Sunday, January 15, 2012

Existentialism, Phenomenology, and Intellectual Responsibility: The Playwright & The Philosopher

Mark Edwards has a wonderful four-part (to date) series of posts on the late playwright, essayist and dissident intellectual Václav Havel ( (1936-2011) up at Concurring Opinions: Parts I, II, III, and IV. Havel was also the last president of Czechoslovakia (1989–1992) and the first President of the Czech Republic (1993–2003). I wrote a memorial post on Havel here. “The Philosopher” in the title is Jan Patočka. (Yours truly comments on several of the posts.)  

The image: On May 29, 1979, StB undertook a major police action against VONS members, subsequently ten of them were arrested and taken into custody. VONS is the Czech acronym for Výbor na obranu nespravedlivě stíhaných (Committee for the Defence of the Unjustly Persecuted):

“The committee was founded on April 27, 1978, by a group of Charter 77 signatories with the aim of following cases of persons facing various forms of state persecution, from police harassment to unjust prosecution in courts of law. Its members helped individuals facing persecution with obtaining legal representation and acted as mediators in acquiring assistance of a financial or other nature. Observing legal formalities, they addressed their communiqués to the Czechoslovak authorities, calling on them to take steps to rectify injustices perpetrated against individuals in the cases monitored. They also passed reports on the cases monitored to entities and persons abroad, from where this information was reported back to Czechoslovakia via the radio stations Radio Free Europe, Voice of America and the BBC. A number of VONS members were persecuted by the police and justice system for their activities, the most well known case being the legal process against six of its members in 1979. The vast majority of VONS communiqués were published in the samizdat bulletin Informace o Chartě 77 (Information on Charter 77). The Committee for the Defence of the Unjustly Persecuted was also active after November 1989, when it focused on amending the criminal code, calming the stormy situations in the prisons at the time, as well as, for example, on preparing a general amnesty and rehabilitation laws. Members of VONS also made efforts to purge the judiciary, but with minimal success. At their meeting of July 3, 1996, VONS members decided to suspend the activities of the committee for an indefinite period.”

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