Abstracts for Akadeemia 03/2013

10 March 2013
Only in en

Toomas Kiho
Let’s become Europeans but not remain Estonians

More than a hundred years ago, Gustav Suits, Friedebert Tuglas, Johannes Aavik and other members of an Estonian cultural association launched the appeal, “Let’s be Estonians but also become Europeans!” The appeal found following; Estonia broke out of cultural isolation and after long and purposeful work become an equal among the European nations. On the political plane, the greatest victory of the people was the establishment of the independent and democratic Republic of Estonia based on national self-determination.

The article analyses whether the concepts of nationalism and, primarily of being Estonian, have changed by the 21st century and to what extent. What will the future of the Estonian cause be; should really a new, paraphrased slogan be launched now, in the new world, “Let’s become Europeans but not remain Estonians”?

Leo Luks
Without feeling at home we will remain homeless: An attempt at cultural phenomenological analysis of the experience of homelessness

The aim of the article is the phenomenological description of the experience of homelessness in everyday life, definition of general structures that constitute the experience of homelessness. The article consists of three chapters.

The first chapter discloses the general theoretical premises of the study. To define everyday experience, the article entwines Edmund Husserl’s theoretical stances on consciousness with Martin Heidegger’s treatment of everyday practical connections. Relying on Husserl’s later studies of life-world, the author emphasizes the horizontal structure of experience. In addition, the study has been inspired by Tõnu Viik’s theory of cultural forms.

As a preparatory step, the second chapter explores the experience of home. Relying on Anthony J. Steinbock’s studies, the author states that it would be phenomenologically prolific to understand home primarily as an experience horizon rather than an object. The home horizon is found to have two principal elements: the spatial and the intersubjective elements. It is also accentuated that people’s life-world is always divided into the home world and the alien world, and the dynamic between them is explored.

The third chapter, based on the above-mentioned, defines homelessness as an essential subjectively experienced temporally lasting malfunction of the home horizon. Relying on Heidegger, the author shows how, namely in the case of a malfunction, something that has hiddenly been given as a horizon becomes the theme of an experience. The author points out the hypothetical factors on the spatial and intersubjective axes of the home horizon which cause malfunctions and the emergence of homelessness.

Michael Stolleis
The state capable of learning and actually doing so

The author views the central theme of the article about the state that is potentially capable of learning and actually doing so as a question about the mutual relations between the inarguable basic knowledge and the knowledge acquired within institutions each time anew. The “state” as an institution is understood in a very broad meaning that includes all superior forms of organisation.

Transfer of knowledge guarantees the continuity and stability of power and smooth transfer of functions from the old to the younger. The trust of subjects or citizens depends on whether they can be confident that they will be governed in the same way as their ancestors, i.e. according to knowledge fixed in traditions, not arbitrarily. Simultaneously, the institutions are expected to be constantly informed about people’s contentment and needs, to learn from them and to rearrange plans of action accordingly. Thus, governments are expected to govern not only in a predictable manner but also better.

Since the end of the 19th century, the modern state has become a throbbing system of communication, and at present, this information flow from bottom up and top down has gathered momentum. Along with the official information that the state gives about legislation, governance and administration of justice, including the press releases, the politicians and their party apparatus also issue statements. This information is received by more or less independent mass media (the writing press, broadcasting, television, and internet) which transmits it to the society. In the opposite direction, information moves from the society, either directly or through various channels (associations, research), to state institutions, which are professionally prepared to sort and assess it and react to it. A state which would attempt to sever one of these two communication flows, e.g. by withdrawing from the public or denying the information coming from it would – at least in liberal democratic conditions – soon fail politically, as shortage of information would create distrust, boredom with politics and distancing of citizens from “the powers that be”. A state incapable of learning would become dangerously blind and underestimate the powers of society.

Peter Harrison
“Science” and “religion”: Constructing the boundaries. Part I

A number of historians of science are of the opinion that science as the discipline is currently understood emerged only during the nineteenth century. Prior to that, students of nature had thought of themselves as pursuing “natural philosophy” or “natural history” – disciplines with a somewhat different orientation from that of twenty-first-century science. If this is true, the history of the relationship between science and religion cannot date back further than to the nineteenth century.

In the article, the author explores in detail the historical circumstances of the emergence of the dual categories “science” and “religion” with a view to showing their direct relevance for contemporary discussions of the science-religion relation.

Pille Arnek
Estonian-language texts on 19th-century North-Estonian grave markers

A number of overviews have been written about Estonians’ burial rites, but the texts on grave markers have received little attention until now. Grave inscriptions, however, can add essential information on the history of written language. The earliest grave markers on the territory of Estonia are trapezium-shaped grave plates from the 13th-14th centuries – they show different symbols but usually no texts. Gravestones in churches mostly date back to the 14th-17th centuries, but usually no Estonian names appear on them. The texts on them were in Latin, although there are also grave plates with texts in German, Swedish and, later, in Russian.

The first Estonian texts on grave markers date from 17th-century wheel crosses; mixed Estonian-German texts can also be found. Almost no grave markers of Estonians have preserved from the 18th century. More grave markers have preserved from the early 19th century, and the heritage becomes richer with each following decade. The author takes a closer look at the texts of 19th-century grave markers from nine cemeteries in the area of the Tallinn variety of written Estonian, 210 grave inscriptions in total.

The markers made by village smiths and stonehewers are of particular interest, as most probably the texts have been written by the artisans themselves following the instructions by the relatives of the deceased. The texts on these markers give an idea of the language usage of the village smiths and other villagers of local origin, and what the country people considered essential or beautiful.

In addition to names and dates, the texts include psalms, lines from poetry, various information about the family, their trade, character and other facts about people’s lives. In the first half of the century, it was customary to mark the person’s name, age and year of death; in the second half of the century, age was replaced by the date of birth. The principles adopted in written language appear on grave markers with a certain time shift – the transition to the new style of spelling is rather uneven and becomes common only by the end of the 19th century. The spelling of names is very changeable during the whole period under observation, but the same applies even to more educated writings. The principles of orthography were applied quite randomly. The full stop was sometimes used as an ornament rather. The names of months were usually written with a capital initial letter (with a small letter in present-day Estonian); many other nouns and, sometimes, other classes of words were capitalised. Words were frequently abbreviated.

Grave markers clearly reflect the changeability of that time’s written language. Transmission of information was more important for villagers than spelling. The grave inscriptions in parish cemeteries are more consistent in spelling; the grave markers in cemeteries located at auxiliary churches and chapels are more varied in their content and manner of spelling. The analysed cemeteries are very diverse, and the article gives an initial and rather cursory overview of the differences and similarities in grave inscriptions and the linguistic information they convey.

Jaak Rähesoo
The temptation of the exact sciences: In relation to the work of Jaak Põldmäe

The article was initially written as a contribution to a conference partly devoted to Jaak Põldmäe (1942-1979), literary scholar and lecturer at Tartu University, who was largely instrumental in bringing statistical methods into the study of Estonian versification. In the first part the author, a close contemporary of Põldmäe, offers some personal recollections of the mental climate of Tartu in the 1960s and raises the question why Põldmäe then seemed a marginal figure on a scene dominated by creative artists, especially poets. The latter half of the article discusses wider intellectual trends of the period, as they appear now in an historical perspective, and in this context Jaak Põldmäe becomes much more representative.

Paramount among the attitudes of the 1950s and 1960s was a cult of the exact sciences, practically world-wide and paradoxically co-existing with a fear of the recently-invented nuclear weapons. In the Communist bloc, appeals to experimental science were also used as justification of artistic experimentation, and applications of mathematical methods seemed to offer one way out of the ideological prison-house where the humanities were incarcerated. Especially great hopes were laid on the new science of cybernetics.

A special factor in Tartu was the structuralist approach of Yuri Lotman, generally seen at the time as a variant of the turn to the methods of exact sciences in the humanities. But on the background of creeping Soviet Russification, Lotman’s position as a specialist in Russian literature was often felt as ambiguous, and the older generation of Estonian scholars remained somewhat wary of his ideas. Among the younger generation, the structuralist approach first attracted the linguists, literary scholars following in their wake. It was in this line of development that Jaak Põldmäe’s studies were greeted as a significant step forward.

The cult of the sciences came to an end in the 1970s; cybernetics and mathematics gradually lost their enthusiasts to various esoteric or at least antirationalist trends; and the supraindividual and objectively-orientated attitudes of structuralism were transformed into the openly-acknowledged arbitrariness and subjectivity of poststructuralism and postmodernism. In contrast to the relative isolation of structuralism in the 1960s, when it remained a purely scholarly movement, these later developments have their close analogues in Estonian arts. But now this mentality has lasted long enough for us to expect a new swing of the pendulum in the opposite direction.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
On truth and probability in artwork: A talk

First, the author attempts to persuade a viewer dissatisfied with “unnatural” scenery at a theatrical performance to differentiate the truth of life (or reality) from the artistic truth. From Goethe’s viewpoint, however, an artwork is also a creation of nature, as it has been created by the human spirit. Still, inert watching of a performance or viewing of an artwork through deeply-rooted clichés is insufficient for perfect enjoyment. Goethe’s “talk” reminds us that art is not a consumer product, but, in order to comprehend it, we should attain the level of understanding proposed by the artist and to look at our existence from a broader perspective than usual.

Angela Jakobson
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder – myths and reality

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is one of the most frequently diagnosed, most thoroughly studied and, simultaneously, one of the most controversial psychiatric disorders in childhood and adolescence. The most essential characteristics of the disorder are instability in perceptual activities, attempts to switch from one activity to another without completing any of them; disorganised and mismanaged activity; excessive activeness. The disorder does not appear only in childhood so that one can “grow out of it”; in a great part of patients the symptoms characteristic of the disorder continue in adulthood.

ADHD is inarguably one of the few psychic disorders that have been broadly discussed by different interest groups (scientists, psychiatrists, psychologists, and teachers).
Despite the great number of scientific studies conducted on the disorder in recent decades, several confusing myths have spread about the disorder and its treatment: ADHD is not a “real” disorder but a modern definition for problematic children; children with ADHD are mentally retarded and should be taught in special classes; ADHD is caused by parents’ style of upbringing, etc. Prejudices and misconceptions can cause considerable damage and have an essential influence on children, adolescents and adults suffering from ADHD and their families.

Early discovery of the disorder and application of intervention methods help to prevent the worsening of characteristic accompanying problems (problematic social relations, low self-esteem, etc.) and considerably influence the life quality of the individual. Misconceptions about the treatment of the disorder can waste the time and resources of specialists, educators and parents.

The attitudes and behaviours based on misconceptions spread in the society have a considerable negative influence on people diagnosed with ADHD and their families. One of the preconditions for tolerant and understanding attitudes is appropriate knowledge. The aim of the article is to discuss the widely spread misconceptions about ADHD and to give an overview of the essence, causes, historical development and treatment of the disorder.

“All kinds of rumours are going around…”: Reports about the situation in Estonia in 1943-1945. Part XXII
We publish information summaries about the situation in Estonia in the last years of the German occupation, the beginning of the second Soviet occupation, and about the fate of Estonian refugees. The reports meant for Estonian diplomatic representatives in Finland and Sweden (in 1943-1944 also for the Finnish General Staff) were mainly compiled by journalist Voldemar Kures (1893-1987). He interviewed refugees, monitored letters from Estonia, newspapers, radio programmes, etc.

Published 10 March 2013

Original in Estonian
First published in

Contributed by Akadeemia
© Akadeemia Eurozine

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