Nineteenth Century Philosophy
How did Peter Kropotkin come to form his life philosophy?
Kropotkin’s father was a general, and Kropotkin was educated in the Corps of Pages, becoming an attendant to Tsar Alexander II. He received a commission in the Mounted Cossacks of the Amur and went to Siberia, where he investigated the penal system. What he saw turned him against the repressive form of government in place.
In his twenties, Kropotkin led expeditions into unchartered areas of Siberia, which resulted in discoveries about glaciation, the deserts of eastern Asia, and mountain structure.
He read Pierre-Joseph Proudhon’s (1809–1865) writings, which led him to resign his commission in protest of an execution of Polish prisoners, who had attempted to escape. After exploring the eskers of Finland, he was offered the position of secretary of the Russian Geological Society in 1872, but instead went to Switzerland to meet exiled radicals.