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Comenius’ Main Works

J. A. Comenius drew on the tradition of the Czech Reformation, the impact of the second Scholasticism reflected by Protestantism, as well as that of Paracelsianism, Renaissance Neoplatonism and natural philosophy (T. Campanella), and German Theosophy (J. Böhme). He was also inspired by the search for scientific methods (J. Aconcio, F. Bacon et al.) and by the teachings of Nicholas of Cusa. Comenius had good relationships with the Rosicrucians, too. From the 1640’s on, his work had been developing in constant confrontation with R. Descartes’ philosophy. It continued to be, however, one of the non-Cartesian alternatives in the 17th-century European thinking. Comenius concentrated his efforts at a structural reform of society in politics, welfare, religion and culture, including a reform of the educational system and knowledge. He wished to base his reform on a well-founded understanding of both the nature and social reality, which was supposed to be provided by The Pansophy (omniscience). In his ‘General Consultation on an Improvement of All Things Human’ he developed a metaphysical basis, due to which he is considered one of major consummators of Neoplatonism.


The structural reform of human matters was supposed to lead to a new age of mankind, which Comenius called fructus historiae (the fruit of history). One of his main presumptions was that of universal peace, friendship and cooperation of nations, which was to be promoted by a so-called Universal Diet (Assembly). Another similar body, called the World Consistory of Religions, should have overseen the reconciliation of denominations, while a multipurpose Board of Light was supposed to spread learning and develop knowledge. Due to his views, Comenius is considered one of the precursors of the idea of the United Nations and its institutions, as well as of religious ecumenism.


A severe critic of dualism, Comenius belonged to the most significant triadic thinkers of European philosophy. The term ‘structure’, used only marginally in the 16th and 17th centuries (e.g. in astronomy or biology), became an ontological category thanks to Comenius. The impact of his works is considerable. A group of scholars called Comenians, who participated in the establishing of the London Royal Society (1662), was founded in England during his lifetime. His work was also endorsed by G. W. Leibniz and influenced J. G. Herder. On the other hand, it was criticised by P. Bayle in his Dictionaire historique et critique (Rotterdam, 1697) that influenced opinions of many eminent figures of the Enlightenment.


In the 19th and the first half of the 20th century Comenius was recognized especially as a founder of pedagogical realism and a reformer of the school system and education. Recently, he has been appreciated chiefly as a thinker. Among Czech philosophers who were influenced by Comenius we find names such as F. Palacký, T. G. Masaryk, F. Drtina, V. Hoppe, J. Tvrdý, E. Rádl, J. Patočka, J. Popelová, and R. Kalivoda. As for foreign authors – it was, above all, Klaus Schaller, George Sarton, Erwin Schadel, Bogdan Suchodolski, Arnulf Rieber et al.


 

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