Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Celebration and Protest

[I put the Czech original of this text on my website on November 7, before going to Prague.]


On November 16-18 I intend to celebrate the forthcoming anniversary of the Velvet Revolution [it began on Nov. 17, 1989] with ‘Three days with a pub philosopher devoted to philosophy’. Without the Velvet Revolution it would be impossible for me to have in Prague three days devoted to philosophy.

The ‘Three days‘ will be a protest as well as celebration. I shall be protesting against my exclusion from any meaningful cooperation with philosophers in the Czech Republic. In February of this year I offered Dr Jirsa, the Director of the Institute for Philosophy and Religion at the Faculty of Arts (Filosofická fakulta) of Charles University, two papers in which I shed new light on Plato: ‘Plato’s defence of the Forms in the Parmenides’ and ‘Plato and Dionysius’. Dr Jirsa rejected my offer without any explanation. On November 16-18, I shall present these two papers, together with ‘Self-knowledge as an Imperative’, in front of the Faculty of Arts on Palach’s square, at 10-12 am.

Needless to say, I would much rather present these papers at the Institute. I shall therefore leave buying the air-ticket until the last moment, in the hope that Dr Jirsa might change his mind.

If I could, I would inform about my protest every Czech woman and man. To show that the matter concerns every Czech, I put on my website Roger Scruton’s ‘A Catacomb Culture’. This article was published shortly after the commencement of the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia, in February 1990, and it elucidates the role that Oxford philosophers played in my country after I had left Prague for Oxford and my open Philosophy seminar was supplanted by ‘secret’ activities; these activities have had impact not only on the whole system of university education, but on the broad sphere of culture and politics in Czechoslovakia, and then the Czech Republic.

Furthermore, in preparation for the ‘Three days’ I put on my website a letter written by Radovan Richta to Professor Diemer, the President of FISP [Fédération International des Sociétés Philosophiques], published in tvorba on October 15, 1980, that is shortly after I left Prague for Oxford. This letter pre-determined all my subsequent existence and work: ‘Tomin is a man who is worth nothing in philosophy … It is self-evident that Mr. Tomin would not find the means to live for a single week if he were interesting merely for what he did in philosophy.’ These words of Radovan Richta are worth comparing with the words of Jonathan Barnes, Professor of Ancient Philosophy at Balliol College, Oxford, which Nick Cohen quoted in ‘The Pub Philosopher’ published in The Independent Magazine on Nov. 18, 1989, a day after the Velvet Revolution in my country began: “He [i.e. Tomin] would not be accepted as a graduate here, let alone be given a teaching job.’

As I was transcribing Roger Scruton’s article on my notebook, with every paragraph I wrote a recurrent thought passed through my mind: ‘And during all that time, during all those years, I was excluded from any normal cooperation with philosophers, although I devoted all my efforts to enhancing my knowledge of ancient philosophy and culture.’ This is why my protest is directed at Oxford and Cambridge philosophers as well as Czech academics, as I wrote about it in my blog-entry of October 11 ‘From Bertrand Russell on Plato’s Meno and Phaedo to my forthcoming protest in Prague.’ It contains the first version of the ‘Information’ about the ‘Celebration and Protest’ and it ends with a letter from The Editor of the TLS from November 18, 1991, from which I quote: ‘We would, of course, be very happy for you to use Roger Scruton’s article in whatever way you wish. I enclose two photocopies of the article. I have a great deal of sympathy with the difficulty you have experienced in steering Oxford philosophers into answering your argument, but I do not see how any contribution from us would compel a response from those who do not wish to respond. I am sorry not to be able to help more.’


Food for thought [‘K zamyšlení’ in Czech: ‘For thought’ or ‘To think about’]

I informed the editor of the Philosophy journal [Filosofický časopis] of my offering Dr Jirsa two papers, ‘Plato’s defence of Forms in the Parmenides’ and ‘Plato and Dionysius’, to which Dr Jirsa promptly replied: ‘I thank you for your offer, but I have decided not to use it.’ [Děkuji za Vaši nabídku, ale rozhodl jsem se ji nevyužít.] I asked him to explain his decision, but he has not answered to my request. I therefore wrote to the editor: ‘Would you ask Dr Jirsa why he refused my offer?’

The editor wrote to me:

‘Dear Dr Tomin,
This decision is fully within the competence of Director Jirsa with which nobody in the Philosophy journal is going to interfere. It is therefore quite pointless for you to address us concerning this matter.
Olga Baranová, the Editor.‘

I replied:

Dear Mrs Baranová,
Your response to my request brought me back to the year 1975. I wrote to the Editor of Rudé Právo [the Communist Party daily newspaper]:

‘In the French newspaper Le Monde I read a letter of the Czeech philosopher Dr Karel Kosík addressed to J. P. Sartre. Karel Kosík in his letter mentions several disturbing things: He has been deprived of the possibility to do work for which he is qualified. He has been excluded from any participation in the work of our academic institutions. He cannot publish, his books were removed from public libraries. 1000 pages of his manuscripts concerning two books, ‘On praxis’ and ‘On truth’, have been confiscated.

I should like to know whether all this is true. If it is true, I should like to know whether it is in agreement with our laws. If it is not in agreement with our laws, what can I do as a citizen of this country so that the adherence to the law may be restored. If it is in agreement with our laws, what legal means are open to me to demand such change in our laws that this kind of treatment of a citizen of our republic might be prevented.’

The Deputy Editor Jaroslav Kořínek replied: ‘I am confirming the reception of your letter of 4. 7. 1975 and informing you that we cannot give you any further details concerning the case of Karel Kosík … We cannot express any views concerning it, for it is within the area of competence of the state organs concerned with it.’

‘My Correspondence with Rudé Právo‘ was published in the Samizdat Petlice in 1975, and it can be read in full on my website

Someone is obviously ‘playing’ with my notebook. I sent both these texts to Dr Kryštof Boháček, who replied telling me that I had chosen a wrong date for my ‘Three days’, for on 16 – 18 November there would be no students at the Faculty of Arts. I replied that the dates are of importance concerning my ‘Celebration and Protest’; it is meant to be a symbolic act. I informed him that in the last two years all my work is concentrated on my blog, and that a number of people begin to find my work important. For when I look for ‘Plato’, ‘Plato’s Phaedo’, ‘Plato’s Republic’, … Bertrand Russell on Google, I find there references to my latest contributions concerning these, and if I click on a given heading, it takes me to the relevant posts on my blog: ‘In the last few weeks my blog got “mad”; the statistics shows 150 pageviews a day on average. By far the greatest number of visitors is from the USA, then Britain, then France, then Germany. Very rarely the statistics records any visits from the Czech Republic. Would you be so kind and look on Google at ‘Plato’ etc. and write to me, whether you find there references to the relevant posts on my blog? (At the given moment, the statistics shows 19. 234 pageviews overall.)’

I have been waiting for his reply in vain. The email Kryštof Boháček sent to me and the email I sent to him have disappeared from my notebook.

I addressed a similar request to Dr Josef Moural, and have been waiting for a reply in vain. My correspondence with him too disappeared from my notebook, but in his case not without a trace. I found the beginning of my email to him in my Inbox:

‘Milý Josefe [Dear Joseph],
mám k Tobě prosbu [may I ask you a favour]. V posledních dvou letech se veškerá má práce soustřeďuje na můj blog [During the last two years all my work has been focussed on my blog]. Zdá se [It seems], že si aspoň pár lidí uvědomuje význam toho [that at least a few people begin to realise the importance], co dělám [of my work]. Když si na Googlu najdu Bertranda Russella [When I find on Google Bertrand Russell], naskočí mi tam [I find there] 
11 Oct 2016 - From Bertrand Russell on Plato's Phaedo and Meno to my forthcoming protest in Prague Russell writes in his History of Western Philosophy that in the Phaedo and …

když si najdu 'Plato' [when I find ‘Plato’], naskočí mi [there appears]
3 days ago - Plato's Seventh Letter, Phaedrus, and Laws Plato says in the Seventh Letter that Dionysius had supposedly 'written about what he heard from me' ( gegraphenai ...

The request I addressed to these two Czech philosophers has become pointless. In the last few days I put on my blog three important texts: A discrepancy‘ between Republic V and X, with a glance at the Parmenides“ (1. 10.), More on the discrepancy‘ between Republic V and X (2.10), Yet more on the discrepancy‘ between Republic V and X“(3.10) . In these texts I have shown that the late dating of the Phaedrus distorts our perception of the Republic, Plato’s most important work. When I find on Google ‘Plato’ and ‘Plato’s Republic’, the only information I get refers to my previous, several weeks old posts. It appears that Google has stopped informing about my work its visitors interested in philosophy.

This Monday I put on my blog “Socrates in Plato’s Republic X, in Xenophon’s Symposium and Memorabilia – contrasted with Socrates in Republic V”. I have now (Wednesday November 9, 2016) looked on Google on ‘Plato’ and was pleased to find:

Socrates in Plato's Republic X, and in Xenophon's Symposium and ...
2 days ago - Socrates in Plato's Republic X, and in Xenophon's Symposium and Memorabilia – contrasted with Socrates in Republic V Socrates says in Republic X that 'the …

In the days of November 16 – 18 I was in Prague, but I did not find strength to celebrate and protest in front of the Faculty of Arts.


In the evening of November 16 I gave a talk on Plato to students at the Faculty of Humanities at Charles University in Prague. I have greatly appreciated this opportunity to rethink Plato with Czech students, and I am grateful for it to Marie Pĕtková, the Dean of the Faculty.

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