The Lvóv-Warsaw School

In Italian


The History of the School

 The Philosophers of the School

 Main Works and Selected Bibliography

Diagram on the Geneaology of the Polish Analytical School

Table comparing the main events of the Lwow-Warsaw School, Wien and Berlin Circle and U.K. Analytical Philosophy

 Other links

 Papers and Documents on the School

 Jan Wolenski, Reichenbach's Probability Logic and the Lvov-Warsaw School

 Jan Wolenski, Theories of Truth in Austrian and Polish Philosohy

Jacek J. Jadacki, Warsaw: the Rise and Decline of Modern Scientific Philosophy in the Capital city of Poland
The paper can also be downloaded as an RTF file (26 Kb); click on the icon

 F. Coniglione, Scientific Philosophy and Marxism in Poland


 The History of the School

The Lvov-Warsaw School represents a typical expression of the minimalist trend in philosophy and comprises a group of philosophers whose common denominator was the teaching of Kazimierz Twardowski (1866-1938). Its origins can, in fact, be traced back to Twardowski's arrival in Lvov   in 1895, where he occupied one of the two chairs in Philosophy until 1930. It was under his guidance that scholars of international renown, especially for their achievements in the field of logic, were trained: logicians of the stature of Jan Lukasiewicz , Stanisaw Lesniewski and Alfred Tarski , or philosophers such as Kazimierz Ajdukiewicz and Tadeusz Kotarbinski , along with other "minor" philosophers who are no less worthy of mention but who have been prevented by language barriers from achieving a greater reputation in the West, notably Tadesuz Czezowski .

The school, however, had a number of remarkable features. First of all, its founder, Twardowski, was a significant figure, not only on account of the originality of his ideas but also due to his work as the organiser and teacher of new generations of scholars; as one of his most famous pupils, Kotarbinski, remarked after settling in Lvov, Twardowski "stopped producing theories and devoted himself to forming brains". Twardowski devoted much of his time, in fact, to teaching, which he considered to be his main duty, and he was extraordinarily successful even though he demanded constant commitment of his pupils, who had to work hard and intensely. He concentrated in particular on seminars and followed his students' work closely.

The fact that its founder did not propose a doctrinal corpus with a strongly defined physiognomy and contents created a definite theoretical pluralism among the representatives of the School. However, despite the lack of unity in the theories propounded there was great similarity in the style and working method with which all the School's members conducted their philosophical research, a style and method they had learnt from Twardowski.

Greatly influenced by the thought of Franz Brentano , whose pupil Twardowski had been in Vienna, the philosophy practised by the School was based on Brentano's thesis that "vera philosophiae methodus nulla alia nisi scientiae naturalis est", a science that was to make contemporary formal logic - especially for the group of logicians working in Warsaw with Lukasiewicz - a fundamental tool with which to reform philosophy and eliminate the semantic misunderstandings and terminological confusion it was constantly afflicted by. The characteristics of the School's main representatives are thus obvious: a generally minimalist attitude (with the exception of Kotarbinski), a rejection of all forms of irrationalism, an aspiration to achieve the linguistic precision and argumentative accuracy which are indispensable to solve traditional philosophical problems, a cult of clarity and intelligibility of ideas, and a sharing of certain basic theses such as the classical concept of truth, epistemological realism and intentionality in the concept of conscience.

Given these features, it is no coincidence that the Lvov-Warsaw School has frequently been seen as a Polish version of the Vienna Circle, a view possibly reinforced by its intentional, ideologically-based assimilation of Marxism in the 1950s. The essential inaccuracy of this view was later to be pointed out by Jan Wolenski, the greatest historian of the movement, and also by the representatives of the School itself (as Ajdukiewicz clearly stated), even though there was a certain "family likeness" between the two movements, which mainly took the form of a faith in the capability of logic and metamathematics to provide tools for a coherent, complete theory of science. Hence the project which the Lvov-Warsaw School and the Vienna Circle shared: the introduction of accuracy and precision in all fields of human knowledge in order to achieve a rigour comparable with that of physical sciences.

The most evident, indisputable differences (besides the different periods in which the two movements developed) can be traced back to their different origins and social backgrounds. A decisive influence on the Lvov-Warsaw School was the thought of Brentano, as well as Aristoteliansm and Scholastic philosophy, especially as regards the concept of truth. Another typical feature was its extraneousness from Anglo-Saxon empiricism, and the philosophy of Russell (who was only appreciated for his work on logic), Wittgenstein and Mach. This gave the Lvov-Warsaw School its particular brand of originality concerning certain themes, clearly distinguishing it from Neopositivism. A case in point is the attitude towards metaphysics: there was no single attitude or general approach which gave a global, final evaluation. The trend was rather to evaluate single theories, and although they were generally criticised - at times quite harshly - no one ever proposed criteria of significance or demarcation, nor did they hypothesise final solutions of a syntactical nature. Trust was placed in the possibility of a "scientificisation" of metaphysics by translating its concepts into a conceptually clear language inspired by logic, thus eliminating any semantic and linguistic ambiguity and contributing towards the solution of its characteristic problems. This faith in logic by no means led to a lack of awareness of the complexity of philosophical problems, but was inspired by an attitude of caution and prudence.

Alongside these features there are other themes which constitute a subtle line of continuity between the most important representatives of the School: the role Twardowski and Lukasiewicz attributed to creativity in scientific work; the anti-inductivism to be found in Lukasiewicz (and partly in Czezowski's theory of "analytical description") combined with an explicitly conjecturalistic and falsificationalistic approach (in Lukasiewicz and the early Ajdukiewicz); and lastly the role attributed to idealisational concepts and procedures and the critical consequent to the empirical concept of abstraction, which runs through the whole School from Twardowski to Lukasiewicz, Kotarbinski, the early Ajdukiewicz and, in its clearest and most conscious form, Czezowski.

The turning points in the period in which the School developed were the two World Wars, which coincided with the migration from Lvov to Warsaw of many of its representatives. This has led some critics to distinguish between a Lvov School and a Warsaw School, as the latter featured a more typically logical and mathematical nature, while the former followed a more psychological trend. However, as Wolenski remarked, even in the work of a prevalently logical nature produced by the Warsaw School there was the unmistakable philosophical stamp of the general trend of the Lvov-Warsaw School and its master Twardowski.

Despite its undoubted importance, not only for Poland, the Lvov-Warsaw School was not given the recognition it deserved, unlike Neopositivism. Besides its contributions in the field of logic, universally recognised as fundamental, the only one of its philosophical theories to achieve renown in the rest of the world was Tarski's semantic conception of truth (but it should be recalled that Tarski lived in the United States after World War II and thus had an opportunity to make his hitherto neglected theories known there). Tarski's theory was assimilated by several epistemologists (especially Popper) and made a decisive contribution to the development of contemporary analytical philosophy. As far as its more strictly philosophical contributions are concerned, recognition has been confined to certain thinkers for specific merits (e.g. Ajdukiewicz for his radical conventionalism, which anticipated the positions of Quine and Feyerabend, etc.) and a brief mention in histories of contemporary philosophy of the School's most significant representatives. In other words, there has been no awareness of its originality as a global movement and knowledge of the great volume of work its members produced is partial and incomplete.

Alongside this important factor, another reason for the lack of recognition achieved by the School is to be sought in the characteristic mode of philosophising typical of most of its representatives (with the possible exception of Kotarbinski): their anti-synthetic, minimalist style. This prevented them from producing great systems, broad syntheses, general interpretations of the world, or global syntheses which presented a compact and, though debatable, characteristic picture of a certain line of thought. The School's members dealt, instead, with the analysis of specific problems, which they explained with the tools of semantics and contemporary logic, rejecting any kind of general conclusions. So even their greater "open-mindedness" as compared to the Vienna Circle often turned into weakness in their general perspectives; their caution in dealing with philosophical problems of a more general nature led them into a meticulous discussion of single issues, the solutions to which, albeit important, would only have been of value if they had entered the arena of international debate - and this rarely happened due to the language barrier.

The Philosophers of the School

According to the most important historian of the School, Jan Wolenski (Logic and Philosophy in the Lvov-Warsaw School, Kluwer Ac. Publ., Dordrecht/Boston/London, 1989, pp.352-3), the following scholars can be considered as members of the School:

 Kazimierz Ajdukiewicz (1890-1963)  Zygmunt Lempiski (1886-1943)
 Walter Auerbach (?-1944  Jan Lukasiewicz (1878-1956)
 Hersch Bad (1869-1942)  Seweryna Luszczewsk-Rohman (1904-1978)
 Stefan Baley (1885-1952)  Henryk Mehlberg (1904-1978)
 Bronislaw Brondowski (1879-1914)  Mieczyslaw Milbrandt (1915-1944)
 Eugenia Blaustein (1905-1944)  Jan Mosdorf (1904-1944)
 Leopold Blaustein (1905-1944)  Andrzej Mostowski (1913-1975)
 Stefan Blachowski (1889-1962)  Bogdan Nawroczynski (1882-1974)
 Józef M. Bochenski (1902-1995)  Czeslaw Nowinski (1907-1981)
 Marian Borowski (1879-1938)  Ostap Ortwin (1873-1942)
 Edward Csató (1915)  Maria Ossowska (1896-1974)
 Tadeusz Czezowski (1889-1981)  Stanislaw Ossowski (1897-1963)
 Izydora Dambska (1904-1983)  Antoni Panski (?-1943)
 Jan Drewnoski (1896-1978)  Edward Poznanski (1901-1976)
 Ryszard Gansiniec (1888-1958)  Mojzesz Presburger (?-1943(?))
 Eugeniusz Geblewicz (1904-1974)  Jakub Rajgrodzki (1900-1943)
 Eugeniusz Geblewicz (1904-1974)  Jan Rutski (1900-1939)
 Mieczyslaw Gebarowicz (1893-1984)  Jan Salamucha (1903-1944)
 Daniela Gromska (1889-1973)  Zygmunt Schmierer (?-1943)
 Henryk Hiz (1917)  Halina Sloniewska (1904-1982)
 Janina Hosiasson-Lindenbaum (1899-1942)  Jerzy Slupecki (1904-1987)
 Salomon Igel (1889-1942)  Franciszek Smolka (1883-1947)
 Stanislaw Jaskowski (1906-1965)  Boleslaw Sobocinski (1906-1980)
 Ludwuk Jaxa-Bykowski (1881-1948)  Kazimierz Sosnicki (1883-1971)
 Zbigniew Jordan (1911-1977)  Stefan Swiezawski (1907)
 Jan Kalicki (1922-1953) Wladysla Szomowski (1875-1954)
 Juliusz Kleiner (1886-1957)  Alfred Tarski (1901-1983)
 Maria Kokoszynska-Lutman (1905-1981)  Wladislaw Tatarkiewicz (1886-1980)
 Antoni Korcik (1892-1969)  Michal Treter (1883-1944)
 Janina Kotarbinska (1901-1997)  Kazimierz Twardowski (1866-1938)
 Jerzy Kreczmar (1902-1985)  Mordechaj Wajsberg (1902-?)
 Mieczyslaw Kreutz (1893-1971)  Meczyslaw Wallis-Walfisz (1895-1975
 Manfred Kridl (1882-1957)  Wladyslaw Witwicki (1902-1970)
 Jerzy Kurylowicz (1895-1978)  Stefan Woloszyn (1911)
 Czeslaw Lejewski (1913)  Aleksander Wundheiler (1902-1957)
 Stanislaw Lesniewski (1886-1939)  Józef Zajkowski (?-1945)
 Adolf Lindenbaum (1904-1941(?))  Zygmunt Zawirski (1882-1948)
 Stanislaw Lempicki (1886-1947)  


Main works

See pages devoted to the individual philosophers
- Semiotics in Poland 1894-1969, ed. by J. Pelc, Dordrecht/Warszawa, 1979.
- Logischer Rationalismus. Philosophische Schriften der Lemberg-Warschauer Schule, ed. by D. Pearce e J. Wolenski, Frankfurt am Main, 1988.

Selected Bibliography

- Z. Jordan, The development of mathematical logic and of logical positivism in Poland between the two wars, Oxford, 1945.
- H. Skolimowski, Polish analytical philosophy. A Survey and a comparison with British analytical philosophy, London, 1967.
- The Vienna Circle and the Lvov-Warsaw School, ed. by K. Szaniawski, Dordrecht et al., 1989.
- J. Wolenski, Logic and philosophy in the Lvov-Warsaw school, Dordrecht/Boston/London, 1989
- Polish scientific philosophy: the Lvov-Warsaw School, ed. by F. Coniglione, R. Poli e J. Wolenski, Amsterdam/Atlanta, 1993.

Other Links

The list of main philosophical achivements of the Lvov-Warsaw School

History of the Polish School of Logic

The list of main achivements of the Polish School of Logic


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