Realism, Tolerance, and Liberalism in the Czech National Awakening: Legacies of the Bohemian Reformation

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Realism, Tolerance, and Liberalism in the Czech National Awakening: Legacies of the Bohemian Reformation
By Zdenek V. David
The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2010
504 pp. $70.00
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This book is a meticulous history; the footnotes are two-thirds the length of the text. In locating the wellsprings of modern national consciousness in the Czech Republic, and by extension its liberal political culture, David credits the ideas of the Bohemian Reformation in the fifteenth century, which were resuscitated and embraced during the Austro-Bohemian Catholic Enlightenment in the eighteenth century. More precisely, he traces the intellectual impulses inspiring the "national awakening" in the late eighteenth to early nineteenth century to the liberal, tolerant, and "nonaristocratic" thought characteristic of the Bohemian Catholic Church set up by the followers of the theologian Jan Hus in the sixteenth century. In a long-standing historical debate, David lines up against those who focus less on the lineage of ideas and more on linguistic-ethnic particularities and the sociology of identity associated with German Romanticism and idealism. But he is not only uncovering the roots of Czech political culture; he is also following an important stage in the development of analytic philosophy. Hence, the reader needs to be prepared to follow the fundamental philosophical quarrel that the early-nineteenth-century Czech scholar Bernhard Bolzano had with Immanuel Kant, Johann Gottlieb Fichte, Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph von Schelling, and, above all, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel.