Slavic & Eastern European Studies

Michigan Academician, Winter 2008 | Go to article overview

Slavic & Eastern European Studies


Some Nuances in Pascal that Thomas G. Masaryk Overlooked. Steve J. Van Der Weele, Calvin College

When recalling the achievements of the venerable Thomas G. Masaryk (1850 -1937)--teacher, historian, leader of the Czech Republic and its first president, humanist, ethicist, social scientist--we need also to acknowledge his role as a philosopher. He brilliantly exegeted the modern philosophers--David Hume, Immanuel Kant, Hegel, and others. He did so with a view to accounting for the pathologies of the modern world, dramatically evident from the high number of suicides occurring in the Western world. And he was intrigued by the Christian apologist Blaise Pascal, whom he found wanting in several ways. Acknowledging Pascal's achievements in science and math, he nevertheless calls the philosopher Pascal a skeptic, a pessimist, a man with a jaundiced view of reality. As a lapsed Catholic, Masaryk, in my opinion, wishes to avert his gaze from the traditional church doctrines so crucial to Pascal's thought, choosing selections from the lower branches of the Pascalian tree and ignoring some of the higher reaches. The passages on which Masaryk relies for his judgments must be seen in the context of Pascal's intent in his work, the Pensees.

Enlightenment Elements in the Thought of Hryhorij Skovoroda (1722-94). Stephen P. Scherer, Central Michigan University

The work of the Ukrainian thinker, Hryhorij Skovoroda (1722-94), has elicited a large secondary literature in the two centuries since his death. With the exception of Soviet writers, who painted him as a materialist and democrat, the students of Skovoroda's work have seen him as a theologian, mystic and moralist. The Russian critic, Vissarion Belinsky (1811-48), censured Skovoroda because he was exclusively concerned with spiritual matters. Not much later, the Russian church historian, Archbishop Filaret (1805-66), argued that Skovoroda's thought was tainted by its familiarity with Jacob Boehme's "muddle headed mysticism". …

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