Kantian Journal

2017 Vol. 36. №2

Back to the list Download the article

The philosophical and legal content of Sergey Hessen’s concept of personality



This article aims to consider the concept of personality proposed by the prominent exponent of Russian neo-Kantianism Sergey Hessen and its philosophical and legal content. The frame of reference used to achieve this aim is determined by the personality-culture-the general will-the state coordinates. The author compares Hessen’s ideas with Bogdan Kistyakovsky’s legal concept. Hessen distinguished between several layers of meaning in the notion of culture — civilizedness, level of education, and civic virtue. He stressed that the personality and culture existed in a dialectical relationship. Hessen emphasised the primacy of personal freedom and the need to distinguish between freedom and power of choice. Acts of choice are random and unpredictable — they do not have a solid foundation, whereas acts of freedom are a prerequisite for creativity — an integral characteristic of personality. The creative essence of personality suggests individuality and uniqueness of each person. Personality has a historical dimension. In analysing the problem of the relationship between a person and society, Hessen considered Rousseau’s concept of general will. Hessen proposed a dynamic understanding of general will as a continuous process of establishing and re-establishing that involves the general population. Hessen counterposed law against the notions of nature and morality and interpreted law as an insufficient but necessary prerequisite for harmonizing relations in a society. Hessen developed an original understanding of the ideal of state organisation — a democratic state that incorporates the principles of liberalism and socialism.


1. Gessen, S. I., 2010a, Moe zhizneopisanie [My biography], in: Gessen S. I. Izbrannoe [Selected works], Moscow, p. 772—827.
2. Gessen, S. I., 2010b, Pravovoe gosudarstvo i socialism [Legal state and socialism], in: Gessen S. I. Izbrannoe [Selected works], Moscow, p. 43—395.
3. Gessen, S. I., 1995, Osnovy pedagogiki. Vvedenie v prikladnuyu filosofiyu. [The foundations of pedagogy. Introduction to applied philosophy], Moscow.
4. Gessen, S. I., 2011a, Sovremennaya demokratiya [Modern democracy], Kantovskij sbornik [Kantian collection], no. 3(37), p. 93—97.
5. Gessen, S. I., 2011b, Sovremennaya demokratiya [Modern democracy], Kantovskij sbornik [Kantian collection], no. 4(38), p. 99—106.
6. Gessen, S. I., 2012, Sovremennaya demokratiya [Modern democracy], Kantovskij sbornik [Kantian collection], no. 1(39), p. 75—84.
7. Hessen, S., 1909, Individuelle Kausalitat. Studien zum transcendentalen Empirismus. Berlin. (Kantstudien. Ergänzungsheft, Nr. 15).
8. Kistiakovsky, B. A. 2010a, Izbrannoe: v dvuh chastiah, Chast 1. [Selected works in 2 parts, part 1], Moscow.
9. Kistiakovsky, B. A., 2002, Obshchestvo i individ. [Society and individual], Moscow.
10. Ochirokonova, N. V., 2005, Problema cheloveka v filosofii S. I. Gessena [The problem of human in S. I. Hessen’s philosophy]. Thesis, Moscow.
11. Rubinshtejn, M. M., 1925, Social'no-pravovye predstavleniya i samoupravlenie u detej. [Children’s social and legal perceptions], Moscow.
12. Walicki, A., 2012, Filosofia prava russkogo liberalism [Legal philosophy of Russian liberalism], Moscow.
13. Zagirnyak, M. Y., 2012, Filosofsko-pravovye idei S. I. Gessena: istoriko-filosofskij kontekst [Philosophical and legal ideas of S. I. Hessen]. Thesis, Moscow.
14. Zagirnyak, M. Y., 2017, Znachenie prava dlya svobody lichnosti v filosofii S. I. Gessena [The significance of the law for the individual freedom in the philosophy of Sergius Hessen], in: Nauchno-tekhnicheskij progress i sovremennoe obshchestvo: sbornik nauchnyh trudov po materialam I Mezhdunarodnoj nauchno-prakticheskoj konferencii molodyh uchenyh [Scientific and technical progress and modern society: collection of scientific works based on materials of the 1st International scientific and practical conference of young scientists], Moscow,
15 January 2017. p. 250—264.
16. Zhilyaeva, E. I., 2012, Problema cheloveka v social'noj filosofii S. I. Gessena [The problem of human in social philosophy of S. I. Hessen]. Thesis, Moscow.