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Philosophy without Freedom: Constantin Noica and Alexandru Dragomir

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Philosophy without Freedom: Constantin Noica and Alexandru Dragomir
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  Philosophy without Freedom : Constantin Noica and Alexandru Dragomir  Cristian CIOCAN University of Bucharest Romanian Society for Phenomenology   ABSRAC: In this paper, I discuss about two major Romanianphilosophers: Constantin Noica and Alexandru Dragomir. I nar-rate their spectacular biographies, in order to show how powerfulcan be the resistance through philosophy, even in the hard timesof political totalitarianism, as they were, for the Eastern Europe,under the communist dictatorship. It is true that Noica andDragomir are two of the most influential personalities for thehistory of phenomenology in Romania. However, their lives alsoseem to be exemplary for the philosophical life as such, which re-veals its intrinsic value when facing the asperities of misfortune. Let me start with a general question: Can philosophy exist with-out freedom? We usually believe that thinking, reflecting, and philosophizingneed always a certain degree of freedom. Aristotle is the first to sus-tain, in the beginning of the  Metaphysics  , that philosophy started in Te copyright on this essay belongs to the author. Te work is published hereby permission of the author and can be cited as Phenomenology 2005, Vol. III,Selected Essays from Euro-Mediterranean Area, ed. Ion COPOERU & HansRainer SEPP (Bucharest: Zeta Books, 2007), available in printed as well aselectronic form at www.zetabooks.com.Contact the author here: cristian.ciocan@phenomenology.ro 2  CRISIAN CIOCAN 64 Egypt, where the class of priests was exempted from labor, thus ob-taining the necessary comfort for reflecting. But besides this comfort,this freedom from daily necessities, it takes another type of freedomfor the philosophical instinct deeply enrooted in man to be able todevelop as a free philosophical exercise, in a live and creative philo-sophical culture, allowing for a polyphony of voices and a dialogue of the various points of view. I am not referring here to a total freedomin an ideal republic of philosophers, but a certain degree  of liberty.I refer to political freedom, the civic or social freedom. Tis typeof freedom made possible the most fertile stages in the history of philosophy. If we think of the Greeks, we see that the flourishing of philosophy was possible in a free political climate. Philosophy alwaysdeveloped under a certain protection, a more or less tolerant attitudeof the authorities, be they kings, emperors, noblemen, popes or car-dinals: this happened with the ancient philosophy, with the philoso-phy of the Middle Ages, and again with the German Idealism. Whenprotection and freedom disappears, philosophy dies too, or it is sup-pressed, as it is the case of the closing of the Neo-Platonic school of  Athens by a Justinian edict.Te terrible 20 th century brought a totally different situation,never met before, where the limitation of man’s liberty became astate affair. When such a regime goes on for several decades, as wasthe case of Communism in Eastern Europe, the transformations canbe atrocious, for generations are born and die in a concentrationary universe, without light or hope. Under such a regime, philosophy isreduced to an instrument of the propaganda, an offi cial ideology. And we ask again: Can philosophy exist without liberty?Te Romanian case, and especially the case of the Romanianphilosophy under communism, can be understood against the back-ground of a larger social context, the recent history of the countries  PHILOSOPHY UNDER OALIARIANISM 65 destroyed by the imperialism of the Soviet regime. However, wemust understand its specificity.Te Romanian culture—as a national culture, in a nationallanguage—is rather young culture. Even if the national cohesionof the Romanians is older, the Romanian Nation affi rmed itself explicitly with the occasion of the historical events that traversedEurope around 1848, gaining its independence from the OttomanEmpire only in 1877. Concerning philosophy, the first name that we must mention is that of Dimitrie Cantemir (1673-1723), a kingof Moldavia who corresponded with Leibniz and who was electeda member of Academy of Berlin in 1714. Even if his philosophicalactivity was rich enough, he was recognized in the world most forhis work of historian. His works about the Ottoman Empire wereimmediately translated in several languages and were known by Voltaire, Byron and Victor Hugo. Unfortunately, firstly because of the historical vicissitudes, because the Romanians have not knownlarge periods of political stability where the humanist culture coulddevelop itself, the case of Cantemir rested a singular one. And thus it went until the 19 th century, when the Romanianstarted to study intensively in Berlin, in Paris and in Vienna, ac-quiring therefore with them the philosophical ideas that circulatedin Occident. Te first philosophical course written in Romanian was elaborated on a German model by Eftimie Murgu in 1834-36, for the Mihaileana Academy of Iasi and was the first attemptto establish a philosophical terminology in Romanian Language. We can note also the attempt of Mihai Eminescu—a famousRomantic poet, himself very much influenced by the philosophy of Schopenhauer—to translate fragments of the Critic of the Pure Reason in 1878. At the beginning of the 20 th Century, the circulation of ideasincreased and the Romanian Culture began to enter, step by step,  CRISIAN CIOCAN 66 into the circuit of European Culture. We find many professors of philosophy who, more or less, are compiling the occidental treatisesof philosophy, offering an autochthonous variant of the scholar vul-gate of Paris, Leipzig and of Berlin. But with this occasion, ideas were spreading, the philosophical vocabulary gradually growingand we can speak of a philosophical climate starting to consolidate.Concerning the philosophers themselves, we can mention somenames such as Vasile Conta or Constantin Radulescu-Motru, whoproduced philosophic works of an srcinality somewhat limited by the mode of their time. Te case of Lucian Blaga is more interesting,because his philosophic oeuvre has an incontestable srcinality, beinghowever nourished from the climate of Spengler’s philosophy of cul-ture. Unfortunately, the work of Blaga was not translated at the rightmoment and therefore it could not enter the circuit of the Europeanideas, as it without doubts deserved to be.Between the two World Wars, the Romanian culture becamevery lively, very creative, very promising, a highly developing culture,students having studied in the most famous universities in Europe,professors with European diplomas, specialized academic journals,briefly, a culture able to integrate organically into the European cul-ture. Tis period, which proved to be very fertile, very ambitious andvery high-spirited, produced new and provocative voices, which afterthe Second World War, became famous in the West, as it is the caseof Mircea Eliade, Eugene Ionesco or Emil Cioran.However, at a certain moment, the disaster arrived. A disasterthat unfortunately went on for decades and disfigured everything,philosophy included. We are now in the years 1945-47. Te war was over, the Russianarmy occupied Romania, the communists seized the power, the kingabdicated and left the country. Most Romanian intellectuals leftRomania for the West and constituted a powerless diaspora. Tose  PHILOSOPHY UNDER OALIARIANISM 67  who remain lived under the threat of political imprisonment. Temost famous of them are arrested, tortured, their goods are all con-fiscated and their families are terrorized.How about philosophy? We can ask again: How can philosophy exist without liberty?Te answer is not at all easy, and we can hope to find, by readingbetween the lines of the destinies of Noica and Dragomir, the pos-sible or the impossible solutions.Nowadays in Romania, Noica is the most well known Romanianphilosopher. He is the Philosopher  , that is, the greatest figure of theRomanian philosophy today. We can say this the other way: it isdue to Noica that philosophy acquired in Romania in the 1960sand the ‘70s a great prestige, incredible for a country subjected to atotalitarian regime. Noica himself became almost a mass phenome-non: he had the force to pass to several generations of young peoplethe virus of philosophysing: hundreds of young people started todream of learning ancient Greek and German in order to accessthe fundamental sources of philosophy. Hundreds of young intel-lectuals visited him, in real pilgrimages, at his chalet in Paltinis,situated deep in a mountain village of ransylvania. Briefly, thephenomenon “Noica” marked in a radical manner the contempo-rary culture of Romania.But how can one arrive to such an incredible situation? Teexplanations are manifold.First of all, for the Romanian intellectuals, Noica represent-ed a link between contemporary Romania and the intellectually flourishing country that Romania was before the Second World War. For them, although that Romania between the two wars hadnot been exactly a paradise, however, what now happened underCommunism was certainly a hell. Noica himself was a central fig-
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