CHAPTER I

 

LITHUANIAN PHILOSOPHY:

THE SEARCH FOR AUTHENTICITY

 

JURATE BARANOVA

 

 

This book is an attempt to present Lithuanian philosophical thought, its history, main ideas and personalities. The idea was suggested in reading Czech Philosophy in the 20th Century1.

A superficial glance at two philosophical traditions — Czech and Lithuanian — shows two different orientations of the philosophical mind. Reading the volume about Czech philosophy, one can discern rather strong trends of positivism, phenomenology and structuralism, all set within the notable spiritual tradition of Central Europe. In the Lithuanian philosophical tradition these three kinds of philosophy historically had no decisive influence. In the time between the wars only Vosylius Sezemanas was influenced both by neo-Kantians and by phenomenology. Two other eminent Lithuanian philosophers, Stasys Salkauskis and Antanas Maceina, were decisively influenced by the Russian religious thinkers Vladimir Soloviov and Nikolai Berdiaiev. Religious existentialism prevailed over other types of philosophy.

Only very contemporary Lithuanian philosophers have focused on analytic philosophy (Professor Evaldas Nekrasas, Professor Rolandas Povilionis), phenomenology (Tomas Sodeika), structuralism (Vida Gumauskaite, b. 1941). The chapter "Czech Protestantism and Philosophy" could have no parallel in our volume, as Catholicism was the dominant religious tradition.

The Lithuanian philosophical tradition has the same problem as Czech or any other Central or East European philosophy. No one philosophical school or trend takes its origin in Lithuania; ideas were imported from the West or from the East. The reasons for that can be sought in the historical background. Lithuania geographically is a border of the West. The concept of being "between" the West and the East has been used to interpret the peculiarities of our culture by some native and even foreign thinkers. This paradoxical place of Lithuania as being "between" was noticed by British historian Arnold J. Toynbee who found this place for Lithuania in the stage of his dramatic theater of the growth and collapse of civilizations.2

Any serious analyst would consider Lithuanian history in the 13th and 14th centuries to be somewhat paradoxical. One might wonder why our Lithuanian forefathers did not bother to create a Lithuanian alphabet in order to keep their national identity independent from other languages? Instead, they were galloping from one sea (Baltic) to another (Black) like Mongols, Tartars or landbound Vikings.

Toynbee gives an explanation of the source of such aggressiveness in the Lithuanians. As the last pagan country in Europe Lithuania suffered military aggression from the Christian West. In the 13th century, the Teutonic Orders concentrated pressure upon it. The Lithuanians were incited to fight, and marched to the Eastern lands. The pressure was transformed into martial power, which at first was used against neighbors, but later, when the pressure had become persistent, was turned against the Western enemies themselves.

According to Toynbee, such Lithuanian reaction to the pressure by the Teutonic knights is reflected even in the Lithuanian coat-of-arms which depicted a rider with a sword, wearing peasant shoes. This almost barbaric man galloped to Tanenberg and defeated the amazed knights (the battle of Grunwald). However, the Lithuanians were able to do this only after they had accepted the religion, culture and martial techniques of their enemies.

Later on, the energy of history turned in the opposite direction. The Lithuanian pressure on Russian lands induced retaliation. Those lands were united under the Moscovy, and stood against Lithuania. Then Lithuania was to face a new pressure from the East — states Toynbee after the manner of a commentator on a dynamic sports match. It could not withstand the pressure and perished together with Poland. Toynbee’s interpretation of Lithuanian history suggests that while other nations were cherishing their philosophy and arts our ancestors had to waste their energy on battles.

As pointed out by Lithuanian history professor Edvardas Gudavicius, Lithuania is the latecomer to Latin civilization.3 Almost all European nations had joined the Latin cultural domain by the 11th century. Lithuania lagged behind the other Central European countries by some 400 years and found itself within the bounds of Latin civilization only in the 14th century. On the other hand, as Lithuanian philosopher Professor Arvydas Sliogeris noted, we philosophize starting not from "pure experience", but from "pure word" — from somebody else’s text.4 It is very difficult to answer to the question whether there was authentic philosophy in Lithuania or if there is now. According to Sliogeris, philosophizing is not a characteristic feature of Lithuanian mentality. The Lithuanian looks more at the earth than at the sky. And if he looks at the sky, he does not see in it the same things as discerned by Plato — pure ideas. For this reason, according to Sliogeris, the Lithuanian flight of thought lacks metaphysics. Many contemporary researchers who deal with the tradition of Lithuanian philosophy do not share Sliogeris’s point of view. Nevertheless, the question of the authenticity of our philosophical thought remains open. The plausible answer is the one suggested by Professor Romanas Pleckaitis, who used to repeat to the students studying philosophy at Vilnius University : "We are not philosophers, only commentators and investigators of philosophical texts".

Philosophical culture in Lithuania is a culture of academic lectures, notes Alvydas Jokubaitis (philosophy lecturer from the "younger generation") in one of his articles, which provoked vivid disagreement and interesting debate.5 "Our philosophical texts are created only at the cost of good references"; "in Lithuania, it seems, we only duplicate duplicates", continues Jokubaitis. But nevertheless he does not use an argumentum ad hominem. "The reason for the dependency and lack of originality of Lithuanian philosophers lies not in intellectual powerlessness as creators, but in the fact that all our philosophical traditions till now float only behind the huge ice-breaker of Western philosophy". Is the way of the smaller and less visible following ship without meaning? Not at all; every tradition has its value in itself. And the concept of originality has several aspects: some ideas are original because they are expressed for the first time in the history of humankind, some — in the history of the nation, some — in the context of the contemporary generation. In one sense ideas can be called original when they make a deep impression on the philosopher’s mind for the first time, regardless of their origin or context. This is the sense of the title of this volume "Lithuanian Philosophy: Personalities and Ideas".

 

Part I, "Lithuanians: History and Culture" consists of four essays about some aspects of the historical and cultural tradition of the Lithuanian nation. The Dean of the Faculty of History of Vilnius University, Alfredas Bumblauskas (b. 1956) and the professor of the same faculty, Edvardas Gudavicius (b. 1929), present sketches on Lithuanian history. Two members of the Lithuanian Institute of Culture and Art, Gintaras Beresnevicius (b. 1961) and Vytautas Berenis (b. 1963), discuss the old and new Lithuanian mythology.

 

Part II, "Academic Philosophy through the Centuries", Professor Romanas Pleckaitis of the Institute of Philosophy and Sociology presents a broad historical review of the lectures in philosophy at Kaunas University and in logic at Vilnius University through the centuries. Professor Pleckaitis states that philosophical studies at Vilnius Jesuit College began in 1571, which date can be considered the beginning of philosophy in Lithuanian academic life. Croate Professor T. Zdelaric (who unfortunately died one year later in a plague) began to teach logic, the first discipline of scholastic philosophy. Scholastic philosophy in the 16th and 17th centuries was studied extensively in other Lithuanian schools as well.

R. Pleckaitis concludes that Lithuania had a rather normal level of late medieval philosophy, that discussion between nominalists and realists retains its significance even until now, and that the level of the study of logic was rather high. Not all historians of Lithuanian culture are committed to the conception of "Lithuania lagging behind the West." Professor Pleckaitis stresses more the achievements of Lithuanian philosophy through the ages.

 

Part III, "Philosophy between the Two World Wars," is represented by the "golden age" of Lithuanian philosophy: Vydunas (Vilhelmas Storosta, 1868-1953), Stasys Salkauskis (1886-1941), Antanas Maceina (1908-1987), Juozas Girnius (1915-1994) and Vosylius Sezemanas (1884-1963).

Vydunas was not an academic professor, never graduated from the university and created no philosophical system. He philosophized like an ancient sage, caring for moral development. Vydunas was influenced by Indian philosophy, the Bhagavadgita being his main text. He was a unique philosopher in the rather Catholic Lithuanian culture. The chairman of "Vydunas society", the director of the Institute of Philosophy and Culture, Vaclovas Bagdonavicius, presents the main ideas of Vydunas which were closely connected with the magic of his personality.

Stasys Salkauskis was perhaps the first eminent Lithuanian philosopher and pedagogue and the last rector of Vytautas Magnus University in Kaunas between the two wars. He was influenced by Russian philosopher Vladimir Soloviov and afterwards by neo-Thomism. Philosophy for him was a means for the upbringing of the nation, for which he created an original philosophy of culture and stated the task for the Lithuanian nation as being the union of two cultural traditions — from the East and from the West. Arunas Sverdiolas (b. 1949),6 in his article "Philosophy of Stasys Salkauskis," identifies different aspects of the influences and aspects of Salkauskis’s philosophy: the discrepancy between his practical and theoretical philosophy, his philosophy of culture and the relation of culture and religion. Sverdiolas concludes that the Promethean tragedy about which Salkauskis writes is not final as in Salkauskis’s understanding, for culture is not the highest sphere of life, but is surpassed by a further step towards religion.

Salkauskis’s ideas influenced his student Antanas Maceina — the other eminent Lithuanian philosopher. Antanas Maceina studied philology, left it for theology, afterwards returned, and finally decided to study philosophy and pedagogy. He was promoted to doctor of philosophy with the thesis "Tautinis auklejimas" (National Education, Kaunas, 1934). The next year he wrote his habilitation thesis, "Ugdomasis Veikimas" (Character Development). Maceina, as well as his teacher Salkauskis, analyzed the philosophy of culture Kulturos filosofijos ivadas (Introduction to the Philosophy of Culture) and a series of articles "Kulturos sinteze ir lietuviskoji kultura" (Synthesis of Culture and Lithuanian Culture). Just before the war he published two widely known books: in one, Socialinis teisingumas (Social Justice) he wrote as a social critic; in the other he reflected the historiosophic vision of Russian philosopher, Nikolai Berdiaiev, Burzuazijos zlugimas (The Fall of the bourgeoisie).

After the war he lived in Germany as private docent, gave courses on Russian philosophy and East European spiritual history at the universities of Frieburg and Munster (Germany), and lectured on the philosophy of religion. In a series of books Antanas Maceina discusses the existential questions of being, and deals with the old theodicy puzzle concerning the genesis and justification of evil: Didysis inkvizitorius (The Grand Inquisitor), Jobo drama (The Drama of Job) and Nieksybes paslaptis (The Secret of Meanness). Maceina also discussed questions very close to theology and dealt with contemporary problems of secularization and the relation of religion and evolutionism. In 1978 The Lithuanian Catholic Academy of Sciences published his opus magnum, Filosofijos kilme ir prasme (The Origin and Meaning of Philosophy).

Maceina’s philosophical conception in this volume is presented by the article of Ruta Tumenaite. In the paper "Two Existentialists: Antanas Maceina and Juozas Girnius" she compares the different influences and types of existential thinking by the two main Lithuanian existentialists. Tumenaite focuses more on the differences between these two philosophers, noting that Maceina, because of his openness to the tradition of Russian philosophy is subject to problems of intellectual integrity, which Juozas Girnius, who is open to Western philosophy, does not encounter. These standards of evaluation, however, come more from ideological than from philosophical discourse.

Juozas Girnius experienced influences very similar to those of Antanas Maceina. Both shared the same fate, leaving in 1944 to spend the rest of their lives far away from their native country: Maceina in Germany, Girnius in the United States. They both had the same teacher Stasys Salkauskis who, from his studies at Moscow University, was deeply influenced by the Russian philosopher, Vladimir Soloviov. During his studies Girnius spent some time at such Western universities as Leuven, Freiburg, Sorbonne, College de France. In Freiburg he attended Martin Heidegger’s lectures and his seminar, and in his works refers more to Western than to Eastern philosophers.

Existential thinking was only one aspect of Girnius’s philosophy. The other was religious faith. His main book, The Man without God, is a polemic mostly on atheistic existentialism. According to Girnius, a man is not only a necessity of nature, but has spirituality as well, which opens the possibility for freedom. Because of freedom a man becomes a moral being, but then faces the possibility of guilt. The longing for moral purity, like that for eternity, is the source of deep anxiety for man. But, asks Girnius rhetorically in a polemic with atheistic existentialism, if there is no God who can forgive man’s guilt? Philosophy has no autonomy in dealing with the questions of human being and hence Girnius did not see a gap between philosophy and literature. He considered Dostojevskij’s, Faulkner’s and other writers’ works to reveal the secluded corners of the human soul more than did the schematic works of some philosophers. But philosophers can take much for their reflection from the works of writers.

The Western philosophical tradition in academic life between the wars was taught by two newcomers to Lithuania — emigrants from Russia — Vosylius Sezemanas (1884-1963) and Levas Karsavinas (1882-1952). Levas Karsavinas was invited to Lithuania in 1928 as professor at Kaunas and Vilnius Universities to deal with the theory of history. He wrote about the methodological premises of historical investigation, stating that no historical theory can escape metaphysics. Discussing the subject of history, Karsavinas stated that it is "socially active humanity", which realizes itself through individual cultures — Indian, Ancient, Russian, European and so on. The culture of humanity is the "multiversal unity" of these cultures. Two of his works Philosophy of History (1923), and About Origins (1926) were published in Russian. His later works Theory of History (1929),7 The History of European Culture (1931-1937, v. 1-5) and Metaphysics of History (typed, 1940-1947) were in Lithuanian.

Vosylius Sezemanas was born in Finland, of Swedish and German descent, and had lived in St. Petersburg. He studied philosophy and psychology at Marburg and Berlin Universities and was a professor at St. Petersburg and Saratov Universities. In 1921 he left Russia and in 1923 was invited to Lithuanian State University in Kaunas. Loreta Anilionyte and Albinas Lozuraitis in their chapter "Vosylius Sezemanas: His Critical Philosophy," discuss the circumstances of his life, personality and spheres of philosophical interests. Sezemanas was influenced by the neo-kantians and phenomenology. The starting point for his original philosophical thinking was epistemology. Recently a collection of Sezemanas’s writings has been published including his studies on the philosophy of history and general questions of the philosophy of culture. Karsavinas and Sezemanas, experienced the same fate: during Soviet times both were exiled to Siberia; Sezemanas returned and lectured until his death; Karsavinas died in Komi.

The six philosophers discussed above compose the kernel of the "golden age" between the wars in Lithuania. The tradition is broader, of course. One should mention Ramunas Bytautas (1886-1915) — the first Lithuanian professional philosopher, psychologist and publicist; Pranas Kuraitis (1883-1964) — professor of Kaunas University and a follower of Thomas Aquinas; Vladimiras Silkarskis (1884-1960) — historian of literature and philosopher, professor of Tartu, Vilnius, Kaunas and Bonn Universities, who wrote about Plato, Socrates, Baruch Spinoza and Vladimir Solovjov; Jonas Sliupas (1861-1944) — the representative of vulgar materialism; Izidorius Tamosaitis (1889-1943) — professor from Kaunas University, who was one of the first in Lithuania to write about anthropology and the theory of values; Adomas Jakstas-Dambrauskas (1860-1938) — philosopher and theologian who discussed religious, aesthetic and world-view questions in the press and also was influenced by Vladimir Solovjov.

Intellectuals who were not professors were engaged in creating a public philosophical culture. One of them, Julijonas Linde-Dobilas (1877-1934), like many Lithuanian thinkers of this epoch, was a universal author writing fiction, aesthetics, literary and cultural criticism. One can read about his ideas and their place in the common culture in Almantas Samalavicius’s article "Beyond the Philosophy of Culture: the Case of Julijonas Linde-Dobilas".

Fabijonas Kemesis (1879-1945) is not well known to contemporary readers in Lithuania. One can find only one fragment of his ideas in the school anthology on Lithuanian philosophy where Adolfas Poska presents an article concerning his social view. Kemesis was a canon, economist, professor and teacher of Christian social thought.

Oskaras Milasius (1877-1939) is a paradoxical and interesting phenomenon in Lithuanian culture. He never lived in Lithuania but was born and spent his childhood in Cereja (near Mogiliov, Byelorussia) and graduated from Janson de Sailly Lycee in Paris. His longing for his fatherland was more metaphysical. Having to choose between two conflicting countries — Lithuania and Poland — he preferred Lithuania which for him was an idea even more than a fatherland. In 1920 when France recognized the independence of Lithuania, he was appointed officially as Charge d’Affairs for Lithuania. He published: 1928, a collection of 26 Lithuanian songs; 1930, "Lithuanian Tales and Stories"; 1933, "Lithuanian Tales"; 1937, "The origin of the Lithuanian Nation", in which he tried to persuade the reader that Lithuanians have the same origin as Jews from the Pyrenees peninsula. Can one consider Oskar Milosz as an investigator of Lithuanian culture; was he only a poet, or a philosopher as well? Andrius Konickis, the author of the book about Oskar Milosz,8 writes that there are many ways of expressing philosophical insights; Oskar Milosz had his own way.

 

Part IV, "Contemporary Lithuanian Philosophy," presents some texts about contemporary thinkers, but they are only a few of the most visible philosophers; the spectrum is much broader.

The group of professional philosophers (professors, scholars, critics of philosophical texts) in Lithuania can be divided into several groups: those who studied Karl Marx and wrote books or textbooks interpreting first of all Marxist philosophy; other philosophers dealt more with the tradition of contemporary Western philosophy; a very small group dealt with the tradition of Eastern philosophy (e.g. Professor A. Andrijauskas, b. 1948). The group of those who went deeper in the tradition of Lithuanian philosophical thought is also not numerous (e.g. Dr. V. Bagdonavicius, b. 1941, etc.). As usual, interest in the "history of philosophy" was shared between the Western tradition and Lithuanian thought.

In one sense one can discern two different trends in the general Marxist tradition. Eastern Soviet style Marxism was more ideological, more orientated to practical political needs. Western Marxism is more sophisticated, elaborated as a method of social criticism. The dominant Marxist tradition in Lithuania was Western in type. Professor Eugenijus Meskauskas (1909-1997) treated Marxist philosophy as a sophisticated kind of scientific methodology and a critical theory of ideology. Professor Arvydas Sliogeris (b. 1944) in his paper "Lithuanian Philosophical Thought: between East and West" writes that Professor E. Meskauskas’s orientation towards scientific thinking began to destroy Soviet Marxist ideology from within. This idea caused heated arguments. Was not sophisticated Marxism more dangerous, because it was more capable of seducing minds than the more simple version? — on this there were contrusting views. In any case, the Professor’s lectures were popular, and the level of philosophical reasoning attracted listeners from other humanities faculties.

A typical phenomenon in Lithuania was so-called half-Marxism. Under the screen of Marxist philosophy various ideas and conceptions were developed. Students of another Marxist philosopher Juozas Vytautas Vinciunas (1929-1979) remember his Socratic method in discussions with students. Jonas Repsys (1930-1976) — professor from the same department of philosophy at the University in Vilnius — was among the first there to write about existentialism. Krescencijus Stoskus (b. 1938) is a well-known specialist on aesthetics.9 Albinas Lozuraitis (b. 1934) wrote on the problems of epistemology and the theory of values.10 Justinas Karosas (b. 1937) dealt with the materialistic conception of history and ideology and at the same time wrote about hermeneutics and the "Frankfurt School".

The tradition of studies in the history of philosophy was not less influential than the tradition of Marxist philosophy during the 1970s and 80s in Lithuanian philosophical culture. Professor Romanas Pleckaitis (b. 1933) — a doctoral student of Vosilius Sezemanas — represented an "historical approach" towards philosophy. Pleckaitis is well known as a scholar of Lithuanian philosophy in the 16th to 18th centuries and translated the main works of Immanuel Kant into the Lithuanian language.11 Professor Bronius Genzelis (b. 1934) dealt with the history of philosophy in Lithuania as well.12 Professor Kristina Rickeviciute13 (1922-1984) — a doctoral student of Vosilius Sezemanas — was a remarkable lecturer and specialist on ancient philosophy and on the classical German tradition. Professor Bronius Kuzmickas (b. 1935) wrote mostly on the questions of modern Catholicism, national culture, aesthetics, ethics and self-consciousness.14

Some professional philosophers in Lithuania are also well known politicians. The first one was Arvydas Juozaitis (b. 1956). After his doctoral thesis on Wilhelm Dilthey in 1986, two years later he became the main spiritual leader in the fight for Lithuanian independence. Afterwards he did not participate in institutional political life, but regularly took part in ardent public debates, usually expressing oppositional positions. His role is similar to Socrates in not entering state institutions, but always discussing, criticizing and thus influencing political action. Some other philosophers follow the model of Plato’s philosopher-king. The Rector of Vilnius University, Rolandas Pavilionis (b. 1944), introduced to Lithuanian philosophy the Western analytical tradition focused upon language. Recently he ran for President. Bronius Kuzmickas, Bronius Genzelis, Justinas Karosas, Albinas Lozuraitis, Romualdas Ozolas, Gema Jurkunaite, Mecys Laurinkus, Zibartas Jackunas and others for some time have been members of the Lithuanian parliament. Leonarda Jekentaite, the neo-Freudian scholar, is now Director General of UNESCO in Lithuania.

One of the leaders of "Sajudis" — the mass movement which led Lithuania to the independence in the 1990 — was Vytautas Radzvilas (b. 1958) who only two years earlier had completed his thesis on the history of French personalism. He was one of the founders of the Lithuanian liberal union, which for some time was reputed as a party of philosophers. He led this party until the electoral disaster in 1992, after which almost all philosophers left this Party.

During the period of transition Lithuanian society needed new ideas for structuring social life. The most active philosophers in suggesting new approaches in political discourse were libertarians. Some of them — Algirdas Degutis (b. 1951) and Audronis Raguotis (b. 1952) — tried to impose a rather strict type of libertarianism on the Lithuanian mentality. This tradition collapsed as a social movement, and the financial supporters of this "new capitalism" have been imprisoned after financial misfortunes. But academic research is going its own way. Degutis has published a book Valdininku reketo salis (The Country of Criminal Bureaucracy, 1993), and prepared another for publication Individualizmas ir visuomenine tvarka" (Individualism and the Social Order) and translated more than ten books on liberertarianism into Lithuanian. Grazina Miniotaite (b. 1948) has been dealing with contemporary moral philosophy. Recently she published a book about the history of the peaceful liberation of Lithuania, an analytical study of contemporary history. Paradoxically, it is published also in Chinese.

Professional philosophers not only promoted political life in Lithuania, but also contributed greatly to developing new sociological thought. Aleksandras Dobryninas (b. 1955) left the Department of Philosophy at Vilnius University to establish a new Department of Social Theory at the same University, of which he is the head. The members of this department are mostly professional philosophers. For example, Arunas Poviliunas (b. 1958), who wrote his thesis on the philosophy of history, now is engaged in empirical social research on the historical consciousness in Lithuania. Virginijus Valentinavicius (b. 1955) left for journalism and is a commentator for Radio "Free Europe" in Prague.

A small group of professionals is now doing the less visible but necessary everyday academic work in Lithuania. The main core of our professional philosophers of "middle generation" had grown out of the tradition of the "history of philosophy ". Tomas Sodeika (b. 1949) is well known as a specialist on phenomenology and a remarkable lecturer as well. He developed the specialization in philosophy and is its head at Vytautas Magnus University in Kaunas. Arunas Sverdiolas (b. 1949) is a specialist on hermeneutics and the philosophy of culture, as well as being a translator. Professor Evaldas Nekrasas15 (b. 1945) is the head of the Department of Philosophy at Vilnius University, He wrote extensively on questions of the analytical philosophy of science, especially of probabilistic knowledge, and investigated logical empiricism in Western philosophy.

Recently two serious and interesting academic studies have been published. Besides Arunas Sverdiolas’s book, Steigtis ir sauga, one should mention the monograph Istorika (Vilnius, 1996) written by Zenonas Norkus (b. 1958). He is a specialist on the methodology of historical knowledge, the history of Austrian philosophy, (the Brentano school) and the works of Max Weber. His book, Istorika, with the same title as a book by the German philosopher, J. Droysen, is an investigation of the basic premises of historical research from antiquity till the present. In fifteen chapters he follows how history became independent from rhetoric, its scientific pretensions, the period of historism and attempts to surpass this. The author discerns three philosophical paradigms — ontological, mentalistic and linguistic — which influenced the changes in understanding the premises of historical investigations and resulted in five forms of the theory of history: rhetoric, historicist, critical, analytical and narrativist. This is the first of this type since the work of Karsavin in historical theory in prewar Lithuania.

Alvydas Jokubaitis (b. 1959) translates and discusses postmodern authors and contemporary political philosophy. Two of his articles "Lietuvos filosofine tradicija postmodernizmo akivaizdoje" (The Lithuanian Philosophical Tradition in the Face of Postmodernism) and "Du filosofiniai rezimai" (Two Philosophical Regimes) were the first articles speaking openly and touching on painful points of contemporary Lithuanian philosophy. No article has evoked more vivid discussion about philosophy in Lithuania. Recently he published a book Postmodernizmas ir konservatizmas (Postmodernism and Conservatism, 1997), in which he argues that postmodern discourse is not possible without conservatism.

Leonidas Donskis (b. 1962), the head of the Department of Philosophy at Klaipeda University, writes on topics of philosophy and culture. His books, Moderniosios kulturos filosofijos metmenys (The Outlines of Modern Philosophy of Culture, 1993), Moderniosios samones konfiguracijos (The Configurations of Modern Consciousness, 1994) and Tarp vaizduotes ir realybes (Between Imagination and Reality, 1995), interpret Oswald Spengler’s, Arnold Joseph Toynbee’s and Lewis Mumford’s conceptions of culture. This special interest of this very productive and engaging author is modern myth and its philosophical reflection. He enthusiastically participates in debates about specific characteristics of modern Lithuanian culture: its openness and closedness, its ethnocultural fundamentalism and the dogmatic character of a monological culture.

A new specialization for teaching philosophy in high school has been established at Vilnius Pedagogical University. The Philosophy Department of this university has already published the fourth issue of the philosophical journal Man and Society. The main and perhaps the only other philosophical journal in Lithuania is Problemos (Problems), initiated in 1968 and published semi-annually by philosophers at Vilnius University. The authors of Man and Society include: Jurate Baranova (1955), Rita Serpytyte (1954), Nijole Lomaniene (1953) and Liutauras Degesys (1953)16 and some from Vilnius University: Marius Povilas Saulauskas (1961),17 Zenonas Norkus and Arvydas Sliogeris.

Does this journal and specialization, indeed does philosophy itself, have enough energy and potential sources to survive?

Philosophical culture is created not only by lectures and an academic public; it needs public discourse. To live it needs influence, not only on politics, but perhaps even more in the other spheres of culture? Cultural critics and publishers can do much in encouraging one or another tradition. The editor of the well known cultural journal Kulturos barai, Branys Savukynas, always encourages articles on philosophy and translations, as do the editors of the journal Baltos lankos, Saulius Zukas, and Proskynos, Antanas Gailius. A promising group of young philosophy scholars gathers around the Catholic culture magazine Naujasis zidinys ("The New Hearth"). The director of the publishing house "Aidai", Vytautas Alisauskas, encourages the young generation of intellectuals to write reviews and articles about philosophical books.

Arvydas Juozaitis is a chief editor of Naujoji Romuva, a journal which publishes texts mostly on cultural life; almost every issue includes philosophical essays or translations.

Writer Vytautas Rubavicius (b. 1952) did much to bring philosophers and writers closer together in Lithuania. For years he wrote essays and reviews on philosophical books for the literary newspaper Literatura ir menas ("Literature and Art"). His special interests were M. Heidegger and postmodern authors and culture. His reviews were recently published as Neivardijamos laisves zenklas ("The Sign of Unnamed Freedom") (Vilnius, 1997).

Perhaps no one in Lithuania has been as able and productive in sharing his energy between participation in public discourse and academic writing as Professor Arvydas Sliogeris (b. 1944).18 He writes huge books on philosophy (e.g. Transcendencijos tyla ["The Silence of Transcendence"] has 800 pages) and step by step has become a TV personality, participating in public debates and presenting ardent challenging reflections. Sliogeris is not simply an historian of philosophy or interpreter of texts, but speaks a lot about other philosophers (e.g. S. Kierkegaard, A. Camus, F. Nietzsche etc.); his interpretation is very personal so that his writings reveal much of his own insights. He has his own intonations in philosophical discourse and has created his own philosophical vocabulary. Besides the chapter "Lithuanian Philosophical Thought: Between East and West" by A. Sliogeris himself, this volume includes the study by Regimantas Tamosaitis "Arvydas Sliogeris: the Knight of Being".

Contemporary Lithuanian philosophy is not a geographically restricted phenomenon; emigrants too are considered Lithuanian philosophers. The present volume presents two articles about contemporary Lithuanian thinkers abroad. Zilvinas Beliauskas presents a paper "Algirdas Greimas in Lithuania and Abroad" about Algirdas Julius Greimas (1917-1992). Greimas was one of the creators of semiotics. He considered semiotics as a method for the humanities and applied it to the analysis of language, history and literature. Greimas was born in 1917 in Tula (Russia) and the following year his parents returned to Lithuania, where Greimas graduated from the gymnasium in Marijampole and entered the faculty of Law in Vytautas Magnus University. In 1939 on a grant from the Lithuanian Ministry of Education he went for France for studies in languages and dialects, returned to Lithuania to fulfill his military service in 1944 and left for France to get his doctor’s degree in Sorbonne. For nine years he taught the history of the French language at Alexandria University in Egypt. Beliauskas in his article presents the broad theoretical and historical context which influenced Greimas’s approach to semiotics. Greimas had a rather vivid and ironical mind. He was interested in what was going on Lithuania and wrote about it critically, searching for paradoxes and encouraging critical thinking.

Vytautas Kavolis (1930-1996), a sociologist living in the United States, kept intense and deep relations with Lithuanian matters as well. He was an editor of the journal Metmenys and wrote books on the sociology and psychology of culture in English and Lithuanian. Leonidas Donskis, who considers himself a student of Kavolis with whom he collaborated in giving lectures at Dickinson College in the US, presents a rather broad and rich postmortem review about the works and ideas of his teacher. Presenting Kavolis as a theoretician of civilization and a sociologist of culture, Donskis pays more attention to Kavolis’s social and cultural criticism and the peculiarities of his liberalism (versus nationalism), where he finds some parallels to Martin Buber. Both were thinkers of withdrawal and return (using Arnold J. Toynbee’s term); both severely and consistently criticized what they perceived as their imagined communities which eventually come into being as nation states; and both had particular intellectual sensibility which Donskis calls theoretical and moral empathy.

The full range of the distinguished Lithuanian philosophers living and working abroad is not covered by this volume. Algis Mickunas (b. 1933), professor in Ohio University (USA), keeps in touch with the philosophical culture in Lithuania; his work Phenomenological Philosophy is translated into Lithuanian. Professor Antanas Paskus (b. 1924), clergyman and psychologist, is author of some books in Lithuanian, Christian and today, Evolution and Christianity, Consciousness, etc., and lectures for students in Lithuania. Kestutis Girnius (b. 1945), son of Juozas Girnius, is more of a political analyst, but also a philosopher who permanently participates in Lithuanian cultural life. Vincas Vycinas (b. 1919) is a scholar of Martin Heidegger who lives in the United States; Juozas Leonas Navickas (b. 1928) treats problems of ethics and has written Consciousness and Reality: Hegel’s Subjective Idealism (1976).

Kestutis Skrupskelis (b. 1938 in Kaunas) works in the history of philosophy, focusing on American pragmatism. He was one of the editors of a critical edition of the writings of William James (in 17 volumes), and now has edited James’s letters (published in 3 volumes) and published a bibliography of books about William James.

There is special interest in philosophers who can be considered "Lithuanian" only by the ending of their names, e.g., Emmanuel Levinas (born in Kaunas, Lithuania) or Alphonso Lingis.

This volume is a first attempt to present the tradition of Lithuanian philosophy to the English speaking reader. We ask to be excused by the many deserving philosophers we have not mentioned or for whom broader articles are lacking here because of limited possibilities. This volume has been prepared with the collaboration of the Institute of Sociology and Philosophy. It is a beginning.

 

Vilnius Pedagogical University

Department of Philosophy

 

NOTES

 

1. Edited by Lubomir Novy, Jiri Gabriel, Jaroslav Hroch and published by general editor, George F. McLean, in the broad publishing project of The Council for Research in Values and Philosophy "Cultural Heritage and Contemporary Change" in the series devoted to Eastern and Central Europe.

2. A. Toynbee, Postizenije istorii (Moskva, 1991), pp. 142-146.

3. E. Gudavicius, Latecomer to Latin Civilization, Lithuania in the World.

4. A. Sliogeris, "Lietuvos filosofine mintis: tarp Rytu ir Vakaru" in the work Konservatoriaus ispazintys, 1988-1994 metu tekstai (Vilnius, 1995), pp. 95-109.

5. A. Jokubaitis "Lietuvos filosofine tradicija postmodernizmo akivaizdoje", Naujasis zidinys, 1994, No. 11; A. Jokubaitis "Du filosofiniai rezimai", ibid., 1995, No.3.

6. The author of the books Kulturos filosofija Lietuvoje (Philosophy of Culture in Lithuania) (Vilnius, 1983) and Steigtis ir sauga (Sketches of Philosophy of Culture, 1996).

7. Translation from Russian into Lithuanian of his book Philosophy of History.

8. A. Konickis, Vienintelej is begalybes vietu nuskirtoj (Vilnius, 1996).

9. Published a book Meno filosofija (Philosophy of Art) (Vilnius, 1990).

10. Published books Tiesa ir vertybe (Truth and Value) (Vilnius, 1980); Metodologiniai marksistines filosofijos bruozai (Methodological features of Marxist philosophy) (Vilnius, 1986).

11. Professor Romanas Pleckaitis described the reasons and conditions for the emergence of philosophy in Lithuania, analyzed the role of Vilnius University in the advancement of philosophy and identified the systems of philosophy in various schools in Lithuania. For his work Feudalizmo laikotarpio filosofija Lietuvoje (Lithuanian Philosophy in the Feudal Epoch. Philosophy in the Schools of Lithuania in the 16th-18th Centuries) (Vilnius, 1975). R. Pleckaitis was awarded the National Prize of Lithuania.

12. Published books: Svietejai ir ju idejos Lietuvoje (Enlighteners and Their Ideas in Lithuania) (Vilnius, 1972); Ese apie mastytojus (Essay about Thinkers); Renesanso filosofijos metmenys (The Sketches of Renaissance Philosophy, 1988); Pasakojimai apie Lietuvos mastytojus (Stories about Lithuanian Thinkers, 1994); Senoves filosofija (Ancient Philosophy, 1995); and Lietuvos filosofijos istorijos bruozai (The Sketches of the History of Philosophy in Lithuania, 1997). For some time B. Genzelis was the Chairman of the Education, Science and Culture of the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania. He was also among those who signed the Statement of the Restoration of Lithuanian Independence.

13. Antikines filosofijos istorijos bruozai (The Features of the History of Antique philosophy" (Vilnius, 1976).

14. Author of several books: Zmogus ir jo idealai (A Man and His Ideals) (Vilnius, 1975); Siuolaikine katalikiskoji filosofija (Contemporary Catholic Philosophy, 1976); Modernizmas siuolaikineje katalikybeje (Modernism in Contemporary Catholicism, 1976); Laime (Happiness, 1983); Tautos kulturos savimone (The Self-consciousness of National Culture, 1989); editor of selected readings Grozio konturai (The Contours of Beauty, 1980) and Gerio konturai (The Contours of Goodness, 1989). Professor B.J. Kuzmickas is a signer of the Statement of the Restoration of Lithuanian Independence.

15. Published books: Loginis empirizmas ir mokslo metodologija (Logical empiricism and the Methodology of Science, 1979); Tikimybinis zinojimas (Probabilistic knowledge — in Russian 1987 and Polish 1992); Filosofijos ivadas (Introduction to Philosophy, 1993).

16. Jurate Baranova: doctoral thesis "Conception of Truth in the Pragmatism of William James" (1986); three texbooks: Political Philosophy (1995), Philosophy of History (1996), Philosophical Ethics (1997). Liutauras Degesys: doctoral thesis on the philosophy of George Santayana (1985); working on the philosophy of education. Nijole Lomaniene: doctoral thesis on "Ernest Nagel’s Philosophy of Science"; now lecturing on logic, philosophy of science and language. Rita Serpytyte: doctoral thesis "The Role of Legal Consciousness in the Development of Society" (1988); now working on problems of religion, and translating from Italian.

17. Marius-Povilas Saulauskas is the head of Department of Logic and History of Philosophy of Vilnius University. He was one of the founders of the Lithuanian Liberal Union and is its vice-chairman. He is writing on political and social philosophy, social theory, ex-communist societies, and analytic and hermeneutic philosophy. His 1987 doctoral thesis "The Analytic/Hermeneutic Controversy: the Problem of Verstehen — an Historical-methodological Analysis."

18. Main books: Zmogaus pasaulis ir egzistencinis mastymas (Human World and Existentialist Thinking, 1985); Daiktai ir menas (The Things and Art, 1988); Butis ir pasaulis (Being and the World, 1990); Sietuvos (1992); Post scriptum (1992); and Transcendencijos tyla (The Silence of Transcendence, 1996).