Philosophy of Culture

Prof. Andrzej Leder – Head
Prof. Maria Gołebiewska
Dr Mikołaj Ratajczak


The Research Group on Philosophy of Culture (RGPC) was established in 1995. Professor Katarzyna Rosner, the first head of the Group, formulated a philosophical reflection on the transformations of  culture in the second half of the 20th century as the main target of  research. After the turn of the millennium new issues appeared, indicated in the current research topic: “Ethical and Axiological Aspects of Contemporary Philosophical Thought”, realized by the team since 2011. In this context, the main objective is to rethink critically the hypothesis on the ‘ethical turn’ at the beginning of the 21st century and to search for axiological foundations of  contemporary normativity. As the ethical turn finds expression on the social level in a political form, the interests of the group are also spontaneously directed toward political theory.


One could say that since 2001 there have been some unificatory tendencies appearing in  philosophical thought, somehow in opposition to the main features of the philosophy and theory of culture in the last decades of the 20th century. At that time there were theories prevailing, which insisted on the notion of difference, both in philosophy and description of cultural and social phenomena. This was the case of Jacques Derrida’s deconstruction, of Jean-Francois Lyotard’s critique of ’great narratives’, or Gianni Vattimo’s ‘weak thought’. In the Anglo-Saxon sphere we can mention here the work of Richard Rorty or Paul de Man and, from another perspective, analytic philosophy.


All of these theoretical approaches tried to avoid any type of universal framework. At the same time, it is important to mention the continuing research of some universalizing perspective, as for example in the philosophy of Charles Taylor. We are witnessing a new wave of reflection, calling into question the univocal critique of any general theory, of any universalizing thesis. In the writings of many authors at the beginning of the 21st century we can find evidence of  research on general approaches; a new recognition on the part of thinkers with ambitions to formulate intellectually broad diagnoses, and also a return to the inspiring role of a generally scientific and materialist perspective.


In the contemporary philosophy of culture three main currents appear as the most interesting for researchers of the RGPC. One of them leads to a new reformulation of questions concerning the relation between the theory of culture and political theory. The contemporary return to the critical aspect of a theory of culture seems to be the best sign of this. The growing interest in the work of such – apparently different – thinkers as Walter Benjamin and the Frankfurt School, Jacques Lacan, Gilles Deleuze or Antonio Negri, thinkers brought together by the insightful critique of ties between instances of cultural symbolism and political, social and economical structure, is at the center of the Group’s research.


A deepened understanding of the traumatic nature of the 20th century, well presented  in such different works as, on the one hand, Dominick La Capra’s historical writings, and on the other, Alain Badiou’s work ‘The century’, has propelled the RGPC to a more critical analysis of the foundations of Western thought and culture. A constant medium in this reflection is the psychoanalytical instrument, both its classical Freudian, current and Lacanian psychoanalysis, applied as an instrument for a critique of social consciousness. This is the main feature of the research conducted by Professor Andrzej Leder.


The current research area pursued by Professor Maria Gołębiewska concerns semantic matters in the phenomenological tradition and contemporary phenomenology, particularly in  existential phenomenology and phenomenology of law. Maria Gołębiewska also examines the question of cultural normativity in the phenomenological, structuralist and post-structuralist research, and performative theory of speech acts (particularly in the context of the philosophy of language and semantics; among others Simone Goyard-Fabre, Jean-François Lyotard, John L. Austin)., In addition, her research covers the semiotic and semantic profiles of subjective, cultural activities (among others existential, axiological and ethical studies of performative, verbal and visual activities).The general aim of this research is to describe the status of the perceptive and acting subject in the fluid, axiological and normative conditions of contemporary culture, so as to define the subjective role in the constitution of meanings and values, as well as in the constitution of sense in respect to one’s own personal existence.


One of the most important sources for cultural and social theories, and philosophy of politics with  universalist ambitions in the 20th century was Marxism, conceived both as a philosophy of culture and a critique of political economy. At present we can observe a return to many aspects of Marxist theory, including the emergence of research fields that combine a rich tradition of Marxist research with new philosophical conceptions of subjectivity, language and community, as well as new movements within continental philosophy that originate from the German tradition of the Frankfurt School, French post-structuralism and post-war Italian philosophy. This field of research is pursued by Dr Mikołaj Ratajczak.

Nevertheless, the cornerstone of all  the patterns of research in the team can be defined as an ethical construct – the intention of finding a new framework for the foundations of political and cultural theory. The most inspiring in this respect is the work of Emmanuel Levinas.

Address: Instytut Filozofii i Socjologii PAN

00-330 Warsaw, Nowy Świat 72, room 265,

Tel. +48 22 657 28 14, fax.: + 48 22 826 78 23

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