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Freedom At The Turn Of The Third Millennium


An International Conference, 5 May, 2000, Cracow, Poland



Session 1

Cultural Bonds among Central-Eastern European Nations after the Collapse of Communism: Reconstructing Traditional Ties or Building up Antagonisms?


Introductory remarks:


Prof. Zdzislaw Najder

Prof. Piotr Wandycz

Prof. Jan Kieniewicz

Prof. Jacek Wozniakowski

Henryk Wozniakowski


When the communist system was breaking down the common opinion was that so far limited and curbed contacts among citizens of Central-Eastern Europe would finally freely flourish, and research of past and present bonds among the nations of the region would be carried out without ideological control. The newly regained freedom was to be a springboard for the reconstruction of connections destroyed by totalitarianism. It seems, however, that people living in this part of the Old Continent do not remember how close and intimate those connections were in the past. Foreign cultural influences are frequently regarded as an embarrassing proof of one's own nation's weakness. At the same time national achievements are deliberately underestimated to avoid being accused of contempt for other nations. Foundations of national identity and state independence are often sought for in negative images of other nations and states, in distorted interpretations of common traditions, in pursuing short term interests and neglecting creation of stable forms of international co-operation necessary for the full overcoming of remnants of communism. Not only politicians but also intellectuals producing false and dangerous political conceptions are to blame. The opinion, however, that there is no other but antagonistic vision of traditional contacts among the nations in the region, promoted by theses authors, may be true, and, perhaps, these nations can achieve their integrity, unfortunately, in opposition to their neighbours.

Nevertheless, whatever the way of looking at the problem, we should agree that any debate on the past and future of our region has to be founded on truth, on reliable knowledge, and it needs courage in explaining and evaluating events and processes. The meeting of experts and authorities on cultural relations among nations in Central-Eastern Europe should encourage such a debate.


Session 2

Are we threatened by a "tyranny of freedom"?


Introductory remarks:


Dr Dennis O'Keeffe

Prof. John Skorupski

Prof. Chantal Millon-Delsol (in French)

Prof. Aleksander Smolar

Prof. Marcin Krol

Prof. Ryszard Legutko

Dr Milowit Kuninski


One of the most frequently expressed anxieties caused by the actual state of western civilisation at the turn of the 21st century is the fear of the expanding ideology of freedom. The societies of former communist countries (except some members of their spiritual and intellectual elites and not many average people) liberated from totalitarianism and imperial domination of the former USSR, became fascinated with religious, economic, political freedom, and freedom of expression. In the beginning they were not able to see that a false notion of freedom may turn liberty into serfdom: abuses of law in the name freedom and forced liberation from prejudices - moral principles.

The experience of liberty is positive. Liberty is foundational for unhampered progress of individuals and communities: it human dignity - the fundamental value of Christian and European tradition - can flourish; free people can express themselves as citizens, businessmen, and employees; they can create not only material wealth but also spiritual, intellectual and artistic values.

The experience of liberty is also negative, particularly in new democracies of Central Eastern Europe. The dissolution of the totalitarian ubiquitous state and the weakness of its democratic successor gave way to soaring ratio of crime. New democracies built on the ruins of totalitarianism have difficulties in creating apolitical civil service, efficient police and magistrates, and the law, which protects individual freedom and human rights, but in favour of culprits. Freedom of expression restored after long years of pre-emptive censorship and ideological control is regarded in certain circles as an intrinsic value. Those who protest and attempt at taking legal actions against its obvious abuses like dissemination of pornography, promiscuity, and violence in media are accused of obscurantism and pro-censorship attitudes.

It is worth thinking over what is the meaning of freedom at the turn of the century and the millennium. Are some aspects of its actual notion dangerous for the foundations of the western civilisation? What are the possible outcomes of removing limits of freedom in law, in arts, morals and customs? Are not abuses of freedom conducive to the escape from freedom - a longing for authoritarian or rather totalitarian political regimes? Should not we go back to classical philosophy of freedom, particularly to its Christian and classical liberal notions, which combine freedom with responsibility and free action within limits of moral and customary rules, the proper foundations of law? In fact strength and stability of western liberal democracies is rooted in freedom respecting rules of morals and law (freedom under the law).   

Theologians and philosophers who know the old tradition of conceptions of freedom will answer these important questions and will participate in the debate on freedom.

Organisers want to provide a forum for serious debate on contemporary dilemmas, and are convinced that the debate should be based on several principles necessary for the achievement of the conference purposes:

pursuit of truth - the main task of any intellectual effort

freedom of inquiry and expression - a value we cherish in particular after 11 years which have passed since the collapse of communism

respect for intellectual legacy of past generations - a source of inspiration to solve contemporary problems with which we are confronted

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