2021.10.25 - English

This is the second lecture of the series. “History is not intelligible without free responsibility.” This is one of Patočka’s many “heretical” convictions. It is in stark contrast to materialist theories of history (notably, the Marxist) that he asserts “the primacy of freedom” in history. And what is freedom for? “Freedom,” we read in his second essay, “is freedom for truth.” This is a startling conclusion. Yet it is because of this conclusion that Patočka links the origins of “history” to the origins of European philosophy – by which he means, in the first place, the thought of Socrates and his protégé Plato. On Patočka’s telling, history and philosophy are both quests for truth.

2021.10.12 - English

This is the first lecture of the series. What is the world? This may seem like a strange question, but it is the one that opens Jan Patočka’s Heretical Essays in the Philosophy of History, which he wrote in Soviet-controlled Czechoslovakia in the mid-1970s and originally circulated as samizdat (underground literature). In Patočka’s first essay, he suggests that the prehistoric “world” is rich in meaning, but that it is defined by a radical form of human bondage – “the bondage of life to itself.” (The lecture will clarify what that means.) For Patočka, history begins, not when writing-cultures emerge, but rather when humans first begin to question their picture of the world. It is this question – What is the world? – which both incurs great risks and signals the appearance of human freedom.