Department of Political Philosophy and History of Ideas

Department of Political Philosophy and History of Ideas connect scientists who specialize in historical and philosophical research of politics. Despite the fact that philosophical research differs from historical research, scientists of both groups are connected through the philosophy of history and analysis of Lithuanian political thought. The larger part of the tradition of political thought in Lithuania cannot be called political philosophy by definition – political philosophy is a political theory. Scientists at the department are interested in the theoretical aspects of politics. The “History of Ideas” part refers to the traditional research of political thought – Lovejoy, Pocock or Skinner-type research of the history of ideas, Koselleck’s Begriffsgeschichte and Rosanvallon‘s research into the political. This department differs from its counterparts at the Faculty of History in its focus on the political thought. It also differs from departments of the Faculty of Philosophy in its focus on practical philosophy. There are no departments focusing on practical philosophy at the Faculty of Philosophy and as such this department fills an important role at the Vilnius University.

Over the last couple of decades, sociological research of politics in Lithuania took large steps forward and is now the staple of political science. At this point, it is possible to talk about the domination of political sociology over other forms of research. Unlike at the beginning of the post-communist era, political philosophy has no inherent advantage. In fact, political philosophers and historians of ideas are scattered, accepting of their lesser role and unable to find forms of cooperation. Some of the main problems that affect the situation of philosophical research are the lack of institutionalized and consistent discussion, lack of networking between scientists residing in different faculties and the inability of political philosophers to adapt to the behavioralism-centred environment, both within Lithuanian academia and internationally. These issues, combined with the lack of historical analysis of political thought in Lithuania, a topic, that seems to be of little interest to the Faculty of History, provide an interesting background for the Department to proceed from.

Short-term goals for the Department:

  • Creating a platform for the Department’s researchers and guest scholars to promote their research.
  • Organizing a yearly conference on political philosophy and history of ideas.
  • Cooperating with young scientists and PhD candidates from other departments and faculties.
  • Promoting scientific cooperation.
  • Promoting international scientific cooperation through partnering with foreign institutions.
  • Involving the Institute’s Master’s students in scientific research.
  • Promoting political philosophy and history of ideas as disciplines within Lithuania.

At this point in time, all of the Department’s researchers are occupied with their individual research projects, therefore further cooperation must be promoted gradually.

Research topics for the Department:

  • Politics and the self.

Citizens of modern Lithuanian (and other societies) often do not involve themselves in political action as it is not a part of their understanding of modern existence. The indifference towards politics and lack of analysis of philosophical questions of the relation between the self and politics have caused a serious rift where the two are seemingly irreconcilable. The analysis of political involvement is nowadays rarely connected with the self and these issues need rethinking. The transition from the self to the individual is an important topic for analysis.

  • Three strategies of accelerating political modernization: interwar period, Soviet years and the post-soviet era.

This research topic is aimed at understanding the three forms of Lithuanian political organization as well as analysis of ideas of political progress. Over the past two centuries, Lithuania had adopted three different forms of accelerating historical development – nationalism, communism and liberalism. Kosseleck’s ideas on teleological time provide grounds for analysis of modern historicism and the dependence of political thought on the understanding of the future.

  • The relationship between democracy and republic.

The modern tradition of Lithuanian political thought never paid significant attention to differences between the concepts of democracy and republic. Republican though has been largely ignored since the collapse of Lithuanian Great Duchy. Even so, interwar Lithuania was a republic and not a democracy. Modern Lithuania does not understand the concept of republic despite it having significant differences to the concept of democracy. The questions of the relation between republic and democracy are an important part of understanding political apathy within modern societies.

  • Contradictions of modern political life.

Ever since Georg Hegel, ideas provide grounds for analysis of their respective times. The life of a political society is a continuous process of denial. The citizens are in the eternal process of creating new forms of political existence only to find that they become obstacles for further change. In Hegel’s words, the geist is fighting against itself. This is also applicable to modern Lithuanian political life. Every new generation is forced to ask what obstacles are a part of its existence and politics. This topic focuses on finding destructive forces preventing the society from understanding itself.