Dialogue and Universalism










   The present Dialogue & Universalism issue is dedicated to the outstanding Polish aesthetician Alicja Kuczyńska. Not intended as a Festschrift, it offers only a modest and fragmentary overview of Kuczyńska’s work, which has made her a major driving force in Polish aesthetic circles. Such a narrow selection will never give a full image, and this is especially true in the case of Kuczyńska, whose broad aesthetic interests led her to explore the art and philosophies of many eras and cultures alongside her main field, the Italian Renaissance, which has been the “pearl in the crown” of her academic work. Kuczyńska’s writings also address the present, the demands of the present are what underlies her explorations. History for her is a way to show that certain experiences, ideas and values are ever-present and existed in the past just as they do today.

   This Dialogue and Universalism issue concentrated on Alicja Kuczyńska’s intellectual achievements consists of two parts: one—with her own writings, the other—a collection of essays and papers which examine her work. The first section contains texts written specially for the issue as well as several earlier ones, which appeared in Polish. It closes with a collection of most of Kuczyńska’s published writings. The second section opens with a study by Magdalena Borowska, in which she traces Kuczyńska’s intellectual path in a step-by-step account of her academic achievements.

   In her work, Alicja Kuczyńska strongly addresses the condition of contemporary aesthetics and the ongoing reshuffle in aesthetic values—especially the progressing erosion of the beauty canon, once the main attribute and value of art, and the adoption by art of new roles in today’s world. Changes in aesthetics are forced by changes in art. Kuczyńska belongs to a generation of aestheticians whose task is to change the object of aesthetics, and hence the entire field—from its conceptual basis to its aims and fundamental aesthetician values. On the meta-theoretical level, this generation also had to constitute new relations between aesthetics and other philosophical fields.

   In Kuczyńska’s understanding, aesthetics is not just the philosophy of art. She puts forward a stronger thesis, characteristic of her whole attitude to art: the very art is for her a philosophy; this thesis gives the heading for the Alicja Kuczyńska issue: ART AS A PHILOSOPHY. For Kuczyńska, the creation and reception of a work of art are specific forms of philosophical reflection, because the spirituality that drives artistic creation and reception is of the same kind as that which stands behind symbolic thought expressed in philosophical writings. Texts written in language and works of art express the same human spirituality, and only differ in the ways of grasping and presenting spiritual phenomena.

   Another of Kuczyńska’s spectacular conceptions bridges research fields, and, on a higher level, their theoretical foundations. In her view, aesthetics is—or should be—an inherent part of social philosophy, human philosophy, and metaphysics. Art is closely tied to social, ontological and moral phenomena, and, most of all, to humans, Kuczyńska observes, hence it cannot be explained without reference to these spheres, and even to epistemology.

   Following suggestions by Alicja Kuczyńska herself and Anna Wolińska, the guest editor on this issue, we decided to retain the specific character of Kuczyńska’s Polish-language publications. Therefore, there are no abstracts bar one exception, and few quotations are cited from the Polish published translations of their original versions.


   Like few similar Dialogue & Universalism issues published in earlier years, this one also aims to promote valuable philosophical material that, owing to language barriers, is largely inaccessible to a broader readership. Language barriers are often the reason why the work of outstanding contemporary intellectuals remains largely unknown to today’s philosophy and, it may be feared, will remain lost to the philosophy of future generations. Their reception is narrow solely because it is limited to the users of only one language. This—in spite of our era of rapidly-developing ways of intersubjective communication—seems to suggest that the intellectual world is by no means equally open to all.

   This Dialogue and Universalism issue realizes a part of Dialogue & Universalism’s mission: to make available the works of outstanding thinkers who write and publish mainly in their relatively little-known native languages, which considerably limits their global reception. By “universalising” such writings, Dialogue & Universalism strives to bring them into the current intellectual mainstream. Without at least heralding them in English—today’s lingua franca just as Latin was in the Middle Ages—these texts, written in the languages of rather small nations, will never be able to enter any kind of true intellectual dialogue. Linguistic limitations disenable true intellectual communication on the global scale. The multiplicity of languages is a sign of cultural advancement, but also a curse on humankind which not only hampers communication but also bans some human groups to the peripheries of culture.

   Our narrowly-selected presentations of such writings, sometimes taken out of context (as, for instance, in the case of fragments of monographic works, which are usually indivisible wholes), will certainly not guarantee their authors any “equal chances” or ensure their full access to the whole human spiritual sphere. Dialogue & Universalism’s much more modest role is to herald their existence, to bring to broader awareness that there is valuable and unexplored intellectual content beyond world-renowned books and academic periodicals. In doing this, we hope to help create to a minor extent at least some basic premises for dialogue.

   This issue of Dialogue and Universalism was inspired by Professor Michael H. Mitias.

Małgorzata Czarnocka
Professor of Philosophy
Dialogue and Universalism Editor-in-Chief







Alicja Kuczyńska


   The paper examines the phenomenon of melancholia, taking into account views on it by Emil Cioran, Joseph Campbell, Jerzy Kosiński, Georg Simmel and Maurice Merleau-Ponty. Regardless of its commonly known clinical variant—which is not the subject of the presented reflections—melancholia has no clear philosophical definition, because its status usually resembles a clinging plant affixed to and “fed” by more concise thought constructs. It is demonstrated that the self-disclosure imperative is an essential aspect of melancholia and that a typical and frequent symptom of melancholia is rejection of others and immersion in indifference, desperation, silent apathy and loneliness.

Keywords: melancholia, desperation, apathy, loneliness, Emil Cioran, Joseph Campbell, Jerzy Kosiński, Georg Simmel, Maurice Merleau-Ponty.




Alicja Kuczyńska


   This is the second part of the investigations of melancholia. Melancholia is examined here in relation to one of its opposition, namely hope. Reflection on melancholia entails reference to conditions commonly regarded as aggravating: sadness, uncertainty, indecision, self-criticism, despair, disenchantment, fear, desperation or bitterness. This content is common both to melancholia and hope; the difference lies in the kind of behaviour it evokes. Not yet either hope or melancholia, it is already conspicuously developing the characteristics of one of the options. This moment is especially important in the process of artistic creation. The tension that appears between both poles enables the experiencing subject to feel indecision about its choice, and hence to ultimately declare itself on one or the other side.

Keywords: melancholia, hope, Renaissance, philosophy of art, Marcilio Ficino, Enrst Bloch.




Alicja Kuczyńska


   In the Renaissance the beauty of a garden was for people a source of energy, it nurtured their inherent love of plant life, enchanted them and gave them a sense of pure aesthetic contentment. This fascination with nature and the values nurtured by the emerging culture of the garden also had broader reasons than just the desire for subjective experience. They can be sought in the belief that the style of an epoch is reflected not only in all the forms of pure art, but also in the sphere of applied art. The aesthetic criteria which determined the early-Renaissance conception of the garden were at least twofold: first, the then-emerging culture of the garden co-formed the identity of the entire era as one of the few enclaves of a rising trend away from the classical tradition. The culture of the garden contested the adulation of the Antique that was common at the time and ruled supremely in art.

Keywords: Renaissance, garden, pure art, applied art.




Alicja Kuczyńska


   Thee paper presents Marcilio Ficino’s aesthetics which is of a specific kind and differs from what we usually understand under the term. It expresses more than only thoughts on beauty and art, speaks about more than only the varieties of beauty, and deals with more than just the work of art—the object of art—and its relation to beauty. Traditional concepts played an important part in Ficino’s aesthetics, but alongside narrowly understood “proper” aesthetics, he offered another, very broad view of the entire aesthetic sphere, which allows his entire philosophy to be viewed as aesthetically rooted: love and beauty, which are among the driving ideas of his philosophy, are also aesthetic concepts. There are two other important elements in Ficino’s philosophy, God and the world, bound by a special relation based on his concept of the circuitus spiritualis. A cardinal theme in his philosophy, the circuitus spiritualis combines God with the world and is at once beauty, love and the highest degree of happiness.

Keywords: Marcilio Ficino, aesthetics, circuitus spiritualis.




Alicja Kuczyńska


   The paper examines the Renaissance philosophy of love, grasped as a “metaphysics of love.” Alongside its metaphysical interpretation, the phenomenon of Renaissance philosophy of love was subject to two other kinds of analysis: it was viewed either through the prism of its spiritual form, or as a fashionable social game which demanded that “every courtier recognise knowledge about how many and what varieties of love there are as necessary for his trade.” The author of the Renaissance theory of love was the philosopher Marsilio Ficino, an “alter Plato;” so it is his views on love which are examined in this paper.

Keywords: Marcilio Ficino, theory of love, Renaissance.




Alicja Kuczyńska


   In the Renaissance there was a kind of linguistic-pictorial osmosis, in which mythological configurations derived from antique literature, the poetic metaphoric of Neoplatonism, semi-fantastic and semi-realistic visions and a visible penchant for decorative rhetoric intertwined with elements of rational thought, the cult of nature, traditional reference to higher authority and practical as well as theoretical acceptance of pictorial symbolic. This language was employed to explore philosophical, ethical, and even natural categories related to issues like the beginnings of the world and nature, death, transience, vanity (vanitas), temperance, virtue (virtu), harmony, vita activa and contemplativa—categories in which the people of the era strove to describe youth, maturity, old age and death. In this specific language writing about a truth, idea or moral principle primarily involved presenting it as a picture, a concrete, sensually embraceable form, thing or person. Thus, if it was necessary, logos followed imago, which was genetically precedent and most important in the cognitive sense.

Keywords: Renaissance, Neoplatonism, linguistic-pictorial osmosis, logos, imago.




Alicja Kuczyńska


   The paper examines The Endless Column by Mircea Eliade and the main problem of this play, i.e. that of transcendence. It is shown that The Endless Column constitutes a summa of Eliade’s anthropological and philosophical ideas. Besides, the play refers to the indirect genetic determinants of the conception advanced in the play, pointing to its relations with certain currents of philosophical thought, like for example existentialism, structuralism, Indian philosophy or the philosophy of Neoplatonism.

Keywords: Mircea Eliade, The Endless Column.




Alicja Kuczyńska


   The paper is on Katarzyna Kobro’s artistic achievements and theoretical writings which present the foreshadowing of a new understanding of the space, articulated later by philosophers. Her and her husband conception of avant-garde sculpture postulates new mechanisms of seeing reality. By eliminating borders between sculpture and space, Kobro initiated a true breakthrough in art. Her achievement should be recognized for its truly pioneering and visionary status. Kobro was one of the first artists who revealed the intimate relation between art and its environment.

Keywords: Katarzyna Kobro, sculpture, space, avant-garde.




Alicja Kuczyńska


   The paper investigates changes in today aesthetics. It is demonstrated that the ongoing transformation of traditional aesthetics into aisthesis with its broader scope of influence calls for a review of to-date methodology in aesthetical research. Historical doxography, mere accounts of the past—even relating the most coherent and complete developments and events—hardly (if at all) harmonise with the new approach to aesthetics, and could well distort and weaken it. The enlargement of the subject-matter of aesthetics and the clash between aesthetics and the aporias of the modern approach to history allow both fields to experience modernity to a rather broad degree; both refer to aesthetics.

Keywords: history, aesthetics, aesthesis, subject of aesthetics, post-modernity.


ALICJA KUCZYŃSKA — PhD, full professor of philosophy. Researcher of the Renaissance and the contemporary transformations of the traditional aesthetic categories. From 1970 to 2007 the head of the Department of Aesthetics at the University of Warsaw. Organiser of international conferences. Lectured in Canada, Israel, Italy, Germany, Greece, Bulgaria, Russia. Publisher /editor of several collections of papers, among them the international volume Art Transforming Life 2006. Author of books on the Italian Renaissance, Marsilio Ficino i teoria piękna [Marsilio Ficino and the Theory of Beauty]. 1970; Man and the World [The Antropological Trends in Poetics of the Italian Renaissance]. 1976; Sztuka jako Filozofia [Art as a Philosophy]. 1988, as well as books on modern aesthetic taste: Piękno mit i rzeczywistość [Beauty, Myth and Reality]. 1972, 1977; Wzory modne w życiu codziennym [Fashion and Its Blueprints in Everyday Life]. 1983, 1987; Piękny stan melancholii. Filozofia niedosytu i sztuka [The Beautiful State of Melancholia: Philosophy of ”the Lack” and Art]. 1999. The founder of the half-yearly journal Sztuka i Filozofia [Art and Philosophy], published by the University of Warsaw (1989–present). Author of a stage play Kobro and a novel Carrissime.




Magdalena Borowska


   The article explicates the main fields of hermeneutic research activity of Alicja Kuczyńska in which Neoplatonic inspirations, Renaissance models of life, and the values and traditional paradigms for understanding aesthetic categories that are dominant within them—such as image, creation, fiction, and mimesis—are viewed against the background of the phenomena, transformations, and problems that are unique to our own times, thereby providing old frameworks with new forms of philosophical relevance. Kuczyńska’s research topics, i.e. beauty, love, the anthropological dimension of creativity, the role of imagination, and deification of creative personality gain revised interpretations, in which the accent is placed on creative activity and its value-creating dimension consisting in the transcendence of everyday reality. Characteristic of her research attitude is the tendency to consider philosophy and art in the context of transcending the finite dimension of being and undertaking anew and in different ways the effort to reach what is infinite, unconditioned, lost, truly existent in the Platonic sense. Kuczyńska’s research of this tendency takes on the dimension of positive valorisation of the state of “being in between” and exploration of artistic figures of “ascending.”

Keywords: Neoplatonism, the Renaissance, beauty, creation, perception of art, melancholy, not-quite-sufficient-ness.

Affiliation: Institute of Philosophy, University of Warsaw, Krakowskie Przedmieście 3, Warsaw, Poland.

E-mail: mborowska04@gmail.com




Beata Frydryczak


   Garden and melancholy have been analysed by Alicja Kuczyńska from the standpoint of Renaissance Neoplatonism. I try to work out a common denominator for them, and attempt to compare Renaissance and Romantic melancholy—in the garden space. I see a positive moment in the notions developed by Kuczyńska, namely in that melancholy, as an expectation, acquires a positive dimension, approaching hope.

Keywords: Garden, melancholy, hope, waiting, Renaissance Neoplatonism, Romanticism.

Affiliation: Department of Theory and Interdisciplinary Research, Institute of European Culture, Adam Mickiewicz University, Gniezno, Poland.

E-mail: beataf@amu.edu.pl




Bogna J. Gladden-Obidzińska


   This article reconstructs and interprets the evolution of the Minoan myth’s reception in literature, fine arts, and urban development during the twentieth century. The author’s understanding of this evolution is based on three assumptions: a) myth is a polysemantic symbol of metaphysical and historical origins and function; b) myth reflects the relationship of the cognitive vs. creative mechanisms of human activity; and c) as symbolic, myth’s form must be treated as an image as much as it is a (discursive) narrative. As a motif in literature and the arts, the Minoan myth in particular has displayed all three of these aspects by allowing first its heroic narrative and, more recently, its formal structure (i.e., the tragic maze of moral and intellectual values) and visual setting (i.e., the actual labyrinth) to serve as porte-paroles of ongoing social and civilisational transformations: aestheticisation, deconstruction of cognitive and political hierarchies, technicisation, and intensive urbanisation. The displacement of the narrative and of the figure of the Minotaur is interpreted from the perspectives of psychoanalysis and post-structuralism.

Keywords: aestheticisation, cities, Mircea Eliade, André Gide, Robert Graves, irrationality, Rosalind Krauss, Alicja Kuczyńska, labyrinth, Jacques Lacan, Odo Marquard, Minotaure, mythology, structures, wandering.

Affiliation: Institute of Philosophy, the University of Warsaw, Krakowskie Przedmieście 3, Warsaw, Poland.

E-mail: b.j.obidzinska@uw.edu.pl




Roman Kubicki


   While there are many stories of man, one moment seems to recur in all of them. This is the belief that we need to be able, and want, to look in the mirror of something that is qualitatively larger than us. This is the intention of the tradition whose philosophic patron is Plato. This need for unreality—the need for another world—presumably manifests itself in every area of human activity. One can therefore talk about a specific need for unreality that every real life satiates itself with. I provide examples of this need: science, religion, love, past and future. In the light of eternal life, we would be continually beset by the values for which we would be obliged to sacrifice our lives. In the light of earthly life, such values are inconceivably less frequent. We learn the difficult art of living in a consumer world where we do not have to die.

Keywords: earthly life, love, hope, unreality, eternal life.

Affiliation: Institute of Philosophy, Adam Mickiewicz University, Szamarzewskiego Street 98 c, 60–568 Poznań, Poland.

E-mail: rokub@amu.edu.pl




Piotr Schollenberger


   In this essay, I trace different motives in Alicja Kuczyńska’s thought that are linked together in her philosophy of image. According to Kuczyńska, the creative power of forming artistic images is deeply rooted in existential experience that can be described in terms of finitude, fragmentality, evanescence. The desire to find a way out of such a state is the origin of philosophical as well as artistic creation. It is hope which joins together the individual wish or desire and culture. Hope can be treated as yearning for indeterminacy that is characteristic of existence, as longing for the state of lost totality.

Keywords: image, reality, derealization, desire, hope.

Affiliation: Institute of Philosophy of the University of Warsaw, Krakowskie Przedmieście 3, Warsaw, Poland.

E-mail: piotr.schollenberger@uw.edu.pl




Leszek Sosnowski


   Aristotle’s concept of justice as an areté of logos is pinpointed in his main ideas. It serves as an introduction to the part of Pico’s philosophy. One of the main goals of his activity was to unify the ideas of Plato and Aristotle. The category of pax philosophica can be seen then as a test for the practical realisation of these ideas. Finally there are questions important for today’s man in the context of his present and future life. The most important, however, is the question of justice, which inevitably sends us to the question of logos as it is understood today.

Keywords: Aristotle, Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, logos, areté, pax philosophica, justice, peace.

Affiliation: Institute of Philosophy, the Jagiellonian University, Grodzka 52, Cracow, Poland.

E-mail: leszek.sosnowski@uj.edu.pl




Irena Wojnar


   The paper examines some rare specific features of Alicja Kuczyńska’s aesthetics. It is demonstrated that Kuczyńska connects the field of aesthetics to the realm of philosophical anthropology and social philosophy. Her interdisciplinary approach is based on postulated bonds between art, society, aesthetics and sociology.

Keywords: aesthetics, sociology, philosophical anthropology, social philosophy.

Affiliation:The University of Warsaw, Krakowskie Przedmieście 26/28, Warsaw 00-927, Poland.




Anna Wolińska


   The subject of my analyses is the concept of melancholy developed by Alicja Kuczyńska. I am interested in the connection between the creative aspect of melancholy—understood as a certain kind of philosophical attitude—and the concept of a whole. Taking a whole to be an “ideal model in the evaluation of the world and of things” gives us an insight into the meaning of being provided by the philosophical attitude of melancholy. Kuczyńska believes the application of this model is connected both with the possibility of harmonising the parts of this whole and with the search for what varies within the same whole. As a result, melancholy comes to the fore as a state of suspension between repetition and originality—an essential requirement for creativity.

Keywords: melancholy, whole, void, creativity.

Affiliation: Institute of Philosophy, University of Warsaw, Krakowskie Przedmieście 3, Warsaw, Poland.

E-mail: wolinska0@op.pl

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