The Seasons of Life and the Practice of Wisdom - Neamtu | Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel | Philosophy

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The Seasons of Life - Neamtu
  󰁨󰁥 S󰁥󰁡󰁳󰁯󰁮󰁳 󰁯􀁦 L󰁩􀁦󰁥  󰁡󰁮󰁤 󰁴󰁨󰁥 P󰁲󰁡󰁣󰁴󰁩󰁣󰁥 󰁯􀁦 W󰁩󰁳󰁤󰁯󰁭 1 Mihail NEAMŢU   “ ... Andrei Pleşu, dieser Spezialist für Zwischentöne und Zwischenwesen, dieser Möglichkeitsmensch mit ausgeprägtem Wirklichkeitssinn...”   Wolf Lepenies 2  A Festal ime   A Festschrift   for Andrei Pleşu? Isn’t it a bit early? Are we somehow rush-ing prematurely into autumnal celebrations? Can we be accused perhaps of provoking untimely vesperal reflections? Te answer is no, since this volume brings together, in terms of age, at least three generations of colleagues, ad-mirers and disciples of the man who has so uniquely refashioned our cultural landscape by continuously inhabiting the Romanian debates between 1968 and 2008; and since 1989, the international scene as well.  Andrei Pleşu has redefined the horizon and the themes of our post-com-munist culture: his Curriculum vitæ includes not only rich scholarly references, but also political episodes that are unusual for Western intellectuals — the exile 1  In writing this text, I have benefited from the generous assistance of several discreet read-ers. Te English translation was authored by Fr. David Hudson and Oana Mateescu. I have also used notes and recordings made on the occasion of some dialogues with Professor Andrei Pleşu in 2006–2008. Finally, I am grateful for Google services, the virtues of globalization, and the impeccable U.S. system for Interlibrary    Loan that I used in the summer of 2008, courtesy of the University of Michigan. 2  Wolf Lepenies, “Einleitung zur 5. Ernst Reuter-Vorlesung,” in Andrei Pleşu, Eliten — Ost und West   (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 2001), pp. 7–8. A free translation of the German text would go like this: “Andrei Pleşu, this specialist of intermediary tones and essences, this man of possibilities, endowed with an acute sense of reality...”Mihail Neamţu and Bogdan ătaru-Cazaban (eds.),  Memory, Humanity, and Meaning  . Selected Essays in Honor of Andrei Pleşu’s Sixtieth Anniversary  , pp. 21 - 50  MIHAIL NEAMŢU22 at escani (1989) and two executive assignments (1989–1991: Minister of Culture; 1997–1999: Minister of Foreign Affairs). An eminent representative of several research fields in the humanities — most importantly art theory and the philosophy of religion —, Professor Andrei Pleşu has not limited his interests to merely enhancing his own scholarly biography. Te proof lies in the great num-ber of participants — from Romania and abroad — that have come together to celebrate a personality guided by the vocation of completeness.If we were to identify the dominant vector of the papers included in this volume, we would first have to mention the gratitude of the young genera-tion that was privileged enough to meet the celebrated author de visu . 3  Andrei Pleşu has left a lasting impression in the memory of his community, not only through his writings, but also by taking on the role of mentor for all those who asked for his advice: colleagues at the Institute of Art History, students in the Philosophy Department of the University of Bucharest, directors of institutions under the authority of the Ministry of Culture, members of the diplomatic corps of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and — right up to today — the young researchers at New Europe College. 4  Only this can explain the diversity of contributions to the Festschrift and, more generally, the abundance of commentaries that are always stimulated by Professor Andrei Pleşu’s contri-butions to the public discourse. Te contributors to this volume do not even come close to exhausting the list of those whose professional or private lives have been inspired by the encounter with Andrei Pleşu. Due to constraints related to the tight schedule imposed by the editing of a Festschrift  , we have had to postpone the publication of several valuable papers.  A tribute such as this one is first of all an act of reverence, but it also con-stitutes itself as a remedy against forgetting. Tough the following text can hardly provide more than a biographic sketch, it aims, nonetheless, to remind us of the most important dates of an intellectual trajectory that is relevant for all those who look back and allow themselves to be captivated by the passion for  paideia   and the ideal of beauty. Early Signposts  Born in Bucharest on August 23, 1948 into the family of Radu Pleşu (sur-geon) and Zoe Pleşu (née Rădulescu), Andrei Gabriel Pleşu is situated under “the sign of Virgo with an ascendant in Scorpio — an impossible marriage.” 5  In 3  Andrei Pleşu,  Jurnalul de la escani [escani Diary] (Bucharest: Humanitas, 1993), p. 91: “Te gravest thing that can happen to a young man is to lack the capacity to admire.” 4  Equally notable are also his more recent public engagements: the brief involvement in Ro-manian foreign politics as counselor to president raian Băsescu (December 20, 2004 — May 3, 2005) and the interim directorship at the Romanian Academy’s Institute for the History of Religion (June 2008–). 5  Iosif Sava, Invitaţii Euterpei [Te Guests of Euterpe] (Jassy: Polirom, 1997), p. 267.  HE SEASONS OF LIFE23 1955 he first stepped into a primary school in Sinaia. In 1955–1957 he went to school in the village Pârscov, in the Nehoi valley, the place where the poet Vasile Voiculescu was born in 1887. He spent many childhood summers in this moun-tainous area, a highland that had once been covered by “centuries-old forests, ex-cellent pastures, orchards, even crops, and mountains that were rocky, clayey, and totally bare.” 6  Over the years, the experience of rurality will prove to be decisive. Te spontaneous, natural character of a world that was later disfigured by col-lectivization has always represented a benchmark of integrity. Without necessar-ily stimulating “structural nostalgia” 7  for an agrarian utopia, the memory of the village prevented the urban alienation that comes with the uncritical acceptance of modernity. 8  In the late 1950s, the countryside could still reveal a pre-modern age, buried deep in the strata of everyday Romanian life. Te village was a mirror of durable values, building character, while at the same time allowing room for inertias that do not usually exist in an urban civilization.  After primary and secondary school, Andrei Pleşu graduated at the top of his class from the humanities section of the lycée “Spiru Haret” in Bucharest. Dating from this period, his friendship with Floriana Avramescu, an intimate of the Antim Monastery, would have strong spiritual echoes throughout the fol-lowing decades. Between 1966 and 1971 he distinguished himself as a brilliant student in the Department of Art History at the University of Bucharest. Among his various interests at that time were the landscapes of the Low Countries, with special reference to the paintings exhibited at the Brukenthal Museum in Sibiu. His B.A. thesis, titled “An Essay on the Experiential Values of Forms,” 9  was writ-ten under the guidance of Professor Ion Frunzetti (1918–1985).In 1972 he married Catrinel Maria, daughter of the professor and Academy member Nicolae Petrulian (1902–1983), and author of several translations of 6  In 1901, this region was thusly described in  Marele dicţionar geografic al Romîniei [Te Great Geographic Dictionary of Romania], vol. IV    (compiled and edited after the partial countydic-tionaries by George Ioan Lahovari, General C. I. Brătianu and Grigore G. ocilescu) (Bucharest: Socecu, 1901), pp. 756–757: “Tere are numerous sources of mineral waters, but they are not used, except those at Nifon. From a geological point of view, the valleys are also significant, espe-cially those at Sărăţelul-Bercii and Sărăţelul-Bălăneştilor... Te region is rich in wild game: bears, deer and even stags, and then wolves, foxes and wildcats, etc.” On the village of Pîrscov: “four churches, served by five priests, four cantors and four sacristans. Peter and Paul are the patron saints of the cathedral. Tere are 12 taverns. Te village is old; it is attested to since 1500.” 7  Michael Herzfeld, Cultural Intimacy   (New York: Routledge, 2005), p. 22 sq  . 8  In a recent interview, Andrei Pleşu commented on the encounter between village culture and old age, especially death: “I may seem  passé  , but nowhere have I seen people age better than in the countryside. Te city is a medium that indicates one’s growing age minute by minute. Te ur-ban structure is based on an extraordinary temporal erosion. In rural areas — for my part, I lived in an emblematic village — aging is organic, it has a note of fulfilment” (interview with Marius Chivu, “Dilemateca,” March 2007, available also online at 9  Tis research was revisited under the title “Notes for an essay on the experiential value of forms” in the volume Călătorie în lumea formelor [Voyage to the World of Forms], preface by Ion Frunzetti (Bucharest: Meridiane, 1974), pp. 12–97.  MIHAIL NEAMŢU24 modern classics (Eric Robertson Dodds, Walter Benjamin, Alisdair MacIntyre, Hannah Arendt, etc.). He has two sons, Matei and Mihai. 10  What was the cultural milieu in which the young Andrei Pleşu developed intellectually and came into his own? He made his debut in 1968, the summer unsettled by the “cultural revolution” at the Sorbonne in Paris and brutalized by the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia. As he would later confess, Andrei Pleşu was not impressed by the leftist hysteria embraced by so many Western intellectuals: May 68–August 68. Paris and Prague. wo poles of a world turned upside down, and, ultimately, two of Brezhnev’s victories: France without de Gaulle and Czechoslovakia without Dubček. Te first case employed the procedure of “democratic barricade”; the second, that of “brotherly help”. Students ma-nipulated (if only by their own rhetoric, their own ideological smugness) and soldiers manipulated (if only by their own ignorance or the political barbarism of their “superiors”). Te former as well as the latter exercised to the benefit of future generations the technique of innocent assassination. 11 Such an evaluation helps us better understand his affinities with the thought of Alexis de ocqueville (1805–1859) and Raymond Aron (1905–1983). In December 1996, Iosif Sava (1933–1998) questioned him — “since when have you been an anticommunist?” and Andrei Pleşu replied promptly: “ever since I can remember.” Te explanation follows: I grew up surrounded by a family that, just like many other Romanian fami-lies, suffered greatly as a result of the communist regime… When I myself became aware of the things that were happening, the things that were being said and written, I quickly understood that I was living in a phony world, an aggressively phony world. 12 In 1971 he was appointed researcher at the Institute of Art History of the Romanian Academy. Te beginning of Andrei Pleșu’s professional career coincided with the proclamation of the July Teses, through which Nicolae Ceauşescu (1918–1989) banned “the manifestations of cosmopolitanism” and “artistic models borrowed from the capitalist world.” It was a period marked by institutional constraints hardly imaginable now, at least from a Western aca-demic perspective. Purchases of foreign books declined, debates among special-ists were relegated to peripheral areas, while freedom of expression and access to information were heavily censored by “the organs of the Party and the State.” How could one escape, even if fleetingly, the blind contingency of history? How 10  Te essay “Cele două chipuri ale Faptei” [wo Aspects of Action] is dedicated to them, op. cit  ., pp. 242–245. Matei Pleşu translated into Romanian R.M. Hare’s monograph, Platon  (Bucharest: Humanitas, 1997). 11  Andrei Pleşu, Chipuri şi măşti ale tranziţiei [Faces and Masks of ransition] (Bucharest: Humanitas, 1996), p. 329. 12  Iosif Sava, Invitaţii Euterpei  ,  op. cit  ., p. 265.
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