Introduction to The Universal Encyclopedia of Philosophy

An encyclopedia is a work that serves the continuing education of individuals and whole societies. In the tradition of western culture, encyclopedias were and are the most universal way of providing information and education. Encyclopedias produced by specific academic institutations are also testimony to knowledge acquired and a sign of the level of culture that a nation has achieved. The production of an encyclopedia on a specific domain of knowledge and making it available to society is not a matter of the ambition of a group of scientists but primarily an expression of concern for education and the level of scientific culture in that society.

Among different kinds of encyclopedias, philosophical encyclopedies play an indispensable role in the formation of scientific culture. Philosophy, which permeates such essential domains of culture as cognition, behavior, and production, is the logos (reason) for the culture of every nation that allows the culture to discover a higher end of life and action than the mere needs of the present.

The outbreak of the Second World War, the occupation of Poland, the destruction of the Polish intelligentsia and consequently of Polish science, especially the humanities, caused the foundations of culture to crumble. This was accompanied by a carefully planned persecution of the Catholic Church. Many clergy were lost during the German and Soviet occupations. The introduction of communist ideology which was inimical to the tradition passed on through ages was another cause of the devastation of Polish culture. This ideology, in the form of Marxist philosophy, was obligatory at all levels of eduction and was also spread in propaganda in the mass media, books, and periodicals.

The enslavement of free thought lasted for more than a century and caused in the nation a great loss of consciousness of its own culture and led to deformations in world-view. These effects did not disappear when Poland regained independence in 1989. Furthermore, secularist and atheist propaganda tried to influence the minds of Poles, and an educational program that has adapted to cultural fashions does not provide any guarantee that people will be equipped to stand against this new enslavement. In this situation, it was necessary to provide the youth who were being educated with effective help in the form of a philosophy not falsified by ideology, the philosophy that has always stood at the foundations of our understanding of culture and at the foundations of authentic thought.

No authoritative encyclopedia has every been successfully published before in the Polish language. The absence of such an encyclopedia has been a serious lack for Polish philosophical culture and all the humanities. All philosophers who are concerned with the solid formation of a truly intelligent knowledge of reality are called and obliged to help fill this gap.

The philosophers of the Catholic University of Lublin who are members of the Polish Thomas Aquinas Association (PTTA), a section of the Societa Internazionale Tommaso d'Aquino (SITA), which has works to form a deeper understanding of our philosophical knowledge of the world and reality, decided to answer this call by writing and publishing The Universal Encyclopedia of Philosophy and so to stand on guard for the cultural heritage of Poles. The Societa Internazionale Tommaso d’Aquino (Bp. Card. Karol Wojtyła, presently Pope John Paul II, was one of its founding members) is one of the best known philosophical societies in the world, and its chief purpose it so spread and develop philosophical culture.

The initiative for writing and publishing the multi-volume Universal Encyclopedia of Philosophy came from an environment that developed in the last half-century, a most difficult time for Polish philosophy and the humanities. The people there defended and nurtured independent philosophical cognition and in so doing became guardians of Polish culture.

The group that initiated this undertaking are aware of the great labor and the difficulties it entails, but are also aware of their responsibility for the cultural and social situation. They treat this task as a service to thought and a service to truth.

In The Universal Encyclopedia of Philosophy the authors present fundamental philosophical problems. They consider existentially important metaphysical questions and the answers to these question in the context of the entire history of philosophy. This approach allows the readers to form an opinion on which answers are correct and which are errors. These problems are presented in objective language in the form of a lecture, and this is what sets this encyclopedia apart from others. Its aim is to show how problems are understood by showing the real factors (not merely theories) the negation of which entails the negation of the fact that is given for explanation. For this reason, the authors of articles on philosophical problems do not restrict themselves to relating various views and positions, but also propose rational and well-grounded solutions.

In the survey articles the authors present the various philosophical systems that are at the foundations of modern and contemporary culture. These systems present distinct ways of understanding the world and man. The survey is not aimed at merely describing a phenomenon of thought that bore fruit in the formulation of a particular philosophical system or method of philosophy, but also to help the reader understand the various phenomena and processes of thought that occur in contemporary culture (science, ethics, art, and religion). The authors discuss philosophical positions and views in the biographies of famous thinkers who had an important influence on the history of philosophy and understood the world of persons and things in different ways. These biographies are a source of information about the particular thinkers and acquaint the reader with the context in which a particular philosophical idea or interpretation arose.

In The Universal Encyclopedia of Philosophy the heritage of classical philosophy is given special consideration, since this heritage is the foundation of the identity of European culture. The authors also consider the work of the philosophies of the East (India, China, Korea, and Japan), whereby they aim to provdie a broad and universal perspective for understanding philosophy.

The articles are written not only by scholars from Polish schools (Lublin, Warsaw, Wrocław, Kraków, Poznań; Gdańsk, Olsztyn, Toruń, and others), but also foreign scholars (from Spain, Italy, France, the United States of America, Russia, the Ukraine, Bielorus, Estonia, Slovakia, and others). The Societa Internazionale Tommaso d'Aquino has members in schools throughout the world and made such wide cooperation possible. The Scholarly Committee and the Editorial Team of The Universal Encyclopedia of Philosophy were established by members of this Society.

The Universal Encyclopedia is projected to appear in 8 volumes to be published one volume each year. Each volume will contain around 500 articles on 800 pages of A4 size paper. We hope that The Universal Encyclopedia of Philosophy — the first undertaking of this kind in our millenium of historymay contribute to the strengthening of the foundations of Polish philosophical and scientific culture. The team offers it to the Polish nation in the hand of its greatest son, our Holy Father John Paul II, at the threshold of the third millennium.

Mieczysław A. Krąpiec
Andrzej Maryniarczyk