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  • Author or Editor: Thorsten Botz-Bornstein x
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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.
What role can philosophy play in a world dominated by neoliberalism and globalization? Must it join universalist ideologies as it did in past centuries? Or might it turn to ethnophilosophy and postmodern fragmentation? Micro and Macro Philosophy argues that universalist cosmopolitanism and egocentric culturalism are not the only alternatives. Western philosophy has created a false dichotomy. A better solution can be found in an organic philosophy that functions through micro-macro interactions. According to biologists, the twentieth century was the century of the gene, while the twenty-first century is destined to be the century of the organic. Micro and Macro Philosophy attempts to establish such a view in philosophy: by highlighting micro-macro patterns found in history, it seeks to design new ways of "organic thinking" in the human sciences.

Abstract

Claude Lévi-Strauss holds that history and anthropology differ in their choice of complementary perspectives: history organizes its data in relation to conscious expressions of social life, while anthropology proceeds by examining its unconscious foundations. For R. G. Collingwood historical science discovers not only pure facts but considers a whole series of thoughts constituting historical life. Also Lévi-Strauss sees this: “To understand history it is necessary to know not only how things are, but how they have come to be.” However, Lévi-Strauss does not perceive the double-sense of history, which can first be a record of historical “conscious” facts and second, a chain of unconscious or half-conscious acts.

Like Lévi-Strauss, Charles Bally has derived the main theses of his theory from Saussure. However, contrary to Lévi-Strauss, Bally does not find structures at the inside of the phenomena but at their outside: “Our attention is drawn to the expressive side and not to the interior side of the facts of language.” Bally calls those structures not “history” but “style.”

In Roland Barthes’s attempt to establish a structuralist system of fashion we can find a definition of style very similar to Bally’s. In the end, however, none of these thinkers addresses the fact that unconscious relations within historical life are constantly interlocked with conscious elements.

Full Access
In: Journal of the Philosophy of History
In: Micro and Macro Philosophy: Organicism in Biology, Philosophy, and Politics
In: Micro and Macro Philosophy: Organicism in Biology, Philosophy, and Politics
In: Micro and Macro Philosophy: Organicism in Biology, Philosophy, and Politics
In: Micro and Macro Philosophy: Organicism in Biology, Philosophy, and Politics
In: Micro and Macro Philosophy: Organicism in Biology, Philosophy, and Politics
In: Micro and Macro Philosophy: Organicism in Biology, Philosophy, and Politics