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ON THE HISTORY OF ENLIGHTENMENT IN GREECE AND BULGARIA DURING XVIII AND XIX CENTURIES

Author: Rositza Dimcheva

Editor's Note: This monograph from author R. Dimcheva should more properly be called viz., "A critical essay on Ivan Seliminski's philosophical and socio-economic outlook", whatever it contains new and unexplored material on the eminent bulgarian scholar and revivalist. The Archives of Athens University were included as reference source, more particularly those which contain information from the period 1829-1839. These are facsimile materials of non-printed matter, handwritten manuscripts from translations and other unreferenced signatories collected in a syllabus; further, they are stored in the Archive of Athens National Library within files № 1222-1227. As to the containment and informative value of these essays, we should note that it brings out some interesting and untoward reminiscences on the Revival period in Greece and Bulgaria from the first half of the XIX century. The whole monograph should be reflected within context from the Greek science during the late Renaissance period in Europe and in the afterwards of the French Revolution from 1789. Thus the national element that Dr. Ivan Seliminski adheres to his translations and commentaries, furthermore are an indication of his purely bulgarian consciousness but expressed in the language and forms of the greek intelligentsia. More on this early philosophical system of Dr. I. Seliminski can be found in the text of the book and in the short resume presented bellow.

 

The present work deals with problems of the echo of the ideas from the European Renaissance in Greece, and via this one, in Bulgaria, a problem which is little explored until now. Universal character of these ideas, common to all the men, does not enter in contradiction with the national principle. The great social principles of the XVIII century strengthen the national claims of the Balkan countries for liberation. These principles become one of the salutary signposts of their spiritual rebirth. Although in the exposition one holds account to the fact that the Reformation represent a common European current, the idea which prevails there is the importance of France not only like factor for the development of the ideas of the XVIII century in the most radical plan, but also like propagator of the philosophical and scientific designs, as well as politico-social or official and legal theories. A particular attention is consecrated with the ideological currents preceding or according to the Revolution from 1789 materialism, utopian socialism, the school of the physiocrats, the movement of the ideologists.

The diffusion of the middle-class and liberal designs from Europe into the Balkans is envisaged and compared to the change which has occurred in the socio-economic relations and also from the point of view of the dependence of the social backgrounds, national and cultural. The author not only aims to mention the influences, but also to make establishment for the causes which influence the transformation of such a common European current like the Reformation, in a local current or national. The originality of this mental activity consists not in the insulation, but in the capacity of the people to make creative syntheses. And it is precisely this multiplicity of the forms, subordinated to the community of the leader principles, which is particularly attracting for the historian of the ideas.

The different aspect that the Renaissance acquire in Greece and in Bulgaria, in spite of the similarity of the conditions of the Ottoman yoke, shows that the philosophy and the ideology of the two countries inevitably carry the print of their social relations, their political problems, their national and psychological characteristics and their cultural traditions. While the progressive spirits in Greece seek a support in the philosophical designs, political and religious commensurate with Europe, the preserving of the Patriarchate and mediums find a support in the European reaction which was jubilant after the French revolution. The parallel established in the course of action, from the period at the end of the XVIII century and beginning of the XIX century in Greece with the national Revival process in Bulgaria has been conditioned by the following causes:

1) In consequence of the political and economic conditions unfavorable in Bulgaria, the processes of the national Revival started later.

2) For the period envisaged, one observes in Greece an ideological dash, while after the insurrection of 1821 the Greek middle-class gives up the ideals of the Renaissance, is combined with Patriarchy and directs oneself towards ideas which correspond against the interests of the masses and has its megaloetatic doctrines.

3) The double role played by Greece within the Balkan countries becomes more obvious when one analyzes the dramatic history of the adoption of same principles from other dependent European countries during the Renaissance and the ideology and psychology that was developed of the different social groupings.

4) The difficult fight of the Greek progressive movement for the explanation of the spiritual horizon in the direction of the noble social ideas of the XVIII century, throws also a light on the dangers concerning our social and national re-establishment and our resuscitation which come from the spiritual yoke of Phanariote in Bulgaria.

5) Quickly triumphing in Greece, the ideology of the Renaissance was adopted on our premises in a more democratic plan, and it has supported the increase in the statutory and cultural values by obtaining imposing results for the following generations.

The history of the ideas for the envisaged period begins in its most interesting stage, when the consciousness of a representative character from that time reflects with a particular clearness the spiritual needs which have started to mature and which have risen to a vision of remarkable universal value. The most general principles of the comparative analysis mentioned above, between the European Reformation and the Greek Renaissance, throws a light on the dimensions of the Bulgarian national Revival that comes afterwards. This ideas are concretized in the principal part of the works and philosophy of Dr. Ivan Seliminski. Released from the hellenistic mania of his educated contemporaries, Seliminski could be revealed most fully like representative of the international community, which has proven its value after the realization of the original synthesis between the national and social aspirations, between the major problems of philosophical knowledge and histories, etc. On the bases of a detailed documentation and with the factual knowledge unknown until now, the author of this monograph has revealed a narrative dealing with the penetration of the ideas of the Renaissance among the Balkan people and has analyzed the works and the philosophical ideas of Seliminski as an original Bulgarian branch of the century of the European Revival. The entire composition of the study is presented in a subordinate manner, with gradual complication of the problems, alike with the spiritual rise in Seliminski. Revealed are his orientation to the gnoseology and ethics, towards the sociology and the principal philosophical problems of his time.

Initially the early period of the intensive occupations of Seliminski with philosophy (1828-1839) are studied. To carry out this task, the author uses materials from the Archives of the Bulgarian thinker. The Archives were not studied until now and were deposited with the National Library in Athens. It was established that Seliminski translated the works of eminent French thinkers, like Holbach, Volney, Mably, etc. His translations are considered in connection with the Greek practice and in common with the European passion concerning such literary activity. Guided by a consciousness ethical and socially noble, Seliminski wants to socially connect the Bulgarians with the intellectual and the scientific truths that have moved the progress of the Western people. His scientific information includes the ancient and modern Greek philosophy, as well as the design of the leaders of the French Enlightenment from Voltaire, Montesquieu and Rousseau to Holbach, some ideas of the physiocrats, the school of the ideologists and the naturalists-positivists and some representatives of the utopian socialism. All these influences were taken in sight, when one stresses the importance of the French ideologists not only for the last period of the Greek Renaissance, but also for the orientation of the general philosophical and scientific universe of Seliminski.

The gnoseology and ethics are the first among philosophical sciences which draw the attention of Seliminski, because they bear out directly influence on the idea of the Bulgarian national Revival. He is initially engaged to establish the direct causes of the errors which paralyze the spiritual development and which block the assimilation of new ideas from the bulgarian people. Any original schemes which are driven from the early theses of Seliminski, subsequently are driven from his gnoseology which is presented with regard to the best knowledge of anthropology and the study of human spirit at that time.

The interest which carries this "ad interim" ethics view is caused by the major consciousness of the role of the moral fiber in the historical process. By force of innate gifts, from the experience of a long life and of a philosophical culture, Seliminski makes an appeal that has already been given a direction to the moral renewal started in Bulgaria, in the direction of an anthropocentric sight of the Universe and a civic liberal conscience for control of the feelings. The ethical philosophy of the Bulgarian thinker is analyzed not only in comparison to the process of release of the new European ethics from the theological challenge, but also compared to the consecrated fights that has influenced the development of a fashionable ethics in Greece, a country or social contradictions most narrowly connected with the questions of moral nature. According to the facts presented in the monograph, an analysis of the contribution of the Bulgarian author has been made, who adapts the European ethical ideas on a level national and patriotic, as well as social and civic.

Contrary to the religious doctrines of the "divine kingdom", the ethical eudemonic and social doctrine of Seliminski finds its support in the ideal of the one, the "kingdom of the men". By associating in an original way the theory of the physiocrats and some ideas of Saint-Simon, Seliminski discovers the sociological base of the removal of the political yoke, as well as of the spiritual: the failure of the social systems, which block the economic forces and whose structure of classes is not dependent on the production of work.

The paramount tendency in the ideology of Seliminski was in comprehension with the ever more transitory character of theological thought thorough the passes of its own time, just like one century ago the philosophy of the absolute values was transposed by the philosophy of the true positivist. This tendency is reinforced in parallel with the development of his philosophical knowledge and his advance in the exact sciences. It also gives the general orientation of the Bulgarian thinker towards a materialist design of nature. That, however, does not exclude certain idealistic theses, such as the opinion of the deists associated with the sober appreciations on the importance of religion for solution with the national problems. Conscious that the evolution of the Society is closely dependent with that of the Universe and more precisely with that of the organic matter, Seliminski arrives at a more consequent materialist positions than that of the representatives of the Greek Renaissance. Approaching the European designs of a philosophy of the anti-theologic history, the ideology of Seliminski is free from dogmas which accompany the thought of certain Greek intellectuals. One must not consider the originality of Seliminski like an absolute originality, but like a faculty to preserve and enrich his own personality, despite everything he loans from the others. Its aspiration towards the major sources of the human thought was always subordinate to the principal idea: to give a new philosophical and social direction to the Bulgarian national Revival.

***

 


ADDENDUM: Here is some links on the translated authors mentioned above,

P-H. D. Holbach

http://socserv.mcmaster.ca/econ/ugcm/3ll3/holbach/

C. F. de Volney

http://emotional-literacy-education.com/classic-books-online-a/ruins10.htm

 

Figure 1: Full-size photograph of Dr. Ivan Seliminski, from the Athens Archive.

(i). Dr. I. Seliminski was an active public figure and proliferate writer during the early phase of the Bulgarian Revival. However, little printed matter have remained from him and the only evidence for his life and works are narratives from the contemporaries with a large number of manuscripts contained in different archives.

 

 

Copyright 2006 by the author.