“Philosopher” and “Philosophy” in Kyivan Rus’ Written Sources of the 11th-14th centuries: Historiography of Conceptual Interpretations

Keywords: philosophy of Byzantium, Ukrainian philosophy, understanding of philosophy, Ancient philosophy, Christian philosophy, education, wisdom, allegorical method


It remains largely unknown what was knowledge of philosophy by writers in Kyivan Rus’ of the 11th – 14th centuries. Moreover, there are no methodological foundations of resolving the issue. I suggest the key to the solution is the analysis of the meanings of words “philosophy” and “philosophers” in the texts of that time. This article aims to analyse how different researchers interpreted the meanings of these words in Kyivan Rus’ written sources of the 11th – 14th centuries. Use of the word “philosophy” was interpreted by the researchers in six different ways: (1) as an approximate synonym for the word “education” (which was for a long time a prevailing opinion), but also (2) as a pagan or (3) Christian wisdom, (4) as theology, (5) as an allegorical method of interpreting Scripture, and (6) as the knowledge of the nature of things. Some researchers emphasized one of the meanings, but others opted for a “pluralistic approach”, considering that Kyivan writers used the word in different meanings at the same time. The same is true about the word “philosopher”. It referred to an educated man, an ancient philosopher, a Christian thinker, a theologian etc. Another approach in the interpretation of these terms suggested Vilen Horskyi (1931-2007), distinguishing formal and essential properties of words “philosophy” and “philosopher”. He finds that the essential feature of philosophy was deification (theosis), a process whose aim is likeness to God, and cognition of God’s wisdom. Furthermore, according to Horskyi, in the philosopher the link between his knowledge and his action was inextricable.

Author Biography

Olexandr Kyrychok, Hr. Skovoroda Institute of Philosophy, NAS of Ukraine

Doctor of Sciences in Philosophy, Assistans Professor, Senior Researcher


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How to Cite
Kyrychok, O. (2020). “Philosopher” and “Philosophy” in Kyivan Rus’ Written Sources of the 11th-14th centuries: Historiography of Conceptual Interpretations. Sententiae, 39(2), 64-91. https://doi.org/10.31649/sent39.02.064


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