Erotic Rhetoric Construction in Hrygoryj Skovoroda’s Philosophy

Victoria Gaidenko, Khmelnitskiy Humanities and Pedagogic Institute, Ukraine


            In this article I discuss how the erotic rhetoric is constructed in Hrygoryj Skovoroda’s (Ukrainian philosopher, 1722-1794)works. I argue that erotic rhetoric is reflected through representation of feminine images (the Bible, Ukraine and Malorossia) and of men’s friendship (in Skovoroda’s letters to Kovalyns’kyj where the philosopher develops his ideas on eros and agape).

            Skovoroda makes a distinction between nature, natura and essence. Natura is defined dualistically: as a mother (temporality) and a father (eternity). Skovoroda relates feminine to mother-nature as a universal womb. Here he defines the gender roles: mother-nature gives birth to temporal things and father initiates “all sorts of joy”, which is cognition of ‘thyself’ (Skovoroda, 1997).

            Insofar as duality is a constitutive part of Skovoroda’s philosophy, the figure “2” takes on special significance (Laslo-Kutzjuk, 1992).  The figure “2” meant feminine in Pythagorean philosophy; the figure “2” is also associated with the Hebrew letter “bet”, which began Genesis. In Skovoroda’s works the crossroads of religious and feminine acquires a peculiar shape. The Bible plays the role of symbolic world, and the Bible is one of the feminine images in his works (along with two others – Ukraine, as an “aunt” (tjotka), and Malorossia, as a “mother”). The philosopher describes the Bible as beloved, mistress, God’s daughter, and beauty. The erotic attitude to the Bible is reproduced in joy, gaiety, light, paradise, and sweetness. The psychoanalytical approaches developed by such feminist researchers as Julia Kristeva and Luce Irigaray could be useful for understanding Skovoroda’s eroticism (Kristeva, 1977; Irigaray, 1993).

            In light of the cordocentrism that is a core of Skovoroda’s philosophy it is very important to follow up the correlation between eros and agape. Skovoroda has much in common with the Stoics. Passionate love and faithful friendship in combination with moral-religious instruction, reflected in Skovoroda’s letters to his disciple Mykhailo Kovalyns’kyj, is a good example of Stoic views on eros. Eros appears as a superior love and moral beauty; Eros is a God of friendship and freedom. According to the Stoics, eros displays itself in love and believes in youth’s talent for the cognition of virtue and spiritual perfection. Skovoroda notes that as long as one esteems virtue, love increases.




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