Born in Finland, the Finnish-Russian-German-Lithuanian philosopher Vasily Sesemann (1884-1963) studied at a gymnasium in Saint Petersburg before studying philosophy and classical philology at the Saint Petersburg Imperial University, where he was a student — amongst others — of the eminent Russian philosopher Nikolai Lossky, who was privat-dozent at the philosophy department from 1900 to 1916. Sesemann later went to obtain a PhD at the University of Marburg, where he studied with the Neo-Kantians Hermann Cohen and Paul Natorp. His work has thus been associated with Neo-Kantianism. But he remained in contact with Lossky and explicitly admitted to have been influenced by the latter. He later on translated Lossky’s voluminous Логика (Logic) into German (Handbuch der Logik, 1927), contributed to Lossky’s Festschrift (1934), and gave lectures on Lossky’s intuitivism while imprisoned in a Siberian labor camp from 1950 to 1958. Sesemann’s works in many places show signs of a Losskyan influence. There is, for instance, the importance that Sesemann accords in aesthetics to intuition or acts of direct empathy through which aesthetic values are apprehended. Lossky’s conception of the world as an organic whole also seems to lie behind Sesemann’s theory of the wholeness of the work of art. This influence has often been reported in the secondary literature. Juozas Girnius, for instance, writes that, “[of] the philosophical doctrines to which he was exposed while studying, the one to exert the greatest influence was that of intuitionism as expounded by his teacher Nicholas O. Lossky.” Leonidas Donskis also claims that Sesemann was “[i]nfluenced by Nikolai Lossky’s intuitivist philosophy.” Yet no piece of scholarship has been devoted to this question in particular. In this paper, I focus on the possible debt that Sesemann owes to Lossky and, through him, to Russian philosophy in general.
Juozas Girnius, “Sezemanas,” Encyclopedia Lituanica, Boston, Massachusetts: Juozas Kapočius, 1976, vol. V, p. 126.
Leonidas Donskis, “On the Boundary of Two Worlds: Lithuanian Philosophy in the Twentieth Century,” Studies in East European Thought, vol. 54, n. 3, 2002, pp. 179-206, p. 193.
Dr. Frédéric Tremblay will present his work at the Aleksanteri Institute Visiting Fellows Research Seminar on Thursday 21 February, 2019 at 14:15 in the Aleksanteri Institute 2nd floor meeting room, Unioninkatu 33, Helsinki). The event is chaired by Professor Vesa Oittinen.