- History of philosophy in Poland
The history of philosophy in Poland parallels the evolution of
philosophyin Europegenerally. Polish philosophy drew upon the broader currents of European philosophy, and in turn contributed to their growth. Among the most momentous Polish contributions were made in the 13th centuryby the Scholastic philosopher and scientist Witelo; and in the 16th century, by the Renaissance polymath Nicolaus Copernicus. [ Władysław Tatarkiewicz, "Zarys dziejów filozofii w Polsce" (A Brief History of Philosophy in Poland), p. 32.]
Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealthpartook in the intellectual ferment of the Enlightenment, which for the multi-ethnic Commonwealth ended not long after the partitions and political annihilation that would last for the next 123 years, until the collapse of the three partitioning empires in World War I.
The period of
Messianism, between the November 1830 and January 1863 Uprisings, reflected European Romantic and Idealisttrends, as well as a Polish yearning for political resurrection. It was a period of maximalistmetaphysical systems.
The collapse of the January 1863 Uprising prompted an agonizing reappraisal of Poland's situation. Poles gave up their earlier practice of "measuring their resources by their aspirations," and buckled down to hard work and study. " [A] Positivist," wrote the novelist
Bolesław Prus' friend, Julian Ochorowicz, was "anyone who bases assertions on verifiable evidence; who does not express himself categorically about doubtful things, and does not speak at all about those that are inaccessible." [ Władysław Tatarkiewicz, "Historia filozofii" (History of Philosophy), vol. 3, p. 177.]
20th centurybrought a new quickening to Polish philosophy. There was growing interest in western philosophical currents. Rigorously trained Polish philosophers made substantial contributions to specialized fields—to psychology, the history of philosophy, the theory of knowledge, and especially mathematical logic. [Tatarkiewicz, "Zarys...", p. 32.] Jan Łukasiewiczgained world fame with his concept of many-valued logicand his " Polish notation." [ Kazimierz Kuratowski, "A Half Century of Polish Mathematics", pp. 23-24, 33.] Alfred Tarski's work in truth theorywon him world renown. [ Kazimierz Kuratowski, "A Half Century of Polish Mathematics", p. 30 and "passim".]
World War II, for over four decades, world-class Polish philosophers and historians of philosophy such as Władysław Tatarkiewiczcontinued their work, often in the face of adversities occasioned by the dominance of a politically enforced official philosophy.The phenomenologist Roman Ingardendid influential work in estheticsand in a Husserl-style metaphysics; his student Karol Wojtyłaacquired a unique influence on the world stage as Pope John Paul II.
Witelo).] The formal history of philosophyin Polandmay be said to begin in the 15th century, following the revival of the University of Kraków by King Władysław II Jagiełło in 1400. [Tatarkiewicz, "Zarys...", p. 5.]
The true beginnings of Polish philosophy, however, reach back to the
13th centuryand Witelo(ca. 1230 - ca. 1314), a Silesian born to a Polish mother and a Thuringian settler, a contemporary of Thomas Aquinaswho had spent part of his life in Italyat centers of the highest intellectual culture. In addition to being a philosopher, he was a scientistwho specialized in optics. His famous treatise, "Perspectiva", while drawing on the Arabic " Book of Optics" by Alhazen, was unique in Latinliterature, [Tatarkiewicz, "Zarys...", p. 5.] and in turn helped inspire Roger Bacon's best work, Part V of his "Opus maius", "On Perspectival Science," as well as his supplementary treatise "On the Multiplication of Vision". [ Will Durant, "The Age of Faith", p. 1011.] Witelo's "Perspectiva" additionally made important contributions to psychology: it held that vision "per se" apprehends only colors and lightwhile all else, particularly the distance and size of objects, is established by means of association and unconscious deduction. [Tatarkiewicz, "Zarys...", p. 5.]
Witelo's concept of
beingwas one rare in the Middle Ages, neither Augustinian as among conservatives nor Aristotelian as among progressives, but Neoplatonist. It was an emanationist concept that held radiationto be the prime characteristic of being, and ascribed to radiation the nature of light. This "metaphysic of light" inclined Witelo to optical research, or perhaps "vice versa" his optical studies led to his metaphysic. [Tatarkiewicz, "Zarys...", pp. 5–6.]
According to the Polish historian of philosophy,
Władysław Tatarkiewicz, no Polish philosopher since Witelohas enjoyed so eminent a European standing as this thinker who belonged, in a sense, to the prehistoryof Polish philosophy. [Tatarkiewicz, "Zarys...", p. 6.]
From the beginning of the
15th century, Polish philosophy, centered at Kraków University, pursued a normal course. It no longer harbored exceptional thinkers such as Witelo, but it did feature representatives of all wings of mature Scholasticism, "via antiqua" as well as "via moderna". [Tatarkiewicz, "Zarys...", p. 6.] The first of these to reach Kraków was "via moderna", then the more widespread movement in Europe. [Tatarkiewicz, "Historia filozofii", vol. 1, p. 311.] In physics, logicand ethics, Terminism( Nominalism) prevailed in Kraków, under the influence of the French Scholastic, Jean Buridan(died ca. 1359), who had been rectorof the University of Parisand an exponent of views of William of Ockham. Buridan had formulated the theoryof "impetus"—the forcethat causes a body, once set in motion, to persist in motion—and stated that impetus is proportional to the velocityof, and amount of mattercomprising, a body: Buridan thus anticipated Galileoand Isaac Newton. His theory of impetus was momentous in that it also explained the motions of celestial bodies without resort to the spirits—"intelligentiae"—to which the Peripatetics(followers of Aristotle) had ascribed those motions. [Tatarkiewicz, "Historia filozofii", vol. 1, pp. 303–4.] At Kraków, physics was now expounded by (St.) Jan Kanty (1390-1473), who developed this concept of "impetus." [Tatarkiewicz, "Zarys...", p. 6.]
A general trait of the Kraków
Scholasticswas a provlivity for compromise—for reconciling Nominalismwith the older tradition; for example, the Nominalist, Benedict Hesse, while in principle accepting the theory of impetus, did not apply it to the heavenly spheres. [Tatarkiewicz, "Zarys...", p. 6.]
In the second half of the
15th century, at Kraków, "via antiqua" became dominant. Nominalismretreated, and the old Scholasticismtriumphed. [Tatarkiewicz, "Historia filozofii", vol. 1, p. 311.]
In this period,
Thomismhad its chief center at Cologne, whence it influenced Kraków. Cologne, formerly the home ground of Albertus Magnus, had preserved Albert's mode of thinking. Thus the Cologne philosophers formed two wings, the Thomist and Albertist, and even Cologne's Thomists showed Neoplatonist traits characteristic of Albert, affirming emanation, a hierarchyof being, and a metaphysicof light. [Tatarkiewicz, "Zarys...", p. 6.]
The chief Kraków adherents of the Cologne-style Thomism included
Jan of Głogów(ca. 1445 - 1507) and Jakub of Gostynin(ca. 1454 - 1506). Another teacher of Thomism was Michał Falkenerof Wrocław(ca. 1460 - 1534). [Tatarkiewicz, "Zarys...", pp. 6–7.]
Almost at the same time,
Scotismappeared in Poland, having been brought from Parisfirst by Michał Twarógof Bystrzyków(ca. 1450 - 1520). Twaróg had studied at Paris in 1473-77, in the period when, following the anathematization of the Nominalists (1473), the Scotist school was there enjoying its greatest triumphs. A prominent student of Twaróg's, Jan of Stobnica(ca. 1470 - 1519), was already a moderate Scotist who took account of the theories of the Ockhamists, Thomists and Humanists. [Tatarkiewicz, "Zarys...", p. 7.]
Nominalismwas revived in western Europeat the turn of the 16th century, particularly thanks to Jacques Lefèvre d'Étaples("Faber Stapulensis"), it presently reappeared in Krakówand began taking the upper hand there once more over Thomismand Scotism. It was reintroduced particularly by Lefèvre's pupil, Jan Szylling, a native of Kraków who had studied at Paris in the opening years of the 16th century. Another follower of Lefèvre's was Grzegorz of Stawiszyn, a Kraków professor who, beginning in 1510, published the Frenchman's works at Kraków. [Tatarkiewicz, "Zarys...", p. 7.]
Polandhad made her appearance as a separate philosophical center only at the turn of the 15th century, at a time when the creative period of Scholastic philosophy had already passed. Throughout the 15th century, Poland harbored all the currents of Scholasticism. The advent of Humanismin Poland would find a Scholasticism more vigorous than in other countries. Indeed, Scholasticism would survive the 16th and 17th centuries and even part of the 18th at Kraków and Wilno Universities and at numerous Jesuit, Dominican and Franciscancolleges. [Tatarkiewicz, "Zarys...", pp. 7–8.]
To be sure, in the
16th century, with the arrival of the Renaissance, Scholasticismwould enter upon a decline; but during the 17th century's Counter-reformation, and even into the early 18th century, Scholasticism would again become Poland's chief philosophy. [Tatarkiewicz, "Zarys...", pp. 7-8.]
The spirit of
Humanism, which had reached Poland by the middle of the 15th century, was not very "philosophical." Rather, it lent its stimulus to linguisticstudies, politicalthought, and scientific research. But these manifested a philosophical attitude different from that of the previous period. [Tatarkiewicz, "Zarys...", p. 8.] Empirical natural sciencehad flourished at Krakówas early as the 15th century, side by side with speculative philosophy. The most perfect product of this blossoming was Nicolaus Copernicus(1473-1543, _pl. Mikołaj Kopernik). He was not only a scientist but a philosopher. According to Tatarkiewicz, he may have been the greatest—in any case, the most renowned—philosopher that Poland ever produced. He drew the inspiration for his cardinal discovery from philosophy; he had become acquainted through Marsilio Ficinowith the philosophies of Platoand the Pythagoreans; and through the writings of the philosophers Ciceroand Plutarchhe had learned about the ancientswho had declared themselves in favor of the earth's movement. [Tatarkiewicz, "Zarys...", pp. 8–9.] Copernicus may also have been influenced by Kraków philosophy: during his studies there, Terminist physicshad been taught, with special emphasis on "impetus"." His own thinking was guided by philosophical considerations. He arrived at the heliocentricthesis (as he was to write in a youthful treatise) "ratione postea equidem sensu": it was not observationbut the discovery of a logical contradictionin Ptolemy's system, that served him as a point of departure that led to the new astronomy. In his dedication to Pope Paul III, he submitted his work for judgment by "philosophers." [Tatarkiewicz, "Zarys...", p. 9.]
In its turn, Copernicus' theory transformed man's view of the structure of the
universe, and of the place held in it by the earth and by man, and thus attained a far-reaching philosophical importance. [Tatarkiewicz, "Zarys...", p. 9.]
Copernicus was involved not only in
natural scienceand natural philosophybut also—by his studies in the theory of value and money(see " Gresham's Law")—in the philosophy of man. [Tatarkiewicz, "Zarys...", p. 9.]
In the early
16th century, Plato, who had become a model for philosophy in Italy, especially in Medicean Florence, was represented in Polandin some ways by Adam of Łowicz, author of "Conversations about Immortality". [Tatarkiewicz, "Zarys...", p. 9.] Generally speaking, though, Poland remained Aristotelian. Sebastian Petrycyof Pilzno(1554-1626) laid stress, in the theory of knowledge, on experimentand induction; and in psychology, on feelingand will; while in politicshe preached democraticideas. Petrycy's central feature was his linking of philosophical theory with the requirements of practical national life. In 1601-18, a period when translations into modern languages were still rarities, he accomplished translations of Aristotle's practical works. With Petrycy, Polish philosophical terminologybegan to develop not much later than did the French and German. [Tatarkiewicz, "Zarys...", pp. 9–10.]
Renaissancecurrent, the new Stoicism, was represented in Poland by Jakub Górski(ca. 1525 - 1585), author of a famous "Dialectic" (1563) and of many works in grammar, rhetoric, theologyand sociology. He tended toward eclecticism, attempting to reconcile the Stoicswith Aristotle. [Tatarkiewicz, "Zarys...", p. 10.]
A later, purer representative of
Stoicismin Poland was Adam Burski(ca. 1560 - 1611), author of a "Dialectica Ciceronis" (1604) boldly proclaiming Stoic sensualism and empiricismand—before Francis Bacon—urging the use of inductive method. [Tatarkiewicz, "Zarys...", p. 10.] A star among the pleiade of progressive politicalphilosophers during the Polish Renaissancewas Andrzej Frycz Modrzewski(1503-72), who advocated on behalf of equality for all before the law, the accountability of monarchand governmentto the nation, and social assistance for the weak and disadvantaged. [Tatarkiewicz, "Historia filozofii", vol. 2, p. 38.] His chief work was "De Republica emendanda" (On Reform of the Republic, 1551-54). Another notable political thinker was
thumb|150px|1733_English_translation_of_Goślicki's "De optimo senatore"
Wawrzyniec Grzymała Goślicki(1530-1607), best known in Poland and abroad for his book "De optimo senatore" (The Accomplished Senator, 1568). It propounded the view—which for long got the book banned in England, as subversive of monarchy—that a ruler may legitimately govern only with the sufferance of the people. [Joseph Kasparek, "The Constitutions of Poland and of the United States: Kinships and Genealogy", pp. 245–50.]
After the first decades of the
17th century, the wars, invasions and internal dissensions that beset the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, brought a decline in philosophy. If in the ensuing period there was independent philosophical thought, it was among the religious dissenters, particularly the Polish Arians, [Tatarkiewicz, "Zarys...", p. 11.] also known variously as Antitrinitarians, Archicatholics, Socinians, and Polish Brethren—forerunners of the British and American Socinians, Unitarians and Deists who were to figure prominently in the intellectual and political currents of the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. [Kasparek, "The Constitutions...", pp. 218–24.]
dissenters created an original ethicaltheory radically condemning evil and violence. Centers of intellectual life such as that at Lesznohosted notable thinkers such as the Czech pedagogue, Jan Amos Komensky(Comenius), and the Pole, Jan Jonston. Jonston was tutor and physician to the Leszczyńskifamily, a devotee of Bacon and experimental knowledge, and author of "Naturae constantia", published in Amsterdamin 1632, whose geometricalmethod and naturalistic, almost pantheisticconcept of the world may have influenced Benedict Spinoza. [Tatarkiewicz, "Zarys...", p. 11.]
Leszczyńskifamily itself would produce an 18th-century Polish-Lithuanian king, Stanisław Leszczyński(1677-1766; reigned in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth1704-11 and again 1733-36), "le philosophe bienfaisant" ("the beneficent philosopher")—in fact, an independent thinker whose views on culturewere in advance of Jean-Jacques Rousseau's, and who was the first to introduce into Polish intellectual life on a large scale the French influences that were later to become so strong. [Tatarkiewicz, "Zarys...", p. 11.]
After a decline of a century and a half, in the mid-
18th century, Polish philosophy began to revive. The hub of this movement was Warsaw. While Poland's capital then had no institution of higher learning, neither were those of Kraków, Zamośćor Wilno any longer agencies of progress. The initial impetus for the revival came from religious thinkers: from members of the Piaristand other teaching orders. A leading patron of the new ideas was Bishop Andrzej Stanisław Załuski. [Tatarkiewicz, "Zarys...", p. 11.] Scholasticism, which until then had dominated Polish philosophy, was followed by the Enlightenment. Initially the major influence was Christian Wolff and, indirectly, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz. The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth's elected king, August III the Saxon, and the relations between Poland and her neighbor, Saxony, heightened the German influence. Wolff's doctrine was brought to Warsaw in 1740 by the Theatine, Portalupi; from 1743, its chief Polish champion was Wawrzyniec Mitzler de Kolof(1705-40), court physician to August III. [Tatarkiewicz, "Zarys...", pp. 11–12.] Under the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth's last king, Stanisław August Poniatowski(reigned 1764-95), the Polish Enlightenmentwas radicalized and came under French influence. The philosophical foundation of the movement ceased to be the Rationalistdoctrine of Wolff and became the Sensualism of Condillac. This spirit pervaded Poland's Commission of National Education, which completed the reforms begun by the Piaristpriest, Stanisław Konarski. The Commission's members were in touch with the French Encyclopedistsand freethinkers, with d'Alembertand Condorcet, Condillac and Rousseau. The Commission abolished school instruction in theology, even in philosophy. [Tatarkiewicz, "Zarys...", p. 12.]
empiricistand positivistEnlightenment philosophy produced several outstanding Polish thinkers. Though active in the reign of Stanisław August Poniatowski, they published their chief works only after the loss of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth's independence in 1795. The most important of these figures were Jan Śniadecki, Stanisław Staszicand Hugo Kołłątaj. [Tatarkiewicz, "Zarys...", pp. 12–13.]
Another adherent of this empirical Enlightenment philosophy was the minister of education under the
Duchy of Warsawand under the Congress Kingdomestablished by the Congress of Vienna, Stanisław Kostka Potocki(1755-1821). In some places, as at Krzemieniecand its Lyceumin southeastern Poland, this philosophy was to survive well into the 19th century. Though a belated philosophy from a western perspective, it was at the same time the philosophy of the future. This was the period between d'Alembertand Comte; and even as this variety of positivismwas temporarily fading in the West, it was carrying on in Poland. [Tatarkiewicz, "Zarys...", p. 13.]
At the turn of the
19th century, as Immanuel Kant's fame was spreading over the rest of Europe, in Poland the Enlightenment philosophy was still in full flower. Kantism found here a hostile soil. Even before Kant had been understood, he was condemned by the most respected writers of the time: by Jan Śniadecki, Staszic, Kołłątaj, Tadeusz Czacki, later by Anioł Dowgird(1776-1835). Jan Śniadeckiwarned against this "fanatical, dark and apocalyptic mind," and wrote: "To revise Locke and Condillac, to desire "a priori" knowledge of things that human nature can grasp only by their consequences, is a lamentable aberration of mind." [Tatarkiewicz, "Zarys...", p. 14.]
Jan Śniadecki's younger brother, however,
Jędrzej Śniadecki, was the first respected Polish scholar to declare (1799) for Kant. And in applying Kantian ideas to the natural sciences, he did something new that would not be undertaken until much later by Johannes Müller, Hermann Ludwig Ferdinand von Helmholtzand other famous scientists of the 19th century. [Tatarkiewicz, "Historia filozofii", vol. 2, pp. 187–88.]
Another Polish proponent of Kantism was
Józef Kalasanty Szaniawski(1764-1843), who had been a student of Kant's at Königsberg. But, having accepted the fundamental points of the critical theory of knowledge, he still hesitated between Kant's metaphysical agnosticism and the new metaphysics of Idealism. Thus this one man introduced to Poland both the antimetaphysical Kant and the post-Kantian metaphysics. [Tatarkiewicz, "Zarys...", pp. 14–15.]
In time, Kant's foremost Polish sympathizer would be
Feliks Jaroński(1777-1827), who lectured at Kraków in 1809-18. Still, his Kantian sympathies were only partial. And this half-heartedness was typical of Polish Kantism generally. In Poland there was no actual Kantian period. [Tatarkiewicz, "Zarys...", p. 15.]
For a generation, between the age of the
French Enlightenmentand that of the Polish national metaphysic, the Scottish philosophy of common sensebecame the dominant outlook in Poland. At the beginning of the 19th century, the Scottish School of Common Senseheld sway in most European countries—in Britain till mid-century, and nearly as long in France. But in Poland, from the first, the Scottish philosophy fused with Kantism, in this regard anticipating the West. [Tatarkiewicz, "Zarys...", pp. 15–16.]
The Kantian and Scottish ideas were united in typical fashion by
Jędrzej Śniadecki(1768-1838). The younger brother of Jan Śniadecki, Jędrzej was an illustrious scientist, biologist and physician, and the more creative mind of the two. He had been educated at the universities of Kraków, Paduaand Edinburghand was from 1796 a professor at Wilno, where he held a chair of chemistryand pharmacy. He was a foe of metaphysics, holding that the fathoming of first causes of beingwas "impossible to fulfill and unnecessary." But foe of metaphysics that he was, he was not an Empiricist—and this was his link with Kant. "Experiment and observation can only gather... the materials from which common sensealone can build science." [Tatarkiewicz, "Historia filozofii", vol. 2, p. 189.]
An analogous position, shunning both
positivismand metaphysical speculation, affined to the Scots but linked in some features to Kantian critique, was held in the period before the November 1830 Uprising by virtually all the university professors in Poland: in Wilno, by Dowgird; in Kraków, by Józef Emanuel Jankowski(1790-1847); and in Warsaw, by Adam Ignacy Zabellewicz(1784-1831) and Krystyn Lach Szyrma(1791-1866). [Tatarkiewicz, "Zarys...", pp. 16-17.]
In the early
19th century, following a generation imbued with Enlightenment ideas, Poland passed directly to a maximal philosophical program, to absolute metaphysics, to syntheses, to great systems, to reformof the world through philosophy; and broke with positivism, the doctrines of the Enlightenment, and the precepts of Common Sense. [Tatarkiewicz, "Zarys...", p. 17.]
The Polish metaphysical blossoming occurred between the November 1830 and January 1863 Uprisings, and stemmed from the spiritual aspirations of a politically humiliated people. [Tatarkiewicz, "Zarys...", p. 17.] The Poles' metaphysic, though drawing on German
Idealism, differed considerably from it; it was Spiritualistrather than Idealist. It was characterized by a theisticbelief in a personal God, in the everlastingness of souls, and in the superiority of spiritual over corporeal forces. [Tatarkiewicz, "Zarys...", p. 17.]
The Polish metaphysic saw the mission of philosophy not only in the search for
truth, but in the reformation of life and in the salvationof mankind. It was permeated with a faith in the metaphysical import of the nationand convinced that man could fulfill his vocationonly within the communion of spirits that was the nation, that nations determined the evolution of mankind, and more particularly that the Polish nation had been assigned the role of Messiahto the nations. [Tatarkiewicz, "Zarys...", p. 17.]
It was these three traits—the founding of a
metaphysicon the concept of the souland on the concept of the nation, and the assignment to the latter of reformative- soteriologicaltasks—that distinguished the Polish metaphysicians. Some, such as Hoene-Wroński, saw the Messiah in philosophyitself; others, such as the poet Mickiewicz, saw Him in the Polish nation. Hence Hoene-Wroński, and later Mickiewicz, adopted for their doctrines the name, " Messianism." It came to apply generically to Polish metaphysics of the 19th century, much as the term " Idealism" does to German metaphysics. [Tatarkiewicz, "Zarys...", p. 18.] In the first half of the 19th century, there appeared in Poland a host of metaphysicians unanimous as to these basic precepts, if strikingly at variance as to details. Their only center was Paris, which hosted Józef Maria Hoene-Wroński(1778-1853). Otherwise they lived in isolation: Bronisław Trentowski(1808-69) in Germany; Józef Gołuchowski(1797-1858) in the Congress Kingdom; August Cieszkowski(1814-94) and Karol Libelt(1807-75) in Wielkopolska(western Poland); Józef Kremer(1806-75) in Kraków. Most of them became active only after the November 1830 Uprising. [Tatarkiewicz, "Historia filozofii", vol. 2, p. 229.]
An important role in the Messianist movement was also played by the Polish
Romantic poets, Adam Mickiewicz(1798-1855), Juliusz Słowacki(1809-49) and Zygmunt Krasiński(1812-59), as well as religious activists such as Andrzej Towiański(1799-1878). [Tatarkiewicz, "Zarys...", p. 18.]
philosophers and the poets, the method of reasoning, and often the results, differed. The poets desired to create a specifically "Polish" philosophy, the philosophers—an absolute "universal" philosophy. The Messianist philosophers knew contemporary European philosophy and drew from it; the poets created more of a home-grown metaphysic. [Tatarkiewicz, "Zarys", p. 18.]
The most important difference among the Messianists was that some were
rationalists, others—mystics. Wroński's philosophy was no less rationalist than Hegel's, while the poets voiced a mystical philosophy. [Tatarkiewicz, "Zarys...", p. 18.]
The Messianists were not the only Polish philosophers active in the period between the 1830 and 1863 Uprisings. Much more widely known in Poland were
Catholicthinkers such as Father Piotr Semeneńko(1814-86), Florian Bochwic(1779-1856) and Eleonora Ziemięcka(1819-69), Poland's first woman philosopher. The Catholic philosophy of the period was more widespread and fervent than profound or creative. [Tatarkiewicz, "Historia filozofii", vol. 3, p. 173.]
Also active were pure
Hegelians such as Tytus Szczeniowski(1808-80) and leftist Hegelians such as Edward Dembowski(1822-46). [Tatarkiewicz, "Zarys...", p. 24.]
An outstanding representative of the philosophy of Common Sense,
Michał Wiszniewski(1794-1865), had studied at that Enlightenment bastion, Krzemieniec; in 1820, in France, had attended the lectures of Victor Cousin; and in 1821, in Britain, had met the head of the Scottish School of Common Senseat the time, Dugald Stewart. [Tatarkiewicz, "Historia filozofii", vol. 3, p. 174.]
Active as well were s of
Positivismsuch as Józef Supiński(1804-93) and Dominik Szulc(1797-1860)—links between the earlier Enlightenment age of the brothers Śniadecki and the coming age of Positivism. [Tatarkiewicz, "Zarys...", p. 24. Tatarkiewicz, "Historia filozofii", vol. 3, p. 175.]
The Positivist philosophy that took form in Poland after the January 1863 Uprising was hardly identical with the philosophy of
Auguste Comte. It was in fact a return to the line of Jan Śniadeckiand Hugo Kołłątaj—a line that had remained unbroken even during the Messianist period—now enriched with the ideas of Comte. [Tatarkiewicz, "Historia filozofii", vol. 3, p. 176.] However, it belonged only partly to philosophy. It combined Comte's ideas with those of John Stuart Milland Herbert Spencer, for it was interested in what was common to them all: a sober, empiricalattitude to life. [Tatarkiewicz, "Zarys...", p. 25.]
The Polish Positivism was a
reactionagainst philosophical speculation, but also against romanticismin poetry and idealismin politics. It was less a scholarly movement than literary, political and social. Few original books were published, but many were translated from the philosophical literature of the West—not Comte himself, but easier writers: Hippolyte Taine, Mill, Spencer, Alexander Bain, Thomas Henry Huxley, the Germans Wilhelm Wundtand Friedrich Albert Lange, the Danish philosopher Höffding. [Tatarkiewicz, "Historia filozofii", vol. 3, p. 176.] The disastrous outcome of the January 1863 Uprising had produced a distrust of romanticism, an aversion to ideals and illusions, and turned the search for redemption toward sober thought and work directed at realistic goals. The watchword became "organic work"—a term for the campaign for economic improvement, which was regarded as a prime requisite for progress. Poles prepared for such work by studying the natural sciencesand economics: they absorbed Charles Darwin's biological theories, Mill's economictheories, Henry Thomas Buckle's deterministic theory of civilization. At length they became aware of the connection between their own convictions and aims and the Positivist philosophy of Auguste Comte, and borrowed its name and watchwords. [Tatarkiewicz, "Historia filozofii", vol. 3, p. 177.]
This movement, which had begun still earlier in
Austrian-ruled Galicia, became concentrated with time in the Russian-ruled Congress Kingdomcentered about Warsawand is therefore commonly known as the "Warsaw Positivism." [Tatarkiewicz, "Zarys...", pp. 25–26.] Its chief venue was the Warsaw "Przegląd Tygodniowy" (Weekly Review); [Tatarkiewicz, "Historia filozofii", vol. 3, p. 177.] Warsaw University(the "Main School") had been closed by the Russians in 1869. The pioneers of the Warsaw Positivism were natural scientists and physicians rather than philosophers, and still more so journalists and men of letters: Aleksander Świętochowski(1849-1938), Piotr Chmielowski(1848-1904), Adolf Dygasiński(1839-1902), [Tatarkiewicz, "Historia filozofii", vol. 3, p. 177.] Bolesław Prus(1847-1912). Prus developed an original Utilitarian-inspired ethical system in his book, "The Most General Life Ideals". [Edward Pieścikowski, "Bolesław Prus", pp. 138-39.]
The movement's leader was Prus' friend,
Julian Ochorowicz(1850-1917), a trained philosopher with a doctorate from the University of Leipzig. In 1872 he wrote: "We shall call a Positivist, anyone who bases assertions on verifiable evidence; who does not express himself categorically about doubtful things, and does not speak at all about those that are inaccessible." [Tatarkiewicz, "Historia filozofii", vol. 3, p. 177.]
The Warsaw Positivists—who included faithful
Catholics such as Father Franciszek Krupiński(1836-98)—formed a common front against Messianism together with the Neo-Kantians. The Polish Kantians were rather loosely associated with Kant and belonged to the Positivist movement. They included Władysław Mieczysław Kozłowski(1858-1935), Piotr Chmielowski(1848-1904) and Marian Massonius(1862-1945). [Tatarkiewicz, "Historia filozofii", vol. 3, pp. 177–78.]
The most brilliant philosophical mind in this period was
Adam Mahrburg(1855-1913). He was a Positivistin his understanding of philosophy as a discipline and in his uncompromising ferreting out of speculation, and a Kantianin his interpretation of mind and in his centering of philosophy upon the theory of knowledge. [Tatarkiewicz, "Historia filozofii", vol. 3, pp. 177-78.]
Kraków, Father Stefan Pawlicki(1839-1916), professor of philosophy at the University of Kraków, was a man of broad culture and philosophical bent, but lacked talent for writing or teaching. Under his over-thirty-year tenure, Kraków philosophy became mainly a historical discipline, alien to what was happening in the West and in Warsaw. [Tatarkiewicz, "Historia filozofii", vol. 3, p. 175.]
Even before Poland regained independence at the end of
World War I, her intellectual life continued to develop. This was the case particularly in Russian-ruled Warsaw, where in lieu of underground lectures and secret scholarly organizations a " Wolna Wszechnica Polska" (Free Polish University) was created in 1905 and the tireless Władysław Weryho(1868-1916) had in 1898 founded Poland's first philosophical journal, "Przegląd Filozoficzny" (The Philosophical Review), and in 1904 a Philosophical Society. [Tatarkiewicz, "Historia filozofii", vol. 3, p. 356.]
In 1907 Weryho founded a Psychological Society, and subsequently Psychological and Philosophical Institutes. About 1910 the small number of professionally trained philosophers increased sharply, as individuals returned who had been inspired by Mahrburg's underground lectures to study philosophy in
Austrian-ruled Lwówand Krakówor abroad. [Tatarkiewicz, "Historia filozofii", vol. 3, p. 356.] Krakówas well, especially after 1910, saw a quickening of the philosophical movement, particularly at the Polish Academy of Learning, where upon the prompting of Władysław Heinrichthere came into being in 1911 a Committee for the History of Polish Philosophy and there was an immense growth in the number of philosophical papers and publications, no longer only of a historicalcharacter. [Tatarkiewicz, "Zarys...", p. 27.]
Lwów, Kazimierz Twardowskifrom 1895 stimulated a lively philosophical movement, in 1904 founded the Polish Philosophical Society, ["Twardowski, Kazimierz," "Encyklopedia powszechna PWN", vol. 4, p. 512.] and in 1911 began publication of " Ruch Filozoficzny" (The Philosophical Movement). [Tatarkiewicz, "Zarys...", p. 27.]
There was growing interest in western philosophical currents, and much discussion of
Pragmatismand Bergsonism, psychoanalysis, Henri Poincaré's Conventionalism, Edmund Husserl's Phenomenology, the Marburg School, and the social-science methodologies of Wilhelm Diltheyand Heinrich Rickert. At the same time, original ideas developed on Polish soil. [Tatarkiewicz, "Zarys...", p. 27.]
Those who distinguished themselves in Polish philosophy in these pre-
World War Iyears of the 20th century, formed two groups.One group developed apart from institutions of higher learning and learned societies, and appealed less to trained philosophers than to broader circles, which it (if but briefly) captured. It constituted a reaction against the preceding period of Positivism, and included Stanisław Brzozowski (1878-1911), Wincenty Lutosławski(1863-1954) and, to a degree, Edward Abramowski(1868-1918). [Tatarkiewicz, "Zarys...", pp. 27–28.]
The second group of philosophers who started off Polish philosophy in the
20th centuryhad an academiccharacter. They included Władysław Heinrich(1869-1957) in Kraków, Kazimierz Twardowski(1866-1938) in Lwów, and Leon Petrażycki(1867-1931) abroad—all three, active members of the Polish Academy of Learning. Despite the considerable differences among them, they shared some basic features: all three were empiricists concerned not with metaphysics but with the foundations of philosophy; they were interested in philosophy itself, not merely its history; they understood philosophy in positive terms, but none of them was a Positivist in the old style. [Tatarkiewicz, "Zarys...", pp. 29-30.]
Following the restoration of Poland's independence in 1918, the two older universities (Kraków University,
Lwów University) were joined by four new ones ( Warsaw University, Poznań University, Wilno University, Lublin University). New philosophical journals appeared; all the university cities formed philosophical associations; conventions of Polish philosophers were held; philosophy became more professional, academic, scholarly. [Tatarkiewicz, "Historia filozofii", vol. 3, pp. 363–64.]
A characteristic of the
interbellumwas that maximalist, metaphysical currents began to fade away. [Tatarkiewicz, "Zarys...", p. 30.] The dominant ambition in philosophical theory now was not breadth but precision. This was a period of specialization, consistent with the conviction that general philosophy would not yield precise results such as could be obtained in logic, psychologyor the history of philosophy. [Tatarkiewicz, "Historia filozofii", vol. 3, p. 366.]
A few individuals did develop a general philosophical outlook: notably,
Tadeusz Kotarbiński(1886-1981), Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz(1885-1939), and Roman Ingarden(1893-1970). [Tatarkiewicz, "Zarys...", pp. 30–31.]
specializationwas the rule. The Kraków school, true to tradition, showed an eminently historical character and produced a medievalistof world renown, Father Konstanty Michalski(1879-1947). [Tatarkiewicz, "Zarys...", p. 31.] The Lwów school concentrated on the analysis of concepts; and in doing so, it considered both their aspects, the subjective and objective—hence, the psychologicaland the logical. Twardowski himself continued working at the border of psychology and logic; his pupils, however, generally split in their interests, specializing in either psychology or logic. [Tatarkiewicz, "Historia filozofii", vol. 3, p. 366.]
The analytical program that Twardowski passed on to his pupils, and which they in turn spread throughout Poland, was affined to that of
Franz Brentano's school (Twardowski's " alma mater") in Austriaand to that of the British analytic school, which likewise had arisen as a reaction against speculative systems. [Tatarkiewicz, "Historia filozofii", vol. 3, p. 368.]
alumniof the Lwów school entered three distinct fields. Some devoted themselves to psychology: Stefan Błachowski(1889-1962), professor at Poznań, entirely; Władysław Witwicki(1878-1948), professor at Warsaw, partly. Others pursued the theory of knowledge: they included Kazimierz Ajdukiewicz(1890-1963), professor at Lwów, and after World War IIat Poznań, whose views resembled Neopositivismand who developed an original theory of radical Conventionalism. The third group worked in mathematical, or symbolic, logic. [Tatarkiewicz, "Zarys...", p. 31.]
The most important center for mathematical logic was Warsaw. The Warsaw school of logic was headed by
Jan Łukasiewicz(1878-1956) and Stanisław Leśniewski(1886-1939), professors at Warsaw University, and the first of their pupils to achieve eminence, even before World War II, was Alfred Tarski(1902-83), [Tatarkiewicz, "Zarys...", p. 31.] from 1939 in the United States, where he became a professor at the University of California, Berkeley; another pupil of Łukasiewicz, Bolesław Sobociński, became a professor at the University of Notre Dame. The Warsaw logic gained a world-wide importance similar to that of the Kraków medievalism. [Tatarkiewicz, "Zarys...", p. 31.]
Warsaw was not, however, the sole Polish venue for logic studies. These were initiated at
Krakówby the mathematics professor, Jan Sleszyński. At Kraków, too, and later at Lwów, they were conducted by Leon Chwistek(1884-1944), a multi-faceted and somewhat eccentric thinker—mathematician, philosopher, esthetician, painter—whose name came to be associated popularly with his concept of "plural realities." [Tatarkiewicz, "Historia filozofii", vol. 3, p. 367.]
After Petrażycki's death, the outstanding
legalphilosopher was Czesław Znamierowski(1888-1967), professor of philosophy at Poznań. [Tatarkiewicz, "Historia filozofii", vol. 3, pp. 367–68.] Another leading thinker of the period, active on the borderlines of sociologyand philosophy, in both Polandand the United States, was Florian Znaniecki(1882-1958). [Tatarkiewicz, "Historia filozofii", vol. 3, p. 361.]
interbellum, the philosopher members of the Polish Academy of Learningincluded Heinrich (Kraków), Twardowski (Lwów), Petrażycki (Warsaw), and, from the following generation: Michalski, Łukasiewicz and Władysław Tatarkiewicz(1886-1980). Michalski's historical works revolutionized prevailing views on "via moderna" in late medieval philosophy. Łukasiewicz gained world fame with his concept of many-valued logicand is known for his " Polish notation." Tatarkiewicz was the first to prepare in Polish a large-scale comprehensive history of western philosophyand a "History of Aesthetics" and worked at systematizing the concepts of estheticsand ethics. [Tatarkiewicz, "Zarys...", pp. 31–32.]
World War II, Roman Ingarden, Tadeusz Kotarbińskiand Alfred Tarskibecame members of the Academy. [Tatarkiewicz, "Zarys...", p. 32.]
For some four decades following World War II, in Poland, a disproportionately prominent official role was given to
Marxist philosophy. This, and contemporaneous sociopolitical currents, stimulated Leszek Kołakowski, writing in exile, to publish influential critiques of Marxisttheory and communistpractice. Kołakowski also wrote a remarkable history of "Positivist Philosophy from Hume to the Vienna Circle". [ Leszek Kołakowski, "Positivist Philosophy from Hume to the Vienna Circle", Penguin Books, 1972, ASIN B000OIXO7E.]
Similarly notable for his critiques of
Soviet Marxismwas Józef Maria Bocheński, a Catholic philosopher lecturing in Fribourg, Switzerland, who also produced work in logicand ethics.
Other Polish philosophers of the postwar period included
Andrzej Zabłudowski, who engaged in noted polemics with Nelson Goodman, and Marek Siemek, a historian of German Transcendental Philosophyand recipient of an honorary doctoratefrom Bonn University.
History of philosophy
*List of Poles
Władysław Tatarkiewicz, "Historia filozofii" (History of Philosophy), 3 vols., Warsaw, Państwowe Wydawnictwo Naukowe, 1978.
Władysław Tatarkiewicz, "Zarys dziejów filozofii w Polsce" (A Brief History of Philosophy in Poland), [in the series:] "Historia nauki polskiej w monografiach" (History of Polish Learning in Monographs), [volume] XXXII, Kraków, "Polska Akademia Umiejętności" ( Polish Academy of Learning), 1948. This monograph draws from pertinent sections in earlier editions of the author's "Historia filozofii" (History of Philosophy).
Will Durant, "The Age of Faith: A History of Medieval Civilization – Christian, Islamic, and Judaic – from Constantine to Dante: A.D. 325-1300", [in the series:] "The Story of Civilization", New York, Simon and Schuster, 1950.
* Joseph Kasparek, "The Constitutions of Poland and of the United States: Kinships and Genealogy", Miami, American Institute of Polish Culture, 1980.
* Edward Pieścikowski, "
Bolesław Prus", 2nd edition, Warsaw, Państwowe Wydawnictwo Naukowe, 1985.
Kazimierz Kuratowski, "A Half Century of Polish Mathematics: Remembrances and Reflections", Oxford, Pergamon Press, 1973, ISBN 0-08-023046-6.
Leszek Kołakowski, "Positivist Philosophy from Hume to the Vienna Circle", Penguin Books, 1972.
* [http://www.fmag.unict.it/~fconiglione/Sito/Home_Coniglione.html Francesco Coniglione] , "Nel segno della scienza. La filosofia polacca del Novecento", FrancoAngeli, Milano,1996.
Encyklopedia Powszechna PWN" (PWN Universal Encyclopedia), 4 vols., Warsaw, Państwowe Wydawnictwo Naukowe, 1976.
Encyklopedia Polski", Kraków, Wydawnictwo Ryszard Kluszczyński, 1996.
* "Polski słownik biograficzny".
ZNAK", 5/2005/600, pp. 23-102.
* [http://skowronski.krzysztof.w.interia.pl/Contemporary%20Updated%20Nov.htm Dr. Skowroński, Contemporary Polish Philosophy (for foreign students)]
* [http://www.fmag.unict.it/~polphil/PolHome.html Polish Philosophy Page]
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