Aspects of the Development of Modern Turkish Academic Philosophy

by: Roman Seidel

9. Juni, 19.00 (7:00 pm CET) via zoom (Bitte um Anmeldung/please register under:
Aspects of the Development of Modern Turkish Academic Philosophy
Prof. Dr. Zeynep Direk (Koç University, Istanbul)
The Ideal of Turkish Modernity in Turkish Philosophical Humanism

Prof. Dr. Christoph Herzog (University of Bamberg)
On the Institutionalization of Academic Philosophy in the Republic of Turkey (1930s to 1970s)

The Ideal of Turkish Modernity in Turkish Philosophical Humanism Philosophical anthropology and value theory in the Turkish philosophical scene have been ardent philosophical buttresses of Turkish modernity. Inspired by Nicolai Hartmann and Max Scheler and, Turkish philosopher Takiyettin Mengüşoğlu and, his pupil, Ioanna Kuçuradi created an academic tradition, which I shall call „Turkish philosophical humanism,“ which influenced various generations of Turkish philosophers.
Ioanna Kuçuradi, in particular, played an important role in institutionalizing this tradition. Her value theory in ethics was grounded on Menguşoğlu’s ontological anthropology, which was enrooted in Mengüşoğlu’s interpretation of Hartmann. For both Mengüşoğlu and Kuçuradi, philosophical anthropology (ontology) is the fundamental ground of all philosophy: For example, Betül Çotuksöken’s recent work claims to invent the notion of „anthropontology:“ This neologism is, in fact, a reiteration of what I identify as the fundamental tenet of the Turkish philosophical, anthropological tradition, namely, every philosophy has a conception of man and an understanding of „moral value“ that, implicitly or explicitly, accompanies its concept of man. In my talk I will not engage with the anthropologization at work in this tradition. I will inquire into the specific elements of this ontology and ethics that portrayed a philosophical and political image of the ideal citizen of modern Turkish Republic. Turkish philosophical humanism stressed that to conserve the value of human being the constitutional law must be revised, changed, and improved from an ethico-philosophical perspective. Moreover, to preserve the principles at the foundation of the Turkish State, it suggested that the employees in State institutions should be educated in philosophy and ethics. The secular personalism of Kuçuradi’s value theory, her concept of individual agency reflects best the new model of secular citizen that the political system aimed at nurturing. It required a new definition of human being, that can break with the collective and hierarchical social forms, which absorb in anonymity the individual as a decision maker and actor.

On the Institutionalization of Academic Philosophy in the Republic of Turkey (1930s to 1970s)

Philosophy as an academic discipline had already been present in the late Ottoman Empire and was inherited by the Republic of Turkey. When the Darülfünun was dissolved and changed to Istanbul University in 1933, the German philosopher Hans Reichenbach was put in charge of the recreated department of philosophy. However, his vision of a thoroughly neo-positivist philosophical agenda for the new nation state did not materialize. Philosophy at Istanbul University became deeply influenced by German philosophical traditions. When philosophy was implemented in Ankara University in the 1940s, it was the French model of academia that was prevalent. However, philosophy in Ankara University acquired an emphasis on the history of science in the Islamic World. Philosophy, on the other hand, was strong in the Theological Faculty of that same university.
While Reichenbach had been unsuccessful in his attempt in the 1930 implementing his vision of analytical philosophy in Istanbul in the 1930s, modern logic and analytical philosphy struck root during the 1960s at the newly founded Middle East Technical University in Ankara where, however, philosophy was not properly institutionalized as a department.
These – and other examples – demonstrate that, although structural and political factors at times had a strong and undeniable impact on the institutionalization of academic philosophy and even on its basic orientation, in the end philosophers and their thinking proved unprojectable and unpredictable showing a distinct sense of autonomy (“Eigensinn”).