Jan Maciejewski

Secretary of the “Pressje” editorial board, journalist of Rzeczpospolita daily

Poland is a country without philosophers – as the regularly disappointed with their nation so called “experts on Polishness” say, staring jealously at western Europe - writes Jan Maciejewski


Indeed, the history of philosophy does not stand in familiarly sounding names. At first glance, we may seem to be the poor relatives of the Germans, Italians and the British. A patriot philosopher can maybe cough up from his throat, tightened with anger and shame the names of August Cieszkowski, Karol Libelt or some another Roman Ingarden, but later on he can only hopelessly lower his hands. The group of the soberly disappointed quickly notices the lowered guard. Now they will do anything to stop the fight early – they are planning to beat the opponent with a previously made diagnose. We do not have our philosophers because we are an irrational, unable to think critically nation. Poles are therefore condemned to the lack of originality; our destiny is to make footnotes to the thoughts and achievements of others at the most. We are not only on political, but also on intellectual peripheries.

Is it possible to stand up after receiving such accurate and painful blows?

Take two steps back, you defender of Polishness. Try to understand that you brought to this bang not the fellows that you need. Stop bidding with the names of the authors of the philosophical treatises, because you stand no chances in this clash. Search for your allies in non-obvious places: among poets, writers, activists. Human of concrete words, embodied, and not gliding among abstract considerations. Although you lisp a bit due to the having your teeth knocked out in the first battle, I understand what your answer is. You claim that they are not real thinkers, that they are too close to the everyday affairs, that the sentences they wrote down have not become universal, they remain trapped in the context of time and place.

But that is what their strength is based on. Józef Tischner, whom you probably do not completely respect, as he was not a pure philosopher and a Catholic priest as well, wrote in his text "What is the philosophy that I cultivate" something that you should take into consideration: "We have father Kolbe in Poland. Kolbe is much more than a Franciscan monk, who sacrificed his life for someone else. He is also a living embodiment of our Polish, somewhere contained in our blood, but nowhere completely defined, philosophy of a man. In the West we have: existentialism, structuralism, cybernetics, alienation and, for dessert, the theory of behaviorism. The fact of father Kolbe is absolutely beyond all that "

After all, in Polish philosophy much more facts similar to the one Tischner wrote about can be found. For example, the fact of Korczak, who was not satisfied by writing textbooks on pedagogics anymore and theorizing about the upbringing of children. The wrote the last chapter of his theory, by accompanying his proteges to the gas chamber.

Polish philosophy makes conclusions on heroism only when history forces it to do so. Then it is revealed what is its greatest strength and source of originality, and what lies in it also in quiet times. Polish philosophy is written in words that are not detached from reality; they are on the side of the world, and not the separated from it, proud in its loneliness and independence, the mind. The language in which the Polish thought speaks, is connected with reality, it adheres to it as closely as the force attaches to the body of a lion. It is the language of the living and the feeling man, not the mind, only constructing theoretical structures.

Intellectual patriot, frankly speaking, I do not know whether these arguments will reach your opponent's face, contorted with contempt for the Polish way of practicing philosophy. But even they do not, you should not bother too much with it. It was not my intention either. I just wanted you to understand that you have a much more important battle to fight.  

Source: Plus Minus, Rzeczpospolita daily, http://www.rp.pl/Plus-Minus/309219936-Maciejewski-Do-intelektualnego-patrioty.html