Leonard G. Friesen
In Transcendent Love: Dostoevsky and the Search for a Global Ethic, Leonard G. Friesen ranges widely across Dostoevsky’s stories, novels, journalism, notebooks, and correspondence to demonstrate how Dostoevsky engaged with ethical issues in his times and how those same issues continue to be relevant to today’s ethical debates. Friesen contends that the Russian ethical voice, in particular Dostoevsky’s voice, deserves careful consideration in an increasingly global discussion of moral philosophy and the ethical life.
Friesen challenges the view that contemporary liberalism provides a religiously neutral foundation for a global ethic. He argues instead that Dostoevsky has much to offer when it comes to the search for a global ethic, an ethic that for Dostoevsky was necessarily grounded in a Christian concept of an active, extravagant, and transcendent love. Friesen also investigates Dostoevsky’s response to those who claimed that contemporary European trends, most evident in the rising secularization of nineteenth-century society, provided a more viable foundation for a global ethic than one grounded in the One, whom Dostoevsky called simply “the Russian Christ.”
Throughout, Friesen captures a sense of the depth and sheer loveliness of Dostoevsky’s canon. Dostoevsky was, after all, someone who believed that the ethical life was sublimely beautiful, even as it recklessly embraced suffering and unreasonably forgave others. The book will appeal to both students and scholars of Russian literature and history, comparative ethics, global ethics, and cultural studies, and to general readers with an interest in Dostoevsky.
“This study makes a sustained and elegant attempt to embed Dostoevsky and his work in the central twenty-first-century concern of how ethical systems might be accommodated in an era of globalization. Leonard Friesen’s argument that a trustworthy global ethic emerges from Dostoevsky’s writings, one centered on the primacy of love as embodied in the figure of Christ, is a familiar one. But the road he follows in making that argument is enriched by deep personal conviction and fresh insights into Dostoevsky and our own ethical assumptions. No doubt some will take issue with both his approach and his conclusions, but all will be challenged by them.” — William J. Leatherbarrow, emeritus, University of Sheffield
“Others have written about Dostoevsky’s ethics, but I am not aware of any single-authored, sustained attempt to make the case for Dostoevsky’s ‘transcendent love’ as part of a larger discussion of a global ethic. Moreover, Leonard Friesen presents his case in an engaging and highly accessible form. He believes passionately that Dostoevsky is deeply relevant to the discussion; his commitment rings through the pages and draws the reader in. In this way, his essay makes an original contribution to Dostoevsky studies that will appeal to scholars in a variety of disciplines as well as to educated lay readers with ethical concerns about the path of modernity as well as to the many fans of Dostoevsky’s work.” — Russell M. Hillier, Providence College
“Friesen . . . knows his Dostoevsky. Readers and critics have long been enthralled by the 19th-century Russian novelist’s impassioned exploration of existential questions about God, the limits of freedom and reason, and the nature of evil. Friesen argues that Dostoevsky develops an ethic that is both distinctly Russian and Christian, seen in his nonfiction but more powerfully and imaginatively put forth in his novels . . . Readers interested in the ethics at play in Dostoevsky’s novels will find Friesen’s reading perspicacious and engaging.” — PublishersWeekly.com
“His goal is to make insights from the eminent Russian author [Dostoevsky] more accessible to those struggling with ethical concerns and who sense that something vital is missing from our contemporary approach. . . . His book is highly recommended for academic and parish libraries and for all who seek a better way to deal with the ethical complexities of our time.” — Catholic Library World
“[Friesen] contends that Dostoevsky’s ethical convictions have contemporary relevance. This claim is controversial because the ethic that Friesen finds in Dostoevsky is grounded in kenotic, self-transcending Christian love. [Students] of Dostoevsky will appreciate the fresh readings of his works, and philosophers will be interested in the book’s broad ethical thesis.” — Choice
“According to Friesen, Dostoevsky’s innovatively material theology unabashedly heralds a picture of goodness, truth, and beauty that helps address relevant issues without being determined by those issues.” — Christian Century