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Bakhtin Circle Philosophy Culture and Politics

Bakhtin Circle Philosophy Culture and Politics

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Published by: ventriloquize on Jul 16, 2011
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Faced with challenges from all directions, the last generation of the
two schools of neo-Kantianism sought to rescue their philosophy by
making it more concrete, and this brought about certain key
revisions which threatened to destroy the philosophy from within as

22The Bakhtin Circle

well as without (Motzkin 1989). The key developments pursued by
Cassirer, the last major Marburg neo-Kantian, will be discussed in
Chapter 5, but those of Emil Lask, his Baden School counterpart, are
also important, even if there is no direct evidence of Bakhtin’s famil-
iarity with Lask’s work.6

This is because Lask was the neo-Kantian
who moved closest toward phenomenology and his conclusions
were often remarkably similar to those of Bakhtin. Of key
importance was the central role given to the Brentanian notion of
intentionality, which shifted attention to individual consciousnesses
rather than the abstract neo-Kantian ‘consciousness in general’. The
result was that neither thinker any longer treated the realms of being
and validity as separate realms; and they both also abandoned the
neo-Kantian insistence that nothingwas given to consciousness.
Instead, the experienced world consists of a given but undefined
(meaningless and shapeless) substratum (brute content or a bearer
of properties) and the objectively valid categories of logic. These are
not separate realms but incomplete elements that are united in
specific acts of cognition. The empirical world as givenis therefore
still unknowable, for what can be known is only a ‘produced’
compound of content and form.
It is important to note that unlike early phenomenology and
Gestalt theory, this theory makes no distinction between the
structures of perceived things and the structures of thought. Where
for phenomenology and Gestalt theory the percipient detects already
structured phenomena prior to any reorganisation that might take
place in thought, for Lask (and for Bakhtin) what is perceived
appears to be already formed only because, since the time of the
‘mythical Adam’, no-one is ever the first to define an object (SR 92;
DN 279; Schuhmann and Smith 1993; Crowell 1996).

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