Andrzej Nowicki


The idea of a supranational community derives from the recognition of a fact that among the most disastrous phenomena afflicting humanity are civil wars and international wars which cause death, disabilities, poverty, and disintegration of families, towns and the cultural heritage. Ethnic and confessional hatred spread by those wars has brought about the reflection that ethnic and confessional differences are major reasons for the breaking out and waging of wars. Tribal, ethnic and confessional bonds usually trigger hatred towards "others", i.e., those having a different skin colour, speaking other languages, practising a different faith, worship and ways of life. A conclusion that has been drawn from these facts was the idea of necessary integration, which would overcome the unfortunate split of the human world between hostile tribal, national and religious groups.

Two models of integration have been formed. These, by certain simplification, may be called the totalitarian model and the humanist model.

The totalitarian model of integration is given the following grounds of justification:

- since conflicts, unrest, civil and international wars stem from the presence of differing confessions, this differentiation should be overcome by imposing a one and only religion on all people;

- since wars break out due to the existence of numerous countries and from their rulers' ambition of expanding the territory of their state through conquest and invasion, a one and only state ought to be founded in which all people would be subordinated to a single central authority;

- since hatred towards "others" is triggered by their speaking other languages, a one and only language should be established for all people.

The totalitarian model unavoidably makes a difference between better and worse nations, setting up a hierarchy with the nation of masters on the top, followed by those nations which, having been deprived of their vernacular language and tradition, can be absorbed by the nation of masters, and finally nations of slaves, tolerated as a labour force, as well as nations and races which cannot be accommodated within the integration model and have to be eliminated.

Attempts at integrating Europe undertaken by the medieval empire and papacy comprised elements of this model. Christian religion, claiming that power is bestowed by God on the emperor and kings whose authority is made legitimate in the ceremony of crowning, constituted the basis for integration. Unity was guaranteed by placing one single individual on the top, although it was a controversial issue whether this individual should be the emperor or the pope.

Totalitarian models of integrating conquered countries with the metropolis were introduced by all European colonist countries. None of these multinational countries were capable of implementing integration in a just manner which would ensure equal rights and comprehensive development to all integrated nations. An extreme example of a barbarian approach to other nations was the attempt at integrating Europe undertaken by Hitler. Integration was based on the ideological foundation made up by a conviction of an alleged superiority of the Caucasian race with respect to the other races; this superiority was to give the nation of masters a "right" to totally eliminate those ethnic groups which were not accommodated within the Nazi integration model, and to turn other nations into "nations of slaves".

Among the states which have not been capable of properly arranging relations between its various nations, Poland also has had its place. It might have seemed that following a period of political partitionings characterised by strong Germanisation and Russianisation, the Polish nation would undertake an attempt to build up its relations with other nations based on other foundations stemming from the traditional strive for " freedom of yours and ours." Alas, in the period between the two world wars, when Poland accommodated ethnic minorities jointly making up a third of its population, Poles were not able to win the hearts of Ukrainians, Belorussians, Lithuanians, or Jews. After all, it would be unfair to call "winning others' hearts" the pacification of the East Malopolska region, the "bench" ghettos at Universities, tolerating anti-Semitic squads or journalism promoting ethnic, nationalist and confessional hatreds. Even today, although ethnic minority groups living in Poland are not equally numerous, the attitude of a large part of the Polish society towards Jews, Gypsies, Ukrainians, Belorussians, Lithuanians, Germans, or Russians is still rather unfriendly. Some priests in churches or at religious celebrations preach in favour of ethnic, nationalist or confessional hatred; some political party and trade union leaders use slogans of primitive nationalism and hatred towards "others" as an effective tool of accumulating political capital. The world-wide context is similarly depressing. In Africa, thousands fall victim to tribal wars; Muslim fundamentalists propagate hatred towards "others" with impunity. A nonsensical civil war has ruined Yugoslavia. Many nations are refused their right to self-determination. Hatred towards "others" is at large in Western Europe.

Reflection on society has brought about two models. In one of these, ethnic bonds, continuously strengthened by recalling harm done by "others" and the obligation to avenge it, are idealised as an absolute value. This model implies unavoidable wars between hostile tribes, nations and races.

The other model values the state, based on the assumption that it is only fear of a strong authority which prevents people from mutual killings and may ensure internal peace in the territory subordinated to this authority. Permanent peace may be ensured by separating the country from other countries with a "Chinese wall", by locating strong army forces on the border, frightening away potential invaders, and possibly be expanding the territory of the state to the whole wide world. In this model of a multinational state, the value of the nation is subordinated to the value of the state. Within the territory of the state, one nation would usually reign, appropriating both power and most of the domestic product, whilst the existence of other nations could be tolerated provided that these would not aspire to independence by secession and establishment of a separate state. One of the means of ensuring internal peace was the policy of denationalisation, i.e., depriving subordinated nations of their language, customs and religion. To the reigning nation, the superior value of the state would imply ensuring a dominating position of this nation. Thus, such a nation would be prone to condemn and eradicate nationalist tendencies of other nations perceived by it as actions threatening the uniformity of the state. In such states, internal peace was illusory as it shadowed persecution, imprisonment, banishment, executions and bloody suppression of rebellions. None of the empires known by the history of the world were capable of solving the national issue on the basis of equal rights and harmonious cohabitation of various nations.

Ever since the Renaissance, numerous European thinkers have been trying to work out a third model of community, clearly opposed to the nationalist model and the state model.

In this third model, the deciding factor shaping the human identity is not one's origin determining one's membership in a tribe or a nation, nor one's affiliation to a state, but humanist education, filling one's mind with love for masterpieces of literature and art, and a need of participating in culture and enlarging with one's own creation the output of humanity which justifies the existence of humankind and gives dignity and meaning to the existence of nations and individuals.

A new kind of bonds between human beings thus derives from common contents of this humanist education, common love for the literature of ancient Greece and Rome, as well as the conviction that culture is the superior value - culture understood as a material world of great human masterpieces (works of art, but also scientific achievements, discoveries and inventions) and at the same time as a community of artists and writers which creates this world and inhabits it. A bond between humanists living in various countries becomes stronger than the bond of an individual with people of the same blood, living in the same state or subscribing to the same religion. Perception of this bond gives rise to an idea of a humanist supranational, supraconfessional, and suprastate community.

The essential components of this idea may be enumerated as follows:

I - Humanity (humanitas) is considered one of the superior values. In opposition to the medieval anthropology, which depreciated the human being for being weak, vain, contemptible and sinful, so distant from the absolute power and perfection of God, Renaissance humanists introduced into the social sphere new concepts, such as: human dignity (dignitas hominis), perfection of the human kind (as Giordano Bruno put it: l'eccellenza della propria humanitade), power of the human mind; they complimented the human being as respectable and admirable, and praised human achievements. Major works on this issue include: On Man's Dignity and Perfection (De dignitate et excellentia hominis) written between 1451 and 1452 by Gianozzo Manetti (1396-1459), and Speech on Human Dignity (Oratio de hominis dignitate, 1486) by Giovanni Pico della Mirandola (1463-1494).

II - Renaissance humanists associated human dignity with the ability of the human being to create valuable works. The Latin word opera, which signified "good deeds" in the Medieval Christianity as well as to Reformation and Counter-Reformation theologians, regained its original sense of the Latin of Cicero, Ovid and Horace, and implied - as Manetti has it - towns, houses, paintings, sculptures, arts, sciences, and all inventions.

III - Humanists also introduce the word freedom to the social sphere. Pico della Mirandola links human dignity with a freedom to choose a lifestyle.

IV. - The freedom of choice was of course to be properly used by choosing a humanist lifestyle, filling one's life with studying, reading and writing of books, listening to, performing and composing music, watching and painting pictures, getting involved in sciences, philosophy, poetry, sculpture, painting, and architecture. Since culture is the superior value, participation in culture gives most meaning to one's life.

V - Apart from reflection on lifestyles chosen by an individual (Pico, Bovillus), other reflection was also developed - that on possible lifestyles to be chosen by the society. Thomas More introduces the word eutopia, which signifies a good place, in which the life of a group of people is arranged in a rational, just manner, and which makes group members happy as reasonable work organisation provides them with much free time for various forms of participation in culture. Alas, the word eutopia was soon to be forgotten and replaced by another term invented by More: utopia, a place which does not exist, is unreal and unattainable. The meaning of More's work entitled Utopia published in 1516 does not consist only in criticising the existing social system and showing other ways the society might live, but also, or mainly, in stimulating the imagination of other thinkers of the Renaissance and later periods to provide projects of an ideal social system.

VI - Apart from reflection on an ideal "island" which is separated from the external world and takes care of its own internal business only, projects of resolving the problem of harmonious cohabitation of people world-wide are also proposed (Guillaume Postel).

VII - Associating human dignity with the capacity of creating great masterpieces led to the discovery of the value of variety of these works, as well as to tracing the source of this diversity to differences between people. Following Livin Lemmens, Vanini notes that "in contradistinction to other animals which ... are similar to one another within each species," particular human beings show "many more differences and kinds than other animals as the speed of thought, mobility of intelligence, and variety of minds leave different characteristic brands."

VIII - Renaissance thinkers consider this diversity of people to be a cultural value, and thus they condemn any attempts at making people uniform, levelling of ethnic differences, converting peoples of other continents to Christianity by force. Giordano Bruno condemned European colonists in America who "found a way to disturb the peace of other peoples," depriving them of their customs, imposing one's own madness on them.

IX - Human diversity surfaces, among others, in the presence of different languages. This existence of many languages hampers mutual communication on the one hand, but on the other, it reflects various ways of perceiving the world and thinking about the world. This diversity of human viewpoints on the world facilitates cognition as it allows for comprehending the world in its objective multifaceted character. The world is objectively multifaceted, multishaped, multiformed, and so the methods of comprehending the world should be accordingly diversified, said Giordano Bruno.

X - The need to communicate enforces selection of one or more languages that each educated individual should have a command of; Latin and Greek are best suited to the role of a universal language as many philosophical and literary works were written in both of them which each educated individual should have read in the original and know by heart their most beautiful fragments, most valuable thoughts and most accurate phrases. Another advantage of these two languages is the fact that they are not official languages of any powerful states aspiring to a world-wide rule; thus, they cannot be used as a tool of subordinating other nations. On the other hand, valuable works have been written in many other languages, and if some languages have not created such works, their specificity and originality provide an opportunity of expressing other contents than those known from the existing literature. Therefore, an educated individual should have a command of Latin, Greek, and several other languages in which many valuable works have been created, and also facilitate the development of other languages, in particular the one his or her ancestors spoke.

XI - Similar to the existence of many languages is the existence of numerous philosophical systems. Some consider this phenomenon a proof of an unscientific character of philosophy as philosophers seem not to have been able to agree their opinions on any issue. However, many Renaissance thinkers, such as Pico della Mirandola or Giordano Bruno, regarded this diversity as a value. Pico decided to consider all the great philosophers his masters and refused to choose one of them as an infallible authority. Bruno regarded philosophical systems as great workshops producing various conceptual tools, each of which in a given sphere or in a given situation may prove more useful than those of other philosophical systems.

XII - In contradistinction to theologians, who regarded the existence of various religions as a misfortune and aimed at converting all people to the one religion they considered true, Renaissance humanists expressed their friendly interest in different religions, assuming that each of them may contain some valuable truths. They pay special attention to Greek mythology as they are more sympathetic towards polytheism, which corresponds to their republican stance better than the Jewish, Christian, or Muslim monotheism; Ficino, Bruno, and Bacon claim that ancient sages concealed profound truths in myths. Bruno is also fascinated by the Egyptian religion and the related hermeticism. Polish humanists (such as Jan £asicki) are interested in pre-Slavic beliefs. Renaissance also brings interest in the beliefs of the Chinese and the symbolic Japanese worship.

Humanists oppose ongoing religious wars with the idea of irenism, i.e., promoting peace among various confessions. They try to practically prove the possibility of friendship between humanists in spite of confessional differences. It is stipulated that differences between respective religions pertain mostly to dogmas and forms of worship, whilst ethical values, rooted deeply in the human heart, are the same; from this viewpoint, all religions are true, while dogmas and worship are an unnecessary addition, a fancy of theologians, and a reason for conflicts, hatred and religious wars.

XIII - Rationalism constitutes the basis of humanism for Renaissance humanists. Giordano Bruno deems the use of reason to be an essential feature of true "humanity". Bruno in principle condemned a stance based on belief, which he understood to imply the rejection of one's rational mind. It is because of the "habit to believe" and "blind faith" that intolerance spreads. "We all," says Bruno, "are raised and educated in obedience and habits of our homes, where we hear our kins to condemn the laws, customs, beliefs and habits of enemies and others in the same way as the latter condemn us and our habits." In result, we grow the "roots of zeal for our habits" and so "our kins consider repression, conquest and murder inflicted on the opponents of our faith to be a sacrifice to the gods, just like the others do." Therefore, teaching religion should be replaced with teaching "general kindness to people" (philanthropia) "free of any controversies and disputes."

XIV - The high evaluation of humanist education had an anti-feudal edge. Humanists put on the agenda the problem of "true nobility", fighting the dishonourable feudal assessment of human beings based on one's origin. According to humanists, the true value of a human being is determined not by the presence of kings, princes or knights among one's ancestors but by one's education attained with one's own efforts. It is this education and qualifications, and not coats of arms, which should decide about staffing top positions in the society. In Poland, Sebastian Fabian Klonowic (1545-1602) devoted a long poem in Latin to this very issue.

XV - It is true that humanists considered themselves to be spiritual aristocracy and demanded that their skills and work be accordingly remunerated. It is also true that humanists scorned idlers, ignorants, and those who did not know how to write or speak. This, however, was not tantamount to scorning the "people", from which they often originated. Humanists scorned those who had an opportunity of getting educated and did not make use of it at their own fault: because they would not study, knowing that their origin and possessed wealth would guarantee a high position in the social hierarchy in spite of lack of any qualifications.

The actual democraticism of the humanist idea of "spiritual nobility" amounted to opening up access to this group to anyone willing to get educated and brave enough to undertake necessary efforts. "Nature has given glorious wings to every one of us," said Giordano Bruno: one only has to wish to spread these wings. With these words, Bruno laid the foundations of a democratic vision of a society of the educated, in which education is not longer a barrier separating the elite and the masses, but is widespread enough to provide the strongest bond of all which brings people together regardless of their origin, nationality or confession.

XVI - This supranational and supraconfessional community of the educated was given a number of names in the Renaissance. Two of these names seem most important. One was respublica literaria, which signified a world of people reading and writing books. This term appears in the works by Vanini, and stands for a world one would like to live in, a world worth dying for (in litteris et pro litteris mori). Vanini juxtaposed the Jesuit maxim omnia ad maiorem Dei gloriam with his humanist motto: one should live "pro litterariae reipublicae emolumento," i.e., to enrich the world of glorious human works with one's own creation. Following the Renaissance period, this term is to be found in the literature of the 17th and 18th centuries, in particular as its French equivalent: la république des lettres.

XVII - The other term was the Republic of the Muses; this one emphasised the importance of both literature and all arts and sciences. This term is best remembered in the context to which it was applied by Valentinus Acidalius (1567-1595), who wrote that one should live "ad aeterna Reipublicae Musicae commoda." This statement stems from the philosophy of Giordano Bruno, who defined his own religion as cultus Musarum and ardens erga Musas religio (Oratio valedictoria, 8 March 1588). Acidalius was a student of Bruno's at the Helmstedt University between January 1589 and April 1590; his admiration for the fascinating personality of his master is illustrated in a Latin poem published in 1589 entitled Ad Iordanum Brunum Nolanum Italum. Acidalius was a philologist, editor of ancient texts, poet and author of beautiful letters published after his death. In the works of this German poet not a trace of German nationalism or religious fanaticism can be found; Acidalius bravely described himself as a citizen of the world (civis mundi), thus emphasising the supranational character of the Republic of the Muses.

Andrzej Nowicki


Two models of social integration have been formed: the totalitarian model and the humanist model. In the totalitarian model, ethnic bonds or the power of the state are idealised as absolute values, differentiating between four categories of nations: the superior nation of masters; nations which can be absorbed by the nation of masters; nations of slaves, tolerated as a labour force; and nations which have to be eliminated. An extreme example of a barbarian approach to other nations was the attempt at integrating Europe undertaken by Hitler.

Renaissance thinkers undertook an attempt at working out a humanist model of a community of all people. They claimed that true humanity should be attained by humanist education, filling one's mind with love for masterpieces of literature and art, and a need of participating in culture and enlarging it with one's own creation. A bond between humanists living in various countries becomes stronger than ethnic, religious, and state bonds. The essential components of this idea include the following: Humanity (humanitas) is considered one of the superior values. Human dignity (dignitas hominis) is associated with the ability of the human being to practise sciences and arts (Manetti), to freely choose a lifestyle of an individual (Pico della Mirandola) and of a society (More). More's Utopia stimulated the imagination of many later thinkers to provide projects of an ideal social system, a world free of wars. Considering culture (a collection of works and a community of their authors) to be a superior value, and claiming that the richness of culture consists in the diversity of its works, Renaissance humanists regard the human diversity to be an important value which should be protected and enhanced by opposing totalitarian attempts at making people uniform, levelling of ethnic differences, converting peoples to one religion and a single worldview. Humanists oppose ongoing religious wars with the idea of irenism, promoting harmonious cohabitation of people of various confessions, races, nationalities. Humanists fight the dishonourable feudal assessment of human beings based on one's origin; according to humanists, the "true nobility" is determined by one's education, skills, work, efforts, deeds. The actual democraticism of the humanist idea of "spiritual nobility" amounted to opening up access to this group to anyone. "Nature has given glorious wings to every one of us," says Giordano Bruno, laying the foundations of a democratic vision of a society of the educated, in which everyone is an author. This supranational and supraconfessional community was given a two names in the Renaissance: respublica literaria (Vanini), and the Republic of the Muses (Acidalius).

Towarzystwo Humanistyczne
Humanist Assciation