jeudi 30 septembre 2010

Note on the Academic Philosophy in 19th Century Romania

Philosophy has been taught almost continuously in Romania since the beginning of the 18th century. The first institutions of higher learning with a consistent activity were the Princely Academies from Iasi, Moldavia (founded 1707) and from Bucharest, Walachia (founded 1694). Philosophy was taught there until 1821, when these Greek-language Academies were disestablished and replaced with similar institutions where teaching was done in Romanian. In the Greek-language Academies philosophy was first taught after the commentaries to Aristotle of Theophilus Corydaleus, a late 16th-early 17th century Greek philosopher who studied at the University of Padua and re-introduced by himself the study of philosophy in the Balkans, where, following the Ottoman conquest, all philosophical life was suppressed. Beginning with the 1760’s, the curricula changed and other philosophers came to prominence, this time modern philosophers: Locke, Wolff, Newton, Genovesi, Soave, Condillac, Destutt de Tracy. Gradually, the Wolffian rationalistic tradition lost sway, and the empiricist-sensationalist current gained in influence. In the last epoch of the Greek-language Academies (the first two decades of the 19th century) the dominant philosophy was Condillac’s sensationalism and the philosophy of the Ideologists.

At the beginning of the 19th century, after the demise of the Greek-speaking Academies, there were three learning centres where philosophy was taught in Romanian: the St. Sava Academy in Bucharest, Walachia, the Blaj College in Transylvania, and the Michaelian Academy in Iasi, Moldavia. Accordingly, my exposition will take into account the situation from each of these institutions.

1. Philosophical Instruction before the Foundation of Universities

Philosophy in the Blaj College

The Blaj College was a school for the Transylvanian Romanians of Greek-Catholic confession. Transylvania being a part of the Habsburg Empire, a powerful German-Austrian influence was felt in the Blaj College. However, this influence was not direct, but mediated by the Hungarian intellectual milieu.

The Hungarian intellectual awakening preceded the Romanian one. At the beginning of the 19th century the Hungarian intelligentsia was engaged in the so-called Kant-debate. This dispute was connected with the strive to develop a Hungarian national philosophy. Obviously, the resources for such a philosophy were to be looked for in what was already available and recognized as having high value: the German critical philosophy. Stephanus Marton or Josephus Verner introduced the Hungarians to German criticism by their works Systema Philosophiae Criticae (1820) and Logica, seu Dianoeologia (1821), Metaphysica, seu Gnoseologia (1835), as well as others. Marton’s Systema was based on the works of Wilhelm Traugott Krug, a minor Kantian who had none the less a strong reputation those days. So were the writings of Verner.

Krug was promoting a doctrine called « transcendental synthetism », whose supreme principle was formulated as follows: « I am acting and I strive for harmony in all my actions ». The accent laid on harmony by Krug, who applied his principle not only in metaphysics, but also in politics, philosophy of law etc., seduced some Hungarian philosophers who considered that the specificity of the Hungarian Weltanschauung was given precisely by a search for harmony of the kind Krug had in mind. Thus, Krug’s synthetism had to be considered, if not the Hungarian national philosophy, the proper foundation or starting point of such a philosophy. The philosophers who followed and expanded Krug’s philosophy in an effort to edify a national Hungarian philosophy constituted the « school of harmony », or the « school of concord ». The most important ones were Samuel Köteles, János Hetény and Gusztáv Szontágh.

The Harmony school’s effort of framing a national philosophy was not the only one. The activity of Imre Janos, a philosopher influenced also by the German Critical school, raised high hopes among Hungarian intellectuals. Unfortunately, the premature death of this very competent thinker prevented him from being acclaimed as the national Hungarian philosopher. Imre Janos proposed an eclectic « critical-rational synthetism », rejecting Kant’s criticism of metaphysics. A Catholic priest himself, he wanted to save the possibility of an ontological metaphysics, by claiming that metaphysics is characterized by analytical a priori judgments, untouched by Kant’s criticism.

Kantian philosophy, in the form of Krug’s systematization, was thus very influent in the Hungarian intellectual milieu. Kantian-Krugian influence was very present at the Pest University, where both Verner and Janos taught. And the influence of this University was felt all over Transylvania. Krug, as a matter of fact, was followed by many professors in all Habsburg Empire, not only in Hungary and Transylvania, because of the clarity of his expositions and the rigour of his systematisations. Hence, it was only natural that Krug’s influence be felt also in the Blaj College.

Two professors taught philosophy after Krug in this College: Timotei Cipariu (towards 1828 and after 1845) and Simeon Barnutiu (1830-1845). Since 1839 Barnutiu taught philosophy in Romanian, wishing to liberate it from the « yoke of Latin », and some contemporary sources say that he had translated « all Krug » into Romanian, which is widely exaggerated. In fact, he translated Marton’s Systema, his German knowledge not allowing him at the time being to go directly to the German source. Cipariu published his translation of Krug’s two volume Handbuch der Philosophie und der philosophiche Literatur between 1861-1863. As Cipariu was the Director of the Blaj college between 1854 and 1875, we can safely affirm that Krug’s philosophy remained dominant in Blaj a long time after Barnutiu’s leave.

Philosophy in the Michaelian Academy

The last notable Greek professor of the Princely Academy from Iasi (until 1821) was Dimitrios Panayotou Gobdelas, a doctor of the University of Pest. When a new Academy will open its gates in Iasi, in 1834, its professor of philosophy will come from the University of Pest also. Its second professor will have the same alma mater. The influence of the Pestan University is therefore to be expected.

Indeed, the first professor of philosophy in the Michaelian Academy, Eftimie Murgu, taught after the handbook of Imre Janos, the Hungarian philosopher of which we spoke before. Murgu’s course was an adapted translation of Imre’s Amicus foedus rationis cum experientia (1818 - 1824), containing elements of history of philosophy, logic, and metaphysics.

When Murgu left the Academy, he was replaced by another alumnus of the Pestan University, Petru Maler-Campeanu. Appartently, Maler-Campeanu was not the student of Imre (dead in 1832), but of Verner. By consequence, his course was based on Verner’s Logica and Metaphysica, as shown by the remaining manuscripts.

In 1856 arrives in Iasi, at the Michaelian Academy, another Transylvanian professor, this time formed at Blaj. It is a name we have already met with, since the man taught also in the Blaj College: Simeon Barnutiu. We already saw that Barnutiu taught in Blaj using Krug’s handbook, in Marton’s Latin version. His courses in Iasi kept the same line, Krug remaining the main philosophical authority, although Barnutiu’s knowledge of philosophy was far more extended. In some disciplines Barnutiu follows other authors, Beck, Rottek, or Niemeyers. He seems to lean sometimes towards the position of the « school of identity », but it is not easy to say whether he had in mind Schelling and his followers, or Krause.

To conclude, philosophy in the Michaelian Academy had the same orientation as in the Blaj College: Kantian-Krugian.

Philosophy in the St. Sava Academy

In Bucharest the evolution of philosophical learning was not so linear. The first professor who taught in Romanian, in the Greek-speaking Academy, was again a Transylvanian. In 1818 Gheorghe Lazar began to teach philosophy using Kant’s writings. Some sources said that he translated Kant into Romanian, but there is no material evidence to substantiate such a claim. It is quite possible that he translated from Krug, and not from Kant. Anyway, Lazar’s couse provoked great enthusiasm among young Romanians, and the sensationalism taught by the Greek professors (Vardalachos) was given an alternative. Lazar had to fight to impose Kantianism with one of his colleagues, a certain Erdeli who, being given the course of logic, taught this discipline using Condillac’s handbook. Condillac and the Ideologists were very fashionable at that time, and French spiritualistic sansationalism had a powerful influence in the cultivated circles. Lazar’s endeavour to propagate Kantianism is hence similar to a small revolution. Unfortunately, Lazar will die in 1821 and his efforts will not be continued by anybody for quite some time.

After the 1821 events, the course of philosophy will reopen only in 1825. The professor, Eufrosin Poteca, was a man educated in the former Greek-language Academy, but also at the universities of Pisa and Paris (1820-1825). Although he attended Lazar’s lectures and was one of the latter’s associates, teaching geography in Romanian, Poteca did not follow the philosophical direction which Lazar wanted to impose. He taught logic and ethics after the handbook of Heinceccius, a colleague of Wolff with a lean towards empiricism. For his metaphysics lectures Poteca availed himself of the handbook of Francesco Soave, a philosopher who followed Locke and Condillac, rejecting the materialistic tendencies of the French Ideologues. Poteca adopted himself this form of sensationalistic spiritualism and gave it an Orthodox Christian outlook.

Poteca was forced to retirement by General Kiseleff during Russian occupation of Walachia (1830), and was followed later (1842) by August Treboniu-Laurian, again a Transylvanian. Laurian taught after Krug and published a translation of the first volume of the latter’s Handbuch in 1846. He supported a kind of enlightened, secular Kantian positivism, until he was brought to order by the ruling prince of Walachia. Assisting to one of Laurian’s lectures, the Prince interrupted the lecturer and said that « philosophy has to be based on religion, in lack of which no science has any value ». After this incident Laurian translated a handbook of a certain Delavigne, belonging to the eclectic spiritualistic school of Victor Cousin. The philosophical instruction had turned away from the German tradition once again.

Moving to the history chair, Laurian was replaced at the philosophy chair by Ioan Zalomit, doctor of the University of Berlin, author of an inaugural dissertation on Kant. In spite of his German background, Zalomit wasn’t a supporter of Kantianism. After his years of study in Berlin, he went in France to study law at the Sorbonne. There he fell undoubtedly under the sway of the eclectic school, and he entered Walachia as a disciple of Cousin. He taught at the St. Sava Academy using a textbook of Antoine Charma, one of Cousin’s students and protégés, professor at the University of Caen. He translated this textbook and published it in 1854. Eclectic spiritualism became thus the « official » philosophy at the Bucharest Academy.

2. Philosophy at the Universities of Bucharest and Iasi

Philosophy at the University of Iasi

In 1860 the Michaelian Academy is split in two, being converted into a University and a high-school. The new University had a faculty of philosophy, and its main professor was the main professor of the faculty of philosophy of the former Academy: Simeon Barnutiu. Until 1864, when he passed away, Barnutiu continued to deliver lectures in all areas of philosophy, keeping within the Krugian line he followed in the Blaj College as well as in the Michaelian Academy.

After Barnutiu’s death, the chair of philosophy is occupied by Titu Liviu Maiorescu, educated at the Theresianum Academy from Vienna, the University of Giessen and that of Paris. The basis of his philosophical instruction were acquired while at the Theresianum, under the influence of a certain professor Sutner, a Herbartian. Maiorescu became a full-hearted Herbartian himself, having sympathies for Feuerbach also. At the University of Iasi Maiorescu taught logic, of course following Herbart.

But Herbart did not become the dominant philosopher at the University of Iasi. Maiorescu was fired in 1870 and removed from the University. The one who, after him, taught by himself all the philosophical disciplines, was Constantin Leonardescu. Leonardescu obtained his licence degree at the university of Bucharest (1868), where he studied under Ioan Zalomit. Zalomit converted him to eclecticism, and Leonardescu went on to improve his education to Paris, which was the fief of this philosophical current and the seat of its pope, Cousin. In Paris Leonardescu studied under Paul Janet, knew Vacherot and returned to Bucharest impregnated by the scientism and psychologism that characterized the last phase of the French eclectic spiritualism. Even if his spiritualist attitude faded in time, Leonardescu remained faithful to the methodological principles of the eclectic school, which he passed forward in his lectures during 36 years, until his death in 1907.

Philosophy at the University of Bucharest

The University of Bucharest was created in 1864, by separating the faculties of the St. Sava Academy from the inferior course. The faculties of the Academy became faculties of the University, just like it happened before in Iasi. Thus, the professors of the Academy (some) became professors at the University. This was precisely the case of Ioan Zalomit. He continued to teach using Charma’s handbook and following the programme for the Baccalauréat exam of the University of Paris. His influence is clearly traceable in the published theses and dissertations of his students, like Demetriu August Laurian or Constantin Leonardescu. Not having a conception of his own, Zalomit passed onto them a method and a style in philosophy, the eclectic method and the French style. It is through him that the French influence guards its pre-eminence over the German one.

Zalomit died in 1885, after having taught by himself all philosophical disciplines for more than a quarter of century. He was replaced by Titu Maiorescu, who resumed his didactical tasks, in the University of Bucharest, 14 years after his suspension from the University of Iasi. With Maiorescu, philosophy turned Kantian again. Maiorescu was not anymore the Herbartian from his first writings. He was a Kantian, but he saw Kant through Schopenhauer’s lenses. As a professor and mentor, he had a major role in promoting both Kant and Schopenhauer, as well as the German cultural model generally. Maiorescu was an enemy of the French eclecticism and he managed to turn away Bucharest from its influence.

The 19th century finishes in Bucharest, then, in the same Kantian climate in which it had begun, and the new century opens under the auspice of the German philosophy.