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Abstract

Bogusław Wolniewicz presented his axiological system in four volumes of Filozofia i wartości (“Philosophy and Values”: 1993, 1998, 2003, 2016). For Wolniewicz, just as for his mentor Henryk Elzenberg, axiology is openly assertive and encompasses a painful confrontation of opposite moral beliefs. Wolniewicz’s vision of the reality is gloom, bitter, dramatic and deeply pessimistic. In history he detects unwelcome contributions of demonic powers (Manichaeism), he also believes that human moral character is genetically given and immutable (determinism), that some people are deprived of conscience (dualism), and that the tendency toward evil cannot be reformed (non-meliorism), human reason is not sufficient for a morally good action (voluntarism), while the so-called free will is no more than a manifestation of instincts (irrationalism). Everyone follows their pleasure (hedonism), but not everyone seeks pleasure in the same actions. In particular, some people take pleasure in cruel and destructive behaviour (demonism), while some others mind their own business (utilitarianism), and rare are those who devote themselves to higher values (perfectionism). Religion is a human invention and it emerges as a natural phenomenon in reaction to the fact of mortality. The institution of the Church should nevertheless be honored even by nonbelievers because it supports conservative values. In contemporary Western civilization a crisis can be observed between the conservative part of society (‘right-handed orientation’) and the liberal one (‘left-handed orientation’). Hateful emotions appear on both sides and are dangerous to Western unity. Conservative orientation is attached to the idea of fate, i.e. irrational power that occasionally turns human life into tragedy (fatalism). Wolniewicz’s vision is close to the theology of St. Augustine (original sin, predestination, radical dualism of good and evil) but without a consolation in hope for immortality.
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Abstract

The normative system of Bogusław Wolniewicz (1927–2017) can be subsumed under three categories: (1) pessimism (fatalism, or ‘tychism’ in Wolniewicz’s terms), (2) moral determinism (‘non-meliorism’), (3) conservatism (‘right-hand orientation’). Ad (1) Wolniewicz was pessimistic in two ways: he believed human life to be tragic (fatalism) and was also convinced that most people are guided by bad instincts (dualism). Ad (2) Wolniewicz believed that moral character was biologically determined and immutable. But his strong position on this subject ignores the classical view of Aristotle or the Stoics for whom moral character (or conscience) was acquired by habit and shaped deliberately. Ad (3) I suggest that a good historical example of conservative tendency was Critias of Athens. His famous fragment of the Sisyphus contains the idea of a supremacy of laws over human passions, and reduces religion to a supportive role with respect to ethics and politics. Wolniewicz’s dualism of right-hand and left-hand orientation encourages me to distinguish between a right-wing and a left-wing perception of value. For a leftist, value is intensity of a chosen feature (progressive value), whereas for a rightist, value is an area of freedom between inacceptable extremities (modular value). On these premises I propose a simple model of axiological conflict between left-wing and right-wing citizens.
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