Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Czech Republic, philosophy in

1 Early period
2 From the National Revival to 1918
3 From the foundation of an independent state

Translated by G.R.F. Burša


Czech Republic, philosophy in

The foundation of the University of Prague in 1348 contributed significantly to establishing Bohemia as a centre of philosophical thought. The main philosophers and theologians from the University favoured the Platonic tradition, and from this position they criticised corruption in the Church. The most important representative of this trend was Jan Hus who followed the teaching of John Wyclif in the spirit of rationalism and humanism. His ideas became an ideological base for the anti-feudal Hussite Revolution in the fifteenth century and the later Czech Reformation. Theoreticians on the extreme wing of the Revolution held a natural worldview, opposing the notion of transcendence. Social thinking in this era found expression in Petr Chelčický, who preached a strict pacifism and a classless society. The Revolution broke the power of the Church’s ideological monopoly, and had a positive impact on the development of Czech society for the following two centuries. The atmosphere of relative tolerance allowed Renaissance thinking and Czech Reformation rationalism and humanism to enrich each other. This tradition culminated in the work of Jan Amos Comenius, who aimed to improve social relations through rational enlightenment and education, promoting harmony and justice for the development of all humankind.

After 1620, Czech spiritual life was paralysed for many centuries by a forced anti-Reformation and the emigration of many of the country’s leading intellectuals. A revival started only at the end of the eighteenth century. František Palacký, inspired by the neohumanism of his era and by the Czech Reformation, formed a new philosophy of Czech history. B. Bolzano achieved impressive results in philosophy of science and logic, while A. Smetana created an independent variant of the philosophy of identity. In the second half of the nineteenth century Herbartism became very influential, contributing to social psychology and aesthetics.

The most important representative of modern Czech thinking is T.G. Masaryk, creator of a philosophical concept of democracy understood in the context of a humanistic world view. Masaryk’s philosophy has been followed by many philosophers and theologians in the twentieth century. In the period between the wars, important concepts based on structuralism were created by J.L. Fischer (philosophy, sociology), J. Mukařovský (aesthetics), V. Příhoda (psychology, pedagogy), and many linguists. J. Patočka contributed to the development of phenomenology with his concept of the natural world. In opposition to ‘school’ philosophy L.Klíma preached extreme subjectivism and individualism. Non-dogmatic Marxists wrote internationally regarded works. Well known in analytical philosophy and modern logic are the achievements of L. Tondl, O. Weinberger, K. Teige, R.Kalivoda and K. Kosík and P. Tichý.

How to cite this article:
ZUMR, JOSEF (1998). Czech Republic, philosophy in. In E. Craig (Ed.), Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy. London: Routledge. Retrieved June 18, 2021, from

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