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[Xmca-l] Re: Shpet & principium cognescenti

I can not answer this question but I am adding a brief entry from "the
Encyclopedia Of Philosophy": on Gustav Shpet (1879—1937)

Shpet, a professor of philosophy at the University of Moscow, introduced
Husserlian transcendental phenomenology into Russia. Additionally, he wrote
extensively on aesthetics, hermeneutics, the history of Russian philosophy
and the philosophy of language. During the Stalinist years in Russia he was
condemned as being an idealist in philosophy and a counter-revolutionary in
politics. The depth and breadth of his numerous studies stand as a
testament to the philosophic spirit in Russia during the waning years of
Table of Contents

   1. Life <http://www.iep.utm.edu/shpet/#H1>
   2. Philosophy <http://www.iep.utm.edu/shpet/#H2>
   3. References and Further Reading <http://www.iep.utm.edu/shpet/#H3>

1. Life

Gustav Gustavovich Shpet was born in Kiev in April 1879. Late in life
during the Stalinist period, he sought to emphasize his humble origins as
the illegitimate son of a seamstress. In fact, his maternal grandfather
appears to have been a member of the Polish gentry. No information is
available on his father. Whether he had any religious upbringing is
unclear. On his university registration form he gave his religion as
Lutheran, although his mother was, based on family testimony, Catholic.

Upon finishing studies at a gymnasium (secondary school) in Kiev Shpet
enrolled at the university there in 1898. Also at this time he became
involved in a Marxist circle, although the degree of his active
participation is unclear. In any case, his involvement resulted in
expulsion from the university. After a relatively short time, however, he
was permitted back to attend classes. From that time onward, Shpet always
maintained a respectable distance from philosophical Marxism, while
apparently retaining a measured sympathy for its socio-economic ideals.
After finishing his studies in 1906 he taught for a time at a Kiev
gymnasium but followed his former teacher Georgij Chelpanov to Moscow in
1907 upon the latter's succession to the philosophy chair formerly held by
Sergej Trubeckoj.

In Moscow Shpet continued his studies at the university and worked in
Chelpanov's newly established psychology institute. In addition, he taught
at a number of educational institutions in the city. During the summer
months of 1910 and 1911 Shpet went abroad to Paris, Edinburgh and various
locales in Germany in connection with the psychology institute and his own
research for a dissertation. During one of these trips he first encountered
Husserl, but it was not until his stay in Goettingen during the 1912-13
academic year that he came firmly under Husserl's influence. Attending
Husserl's lectures and seminars at this time, Shpet became acquainted with
the nascent ideas of transcendental phenomenology and, in particular, with
those that would eventually become known as *Ideen II*. When *Ideen I* was
published in 1913 Shpet amazingly mastered in short order the change in
Husserl's orientation. The next several years were arguably the most
philosophically productive of his life, producing in rapid succession a
series of works on epistemology, the history of philosophy and the history
of Russian philosophy. In 1915 he wrote a large study of the 19th century
Moscow philosophy professor Pamfil Yurkevich, followed the next year by the
defense and the publication of his dissertation *Istorija kak problema
logika* (*History as a Problem of Logic*) and then the writing of *Germenevtika
i ee problemy* (*Hermeneutics and Its Problems*), which languished in
manuscript for decades.

His work, however, as the first propagandist, if you will, in Russia for
Husserl's transcendental phenomenology and philosophy as a rigorous science
is perhaps that for which he is best known, at least in Western
philosophical circles. Although the Husserlian influence waned over the
years, due at least in part to his increasing isolation within Soviet
Russia, Shpet produced within a few short months of its appearance in 1913
the first book-length study of Husserl's *Ideen I*. In 1917 and 1918 he
edited the philosophical yearbook *Mysl' i slovo*, which also contained
valuable contributions by Shpet himself and amplified his own position
vis-a-vis Husserlian phenomenology. In 1918 he was appointed to a
professorship at Moscow University and in the following year he succeeded
to the chair held by Leo Lopatin, who had recently died.

Despite his varied intellectual activities on many fronts during the early
years of the Bolshevik regime, Shpet, as an openly non-Marxist
intellectual, could not be permitted to retain his teaching position long.
His name appeared on Lenin's August 1922 listing of those to be exiled from
Russia, a list that included numerous prominent philosophers, such as
Berdyaev, Lossky and Lapshin. Shpet, however, successfully appealed to
Lunacharskij, the Soviet cultural minister, with whom he was acquainted
from his student days in Kiev, to have his name removed.

In 1923 with the creation of the Russian--later State--Academy for Cultural
Studies, Shpet was tapped to be its vice-president. There he continued his
scholarly work, albeit slightly redirected or, perhaps more accurately,
re-focused away from pure philosophy. Again despite his prolific output and
that of his colleagues, the Academy, though at least nominally headed by a
Marxist, was closed in 1929. Over the next several years he made his living
chiefly by preparing translations from such authors as Dickens and Byron,
and he also participated in the preparation of a Russian edition of

On 14 March 1935 Shpet, along with several other former colleagues from the
State Academy, was arrested, charged with anti-soviet activities and
sentenced to five years internal exile. Later that year the place of exile
was changed to Tomsk, a university city in Siberia, where Shpet prepared a
new Russian translation of Hegel's *Phenomenology of Spirit*. On 27 October
1937 he was again arrested and charged with belonging to a monarchist
organization. Recently uncovered documents from the former KGB headquarters
in Tomsk indicate that Shpet was executed on 16 November 1937.
2. Philosophy

The nascent secondary literature is still at a very early stage.
Nevertheless, already three areas of disagreement exist concerning: a) the
influences on Shpet's philosophy; b) the number of stages in the
development of his thought; and c) Shpet's lasting contribution to
philosophy. With regard to the first area, some have tended to emphasize
the phenomenological aspect of his thought and, consequently, have stressed
the Husserlian influence. Others have noted the influence of Hegel, while
still others have sought to demonstrate Shpet's indebtedness to the Russian
metaphysical tradition. To a large degree, however, the depiction of the
dominant influence on Shpet has been determined by one's response to the
third area, namely, his contribution to philosophy. During the Soviet era,
Russian scholars saw Shpet almost exclusively as an historian of Russian
philosophy. To the extent that his ideas at that time received recognition
in the West he was viewed as *the* Russian disciple of Husserl. Today both
inside Russia and in Western circles Shpet is receiving attention as a
phenomenologist of language, if not *the* first to study language from
within a broadly phenomenological perspective.

In any case, Shpet's philosophical development can be broken into at least
three periods. Although one contemporary scholar (A. Haardt) holds the
first of these to range from 1898-1905, no writings have emerged from these
very youthful years and certainly Shpet published nothing at this time.
What little information we have comes from an autobiographical remark in
his huge 1916 thesis. Thus, seeing his Marxist infatuation as a stage in
Shpet's thought serves no useful purpose.

Whatever was the nature of his Marxism, already by 1903 Shpet felt an
affinity toward idealism and, in particular, saw the former as riddled with
what he thought were epistemological and methodological errors. In his
thesis for Kiev University, published under the title "The Problem of
Causality in Hume and Kant: Did Kant Answer Hume's Doubt?," Shpet writing
under the unmistakable influence of Chelpanov and the "Kiev School of
Kant-Interpretation," fundamentally sided with a phenomenalist reading of
Kant. In addition, referring explicitly to the writings of the Baden School
of neo-Kantianism, Shpet cautiously held that although Kant had
demonstrated the "real necessity" of a priori cognitions, he had not proved
their "logical necessity."

"We must recognize, therefore, that Kant succeeded in proving the real
necessity of a priori categories. Nevertheless, he did not prove their
logical necessity. " (1, p. 202)

That is, the Kantian a priori categories, including causality, must be
postulated so as to account for objectively valid knowledge. In this way
Shpet accords belief in the categories, and thus practical reason, a
primacy in and over epistemology. Therefore, based simply on the textual
evidence available to the contemporary scholar for analysis, the first
period in Shpet's thought is marked by a neo-Kantian phase extending from
circa 1903-1912 and is the only period conceptually quite distinct from the

The exact evolution of Shpet's ideas immediately after moving to Moscow is
unclear. What is clear, however, is that he irrevocably distanced himself
from neo-Kantianism and came under the influence of Lopatin and the works
of the recently deceased S. Trubeckoj. From them, as well perhaps as
through his reading of Vladimir Solovyov, Shpet began to employ the
unmistakeable terminology and think philosophically in the categories and
problems of Platonism, particularly that variant then dominant at Moscow
University. In addition to criticizing psychologism--and, indeed, all
"isms"-- for its failure to grasp the psyche as a "living whole," Shpet
began to see philosophy itself as based on the immediate data of reflection.

"The spirit of our philosophy is that of a living,concrete and integral
philosophy based on the reliable data of inner experience. " (2, p.264.)

Despite the obvious pedigree of this conception in, on the one hand, the
Moscow metaphysicians, and, on the other, James, Dilthey, Stumpf and the
early Husserl--as Shpet himself acknowledged--we should not disregard the
fact that Chelpanov also stressed the importance of introspection as a
technique in psychology, albeit bereft of metaphysical interpretation.

The next period in Shpet's philosophy is that for which he is best known.
In *Appearance and Sense*, published in mid-1914, Shpet provided, on the
one hand, a summarization of many points covered in Husserl's *Ideen I*.
Yet, on the other hand, Shpet sought to invoke Husserl's transcendental
turn for his own purposes, while cautiously noting what he saw as
deficiencies in the latter. Like Husserl, Shpet was willing to characterize
phenomenology as the fundamental science and, again like Husserl, Shpet
made extensive use of eidetic intuition. This reliance on the Husserlian
technique of "ideation" is one that Shpet continued to value years later
even after coming under political attack for his idealism. Husserl and
Shpet differed, however, on the goal of such procedures and methods.
Whereas the former sought to construct a presuppositionless philosophy, a
"science" of consciousness and cognition, Shpet saw philosophy as
ultimately a study of being, of which cognizing is but one form among many.
Modern philosophy's error is found in its concentration on the forms of
cognition, rather than on cognition as such. In modern parlance we could
say philosophy has failed to distinguish the forest from the trees. The
subject-matter of phenomenology, as Shpet conceived it, is the study of
cognition, qua a mode of being. The major oversight of modern philosophy is
not to have seen the non-empirical and non-actual nature of the cognizing

Of the several articles Shpet published immediately subsequent to the
appearance of *Appearance and Sense* two in particular stand out:
"Consciousness and Its Proprietor" and "Wisdom or Reason." In the first of
these, which appeared in 1916, Shpet already addressed an issue that would
later prove to be a major bone of contention among the next generation of
phenomenologists. Developing ideas enunciated by Solovyov during the last
years of his life, Shpet asked who "owns" or "possesses" the unity of
consciousness. Whereas he is willing, pace Hume, to concede on the issue of
such a unity, it is no one's, i.e., it has no proprietor. We are led astray
in seeking such a proprietor by an inaccurate analogy drawn from our
everyday language.

"Ultimately, it is as impossible to say *whose* consciousness as it is to
say *whose* space, *whose* air, even though everybody is convinced that the
air which he breathes is *his* air, and the space which he occupies is *his*
space. " (4, p. 205)

In direct opposition to Husserl, whom he accuses of betraying the
"principle of all principles," stated in *Ideen I*, Shpet finds no "pure
Ego." What unity there is certainly cannot serve as an epistemological
guarantee, and it certainly cannot be called a Self or an Ego.

In "Wisdom or Reason" from 1917 Shpet presents what may well be the first
attempt to depict the phenomenological idea, or what we today often view as
that idea, as the telos of Western philosophy. Noticeably, however, Shpet
never mentions phenomenology as such; instead he uses the locution
"philosophy as pure knowledge" and even "philosophy as knowledge." In a
precise manner, Parmenides established the proper object of philosophy and
showed the path along which philosophy is directed to solve the problem
posed by that object. (5, p. 7)

This itself can be seen as a distancing from the Husserlian influence in
that Shpet traces *his* conception back to the Greeks and indeed to
Parmenides. In any case, Shpet holds that philosophy proceeds through three
stages (and as in Hegel's *Phenomenology* whether these are purely logical
or chronological as well is arguable): from wisdom then on to metaphysics
before finally arriving at rigorous science or knowledge. Unlike
positivistic "scientific philosophy," which seeks to copy the methodology
of an arbitrarily chosen natural science or bases itself on results
attained in natural science, philosophy as pure knowledge grounds the
specific sciences.

The recent emergence and publication of Shpet's hitherto virtually
inaccessible 1918 work *Hermeneutics and Its Problems*, in both the
original Russian and a German translation, has drawn notable international
attention. In it Shpet presents a history of hermeneutics ranging from the
Greeks to the early 20th century, seeing the work of Dilthey and Husserl,
as represented in the first "Logical Investigation," as the highest point
yet attained.

Throughout this period and later Shpet maintained that his work was a
continuation of that direction in philosophy associated with Brentano and
Husserl. Where they erred was in forgetting the social dimension. There can
and do exist forms of collective or socio-cultural consciousness. An
element of such consciousness is language, more specifically words. The
understanding plays an analogous role in the grasping of sense, for which
words act as the "material bearer," as sense perception does in the
individual's representational consciousness. Shpet developed these themes
at some length in his *Aesthetic Fragments* from 1922/23 and his *Inner
Form of the Word* from 1927.

In addition, Shpet shortly before and after the Bolshevik Revolution
devoted considerable attention to the history of Russian philosophy,
publishing a number of valuable studies studded with numerous caustic
comments on the poverty of philosophy in his homeland.
3. References and Further Reading

   - "Problema prichinosti u Juma i Kanta. Otvetil li Kant na somnenija
   Juma?" ("The Problem of Causality in Hume and Kant. Did Kant Answer Hume's
   Doubt?"), *Kievskie universitetskie izvestija*, 1907, #5.
   - "Odin put' psikhologii i kuda on vedet" ("One Path in Psychology and
   Where It Leads"), *Filosofskij sbornik L. M. Lopatinu ot Moskovskogo
   Psikhologicheskogo Obshchestva*, Moscow, 1912, pp. 245-264.
   - *Javlenie i smysl*, Moscow, 1914. [English translation: *Appearance
   and Sense*, trans. by Thomas Nemeth, Kluwer Academic Publishers:
   Dordrecht, 1991]
   - "Soznanie i ego sobstvennik" ("Consciousness and Its
Proprietor"), *Sbornik
   statej po filosofii, posvjashchennyj G. I. Chelpanovu*, Moscow, 1916,
   pp. 156-210.
   - *Istorija kak problema logiki. Kriticheskie i metodologicheskie
   issledovanija. Chast' I: Materialy* (*History as a Problem of Logic.
   Critical and Methodological Investigations. Part I: Materials*), Moscow,
   - "Mudrost' ili razum" ("Wisdom or Reason"), *Mysl' i slovo*, vyp. 1,
   1917, pp. 1-69.
   - *Ocherk razvitija russkoj filosofii. Chast 1*. (*An Outline of the
   Development of Russian Philosophy. Part 1*.), Petrograd, 1922.
   - *Esteticheskie fragmenty* (*Aesthetic Fragments*), I. Petergrad 1922.
   II, III. Petrograd 1923.
   - *Vnutrennjaja forma slova. Etjudy i variacii na temy Humbol'dta* (*Inner
   Form of the Word. Studies and Variations on a Humboldtian Theme*),
   Moscow, 1927.

Author Information

Thomas Nemeth
Email: t_nemeth@yahoo.com
U. S. A
On Tue, Jan 27, 2015 at 2:14 PM, Huw Lloyd <huw.softdesigns@gmail.com>

> There seems to be a clear parallel between Vygotsky's use of the
> formulation "in itself, for others, for itself" and Shpet's referencing
> theological principium cognescenti which according to my brief browsing are
> three principles:
> principium essendi, principium cognoscendi externum, principium cognoscendi
> internum.
> Is anyone here familiar with the etymology of these principles and their
> bearing on Vygotsky's work?  Is there more than a superficial resemblance?
> Huw