The beginning of the philosophical education in Lithuania
Each prominent event – and the founding of the Vilnius University and its Faculty of Philosophy is such an event – requires favorable circumstances. Having adopted Christianity, Lithuania had to present itself as a state of Western culture, and University education is one of the proper characteristics of this culture. As early as 15th century in noble manors and wealthy households teachers were hired to satisfy the needs for education. Skills of reading and writing in Latin were becoming insufficient, demand was emerging for higher learning – philosophical studies. It was especially fostered by the expanding activity of monkhoods. In 1507 a school of philosophical and theological studies was established at the Dominican monastery in Vilnius. It was to dedicated to Lithuanian district, to educating those entering the Dominican order. Hence a completely novel phenomenon – professional philosophy – appears in Lithuania in 1507. The abovementioned Dominican school in Vilnius had a narrow profile, it was only devoted for members of the order, not for laymen.
The prehistory of the Faculty of Philosophy at Vilnius University
The philosophical education of laymen was begun by the Societas Jesu, it is the historical merit. The history of a prominent event usually also has a prehistory. It is also characteristic to the Faculty of Philosophy of Vilnius University. Jesuits have established a college in Vilnius in 1570, and one year later founded Philosophical studies there. In 1571 a philosophy class was open, and the Croatian professor of logic Thomas Sdelaritius with his lectures on logic has opened the three-year-long studies in philosophy. In addition to logic the studies contained natural philosophy and metaphysics, as well as a course on mathematics and astronomy. The division of philosophy in the Jesuit college was a prehistory of the Faculty of Philosophy at Vilnius University.
Studies at the Faculty of Philosophy
Prehistory of the Faculty of Philosophy was rich with events. The activities in the Faculty of Philosophy established together with the University were even more diverse: the number of professors was gradually increasing – there were three of them, after the founding of the department of ethics – four, and together with the professor of mathematics – five. Number of students was growing – the number of students in the three year studies was over a hundred. Most of them were graduating from the Faculty with the bachelor’s degree in liberal arts and philosophy, or, having defended their theses or passed solid exam, with the supreme Master’s degree in Liberal Arts and Philosophy. It is approximated that in 1583-1781 scientific degrees from Vilnius University were conferred to 4076 persons: 1810 bachelors of philosophy, 1700 masters of philosophy (they were called doctors from the 18th century), 46 bachelors in theology, 58 licenciates in theology, 312 doctors of theology, 113 doctors and licenciates of canon law, 36 doctors and licenciates of canon and civil law. The numbers indicate that Faculty of Philosophy had the largest number of students. Faculty was administered by the Dean, with assistance of study prefects who were appointed to supervise the process of studies and to help students.
Changes in the Faculty during the Enlightenment
18th century saw the collapse of scholastics at Vilnius University and colleges of Grand Duchy of Lithuania. It was the end of the longest period (two and a half centuries long) of development of philosophy in Lithuania. During the expansion of the philosophy of the modern ages there also appeared new disciplines with modern contents – ontology, psychology, natural theology, general and special physics. Since the philosophical of the time contained natural sciences of the modern age, graduates of the Faculty also had a considerable scientific education. However, orientation in rapidly developing natural sciences was becoming difficult even for a philosophy professor – it was increasingly perplexing to cover all the natural science of the time, he did not have sufficient qualification. Universal philosophers even became unwelcome – the country required not them, but specialists in particular areas – doctors, teachers, agronomists, engineers, architects. Specialization was introduced by the Commission of National Education which secularized the education system. However, the Commission went too far: not only did it abolish the Faculty of Philosophy, but it also has removed philosophy from the study programmes. Faculty of Philosophy was established in Lithuanian University in Kaunas, only together with theology, and called Faculty of Theology and Philosophy. There also was a separate division of philosophy in the Faculty of Humanities. In 1939 when Vilnius and part of the region was given back to Lithuania, Lithuanian government reorganized both universities: Faculty of Humanities, together with its division of philosophy was moved to Vilnius, while the Faculty of Theology and Philosophy remained in Kaunas. This decision – to have a hearth of philosophy in both universities of the country – was quite reasonable. During the very first invasion of the Soviets the Faculty of Theology and Philosophy was abolished, professors repressed. Faculty of Philosophy was briefly restored in the Vytautas Magnus University by the decree of the Provisional Government in 1941.
Faculty of Philosophy at Vilnius University
Efforts were put into restoring the Faculty of Philosophy at Vilnius University during the Soviet time. Unfortunately, they were not successful. It has been only achieved that some psychology students could specialize in philosophy. The current modern Faculty of Philosophy has been restored following the break of more than two centuries in 1989. Modern study programmes in philosophy and sociology were created, psychology moved from the Faculty of History, and in 1992 the programme of social work was established. Faculty of Philosophy once again became an institution of broad education and research in human and social sciences. It currently employs more than 50 most famous Lithuanian researchers and professors. In February 2005 the Faculty has returned to the old architectural ensemble of the University.
The information provided is based on the article by prof. Romanas Plečkaitis “420 years of the Faculty of Philosophy at Vilnius University” (published in Lithuanian in Problemos 57: 9-16) and the book “Faculty of Philosophy at Vilnius University 1579-1989-2009”.