Thorsten Botz-Bornstein

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Vasily Sesemann: Experience, Formalism, and the Question of Being

Author: Thorsten Botz-Bornstein

Amsterdam, New York: Rodopi, 2006. ISBN 978-90-420-2092-4 / 90-420-2092-X . 30 / US$ 38 Order from Rodopi. Order from

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Vasily (Wilhelm) Sesemann is the most important Lithuanian philosopher of all times. Born in Vyborg in 1884 by parents of German descent, Sesemann grew up and studied in St. Petersburg. A close friend of Viktor Zhirmunsky and Lev P. Karsavin, Sesemann taught from the early 1920 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 1958).

Sesemann around 1920

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 a translation of an essay by Karsavin, all three of which existed so far only in Russian. Preface by Eero Tarasti.

Sesemann around 1909. Courtesy Svenska Litteratursallskapet i Finland.

Viborg in 1930

The book's cover photo, called "A Journey to Vyborg," is by Finnish photographer Eeli Aalto who shot this in 1990. He also offers some interesting comments on his website.

Here is another photo from Aalto's Viborg series:

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