Semen Frank

Frank, Semen Liudvigovich


Born Jan. 16 (28), 1877, in Moscow; died Dec. 10, 1950, near London. Russian religious philosopher and psychologist.

Frank studied at the universities of Moscow and Berlin. He became a privatdocent at the University of St. Petersburg in 1912 and was a professor at the University of Saratov from 1917 to 1921 and at Moscow University beginning in 1921. In 1922 he was exiled from Soviet Russia; he lived in Germany until 1937, in France from 1937 to 1945, and in London after 1945. Frank moved from the position of legal Marxism to one of religious idealism bordering on existentialism and phenomenology. He contributed to the symposium volumes Problems of Idealism (1902) and Signposts (1909).

Frank’s philosophy attempted to reconcile rational thought and religious faith. He sought models of this synthesis in apo-phatic (negative) theology and Christian Platonism, particularly as interpreted by VI. Solov’ev in his conception of total-unity, and by Nicholas of Cusa.

In Frank’s ontological gnoseology, which is based on intuitionism, rational knowledge is graspable only in a religious “living knowledge” conceived as a form of total human existence; the true “reality” and “depth” of being are revealed to man from within only insofar as he attains unity as a personality. Cognition is achieved, in Frank’s view, not through the activity of the cognizant subject but in the attaining of inner depth through the activity of reality directed toward the subject, that is, through the activity of the “Unfathomable Absolute.” Because of his “trans-rationalism,” Frank sharply attacked socialism as the allegedly extreme stage of “moral and social rationalism.”


Filosofiia i zhizn’. St. Petersburg, 1910.
Predmet znaniia. Petrograd, 1915.
Dusha cheloveka. Moscow, 1917.
Ocherk metodologii obshchestvennykh nauk. Moscow, 1922.
Zhivoe znanie. Berlin, 1923.
Dukhovnye osnovy obshchestva. Paris, 1930.
Nepostizhimoe. Paris, 1939.
Real’nost’ i chelovek: Metafizika chelovecheskogo bytiia. Paris, 1956.


Pamiati S. L. Franka. Munich, 1954.
Istoriia filosofii v SSSR, vol. 4. Moscow, 1971.