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Józef Tischner

Józef Tischner

A Góral History of Philosophy

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Józef Tischner

(1931-2000) – a Catholic priest, philosopher, theologian, pundit, Solidarity chaplain, promoter of the Góral language and culture. Father Tischner was born in a Polish Góral (highlander) family in Podhale, or the mountainous southern Polish region in the Tatra Mountains. Despite his father’s initial opposition, he decided to become a priest and entered the archdiocesan major seminary in Krakow in 1949. He served as deacon of the Faculty of Philosophy at the Pontifical Academy of Theology (now the Pontifical University of John Paul II). In the 1980s, he was a chaplain to the Solidarity movement. During a visit to Poland in 1987, Pope John Paul II quoted Tischner as best representing Solidarity’s ethos. Father Tischner’s homilies and philosophical texts such as The Spirit of Solidarity or Thinking According to Values played a crucial role in providing the intellectual underpinnings for the Polish anti-communist resistance. Tischner and Leszek Kołakowski were the philosophers who inspired Solidarity the most. Father Tischner’s famous aphorisms (for example, “I have never met someone who lost his faith after reading Marx, but I have met many who lost it after talking to their priest” or, said in a strong Góral accent, “Don’t search for truth but for friends”) are well-known to many Poles. His Philosophy of Drama, which uses theatrical works by Shakespeare, Dostoevsky and others to explain human relationships and ethics, is considered to be one of the most important Polish philosophical books. Meanwhile, Tischner’s bestseller A Góral History of Philosophy is a humorous book showing the history of philosophy starting with Aristotle using Góral dialect and jokes. Throughout the 1990s, Tischner authored many articles about the need for ethics in Poland’s transition to democracy and capitalism, and he chastised Poland’s Catholic Church for focusing too much on worldly pursuits. Although Father Tischner died in 2000 after a crippling battle with cancer, his legacy is very much alive in Poland. Numerous volumes of his philosophical texts and homilies as well as biographical works are published each year, while his aphorisms and observations continue to be frequently used in the Polish public discourse, even by non-Catholics and anticlerical atheists.
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