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A.M. Gorky Institute
of World Literature
of the Russian Academy of Sciences

IWL RAS Publishing

A.M. Gorky Institute of World Literature
of the Russian Academy of Sciences


Povarskaya 25a, 121069 Moscow, Russia



Types of publications

  • Classification – name: Literary studies
  • Author: Olga A. Kaznina
  • Pages: 441–475
  • Publisher: A.M. Gorky Institute of World Literature of the Russian Academy of Sciences (IWL RAS Publ.)
  • Rights – description: Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 (СС BY-ND)
  • Rights – URL: Visit Website
  • Language of the publication: Russian
  • Type of document: Research Article
  • Collection: L.N. Tolstoy: Moral Search and Creative Laboratory
  • DOI:
  • Year of publication: 2021
  • Place of publication: Moscow
  • PDF

  • Availability: Kaznina, O.A. “Ideas of ‘Virtue’ and ‘Beauty’ in the Context of L.N. Tolstoy’s Spiritual and Aesthetic Search.” L.N. Tolstoy: Moral Search and Creative Laboratory. Moscow, IWL RAS Publ., 2021, pp. 441–475. (In Russ.)

About the author:

Olga A. Kaznina, DSc in Philology, Senior Researcher, А.M. Gorky Institute of World Literature of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Povarskaya 25 а, 121069 Moscow, Russia.

E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  



The article is devoted to the assessment of the relationship between concepts of “virtue” and “beauty” in the aesthetic search of Leo Tolstoy. The investigation is based on the material of his articles and treatises on art, on his correspondence, diaries and philosophical essays. Like many thinkers in the history of philosophy and aesthetics, Tolstoy was occupied with the issue of opposition and unanimity of “virtue” and “beauty” in life, in culture and art. In articles on art, he expressed a sharp rejection of the identification of “virtue” and “beauty”, critically debunking the eudemonic treatment of art. At the same time, the writer expressed the opposite judgment in his correspondence and diaries, arguing that in understanding the concept of “virtue”, an intuitive sense of beauty is no less significant than rational arguments. The article aims to show that the reason for this contradiction is based on different methods of cognition, equally accessible to the writer: a holistic artistic vision and rational reasoning. There is an inextricable connection between the two types of knowledge in his legacy: rational thought leads a dispute with intuition, but at the same time the discoveries of artistic genius and reasoning mind do complement each other. Tolstoy’s investigation of the role of art in life is approached in the article as one of the dimensions of his spiritual search, the connection of his aesthetic views with his religious and ethical teachings is also shown. The article examines the link between Tolstoy’s aesthetic ideas and teachings of his predecessors from antiquity to romanticism, the relationship of his views with the ideas of contemporaries, including F.M. Dostoevsky and V.S. Solovyov. The article contains an overview of responses to the issue of “virtue” and “beauty” in Russian philosophical thought at the turn of the 20th century, as well as judgments of philosophers who recognized in Tolstoy both a mystic contemplator and a rationalist.

  • Keywords: Tolstoy L.N., aesthetics, philosophical discourse on “virtue” and “beauty”.


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