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Wald, Henri

(1920–2002), philosopher, logician, and essayist. Henri Wald was born in Bucharest, to the family of a small merchant. In 1940, discriminatory legislation forced him to leave high school; however, he was able to pursue his studies at a private college for Jewish students. He was mobilized during World War II, as a Jew, in a forced labor detachment. A radical antifascist, he supported the Communist Party, which was still illegal at the time. After the war, Wald began to publish articles in the leftist press, making his debut in September 1944 in the newspaper Tribuna poporului (The People’s Tribune), and eventually contributing to several periodicals of the same ideological orientation as well as to cultural publications such as Revista fundațiilor regale (The Review of Royal Foundations).

In 1945, Wald enrolled in the faculty of philosophy at the University of Bucharest, from which he graduated after completing a dissertation entitled “The Petty Bourgeois Mentality.” Appreciated for his outstanding knowledge of Marxist philosophy, he became a professor of philosophy in Bucharest in 1948, remaining there until 1962. As of 1954, Wald also coordinated the department of logic at the Institute of Philosophy in the Romanian Academy. In 1972, he was elected a member of the Academy of Social and Political Sciences. Finally, in 1975 he joined the Institute for Ethnology and Dialectology, where he worked until his retirement in 1983.

By virtue of his political commitments, Wald was active for several years in the propaganda mechanism of the Communist regime, taking important positions within the editorial system (with the State Publishing House, 1947–1948) and in the press. He was editor in chief of Analele româno-sovietice (Romanian–Soviet Annals) from 1948 to 1952, and served as head of the economics department with Tînărul Leninist (The Young Leninist; 1952–1954). Choosing the field of theoretical research, he remained faithful to Marxist dialectics. Although he concentrated on studying language and semiotics at the philosophical level, he also conducted research in epistemology and philosophical anthropology.

Beginning with Rolul limbajului în formarea şi dezvoltarea ideilor (The Role of Speech in Shaping and Developing Ideas; 1957), Wald published several studies for Western and Romanian journals and publishing houses; among his works were Introducere în logica dialectică (Introduction to Dialectical Logic; 1959, Eng. trans. 1975), Structura logică a gîndirii (The Logical Structure of Thought; 1962), Realitate şi limbaj (Reality and Language; 1968), and Puterea vorbirii (The Power of Speech; 1981). In these texts, he developed original concepts, including, for example, the coincidence between the laws of materialist dialectic and the laws of the structure of logical shapes; and the preeminence of speech in the process of developing rational knowledge of the objective world. An open and critical spirit, strongly rejecting dogmatic rigidity, Wald, who believed he could offer an unconventional and creative Marxism that could oppose the official nationalist-communism stance, often disturbed the ideological supervisors of the regime. This led to various administrative sanctions, such as his dismissal from his university position in 1962 and from the Institute of Philosophy. Toward the end of his life, he was drawn significantly closer to Judaism, which he considered to be a matrix of humanist thinking, mainly through its moral and formative side.

Suggested Reading

Sanda Golopenția-Eretescu, “Henri Wald: Limbaj şi valoare,” Studii şi cercetări lingvistice 6 (1975): 619–624; Ion Ianoşi, “Elogiul vorbirii,” Adevărul literar şi artistic 553 (2001): 1; Alexandru Singer, “Henri Wald’s Contribution to Romanian Culture and Philosophy,” Studia judaica (Cluj) 11–12 (2004): 220–225; Henri Wald, Înțelesuri iudaice (Bucharest, 1995); Henri Wald, Confesiuni, ed. Alexandru Singer (Bucharest, 1998).



Translated from Romanian by Anca Mircea