Plato Between Poland and Marburg

A paper by Tomasz Mróz, Studies on Plato at the Turn of the 20th Century: A Case of Polish-German Cooperation, was published in a collective volume titled Science Interconnected: German-Polish Scholarly Entanglements in Modern History (ed. Jan Surman et al., “Tagungen zur Ostmitteleuropaforschung” 40, Verlag Herder-Institut, Marburg 2022).

A fine and instructive episode of German-Polish cooperation, announced in the title of the paper, involved three philosophers and historians of philosophy: a German, Paul Natorp (1854-1924), and two Poles, Wincenty Lutosławski (1863-1954) and Władysław Tatarkiewicz (1886-1980).

For decades Marburg philosophers in general, and P. Natorp in particular, had a vivid interest in Plato. Natorp’s book, Platos Ideenlehre. Eine Einführung in den Idealismus (1903), is an important point in the history of interpretations of Plato and is still referred to by contemporary Plato scholars. At the time of publishing of Natorp’s book, W. Lutosławski already had an established reputation of Plato scholar, for his book, Origin and Growth of Plato’s Logic with an Account of Plato’s Style and of the Chronology of his Writings (1897), had incited international debate on the chronological order of Plato’s dialogues anew. Both scholars exchanged letters and Natorp allowed Lutosławski to read chapters of his soon-to-be-published book, the conclusions of which were to some extent concurrent with Lutosławski’s interpretation of the theory of ideas. Both scholars rejected traditional, rooted in Aristotle, understanding of the ideas’ existence.

W. Tatarkiewicz was a generation younger than the two scholars. As a young student of philosophy he arrived in Marburg to write his dissertation, and though its topic was Aristotle, the Marburg Plato was an important part of his curriculum. His dissertation was supervised by Hermann Cohen (1842-1918) and Natorp. One of the first Polish papers of Tatarkiewicz, published after his Ph.D, was devoted to his Marburg teachers’ interpretation of Plato to which he adhered (1911). Two decades later, when his History of Philosophy appeared in print (1931), he still considered Natorp’s book on Plato to be one of the essential works for Plato scholars.

What should be remarked, relations between German and Polish Plato researchers were in this case devoid of national prejudices and it was also a rare example of an influence exerted by Polish philosopher on a German peer scholar, for it was thanks to Lutosławski that Natorp pursued research on the chronology of Plato’s dialogues and publihed a series of papers on this topic. Tatarkiewicz, in turn, as he himself declared, owed his lasting research interest in the history of philosophy to his Marburg teachers.

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Archival Survey in Special Collections of the Catholic University of Lublin

Two members of AΦR group. Mariam Sargsyan and Tomasz Mróz, took a research trip and visited Lublin to do an archival query in the Special Collections section in the University Library of the Catholic University of Lublin (KUL). Research work in Lublin took place at the turn of June and July 2022 and was focused on the legacy of Henryk Jakubanis (1879-1949), who had been a professor of KUL for over two decades, and was planned and funded as part of the doctoral project Preludium Bis 2.

A preliminary archival survey in Jakubanis’ collections was carried out by T. Mróz in the autumn of 2010, but only now the entire collection has been searched through and it has been done by M. Sargsyan. Her doctoral thesis is devoted to Jakubanis and Lublin collections are in this regard essential. Jakubanis translated and studied ancient Greek philosophers and his work on Empedocles is his most important achievement. M. Sargsyan had a great opportunity to put her hands on the materials that have been produced and accumulated throughout the whole life of this historian of ancient philosophy, including his Kyiv period. The documents ranged from small personal details through official records, letters to manuscript drafts of his works in the history of philosophy.

Register card of a file with preserved chapters of Jakubanis’ Russian study of Plato’s concept of the immortality of the soul.

In the special collections of KUL M. Sargsyan had a unique opportunity to take her first steps in researching manuscripts and archival resources. This experience will be crucial for her further development as a historian of philosophy working in the field of AΦR. Her work was possible thanks to the consent of the Head of the KUL Library, Katarzyna Kołakowska, Ph.D., and proceeded smoothly, without difficulties for the Special Collections Reading Room staff spared no efforts to help and facilitate M. Sargsyan’s research.

Covers of Jakubanis’ notebooks with his comments

and preparatory notes on Seneca’s letters.

History of Philosophy in Poland in Martin-Luther-Universität Halle

Selected Topics in the History of Philosophy in Poland was the title of the course, which was delivered in May and June 2022 by Tomasz Mróz for the students of Martin-Luther-Universität (MLU) Halle in the building of the Steintor Campus (on the left). T. Mróz was appointed at MLU as Gastprofessor (funded by Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst DAAD) for a month at the Aleksander-Brückner-Zentrum für Polenstudien (Institut für Geschichte).

The course had a form of “Blockseminar” meetings and consisted of lectures, seminars and students’ presentations, focusing on various ideas, currents and problems in the history of philosophy in Poland. A course like this could not, obviously, do without a closer insight into some issues of ancient philosophy reception. For example, reception of Aristotle’s philosophy of nature in Vitello’s theory of demons and Pythagorean and Platonic inspirations in Copernicus were discussed. During one of the final lectures the problems of Plato reception in Poland were presented, as they were previosuly structured in the book Plato in Poland 1800-1950. The works of the following authors were briefly examined: A.I. Zabellewicz, F.A. Kozłowski, W. Tatarkiewicz, P. Semenenko, B. Limanowski, W. Dzieduszycki, E. Jarra, S. Pawlicki, W. Lutosławski, S. Lisiecki and W. Witwicki.

After the final seminar meeting: Joshua Maier, Christian-Matthias Voigt, T. Mróz, Emil Simon Uschmann (photo by Ch.-M. Voigt)

All the students attending the course in Polish philosophy should be thanked for their dilligence, co-operation and their presentations. The lectures, however, wouldn’t have taken place without the granting decision of professor Yvonne Kleinmann, who holds a chair in the East-European history at MLU and is the head of the Aleksander-Brückner-Zentrum für Polenstudien, and without co-ordinating work of doctor Paulina Gulińska-Jurgiel, to both of whom the lecturer is extremely grateful.

Plato’s Adventures with Censorship in Poland

On June, 1st, a talk by Tomasz Mróz was delivered at the Interdisziplinäre Kolloquium Osteuropäische Geschichte / Polenstudien (Martin-Luther-Universität Halle). The topic of the presentation was the interference of various types of (broadly understood) censorship with Plato scholars and research on Plato in Poland. T. Mróz discussed three (and a half) cases of such interference. The talk was a supplemented and developed version of one of Mróz’s previous papers.

The first case of censorship was relatively harmless, for only one word, namely: socialism, was removed from the title of Wincenty Lutosławski’s book, Plato as a Creator of Idealism [and Socialism], (Warsaw 1899). Imperial Russian authorities in Warsaw removed the word “socialism” from the title and from the table of contents, without even looking into the text of his book on Plato, for “socialism” occurs on many pages, being – in Lutosławski’s view, a natural consequence of idealism.

Photo by Paulina Gulińska-Jurgiel

Stanisław Lisiecki represented another case of broadly understood censorship. He was an enthusiast of Plato and a translator of his dialogues, but only his Republic saw the light of day in the interwar period, while all the remaining dialogues were left unpublished in the manuscripts. His leaving the clergy and Roman Catholic church was the most probable the reason of his difficult situation in Polish academia, for some scholars were unable to accept him as a colleague and assess his works without religious prejudice. As a result, his works were not published, but some justice in this regard has been recently done by the members of the AΦR research group.

Władysław Witwicki was more succesful in his translations of Plato’s works. Soon after the Word War II he managed to publish a small book on Plato (Plato as an Educationalist, 1947) and a translation of Plato’s Republic (1948). In the book and in his commentaries to Plato’s text, he compared the post-war reality of Poland and Plato’s political project to a concentration camp, great monastery, or a totalitarian state. Some of his remarks were censored and the second edition of the Republic (1958) appeared in print in an ideologically “corrected” version.

As the additional “half” of the censorship cases, Witwicki’s struggle with his sister, who was a Catholic nun, were presented. She tried to convince him not to criticize Catholicism in his commentaries, but he replied to her with a short comic story depicting his and Plato’s imaginary meeting with her, and Plato’s escape from holy water.

Photo by Paulina Gulińska-Jurgiel

Thanks to the fact that the audience consisted of specialists in East-European history, in philosophy and in the historiography of philosophy, a wide spectrum of questions appeared and the author did his best to satisfy multi-oriented demands of the public.

T. Mróz’s stay in Halle was sponsored by Aleksander-Brückner-Zentrum für Polenstudien from the funds of Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst (DAAD).

Adrian Habura’s Visit at the University of Edinburgh

In the second half of April, a member of our research group, Adrian Habura, travelled to Edinburgh to visit the School of Philosophy, Psychology & Language Science (PPLS) at the University of Edinburgh and attend two conferences there.

The first conference was organized by the Northern Association for Ancient Philosophy (NAAP) and took place on the 19th and 20th of April. Habura had there an opportunity to listen to talks focused on various issues in the history of ancient philosophy and its reception. At the end of the first day, there was a special session devoted to the memory of Sarah Broadie (1941-2021), an English philosopher and expert in ancient philosophy, focusing on both ancient and contemporary ethics.

The second conference was organized by the British Society for History of Philosophy and took place in the building of the Royal Society of Edinburgh between 21th and 23th of April. Some sessions there were focused on issues in ancient philosophy. This conference too had a special section devoted to Sarah Broadie and especially to her book, Plato’s Sun-Like Good (2021).

Although A. Habura did not deliver his paper at the conferences, he gave a talk: Władysław Tatarkiewicz (1886-1980). Life and Writings – Reception of Aristotle – Ethics, which was presented at the research seminar to Dr. Damian Caluori and Ph.D. students. Habura outlined Tatarkiewicz’s biography and his works referring to Aristotle’s thought. The main point was to sketch the Stagirite’s influence on Tatarkiewicz’s ethical considerations. The paper was subjected to a discussion and Habura received a valuable and helpful feedback, especially from D. Caluori.

A. Habura’s visit in Edinburgh was possible thanks to the grant from The W. Bednarowski Trust, and was co-funded by the Institute of Philosophy (University of Zielona Góra, Poland) and from the overheads of the past AΦR project.

A Visit of a Guest from Vilnius University

Jonas Čiurlionis, Ph.D., who started to co-operate with AΦR research group in the autumn of 2021, has paid us a visit under the Erasmus agreement between Vilnius University (Lithuania) and University of Zielona Góra. Dr. Čiurlionis researches philosophical principles of ancient scientific ideas, including those of Aristotle, their development and reception. More information on his activities can be found here.

At the University of Zielona Góra dr. Čiurlionis has delivered English lectures for graduate students in the doctoral school, for undergraduate students of philosophy and for students of physics. All his talks were devoted to various aspects of mathematical, harmonical and musical foundations of scientific theories of antiquity, for example, concept of four elements, Platonic theory of creation of the world, or Aristotelian theory of movement and change. What was of special significance for the members of the AΦR group, was that dr Čiurlionis explored extensively reception and development of these concepts later in antiquity, in the middle ages and Renaissance.

Neverending discussions after dr Čiurlionis’ (on the left) talk in doctoral school, with M. Sargsyan and A. Habura.

One of the aims of dr. Čiurlionis’ visit in Zielona Góra was to take an essential part in doctoral seminar (in Polish) and consult the progress of Adrian Habura, M.A., who is composing his disseration on reception of Aristotle’s philosophy in works of Władysław Tatarkiewicz, for dr. Čiurlionis was appointed as an auxiliary supervisor for A. Habura’s thesis.

During the seminar meeting.

Ancient Philosophy in Academic Curriculum of Władysław Tatarkiewicz

A paper by Adrian Habura, discussing Władysław Tatarkiewicz’s (1886-1980) works on ancient philosophy, which had been published by him by 1947, was published in “Ruch Filozoficzny” (vol. 77, 2021, iss. 3), the second oldest Polish philosophical journal. The paper is structured chronologically and presents results of careful sifting of all Tatarkiewicz’s works published before 1947.

Władysław Tatarkiewicz was a historian of philosophy and a philosopher, who studied ancient Greek philosophy throughout his entire research career. It is not surprising to say that he considered ancient philosophy to be the foundation of European philosophy. Furthermore, his original philosophical works indicate that the investigations of ancient Greeks were his major inspiration. The aim of this article is to provide an outline of those of Tatarkiewicz’s works in which Greek philosophy was explored by him as a topic of his historical research or used as the source of inspiration for his original philosophical reflection. The analysis of Tatarkiewicz’s works that were focused on Greek philosophy is related to Tatarkiewicz’s methodology. All this taken together allows to give a preliminary answer to the question of the significance of ancient Greek philosophy for his philosophical development and for philosophy in Poland in general.

Habura traces Tatarkiewicz’s academic biography back to his Ph.D. thesis from Marburg, which was devoted to Aristotle – and later reviewed by D. Ross – and Aristotelian inspirations in his subsequent paper on Weltansichten. One of the results of Tatarkiewicz’s stay in Marburg was his research on Plato, largely inspired by his Marburg teachers, Paul Natorp and Hermann Cohen. Later works by Tatarkiewicz in ethics, including his habilitation thesis, reveal his continuous direct and indirect references to Greek philosophers. In 1931 two volumes of his History of Philosophy saw the light of day, his opus magnum in historiography of philosophy, including, obviously, chapters on the Greeks, and in 1947 his treatise On Happiness appeared, with numerous references to ancient ethical systems.

This paper offers not only a mere report of Tatarkiewicz’s references to the ancients, but moreover, Habura succeeded in indicating connection between Tatarkiewicz’s historical interest in ancient philosophy and his own original research in philosophy and ethics.

Full paper in Polish is available on the journal’s website here.