Interview with Bruno Ćurko (Croatian Philosophical Society)

Bruno Ćurko is member of Croatian Philosophical Society, fellow of Institute of Philosophy, assistant lecturer at Osijek University, head of Croatian IPO delegation

The interview was prepared via e-mail in the period of February-May 2008 by Attila Pató, member of Hungarian Philosophical Society, head of Hungarian IPO delegation, visiting lecturer at Szeged University.

PA: Let me congratulate you first of all on the successful organization of the 3rd World Philosophy Day, held in Zadar, 16th November 2007! If we have a look at your activities, it is rather clear that there is an excellent network in activities in philosophy at national and international level in Croatia. Let us just mention in the first place the organization of Frane Petrić Days, or the other major event, the UNESCO / World Philosophy Days. It is worth to note that you are also active at international level, especially involving new web-based ways in communication. Here I think of Philosophy Pathways, or Euroclassica and perhaps you can add even more in here. All the information we can find on internet may allow us to think that the successful work is embedded in a well-articulated co-operation of different partners. There must be good working relations among the related institutions, e.g. the Institute of Philosophy, the Departments of Philosophy at the Universities of Zagreb, and Zadar, including also secondary schools and other potential partners. We should not forget either that your home-town, Zadar is situated on the Dalmatian coast of the Adriatic Sea with a historically long tradition of international communication and distinguished intellectual life.
BĆ: First, thank you for the congratulations. We are celebrating 5 years of the World Philosophy Day, until 2005 known as UNESCO Philosophy Day. We are the Zadar Philosophy Circle of the Croatian Philosophical Society. The core group at the Zadar Circle is based on my friend Josip Ćirić from the Department of Philosophy at the University of Zadar (president), and me (vice president). The core consists also of Estella Petrić-Bajlo from the Department of English language and literature and Ruža Kovačević from City Television. During the last five years we have held 27 lectures and three philosophical workshops with lecturers from Zadar, Zagreb and Split. The organization of these five Philosophy Days (http://personal.unizd.hr/~jciric/sdf.html) is completely voluntarily, without sponsors or subventions of any kind. We have only had some help from local firms or tourist agencies for meal and accommodation for our guest lecturers. Perspectives however seem to be more promising in 2008: the Croatian Philosophical Society will publish our book >Five years of celebrating UNESCO/World Philosophy Day in Zadar<. There will be abstracts of each lecture and 10 full articles from the Days, as well a report on the history of our activities. The volume will be also accompanied by an interactive CD about the Days, with pictures, clippings, presentations.We have already started some preparations for the World Philosophy Day in 2008. This year we have ambitious plans to coordinate the celebration of the Philosophy Day in all parts of Croatia with the central event in Zadar. Still, if we acquire some support, we plan to coordinate celebrating philosophy day in the whole region. We hope that we will have substantial cooperation with our Hungarian friends. I must say that Zadar Philosophy Circle also organizes other events, too. On 28th November 2007, in collaboration with the University of Zadar (http://www.unizd.hr/) a national symposium was celebrating the 500 years anniversary of Speculum Astronomicum, written by Fredericus Grisogonus, a scholar in medicine, one of the most significant philosophers from Zadar (http://personal.unizd.hr/~jciric/grisogono500_e.html). There were other workshops organized as well: Josip Ćirić lead philosophical workshops with his students, I did the same with my high school students..Yes, in fact I can say that we articulated co-operation of different partners as well: with professors from sociology, psychology, history, Russian language and English language departments from the University of Zadar. We have a good cooperation with the Institute of Philosophy in Zagreb (I'm the employee of this Institute), the departments of philosophy at the University of Split (http://www.ffst.hr/), the University of Zagreb (http://www.ffzg.hr) and also at the University of Osijek(http://web.ffos.hr). On the other hand I should also mention that there are no regular connections of secondary schools and departments of philosophy. I try to activate high school pupil in Philosophy day, especially students from my former schools. We just enjoy working in philosophy and in promotion of philosophy. Zadar is a three millennia old town with a long tradition in the international communication as well as in the intellectual life indeed. We are just a small Circle having the primary intention to establish philosophical thinking in our social environment in Zadar right now. In order to promote our work and our ideas we are also very focused on the possibilities of Internet as the basis of contemporary communications. That's why I wrote a few articles for Philosophy Pathways (http://www.philosophypathways.com/). In my opinion, newsletters or Internet journals like Philosophy Pathways are very good virtual places for exchanging ideas as well for communication with the people all around the world with the same scientific interests.  Euroclassica (http://www.euroclassica.org/) is a similar virtual place for teachers of Latin and Greek from all over the Europe. I'm still a Croatian national web-master for Euroclasicca, but I don't think I've been very effective in encouraging people to communicate this way. Maybe some ideas from philosophy teachers.
Let me say something more concerning the Days of Frane Petrić. The Croatian Philosophical Society (www.hrfd.hr) organizes the event the Days of Frane Petrić on the island of Cres for the last 16 years. Frane Petrić (Franciscus Patricius, 1529-1597) is a renowned Croatian Renaissance philosopher from the city of Cres. The Frane Petrić Days serves with two international symposiums, usually one of them with a changeable main subject. Last year the subject pointed to Human and Culture, this year we will attend Philosophy and Globalization. The accompanying symposium has always been held with the regular annual topic: Petrić and Renaissance Philosophical Tradition. I'm the secretary of the Programme Committee at this symposium. In 2007 we've had about 80 philosophical lectures in the frame of the two symposiums, 29 of themon Petrić and Renaissance partfrom the USA, Bulgaria, Italy, Slovenia, Germany, Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well form Croatia. You may find more information at our web-site: http://www.ifzg.hr/ravnatelj/2008-Petric%20i%20renesansne%20filozofske%20tradicije-poziv.pdf)

PA: Gratefully thanks for your answer! Reflecting upon the variety of programs and activities, also having in view that you are a member of the Institute of Philosophy, it would be interesting in general the way you would describe the philosophical life in Croatia. We have thus seen that the cultivation of local and national traditions gain strong accent in the program organization. On the other hand the Philosophy Days for example have a specific ambition - as we read it - "to establish a philosophical thinking in these times in our social environment". Let me briefly formulate my question like this: personally you and your colleagues seem strongly affiliated toward young generations and also toward understanding contemporary phenomena in philosophical ways, e.g. discussing topics such as the aesthetics of rock music, phenomenology of fashion, anthropological communicology etc. Shall we see all this as a specific "Zadar way" in philosophy, as a somewhat unique "colour", probably well-situated in the national network, or perhaps this attitude is rather general in your country, and it is not so much specific. Please, how would yourself characterize all this intentions in the frame of the philosophical life in Croatia, as for institutions, journals, educational programs, public events etc.? Let me hope, you will not misunderstand my point of interest.
BĆ: A center of the philosophical activities in Croatia is in Zagreb, with the Academy Institute of Philosophy and the head office of Croatian Philosophical Society. There are three Colleges to study philosophy at, among which the Faculty of Philosophy is the most distinguished. The Croatian Philosophical Society, the greatest philosophical guild society in Croatia, also with the longest tradition and the most abundant activities, has celebrated its 50th birthday last year. The society has its own library, Philosophical Researches, with more than 140 registered volumes, 108 issues of our journal Filozofska istraživanja (Philosophical Investigation, http://hrcak.srce.hr/filozofska-istrazivanja), and about 40 issues of its international journal called Synthesis Philosophica (http://hrcak.srce.hr/synthesis-philosophica). There you may find also my favorite journal, Metodički ogledi (http://hrcak.srce.hr/metodicki-ogledi), devoted to the philosophy of education. Additionally, the Croatian Philosophical Society organizes international symposiums during the year: the Days of Frane Petrić has been already mentioned, another significant event is the Days of Bioethics in Lošinj, a traditional symposium beside the Annual Congress of the Philosophical Society in Zagreb. We also have a symposium in Split (since 2007) dedicated to the Mediterranean Roots of Philosophy (http://www.ffst.hr/razno/medkorfil/mfk.html). The Society also has its subsidiaries formed as philosophical circles among which the Zadar Circle was established at first, and probably it is the most active so far.
It can not be said that dealing with modern philosophical issues such as the aesthetics of rock music, phenomenology of fashion are strictly 'Zadar way' in philosophy. It is rather like a network of young scientists all over Croatia dealing with the modern philosophical tendencies beside their regular job. The modern philosophical tendencies in Croatia have been bashfully appeared in magazines and symposiums only, but they are definitely in growing. Last year it was my intention to gather 6 or 7 quality lectures of that kind for World Philosophy Day. Still, I could see rather sadly that these modern philosophical areas are not studied in Croatia and in the neighboring countries any more. More specifically, the majority of the books and almanacs about the aesthetics and philosophy of the rock music have been basically published in the Anglo-Saxon part of the world; although analyzing the problem of the poetics and aesthetics of rock music, it becomes more than clear how un-explored these areas are. In my free time I explore the poetics of about 30 rock compositions that talk about art. Here I try to evaluate the music in those compositions in aesthetical context, their connection with the lyrics etc.
The Institute of Philosophy (www.ifzg.hr) is a state institution with the task to explore the very abundant Croatian philosophical heritage as its primary goal. In my working hours I am mostly occupied with the Croatian philosopher Georgius Benignus (Juraj Dragišić). To be sure, there are many other Croatian philosophers involved in the research projects, also the persons who have relations both to the Croatian and the Hungarian heritage, let me mention just a name, Tranquillus Andreis.

PA: Having in view the cultural relations in historical background, it would be really interesting to take in evidence our common heritage. For example, in a historical perspective in literature we have the Zrínyi family, most prominently Petrus and Nikolaus in the 17th century. Or the famous representative of humanism, man of literature and science: Janus Pannonius. Also, you have mentioned Tranquillus Andreis... I am not sure, how far our common heritage is explored and recognized as such, namely as a treasury of common belonging to our neighboring regions. We may not forget that such personalities and achievements may also belong to the larger European culture. As far as my knowledge is able to explore, the last significant event in relation to Hungarian and Croatian common philosophical background would recall the famous issues of Praxis and the summer-semesters on the Adriatic island of Korčula, organized in the late 1960's. To be sure, long time has been passed since then. Perhaps you have a similar tendency that we may discern as well in Hungary: relatively strong affiliation for national traditions, however not strongly related to the neighboring cultures - perhaps due also to some sensitivities, regarded as consequences of unfortunate tensions in the past. At this point, as with regards to the present day Croatian situation in philosophy, we may also count with the heritage of Yugoslavia, and perhaps also with the break-up of that state, where Zagreb had a strong intellectual position...
BĆ: The future should bring a better cooperation between philosophers from Hungary and Croatia, but also from other countries in the region. That cooperation should be based on the scientific-philosophical interest, not on the ideology. The exploration of the national philosophical histories is very important, and it is also an area that gives us a great chance for the cooperation in our region. Some philosophers from our historical interweaving were Croatians, but they were active in Hungary, and vice versa; those people are very significant for both countries. Energy should not be wasted to prove the belonging of a certain philosopher to one national philosophical tradition exclusively, that energy should be spent to the exploration of those philosophers' works and similarly to the revitalization of their works. In that way our national philosophies, as well as our mutual heritage, will be consolidated. Unfortunately, I am not informed about some significant initiatives for greater mutual projects. Once again it is all about the individuals who represent more the exceptions than a rule. Although it would be natural for some philosophers involved in modern aesthetics in Croatia to cooperate with the colleagues in Hungary, to exchange ideas, to develop mutual works, projects... As an illustration, let me mention an interesting fact. It takes five hours to get from Zadar to our Northern University town of Osijek, and just an hour more to get to Hungary. These forms of cooperation are more than necessary for the survival and the development of our profession. In this respect a good example had been the Praxis Schoolthat was a kind of a connection among the philosophical elite of those times in this region. Their collaboration did historically yield in the philosophy of the 20th century. Today that kind of ideologically colored philosophical schools would not remain, but as it was already said, a collaboration of the philosophers with the same scientific affinities is not an option, but a very necessity. One of the initiatives will probably be joint celebration of the World Philosophy Day, initiated by my associate Ćirić and myself. Croatian philosophy is developing in a similar way as all the philosophies in neighboring countries. Thanks to the Croatian Philosophical Society, Croatia is abundant with international symposiums attended by the philosophers from various countries. Beside the already mentioned international scientific conferences organized by the Society, I must mention the symposiums related to philosophical topics at the Inter-University Centre Dubrovnik (www.iuc.hr). Zagreb is still the strongest intellectual centers in the region of the former Yugoslavia, and, in my opinion, there should be more such centers. I am convinced that by splitting a dominant intellectual center into small centers would bring better results.

PA: Having said all this, please, how would you estimate the international relations of Croatian philosophy? Especially I would be interested in two ways: namely, the relation to the main international trends and discourse. What orientations enjoy strong interest in Croatia? You have already mentioned bio-ethics, however as you have mentioned before, Anglo-Saxon orientations perhaps do not prove as strongest points. On the other hand, of course, would you please shortly summarize the institutional /intellectual relations of Croatian Philosophical guilds with other partners in Central- and South-East Europe.
BĆ: Perhaps the best known philosophical discipline in Croatia and in the region is probably Bioethics. In Croatia, a concept of >integrative bioethics< emerged and was adopted as a new concept by scholars in surrounding countries as well. The concept of the integrative bioethics has been developing through the institutional forms as well, with a major impact given by the annual conference entitled Lošinj Days of Bioethics. This conference, organized by the Croatian Philosophical Society has grown into a cornerstone institution of bioethical life and discussion in this part of Europe. Beside the conference itself, the scientific section hosts roundtable conferences which annually focus on some of the most current bioethical issues, student bioethics workshops, presentations of the recent bioethical publications as well. The Conference is held in the town of Mali Lošinj in June, and it gathers around 80 participants each year.  Thus it is no surprise that a Croatian city, Rijeka was selected as host for the 9th World Congress of Bioethics (http://www.bioethics2008rijeka.info/) which is to be held during the beginning of September in 2008. Thanks to the great effort given by scholars in the field of bioethics in Rijeka, hosting of this year World Congress of Bioethics is an acknowledgement of the Croatian impact on the development of bioethics in a global sense. This year the World Congress, beside the main congress theme, also embraces several satellite conferences dealing with different specific areas of interest in bioethical discourse. Another major point of bioethical development which has an important role concerning the vision of further development of bioethics in Croatia, especially in a context of international cooperation between countries of South-East Europe, is a Referral Center for Bioethics currently situated in Zagreb. This Center was formed on the initiative of scholars primarily from Germany and Croatia with the main goal of institutionalizing bioethical efforts of scholars from South-East Europe. This international cooperation is focused on a bioethical education as well through the Summer School of Bioethics organized for the postgraduate students interested in bioethics. This Summer School, altogether with other major bioethical events in Croatia mentioned above, as well with a numerous other bioethical activities, serve to Croatia with an important place on the world's bioethical map. As I have already said, a leading place for research in the national history of philosophy is the Institute of Philosophy in Zagreb. Analytic research with Anglo-Saxon orientations has its base at the Faculty of Philosophy in Rijeka. Continental philosophy might be viewed as predominant at other departments of philosophy in Croatia. A department with the longest such tradition is the one at the Faculty of Philosophy in Zagreb (http://www.ffzg.hr/filoz/). There is also an interesting tendency at the Split University Department of Philosophy (http://www.ffst.hr/odsjeci/filozofija/eng/program.pdf) where in the focus of interest lies the Mediterranean roots of philosophy connected with the Croatian philosophical and humanistic heritage. That is the subject of the annual manifestation held in every March since 2007, which gathers many researchers from Croatia and the neighboring countries. Zadar University Department of Philosophy used to be well respected and focused on analytical tradition, however recently the focus shifted toward Medieval and Christian philosophy (http://www2.unizd.hr/Default.aspx?alias=www2.unizd.hr/filozofija). I should also indicate to the young Faculty of Philosophy in Osijek, as the closest philosophical institution to the Hungarian border. As you have pointed in one of the questions to, I also do think that there is a certain philosophical atmosphere appearing within and with the philosophical circle from Zadar and its associates from all over Croatia.

PA: When talking about national and international networks in philosophical life, I would like to ask you, finally, about two more issues - both with interest to philosophical life, as well close to your activities. First about International Philosophy Olympiad - and last but not least, about the Philosophy Day held at Zadar! We have met for the first time at the IPO event last year in Antalya, Turkey, and it was much warmly regarded, that the Croatian team could join the IPO! Please, would you tell us shortly about the background of the philosophical competitions of high school students in Croatia! In what way a high-student may reach to the International Olympiad? The question is oriented toward the system of competitions, what sort of levels s/he has to pass with success, what are the principles, according to which the selection is carried out?

BĆ: There are competitions based on the most high-school subjects in Croatia, thus there is a philosophy competition that is held for the 7th time this year. There is also a competition in logic that will be held for the 11th time during the spring semester. This competition has a school level, then a county level, following which the best competitors are invited to the national level competition. The philosophy competition has three parts: dictionary inquiry, essay writing and a speech/verbal exposition. A literature for the philosophy is prescribed / given in advance. As you have already said, all the competitors at the national level have their chance to write their essays in one of the official languages of the International Philosophy Olympiad, and the best two authors may travel to the IPO. Following my initiative, our students have been competing at IPO since 2007, which is in my opinion one of the most important events in the philosophy lately, and also one of the best promoters of the philosophy among young people worldwide.
I believe that the national competition itself does not fit into the IPO's proposition, since the essay must not be written in a foreign language. A young team, gathered in the Teacher's Board of the Croatian Philosophy Society has made a new proposal of the competition that is a compromise between an "old" competition and the rules of the Olympiad. If this proposal will pass is yet to be seen. I do believe that our competition so far is very valuable, but the adjustment to the IPO rules is an inevitable necessity. A competition in logic is simpler, but not less demanding. It is based on the written exam consisting of very demanding tasks in the modern mathematical logic. There are about a thousand of students involved at all the levels of competitions each year.

Finally something more about the World Philosophy Day held at Zadar. As I have already stated, that is a project initiated by Mr. Ćirić and myself. We have been involved in this project for 6 years, and we are very satisfied. We are proud to have established cooperation with colleagues from other humanistic disciplines, such as language and literature, sociology, and psychology. Constant progress in the quality of our activities and the applicability of themes presented has been noted and commended by Zagreb University's PhD program, the Hungarian Philosophical Society, the American Philosophical Association, and FISP, the International Federation of Philosophical Societies. We do hope to extend our activities and to include our colleagues from other countries this year.

  1. This year plans include coordinating national celebration of World Philosophy Day which will include Zagreb, Split and Zadar: there will be a small tour, popular lectures and several workshops will be held. We're working on establishing a regional communication network for coordinating themes and activities considering the November's activities. We hope it will be a first step toward an intensive and fruitful cooperation between our countries.

PA: Thank you for the interview and finally let me wish you good luck for all your activities!


Böhm Károly


Lukács György


Hamvas Béla


Bibó István