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From the Publisher Publisher 1/4/2011 12:00:00 AM Zródło: The Warsaw Voice, The Polish Science Voice
The end of the year inspires philosophical reflection. While this issue of The Polish Science Voice brings a host of reports on innovative technology and research, it also offers a humanities perspective, which is a part and parcel of this publication’s mission—as shown by almost every issue of the magazine. This time, our special guest is an exceptional researcher in the humanities, Prof. Tadeusz Gadacz, a philosopher and expert on religion who has undertaken a huge, 12-volume work on the history of 20th-century philosophy—Historia filozofii XX wieku. He does not hesitate to call this project a madcap one—because of its sheer magnitude.

In our interview, Gadacz says that the work is the first of its kind. “Indeed, there is no other work of this kind in the world,” he says.

What is the purpose of the project? “My intention is to outline an intellectual map of the entire 20th century, where you will see a variety of trends, but also ideas that contributed to them as well as mutual—and sometimes hidden—ties,” Gadacz says. “My goal was synthesis,” he adds.

Such a huge project seems to exceed the capabilities of one man—it’s like a mountain whose top cannot be seen because it is so far up in the clouds. Prof. Gadacz has set out to climb that mountain alone and he uses another comparison with regard to his expedition: “I’m a little like the rower described by Kierkegaard, who rows the boat with his back to the direction of travel—I don’t see the full path, just the few meters around me,” Gadacz says. “For the time being, I have completed the first two volumes, which appeared in print in 2009. At the start of 2011, the third volume will be published, and later in the year, probably the fourth one, followed by more at one-year or 18-month intervals.”

Why did he decide to write this magnum opus? One reason was that he was once a student of Fr. Józef Tischner, the recently departed prominent Catholic thinker who was a professor at the Pontifical Academy of Theology in Cracow and lectured on contemporary philosophy.

“Tischner’s huge fascination with contemporary philosophy and modern culture in general, his desire to build bridges between Christianity and modernity ingrained in me a great curiosity about contemporary thought,” Gadacz says. “Later I started to teach modern philosophy myself, and I still could not offer any textbook to my students. I could only refer to individual books, studies and articles. It was then that the first thought of writing a history of 20th century philosophy started to appear.”

Gadacz’s work is all about discoveries and fascination with philosophy, but the professor does not hide his bitterness. “There is no doubt that the humanities are deeply on the defensive in Europe, unlike in the U.S. or Japan, where they are greatly appreciated,” he says. “They have been sidelined by ‘bio-info-techno’ sciences—to the extent that whole faculties for the humanities are being closed in big universities in Germany or Britain, because these universities prefer to spend money on the technological race. The European Union sets aside big money for science, but the previous six Framework Programs did not earmark a single penny for the humanities. Only the latest, the 7th Framework Program sets aside a small amount for social sciences and only in the area of research on democracy. At the same time, not enough money is being spent on areas that have shaped the identity of Europe—literature, philosophy, history.”

This trend, though bad for the humanities, seems to be reversible. The objective reason is that any development is ruled out if the humanities stop developing. A more subjective, concrete, reason is the existence of scholars like Prof. Tadeusz Gadacz, who—armed with vast intellectual resources and indomitable determination—are ready to take on the gargantuan task of writing a 12-volume book about the history of 20th-century philosophy.

The interview with Prof. Gadacz in this, 42nd, issue of The Polish Science Voice, together with our usual broad range of topics, add up to a portrait of Polish science and researchers at the close of 2010.