The history of the Faculty of Philosophy at UPJPII is connected with the history of the oldest Polish higher education institution, the Jagiellonian University. The present Pontifical University of John Paul II in Cracow, together with the centre for philosophical research operating as part thereof, can be traced back to the Faculty of Theology at the Jagiellonian University, founded in 1397.
Development from Aeterni Patris to the Second World War
Philosophical explorations have been pursued at the Faculty of Theology since its inception, but the beginning of particularly significant development dates back to the time of the encyclical Aeterni Patris (1879) by Pope Leo XIII. In those days Poland was partitioned and annexed by neighbouring countries (Russia, Prussia, Austria-Hungary). While Cracow was formally part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, it enjoyed autonomy, thanks to which Polish science and culture were able to keep developing.
Rev. Stefan Zachariasz Pawlicki, C.R. (1839-1916) acted as a pioneer of modern Christian philosophy, being in 1882 the first scholar to be appointed to the then-established Department of Christian Philosophy at the Faculty of Theology at the Jagiellonian University (the first Department of this type in Austria-Hungary). Rev. Pawlicki was one of the foremost Polish philosophers in the 2nd half of the 19th century, and his concept for the construction of modern non-scholastic Catholic thought proved to be of pioneering significance for the whole of Christian philosophy.
Both Pawlicki and his successors, e.g. the renowned historian of philosophy Rev. Konstanty Michalski, C.M. (1879-1947), or Rev. Jan Salamucha (1903-1944), a prominent logician, a philosopher and a representative of the so-called Cracow Circle, laid the groundwork for a philosophy attempting to show a coherent picture of modern culture and faith sensu lato. Both philosophers worked in the new reality, as in 1918 – after 123 years – the Polish nation regained their longed-for independence. Unfortunately, the German invasion of Poland in 1939 and the period of the German occupation during the Second World War disrupted the rapid development of the Cracow school of Christian philosophy (Cracow-based philosophers were, among others, imprisoned in the Sachsenhausen and Dachau concentration camps).
Difficult time after the Second World War
After the Second World War the situation was equally difficult – Poland came under the rule of the USSR. The most important goal was thus to preserve and develop the Christian thought in the times of the enforced and methodical atheisation of the Polish culture.
The year 1954 was particularly difficult, since the communist regime authorities made a unilateral decision to remove the Faculty of Theology from the Jagiellonian University. Still, the Faculty never stopped trying to regain its rights and continued its autonomous operation based on the Canon Law. Philosophical disciplines, which are of fundamental importance for the education of future theologians, were developed by such philosophers as Rev. Kazimierz Kłósak and Rev. Aleksander Usowicz.
Work of Cardinal Karola Wojtyła – John Paul II
In the 1970s the philosophical environment at the Faculty thrived mainly on the initiatives developed by Rev. Cardinal Karol Wojtyła, who attracted Christian philosophers as well as scholars, particularly physicists. The group of associates close to Cardinal Wojtyła included Rev. Marian Jaworski, Rev. Michał Heller, Rev. Józef Tischner, Fr Jan Andrzej Kłoczowski, Karol Tarnowski, Rev. Tadeusz Wojciechowski, Rev. Józef Życiński.
Thanks to Cardinal Karol Wojtyła’s endeavours, on 23 December 1976 the Congregation for Catholic Education decreed the foundation of the Pontifical Faculty of Philosophy. For a multitude of reasons – mainly of a political character – the Faculty of Philosophy was only allowed to operate as an Institute of Philosophy at the Pontifical Faculty of Theology in Cracow. Despite many difficulties, there were, among others, interdisciplinary seminars, during which a number of scholars discussed issues on the borderlines of philosophy, science, faith and art. The meetings held then resulted in, among others, the establishment of the Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies, and the foundation of the journal “Philosophical Problems in Science” (1978/1979).
Cardinal Wojtyła’s endeavours concerned with the establishment of a university could only reach fortunate fruition after his ascension to St Peter’s Throne. On 8 December 1981 John Paul II issued a motu proprio Beata Hedvigis, thus establishing the Pontifical Academy of Theology, comprised of three faculties, including the Faculty of Philosophy. The establishment of a Catholic higher education institution fully independent of the communist authorities was an unprecedented event in the whole of the communist bloc.
Faculty of Philosophy at Present
As of 1981 the Faculty of Philosophy has been officially operating as a independent academic unit. Its celebrated employees, such as Józef Tischner and Michał Heller, developed a modern philosophy based on the Christian spirit and the findings of the contemporary science and philosophy, keeping the neo-Thomist thought at a distance. The year 1989 brought profound political changes that encouraged the development of the institution’s activity, which resulted in the institution being elevated to university status, with the new name of the Pontifical University of John Paul II as of 19 June 2009.
Currently, the Faculty comprises 13 departments engaging in research and teaching activity that relates to the best traditions of Christian philosophy, while being responsive to the present-day challenges.
Also, the Faculty of Philosophy refers to its historical ties with the Jagiellonian University. In 2008 the Pontifical University of John Paul II and the Jagiellonian University founded the Copernicus Center for Interdisciplinary Studies. The founder and managing director is Rev. Michał Heller, who donated the Templeton Prize money to the activity undertaken at the interface between philosophy, science and faith.