About the role of the non-academic and non-institutional communication forms in classical philosophy

The role of non-academic noninstitutional forms of communication such as coteries, theoretical schools, literary salons in the history of philosophy. Analyzes of the involvement of prominent philosophers into the non-formal philosophical communication.

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National Technical University of Ukraine "Igor Sikorsky Kyiv Polytechnic Institute"

About the role of the non-academic and non-institutional communication forms in classical philosophy

Havva O. V.,

PhD student of Philosophy Department


philosophical communication history literary

This article demonstrates the role of non-academic noninstitutional forms of communication (such as coteries, theoretical schools, literary salons) in the history of philosophy. The factual background considering the involvement of prominent philosophers from VII century BC up to XX century into the non-formal philosophical communication is provided in this article. The importance of such communication is stressed out in the becoming of philosophical thought. By applying dialectical logic as methodology, we form a hypothesis about historical and logical necessity of noninstitutional non-academic forms of communication in the becoming of philosophy as a form of social consciousness. The reason for methodological development of application of non-institutional non-academic forms of philosophical communication is advocated for the conscious production of philosophical ideas, for example, in education.

Keywords: non-academic and non-institutional forms of philosophical communication, philosophical school, philosophical coterie, salon.

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Problem statement

There is a common belief grounded even in the scientific literature that the philosophy is the activity of separate individuals. However, just like any other human activity, philosophy was and still remains the collective activity, performed by the spirit as whole, even the spirit as it is. Considering that, there are no separate philosophies, but singular philosophical progress: we may either say, that it is one philosophy at different degrees of maturity: or that the particular principle, which is the groundwork of each system, is but a branch of one and the same universe of thought [3, pp. 22-23]. Hegel continues his thought with the statement that everything is but a moment of transformation from one thing to another, i.e. moments of inseparable connection between mediated and unmediated [3, p. 20]. The question lies in the nature of this connection and mediation, its distinguished forms and in our case - how it is reflected in philosophy as the form of social consciousness. The thinker lonely working in his own room is a social product, just like his room, building where he resides and even people serving to his needs. A philosopher as any separate individual does not develop the universal forms of human activity by himself, and cannot do so, whatever the powers of abstraction he possesses, but assimilates them readymade in the course of his own acquiring of culture, together with language and the knowledge expressed in it [2, pp. 284-285], he uses the fruits of intellectual labor of his predecessors and contemporaries found in books, essays, not to say about the actual philosophical discussions and conversations, lettering and so on.

The image of cabinet philosophers thinking about abstract conceptions or pointless observations can be proved wrong without leaving a cabinet. Although, some representatives of philosophy are entirely look like that caricature image, the most prominent achievements of philosophy were gained through direct or indirect collective efforts.

Relevance and aim

The interest for research is focused around the laws of becoming and development of philosophical ideas in collectives. It is actual due to recent trend for self-education at any level in school and university education likewise. This article presents numerous proves for the hypothesis that non-formal collectives of free philosophical thought played a significant role for the development of philosophy at its different stages.

Main part

It was obvious even for Diogenes Laertius to observe philosophy not as compendium of numerous viewpoints stated by separate thinkers, but as conglomerate of philosophical systems created by the freely formed collectives of like-minded persons, in other words, as philosophical schools. Philosophy, by Laertius, as it is starts from two schools: Ionian (from Anaximander to Theophrastus) and Italic (from Pythagoras to Epicurus) [11, c. 58]. These two schools represented chains of apprenticeship and heritage of ideas. Philosophers non-aligned to any school are called scattered and observed after all the others in his work.

Socrates was the founder of first philosophical club with a main method of philosophical thinking called dialectics. Plato's Dialogues clearly show the nature of socratic discussions: everyone could be invited on condition of being sincere in desire to find the truth and open-mindedness. The student of Socrates Plato and the student of Plato Aristotle founded their Academy and Lyceum as a kind of gymnasiums, that became to be the centres of the development of the scientific ideas of the time; such schools were founded later by Zeno and Epicurus. Historians in general has come to an agreement that Academia and Lyceum had not any analogues in VI - V centuries BC. They were found as educational institutions for cooperative exercises under the supervision of headmaster (scholarch) appointed by his predecessor or elected by school members. Each of these schools was situated in either public (Academia and Lyceum) or private place (Epicurus school at his home). School members were the people ready to devote themselves to longtime philosophical and scientific researches [9, p. 44]; Schools of Plato, Aristotle, Zeno, Epicurus were created as commonwealth or fellowship without any obstructions [7, p. 209].

Even during Pythagoras life it was said that he has met all of the main wise men at his time and acquired his knowledge from each of them [11, pp. 307-308]. Number of his students has reached 300 persons in Crotone only. They have created community similar to fellowship or order. However, Zhmud states that pythagorean societies were spread in dozens of cities in Southern Italy and later on in Greece, thus deeming collective exercises and central management impossible. It is unlikely that even in Crotone at pythagorean times exercises were regular and involved all of the members [9, p. 44]. Nevertheless, pythagorean societies were numerous and organized under the common goal - participation in political management. They have found numerous new pedagogical methods and approaches, in particular, they had not any scholarches.

Academia as form has played major role in Carolingian Renaissance. Schola Palatina was founded by Charlemagne at the end of VIII century on the example of Plato's Academia and has become the centre of cultural advancement. This idea of collective and governmental science has inspired creators of the first naturalistic communities in Europe or the first academies of science in modern meaning.... Later on this idea lied in the basis of Italian academies. Starting from the Renaissance, academies similar to Plato's one has emerged in different Italian cities. Mostly they were small coteries of philosophy, theology, literature and arts amateurs., among which Onoprienko names Accademia dei Lincei, Accademia della Crusca, Academia secretorum naturae, etc [13, pp. 18-19]. We have to stress that these academies had not much in common with modern Academies of science, which are complex and formal institutions.

Francis Bacon was not the member of any philosophical coteries, but his best friend was Thomas Hobbes, which has created philosophy based on Bacon's principles [12, p. 47]. Hobbes and Locke were consistent baconians. Berkeley was Locke's follower and Hume followed Berkeley, as Litvinova states. She continues: Locke was the founder father of all French philosophy in XVIII century. Influence of Bacon, Locke and Hume on Germany was revealed in Kant's philosophy. His critique of pure reason is deemed as the creation of German philosophy impregnated by English philosophers [12, pp. 6465]. Moreover, there were numerous evidences that the creation of European academies was considered by contemporaries as embodiment of Bacon's ideas. Francis Bacon himself thought that the work of scientists should be as consistent as the organs of living body. The main idea of communication between scientists was represented in that form. This thought has become dominant in the organization of scientific communities and academies of sciences [13, p. 18].

Although, Renes Descartes has valued scientific solitude, his hard life in Neuburg has made him fruitlessly try to find Rosicrucian Fellowship, which was considered as ordained into the real knowledge of things and aimed to enlighten the world and free science from superstitions [15, p. 183]. After 1625 in Paris coterie is formed around Descartes, gathering the most famous mathematicians, physicists and theologians of capital. His house hosted its own little academy with Descartes as its soul [15. p. 194-195]. The main ideas of Descartes' method were formed in Paris. During his Netherland solitude Descartes writes to his friend Balzac that he misses their fruitful conversations [15, p. 203-204]. It is worth to mention that correspondence with the most prominent thinkers at his time Descartes has continued for his whole life. Moreover, correspondence at that time was the main mean for communication among the thinkers and that is why we consider it as the significant form of nonacademic non-institutional philosophical and scientific communication. British encyclopedist and theorist of science John Bernal makes interesting observation considering scientists at Descartes' period: In history they are made to figure as being isolated; but in reality they were, because of their very small numbers, always in far easier and quicker contact with each other than scientists of today, with their vast numbers and the pressure, publication delays, and increasing military and political restrictions to which they are subjected [1, p. 288]. It provokes the thought that the means of communication have become much developed last years, but the quality of communication has not improved and scientists today are more disjointed than in times of scientific revolution.

Benedictus Spinoza has his own philosophical coterie, as Papern's book states: From the letter, considering Spinoza's life in Rinsburgh, we may know that there was coterie in Amsterdam learning philosophy under Spinoza's guidance. Among the other members there were L. Meyer and young medicine student Simon de Vries. Spinoza addresses their misconceptions in his letters and sends drafts of his own works [14, p. 41].

John Locke's becoming of philosophical viewpoint was influenced by that he during his study in Oxford has become closer with enthusiasts of new scientific approach opposing medieval scholasticism being dominant in English universities. So, Richard Lowe, supporter of experimental studies of diseases and the first to practice blood transfusion, inspires Locke to study medicine. Here in Oxford Locke becomes friend with Boyle and performs and discusses scientific experiments in collaboration with him. Boyle was the first to elaborate Locke's interest in philosophy of Descartes and Gassendi. After acquaintance and becoming friends with prominent doctor-pioneer Thomas Sydenham he starts to write a treatise De Arte Medica (1669), where he defends arguments for the experimental study of diseases [10, pp. 11-12].

Another founding father of English philosophy - George Berkeley - was a convinced coterie-man, as Bernhard Bykhovsky, known philosophy popularizer, tries to prove from the first pages of his book: In 1705 eight students of St. Trinity college in Dublin have formed a secret coterie to study new philosophy... The inspirer of this coterie was twenty years old George Berkeley [6, p. 15]. Furthermore, book states that Berkeley's student in Northern America was Jonathan Edwards. the most influential american theologian and philosopher-idealist of the first half of XVIII century, who asserted Berkeleian line of philosophy in this country [6, p. 25], while Berkeley himself in Boston was a member of literature and philosophy society [6, p. 24].

Even such coryphaeus of self-education as Leibniz has dreamed to become a member of Rosicrucian and alchemy society founded in Nurnberg; later on he become their secretary [16, p. 52]. In Paris Leibniz become acquainted with Antoine Arnauld and discusses philosophy with him; mathematical works of Pascal become a matter of research and competition; Christiaan Huygens, the inventor of pendulum, discoverer of Saturn's rings, becomes his friend and mentor in higher mathematics. Leibniz also contributed to foundation of society studying the history of German lands [16, pp. 197-202] and to creation of societies formed due to his conversations with Sophia Charlotte von Hannover, e.g. observatory and the Society of sciences in Berlin [16, p. 225].

All of the major artistic and scientific ideas in XVII century France were produced in salones, and in XVIII century - coffeehouses and restaurants. Jean-Jacques Rousseau was a denizen of such salones, hotels and aristocratic meetings. At some time meetings of Diderot, Rousseau and Condillac in Hotel du Panier- Fleuri has become especially fruitful. The three were united under Locke's philosophy. Condillac was working on his book Essai sur l'origine des connaissances humaines (An Essay on The Origin of Human Knowledge). Each has applied principles of Locke's sensualism towards his sphere of competence. Diderot at first - to criticism of theology, Condillac - to psychology and origins of knowledge, Rousseau - to social philosophy, or sociology and pedagogics. Soon Diderot, as in college, will make their homework, hint Condillac the main thought of his famous Treatise on sensations and Rousseau - his famous answer to Dijon Academy's question: whether the flourishing of arts and sciences helped the purification of morals? Akimova also declares that the content of Diderot's Penses philosophiques (Philosophical thoughts) was a result of his numerous friendly conversations in different cafes of Paris [4, p. 92]. Meetings at the salon of baron d'Holbach, where, according to Diderot, have gathered 20 thousands of people, including Grimm, Rousseau, Voltaire [8, pp. 21-24] soon has resulted in the creation of French Encyclopedia, a work of worldwide importance, which has played its role in the preparation of French bourgeois revolution. The authors of encyclopedia called their society Rpublique des Lettres, including Helvetius, d'Alembert, Buffon and others [4, p. 181]. The majority, if not everyone, of them were guests of different salones, requiring everyday meetings.

It would not be an exaggeration to say that all modern German culture arose from a Jena's intellectual club. In different periods this circle united Friedrich Schiller, Johann Fichte, Friedrich Schelling, Georg Hegel, Wilhelm von Humboldt, the brothers Schlegel, Goethe, Novalis and others. In it's turn Jena's club was spawned as a critic to German's Sturm und Drang school; so a lot of Jena's personalities stood at the foundations of the Sturm und Drang. And all of the founders of German philosophical idealism (excluding Emmanuel Kant) were in these circles, and their theories rose in a polemic.

It is well-known that there would be no marxism if young Karl Marx had never joined famous doctor's club at Berlin university visited by the main German freethinkers of that time. Marx has become acquainted with Bauer in Berlin where his father sent him to study. There an accident has united Marx with coterie of young hegelians, usually gathered at Doctor's club. This club consisted of associate professors, teachers, writers, among which, except for Bauer, were Friedrich Koppen, Marx's school friend, Rutenberg. Afterwards, when Marx has left Berlin, this coterie was joined by the future philosopher of anarchism Max Stirner [5, pp. 3-4]. By their views and general pathos of common goal young hegelians felt as heirs to XVIII century Enlightenment [5, p. 25].


Even brief acquaintance with the history of philosophy under the proposed angle doubts the existence of philosophy as individual occupation at any time. In fact it corresponds with the nature of thinking: the idea of thinking as immanent ability of individual was depleted at the Kant's times. In XX century collective forms of production of philosophical ideas have become obvious. Vienna circle and Frankfurt school are much more well-known than their separate members.

However, when somebody discusses philosophers as they are, connections between them have become mystified. The approach to history of philosophy at the angle of communication forms is not developed at the decent level. Ontological research of collective means of production of ideas is required. Different forms of communication (coteries, circles, even correspondence) will be considered as the modes of being of philosophical ideas, which world spirit finds in its own progress. We do not propose to interpret existence of non-formal forms of communication in philosophy as preliminary hypothesis, but to deduce these forms as immanent, prove their inner necessity. As for in philosophy, to prove means to show how the subject by and from itself makes itself what it is [3, p. 155]. This will be the content for our future researches. At the same time, understanding of researched forms of communication as necessary will lay the foundation for the development of corresponding methodological recommendations, in education for instance.


1. Bernal, J., 1954. Science in History. Volume One. New York: Cameron Associates.

2. Ilyenkov, E., 2008. Dialectical Logic. Essays on its History and Theory. Delhi: Aakar Books.

3. Wallace, W., 1892. The Logic of Hegel. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

4. Akimova, A., 1963. Didro (Diderot). Moskva: Molodaya gvardiya.

5. Baue'r, B., 2010. Trubny'j glas strashnogo suda nad Gegelem (The crack of the doomsday of Hegel). 2-e izd. Moskva: KRASAND.

6. By'khovskij, B., 1970. Dzhordzh Berkli (George Berkeley). Moskva: My'sl'.

7. Vipper, R., 1995. Ocherki istorii Rimskoj imperii (okonchanie). Rim i rannee khristianstvo. (Essays on the history of the Roman Empire (ending). Rome and early Christianity) Rostov-na-Donu: Feniks.

8. Dlugach, T., 1995. Podvig zdravogo smy'sla, ili Rozhdenie idei suverennoj lichnosti (Gol'bakh, Gel'veczij, Russo) (The feat of common sense, or the Birth of the idea of a sovereign person (Holbach, Helvetius, Rousseau)). Moskva: Nauka.

9. Zhmud', L., 1990. Pifagor i ego shkola (ok. 530-ok. 430 gg. do n.e'.) (Pythagoras and his school (c. 530-c. 430 BC)). Leningrad: Nauka.

10. Zaichenko, G., 1973. Dzhon Lokk (John Locke). Moskva: My'sl'.

11. Lae'rtskij, D., 1986. O zhizni, ucheniyakh i izrecheniyakh znamenity'khfilosofov (On the life, teachings and sayings of famous philosophers). 2-e izd. Moskva: My'sl'.

12. Litvinova, E., 1891. Bekon. Ego zhizn', nauchny'e trudy' i obshhestvennaya deyatel'nost' (Bacon. His life, scientific works and social activities). Sankt-Peterburg: Obshhestvennaya pol'za.


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