European Humanism and Its Challenges
The 15th International Comparative Literature Colloquium

Organisers: Department of Classical Philology at the University of Ljubljana, Department of Medieval Studies at the Central European University of Budapest, Faculty of “Artes Liberales” of the University of Varsava. Slovenian Comparative Literature Association, Slovenian Book Agency, Vilenica Festival

Aulus Gellius, the Roman antiquarian from the second century AD, wrote that his contemporaries used the term humanitas with the meaning of the Greek word philanthropia, benevolence towards others, even though the masters of Latin language had previously used the noun to mark a special type of education. Even then, the word could mean both an ethical position and a particular cultural and educational model. During subsequent periods, until today, the adjective humanist was associated with these two different areas. But Gellius, as well as his predecessor Cicero, saw both meanings as closely intertwined: he considered such education as necessary to cultivate humanity (humanitas), which is both its foundation and its goal. In the following centuries, it found its expression in the conviction about the fundamental value of each individual; complexity of modern civilisation, diversity of its cultural forms and sensitivity of artistic expressions, as well as human rights and democracy, are largely the result of this process. If the value of the individual grew from continuous search for integrity as a means of discovering one’s measure, what is the present state of such humanistic attitude? And what are its consequences for education, for art, for understanding of human being, of the world, of life? It seems that recently the question about the fate of humanism has become more difficult, and perhaps more important. How to reconcile the objectivist science with the cultural values, which are rooted in the unique importance of the human person and which, stricto sensu, cannot be claimed scientifically? How come that those anthropological, cultural and educational models, which are related to the humanism of antiquity and of the renaissance, as well as to nineteenth-century neohumanism, so often limit themselves to the apologetic and moralistic discourse when faced with the pragmatist, technicist and economistic ideology?
The purpose of the symposium is to bring together scholars from different fields of humanities, arts and literature, and to investigate the present social and spiritual condition, when it sometimes seems that the role of humanistic tradition is diminishing. The papers will shed light on these challenges, discussing the role of the arts and their relevance for the world and the human person, as well as their role in the future of an open and solidarity-based democratic society.