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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.

To receive a pdf copy of this paper, do not hesitate to email the author: T.Mroz@ifil.uz.zgora.pl

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).

Plato, Moses Mendelssohn, Jakub Tugendhold and Plato’s “Phaedo”

A paper on a metamorphosis of Plato’s Phaedo, from its original form through Moses Mendelssohn’s (1729-1786) Phädon to its Polish translation by Jakub Tugendhold (1794-1871), was published in a journal of Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań, “Człowiek i Społeczeństwo”.

Tomasz Mróz in his paper discusses M. Mendelssohn’s work Phaedo and its Polish translation which was published in 1829 by J. Tugendhold. Although this book did not exert impact on Polish philosophy, Tugendhold, the translator, aimed to use Mendelssohn’s biography and his Phaedo as an instructive example for those representatives of Jewish community who wanted to free themselves from isolation and undergo social and economic, though not religious, assimilation into their Polish and Christian surrounding.

A brief comparison of Plato’s and Mendelssohn’s Phaedos was included in this paper. Polish translator’s aims were also discussed, for his target audience was Jewish community in Polish society. Tugendhold was the adherent of haskalah and he spared no effort to improve the existence of his compatriots and to inspire them to join in modern societies without losing their religious autonomy.

Philosophical content of the Phaedo, the arguments on the immortality of the soul, in both versions, Plato’s and Mendelssohn’s, reinforced Tugendhold’s views, as they were the example of the fact that Judaism and Christianity, not to mention Plato, are ultimately based on the same belief, on the immortality of the soul.

Full paper, in Polish, can be downloaded from the journal’s website.

A Biography of a Classics Scholar: Stanisław Lisiecki (1872-1960)

The latest issue of “In Gremium” annual journal (15/2021) includes a paper by Tomasz Mróz who took an attempt to compose a biographical sketch of Stanisław Lisiecki (1872-1960). The course of his life can be reconstructed from scraps of information in letters, official documents and only few printed materials.

This is the most extensive biography of Lisiecki so far and it was based on handwritten documents from the Archive of Polish Academy of Sciences, the Manuscript Section of the Jagiellonian Library, and from private collections. A turning point in his life was his decision to abandon his church career and start living as a layperson. In the interwar Poland his choice was not met with acceptance of the members of the then academia.

Although he cannot be counted among the top Polish historians of ancient philosophy or classics scholars, he was unjustly disregarded as a historical figure with a considerable, though unpublished legacy, coinsisting of translations of and commentaries to a number of Plato’s and Aristotle’s works.

The paper (in Polish) can be downloaded from the journal’s website here.

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.