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Die Veröffentlichung dieser Festschrift erfordert keine besondere Erklärung. Der Mann, der damit gefeiert wird, und sein Lebenswerk stehen in all ihrer Einzigartigkeit und Bedeutsamkeit inmitten der gegenwärtigen Epoche da und rechtfertigen ohne weiteres jede Aeußerung der Anerkennung, der Verehrung und der Sympathie. “The publication of this Festschrift warrants no particular explanation. Both the man celebrated here and his life work stand tall, in all their uniqueness and relevance, in the midst of our times and justify without further ado each and every expression of recognition, devotion and sympathy.” [my translation]
In 1930, a
Festschrift Der russische Gedanke [Russian Thought] , a journal Festschrift, 18 articles in English, French, German and Italian
As Jakovenko puts it in his introductory remarks, the publication of such a
Festschrift – honoring as prominent and historically significant a figure as Masaryk – Festschrift fits neatly in the genre to which it belongs and serves its purpose well. That being said, the long and somewhat disconcerting list of both famous and obscure contributors also raises some questions as to the scope and coherence of the hommage being paid here to Masaryk. For instance, a closer look at the contributors' backgrounds and interests reveals a concatenation of intellectual traditions – ranging from Italian Neo-Idealism, Russian religious thought, Neo-Vitalism, Eurasianism or Neo-Kantianism to the Brentano School and Czech Anti-Positivism – whose connection with Masaryk is not always self-evident. As such, the Festschrift seems to reach beyond its function as a tribute squarely focused on Masaryk : instead (or in addition), it provides a historical panorama of the critical reactions to his thought and thus functions as an expression of the complex intellectual context Masaryk contributed to foster in Prague and beyond.
It is to this contextual, critical dimension of the
Festschrift that we will turn our attention here. Through a few brief comments on the contributions concerned with the themes of epistemology, positivism and the place of philosophy among the sciences, I wish indeed to highlight how the Festschrift effectively provides a fascinating insight into the underlying personal and conceptual networks of the Prague philosophical context – at the crucial moment, in the 1920s, when that context was evolving from its early commitments to positivism and Herbartism towards the internationally successful paradigms of its maturity (Gestalt psychology, phenomenology and, of course, structuralism).
In order to frame the epistemological discussion about positivism and the role of philosophy that takes place in the
Festschrift, it is perhaps useful to start by underlining that the most important unifying link between the different authors partaking in that discussion seems to have been not so much Masaryk and his positions than the editor of both volumes, Jakovenko himself. This is evident above all from the selection of contributors, nearly all of whom were acquaintances or colleagues of Jakovenko (rather than, in most cases, noted Masaryk scholars or disciples). For example, the presence of several Italian philosophers (next to Croce, one finds important representants of the so-called « Milan School », Antonio Aliotta and Piero Martinetti) clearly owes to Jakovenko's close personal ties with and intellectual interest for Italy Ruch filo s ofický [Philosophical Activity Festschrift such as Gessen, Kraus, Lapšin and Petronevič also contributed to Ruch filosofick ý. Cf. Jirásková 2008. On the anti-positivism of Ruch filosofick ý itself, cf. Pauza 2008.
All this is not to say that Jakovenko's selection of contributors is in any way arbitrary or follows a « programme » unrelated to Masaryk. The inclusion of Russian thinkers, for example, is fully warranted by Masaryk's sustained interest for Russian philosophy and his direct support of the Russian emigrés in Prague (through the famous programme
Ruská akce [Russian Action]). Amongst the Italian contributors, Piero Martinetti, for one, was keenly interested in Masaryk's work and later wrote an obituary of the Czechoslovak president Masaryk ů v sbornik [Masaryk Almanach], a clearly Masaryk-oriented publication from which, morevoer, a number of texts are reprinted in German translation in Volume II of the Festschrift. Also significant is the fact that the Festschrift includes a contribution by Oskar Kraus and that Jakovenko sought (and failed only on practical grounds) to obtain a contribution from Edmund Husserl
Despite Jakovenko's obvious efforts to keep Masaryk and his work firmly at the heart of the
Festschrift, it is abundantly clear however that the editor was also interested in providing a plurality of voices on the Czech philosopher, very intentionally casting his work and its relevance in an interdisciplinary, international and transcultural perspective that goes well beyond the immediate scope of Masaryk's interests. In so doing, of course, Jakovenko was being faithful to the spirit of Masaryk and the resulting picture that emerges from Festschrift still fairly represents his thought and its influence. But, at the same time, Jakovenko's editorial choice also accentuates the different impacts of and reactions to Masaryk's work. As such, the discussion carried out in the various contributions of the Festschrift takes on a form that is not so much hagiographical or descriptive as critical and which clearly reflects a context already very idiosyncractic in its diverse answers to Masaryk and his pioneering role both as a Czech and a European thinker.
This dimension of the
Festschrift is discernable for example in the discussions of Masaryk's historiographical account of Russian philosophy, which is met by Lapšin and Jakovenko with some disapproval, in particular because it puts too much emphasis on Russian philosophy's « practical » nature and misses its new, « transcendantal » turn (a turn carried out and epitomised by the « neo-Kantians » Lapšin and Jakovenko themselves). Such critical distance is even more clear in the discussions of Masaryk's positivism and the fundamental methodological and epistemological orientation of his philosophy. Whereas Masaryk himself de facto contributed to introduce positivism in the Czech context, in particular through his early admiration for Auguste Comte and his proposal of a « concrete logic », many of the Festschrift contributors seek to nuance that role and emphasise Masaryk's evolution towards a more elaborate « critical realism ». In fact, one can go a step further and caracterise the Festschrift as offering a very diverse statement of anti-positivist positions.
The first – and quite revealing – exposition of such a position is offered in Volume I by Antonio Alliota (1881-1964), a prominent Italian philosopher and historian of philosophy. In his article « Dell’esperimento scientifico e di quello metafisico » [On the Scientific and the Metaphysical Experiment], Alliota explores the methodological and epistemological implications of scientific experimentation. Briefly put, his argument is that any given scientific experiment does not simply involve the empirical verification of a discrete hypothesis, theoretical « truth » or particular law (of physics, mathematics, etc.), but implies a controlled « action » and « modification » of reality itself, which leads in its turn to a modification of « the whole system of physical theory, of our entire mathematics, our entire logic. And [..] our entire philosophical conception of the world » (p. 12, my translation). Scientific experimentation, Alliota concludes, is thus always also metaphysical, functioning as an open-ended, explicitly Hegelian process of « Aufhebung », where older theories are superated by the knowledge (and the modified reality) produced by new, successive scientifico-metaphysical experiments.
More than the argument itself that Alliota outlines in his article, it is its conceptual background that is interesting here. On the one hand, Alliota's position is empirically grounded and originates from experimental science : before turning to philosophy, Alliotagraduated with a thesis in experimental psychology and was a student ofthe Brentanians Felice Tocco and Francesco De Sarlo. Further, many of his writings are dedicated to an interpretation of Einstein's theory of relativity. On the other hand, however, his thinking quickly evolved towards what Alliota himself called his "dynamic pantheism" – a neo-hegelian, spiritualist epistemology most fully outlined in his most famous work,
La reazione idealistica contro la scienza (1912) [The Idealist Reaction Against Science (1914)], and of which his Festschrift article also provides a clear expression. Interestingly, Alliota explicitly put forward his approach asan idealist alternative to the dominant positions of Croce and Gentile in Italy. In other words, Alliota appears as a sort of hybrid thinker, who progressively distanciated himself from the naturalist paradigm of the empirical sciences through the combined influence of Brentanian epistemology, a strong reaction against Italian Neo-Idealism, a fascination for the new Einsteinian physics and a turn towards Hegel and neo-Hegelianism.
The excellent example provided by Alliota's oscillations not only between empirical and idealist paradigms, but between several transcendental answers to the naturalist or positivist approaches of science and philosophy typifies in two significant ways the diversity of the
Festschrift as whole Festschrift by Jakovenko.
Amongst the contributions that seek to address the question of positivism directly and which as a result formulate a theoretical position that remains close to the empirical sciences (Aliotta, Kozłowski, Essertier, Škrach), one can distinguish two main strands. Essertier and Škrach – who both write in the volume more specifically focussed on Masaryk – proceed through an immanent interpretation of Masaryk's thought and its evolution (Škrach's interpretation is the more interesting in this respect, as he argues in some detail how Masaryk's initial infatuation for Comte is mediated by the influence of idealist philosophers such as Plato, Leibniz, Kant on the one hand, Brentano and his school on the other). Aliotta and Kozłowski, by contrast, start from their commitement to the natural sciences (experimental psychology for Aliotta, botany and organic chemistry for Kozłowski) to provide their own criticism of positivism. Whereas Aliotta's interests, as we saw, take a clearly neo-Hegelian and metaphysical turn, however, Kozłowski remains much closer (at least in his
Festschrift article) to the « epistemological » problem of the typology of sciences. Indeed, in his contribution Kozłowski outlines a re-interpretation of Comte's classification of the sciences, which he modifies by emphasising (against both Comte and Masaryk) that a particular science is not defined only by its object, but also by the intentional attitude of the scientist. Interestingly, to support his addition of intentionality as categorial criteria to Comte's classification, Kozłowski invokes not Brentano but Edmund Husserl and his Logical Investigations. Kozłowski (1858-1935), that being said, should not be viewed as a phenomenologist. As his uncommon biography proves, his scientific profile eludes such a straightforward categorisation : born in Kiev in a Polish noble family, he was deported to Siberia for his political activism before studying botany in Tartu, then philosophy in Krakow and Lviv ; starting from 1902 he tought and wrote successively in Brussels, Geneva and Warsaw on subjects such as the history of philosophy, sociology and the theory and methodology of science.
Unsurprisingly, the already very diverse nature of the responses to Masaryk's positivism and their theoretical origin is complicated even further by the contributions that espouse and formulate a clearly anti-positivist stance. Indeed, although Jakovenko, Rádl, Kraus or Fajfr
Festschrift, however, does not deal directly with epistemology.
None of the contributions in the
Festschrift constitute important, programmatic statements of the views held by their authors. They are but short discussions of a specific issue, which provide but a glimpse of the systematic thought of their authors on the more general problems of epistemology or the methodology of science. As such, there is little sense here in discussing in more details the arguments outlined in these respective contributions, much less in attempting a truly comparative or contrastive analysis. Because these varied contributions are collected not in a thematic volume or a manifesto, but in the loose context of a Festschrift and because, what is more, many of them are reprints or translations of earlier versions , there is also only limited interest in seeking to frame or understand them as parts of a direct conversation or conscious, organised debate. Nonetheless, especially considering the fact that many contributors to the Festschrift knew each other very well and collaborated in varying circles, journals and institutions that intersected or followed tangential trajectories in Prague, it is possible to conclude that the Festschrift reflects very well, if not completely exhaustively, the very broad diversity of answers to positivism that circulated in the Prague philosophical milieu. What the Festschrift also shows quite demonstratively, is that these various answers, and the traditions from which they were drawn, were not formulated in ignorance of each other, but intersected, co-existed and collided.
This last observation is especially interesting given that, to this day, some of the intellectual traditions or movements present in the
Festschrift have barely been taken into account in studies of the Prague interwar context Cercle philosophique de Prague) on the one hand , of Čyževskij and further contributors to Der russische Gedanke, Ruch filosofický or Masaryk ův sbornik such as Alfred Bem (a close collaborator of Jakobson and the Prague Linguistic Circle) or even Jan Mukařovský on the other hand, the interesecting conceptual, personnal and institutional networks visible in the Festschrift undoubtedly extended to include Prague's major structuralist and phenomenological circles Festschrift published by phenomenologists and students of Husserl in volumes 40 and 41 of Archiv für Geschichte der Philosophie (thanks to Rodney Parker for pointing out these reviews to me). Festschrift should rightly belong to the horizon of future studies on interwar Prague and the emergence there of particular and original strands of structuralist and phenomenological thought.
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