Lapshin, Ivan Ivanovich (1870–1952)

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Ivan Ivanovich Lapshin, the Russian neo-Kantian philosopher, was born in Moscow and studied at the University of St. Petersburg under the leading Russian neo-Kantian, Aleksandr Vvedenskii. Lapshin pursued his studies abroad for some years after 1893, concentrating particularly on Kantianism in English philosophy. With the publication in 1906 of his dissertation and chief philosophical work, Zakony myshleniia i formy poznaniia (The laws of thought and the forms of cognition), he received his doctorate from the University of St. Petersburg and in 1913 was made professor of philosophy at that institution. Along with many other noted Russian scholars Lapshin was exiled from the Soviet Union in 1922; he settled in Prague, where he lived until his death. His many writings cover a broad range of topics in philosophy, psychology, literature, music, and art, and include Russian translations of works by William James.

In his chief work Lapshin developed an antimetaphysical position on Kantian grounds, arguing specifically that the "laws of thought" derive their necessity solely from their connection with the forms through which sensory objects are cognized and that, therefore, it cannot be known whether these laws apply beyond the bounds of possible experience. According to Lapshin the law of contradiction, for example, can be understood only in reference to space and time (which, contrary to Immanuel Kant, he held to be categories of the understanding rather than forms of sensibility); and since the categories of space and time do not necessarily apply to transempirical objects, neither does the law of contradiction. Consequently nothing can legitimately be affirmed of "things in themselves," not even their existence.

Lapshin devoted little attention to problems of ethics and did not accept Kant's transition to a noumenal realm and to religious faith via the dictates of moral consciousness. In general he regarded metaphysics and religion as entirely without epistemological foundation and as obstacles to the progress and vitality of human thought.

Much of Lapshin's later philosophical work was concerned with questions of the psychology of creativity and with the epistemological basis of our knowledge of other minds. His two-volume study of creativity in philosophy (1922) was complemented by a number of other writings on creativity in literature and the arts.

As early as 1910 Lapshin had published a historical account of the problem of other selves, and in 1923 he presented his resolution of the problem in the article Oproverzhenie solipsizma (A refutation of solipsism). He argued that our sense of the immediate giveness of other selves is an illusion based on the projection of subjective impressions; other selves are hypothetical constructs, which can be called "immanently real" but cannot be shown to have transcendent reality.

See also James, William; Kantian Ethics; Kant, Immanuel; Neo-Kantianism; Russian Philosophy; Solipsism.


works by lapshin

Zakony myshleniia i formy poznaniia. St. Petersburg, 1906.

Problema chuzhovo "ia" v noveishei filosofii (The problem of other selves in modern philosophy). St. Petersburg: Senatskaia, 1910.

Filosofiia izobreteniia i izobretenie filosofii (Philosophy of invention and the invention of philosophy). 2 vols. Petrograd, 1922; 2nd ed., Prague, 1924.

"Oproverzhenie solipsizma" (A refutation of solipsism). In Trudy russkikh uchonykh za granitsei. No. 1. Prague, 1923. A German translation is available: Von der Ueberwindung des Solipsismus Melbourne: D. Jakovenko, 1969.

Spor o svobode voli v sovremennoi filosofii (The debate on the freedom of the will in contemporary philosophy). Prague: Russkii svobodnyi universitet, 1941.

works on lapshin

Losskii, N. O. History of Russian Philosophy. New York: International Universities Press, 1951.

Zen'kovskii, V. V. Istoriia Russkoi Filosofii. 2 vols. Paris: YMCA Press, 19481950. Translated by George L. Kline as A History of Russian Philosophy. 2 vols. New York: Columbia University Press, 1953.

James P. Scanlan (1967)

Bibliography updated by Vladimir Marchenkov (2005)