Hilmi Ziya Ülken

Ankara: Diyanet İşleri Başkanlığı (2019)
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PREFACE WORD Hilmi Ziya Ülken was born in Istanbul during the last period of the Ottoman Empire, was educated during this period and worked in many areas of the intellectual life of the newly established Republic. Although he was interested in many fields of social sciences, he gained fame in philosophy, sociology, history of thought and literature. Again, he undertook important tasks in revealing and introducing medieval Islamic thinkers and post-Tanzimat Turkish thought, and due to his deep knowledge of Eastern and Western philosophies, he made comparative studies in these fields and tried to reveal the similarities and differences in both cultures. Many graduate studies, book chapters and articles have been written about such an important thinker whose works are also recognized abroad. Among the thinkers of the Republican Era, Ülken is one of the most studied names. In this study, Ülken's biography, his intellectual adventure, his understanding of philosophy and his ideas about the life of thought are discussed panoramically, and the bibliographic information obtained about his articles and other works that have not yet been fully revealed has been added to the study. Another important document added to this study is Ülken's biography written in his own handwriting. Our hope is that with the completion of the information missing in this study, a complete portrait of Ülken will be revealed. When Ülken's works are taken into consideration, it is understood that he wrote works in many fields of social sciences. The fact that he did not concentrate on a certain field but worked in many fields has been a frequently criticized aspect of him. In this sense, we think that the phrase "A Thinker of Mütebahhir", which we wrote as a subtitle to the title of our study, defines him very well. Many names have used the adjective mütebahhir, which means ocean and depth in Ottoman Turkish, about Ülken. While Necati Öner used it in a positive sense, names such as Cemil Meriç (1916-1987) and İsmail Tunalı (1923-2015) used it in a sense that includes negative connotations, such as saying words in every field, his knowledge is unlimited but formless and non-systematic, and Salâh Birsel (1919-1999) wrote on every subject. On the other hand, scholars such as Kurtuluş Kayalı and Ali Utku, who have recently conducted competent studies on Ülken, have emphasized that Ülken - contrary to popular belief - thought and worked within a system and was very sensitive about his system of thought. When Ülken's works are examined in general, it is seen that many of them were formed by turning lecture notes into books, and this situation caused many problems. This situation led to problems such as the disorganization of his works, the lack of a certain systematization, the lack of the necessary methodological sensitivity in footnotes and citations, and the use of some terms in their original language instead of their Turkish equivalents. When we look at the life stories of important thinkers in the history of thought, we observe that they were not only influenced by the social, political, economic, etc. conditions of the period in which they lived, but also that they influenced these conditions in the period in which they lived. The best example of this situation among the thinkers of the early years of the Republic is Ülken. When his works are examined in chronological order, it is noticeable that his ideas constantly changed, that he had to defend the ideas he criticized from time to time, and that he was in a constant search. He explained his works in many fields by saying that he wrote works that would be a source for his own works and that he served as a bridge to the past. The fact that he was a doyen in many fields of social sciences despite having a Mülkiye education can be explained by his self-education. Ülken, who set an example for academics and thinkers with his hard work, diligence, and lifestyle of constantly reading, researching and writing, carried out very important works in his 73 years of life. As Öner, a student of his who knew him closely, says: "In his daily life, Ülken was either reading, writing or philosophizing." Again, Tunalı says about his diligence that "when he was finishing a book, he would have written another book!" It can be said that one of Ülken's efforts was to establish a tradition of sociology and philosophy in Turkey by recognizing the disconnect in our world of thought. Ülken expressed this to his student Necati Öner by saying, "We are a quarter in philosophy, you will be half, and then we will be complete!" While the influence of philosophers and sociologists who came to our country with the educational reforms was quite limited, Ülken succeeded in establishing a tradition in Istanbul Sociology and Ankara Theology. For this reason, important sociologists and philosophers of our country, such as Baykan Sezer (1938-2002) and Kurtuluş Kayalı (born 1949), admitted that "we are students of the Ülken tradition" even though they were not his direct students. Ülken provided an important opening in the social sciences with his methodology that analyzed the problems he dealt with in depth, tried to deal with all aspects of the issues and made synthesis attempts between different ideas. In addition, with the newly established Republic, he made great efforts to collect and translate sources in many fields, especially philosophy, and to carry out activities on a philosophical basis. The fact that his works continued to attract attention in every period after him and were reprinted and read again and again reveals the centrality of his role in the intellectual life of the Republican period. In this study, in which the life, philosophy and thoughts of Hilmi Ziya Ülken, whose valuable contributions to Turkish-Islamic thought are undeniable, have been tried to be presented in general terms, the articles and book chapters I have written about Ülken in various journals and book chapters and whose titles I have given in the bibliography and bibliography section have also been utilized. I hope that this monographic study will make a small contribution to the studies on Ülken, who deserves to be remembered with mercy and gratitude.

Author's Profile

Mehmet Vural
Ankara Yildirim Beyazit University


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