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Conference on philosopher Jan Patočka starts in Belgium

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Brussels, May 3 (CTK correspondent) – A four-day international conference on Czech philosopher Jan Patocka (1907-1977), first spokesman of the Charter 77 movement, which started in Brussels on Wednesday, is to highlight his work and political importance, Nicolas de Warren, one of its co-organisers, has told CTK.

The conference will contribute to the current debate on the fundamental question of what Europe and its identity are and what solidarity means, de Warren, American professor of the Philosophy Institute of the Catholic University in Leuven, Belgium, said.

Patocka, who comes from Czechoslovakia in Central Europe, is not much known as a philosopher and the conference should raise awareness of his personality, de Warren said.

Within the conference, he presented on Tuesday his documentary about his Prague search for the legacy of Patocka, a Czech student of philosophers Martin Heidegger and Edmund Husserl, entitled “The Prague Socrates.”

This year, 40 years have passed since the release of the Charter 77 human rights manifesto in January 1977 and of Patocka death at the age of almost 70 as a consequence of a long interrogation by the StB communist secret police.

According to de Warren, this anniversary is another reason to hold the conference, in which the Husserls Archive of the Catholic University in Leuven participates along with the Centre of Czech Studies at the Free University of Brussels (ULB) as well as the Czech Centre and the Czech Embassy in Brussels.

It was in Leuven where Patocka gave a series of his significant lectures in 1965, De Warren pointed out.

The first conference debate took place this morning when diplomat and former Charter 77 spokesman Martin Palous, Michael Zantovsky, former ambassador and former spokesman for president Vaclav Havel, and the People in Need humanitarian organisation director, Simon Panek, spoke in the European Parliament.

Discussions will continue until Saturday not only in Brussels, but also at the university in Leuven.

On Tuesday, Patocka’s son-in-law, philosopher and politician Jan Sokol remembered him in Brussels.

“His story is dramatic, but there is definitively more in this. Patocka is interesting exactly by saying something positive. He does not express criticism only, but he also says there are things for which it is worth being killed,” Sokol pointed out.

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