Czy liberalizm jest moralny? Szkice z polskiego liberalizmu


Krystyna Rogaczewska
Uniwersytet Wrocławski, Wrocław


Polish liberalism is a fruitful area of scientific exploration, as it still has not been comprehensively described. There is a conviction that liberalism was impossible in Poland. This is both true and definitely false. It is true that liberalism in the Poland in the practice of social life was indeed marginal. However, it is not true that there was no liberal reflection. From the eighteenth century until the Second World War, there is a lively liberal trend in relation to theoretical reflection. The study of the intellectual achievements of Polish liberals of the last two centuries is a very inspiring task, because on the one hand one may see the reception of Western European social and political thought, on the other, what is original and native. Liberal reflection in Poland was associated with the Catholic tradition, in it one may find many references to the philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas. That is why, when dealing with issues of liberal ethics, it cannot be identified only with utilitarianism. The essence of the problem is to capture all sources of influence, even unconscious ones, which are transferred in the form of archetypes. It is necessary to situate ethical values in a historical, cultural, social and religious context. Catholicism plays a special role here, as it has influenced Polish spiritual and intellectual culture for centuries. The influences of Polish philosophy cannot be ignored in the long perspective, either, because the products of the human spirit and intellect, such as facts or historical events are not subject to periodization. Studies on Polish liberalism also require consideration of the social and economic environment. A relatively large group of nobility and serfdom which had been functioning for centuries - these are factors that determine not only the direction of progressive thought but also the one that opposed any changes. Polish liberals, starting from the end of the 18th century, somehow contributed to first conservative views, then to socialist and communist ones. Another factor determining the field of interest of liberals was the enormous economic backwardness, compared to the countries of Western Europe. That is why economic issues were in the mainstream and it was liberal economists who took up ethic issues. They were guided by the thought that poverty is not a virtue and does not ennoble man - on the contrary, it strips him of dignity, the essence of humanity. Thus, economics and ethics are two fields which are inextricably linked. Moral conduct gives a chance to improve one’s life, and raising the level of satisfying one’s needs strengthens moral feelings in people. The indicated relationship was considered in the spirit of individualism, because only the individual, an empowered person is endowed with reason and freedom. Furthermore, only the individual is responsible for his actions, because only he makes decisions. Thus, attributing moral features to social groups or nations was considered as unauthorized and devoid of content. The basic catalogue of values formulated on the canvas of individualism concerned freedom, ownership, equality, tolerance, and self-determination. These were the values found in both Polish and European liberalism.


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December 10, 2019

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