BĘDKOWSKI Jan (Bentkowski)—pedagogue, moralist, publicist, b.1806, d. 1870.
Będkowski published articles in the “Przegląd Naukowy” [Scientific Review], a journal founded in Warsaw in 1842 by H. Skimborowicz and E. Dembowski that had a radical democratic character in the opinion of people of the time. In 1850 he was editor of the journal “Przewodnik. Pismo obyczajowo-naukowo” [Guide. Scientific-moral writing], one of several journals in Kraków independent of the conservative “Czas” [Time] of the conservatives.
Będkowski is known as the author of a small work for youth called Człowiek pod względem praw i powinności swoich [Man with regard to his rights and obligations] (Kr 1852). In his publicity and scientific work he represented a Catholic point of view. He called particular attention to the role of reason in the formation of the moral virtues in man, which allows us to consider him as belonging to the moderate ethical intellectualists. His other works include Myśli o człowieku [Thoughts on man] (Przegląd Naukowy [Scientific Review] 7 (1848) n. 5–6, 146–153), O człowieku [On man] (Przewodnik. Pismo obyczajowe-naukowe 1 [Guide. Scientific-moral writing] (1850), and O religii (ibid 2 (1850)).
ANTHROPOLOGY AND ETHICS. Man as the most perfect of the beings that are Creator’s work possesses reason and will. The function of the reason is to know God and the world; the will, or heart, shows how to act and behave in the face of what is known. Every man’s freedom is divided into three basic categories:personal, associative, and state (political). Personal freedom is the possibility of ordering one’s person and behaviors in such a way that the freedom of another human individual or group of persons and society would not be violated. Its “guardian” is the moral law, known universally under the form of the norm: “do not do to another what you find unpleasant”. Associative freedom consists in taking part in the benefits that flow from living and acting in society, under the condition that this does not violate the good of the social community. Political freedom is the possibility of taking part in the political life of one’s country, and it is connected with the individual’s participation in making the law of the state. A man comes to the fullness of freedom in the course of his intellectual-moral development throughout his entire life, and states and societies arrive at fullness of freedom sometimes over the course of many centuries.
Man, as opposed to the world of nature, is characterized by moral dynamism and by work is able to achieve the height of perfection. Animals cannot do this. They do not have the tendency to development and are destined by God to perform organic functions in a strictly defined manner. Będkowski stated that the human individual develops morally (is perfected) as he shapes moral virtues by the refinement of his reason and will.
Man’s moral life is ordered and developing properly when he lives without abusing the goods of this world, but uses them moderately. The principle of the golden mean, according to Będkowski, imposes an obligation both in relation to what is sensual and to what is spiritual. A lack of moderation or temperance in the use of food and drink leads to dependencies, injures the body and reason, and leads to sin. Moderation in what is spiritual consists in knowing how to use recreation and rest, which disposes a man to more intense work for his own good and society as a whole.
SOCIAL PHILOSOPHY. Będkowski stated that man is a social being, that is, a companion. Therefore he cannot live without a family and other societies, for they contribute to his attainment of happiness. Social life is beneficial for him, for the purpose for individuals associating in societies is benefit and pleasure, attainable by observing the commands of the decalogue with regard to one’s neighbors.
The fight against selfishness, which destroys the foundations of social life, requires the cultivation of friendship in organized societies. Friendship in a natural way joins people together by common spiritual bonds. Będkowski stated that friendship is possible only among truly virtuous people. One feature of friendship is disinterestedness, and hospitality and closeness are its basic manifestations.
The fatherland is the natural human society without which man’s moral perfection is impossible. Będkowski described the fatherland as “the place, that is, the land, where our forefathers were brought up and grew, and our neighbors of the same origin, from single families sprouting into a great nation, in a word, eveyrthing that our forefathers left as an inheritance to be developed further.” According to Będkowski, the land is the most important component of the fatherland, just as a man’s body is to man’s essence. Therefore without its existence we cannot speak of patriotism, which is expressed primarily in love and attachment to the place where our family dwells and works. Other component elements of what Będkowski calls the fatherland are nationality and citizenship. Patriotism is also a natural inclination to the growth of the fatherland’s success and the defense of its independent existence. A lack of patriotism is an offense against human rights and divine rights (it is a serious sin).
PHILOSOPHY OF LAW. The positive law that functions in the state, if it is based on the divine law, is according to Będkowski the guarantee of justice and freedom, and a guide that shows the norms of social conduct. From the beginning of its existence on earth humanity was unable to know all the divine laws that are always binding and unchanging. Mankind does this gradually and systematically over the whole of history. Therefore also with the moral and intellectual development of particular individuals and societies, there is a progressive evolution of legislation and the perfection of legislation.
Będkowski held to the theory that all political authority comes from God. Government should be “the concentrated power of the state’s moral and physical strength”. Society should be obedient to that state as to a just law that should be respected and according to which individual and group life should be organized. If in a particular state the law established by the rules is unjust, then the law should be changed to a better one. However, binding laws should not be broken. Lawlessness and anarchy are more dangerous and a greater threat to the integrity of the state and the morality of society than is despotism or tyranny. Będkowski expressed the opinion that badly governed states and the laws established in them always fall, and only social organisms that create worthy conditions for their citizens to exist and develop grow politically stronger.
I. Homola, Prasa galicyjska w latach 1831–1866 [The Galician press in the years 1831–1866], in: Historia prasy polskiej [History of the Polish press], Wwa 1976, I 233; E. Tomaszewski, Prasa Królestwa Polskiego i ziem litewsko-ruskich okresu międzypowstaniowego (1832–1864) [The press of the Polish Kingdom and the Lithuanian Russian lands of the period between uprisings (1832–1864)], in: ibid, I 6; S. Jedynak, Eytka w Polsce. Słownik pisarzy [Ethics in Poland. Dictionary of writers], Wr 1986, 25.