International Summer School
on Humanism and Contemporary Philosophy
(Moscow, Russia, 2005)
Probably, you, my reader, would like to listen to a lively story, rather than dwell in a heavy philosophical stuff or cold descriptions. You can count on it. I will try to slake your thirst for knowledge and new impressions in a relaxing and pleasant way. And who said it cannot be so? We can explore humanism in a variety of forms and manners. For instance, a bouquet of… dark red roses in your room… that’s what you thought of, didn’t you?
I see… But for this time it is a bouquet of humanist wishes. Have you ever played this simple, yet meaningful game? Then let me bring you back to the summer time…
Around us the splendid views of the old city of Moscow, the city of gold-domes, shining in the sun. The Kremlin, surrounded by red brick walls with towers, Red Square, the heart of Moscow, where you can stop for a while in front of St. Basil's Cathedral to listen to the echoes of past… and feel the glorious history of Russia in one glance.
Or you might find yourself crossing the interlacement of cosy lanes of the Old Arbat and willing to have a coffee-break or maybe a light lunch, turning into a hearty meal quite often, especially when you are trying Russian “shi”, “pelmeni”, “vareniki” with curd or cherry. Or maybe one of those delicious traditional pies (we call them “pirogi”) with meat, mushrooms, berries and fruits. How about a pancake with caviar or honey? But plenus venter non studet libenter. A full belly doesn't like studying. Still “da mihi sis bubulae frustrum assae, solana tuberosa in modo Gallico fricta, ac quassum lactatum coagulatum crassum”. Give me a hamburger, french fries and a thick shake, please. You don’t like it…? Then try to remember the lines above.
You can find and enjoy whatever your heart is dreaming of in this modern cosmopolitan metropolis, not only in tastes of food. You are definitely to experience a unique combination of past and present, uniting different epochs, styles and tastes. This is what the participants experienced during the 2nd CFI MSU International Summer School on Humanism and Contemporary Philosophy.
The Summer School lasted for two weeks in August and was held at Moscow State University (MSU), which celebrated its 250th Anniversary in January. Organized by the CFI - Transnational (Amherst, USA), CFI - Russia (Moscow, Russia) and the Department of Philosophy of Moscow State University, the summer school brought together nearly forty students, scholars, skeptics and freethinkers aged 16 - 65 from different corners of Russia, central and north-western regions, Dagestan, Siberia. As rich the Russian
Prof. Valerii Kuvakin, President of the Russian Humanist Society (RHS) and the Executive Director of the CFI-Russia taught Humanist Ethics and Contemporary Humanism. David Koepsell, the Executive Director of the Council for Secular Humanism (CHS) and an adjunct Professor of Philosophy at SUNY-Buffalo (USA), taught a critical thinking course, which was truly enjoyable and full of bright examples from experience and law practice . Professor Emeritus, Peter Hare, SUNY at Buffalo, delivered brilliant lectures on American Pragmatism, with a special emphasis on the philosophy of Charles S. Peirce, a man of “vices and virtues”, an aristocrat and great thinker with a terrible temper. In our inquiring minds appeared a genius, who was not shy to say that.
“I intend to make a philosophy like that of Aristotle, that is to say, to outline a theory so comprehensive that, for a long time to come, the entire work of human reason, in philosophy of every school and kind, in mathematics, in psychology, in physical science, in history, in sociology, and in whatever other department there may be, shall appear as the filling up of its details.” ~ C. S. Peirce (http://members.door.net/arisbe/menu/library/aboutcsp/auspitz/escape.htm).
Debates and fruitful discussions on human nature, spirituality, humanism as a universal worldview and life stance continued even after 5 o’clock. The formal part was over and everyone looked forward to evening fun, sightseeing or being happy campers and going on a picnic to the wood . A lot was discovered and learned from sharing, deep insights, psychological games (remember that “humanist bouquet”, when everyone in a circle wish each other all the good life’s things).
A variety of backgrounds and experiences created a kind of "humanist universe", opened up to each and everyone. There was a “movie night” with a thrilling “Heart of the Beholder”, a freethought independent film, based on a true story and facts. And there were moving stories afterwards. Smiles, curiosity, excitement. The birth of new plans and projects.
A group of students and professors from Novosibirsk suggested organizing the 3 rd International Summer School 2006 in Siberia. So everyone can become a little bit closer to nature, unspoiled beauty and joys of simple life, things we often lack in our globilized world with hi-tech culture. Why not? Nature has always been a great source of inspiration for me. Probably, for you, as well. Sunrises and sunsets, warm breeze and the mighty waves of the ocean, clear white sands and orange trees, snow-covered mountains and lakes, shining stars, pointing the destination… Here comes my knowledge. Here comes my delight.
“Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you.” ~ Frank Lloyd Wright.
Doctoral Student, Philosophy Department, Moscow State University
Summer school coordinator and cultural program organizer for CFI Russia