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There are certain writers that literary scholars of all times will study again and again, and there are certain literary works that are too important to be examined only once. Reading Dostoevsky is always an “excruciatingly visceral experience” not only for us, the readers, but also for scholars like Max Scheler and Mikhail Bakhtin (p. 230). Alina Wyman’s book makes a major contribution to this experience.

Wyman’s argument is both original and elegantly simple: for Bakhtin and Scheler the concept of loving empathy is fundamental in both their respective models of being and in the particular structure of their careers. The investigation of this fundamental emotional phenomenon remains relevant to both thinkers’ inquiries throughout their philosophical careers. There are, of course, some fundamental differences; if for Scheler the loving empathy “unifies the world,” for Bakhtin the answerable empathy is “a way into the unity of Being” (p. 6). This is, in a nutshell, the argument Wyman so elegantly develops throughout her interesting book.


This book review originally appeared in The Russian Review 76 (January 2017): 140.

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