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Vasily Sesemann

Experience, Formalism, and the Question of Being

Thorsten Botz-Bornstein

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.
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Place and Dream

Japan and the Virtual

Thorsten Botz-Bornstein

This is a book about space. On a first level, it reflects traditional Japanese ideas of space against various “items” of Western culture. Among these items are Bakhtin's “dialogicity”, Wittgenstein’s Lebensform, and “virtual space” or “globalized” space as representatives of the latest development of an “alienated”, modern spatial experience. Some of the Western concepts of space appear as negative counter examples to “basho-like”, Japanese places; others turn out to be compatible with the Japanese idea of space.
On a second level, the book attempts to synthesize, by constantly transgressing the limits of a purely comparative activity, a quantity which the author believes to be existent in Japanese culture that is called “the virtual”. Be it Kuki Shûzô's hermeneutics of non-foundation or his ontology of dream, Nishida Kitarô’s virtual definition of the body of state, or Kimura Bin's notion of “in-between” (aida) that is so closely associated with the “virtual space” of Noh plays: what all these conceptions have in common is that they aim to transcend a flat notion of “reality” by developing “the virtual” as a complex ontological unity.
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Thorsten Botz-Bornstein

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.

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Edited by Thorsten Botz-Bornstein

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Thorsten Botz-Bornstein

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Edited by Thorsten Botz-Bornstein

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Edited by Thorsten Botz-Bornstein

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Edited by Thorsten Botz-Bornstein