Gustav Gustavovich Shpet

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Shpet, Gustav Gustavovich


Born Mar. 26 (Apr. 7), 1879, in Kiev; died Mar. 23,1940, in Tomsk Oblast. Russian idealist philosopher. Follower of E. Husserl’s phenomenology.

Shpet graduated from the faculty of history and philology of the University of Kiev in 1905, and in 1907 he moved to Moscow. Beginning as a privatdocent at the University of Moscow in 1910, he was a professor there from 1918 to 1923. From 1923 to 1929 he was vice-president of the Russian Academy of Artistic Disciplines (later the State Academy of Artistic Disciplines).

Shpet conceived of a universal understanding (urazumenie), meaning the search for the “first causes” and “principles” of existence, which he called “meanings,” eide, or “ideas.” According to Shpet, reality is not simply “given” in experience but “guessed at,” and its meaning is disclosed by uncovering the intuitive acts of the human mind. Intuition is interpreted by Shpet in the spirit of the rationalism of R. Descartes, B. Spinoza, and G. von Leibniz: the intuitive “perception of essence” can be fully expressed and communicated by means of logical definitions based on analytical reasoning, even though the mind initially discerns essence, or “meaning,” just as directly as it perceives sense data. Mediation is that derivative aspect represented by description, proof, and interpretation. In The Internal Form of the Word (1927), Shpet discusses the philosophy of language as the foundation of the philosophy of culture, and he anticipates many of the ideas later developed in hermeneutics—the study of interpretation.

In the 1930’s Shpet translated and annotated various works of world literature, primarily by English writers such as Byron and Dickens. His translation of Hegel’s Phenomenology of the Spirit was published in 1959.


Iavlenie i smysl. Moscow, 1914.
Filosofskoe nasledstvo P. D. Iurkevicha. Moscow, 1915.
Istoriia kakproblema logiki, part 1. Moscow, 1916.
Soznanie i ego sobstvennik. Moscow, 1916.
Filosofskoe mirovozzrenie Gertsena. Petrograd, 1921.
Ocherk razvitiia russkoi filosofii, part 1. Petrograd, 1922.
Antropologizm Lavrova v svete istorii filosofii. Petrograd, 1922.
Esteticheskie fragmenty, fascs. 1–3. Petrograd, 1922–23.
Vvedenie v etnicheskuiu psikhologiiu, fasc. 1. Moscow, 1927.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
Gustav Gustavovich Shpet (1879-1937) has a reputation for being a very demanding but equally rewarding thinker, a "philosopher's philosopher" if ever there were one.