-23.

A. I. Herzen, Polnoe sobranie sochinenii i pisem [Complete Work and Letters, v. 5 (Petersburg: Literaturno-izdatel’skii otdel NKP, 1919), 433.

Quoted in Berlin, Russian Thinkers, 94.

Herzen, Polnoe sobranie, 433 and 472.

Herzen, Izbrannye filosofskie sochineniia, 347-49.

Sasha recommended Quetelet’s Physique sociale and Spencer’s Study of sociology to his father and Ogarev. See N. A. Tuchkova-Ogareva, letter to A. A. Herzen, 11 May 1869, in Novoe literaturnoe obozrenie, v. 49, no 3 (2001), 246. A. A. Herzen, letter to N. P. Ogarev, 29 December 1874, in Literaturnoe nasledstvo, v. 99, pt. 2, 317. The book by Pietro Siciliani appeared as Prolégomènes à la psychogénie moderne. Traduit de l'italien par A. Herzen (Paris: Baillière, 1880).

Sechenov’s hand-written note on the book reads: ‘In conclusion, my duty is to reassure my reader’s moral sense. The doctrine presented above does not at all deny the significance of the good and beautiful for man: the foundations of our love for each other will be eternal as man will eternally value a good machine and prefer it to a bad one…’ Quoted in Koshtoiants, ‘Sechenov - pioner’, 20.

A. A. Herzen, Obshchaia fiziologiia, 212, 111-12.

Letopis’, v. 5, 38.

Herzen, Sobranie sochinenii v 8 tomakh, v. 1, 476.

Ibid., 477.

Dostoevsky, Sobranie sochinenii v 12 tomakh, v. 2 (Moscow: Pravda, 1982), 423. The Russian literary scholar, G. Pomerants, wrote about an apparent similarity between the Underground Man and Tit Leviaphansky. See S. Gurvich-Lishchiner, Herzen i russkaia khudozhestvennaia kul’tura 1860-kh godov [Herzen and Russian art culture of the 1860s] (Tel-Aviv: Institute of World Literature, Russian Academy of Sciences, and the Tel-Aviv University, 1997), 198. The author herself finds parallels between Dostoevsky’s story and Herzen’s ‘Letter’.

See L. I. Saraskina, Apollinariia Suslova: biografiia v dokumentakh, pis’makh, materialakh [Apollinariia Suslova: a biography in papers, letters, documents] (Moscow: Soglasie, 1994), 137-38; Joseph Frank, The Stir of Liberation, 1860-1865 (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1986), 277. I borrow Frank’s translation of Suslova’s diary.

Quoted in E. A. Dryzhakova, ‘Dostoevsky i Herzen (U istokov romana “Besy”)’ [Dostoevsky and Herzen (At the source of the novel, The Devils)], in: G. M. Friedlender (ed.), Dostoevsky: materialy i issledovaniia [Dostoevsky: documents and inquiries], v. 1 (Moscow: Nauka, 1974), 229.

See Dryzhakova, op. cit., 233.

Letopis’ zhizni i tvorchestva Dostoevskogo, vol. 2: 1865-1874 (Moscow: Sovetskii pisatel’, 1996), 60. About Dostoevsky reading the chapter of My Past and Thoughts, see Dryzhakova, op. cit., 234-36.

As Frederick Gregory observes in his book on the German scientific materialists, see Gregory, op. cit., 213. The cult of scientific materialism was not foreign to Herzen’s family. The governess of his daughters, Malvida von Meisenbug, treated Moleschott’s work as part of ‘a new Testament, to which humankind is preparing itself, [and] a prophesy of the eternal transformation of being’ (her ‘Memoirs of an Idealist’, in Herzen v vospominaniiakh, 338).

Herzen, Sobranie sochinenii v 8 tomakh, v. 8, 315. Turgenev’s letter to Herzen and Herzen’s response in Letopis’, v. 4, 508.

Herzen’s friend and influential critic, V. G. Belinsky, wanted to give his daughter a scientific education. See P. V. Annenkov, Literaturnye vospominaniia [Literary recollections] (Moscow: Khudozhestvennaia literatura, 1983), 364.

One may reverse this point of view and claim that it was the younger Herzen who was inconsistent. Indeed, while pretending to be a positivist, Herzen junior assumed a position that Richard Rorty termed ‘metaphysical’. In Aileen Kelly’s description, ‘the metaphysician sees freedom as the recognition of necessity, the bringing of the individual self into line with universal and eternal laws’. By contrast, the one who assumes the opposite role of ‘the ironist’, ‘sees the attainment of freedom as acceptance of contingency, a process not of self-transcendence, but of self-creation’. Kelly, Toward Another Shore, 308.

T. M. Porter, ‘Natural Science and Social Theory’, in R. C. Olby and al. (eds.), Companion to the History of Modern Science (London: Routledge, 1990), 1024.

Wolf Lepenies discusses a turn to literature as characteristic for the early sociologists. See his Between Literature and Science: The Rise of Sociology (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press and Editions de la Maison des Sciences de l’Homme, 1985).