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Relative Absolutes: Alexandre Kojève and Russian Philosophy Abroad

Wilson, Trevor (2020) Relative Absolutes: Alexandre Kojève and Russian Philosophy Abroad. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Standard accounts of twentieth century Russian emigration often describe stages of adaptation for those in exile: first, an effort to maintain continuity with pre-revolutionary Russia, followed by attempts to adopt cultural models of their new countries, and finishing with varying degrees of self-definition and integration. Studies of the Russian diaspora have largely, however, confined themselves to artistic texts. This dissertation rethinks standard models of Russian diasporic culture through the lens of philosophy and intellectual history in Europe more broadly. It examines the work of the philosopher Alexandre Kojève as a thematic bridge, connecting the philosophical activity of Russian émigrés (such as Sergei Bulgakov, Nikolai Berdiaev, and Lev Karsavin) with major figures in French and German intellectual history (Jacques Lacan, Georges Bataille, Carl Schmitt, among others). Although Kojève began his career in Russian philosophical circles (in Moscow, then émigré Paris), he only emerged as a respected philosophical figure after having “denationalized” his philosophical practice. This denationalization notably took place in his influential seminars on Hegel, held in Paris from 1933 to 1939. The dissertation traces Kojève’s transferal of ideas from the Russian tradition to a French, philosophically “universalized” one. The first chapter discusses the shift within consecutive generations of émigré Russian philosophers from religiously inflected work to atheist philosophy. The second chapter identifies the origins of Kojève’s theorization of desire in Russian philosophical debates on love in the fin-de-siècle period. The third chapter examines Kojève’s philosophy through political theory, examining his influence in debates on political conflict and the end of history on both sides of the Iron Curtain. The last chapter “returns” the philosopher to post-Soviet Russia and examines citation of Kojève amongst contemporary Russian philosophers writing today. The dissertation concludes by arguing for a new understanding of Russian philosophy within a transnational exchange of texts and ideas. In particular, it signals to more liminal figures of Russian philosophy, including Kojève and his colleague Alexandre Koyré, as those who introduced problematics germane to Russian thought into broader, pan-European philosophy, thereby disrupting the habit of thinking of Russian intellectual history within an essentialized national context.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Wilson, Trevorttw4@pitt.eduttw4
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairCondee,
Committee MemberBirnbaum,
Committee MemberPadunov,
Committee MemberHalle,
Committee MemberLove,
Date: 16 January 2020
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 21 November 2019
Approval Date: 16 January 2020
Submission Date: 5 December 2019
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 167
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Slavic Languages and Literatures
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Hegel, Russian diaspora, diaspora studies, Alexandre Kojève, Russian philosophy
Date Deposited: 16 Jan 2020 19:54
Last Modified: 16 Jan 2020 19:54


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