Toward a Philosophy of the Act (University of Texas Press Slavic Series, No. 10)
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Rescued in 1972 from a storeroom in which rats and seeping water had severely damaged the fifty-year-old manuscript, this text is the earliest major work (1919-1921) of the great Russian philosopher M. M. Bakhtin. Toward a Philosophy of the Act contains the first occurrences of themes that occupied Bakhtin throughout his long career. The topics of authoring, responsibility, self and other, the moral significance of "outsideness," participatory thinking, the implications for the individual subject of having "no-alibi in existence," the difference between the world as experienced in actions and the world as represented in discourse—all are broached here in the heat of discovery. This is the "heart of the heart" of Bakhtin, the center of the dialogue between being and language, the world and mind, "the given" and "the created" that forms the core of Bakhtin's distinctive dialogism.
A special feature of this work is Bakhtin's struggle with the philosophy of Immanuel Kant. Put very simply, this text is an attempt to go beyond Kant's formulation of the ethical imperative. mci will be important for scholars across the humanities as they grapple with the increasingly vexed relationship between aesthetics and ethics.
performing the act, but cannot be uttered clearly and distinctly. I think that language is much more adapted to giving utterance precisely to that truth, and not to the abstract moment of the logical in its purity. That which is abstract, in its purity, is indeed unutterable: any expression is much too concrete for pure meaning-it distorts and dulls the purity and validityin-itself of meaning. That is why in abstract thinking we never understand an expression in its full sense. Historically
performativc [postupochnaia 1 fullncss of this affirmation . T • • • TOWARD /0 A PHILOSOPHY OF THE ACT of any emotional-volitional tone. There is nothing I can do with this theoretical proposition; it does not obligate me in any way. Insofar as I think of my uniqueness or singularity as a moment of my being that is shared in common by all Being, I have already stepped outside my once-occurrent uniqueness, I have assumed a position outside its bounds, and think Being theoretically, i.e.,
in which all human beings are-with respect to value--equally mortal. (One should remember that to live from within myself, from my own unique place in Being, does not yet mean at all that I live only for my own sake. For it is only from my own unique place that selfsacrifice is possible, that is, the answerable centrality of myself can be a self-sacrificing centrality.) There is no acknowledged self-equivalent and universally valid value, for its acknowledged validity is conditioned not by its
uniquc as it ought-to-be. 121. "Contingent possibilitv": fortuitous or chance possibility. 122. "Universal": general; sec notc 71 above. 123. "Givcn and projectcd": both as something given (totally on hand) and (simultaneouslv) gi\'en in thc mode ofsomcthing yct to bc dctermined. 124. "Obligative": ought-to-be. 125. "Participative self": a subiectum who participates in an cngaged, interested manncr; sec notc 29 abovc. 126. "A dctachcd (non-participating) consciousness": an unengagcd, impersonal
entire life as a whole can be considered as a single complex act or deed that I perform: I act, i.e., perform acts, with my whole life, and every particular act and lived-experience is a constituent moment of my life-of the continuous performing of acts [postuplenie]. As a performed act, a given thought forms an integral whole: both its content/sense and the fact of its presence in my actual consciousness-the consciousness of a perfectly determinate human beingat a particular time and in