Kantian Journal

2018 Vol. 37. №4

The Notion of Free Will in Sergey Hessen’s Conception of Culture


Sergey Hessen builds his philosophy of culture on Heinrich Rickert’s theory of values. Like Rickert, he believes that the individual plays a key role in the formation of culture. The individual exercises freedom only in creative activity and the degree to which he fulfils his creative potential depends not only on the cultural context in which it happens, but also on the regulation of the opportunities for self-actualisation in any given society. Accordingly, Hessen defines society as the sphere of communication among a multitude of individuals whose creative activities serve to continue the process of culture-structuring. Thus the effectiveness of the realisation of values in cultural reality depends directly on ensuring the conditions for the exercise of free will. There is potentially an unlimited number of ways of defining the concept of free will, each imposing certain limitations on the actualisation of the individual in culture. The question arises, how does each individual understand the possibility of creative activities within a concrete culture and what permits him to determine the vectors of self-actualisation? In seeking an answer to this question Hessen resorts to the dialectical method as a universal formal instrument for assessing the development of culture. What enables Hessen to overcome in theory the fragmentation of culture into a multitude of variations of actualisation of free will is the interpretation of the common will as a continuously renewed result of interaction among a multitude of individuals. An individual, according to Hessen, can understand his own past as a continuity only by comparing its component social practices to something that transcends his goals and that is not reduced to a fragment of personal being.

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