+ All Categories
Home > Documents > Tatarkiewicz Reminiscences

Tatarkiewicz Reminiscences

Date post: 14-Apr-2018
Upload: rafael-paris-restrepo
View: 227 times
Download: 0 times
Share this document with a friend

of 10

  • 7/29/2019 Tatarkiewicz Reminiscences



    Wiadyslaw Tatarkiewicz


    This is a reconstructionfrom personal memoriesof philosophy's fate during theoccupation yearswhen education and all research work had to be pursued in secret.

    Key words: occupation years of leading Polish philosophers, including: Miciriski,B.; Gralewski, J.; Milbrandt, M.; and Salamucha, J.

    In the last pre-war academic year of 1938/39 we met in a small group at aweekly philosophy seminar at Warsaw University, held in the evening when thecampus in Krakowskie Przedmiescie began to be empty. In this group weresenior students, both male and female, but the majority were graduates busywith their own research projects. This was a unique gathering: for the pasttwenty-five years I have not once encountered such a harmonious team of tal-ented and cultured people. There were in the seminar students of ancient andmodern history, ethics, and aesthetics, all also displaying considerable literaryand even artistictalent. Primarily focused on the humanities, their work wascomplementary to that of the Warsaw School of Logic. They not only knewhow to compile scholarly essays but also wrote well, which made them perfectpropagators of philosophical culture and a new, fresh force in philosophy. Eachone of this group pursued different interests, but all shared the same seriousattitude to their work. Typical for this team was also an inherent human warmth,a closeness which at times even bloomed into personal friendships.

    This world ended with the outbreak of the war in 1939 and hardly anyone ofthis group is alive today. Among the first to go were Michal Wasilewski andJerzy Siwecki, both drafted as reserve officers when the war started and bothwere killed on the front.

  • 7/29/2019 Tatarkiewicz Reminiscences


    40 Wladystaw TatarkiewiczMichal Wasilewski was born on August 24, 1906. He spent his childhoodin eastern Belarus and later moved to Warsaw, where he lived with his parentsopposite to the Holy Cross Church in the close vicinity of Warsaw University.At the University he first got a degree in Polish studies, then went on to studyphilosophy, which in his case was more an emotional than a rational decision.A dramatic event during his youthful years (he accidentally shot a dearly-lovedcousin on a hunting trip) had left a scar none of his subsequent successescould heal. The healer proved to be philosophyto a large extent due to thespecial warmth and friendliness present in the Warsaw philosophical milieuin those days. Michal Wasilewski went on to a philosophy assistant professor-ship; his main interestand talentwas historical analysis. He specialized

    in the history of modem philosophy, especially Malebranche, but never finisheda large monograph on the French thinker. The only fragment that was everprinted appeared in 1937 in Przeglqd Filozoficzny [Philosophical Review] underthe title Kartezjusz i Malebranche [Descartes and Malebranche].Michal Wasilewski was killed on September 17 1939 near Kriwa Luka in thedistrict of Czortkow.Jerzy Siwecki specialized in two fields: philosophy and classical philology.He, too, was a philosopher-historian, specializing in the Middle Ages. He wasan outstanding medievalist, especially owing to his deep knowledge of oldscholastic sources. Jerzy Siwecki was a devout Catholic and his scholastic stud-ies harmonized well with his personal beliefs. In 1932 he published Zagad-nienia filozoficzne w "Konsolacji" Boecjusza [Philosophical Issues in Boethius'"Consolation"] in Philosophical Review, following this up in 1935 with Rozu-mowanie praktyczne i prawda praktyczna u Arystotelesa [Artistotle's PracticalReasoning and Practical Truth]. In 1934 he also published an essay on Ar-tistotle's action and creation concepts in Ksiqga Pamiqtkowa Gustawa Przy-chockiego [Gustaw Przychocki's Memorial Book].Before the war Siwecki worked in a grammar school in the Warsaw suburbBielany. Immersed in his teaching work and active in a number of Catholicyouth organizations, he nevertheless found time for his own scholarly pursuits.He had completed the first fragment of a large projecta study on Artistotle'sclassifications of skills and medieval Aristotelianswhen he set out to a warfrom which he never returned.Another of this group, Boguslaw Micitiski, died soon after. Was he also awar victim, though indirectly: he managed to fiee the German occupation to

    France, where unfortunately the hardships of refugee life soon brought on TB.Micinski was born on April 23, 1911, in his family estate Mokra in the Baltecki

  • 7/29/2019 Tatarkiewicz Reminiscences


    Reminiscences: 1939-1944 41Boguslaw Micinski was a philosopher and a poet. Typically for thiscircle, he masterfully combined philosophical and literary skills. In 1933 hepublished a volume of poetry entitled Chleb z Gietsemane [Bread fromGethsemane]. 1937 saw a collection of essays under the joint title Podrozedo Piekiel [Journeys to Hell], in which he charmingly mixed poetry withphilosophy, taking readers on a journey from Karl May and G ullive r'sTravels to Descartes. His philosophy graduation thesis, Deformacje rzeczywis-tosci w literaturze [Deformations of Reality in Literature] was lost in the warmelee.In 1937/39 Micinski studied in Paris and Grenoble, where he concentratedon Cousin. Like Wasilewski and Siwecki, he was never to finish a major work,

    the only memento of his French years, a funny and masterful essay entitled Dy-lizans filozoficzny [Philosophical Stagecoach], which appeared in 1938 in thePrzeglqd Warszawski [Warsaw Review].After returning to Poland Micinski became literature section head in the Pol-ish Radio, doubling as a second assistant professor in Warsaw University's phi-losophy faculty. In 1942 he published A Portrait of Kant, in which he ruminatedon old age facing death. A Portrait of Kant was Micinski's most mature work,extraordinary both in the literary and psychological sense; its deep insight into

    growing old was probably explained by the fact that its author had himselflooked death in the eye. Micinski died soon after its publication, in May 1943 inGrenoble. Death was an everyday thing in Warsaw at the time, nonethelessnews of this one shocked everyonegone was not only a man of great talentbut also a person of great charisma, loved and respected by all. Luckily a largepart of Micinski's essays, reviews and foreign correspondence was saved andsaw publication in 1970.We gathered again in October 1939Warsaw wasn't besieged anymore andmany of us who had fled to other parts of the country had returned. The univer-sity was in ruins and closed, therefore we met in my house. Some of us hadgone but we were still quite numerous. The meeting's first paper. HistoricalDisaster and Despair, dwelt on our most recent experiences. After that we metevery week on Mondayt evening, dispersing shortly before curfew. We met inprivate flats we felt safe in Sucha, Krucza, Wspolna and Chlodna. Our laterthemes had less to do with our contemporary timesto the contrary, they led usfar away from our world. As I recall we started with Bergson and the Vienna

    Circle, going on to Kierkegaard, Heidegger and Wladyslaw Dawid. We stuck tothese Monday meetings even during the worst times, when you really had to

  • 7/29/2019 Tatarkiewicz Reminiscences


    42 Wladyslaw TatarkiewiczWe lost Jan Mosdorf during the first winter. He was arrested and imprisonedin Pawiak*, and never released. After a year he was taken to Auschwitz, wherehe died in the autumn of 1944 after on ordeal which lasted four years. Born in1904, he was one of our group's senior members. He was widely known as astaunch nationalist, socially radical politician; pasted as a youth activist he wasalso quite popular with the young generation of the day. In 1934 tragic circum-stances forced him into hiding, but when he returned to Warsaw his head wasfull of ideas, plans and historical projects.Jan Mosdorf strongly believed the world, and particularly Poland, was inneed of social, political, economic and intellectual reconstruction, but he had nopolitical ambitions, choosing to devote himself to writing. In 1938 he published

    a synthesis of his main historiosophical and social ideas in two volumes entitledWczoraj i jutro [Yesterday and Tomorrow]. His chief field, however, was phi-losophy. In 1938 he was busy preparing for print his Ph.D. thesis Comte's His-toriosophy, whose fragment titled Was Comte a Positivistl he still saw in printin Philosophical Review in 1938. Auschwitz returnees often became quite emo-tional recalling his conduct in the campespecially his cheerfulness, patienceand courage, which was often a source of spiritual strength to fellow inmates.The war also took Jan Gralewski. Gralewski's interests lay closest to Micin-ski's, he, too, walking a line between philosophy and art. Born on March 3,1912 in Warsaw, he also attended his hometown university. He took a long timeto graduate, having to support himself and his mother. When he did hand in hisM.A. thesis, however, it was an excellent one. Its subject verged on Micinski'sDeformacja rzeczywistosci w sztuce [Deformations of Reality in Art], alas itwent lost during the war years.In 1938/1939 Gralewski was in Paris on a French government scholarship,working on a second aesthetics thesis. He managed to return to Poland twoweeks before the war broke outbut the suitcase in which he'd packed the

    manuscript and which he had sent separately, never turned up. Unfortunatelyonly small fragments of Gralewski's works have survived, among them Sztukaorganizowana przestrzeni [The Art of Spatial Planning], published by Arkady,and Wspolczesnosc w sztuce wspolczesnej [The Present Day in ContemporaryArt] in Zycie Sztuki [Art Life]. During the war Gralewski wrote essays but hisother concerns, especially his involvement with the resistance, did not allowhim to concentrate on a major theme. A foreign courier for the Polish under-ground, he perished along with general Sikorski in the memorable 1943 planecrash off Gibraltar.Our Monday meetings continued despite these losses, and even went into anew phase: in 1943 we switched from ad-hoc papers and essays to our collec-

  • 7/29/2019 Tatarkiewicz Reminiscences


    Reminiscences: 1939-1944 43tive work, Zagadnienia fdozofii [Philosophical Issues]. We divided the chaptersamong ourselves and every week one would be read and discussed. The book'sfirst part was a rundown of philosophical disciplines, the second dealt withmetaphysics, the third with cognition theory, the fourth with ethics, the fifthwith aesthetics, the final part was a review of major philosophical trends overthe ages. We missed some of our old friends on the project, but new peopleappearedmost notably the Rev. Professor Jan Salamucha, settled in Warsawafter surviving Sachsenhausen and Dachau, and doctor Jan Lempicki, both War-saw University alumni and earlier Philosophy Seminar members. We all workedhard on the book and in the summer of 1944 our publisher Stefan Dipp receivedthe first three parts.

    And then came the Warsaw Uprisingand took away almost everyone inthis circle. Among the dead were Mieczyslaw Milbrandt, the Rev. Saiamucha,dr. Lempicki, Alicja Szebekowa and Danuta Krzeszewska.Mieczyslaw Milbrandt was born on February 2, 1915, in L6dz, where he at-tended grammar school. He enrolled at Warsaw University in 1934 and gradu-ated in 1938. Immediately afterwards he received a teaching post at the univer-sity's philosophy faculty, a position he retained when the university operated insecret during the war years. Later he was given a history of philosophy assistantprofessorship although he had passed no qualifying exams and did not evenhave a PhD. Milbrandt also lectured at the Western Territories University andtaught philosophy propedeutics in underground at grammar school coursesuntil his death in the Rising.Mieczyslaw Milbrandt began to publish at an early age, not even out of uni-versity. In 1937 and 1938 he printed philosophical papers in periodicals likePlon [Upright], Narod i Panstwo [Nation and State], in Prosto z Mostu [TheEyes] and Polska Zbrojna [Armed Poland]. These w ere popular features writtenfor money, nonetheless interesting owing to their subject matter and the author'spersonal standpoints.

    Among them was in Obrona mysli [Defense of Thought], another, aimedagainst elevating thought above all else, was tided Niebezpieczenstwo teoriinaukowych [The Pitfalls of Scientific Theory]. In yet another, Sceptycyzm akoniecznosc swiatopoglqdu [Skepticism and the Need for a World Outlook],Milbrandt argued that some kind of rational construction was indispensable tolife despite skepticism's truths and temptations. There was also an article onReligion and Culture, in which he claimed religion was rooted in the world'smystery and hence had to come in conflict with culture, which strove to demys-tify the world. In Potrojne zycie [Triple Life] Milbrandt argued that our realityconsisted not only of the material world but also our dreamand that dreams

  • 7/29/2019 Tatarkiewicz Reminiscences


    44 Wiadyslaw Tatarkiewiczeluding the theory of time, the relativity concept and new physical and astro-nomical schoolsbut he inadvertently wound up with his main subjecthumanity in all its greatness and baseness.

    Milbrandt ceased writing these articles in 1938, having found other subsis-tence means. At about that time he also began a book on ethics under the work-ing title Cnota a obowiqzek [Virtue and Duty]. Along came the war, however,and the times were unconducive to writing. Milbrandt made some notes for thebook but never actually finished itand what he had put down was lost in theWarsaw Rising. The only survivor was Trzy szkice [Three Sketches], foundamong the ruins of his flat in Warsaw's Mokotow district and published in 1945in Nauka i Sztuka [Science and Art] Nos 1 and 2/3. Three Sketches are all thatremains of Mieczyslaw Milbrandt's work.During the war Milbrandt showed himself as a talented speaker. He lectured,held private readings and sat on various literary and philosophical teams andcommittees. He was a man of many talents, science being one. He worked welland extremely fast. He would sometimes do nothing at all for a lengthy periodof time, only to finish in a few hours what others needed weeks for. And heworked with an ease typical of the talented. Perfectly versed in modern philoso-phy's precise methods, he nevertheless held them in small value, his interestsrather wandering to issues such instruments could not fathom.

    His history of philosophy lectures captivated students, nonetheless this toowas not a major pursuit. Milbrandt's true love was contemporary philosophy,which in all its diversity he knew, understood and "felt" like perhaps nobody ofhis generation in Poland. Mieczyslaw Milbrandt displayed a unique feeling forthe signs of his times, in which he had witnessed the incomprehensibility of lifeand the tragic side of human existence. During the war he met Kierkegaard andHeidegger and was strongly influenced by their philosophy, which he foundmoving precisely in the direction he was going. Milbrandt knew how to con-dense Heidegger's muddled and poorly comprehensible statements into a fun-damentally simple picture of human life with its daily routine and ceaselessstrife. He spoke about this frequently and it was impossible to listen to him un-emotionally. He was also the first propagator of existentialism in Poland, andalthough he only did this verbally, traces of his activity in this respect remain tothis day.Milbrandt's basic concept was, I believe, that the world was a mysteriousand disquieting place and that this unease gave birth to philosophy. Accordingto him civilization quenched fear but also diminished the spirit, besides whichthe rational approach was insufficient to fathom the world's secretsas were allman-invented cults and magical rites. Furthermore, humans needed personal

  • 7/29/2019 Tatarkiewicz Reminiscences


    Reminiscences: 1939-1944 45Neither can the world's mysteries be investigated by science. Scientific theo-ries, however, are dangerous as presented to the masses they quickly evolvefrom hypothesis to dogma and become a strong influence of everyday lifeaswas the case with Ereud's theories or the relativity theory. Einally, most impor-tant for humanity is not existence in general but its own, with its worries, fear ofdeath and stifling routine, from under which we can barely discern real life asdesired by our true nature. "We don't know where [life] is going or at whatstage it is now. Its beginnings have disappeared from view and its end is not yetin sight."Mieczyslaw M ilbrandt's end came much sooner. He joined the Warsaw U p-risers on the first day of the fighting (August 1, 1944) and already on August 8

    took part in an attack on the Parliament building in which he was wounded. Hedied from the wounds a day later.The Rev. Jan Salamucha was born in 1903 and before the war was a profes-sor at Cracow's Jagiellon University. In the first phase of the war he was anarmy chaplain on the Warsaw front, returning to Cracow with a war wound anda Cross of Valor. A few days later he and a group of university professors weretaken to Sachsenhausen and later Dachau together with other university profes-sors. He returned in 1941; his body w as almost wrecked, but resumed his workas soon as his health improved. Eather Salamucha settled in Warsaw, where heremained until the end of the war as Vicar of St. James' Church, simultaneouslylecturing in philosophy to throngs of eager intellectuals and teaching at the localseminary. Eather Salamucha also lectured at the Western Territories Universityand held public readings, "doubling and tripling to meet his daily tasks as priest,professor, philosopher and wise counselor"'.

    The Rev. Salamucha graduated from Warsaw University's philosophy fac-ulty and the philosophy section of the theology faculty under St. Kobylecki, J.Lukasiewicz and St. Lesniewski. His major themes were logic and history ofphilosophy, and he authored a number of works: Pojqcie dedukcji u Arystotelesai Tomasza z Akwinu [The Deduction Concept: Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas]in 1930, Logika zdan ogolnych u W. Ockhama [W. Ockham's General SentenceLogic] in 1935, and Pojawienie siq zagadnien antynomialnych na gruncie logikisredniowiecznej [The Emergence of Antinomianism in Medieval Logic] in1937. He was among those who attempted to combine scholastics with logistics.At the 1936 Polish Philosophers' Congress in Cracow Eather Salamucha deliv-ered three papers which, together with J. Lukasiewicz's leading paper and con-tributions by I. Bocheiiski and E. Drewnowski appeared in print in 1937 underthe title, Mysl katolicka w obec logiki wspolczesnej [Catholic Thought and Con-temporary Lo gic].

  • 7/29/2019 Tatarkiewicz Reminiscences


    46 Wladyslaw TatarkiewiczThe Rev. Salamucha continued working throughout the war years, mostlypreparing for print a book titled O chrzescijanskim stylu w filozofti [On Chris-tian Style in Philosophy]. Most of the typescript survived and was to be pub-lished, but hasn't been as yet.In the Warsaw Uprising Father Salamucha fought in a large apartment build-ing between Mianowskiego, Uniwersytecka and Wawelska Streets. He died as achaplain on August 8, 1944.Also killed on that dayand in the same buildingwas Jan Lempicki. Fullyqualified as an academ ic teacher, Lempicki preferred to teach elementary schoolchildren. He specialized in Polish literature but possessed a broad philosophicalknowledge, best proof of which is his largest work, Historiozofia H. Taine'a [H.

    Taine's Historiosophy], published in 1938. Shortly before the war Lempickibegan a work on Boleslaw Prus' and his ethical views, which, as he claimed,were based on a vast array of older and newer philosophical tex ts, differed fromall hereto ethics and should therefore not be regarded as utilitarian or eudae-monistic. This he expounded in 1942 during an unforgettable lecture entitled"Madzia Brzeska's Ethical Values".It would be sadand an irretrievable lossto know that no copies of thewritings of this synthetic, independent and at the same time meticulous andcautious mind (especially the more recent titles and the Prus text) have surviveduntil today.Alicja Szebekowa (nee Tyszkiewicz) personified love of philosophy, forwhich she always found time in spite of absorbing family, social and charityduties (supplemented by military tasks during the war). Most of our Mondaymeetings took place at her home. Alicja Szebekowa was preparing a monographon Zeromski . A woman of great culture, a big heart and a staunch character,she died as a Hom e Army officer on Warsaw 's Pius street barricade.Danuta Krzeszewska was the youngest of our group. Born in Warsaw on

    December 18, 1919, she was a university freshman when the war broke out. Amedic during the fighting for Warsaw, she was stationed at the university cam-pus on one of the final days of the fighting, when a bomb hit the building inwhich we had our philosophical seminar. There were books in the buildingwhich needed to be salvaged but the shellfire was so dense that none dared toleave their sheltersall except Danuta, who went to the building and began toremove the books. Others soon followed suit. For this and other acts of courageDanuta Krzeszewska was decorated with a Cross of Valor. No one will everknow how many people she helped save from danger during the war, frequentlytaking big risks herself. In the Warsaw Uprising she was a medic againand

  • 7/29/2019 Tatarkiewicz Reminiscences


    Reminiscences: 1939-1944 47was killed on September 4, 1944 aiding air-raid victims in downtown Warsaw'sZgoda Street.

    Danuta combined all the good traits typical of our group: intellectual culture,openness, freedom from dogma, courage, a lust for lifeand a melancholytypical of a generation doomed to perish.

    This generation, born immediately before and during World War One andeducated in the pre-World War Two years, was truly decimated, a fact whichcreated a generation gap in Polish philosophy.

    Translated by Maciej Bankowski

    Wladyslaw TATARKIEWICZ (1886-1980). Philosopher, philosophy historian, aes-thetician, art historian. From 1919 to 1921 Tatarkiewicz was a philosophy professor atVilnius University, between 1921 and 1923 he held an aesthetics and art history profes-sorship at Poznan University. From 1923 to 1961 he was a philosophy professor at War-saw University. A member of the Warsaw Scholarly Society from 1928, the PolishAcademy of Arts and Science (PAU) from 1930 to 1951 and the Polish Academy ofSciences (PAN) from 1956. In his work Tatarkiewicz concentrated on aesthetics, thehistory of philosophy and the history of art (especially modern). He has authored nu-merous works on ethics and his philosophy and art history lectures, which he deliveredin many foreign academic centers, helped popularize the work of Polish philosophersabroad. His History of Philosophy (vol. 1-2 1931, 12th ed. 1990, vol. 3 1950, 9th edi-tion 1990), was for many years a standard academic textbook in Poland. His otherworks include Stanislaw August's Artistic Rule (1919), On Happiness (1947, 9th ed.1990), Concentration and Dreams (1951), Dominic Merlini (1955), Warsaw's LazienkiPark (1957, 3rd ed. 1972), History of Aesthetics (vol. 1-2 1960, 4th ed. 1988-89; vol. 31967), On Polish 17th and 18th Century Art (1966). In 1966 Wladystaw Tatarkiewiczreceived a State Award First Class and in 1979 a Special State Award.

  • 7/29/2019 Tatarkiewicz Reminiscences