Image of Lev Shestov


Lifetime: 1866 - 1938 Passed: ≈ 85 years ago


Existentialist, Religious Philosopher


Russian Empire

Lev Shestov

Lev Isaakovich Shestov (January 31, 1866 – November 19, 1938) was a Russian existentialist and religious philosopher. He is best known for his critiques of both philosophic rationalism and positivism. His work advocated a movement beyond reason and metaphysics, arguing that these are incapable of conclusively establishing truth about ultimate problems, including the nature of God or existence.

Life and Principles

Shestov was born in Kiev, Ukraine, into a Jewish family. He studied law at Moscow State University, but was expelled for his political activism. He then moved to St. Petersburg, where he became involved in the literary and philosophical circles of the time.

Shestov's philosophy was deeply influenced by the work of Søren Kierkegaard and Friedrich Nietzsche. He was particularly interested in their critiques of rationalism and their emphasis on the importance of faith and experience.

Shestov's own philosophy was complex and often contradictory. However, some of its central themes include:

  • The importance of faith over reason
  • The impossibility of knowing God or ultimate reality through reason
  • The importance of individual experience
  • The freedom of the will
  • The importance of love and compassion

Notable Works

Shestov's most important works include:

  • All Things Are Possible (1905)
  • Dostoevsky and Nietzsche (1909)
  • Athens and Jerusalem (1914)
  • In Job's Balances (1929)
  • Kierkegaard and Religious Philosophy (1936)


Shestov's philosophy is difficult to summarize, but some of its key ideas include:

  • The importance of faith over reason: Shestov believed that reason is limited and incapable of grasping ultimate reality. He argued that faith is necessary to believe in God and to live a meaningful life.
  • The impossibility of knowing God or ultimate reality through reason: Shestov believed that God is beyond human comprehension. He argued that any attempt to understand God through reason will lead to error.
  • The importance of individual experience: Shestov believed that each individual must experience God for themselves. He argued that no one can tell another person what to believe.
  • The freedom of the will: Shestov believed that humans have the free will to choose between good and evil. He argued that God respects our freedom, even if it means that we may choose to disobey him.
  • The importance of love and compassion: Shestov believed that love and compassion are essential for living a moral life. He argued that we should love and forgive others, even if they have wronged us.

Death and Legacy

Shestov died in Paris in 1938. He was buried in the Montparnasse Cemetery.

Shestov's work has had a significant influence on existentialist and religious philosophy. He is particularly known for his critiques of rationalism and his emphasis on the importance of faith and experience.

Interesting Facts

  • Shestov was a cousin of Nicholas Pritzker, the founder of the Pritzker family fortune.
  • Shestov was friends with a number of notable writers and philosophers, including Fyodor Dostoevsky, Leo Tolstoy, and Edmund Husserl.
  • Shestov's work has been translated into many languages and is read by scholars and theologians around the world.


Lev Shestov was a complex and original thinker who made significant contributions to existentialist and religious philosophy. His work is still relevant today, and it continues to challenge and inspire readers.

Books by Lev Shestov

Anton Tchekhov: and other essays Cover image

Anton Tchekhov: and other essays

Faith Narrative Philosophical Short Works Emotion Experiences Philosopher Human Spirit Depths

In "Anton Tchekhov and Other Essays" by Lev Shestov, journey into the enigmatic depths of the human psyche and explore the boundless complexities of life through the profound lens of one of Russia's most brilliant philosophers. Lev Shestov, a maestro...

All Things Are Possible Cover image

All Things Are Possible

A passionate exponent of Russian Existentialism, Lev Shestov is little known in the English-speaking world but had an extensive influence on philosophy and literature in the first half of the 20th century, his influence imprinting thinkers and writer...