Bernard Bolzano: Band II,A,23,1: Erbauungsreden des Studienjahres 1817/1818. Erster Teil

Edited by Kurt F. Strasser.
177 p., 18,1 x 25,4 cm.
ISBN 978-3-7728-2321-3
Single price:
€ 278.–

From 1805 to 1820, Bernard Bolzano was professor of »religious doctrine« (Religionslehre) at the University of Prague. The lectures he had to deliver were part of the so-called »Philosophical Studies« that every student of the university had to complete before he entered the »higher« studies, i.e. the studies of medicine, law or theology. As professor of religious doctrine, Bolzano also had the duty to deliver the homilies on Sundays and holidays during the academic year to all the students of the »Philosophical Studies«. This explains the enormous influence Bolzano exerted through these homilies on the intellectual and political life of Bohemia in his time, whose offshoots reached even the Charta 77 movement in former Czechoslovakia. The chairs of religious doctrine were established by the Austrian emperor Franz at all universities of the Austrian empire in order to shape the students into »good Christians and law-abiding citizens« as it was ordered in a decree. The homilies Bolzano had to deliver at the University of Prague (as did all professors of religious doctrine at Austrian universities) were called ›Erbauungsreden‹ (edifying addresses) or ›exhortations‹. There is evidence for 582 ›Erbauungsreden‹ Bolzano delivered as a professor at the University of Prague of which 414 are extant; of these, 153 have not yet been published at all. The 414 ›Erbauungsreden‹ that are extant have survived in different form: some of them (70) as autographs, i.e. in Bolzano’s own handwriting, others in handwritten copies of Bolzano’s manuscripts, others in notes taken by Bolzano’s students. Several collections of Bolzano’s ›Erbauungsreden‹ have already appeared in print, some of them during Bolzano’s lifetime, while others were published posthumously by his students or other editors. – The new critical edition of Bolzano’s ›Erbauungsreden‹ presents all of them in chronological order. Those which are extant will be edited on the basis of the best version which has remained. Those ›Erbauungsreden‹ which are not extant will be documented and described according to an index Bolzano himself has prepared.

On the third Sunday in November of 1817, Bernard Bolzano began the twelfth annual cycle of his edification speeches. In this academic year he began by dealing with the students’ responsibility to their parents and teachers but also to the opposite (female) sex and the society of mankind as a whole. In four of his speeches, he paid particular attention to the virtue of unselfishness. For Bolzano, the reasonable substantiation of the Christian religion was just as important, since it transcended natural religion in that it could not be explained completely by reason. Again and again Bolzano drew a new boundaries between natural religion and the Christian religion in a constant effort to ultimately establish these precisely. Bolzano‘s attempt to combine faith and reason ended in a balancing act. Although this was admired by some, many however viewed it with suspicion, misunderstood it and increasingly rejected it openly. This was one of the reasons for Bolzano to speak also of »the advantages and dangers in the precoccupation with ideals« and to draw up clear rules for the creation and application of ideas. In spite of all these difficulties, Bolzano tried to obtain a view of a better world by developing an appreciation of beauty.

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