Author Archives: David Soucek

Episode 2
How Viable is Western Liberal Democracy when Transplanted Across the World?

In this episode, Shalini Randeria explores in a conversation with Timothy Snyder the reasons behind Trump’s access to power, the propensities that Trumpian politics shares with fascism, the unaddressed original sins of American democracy, as well as the future predicaments for democracy opening up in the wake of Trump.
Read more

Two Weeks of Interconnected Violence in Lviv
Prison Massacres, Anti-Jewish Pogroms and Murder of Polish Professors on June 22th – July 4th, 1941

The history of Lviv in wartime has been intensively studied, especially since the collapse of communism when the large Soviet archival collections became available to historians. Christopher Mick provides a first-class account of the city history in 1914-1945. The city is discussed also in the more general studies of the Soviet occupation of the Western Ukraine by Jan Gross, and of Nazi destruction of Galician Jews by Dieter Pohl. John-Paul Himka describes and analyzes in details the story of the anti-Jewish pogroms of June 30, 1941, while Polish and Ukrainian scholars focus on the NKVD massacre of the (mostly but not exclusively) Ukrainian prisoners and the Nazi execution of Polish professors. The Lviv war experience is also present in two influential syntheses of mass violence by Timothy Snyder, Bloodlands and Black Earth.
Read more

On the Concept of the ‘Human Rights Backlash’

Usage of the terms ‘backlash’ and the ‘human rights backlash’ has become common in contemporary academic and non-academic circles. In international law and international relations scholarship, the word ‘backlash’ has been used to refer to, among other things, the denunciation of human rights treaties, the de facto closing-down of human rights courts, the ‘band of outlaw’ states ‘on the wrong side of history’, shrinking space for civil society, and the ‘citizen initiative for a just world economy’. Thus, the term ‘backlash’ has been used in reference to very different concepts – from social movements to the behavior of states – and with both positive and negative connotations.
Read more

In Memory of Her
Sacrifice and the Self of Milada Horáková

Whenever one aims to address broader academic audience, choosing a strong and inspiring title is always helpful. We can follow the title as the red thread throughout the article. “In Memory of Her” is the title borrowed from the feminist theologian Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza who wrote her book “in memory of” Elisabeth Cady Staton – the very first feminist interpreter of the Bible. I decided to write this article on female sacrifice “in memory of” Milada Horáková, the victim of the Stalinist showtrial in 1950s communist Czechoslovakia and, in my view, also one of the paradigmatic examples of the female sacrifice in the European context of the 20th century.
Read more

Dialogues Behind the Scenes
Ethical Moments in Making Theatre

Since 2014 I have conducted over 100 interviews with craftspeople in Polish public theatres – drama, puppet and musical theatres – among them there were opera houses with over a thousand employees as well as small town puppet theatres. This group comprised metalworkers, carpenters, modelers, painters, costume makers, puppet makers, shoemakers, upholsterers, make-up artists, wig makers, as well as sound and light technicians, dressers, stage assemblers and prop masters. I have been investigating the ways in which craftspeople, positioned at the lowest level in the social hierarchy in theatres, perceive the changes in the management methods, production process and social relations in their institutions, due to the political and economic transformation in 1989.
Read more

Trust in the Decent Society

The decent society is one with respect at its heart. In the decent society, institutions and their agents, such as policemen, judges, clerks and doctors do not humiliate the citizens. Decent society is thus built not only on freedom, but on freedom with honour. As such, it invites trust. Obviously, public institutions that do not humiliate the citizenry will be much more readily trusted than those that provide their services in a negligent and disrespectful manner. Furthermore, a society built upon trust in the word of the other, and in which promises are kept, will be more decent than a society that lacks basic respect for a person’s word. The interconnection between trust and decency also operates in the opposite, negative, direction: distrust creates humiliation, and humiliation creates distrust. An employer who distrusts his employees will incessantly monitor and check them; a distrustful husband can be tempted to breach his wife’s privacy, and a father who mistrusts his children will try to control them and dictate what they do. Even these brief, preliminary examples suffice to show that trust and decency are closely and deeply interrelated, and that the knot bounding it is the knot of respect.
Read more

Post-Empiricist Foundation of Semantics for Religious Language

Jürgen Habermas in his discussion with Charles Taylor in 2011 claimed that all you need to understand a meaning of basic religious vocabulary is to participate in the religious practice (i.e. ritual). This claim, repeated by Habermas at the Berkeley Centre lecture in the same year, is in fact not only the main thesis of his early theory of religion (from Theory of Communicative Action), but also the core of common antirealist stance of the mainstream post secular thinkers (Caputo, Vattimo, Derrida). Antirealism, according to Michael Dummett, can be expressed in semantical terms: antirealists deny that truth is the core concept of a theory of meaning, and in consequence claim that meaning is not the ‘function’ between bit of language (expression) and an object in the world. For the antirealists the meaning has only to do with rules and relations which are internal to linguistic practice (usage, grammar, inference, form of life like ritual and so on), and not with relations with the so-called ‘objective’ reality. In fact, the post secular semantics of religious language shares this core thesis with other antirealist theories of religious language, most notably of Kant, Wittgenstein and the wittgensteinian school of philosophy of religion (Rhees, Winch, Phillips). Indeed, semantic antirealism is one of the most important modern theories of religious language.
In my paper, I will argue against antirealism and for semantic realism. First, I will expose and make explicit these two rival theories. Next, I will sketch an argument for realism. In conclusion, I will present two remarks concerning theoretical implications of realism. My paper is not an attempt to provide a full argumentation, but just to link a few well-known theoretical claims, which are not usually linked, and in this way cast new light on the philosophy of religious language.
Read more

Martha Nussbaum and the Uses of Imagination in Political Philosophy

This paper is composed of two parts. In the first part, I try to outline the importance of the study of imagination for political philosophy – especially for any political philosophy that concerns itself with the future. I will try to argue that analysing the frontiers of our political imagination and devising ways to expand these frontiers is a pressing task; I will also suggest what kind of research would be needed in order to engage with this problem.
In the second part I will move to a more detailed analysis of what is signalised in the title, namely the role of imagination in political philosophy – or in political thought more generally – taking Martha Nussbaum as my primary example.
Read more

Philosophical Roots of the Avant-Garde

The aim of this article is to present the outcomes of my doctoral research on philosophical inspirations and borrowings in the early avant-garde art, emphasizing particularly – due to space limitations – its more general conclusions about the meaning of philosophy for the arts and vice versa. First, I describe the underlying ideas and assumptions of the work; then, I briefly outline the methods and provide an example of their use in a close reading of Hegel and Malevich in the context of the latter’s famous Black Square painting; and finally, I move to the examination of the findings of my study in the field of art philosophy.
Read more

Introduction

The Junior Fellows’ Conference at the IWM entitled “Imagining the Human: Perspectives from Art, Philosophy, and Law” was held on May 16, 2019. This year is the 30th anniversary of the beginning of the end of the communist regime in Central and Eastern Europe. Incidentally, it is noteworthy that this year the IWM — a world-famous place where East and West meet — hosts all the Junior Fellows from this corner of the world. Moreover, as the perceptive reader will notice, most of the fellows this semester come from Poland as if they were paying a tribute to one of the founding fathers and the first rector of the Institute, the polish philosopher Krzysztof Michalski.
Read more