‚The Tongue Is a Fire‘

When I was asked to write some essays on the topic of language, I responded with some hesitation. It is not my field: I am not a linguist, or a poet, or a literary critic. But in the end I decided to make the attempt anyway (the word ‚essay‘ does mean ‚attempt‘ after all), in […]

Are Human Rights Natural?

The idea of human rights is probably the only possible basis for a peaceful order in the modern world. Nevertheless, the formulation of these rights and most of juridical and political thought over them suffers from an excessively individualistic understanding – in concordance with the Enlightenment tradition in which they originated. This is the source […]

Anthropology of Pain

Extreme pain can hamper or even almost eliminate our mental and spiritual abilities. As the skeptical saying goes, „Having a toothache, you can hardly fall in love“. I don’t merely „feel pain“, but pain can push out everything else, all the other contents of my mind, to such a degree that I am reduced to […]

Leges Sine Moribus Vanae

 Law system is a part of a certain society, which means that it is closely related to the „morals“ of the particular society – yet this relation is unspoken. Even  legislators can not do without „good morals“. This reference to morals is more than an unimportant detail, because the legal system has evolved from the […]

Money and the Sacred

The all-important phenomenon of money, however the subject of much of scholarship, yet seems to be lacking full understanding as to its nature. Some of the theories of its origins suppose a purely practical, pragmatic reasons for its development, but they have a difficulty to explain why people agreed to accept the shiny but useless pieces of metal in exchange for their valuable goods. Careful scrutiny of both linguistic and archeological evidence shows interesting traces of a connection between money and the realm of what is exempt from the profane, the sacred, continuing through historical times up to the modernity.

After summing up these pieces of evidence and the historical development of money, we shall give an overview of the social functions of money as presented in particular by Georg Simmel. Out of the analysis of these functions we hope to develop a thesis of a necessary separation of money from the other realms of social life, in particular of law, justice and politics, which ensure the indispensable framework for a propper functioning of markets and money. However there is an inherent propensity of money to extend the spectrum of commodities, there is, we think, a paradox of money, which sets certain social institutions apart from the market exchange. Neither money itself, nor the services of the policeman, the lawmaker or the judge – being „conditions of possibility“, the necessary framework of money – have to be freely bought and sold, or else the money itself would cease to function. In the closing remarks we dare to tentatively connect the actual financial storms with a sort of violation of this paradoxical but indispensable separation between money and the realm of freely negotiable commodities.

E. Rádl and his Approach to Nation

In 1927, Emmanuel Rádl[1] wrote an essay, where he distinguishes between two conceptions of nation: a western, civic one and an eastern, organic and romantic one,  which he links to the name of Herder. With an unusual foresight, he realised that national tensions were probably the most serious problem of the Czechoslovakia of his days. […]

Ethics of Life and the Human Rights

Morals, ethics and law are highly developed special disciplines, but without much interrelation between them and with a rather weak foundation, mostly an apodictic statement that it should be so. In historical times, they were founded on religious beliefs. For lay modern societies, and the less for the globalizing world, there is no such commonly […]

Ancestors and Posterity. The Religion of the Domus and its Message.

Ancestor worship has attracted the attention of many scholars, of ethnologists and anthropologists more than of scholars studying western religions or theologians. Its sometimes odd expressions have been treated in the West – with some exceptions – rather as curiosities without asking about their deeper meaning. In the following article, I do not pretend to […]

European multilingualism and its political consequences

The purpose of this contribution is to show the political importance of language and of the linguistic diversity, so characteristic for Europe. My thesis is first, that this diversity shall not disappear but is to be taken seriously into account by European policies even for the future. Second, that however burdensome, it carries with it […]

The idea of Creation as a basis for dialogue

Recently, the idea of Creation earned a bad reputation: it became the war-cry of some conservatives, rejecting any scientific knowledge and opposing to it willfully the traditional mythical narrative of the Bible, as if it would present an alternative cosmological theory or explanation of this our common world. For these “creationists”, Creation is not the […]

The Human Condition: between the individual and the social

Both the practical and theoretical, constructive and reflexive thinking about humans and their – i. e. our – societies seems to oscillate between two extremes. Under ever new and new names or titles it is always the age-old question whether the human society is to be viewed rather as the source and matrix of its […]

Education as a requirement for European solidarity

The current state of the debate „on Europe“ is anything but satisfactory. It would be very easy to get the impression that the two No votes in referenda in France and the Netherlands have confused, indeed unsettled, not just politicians, but all other Europeans as well, to such an extent that we are embarrassed even […]

Nietzsche and Politics

 1)        What do you take to be the morally and politically most offensive passages in Nietzsche’s writings? How do you interpret them? Do you think they are representative of his general attitude toward morality and politics? Nietzsche was a great man and deserves a just assessment. He was solitary, sensitive and extremely deep, perhaps also […]

Language and Experience

The thought and message of Ferdinand de Saussure by far transcends the realm of linguistics proper, inviting even non-linguists to take over his inspiration and to continue thinking along the same lines as he did, but independently. Since my field of expertise is neither linguistics nor Saussure, in this paper I will restrict myself to […]

Market as a Place of Rules

Market is the very focus of neo-liberal theories and is thus often understood as a synonym of liberty – and liberty itself as a mere absence of obstacles or limitations. The goal of this modest contribution is to challenge these rather widespread ideas. My basic theses would run approximately as follows: 1. Market is not […]

Reconciliation – why and when?

Before speaking about reconciliations, a short remark about ritual might be upon the place here. In the modern usage, partly due to the influence of rationalist psychology, the word “ritual” means a stereotypical action, for the most part deprived of any sense, as in the case of  “ritual behavior” of psychiatric patients. It is thus […]

The two faces of time

Speaking of a „lack of time“, do we mean the same „thing“ as the variable „t“ in a graph of some time-dependent development? The following article tries to show that both concepts are extreme examples of the two sides, or faces, of the single phenomenon of time, as common and trivial as it is mysterious. […]

An Address from Elsewhere

(The message of Lévinas in the Czech dissident milieu.) The ability to transport oneself into a different world – say, into a world of fiction – is a distinctive treat of all humans. But those fictive worlds into which we so simply and playfully pass over are all spun out of our normal daily experience. […]

Education as Reproduction of the Society

During the following days of your congress, you shall hear many knowledgeable people with rich experience in the field of Service learning. But what can you expect from a philosopher? Philosophers are dealing with trivial, everyday things, well known to anybody. The only ambition I can have in this assembly is to try to look […]