Ukrainian intellectuals spoke in Poltava about the figure and ideas of Hryhoriy Skovoroda

On the occasion of the 300th anniversary of Hryhorii Skovoroda, the Aspen Kyiv Institute held a series of discussions “Skovoroda’s Ideas in our Modernity” in Poltava. This event is a way of realizing one of the components of the Institute’s mission – the exchange of ideas for the sake of positive social influence. The event was held on the initiative and in partnership with Poltava OVA.

To discuss the figure and ideas of Hryhorii Skovoroda, the Aspen Institute Kyiv involved leading researchers of the philosopher’s work: Oleksandr Savchuk, Taras Lyuty, Oleksandr Filonenko, and Volodymyr Prokopenko. In this material, you can familiarize yourself with the main theses of the speakers.

Watch the event on YouTube

How to prepare yourself for reading Skovoroda’s works

In 2016, the publisher Oleksandr Savchuk published the “Complete Academic Collection of Works” by Hryhoriy Skovoroda. In Poltava, Mr. Oleksandr shared advice on how to read the philosopher’s works. The discussion was moderated by Marina Feschenko, assistant professor of the department of pedagogical skills and inclusive education of the Poltava Academy of Continuing Education.

Oleksandr Savchuk emphasized that given the poetic nature of Hryhoriy Skovoroda’s texts, they should be read in the original. At the same time, it is better to come to terms with the fact that many nuances remain unclear. In addition, it is worth knowing the Old and New Testaments, the work of ancient authors, refer to commentaries that refer to the explanation of quotations, allusions, or metaphors. Also, according to the publisher, “guides” are needed:

— Primary in-depth reading is extremely important. First of all, you have a person next to you who can explain many things — certain references, and insults. The second is the joy of understanding that emerges. It can be compared to transfiguration. For you, Skovoroda, all this external image, all the tinsel disappear. Perhaps it is more important not to broadcast knowledge about the Skovoroda in one lecture at universities, but to spend these 2-3 hours on a minimal thoughtful analysis of a few pages of the text.

What markers attribute Skovoroda to Ukrainian culture

Under the moderation of Ukrainian linguist and doctor of philology Orisa Demska, philosopher and writer Taras Lyuty talked about Hryhoriy Skovoroda as a thinker. Among other opinions, Mr. Taras focused on the attempted appropriation of Hryhorii Skovoroda by the Russian Empire.

Representatives of the Russian tradition tried to fit Hryhorii Skovoroda into it in a certain way. According to Taras Lyuty, the most obvious example is Vladimir Ern. In his book dedicated to Skovoroda, Ern, although he makes the mistake that Hryhoriy Savych is a Little Russian, Ukrainian philosopher, concludes: Skovoroda is the founder of Russian philosophy. However, Mr. Taras is convinced that there are markers that attribute Hryhoriy Savych to Ukrainian culture:

— Hryhoriy Savych himself says that his mother is from Little Russia, and his aunt is from Ukraine. Skovoroda does not quote Russian authors, which Ushkalov, for example, mentions in his works. Skovoroda, as soon as he leaves the borders of the Hetman region and the Slobozhan region, always wants to return home because he feels at home only in these areas. Of course, we cannot do such a retrospection and say that in the early modern period, the Ukrainian nation already existed. But there are certain markers based on which we can attribute Skovoroda to Ukrainian culture.

Skovoroda is a person who gives others a taste of the future

Oleksandr Filonenko, a philosopher, Orthodox theologian, and public intellectual, led a dialogue with Andriy Kulakov, program coordinator of the Aspen Community Program of the Kyiv Institute, about Skovorodas ideas and our modernity.

Mr. Oleksandr emphasized that Skovoroda’s strength is the ability to go deeper into contexts: both one’s own and another’s. He noted that Hryhoriy Savych knew how to speak with people of other eras, other cultures, and other contexts:

– His strong point is a person who has doubted his context. As soon as we notice that we are like a fish that has been washed ashore, we want to breathe, but there is no water, at that moment the Skovoroda opens for us. He says: “No problem, let’s start in order, let’s go.”

we are talking about important things”. The Skovoroda begins to speak and returns the person to the house from which he left, but renewed. It seems to me that this is the vocation of true philosophy — to be able to support a person when he is betrayed by the dearest, most familiar contexts. In this sense, Skovoroda is a person who gives others a taste of the future.

We are related to Skovoroda because we make a choice every time

Volodymyr Prokopenko, Doctor of Philosophy and Professor of the Faculty of Philosophy of KhNU named after V.N. Karazin, moderated by Denys Poltavets, director of program development of the Aspen Institute of Kyiv, reflected on the impact of Hryhoriy Skovoroda’s ideas on Ukrainian identity.

Mr. Volodymyr believes that we are related to Skovoroda because we make a choice every time: in any deed and even thought. The philosopher offers the same in his writings.

— Every time we come across a snake symbol, we have to make a choice: whether it is evil or good. This is what Hryhoriy Skovoroda teaches us. But he does not do this automatically – you have to read the works of the philosopher.

Volodymyr Prokopenko believes that Skovoroda did not so much create Ukrainian identity as he is its phenomenon. The kinship exists on a mental level, but mentally, we have to focus on what he teaches us.