The history of phenomenology in Romania


The history of phenomenology in Romania can be divided into four major phases:
1. 1918 – 1948; 2. 1948 – 1963; 3. 1964 – 1989; 4. after 1990.

In the 19th century, at the beginning of the modern period, Romanian scholars were generally inclined to choose France for their studies abroad. This preference was mostly the result of the close relations existing between the two cultures as well as of the affinity between the French and Romanian languages, which shared a Romance origin. After 1918, Nae Ionescu, who had obtained his doctoral degree in philosophy in Germany, mentioned phenomenology in his lectures on metaphysics and logic. Ionescu was a popular figure with his students, of whom some, like Mircea Eliade, Emil Cioran, Constantin Noica, etc., came to be known as the golden “generation of 1927”. Several of Ionescu’s disciples later worked with Husserl and Heidegger in Freiburg. One of them was Walter Biemel, who became a well known editor, interpreter, and translator of the two German philosophers. Biemel was also the first to introduce the name of Heidegger in Romania and to provide the earliest Romanianversion of his philosophy in 1943. Another Romanian thinker was Constantin Floru, who had begun his doctorate in phenomenology in Paris and afterwards, in 1928, went to Freiburg to study with Husserl and Heidegger. In the 30s he published several papers on phenomenology in reviews and collective volumes. The remarkable History of Modern Philosophy in five volumes in honour of Ioan Petrovici (1938), a distinguished Romanian philosopher, included special chapters on Husserl, Heidegger, Scheler, and Hartmann. Subsequent interest in phenomenology was illustrated by several obituary notices for Husserl and by a set of lectures held by Nicolai Hartmann at the University of Bucharest in 1943. After this time the interest shifted from Husserl to Heidegger.

1948 – 1963 / 1964 – 1989
Between 1948 and 1989, the dominant philosophy in Romania was dialectical materialism. Under these circumstances, phenomenology as well as existentialism were considered to be idealistic philosophies of the bourgeoisie and consequently forbidden. Since 1964, however, following a certain liberalisation in the cultural life, phenomenology came to be mentioned again. Three categories of scholars were concerned with it:
(i) First, there were the university professors who had an official position and whose attitudes ranged from open ideological critique to various forms of theoretical compromise.
(ii) Then, and more important, there was contribution to phenomenology made by the philosophers of the older generation, who were allowed to publish their works and translations. Of these, Constantin Noica deserves special mention. Considered by some to be one of the most significant Romanian thinkers, Noica was a friend of Emil Cioran, Eugene Ionesco, and Mircea Eliade. After his release from prison, Noica elaborated an original conception in which Kantian theory of knowledge and Hegelian dialectics combined with Heideggerian inquiry into the philosophical potentiality of language. Since the 1960s, the main interest in phenomenology in Romania focused on Heidegger. In 1967, Nicolae Tertulian published an interview with Heidegger. Later, 1982 and 1989 two of Noica’s students, the philosopher Gabriel Liiceanu and the philologist Thomas Kleininger translated together a selection from Heidegger’s interpretations of art and from Wegmarken.
(iii) Finally, Heidegger became interesting not only for philosophers, but also for poets. This was the case of Ioan Alexandru, for example; he wrote enthusiastically about the former’s seminar on the Pre-Socratics, which he had attended in 1968; he also translated from Heidegger.
In addition to these categories, mention must be made of the contributions of the Romanian exile: Mircea Eliade, Jorge (George) Uscatescu, and Benjamin Fondane. In 1970, together with the Romanian emigration, Uscatescu organized a symposium on Heidegger at which philosophers from Romania were also invited; the papers were afterwards published in Madrid.

after 1990
After 1990 Romanian philosophy includes several main streams, such as phenomenology, analytical philosophy, hermeneutics, and postmodernism. At the beginning of the 90s phenomenological works by authors previously forbidden were published for the first time. Two such contributions belong to Mircea Vulcanescu and one to Camil Petrescu. The former was one of Nae Ionescu’s assistants and a minister during the war, died as a political prisoner in the50s. He tried to work out a specifically Romanian ontology based on the language of popular literature. In his turn, in a manuscript preserved in the Vatican Archives until 1990, Petrescu made a number of suggestions to Husserl’s philosophy, particularly concerning individuality.

The main Romanian university centres of phenomenology are located in Bucharest and in Cluj Napoca. In Bucharest Prof. Gabriel Liiceanu developed an almost exclusive interest for Heidegger among his students. In addition, the publishing house, whose director Liiceanu is, edited several translations in phenomenology, mostof them by his former students. In 2000, two of his doctorands, Cristian Ciocan and Gabriel Cercel, founded the Romanian Society for Phenomenology and its journal, Studia Phaenomenologica, and, in 2002, the CSF, Centre for Research in Phenomenology at the Faculty of Philosophy of the University of Bucharest. In its turn, the University of Cluj Napoca has been offering a master degree in phenomenology and French philosophy since the middle of 1990s. Also in 2002 University of Cluj, Babes-Bolyiai, founded CECAF, Center for Applied Research in Phenomenology, coordinated by Virgil Ciomos, Ion Copoeru and Ciprian Mihali.

[original  text by Madalina Diaconu]