Jan Patočka. Does History Have a Meaning?, 1975. Typescript
“Does History Have a Meaning?” is the third essay from Patočkaʼs most influential and famous work entitled “Heretical Essays in the Philosophy of History”. This oeuvre, compiling six essays of Patočkaʼs late philosophy of history, is considered by many authors to be Patočkaʼs most original work. “Heretical Essays” was published for the first time in Czechoslovakia as a samizdat in 1975 by Ludvík Vaculíkʼs publication Petlice and by Jan Vladislavʼs publication Kvart. In 1988, this text was published again in samizdat as part of the Patočka anthology “Archivní soubor Patočkových prací”. The first official publication in Czechoslovakia before 1990. Nevertheless, before then many foreign translations of this text had appeared, including the French edition from 1981 with a preface by Paul Ricœur and an afterword by Roman Jakobson. This work was also published in 1980 by the Czechoslovak exile publisher Arkýř in Munich. “Heretical Essays” was written concurrently with the cycle of Patočkaʼs lectures dealing with philosophy of science that took place secretly in Prague from September 1974 to June 1975. According to Ivan Chvatík, these lectures and “Heretical Essays” strongly influenced the Czechoslovak intellectual milieu and made Patočka an “important dissident” in the eyes of the Czechoslovak police. Lectures were initiated by the young Polish philosopher Krzysztof Michalski who had been corresponding with Patočka since 1973 and invited the Czech philosopher to write essays about his phenomenological conception of history for the Polish philosophical revue Znak. However, due to the political situation and censorship, only one of these essays, entitled “Does History Have a Meaning?” could finally be published in Poland (Cf. Jan Patočka. 1975. “Czy dzieje mają sens?” Znak, No. 11–12: 1396–1414, translated by Krzysztof Michalski). This essay is based on a lecture by Patočka in Prague in February 1975, in the atelier of Czech photographer Jaroslav Krejčí. Jan Patočka Archive possesses Patočkaʼs typescript of this essay with handwritten notes and corrections. This original typescript was discovered in 2005 thank to Czech philosopher and Patočkaʼs friend Jaroslav Kohout.
Jilská 1, 110 00 Praha 1, Czech Republic
- Kůželová, Michaela
- Vrtálková, Anna
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Frei, Jan , interview by Vrtálková, Anna , April 08, 2017. COURAGE Registry Oral History Collection