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.
"This is the first English translation of Bakhtin's earliest work of substance, dating from 1919-1921. . . . The text reveals the depth of Bakhtin's concern with philosophy and introduces themes important in his later thought. Moreover, the ideas expressed here represent a valuable contribution to post-Kantian European thought. . . . Vadim Liapunov's superb translation is supplemented by helpful notes, and there are insightful prefaces by Liapunov and Michael Holquist. Those involved in the production of this volume should be proud of the result."
—Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism