Vasily Sesemann

Experience, Formalism, and the Question of Being


Born in Vyborg in 1884 by parents of German descent, Vasily (Wilhelm) Sesemann grew up and studied in St. Petersburg. A close friend of Viktor Zhirmunsky and Lev P. Karsavin, Sesemann taught from the early 1920s until his death in 1963 at the universities of Kaunas and Vilnius in Lithuania (interrupted only by his internment in a Siberian labor camp from 1950 to 1956).
Botz-Bornstein’s study takes up Sesemann’s idea of experience as a dynamic, constantly self-reflective, ungraspable phenomenon that cannot be objectified. Through various studies, the author shows how Sesemann develops an outstanding idea of experience by reflecting it against empathy, Erkenntnistheorie (theory of knowledge), Formalism, Neo-Kantianism, Freudian psychoanalysis, and Bergson’s philosophy. Sesemann’s thought establishes a link between Formalist thoughts about dynamics and a concept of Being reminiscent of Heidegger.
The book contains also translations of two essays by Sesemann as well as of an essay by Karsavin.

Prices from (excl. shipping):

E-Book (PDF)
Thorsten Botz-Bornstein studied philosophy in Paris from1985 to 1990, received a Ph.D. from Oxford University in 1993, and a habilitation from the Ecole des hautes études en sciences socials of Paris in 2000. Since 1993, he has done research on Russian Formalism and semiotics in the former Soviet Union and the Baltic region, and on the philosophy of the Kyoto School in Japan. He is affiliated to the EHESS of Paris and currently working at Zhejing University in China.
”a competent and enlightening description of the complicated philosophical milieu which provided the background to Sesemann’s philosophical endeavours. The milieu comprised, first, a fusion of some German philosophical schools, in particular Neo-kantianism (or the Marburg School) and to a lesser extent the early phenomenology, with the more local Russian varieties such as Formalism and Intuitivism. … Botz-Bornstein’ study of Sesemann disentangles the strands with both historical competence and sensitivity.” in: Lithuanian Papers, No. 22, 2008
Preface by Eero Tarasti
Introduction: Experience as a Subject of Philosophy in the Early Twentieth Century
Chapter 1: Sesemann's Life and Work
Chapter 2: Neo-Kantianism, Formalism, and the Question of Being
Chapter 3: New Approaches to the Psychic Subject: Vasilij Sesemann, Bakhtin and Lacan
Chapter 4: Intuition and Ontology in Vasilij Sesemann and Bergson: Zeno's Paradox and the Being of Dream
Appendix I: V. Sesemann: Socrates and the Problem of Self-Perception (excerpts) trans. T. Botz-Bornstein
Appendix II: V. Sesemann: “On the Nature of the Poetic Form” (excerpts) trans. T. Botz-Bornstein
Appendix III: L.P. Karsavin: The Foundations of Politics (excerpts) trans. T. Botz Bornstein
Appendix IV: A Letter by Henri Parland from Kaunas
Appendix V: Research Bibliography of Sesemann's Works
  • Collapse
  • Expand