Documentation on Lesniewski
Second Edition, 2004
© Translation from Polish, Arianna Betti 1997-98 and 2001, A. O. V. LeBlanc 1997


 From Twardowski's Correspondence
Stanislaw Lesniewski

Tadeusz Kotarbinski

Mscislaw Wartenberg

Wladyslaw Witwicki

Marjan Borowski

Ignacy Halpern

Jan Lukasiewicz

Twardowski to Lesniewski

From Twardowski's Diaries
 1 July 1919

 2 July 1919

12 August 1930

From Lukasiewicz's Diary
 9 May 1949



From Kazimierz Twardowski's

(Kazimierz Twardowski Archives in Warsaw)


Stanislaw Lesniewski
to Twardowski, Warsaw(?), (before March 15?) 1919 (sh. 78-79)

...And worried about this fulfilment of my material pockets as it is necessary to make the walk to Lvov, I cannot help neglecting the content of my purse of theoretical matters. This purse requires in the meantime a rearrangement, the more so since in the last weeks grave perturbations took place in it, and some construction motives were turned upside-down by these perturbations. ... I believed my whole life that logic was a discipline on which all the well-ordered sciences are based and also that the theory of sets had logical foundations, and I was always getting myself ready to find a position in which I could stay in order to jump safely onto the ontological bank; in the meanwhile, one evening I found myself completely unexpectedly on the ontological side and all I was interested in extraordinarily changed form and size under the influence of looking at it from the observation posts of the new ontological observatory. I realised that I had to change direction and reach logic through the theory of sets, starting from ontology, and not instead vice versa, as I had previous thought. I believed that logic could really be built this way; if someone wishes to have this pleasure, then the whole of science, mathematics included, does not need to be justified by even a crumb of all that which is logic ... Kotarbinski as well (it is long well known that we are congenial) recently hoisted, as it seems, the flag: "Down with logic!". After antipsychologism we maybe came to the period of some funny antilogicism. All ominous signs on the firmament of antilogicism seem all in all to indicate that the forthcoming Lvov ceremony may be a total flop. I already partly prepared the habilitation lecture on logicism in science; it has to include the axiom system of ontology which I already presented to a couple of colleagues in Warsaw.

(With many thanks to A. O. V. LeBlanc. Translation extended in 2001)


to Twardowski, Warsaw (?), 9.5.1919 (sh. 81-82v)

...I will wait - as far as you do not have anything against it - until the matter of my habilitation in Lvov moves on so much that I will be able to come to Lvov for the habilitation. The reasons of such decision: (1) in Warsaw there are no rules up to now, so it is possible that I'll manage to habilitate in Lvov before I can do that in Warsaw; (2) I have some scruples as regards my habilitation in Warsaw, because of the relation of close friendship linking me to Kotarbinski. I would prefer to obtain the venia legendi at the University of Lvov , and therefore in a milieu which is more sceptical towards me. Prof. Ernst in Lvov is pleased to hand in this letter to you...."

(Translation slightly revised and extended in 2001)

to Twardowski, Zakopane, 8.9.1935 (sh. 101-102v)

Full translation by A. O. V.LeBlanc

Zakopane, 8 September 1935

Highly esteemed and dear Professor,

As it has turned out, I am replying only today to your letter of May 7th. I am very sorry about that, but unfortunately I have no sensible arguments to redeem myself. I could propose as the shadow of the shadow of such an argument the circumstances that there are an immensely large number of things I would like to tell you, together with the need to make a quick decision, and writers' block, which is `scientifically' confirmed beyond all doubt; for me these circumstances produce a severe constraint. We both thank you heartily for the good, kind wishes you sent us on my nameday. I am sorry that Lwow is so far away from Warsaw, and that it is so difficult to do anything about this in person. From time to time we make a very solemn resolution that, if only we were to win something in the lottery or to become a little rich in some other way, then we would come to Lwow at least for a few days. In a flood of lyricism I feel the need to state at this point that, developing ever more vividly with age, the psychological combination of memories from when I was a student, and of various more or less tangible elements of gratitude, trust, and affection have caused me really to miss you. In connection with your remark that, because Tarski has obtained an assistant professorship, the question of finding a professorial chair for him is no longer urgent, I must mention the following: 1) I am inclined to think that it could be immensely useful to create a chair in our university for Tarski, whose specialty differs significantly from those of Lukasiewicz and myself, since it would enable Tarski to conduct his scientific and pedagogical operations in a significantly broader and more independent field than the subsidiary and, at any rate, subordinate position of an assistant professor permits. 2) When I suggested this past year creating a chair of metamathematics, and conducted subsequent and hitherto ineffective propaganda in this direction, I was acting, if I may so express myself, in favour of the scientific interests of the University of Warsaw, and not in favour of the scientific needs, though very much justified, of Tarski. 3) In connection with a series of facts in recent years, which I could tell you sometime if you were interested, I feel a sincere antipathy towards Tarski, though I intend, for the reasons of which I have spoken above, to do everything in my power so that he can get a chair in Warsaw; however, I admit (of course, I can answer only for my actions, and not for my feelings) that I would be extraordinarily pleased if some day I were to read in the newspapers that he was being offered a full professorship, for example in Jerusalem, from where he could send us offprints of his valuable works to our great profit. I have temporarily put on the shelf my work on `many-valued logics', about which I wrote to you last year. The remarks of a general nature which this work had to contain are at present giving birth to a larger treatise about intensional functors and semantic antinomies; I am now devoting all my spare time to this treatise. Out of the material which I collected on the subject of `many-valued logics' I have already made a year-long two hours' course `on the so-called many-valued systems of propositional calculus', and I intend to deliver the continuation of that course this year as a separate whole under some new title. The work which I am writing at present, if, of course, it persists in being brought to a conclusion, must appear in this editorial cycle of Przeglad Filozoficzny, in which Kieszkowski's last book has appeared (I don't remember its title). It has to happen like this because of friendly pressure of a certain kind towards finishing this work, which Kotarbinski and Sobocinski are exerting on me, and in connection with moves which they have already made towards financing it. Moreover I am trying to keep as secret as possible not just the details of this work but also the very fact of its development, so that certain Jew-boys or their foreign friends do not play some filthy trick on me again, as they have already done [before]. The preparation sometime of something for Studia Philosophica belongs to the sphere of my dreams; for the moment, as you can see from the above, I am forced to limit myself to most heartfelt thanks to you for reminding me of them. Since yesterday snow is lying on the mountains (even on Giewont), and here rain is pouring on us and a cold gale is blowing. My highest Authority has decided that we are returning to Warsaw tomorrow. Both of us send expressions of deep respect and a most courteous greeting to one whom we both esteem.

Stanislaw Lesniewski

Tadeusz Kotarbinski
to Twardowski, Warsaw 9.12.1913 (sh.??)

"In general he now plays the part of the first violin here and he gives the same impression he gave in the Lvov milieu: people are terribly afraid of him in discussions, at first they do not understand, they pout, mock him horribly, insult the "formalists" and so on".

Mscislaw Wartenberg
to Twardowski, 10.4.1919 (sh.??)

[Asking Twardowski to send him Lesniewski's habilitation dissertation, he writes:] "I don't know this dissertation by Mr. Lesniewski. Anyway, judging from the earlier writings of the candidate, I am not convinced that Mr. Lesniewski would be a desirable candidate as a teacher for our University. That is [illegible] mentality, a juggler and a conjurer who, using dialectics, turns all he catches hold of upside-down and from this he acquires his originality and flirts with it."


Wladyslaw Witwicki
to Twardowski, 29.4.1920 (sh. ??)

"Once Lesniewski was there. He praised my method because I was trying to elicit what I could from the audience by means of questions, as I used to do in classes - but actually he made the objection that I was speaking about dispositions, because they are 'hypostases'. And he is an ass - again I speak without hypostases. Together with his mathemattoideal [?] pretensions."


to Twardowski, 3.12.1920 (sh. ??)

"Kotarbinski was telling me yesterday that he sent a paper to Ruch Filozoficzny against the adjective 'philosophical' and the substantive 'philosophy'. Lesniewski has claimed for a long time that philosophy is something which does not exist. He says that while sciences were confused and not worth a damn, they were grouped under the name of 'philosophy' - and as soon as one of them improved, a special science was suddenly made of it, to indicate just physics, which came from philosophy. They say the same about logic, which now abjures its great link with philosophy; the same applies to psychology, which has ceased philosophizing and only measures response times. The theory of knowledge, they say, does not exist in general, only Ingarden still awfully plays with it. So only metaphysics remains, as a theory of objects. However, it happens that they end up by making a theory of sets, or something alike, even out of metaphysics. For aesthetics and ethics are also for some reason discarded, or deductive theories of a certain share of facts are to be made of them, based on agreed definitions and axioms. Hence with a smiling finger they indicate who would still like to have interest in philosophy in a scientific department. They consider the history of philosophy as history of ex. palmistry, astrology, white and black magic and so on."


to Twardowski 10.1.1922 (sh. ??)

[About Twardowski's possible move to Warsaw] "Lesniewski reminded me, with fear, that you would seem to be inclined to come to Warsaw, but with the proviso that Lukasiewicz goes to Lvov. I don't know whether he heard it somewhere or he thought it himself - suffice it to say that he could not decide to reject Lukasiewicz, for although he considers his trivalent logic a plaything with no sense, however he considers him a great scholar, and he would like to make him stay at the University of Warsaw at any cost".

Marjan Borowski  
to Twardowski, 24.2.1922 (sh. ??)

"At the same time I inform you /discreetly/ that Przeglad Filozoficzny doesn't have many papers of any real worth in the editorial office. Warsaw coryphaes write little, being afraid of Lesniewski!/although the 'scourge of God' has also risen upon him, in the person of his pupil - Tajtelbaum [Tarski]" [J.S.]

Ignacy Halpern
to Twardowski, 2.5.1921 (ex K 11; sh. ??)

"I liked your article on symbolomania in Ruch Filozoficzny very much and I esteem it highly as an expression of a stronger and bolder action curbing too daring elements in your school. The master proved himself to be greater than his pupils, who already take it into their heads (even badly) to consider themselves as followers, leaving their sources far behind."


to Lesniewski, 6.1.1928

"The fact that you, dear colleague, called yourself an "apostate in philosophy" does not upset this joy in me at all. I consider it as a purely terminological matter, and I do not doubt that normative semantics would consent to call the contents of the work dedicated to me philosophical ... Since you have already decided to break your silence and to say what you have to say, it is necessary to speak not only to Polish people, but also to all the "philosophical" world"

From Kazimierz Twardowski's Diaries
(Dzienniki, R. Jadczak ed., PWN, Warsaw, 1997; part I, 1915-1927 - part II, 1927-1938)


July 1st, 1919, Tuesday

"... - then I spent the evening in the "Warszawa" restaurant in Nowy Swiat with Czezowski, Kotarbinski, Borowski, Lesniewski, Chojecki, and Radecki came for some time - Lesniewski explained the principles of his new most general axiomatics, whose Ist axiom sounds: If a is b, then a is a."


July 2nd, 1919, Wednesday

"Morning at breakfast at the Mleczarnia Nadwislanska with Lesniewski. I presented him with the state of his habilitation in Lvov - on Wartenberg's behalf I told him that Wartenberg is against his habilitation. Since, however, Lesniewski is being proposed as Extraordinary Professor of Philosophy of Mathematics, the question does not apply. ..."


August 12th, 1930, Tuesday

"In general those who behave according to Lesniewski's model ask very arbitrarily for analysis where it is convenient to them - if, however, one of them asks for analysis where it is not convenient to him, they turn to intuition. And if the opposer in the discussion sometimes tries to turn to intuition, they reply "We don't understand what you consider to be intuitively given".

From Jan Lukasiewicz's Diary

9 May 1949


 In Italian

Yesterday was the feast of S. Stanislaus, Bishop. This was Lesniewski's saint's day. In his last one he already lay in the same hospital in which five days later he was to die. I met Lesniewski in Lwow in 1912. I lived then with my uncle in Chmielowski Street 10. One afternoon someone rang at the entrance door. I opened the door and I saw a young man with a light, sharp beard, a hat with a wide brim and a big black cockade instead of a tie. The young man bowed and asked kindly: "Does Professor Lukasiewicz live here?". I replied that it was so. "Are you Professor Lukasiewicz?" asked the stranger. I replied that it was so. "I am Lesniewski, and I have come to show you the proofs of an article I have written against you". I invited the man into my room. It turned out that Lesniewski was publishing in Przeglad Filozoficzny an article contatining criticism of some views of mine in the "Principle of Contradiction in Aristotle". This criticism was written with such scientific exactness, that I could not find any points which I could take up with him. I remember that when, after hours of discussion, Lesniewski parted from me, I went out as usual to the Kawiarnia Szkockia, and I declared to my colleagues waiting there that I would have to give up my logical interests. A firm had sprung up whose competition I was not able to face.

(with many thanks to Owen LeBlanc)

© Translation from Polish, Arianna Betti 1997-8, 2001; Owen LeBlanc 1997
Second Edition Published January 14, 2004

Back to Lesniewski's Page

© Polish Philosophy Page, ed. by F. Coniglione -