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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.

On W. Tatarkiewicz’s (Mis)fortunes

The Days of Foreign Languages took place again at the University of Zielona Góra, and it was their VIIth edition. Their general topic this year, that is, lack, absence, deficiency, violence, exclusion etc., did not come as a surprise in current circumstances.

Two members of AΦR group took part in this event. Mariam Sargsyan delivered a paper in Russian on various metaphors with which the notion of “consciousness” is described, but it was Adrian Habura whose presentation was devoted to the reception of ancient philosophy.

His paper discussed the problem of happiness and well-being in Władysław Tatarkiewicz’s (1886-1880) life and his autobiographical notes, esp. the chapter titled Beneficial misfortunes (Korzystne niepowodzenia). Habura confronted it with Tatarkiewicz’s treatise Analysis of Happiness and some other of his ethical writings. He attempted to demonstrate that Tatarkiewicz, almost like a Homeric hero, many times in his life turned his misfortunes into success, and how Aristotle’s philosophy and Tatarkiewicz’s own research on Aristotle – from his Ph.D. thesis in Marburg to mature works in Warsaw – helped him develop his attitude to the problems of human life in general, and how his theory of happiness was rooted in Greek philosophy, above all in Aristotle.

A. Habura (photo by Gianluca Olcese)

AΦR at Classical Studies Workshop in Greece

Two members of AΦR Group, together with an AΦR friend, took part in Classical Studies Workshop in Greece. This tour event took place in the first ten days of October and was organised by The Sant-Tech Foundation in co-operation with Catholic University of Lublin (KUL).

It was an unforgettable tour of Greece from Athens to Thessaloniki, including Delphi, Marathon, Meteora, Pella, Stageira and many more places of archeological interest, many of which being extremely important for philosophers and historians of philosophy, e.g. Plato’s Academy, Aristotle’s Lycaeum, ancient Stageira or Nymphaeum in Mieza. The whole stay and the journey were carefully planned by Katarzyna Kołakowska and Lesław Lesyk (both of KUL and Sant-Tech Foundation), who smoothly adapted the workshop’s schedule to unexpected conditions.

The chronological order of the papers delivered by participants from Zielona Góra is: 1) Was the First Computer Designed by the Greeks? (M. Kurzawa, at the footsteps of the National Archaeological Museum of Athens; third from the left in the photo below). The speaker focused on the history of research on the Antikythera mechanism, which is preserved in this Museum, and its unbelievable construction. 2) Aristotle in the Lycaeum (T. Mróz, in the archeological site of… Aristotle’s Lycaeum; first on the right) discussed briefly the excavations in this location and presented the outlines of the history of the Philosopher’s school.

The photograph, depicting (almost) the whole group of participants was taken by L. Łesyk at the Archeological Museum in Thessaloniki.

Due to unfavourable weather conditions the following presentations were delivered en route to Thessaloniki, that is, on the bus: 3) Aristotle on the Beach (M. Kurzawa) was a paper devoted to Aristotle’s works in natural sciences and focused on his anecdotal scientific curiosity which gave rise to his theories, which still amaze us to this day. 4) Aristotle as the Greatest Teacher of Happiness (A. Habura; second from the left in the photo). The speaker presented the most essential Aristotle’s instructions on achieving happiness from the Nicomachean Ethics and highlighted their universal character, which was additionally substantiated by the studies of W. Tatarkiewicz, a recognised Polish historian of philosophy and ethician, on the same subject. 5) Polish Historians of Philosophy and Classics Scholars on Their Journeys to Greece (T. Mróz). This was rather a loose speech than academic paper and it presented three Polish scholars (W. Dzieduszycki, T. Sinko, W. Witwicki) and their memories of visiting historical places, some of which at the times of their journeys looked differently then they do today, and their observations on modern Greeks, which in turn appear sometimes to tally with today’s impressions of Greece.

2019: the last talk (before the 2020 pandemic)

The Days of Foreign Languages at the University of Zielona Góra have already become an annual tradition. In 2019 they were devoted to humour, joke and comedy, and AΦR was there too. A talk on the examples of Plato’s humour in various Polish translations was delivered by Tomasz Mróz.

Selected passages from the Eutyphro, Apology, Republic, and Cratylus in various Polish translations were compared, with occasional help of Plato translations into other languages, that is, German (F. Schleiermacher, W.S. Teuffel), English (H.N. Fowler, H. Tredennick, G. Grube, P. Shorey, W.H.D. Rouse, A.D. Lindsay, D. Lee, F. M. Cornford), Russian (M.S. Solovyov, A.N. Yegunov), Italian (G. Giardini) and, last but not least, Ukrainian (Y. Kobiv).

The stress was laid on the issue of who of the translators was able to discover Plato’s humour and to render it properly into Polish. Not to mention the more general conclusion on Plato’s comic talents, for philosophy has never been an exclusive bussiness of sad and old men with beards 😉