Dositej Obradović - Thought

Thought

Ideas from the Enlightenment reached the Balkans more in the form of literature than as abstract philosophy. In the second half of the eighteenth century a number of Serbian writers (especially in ethnic Serbian territories in Hungary) were anticlerical, fought the primitivism and ignorance of the time, and advocated the expansion of knowledge and education outside the church. Dositej Obradović gave philosophical expression to the main principles of the Enlightenment in his writings and teaching. He was a young Serbian monk disillusioned by monastic life in his youth, but not with the church and certainly not its theological teachings. He travelled extensively in Europe and the Serbian lands, then divided by two occupying states—Austria-Hungary and Turkey—and through his writings and teaching sought to reform the educational system in both empires. He was the first to establish a public school in Albania. After Karageorge's successful uprising against the Ottomans in 1804 Obradović opened the first Grande École (Velika škola) in Belgrade in 1808, and became the new country's first Minister of Education. His rationalistic, utilitarian philosophy was not original for the Enlightenment, but it was influential in Belgrade and parts of liberated Serbia (1804-1813) as well as among the Serbs who lived in foreign-occupied Serbian territories, including Bosnia and Herzegovina, Old Serbia, Rascia, Montenegro and parts of Dalmatia.

The liberation of Serbia and the creation of the first higher schools that taught philosophy encouraged a number of philosophers. Since they were educated abroad, however, their works were for some time looked upon as adaptations of German, French and English philosophers. The strong influence of Kant and Hegel was succeeded by the influence of positivism, thanks to Obradović. The authentic philosophical thought of this period is found not only in the work of the teachers of philosophy but also in poems, folk songs, scientific writings, and (later) in revolutionary political pamphlets. All these came to express ideas of national and social liberation. Banat-born Romanian political philosopher Dimitrie Tichindeal was greatly influenced by Dositej Obradović's writings.

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