Axiomathes
Quarterly Journal


Advisory board: Liliana Albertazzi, Edgar Morscher, Jerzy Perzanowski, Giovanni Piana, Roberto Poli (editor-in-chief), Karl Schuhmann, Barry Smith, Jan Wolenski.


Axiomathes' conception of philosophy entails a rigorous approach to research. The journal presents and discusses the main aspects of what are nowadays sometimes called analytic metaphysics and analytic ontology. For this reason, Axiomathes will give explicit attention to both contemporary discussion in psychology, cognitive sciences, logic and artificial intelligence, and historical studies on the many facets of Central-European philosophy developed at the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth.

 

EDITORIAL

This issue inaugurates the new series of the Quaderni of the Centro Studi per la Filosofia Mitteleuropea. The name will turn into Axiomathes, but the numbering of the volumes will remain unchanged, in order to indicate our commitment to continued enquiry into the themes that have so far been the focus of the Centro's activities and to the manner in which this work has been conducted. All the rest, however, will undergo radical change, beginning with the journal's official languages, which will now become English and Italian.
As to the journal's themes, it is worth recalling here what was written in the introduction to the first brochure of the Centro in 1987:

"The principal themes underlying the analyses of the authors of Central Europe of the 19th Century and the first decades of the 20th Century are the classic ones of psychology and logic: themes that have been reformulated in ontological terms. From a theoretical point of view, Brentano's studies summed up the range of topics which embraces also Bolzano's theories in relation to his descriptive psychology of continua; Aristotle's treatment of the problem of categories, of logic and of rational psychology; Anglo-Saxon empiricism in its theories of the object, ideas and the content of perception.
Three major intellectual currents sprang from Brentano's work: one more properly phenomenological and which was developed by Husserl; one closer to a conception of analytical philosophy, which was developed by Meinong; and a third comprising Polish philosophy. The latter began with Twardowski and diversified into the Polish schools of logic and phenomenology.
However, although publication of authors in the German language has reached, and undoubtedly reaches, a vast audience, output in Polish (for understandables reasons) is still available only to a limited public. A first task is, therefore, to provide scholars with those works that have been so far inaccessible to the majority.
However, we would also maintain that the main purpose of this present undertaking should be an examination of the specific value of the work carried out by these philosophers and its assimilation into the mainstream of modern thought. This is a question, therefore, of testing a hypothesis that has been put forward in the most enlightened of philosophical circles: that the future development of philosophy is to be found in these Central European origins and, in particular, in Polish philosophy of the first decades of this Century".

This statement of intent still applies, albeit with some (minor) shifts of emphasis. For example, examination of theories of parts and wholes developed in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries may provide an effective way out of the impasse in which mereological studies presently find themselves. We should likewise bear in mind how ill-advised it is to break up Husserlian philosophy into a first, second, n-th Husserl (where, generally speaking, the principle should hold that for every division, the preceding part is better than the one that follows).
By a combination of various circumstances, in recent years scholars have gained access to a large amount of new material, especially on Polish philosophy. Although a great deal still needs to be done, it is now possible to gain a sufficiently clear idea of at least the main outlines of the contribution made by the Lvov-Warsaw School. For this reason, while declaring our continuing interest in this School and its tradition, our attention may now expand into other areas which were previously neglected. We have Russian philosophy in mind here, and in particular Shpet, Bachtin and Losev. It should also be possible to find stimulating ideas and insights in Czech, Slovak or Hungarian writers. Accordingly, one of the journal's principal aims will be to search out and to present work written in languages that are not generally accessible to the academic community and which, therefore, has not captured the attention it deserves. In order to reach as wide a readership as possible, contributions of this kind will be translated in English.
In their new format the volumes of Axiomathes will be divided into five sections. The first will be monographic in character, and edited by one or more specialists in the field under examination. Perhaps the simplest way to explain our editorial policy is to list some of the themes currently being discussed for forthcoming issues: theories of parts and wholes in the history of philosophy; paradigms of logic: traditional logic versus mathematical formal logic; the foundations of mathematics: lost traditions; logic and psychology; reism; the concept of the analytic; the primum mobile.
The second section will contain studies and research reports submitted to the editorial board for publication. The third and fourth sections will comprise previously unpublished work and the translations from the less common languages mentioned above. In the case of previously unpublished material we shall try to include the originals as well, should this be their only chance of finding their way into print. And, of course, the monographic section may also include unpublished work and translations. The final section of Axiomathes will contain reviews and news of the Centro's activities.
To return to my general statement of the editorial aims that Axiomathes intend to pursue, our conception of philosophy evidently entails a rigorous approach to research. To clarify what I mean by this, I shall resort to a concept taken from genetics: the distinction between dominant and recessive behaviours and characteristics. This distinction is employed in those cases where contact between two elements does not generate a new element that is, one might say, 'intermediate' between them (so that, for example, white mixed with black makes grey), but where one of the two elements takes on a dominant role while the other recedes into the background. This second element is still present, it continues to perform its role, but it is restricted to a subordinate position. I use this distinction between dominance and recessiveness because theoretical disciplines can be classified in the same way. For example, if we consider mathematics, we may safely say that it is a dominant discipline. When it comes into contact with others discipline, it moulds them to its own features; it 'mathematizes' them. Philosophy, on the other hand, is certainly a recessive discipline: when it comes into contact with other disciplines, it tends to assume their features and is, so to speak, 'dominated'. Broadly speaking, we can say that when philosophical enquiry is accompanied by literature, it becomes a form of literature; and when it is accompanied by science it becomes a form of science. This analogy illustrates at least one of the reasons why philosophers belonging to different schools find it so laborious and difficult to communicate with and understand each other.
Brentano and his pupils shared a fundamental view of how philosophical enquiry was to be conducted; a view also held by Mach, and one which today is an acknowledged standard for all the versions and traditions of exact philosophy. Brentano instilled in his pupils the conviction that philosophy should be rigorous, scientific, exact and clear. He not only gave his pupils direct instruction on how to philosophize with rigour, he also combined this teaching with detailed historical observations of the ways in which philosophical enquiry had been conducted in the past. One of the chief and most celebrated of Brentano's methodological theses was his contention that description should take precedence over any kind of explanation as to the birth, development or articulation of a phenomenon. This distinction between description and genetic explanation was common to all his pupils, who developed great skill in giving detailed and accurate descriptions of the domain of phenomena being studied. We might perhaps say that they all obeyed the dictum: 'Before you think, look long and look carefully'. Explanation and theory should be preceded by the painstaking and perhaps laborious work of description; a method that was to be applied to all areas of enquiry.
The immediate corollary to this methodology was the requirement that counter-examples should be given. Theories distilled from analyses of the data must be verified, not only by the univocity and precision of the theoretical and non-theoretical terms used, but also by reference to a set of possible counterexamples constituting proof of their veracity and acting as a stimulus for their further development.
Examples also perform a crucial positive role. If the presence of examples is an index of the degree of exactness of an argument, their absence leaves matters nebulous and unresolved.
Apart from the accurate description of phenomena and the search for relevant examples and counter-examples, exact formulation must be given to all components of the theory. In this sense, Twardowski's words are exemplary:

"I tend to believe that the lack of clarity in the style of some philosophers is not an inevitable effect of the object of their enquiries, but that it derives from the vagueness and lack of clarity of their way of thinking. It may be the case that clarity of thought and expression proceed hand in hand, so that those writers who think clearly write clearly, whereas those who do not write clearly must be said not to think clearly either".

Development of correct theories is also made possible by the careful consideration of rival theories. Here Stumpf adds that the method learnt from Brentano, and before him from Aristotle, with a view to providing direct proof of a theory is to set out a complete list of all positions and eliminate them all except the correct one. It should be easy to see that this is still the old Aristotelean method. All this links with the requirement for an ideal language or for a calculus that systematically inter-connects the phenomena of the domain under examination. It is here that the necessity to express philosophical arguments in the form of definitions arises. At this point it comes as no surprise to learn that all the Brentanists explicitly preferred research that was partial, precise, specific, and addressed to well-defined and circumscribed problems. The Brentanians were all systematic thinkers, but they never liked systems. That is, they analyzed their problems with extreme care even if they never constructed systems.
A final point is that the Brentanians loved distinctions. This is an important point. Instead of looking for analogies (typical of the hermeneutic school) they stressed differences and introduced distinctions. Justification for this was stated succinctly by Meinong:

"between two people, one of whom makes a distinction and the other does not, it is usually the case that the one who introduces the distinction has seen something that the other has not".

Going back to my previous distinction between the two kind of philosophies, it should be clear that between a philosopher of the first kind (philosophy plus literature) and a philosopher of the second kind (philosophy plus science) there are considerable differences of language, conceptual apparatus and cognitive styles. This is therefore apparent justification for our view that Brentano and the various schools to which his thought gave rise are an acceptable point of reference.

Roberto Poli


 Articles on Polish Philosophy issued in Axiomathes.

The complete summary of the entire collection of Axiomathes.

 

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