Studies in Soviet Thought 42 (3):221-234 (1991)

In the former socialist countries the relation of philosophy to social reality, as shaped by the political interests of the State, must be considered for each particular case with a view to the historical dynamics of its own development. The Polish case is not typical in this regard -- it was determined by the failure of forced sovietization at the institutional, cultural level and the maintenance of Poland's traditional contacts with Western European culture. In this regard Polish universities played an important role since they preserved 'normal' structures of academic activity. Philosophy in Poland has been marked by three currents which managed to rebuff the advances of Marxism. Best known among them is the Lwów-Warsaw school of logic and analytic philosophy. Its contribution is especially important in the methodology of philosophical inquiry and the style of responsible philosophical discourse. Though not a bed of political opposition the school's members mounted a 'spiritual opposition' to Marxism, especially during the Solidarity period. Catholic philosophy, as represented by the Catholic University of Lublin, has been and remains a completely independent force in Eastern and Central Europe. Doctrinally, Catholic philosophy in Poland has been divided between a more traditional, dated Thomism and the more progressive circles in Cracow where Western European philosophy, especially phenomenology, existentialism, and hermeneutics, has been influential. The third major current, centered in Cracow, is the phenomenology of Roman Ingarden, whose influence is manifest in a style of philosophizing that has attracted professional philosophers as well as committed intellectuals from different disciplines. Against this diversified background Marxism had to prove its mettle, a requirement that explains the unique internal differentiation and pluralism within Polish Marxist philosophy. The decisive factors in its development were its rejection of Soviet Marxism-Leninism and the opening to Western Marxism. The often remarked 'revisionist' character of Polish Marxism consists in the recognition by its most talented representatives of the fundamental incompatibility between Marxism as the ideological legitimation of the Communist state and as a philosophy subject to rational criteria. In effect, Polish Marxists thought the theory through to its end, and in this sense brought to light its inherently unstable nature: to be a philosophy it would have to cease to be Marxist, to be Marxist means having to pander to ideology. The confrontation of the diverse currents in Polish philosophy contributed to an unfortunate result: for political reasons non-Marxists steered clear of social philosophical questions, while official Marxism, which suppressed the 'revisionist' trend, obfuscated the relation between philosophy and social reality. Today philosophy in Poland has the urgent task to contribute to the reconstruction of a social rationality combining a critical consciousness with moral elements of commitment and responsibility.
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DOI 10.1007/bf00818791
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