Funding Philosophy in Budapest

Updates: one, two, three, four, five.

Bálint Magyar is, to all appearances, an energetic politician. He was Hungarian Minister of Education and Science from 2002 – 2006 and is currently a member of the Governing Board of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology. One of his initiatives was the founding of a National Office of Research and Technology. And one of the activities of this office was to publish a call for projects “to explore the national heritage and social challenges facing us today”.

Bálint Magyar is persona non grata for the current right-of-center Hungarian government. Magyar Nemzet, on the other hand, is a daily with close ties to FIDESZ. On January 8th it featured this quartett:

Magyar Nemzet (“Hungarian Nation”) claimed that those philosophers had missused funds on a large scale. All of them are considered “liberal”, i.e. skeptical about the present homeland politics of their country. It seems that after considerable philosophical infighting some insider has triggered a police investigation into the finances of six projects carefully selected to incite a maximum of populist indignation. Magyar Nemzet runs an almost daily campaign on behalf of the Orban government, insinuating that an elitist intellectual clique has taken control of Hungarian academic life. (Alas, still an effective type of accusation.)

It is easy to whip up resentment against money spent on philosophy. Mihaly Vajda’s project was on “The Spirit of European Totalitarism”; Agnes Heller’s on Nietzsches, Lukács and Heidegger. Another scholar, Kornél Steiger had undertaken new translations of Plato. What a waste of taxpayers money, since a translation is already available. 🙂

Laszlo Tengelyi, a native Hungarian, teaching philosophy in Germany, has addressed an open letter to the most important German philosophical associations in order to draw attention to what he calls revenge against political opponents. It is a disturbing story. Here are some links (English an German):

Update:

Mihaly Vajda’s youtube statement (in German).

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