Lesevych, Volodymyr

Lesevych, Volodymyr [Lesevyč], b 27 January 1837 in Denysivka, Lubny county, Poltava gubernia, d 26 November 1905 in Saint Petersburg. (Photo: Volodymyr Lesevych.) Philosopher and community figure; full member of the Shevchenko Scientific Society (NTSh). A graduate of the Saint Petersburg Military Engineering School (1855), he served as an officer in Caucasia for three years and then entered the Academy of the General Staff. In 1861 he retired to his estate in Denysivka, where in 1864 he established one of the first elementary schools for peasants with Ukrainian as the language of instruction. A staunch populist and supporter of the Ukrainian national revival, he defended use of the Ukrainian language in the Russian press, subsidized Mykhailo Drahomanov's émigré activities in Geneva and publications of the Ukrainian Radical party in Galicia, and cofounded the Philanthropic Society for Publishing Generally Useful and Inexpensive Books in Saint Petersburg, where he resided. For aiding the revolutionary Narodnaia Volia, he was exiled to Siberia (1879–81) and then forbidden to live in the capital until 1888. Lesevych was one of the founders of positivism in the Russian Empire. Recognizing the importance of epistemology, he became critical of his earlier Comtean outlook and turned to R. Avenarius's empiriocriticism in formulating his own mature position. The role of philosophy, according to his theory of ‘critical realism,’ was to synthesize the results of the special sciences into a scientific worldview. He himself did not manage to complete this task. Besides numerous articles in philosophy, Lesevych wrote four books in Russian: a survey of the development of the idea of progress (1868), a critical study of the basic principles of positive philosophy (1877), Pis’ma o nauchnoi filosofii (Letters on Scientific Philosophy, 1878), and Chto takoe nauchnaia filosofiia? (What is Scientific Philosophy? 1891). He bequeathed his library to the NTSh in Lviv. A three-volume collection of his works (1915–17) was published in Moscow.

Taras Zakydalsky

[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 3 (1993).]

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